To Hell in a Halifax

Fellow POWs

To Hell in a Halifax by Herbert Krentz

Krentz's Line-Shoot Book

To Hell in a Halifax reproduces Krentz's POW journal – his Line-Shoot Book – featuring first-person accounts by more than 60 of his fellow POWs, who were members of the following units and squadrons:

Units: 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 11th Scottish Commando, 106th Division

Squadrons (RAF and RCAF): 9 Squadron, 35 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 51 Squadron, 76 Squadron, 100 Squadron, 101 Squadron, 102 Squadron, 149 Squadron, 158 Squadron, 196 Squadron, 207 Squadron, 405 Squadron, 408 Squadron, 419 Squadron, 427 Squadron, 428 Squadron, 429 Squadron, 431 Squadron, 434 Squadron, 460 Squadron, 550 Squadron, 619 Squadron

Sample Journal Entries

The following journal extracts are from Canadians who served in the RCAF or RAF.

A Note about the Journal Entries: While a number of Krentz’s fellow POWs added detailed information about their final flights, such as date, squadron, bomber type, and some crew information, many did not. W.R. Chorley’s excellent resource books – Bomber Command Losses, Volumes 1943 and 1944 – provided a great deal of missing information on the authors of the Line-Shoot Book entries, as well as on their fellow crew members. With this information we have been able to fill in many blanks, mostly above and below each entry, regarding the final circumstances of the authors’ planes and crew. Where it was thought pertinent to insert information into the body of an entry, the editors have done so within square brackets [ ].

F/S Paul H. Evans, RAF

Raymond, Alberta, Canada
Berlin: January 1/2, 1944
550 Squadron / Lancaster III*
5 POWs / 2 KIA

Dear Herb,

If I try to shoot a line you’ll believe me and if I tell the truth you’ll call me a line shooter. What’s to do? Anyway, it was [my] seventh [op.] on dear old Berlin. I was getting so well acquainted with the place I expected them to send me a bill for lights and water tax. It was just like returning home and I was looking forward to a warm reception when it happened. Some blasted so-and-so fighter boy started tossing rockets around as if they were pennies. Naturally we picked one up to see what they were made of. It went through my compartment just back of my feet and on until it hit the starboard inner. I did a reverse turn in something less than a split second and all I could see was flame and smoke . . . thought my parachute had been hit so removed it from the rack to examine it. Thank heavens it was alright! I clamped it on my manly chest and took a quick look to see if that half-witted pilot out there was still around. He’d left us to burn as I fiddled about trying to figure out what had happened to my intercom. The next thing I saw was my engineer [Sgt. D.F. Faddon, RAF, POW] coming down into my cubbyhole so I started to remove the escape hatch. Apparently “this was where I came in.” A boom, bang, crash! and there was I floating down comfortably, resting in my front turret. The petrol tanks had been playing with fire! I remember thinking how funny it was to be dead and all my wild past floated before my eyes (Line!). At last I realized I wasn’t an angel after all and had better sprout some artificial wings. So there I was at 10,000 ft. and falling fast when I bailed out of my front turret. Nothing ordinary for me, I landed in a forest with nothing wrong with me except a couple of head cuts and a right foot at right angles to my leg. I got it straightened out and taped but had to give myself up a few hours later. So my little chillun’ that’s how it came about that your grampa was a Kriegie** back in ‘44. . . .

Your IV B Friend, Paul

* Shot down by a night-fighter, and crashed near Hoya, Germany
** From the German Kriegsgefangener (“prisoner of war”)

F/S R.W. Dixon, Air Gunner, RCAF

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Frankfurt: December 20/21, 1943
434 Squadron* / Halifax V (“N” for Nan)
8 POWs

Friend Herb,

Attacked twice by fighters below and astern. Port inner caught on fire. Bailed out at 10,000 ft., landing in dense trees on the east bank of the Rhine. Unbuckled my chute and dropped to the ground. My travels through the Ruhr, Coblenz, Bonn, Cologne, and Aachen may be closely related to that of a tramp, sleeping here and there under a shelter of any kind, riding the rods, etc. The only difference being that a tramp had possibilities of getting food. Also, can’t see as he’d feel quite so bad about being pulled off a train by a brakeman as did I. Arrived at the cooler Xmas Eve. Very fortunate as complete crew and second dickey all being POWs. . . .

