Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lest We Forget: F/Sgt Earl William Bock

This is a repeat of  a post that I composed 5 years ago. I was going to update it yesterday, but like many Canadians I was sidetracked by the tragic events in Ottawa.  My condolences go out to the family and friends of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. 

My name is Robert Earl and 70 years ago last night that a young man of 21 was killed in action over the skies of Germany. Earl William Bock was one of my two namesakes, my grandfather Earl the other. 

F/Sgt Earl William Bock
The following information was obtained from Dave Stapleton of the 626 Squadron Research Project on F/Sgt Bock's last mission.

The 626 Squadron Operations Record Book RAF Form 540 (The Squadron Diary) records that F/Sgt Earl William Bock was posted into 626 Squadron with his crew on the 2nd September 1944 from 11 Base. F/Sgt Bock was the Rear Gunner in the crew and flew 11 operational sorties with the crew.

On the 22nd October 1944 the crew took off on their 11th operational sortie in Lancaster LM689 UM-N2. The task on this sortie was mine laying in the Kattegat area and only two 626 Squadron Lancasters were detailed to fly on this operation; they were part of a force of 20 Lancasters and 19 Halifaxes. The aircraft took off at 16.27 hrs.

At 20.21 hrs on the homeward bound leg of the sortie the aircraft was attacked by an unidentified enemy aircraft at close range from below and dead astern. The Mid Upper Gunner fired 100 rounds in the direction of the trace (tracer bullets from the enemy aircraft) and he observed a long burst from the rear turret before the Rear Gunner F/Sgt E W Bock stopped firing. It was later found that F/Sgt Bock had been killed by cannon fire from the enemy aircraft.

The Lancaster was riddled with 19 x 20mm cannon shells along the length of the fuselage, the port aileron had been shot away and the intercom was unserviceable. The bomb doors had also been blown open. The aircraft made a safe landing at RAF Woodbridge on its return.

My father was a tail gunner on another Lancaster of 626 SQD and often wondered why he made it, while others like his friend Earl did not. 

So this Remembrance Day, during the two minutes of silence please give thoughts or a prayer to a memory of a young man whose life was cut short so long ago, and for another who was senselessly gunned down at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier yesterday.

Earl Bock's name is displayed on page 252 of the World War Book of Remembrance on May 27th each year and or may be visited at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.