Part II: Pilot Officer Frederick James Piper
Frederick James Piper was born in 1920, the son of Archie and Elizabeth Piper. Archie came to Canada from Scotland and settled in Pincher Creek, Alberta at the same time as the famous Halton family. Mathew Halton went on to become the most famous Canadian newspaper and CBC Reporter of the Second World War.
Fred’s mother moved to Pincher Creek about the same time as Archie. She was from London, England. The couple met in Canada and married. Archie fought in the First World War and was a strong patriot. After the war, he bought a blacksmith shop in Tuxford, Saskatchewan and they settled there. The business was successful. Archie added the sale of fuel and farm implements to the business.
Young Fred was a go-getter. He attended the Technical High School (Peacock) in Moose Jaw, learned welding and used the skill in the family business. He was bright, capable and skilled. When he joined the RCAF and attended Initial Training School he was selected for pilot training; completed the training and got his wings as a pilot.
Frederick was eventually assigned as a Pilot to RCAF Squadron 434 (Bluenose Squadron), Crew #6. His Wireless Air Gunner was a Moose Jaw lad, Flight Sgt. George Connor. The two probably didn’t know each other before enlisting because of their age difference. Connor was three years younger.
George Ronald Connor (R114897) was the son of Ward and Annie Connor. His dad worked in Moose Jaw as an electrician. Before the war he worked as a carpenter at Prairie Airways. George enlisted in 1941.
The men were part of the huge bombing raid on the Nazi Rocket Production facility at Peenemunde. It was a controversial bombing operation. The head of Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris, was not in favour of the operation because the losses would be too high and the ability of the bombs to damage the target were low.
Like so much — the need to show the Allied public the facility had been attacked, was the main reason for the operation. After the raid, rocket production was put back about four weeks. Nineteen men from Saskatchewan died on the raid — three from Moose Jaw and district. They included Fred, George and former Central student, Navigator F/O Don H. Orr, son of Dr. John Orr, the antituberculosis physician with the Saskatchewan government.
Final flight of P/O Piper and Sgt. Connor and Halifax Bomber IP-T
Fred (his promotion to Pilot Officer came after his death), with 434 Squadron, and his crew departed Tholthorpe, East Yorkshire at 2113 hours on the night of Aug. 17, 1943.
Fred was the pilot of Halifax Bomber Mark V, s/n EB285, Squadron Code IP-T
and their target was the Nazi Rocket Production facility at Peenemunde.
The bomber was lost over Westerlund. The entire crew were killed. They are buried in Keil War Cemetery, Germany.
The tragic irony — Fred Piper and the DOC Regulations
Archie Piper wanted his son to join the Air Force and went so far as to have the RCMP have a salesman charged under the DOC Regulations because he thought the man was trying to talk his son out of joining the Air Force. His son may have been eligible for exemption from military service to work in the family farm implement and blacksmith business. But Archie wanted him in the RCAF. Tragically, at age 23 Fred died in northern Germany.
Tuxford Memorial Service
On Thursday, Dec. 2, 1943, a Special Memorial Service was held in the Tuxford United Church for Fred and two local brothers, Flying Officer Jack Lowther and WO2 David Lowther.
David had been killed in air operations early in 1943 and as of December 1943, Jack was listed as missing in air operations. He was later confirmed killed Sept. 28, 1943.
The Tuxford United Church was packed. It must have been a moving ceremony led by the Reverend Thomas Bray and assisted by Reverend R. S. L. McAdam, the Anglican minister in Tuxford.
The service opened with the singing of the National Anthem — which at that time was probably God Save the King. The “inspiring” sermon was delivered by RAF Squadron Leader N. M. Slaughter, of No. 32 S.F.T.S., Moose Jaw, the station chaplin.
Also included in the ceremony was a contingent of Air Cadets led by Cadet Flying Officer N. C. Allen. The Cadets presented a flower arrangement in the shape of an airplane. One can only imagine Archie’s grief. There is little left in Tuxford, Saskatchewan today that reminds people of the tragic war years. The plaque at the Tuxford Community Hall commemorates those who served. It includes the names of Fred, the Lowther brothers; the Hannah brothers and many more.
Time moves on — memories fade — but we must remember, lest we forget the fallen.
P/O F. J. Piper killed on Air Operations, Aug. 18, 1943.
Jack (KIA Set. 28, 1943) and David (KIA Mar. 3, 1943), Lowther – England January 1943
Sgt. G.R. Connor, Crew 6, killed on Air Operations, Aug. 18, 1943.