04 May, 2011

04 May, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 578 % Postmaster, N.Y.
4 May, 1944        0930

Dearest sweetheart –

Yes – in answer to a recent question.

Well – darling – I got some more mail last night, the 19th, 25th and 27th of April, as well as two letters from my dad and a postcard from him, too. The service is really excellent these days and it certainly does help dear to make you seem closer to me – and that’s what I desire more than anything else in the world.

Darling you ask me if I love you and only you. I’m sure you’re asking because you like to hear it and not because you wonder. There’s no one I love – sweetheart – but you, and you shouldn’t have the slightest doubt at all. But I’m sure you haven’t. I know, dear, I may not tell you often enough – but you cannot help but realize that every thing I do, think, dream or plan – concerns you and me and our future together. Never forget that.

And while I’m on the subject, dear, I want to mention something you brought up in a recent letter – about rings, engagements and pledges. Darling – you misinterpreted my use of the word ‘pledge’; it does not mean ‘obligation’ to me, but rather a vow. Of course a ring doesn’t mean a thing in terms of obligation – but can’t you see that ring or no ring, the one thing I want to do when I come back is to marry you – and pronto! Now will you please take any other silly notions you have, open the window and throw them out – and furthermore, dear fiancée – I don’t want you to ever write like that again – even in passing!

Now – where was I? Oh – my father’s letters were very nice. They consisted entirely of you and how much my family loved you. They’re so pleased with everything and with you and your affection to them – that they’re really and truly happy. And my father is thrilled at your calling him “Daddy”. Darling I’m so glad that you get along so well with my folks; it makes things so nice and I know it helps them forget a little – that I’m away. But what’s this about kissing my father so often?? Incidentally – my father mentioned that you had a “cold”. He made it sound very casual – as if not to worry me. I probably wouldn’t have suspected anything if I didn’t receive your letter telling me about your sore throat. You do seem to have a sensitive throat, dear – but after we’ve been together awhile, darling, I’m certain you’ll get some of my immunity.

I was interested in your account of Verna’s party. Thirty-five people must have crowded that little apartment, it seems to me, but I’d love to have made it 36. So Herb Fanger is still at Salem? He’s lucky to have stayed so long. He happened to hit us when we were short of pathologists – and the Hospital has just continued to defer him. It’s a lucky break for him because he’s been able to continue his training and when he gets through he’ll certainly have something like a specialist’s rating. Well – sour grapes – or no – the fact is I’d rather be in this war than not.

Well, Sweetheart, that’s all for now. I’ve got a little work to do – still at the Dispensary. Remember darling that I love you very very much and always will. Love to the folks.

All my love forever, dear


about The Extremely Good Fortune of Jack Worsford

On the night of May 3rd into May 4th of 1944, 346 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos and 2 Pathfinder Mosquitos of the RAF were on a mission to bomb a German military camp situated close to the French village of Mailly-le-Camp. The control of this raid in the target area failed to operate according to plan. The initial low-level markers were accurate and were well backed up by Lancaster marker aircraft. The 'Marker Leader', Wing Commander Cheshire, ordered the Main Force to come in and bomb. However, the 'Main Force Controller', Wing Commander LC Deane, could not transmit the order to do so to the waiting Lancasters because his VHF radio set was being drowned by an American forces broadcast, and his wireless transmitter was wrongly tuned. German fighters arrived during the delay and bomber casualties were heavy.

The main attack eventually started when the Deputy Controller, Squadron Leader ENM Sparks, took over. Approximately 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped with great accuracy. 114 barrack buildings, 47 transport sheds and some ammunition buildings in the camp were hit; 102 vehicles, including 37 tanks, were destroyed. The night-fighter attacks continued over the target and on the return route. Among the aircraft shot down was that of Squadron Leader Sparks, who had stayed over the target to the end. Sparks evaded capture and soon returned to England. The squadrons of No 1 Group, which made up the second wave of the attack, suffered the most casualties - 28 aircraft out of their 173 dispatched. No 460 (Australian) Squadron, from Binbrook, lost 5 out of its 17 Lancasters on the raid. A total of 42 Lancasters (11.6 percent of the force) were lost.

It was on this mission that Sgt. Jack Worsfold, aged 19, was a tail-gunner on a Lancaster of 101 Squadron out of Ludford Magna. Jack’s Lancaster, SR-Z, had just bombed the target when they were attacked by an ME-110 and riddled with cannon fire. Jack heard his (23-year old pilot) John Alexander Keard’s order to abandon the aircraft, but on exiting his turret he found his parachute pack destroyed. At that point the Lancaster broke up and Jack fell to earth trapped in the tail section. He woke up lying in a gorse bush a few feet from the wreckage. It seems that the tail had broken away and spiralled the 7,500 ft to the ground, crashing through power lines and fir trees before coming to a rest in some gorse near the village of Aubeterre, 10 miles south of Mailly. Miraculously, Jack had survived this fall without the aid of his parachute. Too badly injured to escape, he was rescued and looked after by a local French doctor before being captured by the Germans and taken away to captivity. The rest of Jack’s crewmates died in the crash. Jack was one of only two survivors of the 39 aircrew in five Lancasters lost by 101 Squadron that night.

More than 300 airmen failed to return that night, of whom 258 were killed; most of those killed are buried in the cemeteries of villages surrounding Mailly-le-camp. Recognizing that they lost their lives in the fight for the freedom we all enjoy today, these communities honour the dead airmen and care for their graves as if they were their own sons. On each anniversary of the raid; the local citizens including many school children and young people, the French Army, and representatives of the Resistance- many of whom assisted RAF evaders; attend a series of services, organised by the French "L'Association Mailly 3/4 mai 1944", which culminates in a military parade on the French Army base at the memorial erected by L'Association Mailly.

British and Commonwealth veterans, relatives of the fallen, and other supporters are made very welcome and seek to participate in these events to honour, not only the aircrew and French people who died in the raid, but also the gallant French Resistants who risked - and in some cases, lost- their lives helping survivors who came down in France. Jack's pilot, John Heard was buried in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetary with the rest of his crew.  But Jack Worsfold, RAF Bomber Command veteran, passed away on the 18th December 2006 at the age of 81.

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