Everyone has a story of back then, and this is my family's.
Five days after George turned 22 on May 15th, 1942, he enlisted to become a Pilot Officer of the RCAF. I'm not sure why he decided to volunteer for duty; though he was young, just bordering on that age that still believes in invincibility, and was most likely still idealistic enough to believe that he could change the world.
(front row)Flying Officer Harold Leonard Brown (RCAF), Flight Lieutenant Arnold Raymond Blynn (RCAF), Flight Sergeant Arthur George William Liddell (RCAF)
He'd receive his Wings in Malton nearly a year after volunteering. That would lead him to be stationed in Italy and by August 4th 1944, nearly fulfilled his tour of duty...
Though, not two years after signing up, he would die. A Navigator of Halifax Bomber JP276A, his fate was to be shot down during a special mission to get needed supplies (armaments, food, propaganda, intelligence, etc), over enemy lines and into Poland. German occupied Poland. He died during the Warsaw Uprising.
George's passing wrought so much havoc and grief on his parent's, that he was never spoken of. Initially, they fought for information, but the offerings were slim. It was assumed that he died on duty on August 5th, 1944, but there wasn't a body to prove it. No one knew where he was. From what I understand, his medals were thrown away by his father a few years later. George was not to be remembered.
Not until 1996 that is.
George had three nieces and one nephew that he never got to meet. The youngest niece just happened to hear on the CBC one day that the Polish Government was looking for the families of certain Canadian RAF officers that perished back in 1944. I have no doubt that she was startled to hear George's name over the air, especially since she probably hadn't heard the name much before.
She contacted the CBC, and got the ball rolling for my family to witness the posthumously awarding of the Armia Krajowa Cross (Polish's Home Army Cross), which is apparently Poland's highest award for bravery.
But even then, at the age of 16 myself, I really didn't understand much of what was going on. I was told to find a respectable suit, which I did. Show up in Ottawa, check. And watch my grandmother accept the medal on behalf of her brother.
Sure okay. Um, what did grandma's brother do?
I unfortunately, didn't learn much that day. Whether it was because I didn't know the right questions to ask, or knew that I needed to ask questions, I watch Grandma received the Home Army Cross on behalf of her brother and felt that it was a nice touch; I just didn't know why.
But life went on. I had some nice photos from my trip to Ottawa, and I came back home to Toronto with a little bit of pride for a great-uncle I never knew.
Ten years later, 60 years since the Halifax Bomber was shot down, the Warsaw Museum of Poland would find George's plane. With personal affects, supplies, and remains inside. Though at that point, no one knew what exactly was found.
It was amazing though, George was once again in the spotlight.
Some of our family went overseas to witness the rededication and burial service. George was well and truly back. Overseas perhaps, but we finally knew where he was.
I don't think we'll truly know what happened that night, back on August 4th, 1944; and like any game of broken telephone, information becomes corrupt. This is the story I garnered from bits and pieces online, and from a few sketches told by my mother and grandmother. If any of the families mentioned above would like to contact me to share info ('cause I know some of you are still searching,) please use the "Contact Me" button on the left side of the page to get in touch.
Biography on Veterans.gc.ca: Pilot Officer George Alfred Chapman (RCAF)
Chapman was born in Toronto, Ontario, on May 15, 1920. He was the Navigator of Halifax Bomber JP276. Chapman died at the age of 24.
Chapman received the following recognitions: 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp. On January 21, 1947, he was posthumously awarded RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in action against the enemy. On April 12, 1996, the Polish government posthumously awarded Chapman the Polish Home Army Cross Medal, the highest award for bravery in the struggle to liberate Poland.
And there was a bit of a silver lining to this thunderous cloud.
"The Halifax that went down over Poland- JP-276A or ‘G-George’- was my grandfather’s plane. He was the bombadier in G-George, and had just completed his tour and been sent home. The bombadier that perished in the crash was his replacement If the Poland mission had occurred a few weeks earlier, I probably wouldn’t be here today."
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