Poland 1945

International Operation Name: N/A

International Operation Dates: N/A

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Europe

Location: Poland

Canadian Operation Name: (Poland 1945)

Canadian Operation Dates: 16 October 1945 - 25 January 1946

Mission Mandate:

To fly penicillin into Poland in support of the Polish Red Cross.

Mission Notes:

In October 1945, Dr Lawrence J. Burpee, Chairman of the Canadian United Allied Relief Fund, received a request from the Polish Red Cross, requesting penicillin and medical tools. Dr. Burpee contacted Senator Thomas Vien, who then initiated government action. No. 168 Heavy Transport Squadron, which had been flying mail and personnel between Canada and the United Kingdom was given the task.

On 16 October 1945, the first shipment of 5,500 lbs of penicillin arrived at Rockcliffe. This was part of a 5 ton supply provided by the Canadian Red Cross. It was loaded into Flying Fortress 9202 on 19 October. The crew arrived at Prestwick, Scotland on 21 October, where the penicillin was unloaded. The Fortress returned to Canada, while the penicillin remained in Scotland until permission was received to fly it to Poland. As Poland was in the Soviet zone of occupation, Soviet permission was required to fly there. Eventually, permission was granted and another RCAF aircraft delivered the first supply.

On 31 October 1945, Flying Fortress 9202 departed Rockcliffe with another 5,500 lbs (1,000,000 units) of penicillin, bound for Warsaw. The flight was to take the crew via Prestwick and Berlin to Warsaw, but at 1:30 PM, 4 November, the aircraft struck some trees on a 1000' high hilltop near Halle, Germany, while flying through a low cloudbase. The aircraft crashed and burned, killing all five RCAF members on board.

The five casualties were: F/L E.P. Harling – Pilot, F/L D.F. Caldwell - Co-pilot; S/L A.E. Webster – Navigator; F/L N.D. Roche - Wireless operator; and Sgt E.E. Phillips – crewman. They are buried in a cemetery near Muenster.

To replace this shipment a third flight was arranged. Flying Fortress 9205 from No. 168 Squadron departed Rockcliffe on 16 Nov, again staging through Prestwick and Berlin. The flight arrived in Prestwick on 19 November; however it was not until 23 November that permission was received to fly to Poland. This shipment was met in Warsaw by members of the Polish Red Cross and members of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization.

On 28 December, another Liberator left Rockcliffe for Prestwick. The aircraft, however, had to wait in Gander for three days because of engine problems. Once in Prestwick the 4,800 lbs of penicillin were transferred to a 168 Squadron Dakota which delivered the cargo to Warsaw on 4 January 1946.

The final penicillin flight left Rockcliffe on 5 January 1946 with 1,200 lbs of penicillin. This load was also transshipped at Prestwick and taken by a Dakota from 168 Squadron to Warsaw on 14 January.

The RCAF was able to deliver 8 tons of penicillin to Poland at a time when that country was still taking its first steps towards recovering from the Second World War.

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