At all times, your friend, Robert

*Like Krentz’s squadron, 434 Squadron was stationed at Croft in northern England.

F/S Howard J. Bondett, Mid-Upper Gunner, RCAF

North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Leipzig: December 3/4, 1943
51 Squadron / Halifax II*
5 POWs / 2 KIA

Shot down by the women’s flak battery of Leipzig. Foundation of a home, they say; two can live as cheaply as one. How can I believe it! Forgive me for losing faith in “females of the opposite sex.” Boy, the dames of Dogpatch, of Sadie Hawkins Day fame, are mere pikers by comparison with some I have met, as related above.

The moral of this story is as follows: women or freedom. With these kindly meant and sympathetic words of advice for innocent wayward young men—“What say Herb? The war is nearly over!” Oh! Oh! It looks like you and I are going to be in captivity** again soon. Very soon I hope.

Sincerely Yours, Best of Luck, Doc

* Crashed at Weyer, near Boppard, Germany.
** Krentz was engaged to Joyce Edwards, whom he met at a dance at Cranage Air Station when taking a Beam Approach Training (BAT) course in 1943. They married on June 4, 1945.

WO2 L.P. Torpe, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, RCAF

Olds, Alberta, Canada
Berlin: January 2/3,1944
408 Squadron / Lancaster II
5 POWs / 2 KIA

Dear Herb,

Not much of a do. First turning point away from Berlin we ran afoul of an Me 110. He shot up starboard engines and they went on fire. We got the fire out but he bashed in again and they flared up again. Just about then I was looking for a hole. The skipper [F/S D.E. Hilker, RCAF] and mid-upper [Sgt. H.J. Mouland, RCAF] didn’t get out. I guess even Lancs aren’t infallible. . . .

As ever, Torpe

Sgt. G.S. (Dennis) Auld, Rear Gunner, RCAF

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Berlin: August 31/September 1, 1943
196 Squadron / Stirling III*
4 POWs / 3 KIA

As in most cases of the flying personnel of the camp, the adventures of the Milky Way held something for me that cannot be interpreted as a mania to bomb, but a passion to fly. As a duty to ours, and to ourselves, we enlisted as a whole with one common objective. In what capacity we chose, was our individual privilege. Like many I finally ended up in the air force, and as a consequence landed again (like many) a Kriegie.

To many, flying as a gunner had several detrimental aspects. But to me, because I had accepted the offer, [it] came to be something which I had not realized prior to actual combat, that there were others who relied more on a cool head than straight shooting. This was proved on three occasions as in the case of our skipper and navigator and bomb aimer also the wireless op. I had nothing more to do than sit, watch and listen most of the time. After these escapades I vowed more than ever to keep my end up. Tail end.

On the eventful night of August 31, 1943, we zigged when we should have zagged, so to speak, and from seemingly nowhere came a packet C.O.D. After realizing all hope of saving the A/C [aircraft] was lost and everything seemed to be useless, including myself, I did my first solo, setting the compass half way between 180 and 360. Well it’s the old story from then on, and now I’m back on circuits and bumps in IV B along with the rest of the boys whose misfortune it has been to finish their tour here.

Sincerely Yours, Dennis

* Shot down by a night-fighter and crashed south of Enschede, Holland.

Sgt. Frank Gration, Navigator, RCAF

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Kassel: October 3/4, 1943
428 Squadron / Halifax V (“G”)*
2 POWs / 6 KIA

Hello Herb,

Here are a few lines from a bashful author.

