Brothers-in-arms...Polish Canadian hero.

Discussion in 'Stories' started by v2, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Andrew Charles Mynarski was born in Winnipeg (Manitoba, CANADA) on the 14th of October 1916, the son of Polish immigrants. He had five other siblings, two brothers and three sisters. He was educated at the King Edward and Isaac Newton Elementary Schools and at St. John's Technical School. To help support his family after his father's death in age of 16, he worked for four years as a leather worker in Winnipeg.
    He later built furniture and air planes models in a workshop that he built in the basement.
    In November 1941 (the Second World War) he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He took his training at Calgary and Edmonton (Alberta) and MacDonald (Manitoba) graduating in 1942 as a mid-upper gunner shortly before his 25th birthday. He went overseas in December 1942.
    His first operational posting was with Number 9 Squadron in October 1943. In March 1944, he replaced another mid-upper gunner in 419 (Moose) Squadron and joined the crew with whom his name would be forever linked. On the crew's ninth mission together, (June 5th, 1944... D-Day minus 1) they were assigned a brand new Canadian built Lancaster Mk-X, with number KB-726 VR-A .
    On June 11, 1944 Mynarski was promoted to Pilot Officer / Gunner.
    On the night of June 12, his crew was to take off on the new Lanc's fourth mission, their target: the rail marshalling yards at Cambrai, France. It would be the 13th mission of the crew. They would be over the target on Friday the thirteenth. While waiting to go, the crew couldn't help but think of these omens related to the number "13". Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by the planes. He insisted that his closest buddy in the crew, tail gunner Pat Brophy, should take it. Pat put the leaf into his helmet...
    Shortly after crossing the French coast, the Lancaster was briefly coned by enemy searchlights. After some evasive maneuvers, they were in the safety of darkness again. They began descending to the level of their planned attack when a Ju-88 came in from astern. It's cannons blazed from below.
    Three explosions tore the aircraft. Both port engines were knocked out and began to flame. The third burst tore into the aircraft between the mid-upper and rear turrets starting a fire. Hydraulic lines to the rear turret were severed and the fluid ignited, turning the rear of the fuselage into an inferno. The captain, Art de Bryne gave the order to bail out...
    ...Pat Brophy, the tail gunner proceeded to exit his turret and bail out. To get out, Pat had to straighten his turret in line with the fuselage, go through the doors, collect his parachute and jump from the fuselage door on the starboard (right) side. Tail gunners stored their parachutes in the fuselage because there wasn't the room in the confines of the rear turret to wear or store one. Unfortunately that third round had split the hydraulic line feeding his turret, it wouldn't move and flames where sweeping down towards him. The alternate route was to rotate the turret with the inner doors facing to the outside and to bail out backwards. Pat managed to open his doors to the inside of the aircraft, enough to grab his parachute and clip it on. He would then manually rotate the turret with a hand crank as far he could to the side, open the doors and bail out into the night. To his horror, the handle broke off. He was now trapped in a burning aircraft heading for the ground. At that time Mynarski left his post at the mid upper turret and began to make his way to the rear escape door...

    The remainder of this encounter is best left up to Pat Brophy himself:
    "(...) Then I saw Andy. He had slid down from the mid-upper turret and made his way back to the rear escape hatch, about 15 feet from me, having received the same P signal to bail out from the skipper.
    He opened the door and was just about to jump when he glanced around and spotted me through the plexiglass part of my turret. One look told him I was trapped. Instantly, he turned away from the hatch - his doorway to safety - and started towards me. All this time the airplane was lurching drunkenly as Art tried to keep it on an even keel without instruments. Andy had to climb over the Elsan chemical toilet and crawl over the tailplane spar, as there is no room at that part of the fuselage. These cramped conditions forced him to crawl on his hands and knees - straight through the blazing hydraulic oil. By the time he reached my position in the tail, his uniform and parachute were on fire. I shook my head; it was hopeless. 'Don't try!' I shouted, and waved him away.
    "Andy didn't seem to notice. Completely ignoring his own condition in the flames, he grabbed a fire axe and tried to smash the turret free. It gave slightly, but not enough. Wild with desperation and pain, he tore at the doors with his bare hands. By now he was a mass of flames below the waist. Seeing him like that, I forgot everything else. Over the roar of the wind and the whine of our two remaining engines, I screamed, 'Go back, Andy! Get out!'
    "Finally, with time running out, he realized that he could do nothing to help me. When I waved him away again, he hung his head and nodded, as though he was ashamed to leave - ashamed that sheer heart and courage hadn't been enough. As there was no way to turn around in the confined quarters, Andy had to crawl backwards through the flaming hydraulic fluid fire again, never taking his eyes off me. On his face was a look of mute anguish. "When Andy reached the escape hatch, he stood up. Slowly, as he'd often done before in happier times together, he came to attention. Standing there in his flaming clothes, a grimly magnificent figure, he saluted me! At the same time, just before he jumped, he said something. And even though I couldn't hear, I knew it was 'Good night, Sir'. (...)"

