|Andrew Mynarski of Winnipeg was a gunner in 419 'Moose' Sqn RCAF, and on the evening of June 12, 1944, he was relaxing a few hours before take off with his close friend and fellow gunner, Pat Brophy. Just after midnight they were to embark on a bombing raid of Cambrai in northern France. The men were more apprehensive than usual. This would be their 13th mission, scheduled for June 13. Feeling a little superstitious, Mynarski noticed a four leaf clover on the lawn at his base, and plucked it up. Laughingly, he handed it to Brophy, who threw it into his helmet without thinking twice.||
At 12:00 am
June 13, the two men and the rest of the crew were aboard their Lancaster,
A for Able ,
crossing the coastline of France, and keeping a look out for anti-aircraft artillery. Shortly after the Lancaster crossed into enemy
lines, it was coned in search lights and the pilot began evasive maneuvers. But sure enough, within minutes Brophy spotted a
German Junkers tailing them and firing rapidly. As he and Mynarski pivoted their guns to take aim, the Lancaster was hit. Brophy
remembers looking at his watch; it was 13 minutes past midnight.
A burst tore
through the fuselage, igniting the wing fuel tank, and knocking out both
engines. Fire ripped through the plane, separating
the two gunners, and destroying the intercom. The pilot gave the signal for all crew to bail out. Mynarski was half way out of the rear
hatch and about to jump when he looked back and saw Brophy struggling to get out of his turret. The hydraulic pivot system had been
shot up, and Brophy was trapped. All the rest of the crew had already bailed out, and the burning plane was bucking wildly. But Mynarski
threw himself to the floor, and made his way through the flames to try to help Brophy escape. With his hair and clothing burning, Mynarski
struggled in vain to turn Brophy's turret manually, but both men knew that it simply would not go. Brophy ordered Mynarski to get out
while he could, and Mynarski made his way back through the growing wall of fire to the hatch, turned to salute his friend, and then made
the leap. Mynarski's descent was clearly seen from below. His clothing and parachute were burning, and as he fell, the flames went higher.
Although he survived the jump, he died within hours from his burns.
Brophy survived the stricken Lancasters crash. When the plane hit the ground, his turret
broke free of the wreckage, and he was thrown
from his turret with virtually no injury. When he came to, he picked up his helmet and out of it fell the clover. Mynarski was posthumously
awarded the Victoria Cross. The CWH Lancaster carries the markings of Mynarskis' Lancaster on that last fateful flight, as a reminder
of the heroism and courage displayed that night.
The citation included:-
rear gunner had a miraculous escape when the aircraft crashed. He subsequently
testified that had Pilot Officer Mynarski not
attempted to save his comrade's life, he could have left the aircraft in safety and would, doubtless, have escaped death."
Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that in trying to free the
gear he was almost certain to loose his life. Despite this,
with outstanding courage and complete disregard for his own safety, he went to the rescue. Willingly accepting the danger, Pilot Officer
Mynarski lost his life by a most conspicuous act of heroism which called for valour of the highest order."
Brophy reflected: "I'll always believe that a divine providence intervened
to save me because of what I had seen, so that the world
might know of a gallant man who laid down his life for his friend".
In 2005 the Middleton St George Primary School while working on World War 2, were told about their own local hero. This lesson initiated a project to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of Andrew Mynarski, the end result was the production of a very fine statue, showing Mynarski at the Salute, immediately before he jumped from the burning Lancaster. The statue is impressive in both detail and stature, and has been suitably placed in the RCAF Memorial Garden outside the front entrance to the St George Hotel, the wartime Officers Mess of RAF Middleton St George.
I am sure that the RCAF veterans who return each year will approve, because not only does it commemorate the ultimate selflessness of one individual in one brave act, but all of the ultimate sacrifices not just by Mynarski's fellow countrymen, but all of the 55,000 men who died and still remain, on the whole, largely unrecognised from Bomber Command.
To mark the occasion, a real honour was bestowed - BBMF Lancaster PA474 arrived and landed, permitting the children the ultimate learning experience, a firsthand up close and personal insight into the Lancaster bomber, the same as Andrew Mynarski so valiantly tried to help his friend escape from, which ultimately cost him his life.
The photographs shown here were taken in early 2006 after the ground had recovered and the final touching up of the surroundings had been completed.
Full marks to the Staff and Pupils of MSG Primary. A job VERY well done indeed, and this important lesson will be remembered by those children for a long long time.