Haven’t got a nice big line shoot like some of these “gen men.” I was one of those brave, fearless, death-defying, gallant navigators, who sat drawing lines, curves, circles and what have you with curtains tightly hung around me so that no light showed out (nor anything showed in—thank gosh). Hell, I was even under the impression that we’d been set on fire by a fighter till I ended up in a lovely bedroom with wooden bed; no blankets, no steam heat, no glass in the window, only iron bars (strong too), no food, no nothing. Any complaints? Carry on!! I found my engineer [Sgt. E.R. Burbage, RAF] in the next guest room, who said we’d been hit by flak. However, I should worry—here I am in a nice clean barrack (stop biting fleas, I’m almost finished) lots of heat, food and water (if and when it’s turned on) and the war can’t possibly last more than three months now. If it does I’ll give it three more. . . .

Bye now, Love ‘n’ stuff, The Idol (Idle) of the Airlanes, Frankie Gration

* Crashed at Hofgeismar, Germany.

F/S Russ L. Collins, Rear Gunner, RCAF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Berlin: August 31/September 1, 1943
102 Squadron / Halifax II*
1 POW / 5 KIA / 1 EVD**

Hello Herbie:

I met another Charlie who got his dreams of finishing his tour shot way from under him. It happened on August 31, 1943, on the trip to the Big City. The motors roaring, the flash down the runway and then we were airborne. It was another blind date but she certainly wasn’t no lovely blonde. I never did see so much as a tracer a comin’ my way. I heard a big “wham” and everything went black, when I came to the kite was well alight and we were sure heading for mother earth. Everything in the turret was U/S [useless] so I had to hand operate it around on the beam and scram. Well Herb I landed minus my flying boots but made up for that by adding some cuts and scratches where they had no right to be. It sure was a perfect landing, I don’t think. After being on the loose for four days I was taken on vacation to the chicken coop† and from there to IV B. . . .

All the best, Russ Collins

* Crashed near Greven, Germany.
** Sgt. R.V. Wallace managed to evade capture and attained freedom by reaching Switzerland, a remarkable achievement, as it was nearly impossible to escape from Germany.
† Dulag Luft.

WO2 Stan Barnes, Spitfire Pilot, RCAF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Beauvais, France: October 3, 1943

Dear Herb:

Haven’t got much to say because I still don’t know what happened. Our flight was coming out of France after having to turn back because No. 1 had engine trouble. It was a beautiful day, nobody around except our four Spits heading home. One minute I’m flying along nice and peaceful, the next minute I was going down in flames. As soon as I realized what happened, and things were becoming a bit too hot, I jumped out like a jack-in-the-box. A parachute jump from 20,000 feet in broad daylight is quite some experience. I’ll have to try it again sometime especially when I haven’t got other things on my mind such as looking for a couple of missing fingers and trying to put the burn ointment on my face. I thought I’d never get down and kept glancing up to make sure I wasn’t hanging from a “sky hook.” Finally landing into the arms of three Jerries who bandaged me up and ushered me off to the local Luftwaffe M.O. In Beauvais hospital for a month and then through the regular channel, ended up here at IV B. Now I’m itching to get home for a rest and then take a crack at the Japs. . . .

Stan

Sgt. Noel F. Oliver, Navigator, RCAF

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Peenemünde: August 17/18, 1943
428 Squadron / Halifax V*
5 POWs / 2 KIA

Dear Herbie,

When Mac [WO2 Don R. McDevitt, RCAF] left your book with me he said I was to fill up to six pages but I told him he would be lucky if I could fill a page because this is definitely out of my line. However I’ll try and give you a brief account of why I’m here in Stalag IV B.

