The following accounts are retold using the words of Dave Giacomelli. His father was the navigator on a Stirling bomber based, for a period, at R.A.F. Lakenheath. What follows are not my words, and I am very grateful to Dave for allowing me to feature these accounts as they illustrate how much the Commonwealth was a part of the war in Europe. For example, stationed at R.A.F. Lakenheath were men from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, alongside the British servicemen. Dave’s father was Canadian, defending Britain, fighting for the R.A.F., in a war 1,000s of miles from home. He was just one of the transient population of Brandon and the surrounding villages during the war and here, some of his experiences are remembered.
BEFORE THE WAR
Jake was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 9 Nov 1920 and his parents had come to Canada from the Marche district of Italy before the First World War. He was a star athlete in High School and broke all inter-school pole vaulting records, and also was a talented football player and tried out for the Hamilton Tiger Cats football club after the war. Jake trained as an Air Observer in Canada at Toronto’s No 1 Air Observer School, Jarvis, Ontario, in No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School where he received his ‘wing’ and at No 2 Air Navigation School at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick.
After arrival in England during April 1942 he underwent further training including the Advanced Flying Unit at Dumfries and No 14 Operational Training Unit at Cottesmore where he met his operational tour pilot, Laurie Blair. From here they went to 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit where the crew formed up. They arrived on 149 Sqn in December 1942, just after one of the squadron members F/Sgt Middleton had been posthumously awarded the VC. After Jake’s squadron service in June 1943, which included the Battle of the Ruhr, he instructed on radar for over a year at 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach and Wratting Common and was commissioned during this period and volunteered for a second tour. He returned briefly to Canada in Aug 1944 to marry and then he crewed up as the bomb aimer with an all-Canadian crew and served with 419 Sqn of the RCAF’s 6 Group based at Middleton St. George in Yorkshire, flying the Canadian-built Lancaster Mk X. When the war ended they flew the Lancasters back to Canada. Upon take off from the Azores they lost an engine and almost crashed, but they eventually made it safely back. Toward the end of the war Jake volunteered for the ‘Tiger Force’ to bomb Japan but the atomic bomb ended the war.
He worked for the Canadian Post Office and became a postmaster, ultimately retiring as the Public Relations Officer at the main branch of the Hamilton Post Office. He married Jean Anderson Buist of Toronto and they had two sons, David and Patrick. Jake enjoyed fishing and bird hunting, but his real love was training and judging dogs. At one point he was unquestionably the most sought after obedience judge in North America and most weekends he was away judging either in Canada or the USA. He also wrote a monthly column on dog obedience training for a national magazine.
He retired when aged 55 to pursue his hobby more fully, but died young at the age of 60 in May 1981.
If you have any information that may be of use regarding these incidents, especially of the Stirling crash at the village of Lakenheath or wartime life at R.A.F. Lakenheath please contact: David L. Giacomelli, 2323 Greenlands Road Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. V8N 1T8