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WATSON, Richard Arthur Flying Officer, No.440 Squadron, J88228 Croix de Guerre (France) - Croix de Guerre (Belgium) RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
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WATSON, F/O Richard Arthur (J88228) - Croix de Guerre (France) - No.440 Squadron - Awarded as per AFRO 1619/45 dated 19 October 1945. Born 1 March 1923. Home in Oba, Ontario; enlisted in Ottawa, 29 October 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To No.1 ITS, 14 March 1942; graduated and promoted LAC, 8 May 1942 but not posted to No.10 EFTS until 4 July 1942; graduated 28 August 1942; to No.14 SFTS, 30 August 1942; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 18 December 1942. To “Y” Depot, 1 January 1943. To RAF overseas, 6 January 1943. Promoted Flight Sergeant, 18 June 1943. Commissioned 24 April 1944. Promoted Flying Officer, 24 October 1944. Repatriated 23 July 1945. To No.4 Release Centre, 1 September 1945. Retired 6 September 1945. Photo UK-12708 shows him with torn parachute following his baleout from a Typhoon. RCAF photo PL-40736 (ex UK-15947 dated 30 November 1944) shows him taking over Typhoon from his fitter (LAC Ivan Black, Grand Prairie) while other rigger (LAC Del Christopherson, Burlington) stands on wing waiting to wave the aircraft out of dispersal. Photo PL-40737 (ex UK-15948 dated 30 November 1944) is captioned as follows - “Pilot Officer Dick Watson of Oba, Ontario, who early in the campaign was forced to bale out over No Man’s Land and worked his way back by assisting Canadian soldiers to escort 120 prisoners, standing beside the cockpit of his Typhoon before a sortie.” Died in Wawa,Ontario, 6 December 2010. Obituary stated he had flown 90 sorties and been shot down three times and went on to say, “this was the beginning of Dick's passion for flying. He began his tourism business, Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd. in 1946 (Pine Portage Lodge and then Kaby Lodge), and Watson's Skyways Ltd. in 1986. He held his commercial pilot's license until he was 72 years old.” Public Records Office Air 2/9645 has citation. // This officer has completed a tour of operational duty during which he has taken part in many sorties against heavily defended ground targets. At Caen, on 18th July, 1944, his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and exploded in mid-air. He was able to parachute safely to earth and found himself in the midst of a furious tank battle but he returned to our lines bringing back 139 prisoners with him. He has displayed great presence of mind and gallantry and has been an outstanding example to all those with whom he flies. // WATSON, F/O Richard Arthur - (J88228) - Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm (Belgium) - No.440 Squadron - Award effective 27 June 1947 as per London Gazette dated of that date and AFRO 403/47 of dated 25 July 1947. Public Records Office Air 2/9110 has recommended citation with statement he had flown 90 sorties, 94 operational hours. Drafted when he was Warrant Officer. // During the period from D Day until the completion of his tour Warrant Officer Watson participated in many sorties during the liberation of France and Belgium. In july this officer was one of a flight which successfully attacked the heavily defended mortar positions near Lemesni Fremental, east of Caen. His aircraft was hit and blew up but he made a successful landing by parachute although machine-gunned by the enemy. He evaded capture and rejoined his unit within 48 hours. In August, when the German army was retreating across the Seine, Warrant Officer Watson made many attacks against barges and motor transport which were highly successful. Throughout the battle for the Ardennes he displayed unusual steadfastness and courage worthy of the highest praise. // RCAF Press Release No.5869 dated 21 July 1944 from Laidlaw-Cullen, transcribed by Huguette Oates, reads: // Blasted out of his Typhoon by an anti-aircraft shell exploding against his engine while he was over Grentheville yesterday, W/O2 Richard Watson, of Oba, Ontario, limped into his advanced R.C.A.F. airfield tonight after dodging the bomb blasts from his comrades, enemy and allied artillery shellfire, snipers’ bullets and a German armored car. // The 21-year-old former railway agent described his harrowing day simply: “It was bloody awful. I had just started my dive on these mortar positions when everything just seemed to blow up around me. All I remember was an explosion, a kind of terrific crash, and the next thing I knew I was grabbing for my ripcord. I must have got blown out of the cockpit, because my head is still sore. I was coming right down where the bombs were bursting so I side-slipped my ‘chute and made a good landing in the middle of a wheat field. Just as I left my parachute, a German shell made a direct hit on it. The chute was full of holes and rips, I could see. I saved this piece, the best part to make a scarf, and it’s got two holes in it. Anyway, I got about 100 yards from the chute, and the shells were falling all around me from both the German batteries and our own artillery. I decided I had better dig in. I had no tools so I used a sharp rock. See.” // He held out badly blistered hands, and continued: “I got a slit trench for my head and chest and lay in it. I had been thrown around in the air by the concussion from our bombs as I came down, and this seemed even worse. I was afraid to move. I felt terrified at first and then calmed as I reasoned ‘If I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it’”. // “After the shelling died down I heard a vehicle coming and took a look. It was a German machine-gun carrier, coming right at me. I crawled back from my slit trench, and the car ran right over it – it ruined it. I was only 10 feet away. It passed, and then the Germans opened up a retaliatory bombardment and I had to lie on my face through that. I heard another vehicle coming through it and took a chance and got a look at it. I saw a British helmet over the top of the wheat so I jumped up and got hold of them and asked how I could get back. While we talked, a couple of men were killed – mortar shells were bursting all around us. They directed me back, but kept on themselves. I had gone about half a mile when a sniper took a shot at me. Our forward armor was passing at this time – my knee was hurting from walking but I kept on, as the whole attack moved forward past me. One guy was hurt, so I took him with me to this first aid forward post. There was nothing going back and I couldn’t take a chance on anymore snipers by walking back (they bandaged my knee and it felt better) so I waited around and helped them dress these wounded fellows for about two hours. I really didn’t know what I was doing at first, but somebody gave me a shot of Scotch and I was able to help.” // “They were putting on dressings and I was helping, and straightening blankets when somebody asked me if I wanted to get back. He was a British private wounded in the right foot. He and I were to escort six prisoners. We went a little way and more and more Germans kept coming up to us surrendering (the armored stuff just motions them back) so we soon were escorting 120 Germans. We had gone quite a way when a Bren carrier came up to escort us all, so I got a lift. We took the prisoners to a prisoners’ camp, and from there I got a lift in a lorry back to the field. When I first got to the first aid post I was half dazed, but when I found something to do to keep my mind busy I was quite all right and managed to do pretty well. The worst part of it all though was lying from about 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. in that wheat field with the shells shaking the ground all around me -- it was bloody awful.