Flight Lieutenant Joseph Albert LAVIOLETTE (J89934) DFC RCAF.
No.103 Squadron posting 1944.Nov.25 – 1945.Jun.06.
Enlistment date and place: 1942.Sep.11 at Vancouver, British Columbia.
Address Prior to Enlistment: Echo Bay, British Columbia.
1928 to 1936 – Enrolled at Gilford Island Public School, Echo Bay BC.
1936 to 1939 – Attended Vancouver College, Vancouver BC.
1939 to 1942 – Employed in forest industry at Simoom Sound BC.
1942.Sep.09 – RCAF Medical at Vancouver BC.
Height: 5ft 7.5in. Weight: 141 lbs.
Eyes: Blue. Complexion: Medium. Physical Condition: Good.
Category: A1B/A3B. Fit for all aircrew duties.
1942.Sep.11 – Voluntary Service during an emergency. Term: Duration of War.
R189437 Rank: AC2. Trade: Aircrew (Std) ITS (War Emergency Training Programme).
1942.Sep.12 – Eight days Leave.
1942.Sep.21 – To No.3 Manning Depot, Edmonton.
1942.Nov.02 – Posted to No.1 Recruiting Centre, Vancouver.
1943.Jan.16 – To No.3 Repair Depot, Vancouver.
1943.Jan.21 – To No.10 Repair Depot, Calgary.
1943.Feb.06 – To No.7 ITS, Saskatoon.
1943.Feb.20 – 1943.Mar.13 – Confined to St. Paul’s Hospital.
1943.May.14 – Graduated and Promoted. Rank: LAC. Trade: Pilot.
1943.May.15 – To No.6 EFTS, Prince Albert.
1943.Jul.11 – To No.32 SFTS, Moose Jaw.
1943.Oct.24 – T/Sgt. Pilot’s Flying Badge.
1943.Oct.29 – Graduated and Promoted. Rank: Sgt. Trade: Pilot.
1943.Oct.30 – Twelve days Embarkation Leave.
1943.Nov.12 – From 32 SFTS to No.1 Y Depot, Moncton.
1943.Nov.24 – Y Depot to 3 PRC. Embarked Halifax, NS.
1943.Dec.01 – Disembark U.K.
1943.Dec.02 – 3 RCAF PRC.
1943.Dec.11 – Seven days Leave.
1943.Dec.31 – From 3 PRC to 3 EFTS to 50 Group pool.
1944.Feb.17 – From 3 PRC to Topcliffe to 20 (P) AFU.
1944.Mar.18 – Seven days + 48hr pass Annual Leave.
1944.May.09 – From 20 (P) AFU to 1520 FLT.
1944.Jun.13 – Six days Leave.
1944.Jun.20 – From 20 (P) AFU to 18 OTU.
1944.Jul.29 – T/FS. Three days Leave.
1944.Aug.01 – From 18 OTU to Cranwell.
1944.Aug.01 to 1944.Aug.08 – Station Sick Quarters Cranwell.
1944.Aug.13 – Commissioned J89934. Rank: Pilot Officer.
1944.Sep.03 – Ten days Leave.
1944.Sep.12 – From 18 OTU to 71 Base.
1944.Nov.04 – From 71 Base to No.1 Lancaster Finishing School Hemswell.
1944.Nov.25 – From No.1 LFS Hemswell to No.103 Squadron.
1944.Nov.27 – Ops: 2nd Pilot. Lancaster LM132 PM-I target Freiberg.
List of crew on 1st op:
F/O. F.G. Durrant J86070 (Pilot).
Sgt. J.R. Wood.
W/O. J.H.H. Armstrong R128147.
P/O. D.E. Matte J90736.
P/O. G.M. Collard.
F/S. R. Elsworth.
F/S. C.J. Greenway.
P/O. J.A. Laviolette J89934 (2nd Pilot; to gain combat experience).
1944.Dec.03 – Seven days Leave.
1944.Dec.15 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster LM682 PM-O target Ludwigshafen/Oppau.
1944.Dec.17 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster NN758 PM-S target Ulm.
1944.Dec.22 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster LM295 PM-Z target Coblenz.
1944.Dec.31 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster LM132 PM-I target Osterfeld.
1945.Jan.02 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster LM295 PM-Z target Nuremburg.
1945.Jan.14 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PB898 target Luena/Merseburg.
1945.Jan.16 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PD427 PM-C target Zeitz.
1945.Jan.26 – Six days Leave.
1945.Feb.01 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Ludwigshafen.
1945.Feb.02 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Wiesbaden
1945.Feb.07 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Cleve.
1945.Feb.08 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Politz.
1945.Feb.12 – F/O.
