Victor Henry John Le Gear J3040

September 3, 1918 - May 29, 2003

Victor Henry John Le Gear

439 Squadron

Victor Henry John Le Gear was born in Barrie, Ontario on September 3, 1918. His record of service shows he started through the BCATP at #2 Manning Depot. By November 1941, he was at #4 ITS, Edmonton. By March 2, 1942, he was at #5 EFTS, High River and earned his wings at #12 SFTS, Brandon on August 28, 1942. he was at Penfield Ridge, Moncton, and Bagotville. He was part of 118 Squadron, Annette Island, Alaska in April 1943 until August of that year, then went to Sea Island, BC until October 1943, being sent overseas, landing on November 10, 1943. He flew with 439 Squadron and earned the DFC.

His DFC states: Flight Lieutenant Le Gear has completed a very large number of sorties involving attacks on German industrial centres and other targets such as bridges, gun sites, locomotives and mechanical transport. On numerous occasions he has led his squadron, and the consistently good results obtained have been due in no small measure to this officer's competence and leadership. He has inflicted much damage on the enemy and his coolness and courage have been an inspiration to other members of his squadron.

Harry Hardy, DFC, of 440 Squadron had a copy of a handwritten account of some of Vic Le Gear's wartime experiences, transcribed here.

EMERGENCY LANDING: February 6, 1945. 1:20 Ramrod. 2x1000 lb bombs. Take off 1500 hours. 10/10 clouds tending to open up. F/L Johnny Carr led the section to the Coesfeld area. I was his No. 2 and Murray Hallford was wingman for F/L Bill Breck. The railroad received at least 2 direct hits under very concentrated medium flak. Two locomotives were found and badly damaged. A third train was sighted in a wooded area, but it looked suspiciously like a trap. As we approached the Rhine, flying at 1000 feet on our return to base, my engine cut out, fired again, and then quit except for one cylinder which kept firing away with a loud grinding noise. Johnny immediately changed course for Volkel, the nearest landing field. I could never reach it because a Typhoon floats like a rock compared to a Spitfire. As the other three passed over Goch, they were subjected to intense flak. Fortunately, none was aimed at me trailing far behind and heading groundward. I crossed the Maas River at 500 feet and started looking for an open space in a land of scrub trees. (I was too low to bail out.) When I spotted a brand new runway being laid out -- bless those British engineers! There were several lorries and other vehicles moving around on the mesh. I fervently prayed they would hear the racket overhead as I made an s-turn to line up my landing. I rammed forward the wheels and flap levers. The wheels came down but the flaps refused to budge. I then had to pump the wheels back up, pump the flaps down first ,and then dropped the wheels, all the time anxiously watching the traffic slowly move off the runway. At about 10 feet and at the edge of the runway, I cut the engine and made a dead stick landing. The Typhoon ran the full length of the runway, without brakes, coming to a stop on its own as it reached the end. I climbed down as a V1 Buzz Bomb passed noisily overhead. Petrol, glycol, and oil were pouring from the huge radiator, which accounted for the loss of hydraulic brakes.

HEART ATTACK: March 5, 1945. B78 Eindhoven 0815 Ramrod 2 x 500 pound bombs. 10/10 cloud. I led a section of Typhoons on the target of opportunity flight. We entered the cloud at done hundred feet and climb to 10,000 feet before seeing sunlight. At 11,000 feet, the other three aircraft spread out 400 yards apart. We looked for openings as we near the approximate area of the Reichwald Forest. I was slightly ahead of the other three. Suddenly an 88 mm shell exploded 10 feet right ahead of me. With a brilliant flash, the upper half burst upwards into small shards. The lower part seemed to hesitate then shot upward also. Two seconds later, a second shell burst 5 feet off the left wing tip. Then two more seconds later, I third exploded off the right wingtip. My cool composure erupted, too. Fortunately for me, the gunners had used antitank shells (with forward thrust) instead of antiaircraft bursters. I’m sure those gutters locked themselves silly as their radar showed us weaving violently all over the sky. It was a good lesson never forgotten. We dropped our bombs over Germany and returned to base, weaving all the time. Flight time: 55 minutes.

SHELLS: March 22, 1945 B78 Eindhoven Ramrod 2 x 500 lb bombs At 6 PM, F/L Bill Davis, O/C ‘A’ Flight, led three sections to the Coesfeld-Burgsteinfurt RR to cut rail lines. Conditions were a smoky haze. No flak was encountered, and at least one pair of rails were cut. The flights then went their separate ways, back to base. Crossing the Rhine at 5000 feet and heading towards the setting sun, some flashing streaks to the north caught my eye. They seemed to be flying east at our height. As we watched, we made out cannon shells, at the top of their projectory, every few seconds, some more than one big gun was firing. It was Monty’s usual softening up routine before any big attack. It was very interesting to see them flashing by, but we moved a bit higher just in case!

