Flying Officer J/26845 Bruce Arnold David RCAF
(Age 23 as of 13/08/44) D-O-B 9/8/21
Rear gunner, Lancaster LM658, bailed out, captured 13/08/1944.
Son of Mrs N G Reuter, 41 Holly Ave North, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Brother of Flying Officer J/13085 John Martin David RCAF (KIA Oct 43)
Despite our online presence over the last few years, plus our best efforts in contacting veterans associations and local news papers in Ontario, we have so far been unable to make contact with any relatives or descendants of our Canadian rear gunner Flying Officer Bruce Arnold David. What we do know:
Bruce David’s civilian occupation is listed vaguely as “transport,” he enlisted in the RCAF at the age of 19 in Saskatoon and was posted to the UK in June 1943. His brother Flying Officer John Martin David had already been in the UK since January 1943 and was operational with 7 (Pathfinder) Squadron also on Lancasters as a mid-upper gunner. F/O John David and crew were posted as missing on 19/10/43 after a raid on Hannover. When F/O Bruce David took off from Waltham in the rear turret of LM 658 on the 12th August 1944 he was still unaware that his brother was already dead. In the following days their mother would learn that her second son was also missing in occupied Europe. We believe that Bruce David may have been with the Paston-Williams crew for their full tour, as he was posted to 28 OTU at Wymeswold in the summer of 1943, at the same time as Paston-Williams and Watts, but we are also open to the possibility that he was, like Gerald Hood and Chris Holland a “new boy” on the crew, as there is no record of correspondence between his family and the other crew families who were in regular touch during the time when their respective fates were unknown.
From the statements of the surviving crew we believe that after his last call to “corkscrew” Bruce David was cut off from the other crew members by the fire in the fuselage, the intercom system was out of action and he was left with the stark choice of jump or burn, so on his own initiative he made his escape either via the rear hatch or directly from his turret by rotating it through 90 degrees and rolling out. We know he landed further to the east than the other survivors, the flight engineer reported he could clearly see two other parachute canopies which were most likely the navigator Hood and the skipper Paston-Williams. Local Dutch resistance reports state that one of their patrols made contact with a downed airman, but unsure as to whom he could trust the airman made his escape. It was at first thought to be Flt/Sgt Laurie Watts the wireless operator, but some days later Laurie Watts was found dead under the wreckage so it was assumed this contact had been with Bruce David, who was soon picked up by an enemy patrol in the Dutch-German border region and became a prisoner of war.
He was first taken to the Dulag Luft aircrew processing centre near Frankfurt for interrogation, then moved on to Stalag Luft 1 at Barth on the Baltic coast to the north east of Rostock, arriving on 6/9/44. Here he remained until liberation in early May 1945, by a unit of Russian Cossacks. Barth had a reputation of a well ordered POW Camp with generally good morale, towards the end of the war it consisted of 80% USAF and 20% British and Commonwealth airmen. According to his MI9 debriefing form, escape attempts were forbidden by the Senior British Officer, Group Captain Cecil T “Ginger” Weir and during his time in captivity he was not mistreated or forced to work, he witnessed no instances of collaboration with the enemy and received good medical treatment as outlined in the Geneva Convention.
The liberation of Stalag Luft 1 at Barth is a story in itself, but what we do know is that F/O David was debriefed by MI9 on 11/5/45, which may have taken place whilst he was still at Barth, because records show the evacuation only commenced on 12/5/45. Records show that RAF personnel were flown by the US 8th Air Force to airfields such as Bassingbourn and Ford. From here we lose track of him, we have no record if he stayed on in the UK or was repatriated to Canada and demobbed.
We would very much like to hear his fate and how he got on with his life after the great adventure. Contact via the website from any relatives/ descendants or anyone who knew him would be most welcome. Somewhere his photo takes pride of place alongside his brother in a family album, perhaps somewhere a family historian is writing the story of the uncles who flew in Lancasters, we hope you will discover us online and get in touch to share in this research and become part of our story!
Alan (author, Lancaster LM658 Story).