A Fine DFC to Flight Lieutenant Gourdeau for Persistent Attack on Kiel September 1944
Distinguished Flying Cross, George VI GRI (engraved "1945" on the reverse); 1939-1945 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp; and War Medal 1939-1945. Mounted to a suspension with swing bar pinback, as worn by the veteran, faded original ribbons, plated, light contact, near extremely fine. Accompanied by an Air Mail Letter addressed to his girlfriend, Miss Louise Méthot of Trois Rivières, Quebec. Footnote: Joseph Emile Henri Gourdeau was born in March 1921 in Quebec City, Quebec. He enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force on August 10, 1940 in Quebec City, at the age of 21, as an Aircraftman 2nd Class (J28993). Six weeks later, he was transferred to No. 13 Training Depot on September 23rd, then posted one month later to No. 2 Initial Training School at Regina, Saskatchewan on October 22nd, where he graduated and was promoted to Leading Aircraftman on November 28th. He was subsequently posted to No. 6 Elementary Flying Flying Training School at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where he graduated on January 14, 1941, then posted to No.1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden, Ontario for a little over two months. He was transferred to No. 1 Manning Depot in Toronto, Ontario on March 31, 1941, then posted to the Central Flying School in Trenton, Ontario on May 12th for four months. He followed his Trenton experience with a posting to No. 14 Service Training Training School in Aylmer, Ontario on September 1st, where he graduated and was promoted to Sergeant on November 21st. Goudreau returned to the Central Flying School in Trenton the next day, where he would spend the next three months, before being posted to No. 13 Service Flying Training School in St. Hubert, Quebec on March 1, 1942. He attained the rank of Warrant Officer 2nd Class on November 21, 1942 and was commissioned on July 2, 1943. He was posted to "Y" Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia for overseas service, on August 24, 1943, arriving in the United Kingdom on September 12th. Four months after his arrival in the United Kingdom, Goudreau was promoted to Flying Officer on January 2, 1944. He was placed with 425 "Alouette" Squadron, the first French-Canadian squadron, which was formed on June 22, 1942 at RAF Dishforth in Yorkshire, England, as a bomber unit flying Vickers Wellingtons. In December 1943, the squadron was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifaxes and flew their first mission with these aircraft in February 1944. In an air mail letter addressed to his girlfriend, Miss Louise Méthot of Trois Rivières, Quebec, dated September 20, 1944, while with 425 "Alouette" Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Goudreau described his feeling and what everyday life with the squadron was like while overseas. Loosely translated from the French, he stated: "My Dear Louise, Even if I am in a bad mood I thank the stormy skies showering us since it has given me the chance to write a few letters. Since I have been back from vacation (leave), I have flown every day and I have accomplished sixteen missions over enemy territory. I have already done half my duty tour. Let's hope that my sixteen flights will go without too many difficulties, as we were almost killed a few times. This morning, I went to the hospital to get my teeth cleaned and I was caught in the pouring rain. Right now, my clothes along with my jacket are drying on the baseboard and I am lying down on the floor, getting dry, so I am taking advantage of the moment to write to you. I hope that you will forgive my lack of romanticism. I am really looking forward to knowing how you're enjoying student life in the big city of Montreal. I am also really looking forward for this war to end, so that I too can go to school and start studying. You will by then be much further ahead of me. Now, I will tell you a little bit about what I do since I have been with the squadron. First, it is an ideal place for a guy with "old spinster" ideas. We cannot go anywhere except into York, which is an insignificant city. We get up in the mornings, sometimes at 2 a.m., sometimes at 4 a.m. or at 6 a.m. and we get ready for the op (operation), they make us work for a few hours on our airplane, to make sure everything is in perfect order: oxygen, intercom, bombs, navigation system, engines, etc. Afterwards, we go to the briefing. That's where they tell us the target for the day, the weather conditions, the route they want us to take to get to out target, how to come back and where we should encounter most of the anti-aircraft defences (attacks). Finally, we come back after after 5, 6, 7 or 8 hours, we land and we get interrogated, and afterwards we go eat and go to sleep and wait for the next awakening. Until next time, I kiss you, Henri". 425 "Alouette" Squadron was stationed at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, from June 1st to December 31st, 1944. In addition to Pilot Joseph Emile Henri Gourdeau, the crew of seven consisted of Rear Gunner Pierre Arsenault, Bombardier Ernest Corbeil, Wireless Operator Ron Desroches, Central Gunner Henri Gauthier, Flight Engineer Jeff Heritage and Observer Marcel Papineau. Gourdeau felt that all crew members seized upon the professionalism and camaraderie that prevailed since their arrival at Tholthorpe, both among the aircrews and the support staff. He described them as a "large family, where everything worked like clockwork." He was especially impressed with the Commanding Officer, "Joe the CO " Lecomte and his adjutant Réal "the Holy" St-Amour, and their ability to maintain and strengthen their capacity and the desire to overcome adversity. The Gourdeau piloted sortie list during 1944 included missions on July 25th to Stuttgart (8.25); July 28th to Hamburg (6.10); August 8th to Foret de Chantilly (5.35); August 9th to Foret de Nieppe (4.10); August 10th to La Pallice (6.45); August 14th to Bons Tassily (4.25); August 15th to Brussels (4.15); August 18th to Connantre (6.45); September 3rd to Volkel (3.50); September 9th to Le Havre (4.30); September 10th to Le Havre (4.05); September 11th to Castrop Rauxel (5.15); September 12th to Wanne Eickel (5.25); September 13th to Osnabruck (4.40); September 15th to Kiel (6.05); September 17th to Boulogne (4.15); September 25th to Calais (4.30); September 26th to Calais (4.20); September 27th to Bottrop (5.45); September 28th to Cap Gris Nez (3.55); September 30th to Sterkrade (4.55); October 4th to Bergen (7.10); October 6th to Dortmund (6.25); October 14th to Duisburg (5.25); October 14th to Duisburg (5.55); November 1st to Oberhausen (6.05); November 2nd to Dusseldorf (5.50); November 4th to Bochum (5.25); and November 6th to Gelsenkirchen (5.20). Trouble raised its ugly head during the mission to Kiel on September 15, 1944, possibly the reference in his letter of September 20th to Louise Méthot about "we were almost killed a few times". Goudreau stated that "The mission to Kiel started badly, as Flight Engineer Jeff Heritage was forced to stop one of the four engines, as it was dangerously overheating. They performed a series of emergency measures that were prescribed in such cases, which allowed the pilot to successfully complete the flight. Inside the bombing area of the aircraft, the bombadier, his eye glued to the viewfinder (bomb sight) orally gave the pilot the required course corrections: left-left, right-right, steady-steady and finally bombs away. The bombardier was certainly the witness best placed to see everything: the explosion of bombs on the ground, brightness reflectors pointing to the target, the enemy shells bursting all around our aircraft, Halifax or Lancaster falling full flame. His composure and competence in such circumstances was a miracle. What bravery! We were at the tail of the wave of bombers, we met the target of a large concentration of enemy defenses. Considering the loss of an engine at takeoff, it would have been acceptable to drop the bombs over the North Sea, consume the required volume of fuel to allow normal landing at an airport emergency but the captain decided to continue on with the mission. The few minutes above Kiel appeared very long and all of us were waiting anxiously for words from the bombadier: Bombs Away! It came and at that time, the pilot (Gourdeau) flew the aircraft into a steep descent to finish with the enemies reflectors (searchlights) as soon as possible but not before a second engine had been put out of commission by a fighter pilot. The return to the United Kingdom was at a very low altitude over the North Sea, in order to prevent high-speed diving fighter planes in pursuit. That began to test the competence of the gunners, the observer, the wireless operator, the flight engineer and the pilot who, together, secured the return home. By changing course, it was possible to avoid the flak." For his efforts in saving the crew of the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Goudreau was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, although it was a collective effort by the crew that was required to save the aircraft from disaster and Goudreau acknowledged that. His citation appeared in the Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette 36889 of Tuesday, January 9, 1945, on Friday, January 12, 1945, page 353: "This officer has participated in attacks on a wide range of enemy targets, including Sterkrade, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. On one occasion, when attacking Kiel, his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire whilst illuminated by searchlights. Despite this, Flight Lieutenant Goudreau pressed home a successful attack. He afterwards flew the badly damaged aircraft back to this country. His skill and resolution were characteristic of that which he has shown throughout his tour." The announcement of the award also appeared in AFRO 471/45 on March 16, 1945. The original recommendation (DHH file 181.009 D.1730, Library and Archives Canada RG.24 Volume 20607) was submitted on November 11, 1944 by W/C Hugh Ledoux, when he had flown 29 sorties (155 hours 35 minutes): "When detailed to attack Kiel on September 15th, 1944, this pilot experienced very considerable anti-aircraft fire when he made three orbits to identify the genuine target. Despite the fact that he was coned for five minutes, after completing the third orbit, where the flak was so intense causing the starboard wing main spar to break and rendering the fuselage unserviceable for future operations, this officer, with cool courage, resolutely pressed home a most telling attack. He then showed his superb airmanship and fortitude when he brought his crew and aircraft safely back. In addition to Kiel, his objectives have included Stuttgart, Hamburg, Wanne-Eickel, Castrop Rauxel, Sterkrade, Dortmund, Bergen, Dusseldorf and in other heavily defended targets. The exceptional determination which Flight Lieutenant Goudreau has invariably displayed to complete his allotted tasks, regardless of adverse weather or enemy opposition, has proved him to be an outstanding captain of aircraft who inspires the utmost confidence in his crew. The remarkable fighting spirit, skill and initiative of this officer is worthy of high praise and I strongly recommend that he be awarded the immediate Distinguished Flying Cross." One thing that Goudreau did make clear was that during the raids in the years 1944 and 1945 above the Ruhr Valley, and further east, that real risks were the order of the day. "The enemy, increasingly perfected his earthly system of anti-aircraft defense by the establishment, in all strategic places of a large number of high intensity reflectors (searchlights) and powerful guns, whose shot was remote by "radar" equipment and was very effective, managed to cause excitement among the crews and sometimes, unfortunately, to shoot down one of our aircraft. It was normally possible to avoid being attacked, if the reflectors rested on our device, by immediately changing course ± 10 ° while leaving some altitude and thereby increase the cruising speed + 10 knots. After eighteen seconds, we reversed to maintain the heading, altitude and velocity assigned at the briefing just before departure. This procedure has proven to be very valuable when we had to use it. Inside the bombing area, this procedure was no longer possible because the pilot had to maintain the exact direction of the aircraft and its altitude to ensure perfect quality launch bombs and taking three photographs a few seconds apart, from the opening of the doors of the bomb bay." Goudreau was repatriated on February 1, 1945 and retired six and a half weeks later, on March 19th but re-joined the RCAF six and a half years later, as a Pilot (131557) on August 28, 1951. He was posted for one year to Goose Bay on October 15th, before seeing a transfer to Air Transport Command on October 10, 1952. The remainder of his career and death date are uncertain.