A TURNING POINT IN WWII March 24, 1945 For 10 days prior to crossing the Rhine, heavy bombers made day and night bombing raids north of the Ruhr between the Maas River and Munster. Every crossroads, village, and town became a roaring volcano, and the air up to 10,000 feet was acrid with ash and smoke, which persisted for the whole period. Flying through this infernal cost as much anxiety, what with filters clogging up and poor visibility. It was apparent from our viewpoint that when the enemy lines were broken, our tanks would have difficulty moving in that morass. We were awakened early for a wing operation against military installments at Ostrich expected to be a battalion headquarters. At 0630 wing Commander operations Frank G. Grant, DSO, DFC, lead three sections of 439 squadron off with 438 and 440 squadrons to follow one half hour later. W/C Grant to destroy flak sites; Blue section under F/L Vic Le Gear would dive on the target; Green section led by F/O Andy Anderson would take out the outer buildings. Two 1000 pound 11-second delay bombs were carried. We took off in the predawn darkness climbing to 10,000 feet as we headed for the Dortmond-Ems Canal. We flew above the canal until we came to a u-bend. W/C Grant headed north with Green section to his left and below, and Blue section two starboard 500 feet higher. The sun rose over the horizon, shining through the smoky haze. From his height, Grant could not see the target. From my position above the haze, the buildings could be seen. The target was a large beautiful chateau with several farm buildings, all surrounded by a stone wall. We headed back to canal, lined up with the u-bend and try again with the same result. The wingco said he would give it one more try and we would go for secondary targets. I had visions of ack ack gunners leisurely strolling to their guns after a good breakfast and the second cup of ersatz coffee. On the third try, W/C Grant still could not see the target through the sun blinding haze. I called up and told him I have the target insight and requested permission to dive. He replied, “Go ahead Vic, I’ll follow.” I went into a near vertical dive towards the chateau, releasing the bomb about 6500 feet. At the same moment, 37 mm or 40 mm shells came out of the darkness below straight for me. For what seemed an age, I stared at those brightly colored balls whizzing just below my nose. The stick refused to budge. At what must’ve been close to 600 mph, I fired my guns to scare the gunners and to get a recoil from the guns. Both worked. The shells stopped coming, and I was able to pull the heavy control column back. The TV leveled off at about 50 feet above the ground. I jammed on right rudder and skidded a wild shot at a small copse from which the shells had come. 438 and 440 squadrons reported later that the target had been destroyed and were heading for other targets. About a month later, W/C Grant visited our dispersal hut, all smiles. He read a cable from Gen. Eisenhower congratulating 143 Wing on a great show. The chateau had been an army corps headquarters . With it, we had destroyed all land lines isolating army units. The general, seriously injured, it was found under the stone wall.(General Schlem hospitalized on Isle of Sylt.) Flight time: 50 minutes.

TOWN OF ERLE March 26, 1945 At 6 p.m., I led two sections of eight aircraft each carrying to 500 pounds anti-personnel bombs, at 10,000 feet to the town of Erle east of the Rhine. Erle was a suspected battalion headquarters. Approaching from the southwest, I was disturbed to see a squadron of Spitfires cruising around at low level, stirring up a lot of flak. However over the town all was quiet. The town was roughly circular with all the buildings huddled together, and surrounded by farms. Larger buildings formed the center of town. I dropped my bombs at 6000 feet to allow lots of room for the bomblets to be objected outward at 3000 feet. Following my usual practice, I did a half roll at 8000 feet to watch the results. I was startled to see three Spitfires coming straight up toward me like three sharks. Fortunately, the leader must of seen the roundels or the wide white stripes on the wings for he pulls away and the others followed. My bomblets exploded with small puffs of smoke. I felt a little disappointed with such puny results, but they did cover the whole town. The next six sets did likewise with each set landing in different sections of the town, so it was truly plastered. The last set missed the town entirely but set the haystack on fire. The Spitfires were still active in the area with the Jerries throwing up a tremendous amount of every kind of flak. At 10,000 feet, it looked like a battle was going on. I knew 438 and 440 squadrons were coming in shortly to repeat the operation. There were going to get a hot reception. I ordered my Tiffies to fly west while I did a diversion dive. The results are spectacular. Like a giant fan, the flat sweat from east to west narrowing on their target -- me. I didn’t tarry. I hightailed west with the hope that my buddies could sneak in. Later, it was reported that the British armored division, possibly 6th, reached Erle. They used bulldozers to dig communal graves for 5000 dead. Flight time: 50 minutes.