We attacked Peenemünde on a clear moonlight night and everything went according to plan until we were about 10 minutes on the return journey, when we were attacked by fighters. The first one was a Ju 88 which the rear gunner drove off and the last we saw of him there was smoke streaming from one of his motors. He was followed by an Me 210 who didn’t miss and very shortly afterwards my Kriegie days began. I do not remember a single thing about the jump. I must have got knocked out, because the first thing I know is I was standing on a road and I was surrounded by a group of German civvies who were armed with everything from shotguns to pitchforks. They had stripped me of all my kit (parachute harness, helmet, escape kit) so they took me and put me in an old silo until the Luftwaffe came and collected me. They took me off to an aerodrome nearby and housed me in the station clink. The next day they added two more airmen to the clink. One of these chaps was Doug Labelle—the strange thing here was that Doug was from Ottawa and we had gone to school together and he turns out to be the first chap I meet in Germany.

Two days later the three of us, with two guards, set out on our journey to Dulag Luft. Here I met the rest of my crew and found out that the pilot [Sgt. W.W. Blackmore, RCAF] and engineer [Sgt. F.S. Williams, RAF] had paid the supreme sacrifice. The mid-upper stayed behind but the other four of us came on down here to IV B via tourist class. There were only 178 other British when we arrived here on Sept. 1, 1943, but later in the month more air force and the bunch from Italy arrived and very shortly we were a large camp. . . .

As Ever, Ollie

* Crashed near Barth-Velgast, Germany.

Sgt. Karl H. Buchholz, Mid-Upper Gunner, RCAF

Grahamdale, Manitoba, Canada
Leipzig: December 3/4, 1943
429 Squadron / Halifax II
3 POWs / 4 KIA

Dear Herb,

You spoke of a chance to shoot a line without fear of contradiction. That’s not quite true.
Two of the “boys” are here besides me. Wish the others were too. The reason for being here? A Jerry fighter decided that by setting off the port incendiary load. Made the jump at about 15 thou’. Sure seemed a long time getting down. Landed in a hay field quite far from anyone. Walked ‘til morning and holed-up in the bush. It was too cold to sleep so tried walking in daylight. Was picked up by a civvie cop about 4 p.m. that day, on the main motor road Osnabrück-Oldenburg. Was turned over to the Luftwaffe and ended up here via the usual, Dulag Luft and transit at Frankfurt. Took me long enough to find out whether you were here and then accidentally, but as you know, I have some excuse. It was great to be able to talk with people back home, to someone who knows them too. You are the only one from there that I’ve met in the five years since I left Canada, other than my brother. . . .

Sincerely, Karl

F/S J.W. Sandford, Rear Gunner, RCAF

Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Berlin: November 26/27, 1943
405 Squadron / Lancaster*

. . . We got over Hamburg on our return from the Big City. Talk about being in the limelight, spotlight, or any other type. Oh yes! That was us. No competition for our place in the show. Jerry gave us a really splendid reception. Deception proved to be the right word too. After getting three or four hits from ack-ack, flak or whatever hit us. [I was] removing the armour from my turret seat, [when] the skip ordered us to bail out. Mid-upper [gunner] and myself safe in IV B. Rest of the crew back in dear old Blighty. And so the beginning of the blower days. You know Herbie, I’ll always feel we’ve been highly honoured knowing my Mk. I Spitfire, built by myself and very able co-designer (Westerner too and give him credit on that) Don McDevitt was the original of the 43B** blower. . . .

Yours in everything, Sandy

* Sandford and the mid-upper gunner, name unknown, bailed out, while the rest of his crew returned to England and landed safely.
** Their hut number.

Lionel Stewart, RCAF

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Stavanger, Norway: July 16, 1943
Coastal Command / Hampden

Dear Herb,

One of those Coastal Command “walkers.” Flew in torpedo bomber Hampden. Ditched off coast of Norway south of Stavanger after coastal bombardment. Picked up by Jerry minesweeper, taken to Bergen. Railroad to Oslo. Flown to Berlin in a Ju 52. Spent afternoon in downtown Berlin in guard’s friend’s apartment. She rolled me smokes and fed me apricot brandy. My guard was a great one for mixing business with pleasure. Arrived at Dulag Luft then to Stalag VII A. Finally to IV B. (Picked up Snowshoes [Jack] Meyers at VII A.) Among first British POWs to arrive at IV B August 23, 1943. . . .

Stew

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