Airman's parachute used as Communion dress.

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by CXX, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. CXX

    CXX New Member

    The family of a Scots WWII airman who was shot down over Belgium has been contacted by a woman who used his parachute for a First Communion dress.

    RAF Flight Sergeant John McCallum, from Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, was part of an eight-man crew shot down in their bomber in August 1943.

    Eleven-year-old Paulette Bisiaux from the village of Harmignies later wore a dress made from his silk parachute.

    Now, aged 75, she has tracked down his family with help from the RAF.

    After the crash, in which one member of the crew was killed, Flt Sgt McCallum buried his parachute and eventually returned to RAF Portreath in Cornwall.

    Some of the other survivors were sheltered by families including Ms Bisiaux's.

    Two-years later they took the parachute from its hiding place and the material was used to make her First Communion dress.

    It's marvellous and a wonderful tale as most parachutes would end up destroyed
    Daniel McCallum

    She contacted the RAF's 10th Squadron Association last year in the hope of discovering the story behind her dress.

    David Mole, ex-chairman of the Association, tracked down Flt Sgt McCallum's family.

    After the war he had returned to Glasgow and worked as a policeman.

    He had three children with his wife Jean, 90, and seven grandchildren.

    He passed away in 1999 at the age of 77.

    Mr Mole said: "Amazingly I had already reunited some members of the team's families with the Belgian people they stayed with before Paulette contacted the Association so I was very familiar with the story.
    Flt Sgt John McCallum
    Flt Sgt McCallum worked as a policeman in Glasgow after the war

    "Paulette told us how she was connected to them and how John's parachute had been used.

    "I was determined to find John's family so she could tell him what good use the parachute that saved his life came to."

    He added: "I worked for about a year with my team, contacting her family in Belgium and trying to track down John's family."

    Flt Sgt McCallum's son Daniel, 64, from Cumbernauld, said the family had been delighted at being contacted.

    He was given the middle name Lesecc in tribute to a French couple who assisted his father's escape.

    He said: "We didn't know anything about this aspect of my father's story.

    "It's marvellous and a wonderful tale as most parachutes would end up destroyed.

    "My sisters and I have discussed going to meet Paulette in Belgium, possibly next year some time, and it would be the perfect ending to my father's story."
  2. CXX

    CXX New Member

    Details of crash.......

    27-28 August 1943

    10 Squadron
    Halifax II JD368 ZA-A
    Op. Nuremberg

    Sgt. G. Baker. evd.
    Sgt. R W. Cornelius. evd.
    Sgt. J. McCallum. evd.
    Sgt. V W. Davies. evd.
    Sgt. M. Pearce. evd.
    P/O. F N. Lawrence. evd.
    Sgt. G R. Darvill. pow.
    Sgt. G R. Warren RCAF +

    Took off 2049 hrs Melbourne. Homebound, shot down by a night-fighter crashing 0330 hrs at Haulchin (Hainaut) 12 km south east of Mons, Belgium. Sgt. Warren RCAF is buried in Gosselies Communal Cemetery.

    BCL Vol.4 - W R. Chorley.

    27/28 August 1943


    674 aircraft - 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes, 104 Stirlings. 33 aircraft - 11 of each type on the raid - lost, 4-9 per cent of the force.
    The marking for this raid was based mainly on H2S. 47 of the Pathfinder H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a i,ooo-lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremberg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Heilbronn reports that several bombs did drop in the north of the town soon after midnight. The local officials assumed that the bombs were aimed at the industrial zone; several bombs did fall around the factory area and other bombs fell further away. No industrial buildings were hit; one house was destroyed but there were no casualties.
    Nuremberg was found to be free of cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets. The Master Bomber (whose name is not recorded) could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward; only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts. Bomber Command estimated that most of the bombing fell in open country south-south-west of the city but the local reports say that bombs were scattered across the south-eastern and eastern suburbs. The only location mentioned by name is the Zoo, which was hit by several bombs. 65 people were killed.

    'The Bomber Command War Diaries' - Middlebrook / Everitt
  3. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    A very interesting story Peter.



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