INTO GERMANY March 30, 1945 B100 Goch, Germany About 11 a.m., 439 Squadron flew to B100 at (Weeze) Goch, Germany, south of the Reichwall Forest, becoming the first Allied squadron to land on German soil. The other squadrons followed soon after making 143 Wing the first allied Wing to land in Germany. At 11:55 AM, I let off a section to the Rheine area becoming the first Canadian, possibly Allied, pilot to fly from German soil. With me were F/O John Bullock, Ottawa, F/L Tex Gray from, where else, Texas, F/O Walt Kubicki, Hamilton, a student of mine at No. 1 SFTS, Camp Borden. A locomotive was strafed twice, and put out of commission. A lorry towing three howitzers blown up and all destroyed. Three MET destroyed and three damaged. Considerable medium flak was encountered. We returned safely to our new base. Flight time: one hour.

BEYOND THE BOMB LINE April 1, 1945 B100 Goch, Germany At 10:50 AM, I led a section headed for the Zutphen-Burgsteinfurt area to carry out an armed recce. Visibility was poor with ceiling 800 to 1,000 feet and lots of rain. We encountered two motorized military columns resting at the crossroads on the Enschede-Hengelo Highway. They were led by Jeeps. Some tanks had fluorescent banners prominently displayed. We flew over a 200 feet, waving at the British standing about in groups. I then called the base to stop all flights until we returned. These troops were far beyond the latest bomb line drawn on our charts thus liable for attack by aircraft. The bomb lines were quickly adjusted and no damage was done. It did show how quickly our armies were moving. When we moved into Flensburg on the Danish border, June 3, we were surprised to see many similar type jeeps the enemy had. They were making them too. They were also using a banner similar to ours! They learned fast! Flight time: 50 minutes

BV222 FLYING BOAT April 24, 1945 At 2 PM, after destroying some railway tracks on the Geosthact Rail Line, our two sections separated to look for more targets. 7/10 clouds at 4500 feet made it dangerous to have two sections together. Cruising west toward south of Lubeck with F/O Jack Brock, F/O Walt Kubicki, and F/O Murray Hallford, I saw a small lake, Scheel-See near Seedorf. While admiring this lovely lake, thinking it would be a perfect spot for a weekend, I saw grass covered point that looked like the right location. As it passed beneath, I thought I saw the outline of an aircraft. Looking closer, I could see the green netting covering a huge flying boat. We went into straight. We were impressed by the size of the 6-engined monster with a large swastika on its tail. We made several passes before it caught fire -- I sure sign of no fuel. It was suspected of being a guest wait aircraft for Hermann Goering. Flight time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

