Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Mynarski Lancaster

If you don't already know, there are only two airworthy, flying Lancaster Bombers in the world. Here in England, we have one of them. It's stationed at RAF Coningsby and is flown by our very own RAF team, used mainly for fly pasts and air shows. The second, is based in Canada. It's known as the Mynarski Lancaster, dedicated to the memory of Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski, a Canadian gunner serving in the RCAF during the Second World War.

During the war, thousands of Canadian airmen and ground crew served with the RAF and RCAF Lancaster Squadrons throughout the UK. Meanwhile, back home in Canada, many Lancasters were being produced by workers at the Victory Aircraft factory in Malton, Toronto.

So, this particular Lancaster is painted in the same colours as the one P/O Mynarski flew with RCAF No.419 (Moose) Squadron.
Photo: Landing in Keflavik, Iceland after a 7 hr, 40 minute flight yesterday.  The aircraft ran beautifully.  The aircraft and crew were greeted by Canada's Ambassador to Iceland,  Colonel Marc Bigaouette (RCAF Advisor to the UK & Defence Attache to Iceland) as well as special invited guests.   The Lancaster will make a quick flight over to Reykjavik, Iceland today landing at approx. 10:30 am to be put on public display for a few hours before returning to Keflavik.  Departure from Iceland is set for early Friday for a 1:30 pm (BST) arrival at RAF Coningsby.
Touchdown in Iceland, en route to UK, 06/08/14.
Andrew Mynarski
Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski was born in Winnipeg in 1916 and joined the RCAF in 1941. In 1944, he was posted to No.419 Squadron RCAF, based in the North of England, at Middleton-St. George. It was here that he completed twelve operational flights as a Mid Upper Gunner, being promoted to Pilot Officer on June 11th, 1944. His thirteenth mission, on June 13th, was the marshalling yards at Cambrai, France. After successfully evading the searchlights, the Lancaster was attacked by a Ju-88 Nightfighter. Both port engines were hit and the Lancaster was set ablaze.

The Pilot gave the order to jump and after allowing a reasonable time for his crew to escape, he finally jumped from a low altitude of around 800 feet. Unbeknown to the Pilot, the rear gunner was trapped in his turret. His name was Pat Brophy. As Mynarski had made his way to the rear escape hatch, he turned and saw Brophy through the plexiglass of the rear turret. In order to reach him, Mynarski had to crawl on his hands and knees, straight through blazing hydraulic fluid. By the time he reached his friend, his uniform and parachute were ablaze.

Axe used by Mynarski to try and free Brophy from his turret - 419 (Moose Sqdn)He grabbed a fire axe, and tried to smash the turret free, but to no avail. By now, Mynarski was on fire from the waist down. Brophy told him to get out and save himself. Mynarski, realising that he could not help, crawled back to the escape hatch, back through the blazing hydraulic fluid, anguish etched upon his face, keeping his eyes on Brophy the whole time. Upon reaching the hatch, he stood up and saluted Brophy. He then said something, which, although Brophy could not hear the words, he knew what Mynarski said. 'Goodnight, Sir.'

Somehow, as the Lancaster descended, finally crashing in a field in France, Brophy survived in his turret and was rescued. Tragically, Mynarski was so badly burned that he died from his injuries. The remainder of the crew survived. After the war, when his crew told the story, Mynarski was awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously.

Later, Pat Brophy said, "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 a friend."
It was said in retrospect that on June 12th, 1943, whilst sitting outside on the grass in the June sunshine, the crew had discussed the impending 13th mission, scheduled for the 13th and Andy Mynarski found a four leaf clover, picking it and passing it to his friend, Pat Brophy. It seems that the intended good luck charm worked as it had been intended.

The official citation, printed in the London Gazette in 1946, states:

'Pilot Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that in trying to free the rear gunner he was almost certain to lose his own 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.'
Statue of P/O Mynarski VC at Middleton-St. George.
 rear gunner had a miraculous escape when the aircAndrew raft crashed. He subsequently testified that, had Pilot Officer Mynarski not attempted to save his The "Andrew Mynarski Memorial Lancaster" was restored to flying condition by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. 
comrade's life, he could have left the aircraft in safety and would, doubtless, have escaped death.
Pilot Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that in trying to free the rear gunner he was almost certain to lose his own 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.
The London Gazette, 11th October 1946



Andrew Mynarski was the second son, born to Polish immigrants. Following the death of his father, at the age of sixteen, he was forced to seek employment to support his mother and siblings. He became a leather worker prior to enlisting in the RCAF in 1941. According to his friends, he was a happy, quiet chap who enjoyed working with his hands, designing furniture in his spare time. Family and friends called him 'Andy.'

And it is in memory of Andy Mynarski VC and all the brave men of Bomber Command, that this beautiful and poignant Lancaster has made the trip from her usual home in Canada, to the UK, where she is destined to arrive on Friday the 8th August 2014 at approximately 13:30 hours, touching down at RAF Coningsby, where she can expect to receive the most fantastic reception.

Andrew Mynarski with flight squadron - Air Force Heritage & History
Mynarski and Crew - Air Force Heritage & History.