The story left Andy and a crew of 7 others on a bombing run over German occupied Northern France. Their target was a railway marshalling yard at Cambrai and to avoid high civilian casualties they had to fly very low. Just a few thousand feet off the ground, far lower than their usual 25,000 ft. bombing runs. But, as mentioned on Wednesday, being so low they got caught in blinding enemy search lights and had to quickly dive and then pull out of the dive to get out of the light.
But no sooner had they escape that trap, they entered into another when a German night bomber came out of nowhere and started emptying it's cannon fire into the belly of the Canadian plane from below. The devastating blasts knocked out two port engines, much of the plane's hydraulics and set it ablaze in several areas. The pilot immediately realized that the plane was going down within minutes and nothing could save it. He gave the order for all to immediately bail out.
When the pilot thought the entire crew had escaped, he parachuted out himself. But only five had gotten out... by way of the front escape hatch. Andy was still on board. And so was his Thunder Bay Ontario buddy, pilot Officer Pat Brophy, who had an even more serious problem to deal with. The plane's rear turret is very small, and there was no room in it for a parachute which had to be stored in the belly of the plane, but close bye.
When Brophy turned the turret to deal with the attacking enemy plane, the turret revolved partially along its track, but in doing so it passed by the escape door from the turret back into the belly of the plane. And since the hydraulics were now out, the only way out was to crank the turret back to the position of the door..and to do this by hand. Brophy moved it a little, but then the crank broke...and when that happened he quickly came to realize it was the end for him. There was no escape. Period!
When Andy got out of his own turret and down to the escape hatch between him and Pat, he looked back through the flames inside the cabin and could see through a plexiglass window that Andy was still inside his turret and struggling to get the door open. Andy fell to his hands and knees and crawled through the flames of hydraulic oil as he made his way to the back. Grabbing a fire axe on the way he finally got to the rear but his own clothing AND parachute were on fire, but nevertheless he hackled away at the door but could not get it open. He then dropped the axe and tried with his bare hands to get it open but could not get it too budge.
His buddy knew that it was useless and ordered Andy to leave him and at least he could escape and live to fight another battle. Andy ignored him and kept trying, but finally had to give it up and crawled back... still on fire and through fire... and made it to the escape hatch.
Andy then stood up...still on fire, came to attention and faced Pat, he saluted his buddy and senior Pilot Officer and said something. It was probably the very words he uttered a hundred times in the past as each went off to bed. It was probably... "Good night Sir."
Andy then plummeted to earth. His shute was so badly burned that it did not open. French farmers near bye witnessed the ball of fire falling earthbound and raced to the scene to find Andy, amazingly still alive.. and still of fire. After the flames were put out they rushed him to a local doctor, his burns overcame him and Andy died not from the fall, but from the flames. He was buried near bye and later removed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Meharicourt Communal Cemetery about 30 km from Amiens France. He now rests with 40 other airmen, 12 from Canada, 21 from the RAF, 6 from the Royal Australian AF and 2 from the Royal New Zealand AF.
When the plan crashed if first struck a tree and a wing was torn off. Then the plane broke into many pieces. With it bouncing about, the rear turret was broken away from the plane. Within seconds Pat Brophy miraculous came too. He had been blown from the turret and smashed into a tree, and knocked out for a few seconds. When he awoke, he took off his helmet and his four leaf clover fell out. The very clover that was given to him for good luck from his buddy... Andy... who was now dead. Other than a few scratches and being badly knocked about, Pat was others wise quite fit for duty. Pat looked at his watch it was 13 minutes past Midnight. And for the triskaidekaphobia readers yes, it was Friday the thirteenth, in June of 1944. And to boot it was the crew's 13th mission.
Pat made it too a local village and heard troops coming so hid in a doorway. From behind two men approached him and muffled him and took him away. They were resistance men and Pat joined up with them and continued to fight till finally repatriated back to England. He then met others from his crew and for the first time told the others what his fellow gunner Andy tried to do to save his life. It was only then that he learned that Andy had died.
Andy's commanding Officer, on learning of this heroism immediately wrote the story up and recommended Andy for the Victoria Cross. It was supported by the most senior officers in the RCAF and the RAF and finally approved at London in the Fall of 1946. Here is the London Gazette's posthumous award...
From the above you can now see that Andy had a last name. His full name of course being Andrew Charles Mynarski. Two months after the above announcement of the Victoria Cross being awarded it was presented to Andy's mother in Alberta. It was presented by the then serving Lt. Governor, the Honorable J.A. McWilliams.
It should be mentioned that days after the D Day landings it was learned that the efforts of the air forces involved definitely had a bearing on the landings and the days following. The Panzer divisions arrived without their tanks. And it was said that they could not get through due to so many traffic jams and ties ups because of all the damage the bombers did.
There are numerous memorials to this officer's heroism in Canada. At Winnipeg the First Canadian Air Division's HQ there is a Mynarski memorial Room and here they proudly display this hero's Victoria Cross. At CFB Cold Lake the very axe he used, and recovered from the crash site, is on display.
There is a highschool in Winnipeg, a park in Alberta, A Royal Canadian Legion and an air cadet Squadron named in his honor. A three lake chain in Alberta is named for the hero. CFB Penhold has an officer's quarters so named and the officer has been inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
The Andrew Mynarski VC Plaque above was unveiled at Winnipeg's Kildonan Park in 2005. The middle statute, over 8 feet high was unveiled in 2005 at the Durham Tees Valley International Airport which is located on the very land that Andy once served and then known as MIddleton St George, in England. Air passengers pass right past it enroute to wherever they are off to. And among others is the bust outside of our own parliament Buildings in Ottawa known as the Valiants Memorial which consists of 9 busts and five statutes.
The above pictured plane will be travelling to England to join up with the only other Lancaster that still flies and will spend a month touring. It is said to be one of Canada's most famous symbols of the war and readers ought to watch the news in August to catch get the story. In the mean time much can be learned about Andy by doing a Google search of his name.
Hope you enjoyed,
See you on Wednesday next,