Tuesday, 20 August 2013

24. Jack Mallon and Paul Warnault (the mayor of Guînes)



As described in an earlier post, Jack was the first of Bill's two brothers to be killed, but some of the details of his death did not emerge until many years after the war. He was serving with R.A.F. No. 53 Squadron, Coastal Command, when, on the 8th of October 1940, he was shot down over France.


In 1998 a friend of Bill's in New Plymouth, also called Jack, sent him a letter quoting a passage from "For Your Tomorrow" by Errol Martyn. The passage explains that Jack was flying a Bristol Blenheim when he was shot down and that he died of his injuries two or three days after being shot down and not, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database states, on the same day.

Jack's death certificate, dated 19th October, 1945 - note the date of his death.

Here is the relevant passage from "For Your Tomorrow", sent in the letter from Bill's friend
  • The passage sent with the letter to Bill
    TUE 8 OCT, 1940  COASTAL COMMAND 
    ATTACK ON MOTOR TRANSPORT AND SHIPPING CONCENTRATIONS - GRAVELINES, FRANCE
    53 SQUADRON RAF (DETLING, KENT - 16 GROUP)
    BLENHEIM IV T2036/K 
    (PZ-K) TOOK OFF AT 1845 AND BROUGHT DOWN BY FLAK, CRASHING AT ABOUT 2245 NEAR FRÉTHUN, 5KM SW OF CALAIS. TWO OF THE CREW DIED ON THE DAY OF THE CRASH, WHILE THE PILOT WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED, CAPTURED AND ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL AT GUÎNES, 6KM SE OF FRÉTHUN, HE DIED THREE DAYS LATER. ALL THREE AIRMEN ARE BURIED AT GUÎNES.
     PILOT 42719 P/O JOHN CHARLES MALLON RAF AGE 24.
    (FRI 11 OCT 1940 P/O J. C. MALLON DIED OF INJURIES RECEIVED ON THE 8TH.)
    THE CWGC REGISTER INCORRECTLY GIVES DATE OF DEATH FOR MALLON AS THE 8TH. HIS BROTHER THOMAS ALEXANDER MALLON, DIED ON 12 MARCH 1945 WHILE FLYING WITH 488 SQUADRON RNZAF

I recently received an e-mail from Michel Beckers who carries out research on behalf of the website 'aircrewremembered.com' and produces memorials to aircrew killed in action. He has now done this for both Jack (http://www.aircrewremembered.com/mallon-john-charles.html) and his brother Tom (http://www.aircrewremembered.com/mallon-thomas-alexander.html) and he has allowed me to publish this picture of Jack's Blenheim shortly after it was shot down:

Jack's Blenheim on the morning of 9th Oct. 1940.

The letter also highlights references in the book to the number of old
The 1998 letter
boys of the Mallons' former school, New Plymouth Boys' High School, who were killed whilst serving in the air force, and to a period in 1942 when 75 (NZ) Squadron's losses were particularly bad.
  • Dear Bill,
    Nancy P------ (?) lent me the recently published book by Errol Martyn in which he gives details of all the NZ airmen (including FAA) killed between 1915 and 1942. A further volume comes out later.
    I have found it interesting, especially to check the 62 NPBHS Old Boys in the record. Enclosed is his record of Jack's accident. I thought I would send it just in case you had not seen it and were not aware he had been in hospital for three days.
    Bill, it's still so terrible to re-read the awful cost. That black period in 1942 when 75th lost 31 men in 3 days!
    Excuse my typing. Kindest regards to you both. Hope all is well on the health front.
    Sincerely, Jack.