    Now as Pat sat there alone with five tones of explosives fifty feet from him, in a Lanc that would hit the ground in seconds, he braced himself for the impact. As the aircraft came down in a steady glide, it hit a thick tree with its port (left) wing and spun round. Two of its twenty bombs exploded almost immediately after the first ground impact, throwing the tail gunner clear. He came to rest about fifty feet from the burning remains, against an another tree alive and with no a scratch.
    His watch stopped at 12:13 a.m., Friday, June 13, 1944.
    At the time when he picked up his helmet, out of it fell the cloverleaf.
    The seven crew members were now all on the ground. Unfortunately, Andrew Mynarski was dead.
    He had landed alive with his clothes still on fire. French farmers who had spotted the flaming bomber found him and hustled him off to a doctor but he died shortly of his severe burns.
    He was buried in a local cemetery in Méharicourt (France).
    Four of the crew members were hidden by the French and returned to England shortly after the crash.
    The others were captured by the Germans and were interned until they could be liberated by American troops. It wasn't until 1945 when Pat Brophy was reunited with Art de Breyne and could tell the others what happened to himself and Andy that anyone knew the story.
    Art de Breyne started the process by recommending an award for Andy at the end of 1945. The recommendation worked it's way up the command structure of the RCAF and RAF until it was decided upon, a Victoria Cross would be awarded for "valour of the highest order".
    The medal was presented to his mother, Mrs. Stanley Mynarski by the Right Honorable J.A. McWilliams, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba on 12th December 1946.

    Taken from site zurakowskiarow...
     

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  2. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    The flyable Lancaster in Canada today is painted in his honour. It's often referred to as the Mynarski Lancaster.
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Good story v2, he fully deserved the VC. :salute:
     
  4. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Lancaster KB-726 VR-A
     

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  5. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    i can't think of a better excuse to post some lanc pics, so this is FM213, Canada's flying lanc, FM213 was the aircraft's original reg, this is still carried but it is reconised by the Canadians by it's civilian reg, as unlike the british PA474 she is civilian owned, with unfortunatly means she is not always kept to the same high standards as the RAF keep theirs..........

    source for all shots- unknown.....
     

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  6. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    nice pics, Lanc...
     
  7. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Agreed :cool:
     
  8. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    what are the differances i was given to understand the mid turret might not be correct
     
  9. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    yes FM213 is fitted with the Martin Mid upper turret sporting twin .50cals, it is positioned much further forward up the fusilage and externally appears a lot smaller than the normal FN.50, however internally it was too big and so was not liked, this turret was not of the type fitted to KB726 however it is the right turret for FM213 as the Mk.Xs were fitted with both the FN.50 and the martin turret...........
     
  10. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    That is indeed so. :cool:
    What a pretty bird, eh? I'd love to get to see the damn thing fly some day. :rolleyes:

    The Mynarski Lanc is always kept to a very high standard. They wouldn't fly her otherwise, but being civilian owned (by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum) it depends largely on public donations and the occasional fund raising to keep her airworthy. So far, so good.:thumbleft:
    It was really too bad that it didn't make it over across the pond for the 60th anniversary celebrations. The duel fly-past with the BBMF Lanc would have been a real sight.
     
  11. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    right, you wanna organise a lanc-off ;) the RAF takes on their lowly canadian dominions :lol:

    and yeah that would've been something to see, we would've funded most of hit and in the end it was a combination of the risk and cost..........
     
  12. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Nice pics and good info up there.
     
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