2 BOYS AT PLAY April 30, 1945 B150 Scheven Hustedt (Celle) Germany At 5 PM, Army headquarters wanted some idiot millimeter guns on a flat car on the Hamburg-Bad Ikdeskie Rail Line, isolated from the city of Hamburg. S/L Staff Marlatt was leading three sections from ‘A’ flight but was short two pilots. It was raining and misty, the ceiling was 900 feet, so most of the squadron had drifted off to the Mess. F/O Murray Hallford and I were loitering about, so I volunteered our services. The aircraft I was assigned was a dog. Good guns but a tired engine. We too were quickly left behind but I wasn’t concerned. I knew the area well. Reaching the line, I peered up the tracks towards the flak car but could see no damage. We turned south to get some distance from the guns, turned toward them at 300 feet and dropped the bombs. A few seconds later, Murray called up. “Look under your wings!” I did. There was a 500 pound bomb on either side turning head over heels. He flew up and out in a hurry, and then turned back to look. Two large holes on the railroads showed the job was done. From the chapter on the air, we surmise action further east. We came upon a railroad station with the locomotive stationary close to it. They were well protected by large trees. I fired my 20 mm shells through a tree at the engine making it blow smoke and steam. A small black cloud rose from the locomotive as I flew over it. Murray did the same with this station, shattering large holes in the wall and setting a tree on fire. Turning to make another pass, we saw the other aircraft diving on a marshaling yard. We followed him down and fired a box cars. We completed the circuit by pasting the station area again. This time Murray got the station burning while I ruined the cab. Again the black cloud rose up. This time I managed to duck under it. We repeated our shooting up box cars, came around again on the station where Murray stoked the fire. My third try on the engine had it spewing more steam and the same black cloud. This time I had to fly through it. The leading edge of the wings received of fusillade of stones and gravel. Some shells and gone through the locomotive, exploding in the gravel bed. That explains the black color. The aircraft was still operating smoothly so we went one last pass at the marshaling yard. I lined my sights on a camouflaged freight car, had just pressed the button, when I saw a tall light standard dead ahead. I yelled a warning at Murray and pulled into a vertical turn, just missing the standard. Somehow Murray got by it too. Enough was enough. I completed the circuit to line up on the station to head for base when I saw three covered lorries parked side-by-side. This was too good to miss. I yanked back on a steep turn to my left, forcing Murray to stall into a spin. He recovered quickly to pull out of the spin. There was another lorry dead ahead of him as he did so. He quickly fired and the truck exploded. Meanwhile, I reversed my turn into a steep right downward turn to bring me on to the lorries. At that moment, I recalled an RAF Wing Commander Green bragging that he could hit any target on the clock. I thought if he can do it, I can too. I continued my steep turn until I was upside down, pushed the stick forward to raise my guns, and pressed the button. All three lorries exploded into a huge white cloud in front of me. I flew through the cloud turning right side up. I came out of the club with my right wing under a tree! I think even my guardian angel had the shakes! This time we headed for home. About 500 yards ahead of the station, long line of flak, parallel to the railway, shot into the air like a curtain. Apparently the gunners had been hiding in a trench until the fun was over. I was so unnerved; I turned my wing vertical to make a smaller target as possible. No one half-inch steel shield on the side of fuselage! I made it through and so did Murray. The rest of the trip was uneventful but my nerves were twitchy. However I was back out again the next day. Flight time: one hour.

BELSEN May 5, 1945 B150 Scheven Hustedt Germany Late in the morning of May 4, the order came to cease offensive operations. That afternoon S/L Jim Beattie and I shared a bottle of peach brandy to celebrate the end of our operations, and reminisce about buddies who made it and those that had not. Later in the evening, we wandered down to the airfield to watch the celebrations underway. When someone tried to burn one of our aircraft, we had to order everyone to barracks. The next day three of us took a Jeep to nearby Belsen concentration camp. The smell of death reached as well before we arrived. The camp was closed to visitors because of a typhus scare, but they did let us in. The medics dusted us carefully and warned us not to be careless near contaminated areas. Many great pits, each holding about 8000 bodies, we’re covered over with soil, but one or two were still open because many of the inmates were dying. Their former guards now have a gruesome task of carrying the dead to these graves. Near to the incinerator, a stack of shoes 12 feet high, 60 feet long, and 6 feet deep were piled as neat as cordwood. A girl of about 20 years of age showed us around. She looked bright and fairly strong. She explained that’s one of her duties was to serve food at one of the long tables. Anyone at the table who appeared unable to survive tonight got no food. She was strong enough to fight off the others and have the food for herself. She told us a guard was on the point of shooting her when the British arrived. She ducked as the guard raised his rifle and the soldier shot him. A few of the healthier inmates were awaiting transportation to outside hospitals. The girl had a firm grasp on my arm, and I was wondering if she expected me to take her along when we left. Many of the weaker prisoners were unable to swallow and retain the life-saving gruel and were certain to die. A small gypsy girl and a very threadbare cotton dress was a distressing example as she stooped to let the liquid pass through. Her eyes have a vacant look, her frame so small and fragile, I knew she was going to die. The home for her and her mother was a shallow hole in the ground, covered by a ragged sheet. It was a graphic illustration of how low in the social scale the gypsies were when they could not get shelter in the long shabby barracks. We passed out chocolate bars to our guide and other healthier looking inmates, although a doctor warned it would do no good, but then he said it would do no harm either. It must taste good. It was days before we can get the smell out of our systems. It was a happy day near the end of June, to fly over Belsen and see the buildings going up in flames. The incinerator was left intact.

Vic made a three-page list of the Leader and Wingmen, how many aircraft in each flight. He calculated that he was #2 Wingman for 20 ops, #4 for 3, #3 for 13 and Section or Wing Leader for 45 ops.

DFC information courtesy of Mike Melnick, Webmaster of 439 Squadron.

Additional stories about Vic Le Gear can be found on pages 102, 114, 118, 159-62 and 169 in Typhoon and Tempest as well as on page 195 of Aces, Warriors & Wingmen. by Wayne Ralph.