SWORDFISH VETERANS OF WORLD WAR II
F/O Edward Rhind and the McFadden Crew
Edward Rhind was born on 07 August 1911 in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His family immigrated to Canada in 1924 arriving in Quebec on the 24th of June. By 1926 the family had made their way to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where they established their new home. Edward attended Westmount School and Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon and upon graduation joined Campbell, Wilson and Millar, a very large wholesale grocery company. In July 1939 he
became a reserve member of the 2nd Battalion Saskatoon Light Infantry. In July 1942, Edward decided to enlist in the RCAF. He took his Initial Training School in Saskatoon and then was sent to #5 Elementary Flying Training School located at Prince Albert for basic pilot training on the Tiger Moth. He washed himself out, as it was apparent to him that he was just not suited to assume pilot duties; however, he still wished to fly. As a result, he was sent to #5 Bombing and Gunnery School located at Dafoe Saskatchewan. He successfully completed this training and following a short stay at the manning depot in Brandon, Manitoba he was sent to Halifax for embarkation to England.
James Rinder was born on 23rd January 1920; he was the son of Frank Owen and Edith Myrtle Rinder, of Outremont, Province of Quebec, Canada. He was married in Surrey, England in 1942 and his wife was living in East Didsbury, Manchester when he died at the age of 24 years.
James Clarke was born on 8th June 1924. Nothing more about his service is known. An entry found, while searching the 1940 US census, indicates that possibly James, who was born in Canada, was living with his parents in Wilmette, Illinois in 1940.
The fates of F/O McFadden, F/O Conner, F/Sgt Graves and Sgt Burton required additional study. On line searches and inputs from descendants have confirmed that these Swordfish were indeed POWs and that they all survived the war. The following information provided additional insights concerning these crew members.
F/O Bob McFadden returned to Montreal, Quebec following his release as a POW. He remained in the RCAF and while taking part in an airshow at London, Ontario, he met his wife. They initially lived in Montreal and had three children. Bob had a long career in the RCAF both as a pilot and a staff officer at NDHQ. After retirement, he worked as a consultant for the Air Force. In 1996 they moved to Mississauga, where he died on 17 December 2008, at the age of 86.
On 22 April 1945, following the prisoner exchange, F/O Neil Conner made a trip to East Moor to visit his Squadron. While there, he related several of his exciting moments during his last trip on “Ops”. While parachuting from the damaged aircraft, he realized the extent of his injuries was worse than he originally thought, so he had the presence of mind to stuff his clothing into the wound and thus stem the flow of blood. Fortunately, he landed in a forest clearing without further injury. He then utilized the silk threads and bamboo riggings from his parachute to fashion a tourniquet. After lying in the clearing for 22.5 hours, he was finally discovered by a German farmer and taken to hospital where he underwent surgery. Following his hospitalization, he was released in the prisoner exchange of 22 April 1945. Of his crew he had very little to report. Just prior to his passing, Neil Connor participated in the “Memory Project” and left a video concerning his experience.
He died in Ottawa on 10 June 2012, at the age of 93.
F/Sgt Fred Graves returned home to Ottawa following his release as a POW. He married and had four children. He led an active life and has been described as an artist, teacher, coach, Olympic oarsmen, builder and fixer extraordinaire. An honourable man who cherished his family above all else, he died on 11 February 2009 at the age of 85.
Shortly after McFadden ordered the crew to bail out, Sgt Joe Burton was propelled outward by an explosion. Both of his legs were wounded and he lost his boots. His parachute successfully opened and he landed in a clearing. Trying to escape, he followed a path into the woods and ultimately found a cattle shed. Exhausted, he fell asleep. A local woman had observed his movements and alerted the police. He was awoken by the police officer, who upon recognizing the extent of his injuries, wheeled him on a "Dienstfahrrad" (staff bicycle) to the next farm, where Burton met two ladies and a girl. These women fed him bread, bacon and coffee while making sure he was warmed by the kitchen fire. Apparently the girl tried her limited English on him: "I have seen the crash and you are a very happy man to be alive!" Later, soldiers with pieces of the wreckage of the Halifax in their car came to pick him up. Joe was moved to the medical clinic of Twistringen, where he was looked after by a young female doctor and placed in the same room as Neil Conner. Later, Burton was moved by train; via the Luftwaffe (Air force) POW transit camp Oberursel, to Stalag Luft I Barth. On 13 May 1945, Joe Burton returned to England and once again met Neil Conner. It is known that Joe had a son, Michael, who reported that his father passed away prior to 2010.