1945.Feb.13 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Dresden.
1945.Feb.14 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster NG360 PM-F target Chemnitz.
1945.Feb.20 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Dortmund.
1945.Feb.21 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Duisburg.
1945.Feb.23 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Pforzheim.
1945.Mar.01 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Mannheim.
1945.Mar.02 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Cologne.
1945.Mar.05 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME475 PM-L target Chemnitz.
1945.Mar.07 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Dessau.
1945.Mar.08 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Kassel.
1945.Mar.11 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME449 PM-T target Essen.
1945.Mar.12 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster NG491 PM-R target Dortmund.
1945.Mar.13 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster NG492 PM-D target Herne.
1945.Mar.17 – Six days Leave.
1945.Mar.25 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME847 PM-R target Hanover.
1945.Apr.14 – A/FL.
1945.Apr.18 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster ME475 PM-L target Heligoland.
1945.Apr.22 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PA319 target Bremen.
1945.Apr.25 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PA319 target Berchtesgaden (SS Barracks).
1945.Apr.28 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PA319 to Brussels – Exodus (PoW repatriation). Attempted landing at Brussels in deteriorating weather condition. Permission to abort. Recalled to base
1945.Apr.30 – Ops: Pilot. Lancaster PA319 to Leiden – Manna (food-drop).
1945May.02 – Final Op: Pilot. Lancaster PA319 to Rotterdam – Manna (food-drop)
Total: 1 op as 2nd Pilot. 30 ops as Pilot.
Longest operational flight (night): 9 hours 43 minutes airborne.
List of crew as Pilot:
Sgt. B. Robinson – 30 ops.
F/S. R. Todd – 30 ops.
W/O. C.W. Ellam R192609 – 30 ops.
F/S. H.A. Young – 20 ops (hit by flak Mar.02; resumed aircrew duties Apr).
F/S. F.J. Glover R268186 – 30
F/S. J.B. Shaw R275699 – 29 ops.
F/S. J.T. Thompson – 03 ops.
F/L. D.H. Semmence – 03 ops.
F/O. A.E. Smith – 01 op.
F/S. W.H. Clouston R210983 – 01 op.
W/O. H.C. Cakebread – 01 op.
F/S. K.C. McGinn 435018 – 01 op. (KIA Mar.08 in NF913 to Dessau).
F/O. A.W. Essex 417121 – 01 op. as 2nd Pilot (KIA Mar.19 in NG491 to Hanau).
1945.May.05 – Ops Wing. Nine days accumulated and unexpired Leave.
1945.May.31 – Twenty days accumulated and unexpired Leave.
1945.Jun.06 – Confidential Report: A very satisfactory heavy bomber Captain and Officer. Would make a satisfactory Flight Commander (W/C D.F. Macdonald). I agree with the remarks and assessment of the Squadron Commander (G/C R.E. Baxter).
1945.Jun.11 – Recalled from Leave. From No.103 Squadron to Rufforth.
1945.Jun.14 – Documents to 62 Base.
1945.Jun.19 – Repatriation posting to RCAF Stn Greenwood. Embarked for Canada aboard RMS Aquitania.
1945.Jun.29 – Thirty days Repatriation Leave + 12 TT Disembark.
1945.Jul.18 – Married: Colleen Nora Levesque of 1659 Davie St. Vancouver BC.
1945.Jul.31 – 8 OTU to RCAF Stn Greenwood.
1945.Aug.28 – Defence Medal, France/Germany Star, 1939-1945 Star.
1945.Sep.01 – Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas ( Maple Leaf) Bar.
1945.Sep.06 – From Greenwood to 1 Y Depot, Moncton.
Laviolette Medal Group.
1945.Sep.08 – Confidential Report: Flight Lieutenant Laviolette has completed a tour of operations in Bomber Command as Lancaster pilot. Has excellent recommendations from Training and Operational Stations. Clean conduct record. Has accepted position in forest company. This officer presents no rehabilitation problems. Will apply for re-enlistment credit at later date.
1945.Sep.09 – Flight Lieutenant Laviolette is recommended for award of Distinguished Flying Cross for his meritorious service as captain of aircraft and his loyal and painstaking work on the ground and in flight. Flight Lieutenant Laviolette completed 31 sorties (213 hours 20 minutes) against the enemy in the course of which he invariably displayed the utmost fortitude and courage. This young officer has always shown the greatest keenness and devotion to duty, pressing home his attacks in the face of the heaviest enemy defences in the most cool and confident manner, with the excellent results so often reflected by his first class bombing photographs.
1945.Sep.11 – Transferred to RCAF Special Reserve. War Service Badge 306918. Entitled to Rehabilitation Grant and Clothing Allowance.
