Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Further Story of Flying Officer Leon Panzer and the Crew of Halifax LW583 QO-L

My original post about my Grand-Uncle, Leon Panzer brought me in contact with some very interesting and helpful people around the world, and I thank them for the further details they've provided about the night the Halifax was shot down by Hauptmann Adolf Breves (an ace with 17 victories) of the Luftwaffe.

First, I was emailed by Mr. John Mellor, the son of Flight Engineer Philip Mellor who was part of the crew of the Halifax bomber the night it was shot down and he sadly did not survive the downing of the aircraft.

From Mr. Mellor I received a copy of a letter sent by Leon Panzer's sister, reproduced below, regarding the events of Leon's flight, shoot down, escape, capture and escape again.
Letter from Anne Goldenberg to Mrs. Mellor re Philip Mellor and Leon Panzer
I also received some pictures of the memorial the Belgians put up in the city of Wevelgem, where the plane was shot down.

The pilot, Flying Officer Tommy Martin managed to avoid the farm houses in the area when the Halifax bomber was shot down and crashed into a field, but sadly he, Flight Engineer Mellor and Pilot Officer Cannings, the wireless operator/gunner did not survive the downing of the aircraft.

I also received an email from Mr. Etienne Vanackere, a historian and resident of Wevelgem, where the plane crashed. He enclosed some additional pictures of the memorial.

On visiting Aunt Bayla, she showed me a large envelope where she had some mementos of her husband's military service and allowed me to copy the contents.

Here's the program from his graduation ceremony from Navigator School on June 25, 1943:

Aunt Bayla also told me a story about the escape during the visit.

As I related before, he was betrayed by an infromer in the belgian underground to the Gestapo, and he and five American airmen POWs escaped from a boxcar when their train was bombed. It turns out that he entered Brussels as the Germans were pulling out and the British had passed by, so he and his mates were the first free allied forces to enter the city and they were considered to be the Liberators of Brussels. Apparently a British General arriving soon after into the city was a bit peeved to see Leon and his buddies already being feted. It probably didn't help that Leon apparently asked him what took him so long to get there.

In the envelope were also some copies of newspaper clippings about his escape:

The Globe and Mail. October 13, 1944

Great Aunt Bayla and Great Uncle Leon were married in 1945 on his return from the war.

Next Post: The comic book featuring Leon Panzer's exploits.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all this information about my Uncle Leon. Anne Goldenberg was my mother.