Other details had emerged three years earlier when Bill received a reply to a letter he had written in January 1995 to the Mayor of Guînes, where Jack and his crew are buried:
Dear Sir,
It is with a certain emotion that I received your letter that gave me a memory of the tragic and glorious destination of your brother who is sleeping in peace with us from October 8th 1944.
In fact it is for 30 years now I go twice a year to say a prayer and to put flowers on the graves of the RAF pilots, this is on November 11th and May 8th. And I was always wondering, by reading the names on the graves that we hadn't had any news from their family. They are 5 Englishmen, 1 Poland. and your brother.
You broke the silence and I thank you for that. This will permit me to make remember on May the 8th in a special way, your brother's glorious end.
I send you hereby a copy of a book that came out after the war ..... and in which .. the writer talks about John Mallon and his death in the German Military hospital in Guînes.
To situate our village I should say we are at about 10km out of Calais, a country town of 5167 people.
From the beginning of July 1940 the Germans transformed the Calais area in a landing platform and our village Guînes and neighbourhood to an airport as an attack base on England - the famous "Battle of England."
The Germans claimed everything/Houses, barns, the Town Hall, shops, schools. That way one of our schools has been transformed in to a hospital by the means of real German organisation method.
Your brother was the only alive person coming out of the shot down Blenheim .... but he was very badly hurt when they got him out of the plane and transported to the Guînes hospital, where he died.
He has been buried with other heroes of the 39-45 war.
That is what I wanted to tell you as an answer to your letter of January 1995.
With my warmest greetings and my best wishes for 1995,
Le Maire de Guînes,
Paul Warnault.




And then another letter later that year:
Dear Sir,
I have managed to get a few photos of the 8th May ceremony at

Guînes, which took place, as it does every year, in the military section of our little cemetery.
I wanted also to especially emphasise our gratitude on this 50th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, for the allies who died for the freedom of France and of the whole world.
I have laid a tricoloured wreath on your brother's grave, and I read your letter of 13th March to the people gathered around us.
In thanking you and your family again for your sacrifice so freely given, I beg you to believe the sincerity of my feelings.
Paul Warnault.


This is not mere sentimentality - Paul's sincerity comes from his experiences during the dark days of the occupation. He was born in
Guînes in 1923 and his father died when he was only 2 years old. He was 17 when the Germans took his home town after the 'Siege of Calais' and attempts to join the fight alongside the retreating British troops failed when, because of his age, he had to return to school. He qualified as a P.E. teacher in 1943 and became actively involved in the resistance movement, later the F.F.I. (Forces Francaises de l'Interieur). As well as being the mayor of

Guînes for three decades he also continued to make an active contribution to education, health and defence throughout his life and received many honours.

Colonel Paul Warnault 2010
There is no doubt that there is a corner of northern France where Jack's sacrifice is not forgotten. Unfortunately there were aspects of his death that left his family feeling very bitter indeed, as I explain in the next post.



 
Paul Warnault
In June 2014 I rather belatedly attempted to contact Paul Warnault, the former mayor of Guînes, to check the veracity of the information I had written about him in Chapter 13. His son, also called Paul, replied as follows:
  •  Dear Vic,
     I am Paul junior and my father who is now 91 years ask me to tell you that you can use and mention his letters in your blog. I have read the chapter 13 of your blog, all is correct about him.
    Just a small mistake in the translation of his letters. The name of the village is GUÎNES but not GUINESS as the famous bier.
    I can again tell you that he finish as Colonel in the reserve army.
    Find enclosed also picture of the graves of RAF pilots and airmen who rest in peace in our cemetery.
    These graves have always been cleaned, maintained and flowered twice a year.
    As teacher, he has explained and repeated to all his pupils that they must never forget that young brave guys coming from many countries died far from home for our freedom and are buried here at Guînes.
    Best wishes,
    Paul Warnault
I am extremely grateful to Paul for taking the time to reply on behalf of his father and confirm the details of my story, and I know that Jack's nephews appreciate what continues to be done to keep the memory of their uncle alive. Here is the picture that Paul sent, which I have also included in Chapters 4 and 13. It is a recent picture of the graves of Jack Mallon and his crew:


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