Silk scarf noted by Albert with his targets/operations during his tour with 103 Sqdn.
When Germany surrendered, Albert wrote his fiancée, Colleen, that he expected to be home by early-June, mid-June at latest. He suggested that she make plans for a late-June wedding. In the meantime, Albert was selected for Tiger Force in the Pacific Theatre of War. Albert was given a choice: start Tiger Force training immediately, or take leave to be married. He took leave, married, then returned to Stn Greenwood.
Tiger Force training emphasised Very Long Range Bombing which included in-flight refuelling. When Japan was defeated, Tiger Force was cancelled; consequently, Albert was released from active service.
Before Albert left RCAF Stn Greenwood to return home, Trans World Airlines offered him employment flying commercial airliners. Albert turned down the TWA offer. He chose to enter a business partnership with family and associates in the BC forest industry.
Albert continued to fly. On return home he bought a small Cessna float-plane. In the 1950s Albert worked as a bush-pilot serving the central BC coast from Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. In the 1960s he was employed as Flying Instructor at the Comox Valley Flying School. In the 1970s he was an integral member of a small group of hobby-flyers at Squamish, BC. At age 60 Albert retired to White Rock, BC where he began flying ultralight aircraft.
In 1990 Albert read in the newspaper that a fully restored and operational Lancaster would be at the Abbotsford International Air Show. After fly-overs the Lanc taxied to the edge of the runway. Spectators gathered to hear the Lancaster story.
The speaker pointed out Albert in the crowd and called, “Sir, would you like to come aboard for a tour of the Lancaster?” With a doubtful look, Albert pointed to himself and asked, “Do you mean me?” The speaker answered, “Yes, you sir; the grey-haired gentleman in the blue shirt.” Albert asked, “Out of this entire crowd, why me?” The speaker replied, “Sir, you look like an old Lancaster man.”
Albert boarded the Lancaster. He settled himself in the pilot seat. As Albert familiarised himself with the cockpit, the pre-flight mindset of a Lanc captain on ops came back to him. It was a remarkable event.
Albert’s last flight as pilot was on his 80th birthday in a one-seater ultralight aeroplane at Langley, BC.
Albert seldom mentioned his military service. In 2004 he was diagnosed with an inoperable heart condition. His family, wanting to know more about his military service, asked if he could share some wartime memories. After a few days of recollecting the war Albert began having nightmares and flashbacks. The scheduled interview format was stopped. A few weeks later Albert started to volunteer information on his own initiative. In 2006 at the age of 84 Albert died from heart failure.
Albert grew up in a remote area on the west coast of British Columbia. There were no roads, no automobiles. Everyone used boats to get around the maze of islands and inlets. The region is notorious for, high winds, heavy seas, strong riptides, whirlpools, and the like. It can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment. Boyhood seamanship and navigational skills that Albert acquired became instinctive for him. He seemed to have a natural sixth-sense when piloting, whether on water or in the air.
“In some ways, my experiences growing up prepared me for the Service…flight training in a Tiger Moth on the prairies reminded me of roaring around in my speedboat back home… ground school wasn’t much different than classes at Vancouver College.
“When I joined-up in ’42 the war situation was grim… I knew that I might not return... but it had to be done... quite a few men were killed in training accidents... and of course there were so many extreme hazards on ops... thorough preparation was of utmost importance... taking off fully loaded was the first of many critical phases of an op.
“Before the bombs were armed they offered a degree of protection… the bomb-load stopped a lot of flak from ripping through us... a good approach to the target was crucial… then “bombs gone” and we had to fly straight and level while the camera took photos… that was the most vulnerable time.
“Enemy anti-aircraft gunners had our altitude over Cologne … we could see what was coming... and then we were in it... my Flight Engineer was hit by flack... we made every effort to get him home quickly.
“When the photos were taken I’d clear the target area; put the nose down, increase airspeed... then I’d want an assessment from all the crew… and a proper fix on the first leg home… it was a welcome feeling when the Channel was underneath us.
“After an op was hard for me… seeing the empty bunks of men that didn’t make it back... men I had trained with... men who had invited me to their homes on leave.
“After a few drinks together in the pub we would raise our glasses and shout, “When in doubt, bail out!” We celebrated that we were, at least for the time being, counted among the living. Preparing for the next op put everything back into focus… no room for error… rely on your training… rely on your crew.””
PLEASE NOTE: Documents used for the abridged timeline are blurred in places. A few events have conflicting dates (earliest dates are presented). Some classified information is not available at this time. Selected quotations are from 2004 interview notes. There may be minor errors.
Item Courtesy of the Laviolette family. Jan 2013