Robert Howard "Bob" Laurence

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Canadian Pilot Downs 5 Huns In 5-Minute Battle Over Reich

London, Dec. 31, 1944 - (CP) – F/L Richard J. Audet, 22-year-old Spitfire pilot of a Canadian wing operating with the British 2nd Tactical Air Force, had never before downed an enemy aircraft — but in five blazing minutes over Osnabruck he racked up five kills on Friday.
His feat was performed as Canadian fliers smashing at German communication targets in the Rhineland were met by stiff enemy aerial opposition.
Audet's victims were three Focke-Wulf 190's, one Messerschmitt 109 and an unspecified aircraft.
Pilots in this wing destroyed a total of nine German aircraft, probably destroyed another two and damaged six. They also smashed at Nazi rail traffic, destroying four locomotives, damaging 13 and damaging 75 freight cars.
The wing's four remaining kills were scored by F/L E.C. Ireland of Toronto, F/L M. Cook of Boston Creek, Ont., F/O Robert McCracken of Lakefield, Ont., and F/O Cameron of Toronto. All their victims were Focke Wulf 190's.
The other two kills went to F/O Robert Laurence of Edson, Alta., without firing his guns. He was attacked by five German aircraft over a distance of about 10 miles and was taking evasive action, turning first toward an "FW" on his beam. When the latter attempted to follow in tight circles, it crashed and burst into flames. As he circled he bounced past an Me109 and was just about to open fire when the German, attempting to make too tight a circle, crashed.


Name may be Robert Harold Laurence
Born 20 July 1921, Fort St.John, British Columbia
Home in Edson, Alberta
Enlisted in Edmonton, 29 September 1941
Trained at
No.7 ITS (graduated 24 February 1942)
No.19 EFTS (graduated 3 July 1942) &
No.4 SFTS (graduated and commissioned on 6 Nov'42)
No.123 Squadron, 20 November 1942
No.163 Squadron, 16 March 1943
To "Y" Depot, Halifax, 13 January 1944
Arrived at
No.3 Personnel Reception Bournemouth, 21 Jan. 1944
Posted to UK in June 1944
Trained as a Typhoon pilot
Joined 439 Squadron later that year
Repatriated at uncertain date
Released 28 September 1945

In a letter to Carl Vincent (9 January 1977, DHist files) he describes No.163 as "a rather random collection of both aircraft and personnel, with no definitive training or operational objectives or capability".
While he was there it flew five types of aircraft - Bolingbroke, Crane, Harvard, Hurricane and Kittyhawk. With flying discipline very loose, he was able to sign out aircraft almost at will. From this varied flying he learned aerobatics, formation flying and "a limited amount of gunnery that no doubt enabled me to be an effective operational pilot when I got overseas (and gave me the skills that enabled me to survive)." The most constructive thing the unit did was to provide a detachment of four "operational" Harvards flying off a grass field at Wainwright, Alberta, working with an Army Brigade Training Centre, simulating strafing, bombing etc. He had limited experience on Kittyhawks, but remembered worrying when flying them over water because the Allison engines would "sputter and cough and take a considerable time to clear themselves...and develop their full power."


"If no one else could think of something to do, the Canadians proved operationally inventive. On November 30, No. 439 sent four Typhoons on a "met" sortie in bad weather. They carried SOD-pound bombs in case targets presented themselves. Led by F/O R.H. Laurence, they chanced upon some barrage balloons flying above cloud near Wesel. Uncertain as to what might develop, Laurence attacked alone, holing a balloon which sank into the overcast after a few moments. Now everyone went after the other balloons. WO S.A. Church (R87186) of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan set one alight. The final claims were four destroyed, one probable. Back at base, the men reported having had a "hell of a good time."

On November 3, a needless loss hit 439 Squadron. F/O Ralph Nelson MacDonald (J21003), a 41-sortie veteran from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, was doing an airframe and engine test on JR500 when he engaged in a mock dogfight with F/O R.H. Laurence. Recovering from a tight turn, MacDonald flicked into a spin and crashed into a house. Two days later, he was buried in the Eindhoven cemetery as 439 Tiffies roared over head as they returned from a strike. Seven weeks later, Laurence was ordered court-martialed. He was supported by his superiors, who could find no rule that he had transgressed. Not long after this, he was recommended for a DFC following a spectacular aerial combat."