While the initial intent for this story was to focus on F/O Edward Rhind, it quickly became apparent that there was much more to be told about the McFadden crew. The following paragraphs provide additional insights about the crew and its members. For example, the Squadron ORBs note that F/O Neil Conner was recommended for a DFC, not only for the events of his last operational mission but also for his former work as a Navigator on 415 Squadron. He had proved himself above average, as was the remainder of the crew. In fact, the McFadden Crew were due to report to Path Finder Force, 405 Squadron, the day following their last flight with 415 Squadron.
While collecting information on F/O Rhind, it was discovered that a famous German Ace, Oblt Walter Briegleb, who was flying BF 110-G-4 coded D5+BV from squadron BR, shot down the McFadden crew. This was the 245th kill attributed to this pilot. Germany used the ME 110 equipped with Radar and a gun called "Schrage-Muzic". This gun was mounted behind the pilot and angled to wards the sky, not straight ahead. The pilot would aim this gun with the use of mirrors. This allowed the fighter to stay some distance astern of the bomber and quite some yards below. This tactic kept them out of reach from most bomber guns, as the downward turret deflection was insufficient for them to target the fighter. Thus, the German pilot could shoot and be more or less protected by the underside of the bomber.
In a letter dated 28 September 1945, Neil Conner wrote a profound and touching message to Elizabeth Rhind, Edward’s mother. It confirms and describes the deaths of Edward "Eddy" Rhind and James "Jim" Rinder which occurred during their attempted escape from their crippled aircraft. It also describes how the very same propeller that severed Conner's leg most probably killed Edward. To reinforce the dire circumstances, he noted that the pilot and flight engineer survived because they were still in the aircraft when it blew apart and they were fortunately blown free and their parachutes opened. He starts the letter by saying, “No doubt you have wondered why I have not written to you before this. I knew I could not give you any word of hope for Eddy during this period in which he was listed missing believed killed so I delayed until now when I believe you have had definite news.” He then went on in detail to describe the last few moments of the flight and that despite adversity Edward did his duty to the end.
Following his father’s passing, Mike Burton decided to learn more about the 1945 bomber crash that his father had survived. He wanted to thank the German civilians and in particular, a female medical doctor, who had helped his father so many years ago. On 10 August 2013, this story was reported in the local German newspaper of Marhorst – “January 1945: Marhorst (village next to crash site) Citizens Rescue Jim Burton”. In essence the story says that Mike Burton met people who, 68 years ago, helped his father. He stated that “his father was astonished because he, together with his comrades, aimed to bomb Hannover and kill many Germans. After the crash, nobody ever hurt him." During their visit, Mike Burton, his wife and daughter met three important people involved in his father’s incident, the first being Hedwig Willmann, who had called the police officer. It was revealed that this had not been a police officer after all but rather a “Volkssturmmänner” – men from the "Volkssturm". The Volkssturmmänner equates to the home guard, an organization that was meant to be a kind of last resort using veterans from WW I etc, to guard bridges and local vital points. The second person was Heinrich Meyer, whose parents owned the farmhouse where Jim Burton had been warmed and fed. The third person was Dr. Ingeborg Lampe-Eymann, who at the time had been a medical student at the Twistringen Hospital. Mike noted that “his father was so weak and in shock that he could neither eat nor drink. He was just 20 years old and did not understand the context in which the locals lived, but he was mightily impressed by the Germans."
Terry Ross’ desire to learn more about his uncle’s time on 415 Squadron, led to his collaboration with the 415 Squadron Association. Supporting information for this story was gathered from various on-line sites including: the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, POW Associations and obituaries published in the Ottawa Citizen. Articles written in various papers both in Canada and Germany provided unique insights surrounding the crash of Halifax MZ476. Supporting information was taken from the official 415 Squadron history book titled “Swordfish – The Story of 415 Squadron” as well as “The East Moor Experience” by Brian Shields.
