20th August 2016 | Nanton, Alberta, Canada. As the old adage goes, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Those who are facing a high probability of death in combat tend to believe in the Almighty. This is true in present times, and it was certainly true for those who served in Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command during the Second World War. Casualties amongst the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and RAF bomber crews were terribly high.
Yet the British, Commonwealth, and even American volunteers flying for Bomber Command duly went out night after night to face the murderous German antiaircraft artillery fire and the hordes of roving Luftwaffe night fighters that stalked the RAF bombers like hungry predatory sharks in a school of nearly defenceless rays. One extant symbol of the faith of the era is a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) New Testament which was repatriated to and donated to Bomber Command Museum of Canada on 20th August 2016.
Appropriately, the New Testament, and associated documents, was officially and publicly donated behind a former church lectern. The lectern bears the RCAF Crest and was received from an area, which was home to RCAF Vulcan near Vulcan, Alberta, and RCAF No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School at High River, Alberta, congregation.
With a Canadian-built Bolingbroke (the Bolingbroke was the Canadian-built version of the Bristol Blenheim IV) serving as a backdrop, Commemorative Air Force Colonel John Stemple addressed the crowd and pronounced the following: “It has been an honour to escort this piece of history back home to Canada, and it is a privilege to donate it to Bomber Command Museum of Canada.”
Karl Kjarsgaard accepted the donation on behalf of the facility and read aloud the inscription contained on the inside of the back cover. The author was Flying Officer George Kenneth Renaud’s mother Ann.
Ann proudly and lovingly wrote the following comforting words: “To my son Kenneth. From Mother. July 6 – 1943. Lord lead you to the task that lies ahead of you, to the labour of reuniting the nations of the earth, to the peace founded not on force but on the respect of free men. Amen.”
George Kenneth Renaud’s mother obtained, inscribed and presented the RCAF New Testament to her navigator son with the book in 1943. George Renaud soon found himself in England with 415 Squadron. On 12th July 1944, Swordfish Squadron (No. 415) was officially transferred from 16 Group Coastal Command to 6 Group Bomber Command and based at East Moor, Yorkshire.
The unit re-equipped with the Handley Page Halifax Mk. III heavy bomber, and Renaud was a member of and the crew assigned to aircraft serial LW595. This mammoth British-built flying machine was identified by the designation 6U-Q on the sides of the fuselage.
The Bomber Command War Diaries An Operational Reference Book: 1939-1945‘s entry states (page 552) that on this fateful night of 28/29 July 1944 Bomber Command, and therefore Renaud (who was now holding the rank “Flying Officer”) and his mates, were tasked with missions to Hamburg, Germany. A total of 307 aircraft (187 Halifaxes, 106 Avro Lancasters and 14 de Havilland Mosquitoes) from 1, 6 and 8 Groups comprised the attacking force. It was the first heavy raid on the city in a year and 415 Squadron’s initial combat employment of their new Halifaxes.
Defending Luftwaffe night fighters intercepted the intrepid raiders when most were homeward bound. The casualty rate among the Halifaxes was 9.6%, and LW595 was one of the 18 Halifaxes shot down. F/O Renaud’s mortally wounded Halifax crashed near Stotel at or around 2229 hours (10:29 p.m.) on 28 July.
George Kenneth Renaud had given his life in the defence of freedom and Democracy. He was 27 years of age at the time of his death. Eventually his remains were interred in Germany at Sage War Cemetery, which is located 24 kilometres south of Oldenburg. His name may be found on Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial at Bomber Command Museum of Canada. He was one of some 10,000 men to die during operations.
The RCAF New Testament will be part of a display planned by Bomber Command Museum of Canada.
The author (Susan Gale) thanks Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton Aviation Station, Vulcan TV, Dunrobincastle.com and Kendra Davis. Furthermore, Military Aviation Chronicles wishes to thank General Manager Andrea Townshend (and staff members Andrea Ramsay, Cara Gray and Mercedes Brentnall) of the High River Ramada Hotel and Kathryn of the Auditorium Hotel in Nanton for their exceptional hospitality and customer service.
Sources and Suggested Readings
Bristol Bolingbroke IV
Middlebrook, Martin and Chris Everitt. The Bomber Command War Diaries. An Operational Reference Book: 1939-1945. Penguin Books: London, 1990.