-from "Typhoon & Tempest The Canadian Story" by Hugh Halliday


Canadian Fliers Down 36 German Aircraft in Luftwaffe Attack

London, Jan. 1, 1945 - (CP) - Canadian fighter pilots, in one of their greatest triumphs during the war, destroyed at least 36 of 84 Germans shot down today by the RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force.
The big Canadian score was rolled up as the German Air Force came out in its greatest show of strength for three years in an attempt to smash up Allied airfields in Belgium, Holland and France.

Five Planes Missing
Canadian fighter squadrons accounted for 35 enemy aircraft and the 36th was destroyed by a Canadian in an RAF Tempest Squadron. Five RCAF planes are missing.
Although the Huns' low-level strafings included RCAF airfields and caused some damage, the operational program of the squadrons was not interrupted and approximately 300 sorties were flown. Some enemy planes were destroyed white the airfields were under attack and others when the enemy fled for home.
The pilot of one RCAF reconnaissance squadron, whose name was not immediately disclosed, destroyed two ME-190s and damaged two FW-190s as he returned to base.
Spitfire fighter-bombers also were active and destroyed or damaged several locomotives and freight cars in the German supply area around St. Vith in Belgium south of Malmedy.
The Canadian Wolf Squadron alone knocked down five out of a formation of 60 enemy craft which strafed the squadron's airfield in the Brussels area. Two others probably were destroyed and another damaged in a low-level action that developed into the hottest dogfight for Canadian fighters in months.

Bags 2 Focke-Wolfs
Four RCAF Typhoons returning from a reconnaissance flight met enemy fighters and destroyed three and probably destroyed a fourth. Two were destroyed by F/O A.H. Fraser of Westmount, Que., and the other by F/O H. Laurence of Edson, Alta. All were FW-190s.
A Canadian Tempest pilot, F/L J.W. Garland of Richmond, Ont., jumped two Focke Wulfs just 50 feet from the ground. He dived from 9,000 feet and destroyed both.
In the Wolf Squadron dogfight, P/O Steve Butte of Michel, B.C., and Mac Reeves of Madoc, Ont., each downed two planes and Butte also claimed one damaged. F/S Keith Lindsay destroyed one and also had a "probable."
These were the first scores for Butte and Lindsay.
Butte and Lindsay found themselves in a swirling mass of Huns as they took off on a morning patrol. Butte sent an ME-109 down in flames with cannon fire.
Next victim was an FW-190. "There were strikes on his wing and engine, and I saw him crash on the edge of a near by town," Butte said.

Out of Ammunition
Then he hit an ME-109, seeing strikes and smoke, but losing sight of the enemy plane as it dived steeply toward the ground.
"By this time all my ammunition was gone and a Hun got on my tail," Butte continued, "I managed to get on his tail, but couldn't do anything about it."
Lindsay shot one plane down in flames and registered a cannon hit on another, but couldn't determine whether it crashed.
Reeves and his namesake, F/L Dick Reeves of 1507 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Toronto, who is no relation, plunged into a flock of enemy planes while returning from patrol. Dick Reeves had to land immediately because of a faulty motor, but Mac, his guns belching, closed on the plane which caught fire and crashed. He attacked the second victim from underneath and the pilot baled out.
It was announced tonight that the Canadian Mosquito Squadron on the Continent during Sunday night destroyed two Junkers planes while on defensive patrol.


