While celebrations are under way for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holland and VE Day, there is one more event of 70 years ago in which our own 442 Squadron was involved.
It was the liberation of the English Channel islands from five years of Nazi occupation, on May 9, 1945. It was also the final military operation of WWII in Europe, carried out by Mustang fighter-bombers of 442 Squadron.
The Mustangs flew top cover for the Royal Navy as it approached the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark, carrying companies of soldiers to liberate my family, among others, who were suffering hardship from their isolation from the theatre of war as it swung north toward Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Hospital ships brought a little relief to the islanders, and they were still threatened by the German Admiral in command, who vowed to keep on fighting, even after Field Marshall Montgomery took the surrender of Germany’s armies at Lunenburg Heath on May 8, 1945. 442 Squadron changed his mind in a hurry, harassing the German garrisons until the Admiral hastily boarded a boat to take him out to HMS Beagle and sign the surrender papers. HMS Beagle then docked and British soldiers marched ashore to liberate the islands, the only British territory to be occupied by the Nazis in WWII. Any Channel Islanders living in the Comox Valley will remember May 9, 1945. 442’s operation on that day has given added pride to my service with the squadron from 1985 until retirement.