As additional information is brought to light, this article will be updated. Photos of Bob McFadden, Ted Graves and Neil Conner are provided below. It is hoped that a post war history and picture of Joe Burton will someday be acquired.
In early 1944 Edward arrived at Bournemouth, England, which was a holding location for RCAF personnel awaiting further assignment. In due course, he was sent to RAF Topcliffe and then on to its satellite station, RAF Dishforth, for crew assignment and conversion to the Halifax bomber. Crews were formed by consensus. A pilot would go from group to group (Bomb Aimers, Gunners, Navigators, Radio Ops and Engineers) seeking required crew members. This process would continue until all members of the crew were satisfied with their allocation. Edward agreed to join F/O Stanley McFadden’s crew as the Bomb Aimer. On 21 September 1944, the McFadden crew of seven completed their Heavy Conversion training and were assigned to 415 Squadron located at RAF Station East Moor. The crew members were:
F/O Stanley Harold "Bob" McFadden Pilot J28542
F/O Neil Connor Navigator J38183
F/O Edward “Eddy” Rhind Bomb Aimer J37836
F/Sgt James Armitage Rinder Wireless Op / Air Gunner R225111
F/Sgt James Thomas Clarke Air Gunner R212923
F/Sgt Fredrick “Ted” Thompson Graves Air Gunner R223805
Sgt Joseph James Burton (RAF) Flight Engineer 1827826
On 30 September 1944, a few members of the crew flew operational familiarization flights with more senior 415 crews. Their first operational flight, as a crew, occurred on 6 October and over the next three months they completed 13 missions. During this time, they experienced two aborted missions due to hydraulic failures, which occurred immediately after take off. Otherwise, their operational missions were more or less text book.
415 Squadron Association
Bob McFadden Ted Graves Neil Conner
They shall all be remembered.
President 415 Squadron Association
Left to right are: Connor, Burton, Clarke, McFadden, Rinder, Graves and Rhind.
On the 5 January 1945, the crew was once again in the air. This time the target was Hannover and they were flying Halifax MZ476-6U-Y for the first time. The Squadron Operational Records (ORBs) record that “the aircraft took off at 1623 hours and had not been heard of since”. The weather was fair that evening and the returning crews reported that it had been a tough trip; however, they believed that highly successful results were obtained.
We now know that McFadden’s crew had been attacked by an enemy night fighter. Their aircraft had been badly damaged and control was slowly being lost. The crew were ordered to abandon the aircraft and shortly thereafter, there was an explosion. Unfortunately F/O Rhind, F/Sgt Rinder and F/Sgt Clark were lost as they attempted to parachute. F/O Conner lost part of his left leg as he fell through a propeller arc. The other three crew members made it successfully to the ground. It has been reported that a woman in a farmhouse had watched the crash and reported it to the local police. Debris from the crash was strewn over a radius of one kilometre. German records show that all four remaining crew members, F/O McFadden, F/O Conner, Sgt Burton and Sgt Graves, became POWs and that three of them were sent to STALAG Luft 1 Barth. German POW records report that F/O Conner was severely injured. He was treated in the hospital of Twistringen near the site of the MZ 476 crash and was later repatriated in a POW exchange.
The three crew members who were killed in action F/O Rhind, F/Sgt Rinder and F/Sgt Clarke are all buried together at the Commonwealth War Cemetery Sage located near Oldenburger Germany. This cemetery is located relatively close to the crash site. These men are buried in plots 8.C.13, 8.C.12 and 8.D.1. There names are listed in the 415 Squadron “Roll of Honour”.
The eldest crew member, Edward Rhind was 33 when he died. The government of Saskatchewan recognized him by the naming of Rhind Island located in a northern section of Lac La Ronge. Edward Terry Ross, a nephew of Edward Rhind, reports that he was named after his uncle and that this is what pushed him to find out more about his uncle’s record of service and sacrifice for Canada.