Canadian Fighter Pilots Get Biggest Bag of Huns

London, Jan 2 1945 (CP) - Canadian fighter pilots accounted for at least half of the 94 German plane destroyed by the RAF's 2nd Tactical Air Force New Year's Day when the Luftwaffe made an attempt to cripple west front airfield operations.
A compilation tonight, based on the latest reports received from the Continent, showed that RCAF fighters in their biggest day of the war destroyed at least 36 enemy aircraft and half-a-dozen others fell to Canadian sharpshooters in RAF Squadrons.
The top scoring wing in the 2nd Tactical Air Force during the day of close to 100 "kills" was the Canadian Spitfire unit which brought down 24 German machines, probably destroyed another three and damaged seven. An untold number of probables and damaged planes were claimed by other Canadians.
The wing’s scorers included two airmen who downed three planes apiece, both from the Ram Squadron. F/O G. D. Cameron of Toronto destroyed a trio of ME-109s while F/L John Mackay of Cloverdale, B.C., destroyed two ME-109s and an FW-190. Mackay got the last two without using his guns because they dived into the ground when he chased them.
F/L D. Pieri of Toronto and Elmhurst, Ill., destroyed two FW-190s and probably destroyed two others.
F/L Dick Audet of Lethbridge, Alta., who last Friday shot down five enemy planes in little more than five minutes, brought his total to seven with two FW-190s bagged as they roared low over his field. Friday's quintet were the first aircraft the 22 year-old Lethbridge airman had downed.
Others from the Canadian wing, who helped to set up the day's record - the previous top mark for the Canadians in a single day was 22 planes - included S/L Dean Dover, DFC, and Bar, of Toronto, who destroyed an ME-109 and shared another with F/O Dean Kelly of Peterborough, Ont. and F/L Donald Gordon of Vancouver with two ME-109's.
Double scorers included F/L J. W. Garland, Richmond, Ont.; P/O Steve Butte, Michel, B.C.; P/O Mac Reeves, Madoc, Ont. and F/O A. H. Fraser, Westmount, Que.
Single scorers included F/L W. Banks, Toronto; F/L B. MacPherson, St. Thomas, Ont.; F/L Basil Doak, Cowansville, Que.; F/O Vic Smith, Toronto; F/O J. C. Lee, Ottawa; P/O D. M. Horsburgh, Carnduff, Sask.; F/L N. Keene, White Lake, B.C.; F/O H. Laurence, Edson, Alta. and F/Sgt Keith Lindsay, 10764 95th St. Edmonton. Lindsay also claimed one probable.
Operations today were restricted by weather but 90 sorties were flown and all aircraft returned. Two locomotives were destroyed and four others damaged in the Cologne area by Spitfire fighter-bombers.


On January 24th Laurence was court-martialed for the negligent death of F/O MacDonald in November.
The Board would not find him guilty however.


LAURENCE, F/O Robert Howard (J20602) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.439 Sq.
Award effective 23 February 1945 as per London Gazette of that date and
AFRO 563/45 dated 29 March 1945.

This officer has taken part in a large number of sorties and throughout has set a fine example of skill and determination in pressing home his attacks on various targets. In air fighting, Flying Officer Laurence has destroyed four enemy aircraft. He has rendered much valuable and devoted service.


Victories Include :

29 Dec 1944

  1 Jan 1945

one FW190
one Me109
one FW190
one FW190
Ahaus area [1]
Deurne area [2]

3 / 1 / 0

[1] - I immediately dove to the deck to take evasive action. I headed in a westerly direction taking evasive action in the form of 90 degree turns to port and starboard alternately. Eventually there was only one FW190 left attacking me, so I turned with him on the deck. As I tightened up my turn, he stayed with me but flicked, recovered, flicked again and hit the ground upside down, bursting into flame. Very much relieved, I orbited the enemy aircraft burning on the ground. My relief, however, was short-lived, for during the orbit I was bounced by an Me109 which I had not seen. I immediately started turning with the enemy aircraft and tightened the turn. I was just preparing to layoff deflection when the enemy aircraft did one complete turn in a spin from 200 feet, hit the ground, and burst into flames.

[2] - ... after considerable maneuvering, I got on a 190's tail at about 150 yards, closing all the time. He didn't take much evasive action and I gave him a short burst with about 5 degrees of deflection, turning slightly starboard. I saw strikes mostly on the starboard wing, and then gave another short burst, getting more strikes on the wings and some on the fuselage. This time the aircraft at 800 feet rocked a little and started towards the ground as if out of control, and at this time I had to break port with an FW190 on my tail and firing at me. When next I looked in this direction, I saw an enemy pilot descending by parachute.
My No.2 saw at least three or four aircraft go in at this point, and at this time. The fighting continued and I had one or two short bursts at other aircraft but did not see any results. As the action broke off, I saw one FW190 turning away from me and I was able to close from 75 to 100 yards dead astern; I gave it a short burst, then another burst, getting strikes both times. The second time the coupe-top and several other pieces flew off it. It dropped its nose and went towards the ground; it then rolled slowly over on its back and I saw it crash into a brick building and burst into flames.

He claimed two destroyed but was given credit for 1 and 1 probable




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