France hon­ours Dun­das war vet­eran

Louis Wood­cock flew in Lan­cast­ers over Ger­many and France in Sec­ond World War

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MARK MCNEIL mm­c­neil@thes­pec.com 905-526-4687 | @Markatthes­pec

A Sec­ond World War vet­eran of Bomber Com­mand from Dun­das has been awarded the high­est na­tional mil­i­tary hon­our of France.

Louis Wood­cock, 95, re­cently re­ceived a medal and plaque in­di­cat­ing that he had re­ceived the Knight of the French Na­tional Or­der of the Le­gion of Hon­our.

The award has five de­grees of dis­tinc­tion, with the Knight (Che­va­lier) be­ing the high­est. The French in re­cent years have been mak­ing a spe­cial ef­fort to rec­og­nize Al­lied vet­er­ans for their ef­forts lib­er­at­ing France from Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion.

Wood­cock was first no­ti­fied of the award last fall with a let­ter that said the award “il­lus­trates a pro­found grat­i­tude that France would like to ex­press to you. It is an award in recog­ni­tion of your per­sonal in­volve­ment in the lib­er­a­tion of our coun­try dur­ing World War Two.”

Asked what he thought about the award, he quipped, “I guess it’s what they say, ‘Once a knight, al­ways a knight.’”

Dur­ing the war, Wood­cock flew 30 mis­sions aboard Lan­caster bombers over Ger­many, and an­other five over France be­fore the D-Day raid in June 1944, drop­ping leaflets to French cit­i­zens.

“We were in­form­ing French peo­ple of the com­ing in­va­sion,” he said.

“The leaflets showed pictures of what our troops looked like and what our tanks and ar­ma­ments looked like, so they could tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Ger­man and the Al­lied forces.”

Those mis­sions, he said, were par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous.

“We had to fly in very low and of course we got shot at all the time. I thought it was go­ing to be any easy thing, but it turned out to be rough.”

Bomber Com­mand — with planes from the Royal Air Force and Royal Cana­dian Air Force — flew re­lent­less night­time bombing mis­sions try­ing to break the Nazi hold on Europe. Hun­dreds of planes would be sent at a time.

The mis­sions were hor­ri­bly dan­ger­ous for flights crews. More than 55,000 died. Al­most half of all air­crews never made it to the end of a 30 sor­tie tour of duty.

“The worst thing was the search lights. We were fly­ing at night and they’d turn on search lights over these cities and once they caught you in a search light they could di­rect their fire right at you, and the Ger­man fighters could find you eas­ily as well,” he said.

“We had trou­ble get­ting home a cou­ple of times. We had holes in the plane, but we were never ac­tu­ally shot down. I guess we were lucky.”

Wood­cock worked as a nav­i­ga­tor as part of seven-man crews on Lan­cast­ers. He sat be­hind the pi­lot and flight en­gi­neer. Nav­i­ga­tors sel­dom left their sta­tion be­cause they needed to con­stantly plot the air­craft’s course and make ad­just­ments for wind and other fac­tors.

In­ter­est­ingly, he said, he’s never had a de­sire to take a flight on the re­stored Lan­caster owned by the Cana­dian War­plane Her­itage Mu­seum. He said he con­trib­uted some money to help with the restora­tion ef­fort, but that was the ex­tent of his in­ter­est.

Wood­cock grew up in Cobourg, but has lived in the Hamilton area since 1960. Af­ter the war, he worked for De­part­ment of Labour (now called the Min­istry of Labour) in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­plaints of un­jus­ti­fied fir­ings.

We had to fly in very low and of course we got shot at all the time. LOUIS WOOD­COCK KNIGHT OF THE FRENCH NA­TIONAL OR­DER OF THE LE­GION OF HON­OUR

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