A 1945 RCAF Lancaster Casualty Over Duisburg
GRVI (F.L. C.H. LIVING J12206). Naming is officially engraved, the last digit "6" has been re-engraved over with a "7". Dark patina, contact marks on the reverse, extremely fine. Accompanied by assorted research papers. Footnote: Charles Henry "Hank" Living was born in Halford, Saskatchewan on June 27, 1914, the oldest son of Charles William Living and Viola Georgina Living (nee O'Day of Wisconsin), the family later moving to Holly Village, Oakland County, Michigan, where his father was a carpenter by trade. He had two sisters (Georgina, his senior and Clara) and three younger brothers (Fred, Paul and Reece). He resided for most of his boyhood in Holly, Michigan where he attended high school, with great athletic skills and was academically gifted. In an era when few people graduated from high school, he attended St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Ontario, and later, Michigan State College at Lansing. Living took up residence in Sarnia in 1938, in order to play football with the Sarnia Imperials of the Ontario Rugby Football Union (the predecessor of the Canadian Football League), as a star snap and inside wing. He was documented in an article in the Ottawa Journal on November 30, 1939: "Their kicking is fortified too by the snapping of Hank Living, one of the best in the business in defence player." Subsequently, he played football for the Toronto Argonauts prior to enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force in May 1940 at Toronto. His desire was to go overseas but he was such a skilled pilot, that he was assigned to a flight school, where he taught others how to fly. Living received most of his training in Eastern Canada, and was awarded his wings and commission in a ceremony at No. 16 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) in Hagersville, Ontario in May 1941. He married his wife, a local Sarnia woman, Miss Mary Alyce Wocker, on April 17, 1943. They would reside at 135 North Broad Street, Holly, Michigan. Living was stationed at Fingal Bombing and Gunnery School as staff pilot until November 11, 1943, when he left for service overseas. While in England, he played football in exhibition games arranged between teams of selected stars in the Canadian and American armed forces. He was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant in August 1944. During that same month, on August 6, 1944, Charles’s younger brother Fred Living, was killed in action while fighting in France with the Canadian Army, as a member of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, at the age of 22. Fred Living is buried at Brettenville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France, Grave Reference: I.B.7. It wasn't until November 1944, that Charles "Hank" Living was posted to a Lancaster bomber squadron in England. It was there that fellow pilot Frank Phripp found him one evening in early 1945. Writing in the book "The RCAF at War," Phripp recalled hearing muffled sobs in the back of a hut. Going to investigate, he was in for a shock. Living was sitting in the dark, crying his eyes out. "I had never seen a man cry, that was unthinkable among my Air Force friends," he wrote. "And if the idea had occurred to me, Hank Living was the last man I would have expected to be so broken up. Hank was undoubtedly the biggest guy on our squadron. He had used his size well when he played centre on the line for the Sarnia Imperials in the Ontario Rugby Football Union. He was known as 'Hi' Living in 1938 when he starred in the final game with the Montreal Nationals that won the Imperials the ORFU championship. Yet there he was on his cot in a dim corner of our hut in Lincolnshire and heaving uncontrollably." He was attached to 576 (Royal Air Force) Squadron “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Opportunity), attaining the rank of Flight Lieutenant (Pilot). On February 21, 1945, Charles was aboard their Lancaster aircraft ME735 that went missing during a night sortie, for a scheduled attack upon Duisburg, Germany. Pilot Officer J.A. Russell and three of the crew, not Canadians, were also killed. Two of the crew, not Canadians, were missing and believed killed. Eyewitnesses saw the plane crash in flames three miles south of Kevelaer, on the border between of Germany and Holland, between the hours of 11:30 and 11:45 p.m. No parachutes were seen to leave the aircraft, and all members of the crew lost their lives in the crash. Charles Living was listed as, “Previously reported missing after air operations, now for official purposes, presumed dead, overseas (Germany).” Living died at the age of 30 and is remembered with honour at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany, Grave Reference: 1.H.12.