Wing Commander Norman Bretz

By Harry McFee

 

Wing Commander Norman Hobson Bretz D.F.C.
R.C.A.F. J2975
April 1940 to March 1946

Squadron Leader, City of Winnipeg Squadron 402, 1942
Squadron Leader, City of North York Squadron 411, 1943
Wing Commander, City of Winnipeg Squadron 402 and City of Oshawa Squadron 416, 1943-1944
Commanding Officer, No. One Repatriation Centre at Lachine, Que., 1944-1945
Commanding Officer, CFB Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, 1945-1946

[Note that many more wonderful images are available at Harry McFee's site, For We Were Young And Had Wings.]

On the 24th April 1940, Norman Bretz (1913-1956) joined the Royal Air Force, and was a member of the first class under the British Air Commonwealth Training Plan. He took his instruction at Kitchener and received his wings at Uplands on October 7th, 1940. (He stood seventh in his class). His R.C.A.F. number was J2975 and he was post as a P/O on November 18th.

Most of these fellows wanted to go overseas to join the war effort testing their new skills as fighter pilots; however, many were assigned to be pilot instructors at the newly developed air bases in Western Canada where they now were training pilots from Australia, New Zealand, England and Canada. Surprisingly, Norman got his wish and was amongst the first 10 graduating pilots of the BCATP to arrive in Britain in December 15th, 1940, and assigned to the No.112 Fighter Group under the command of Sqdn. Ldr. Gordon MacGregor at RAF Digby. Norman arrived only a few months after the Battle of Britain (July to September, 1940).

Throughout this time, the group had been part of the Royal Air Force. However, Canada pressured to have its own Air Force presence and shortly afterwards the R.C.A.F. units were assigned their own squadron numbers (401 to 430). Norman's unit was renumbered as No. 402 Squadron, nicknamed the "Bear" squadron, in March 1941. The unit was then re-equipped with the Hurricane Mk II in May and Hurricane Mk IIBs in June. With these, the group began training to become the first "Hurribomber" (Hurricane IIC) unit, commencing operations in this role in November, carrying pairs of 250-pound bombs beneath the wings.

The squadron was still under the command of Sqdn. Ldr. Gordon MacGregor of Montreal who had received a D.F.C. during the Battle of Britain. Norman also spent some time during 1941 with the 401 "City of Montreal" Squadron. Later, Sqdn. Ldr. Bob Morrow of Toronto and Vancouver took over the 402 Squadron and was awarded the D.F.C. for the protective circle his Squadron formed during the rescue attempt of the Irish Ace Squadron Leader Paddy Finucane who was shot down in the English Channel by machine gun fire from the ground.

Until September 1940, the German Luftwaffe had been bombing the R.A.F. and R.C.A.F airfields but subsequently concentrated on the cities of London, Birmingham, Brighton and many others. This period was also called the 'Blitz' by the Britons fighting the many fires and dealing with the random bombing of these large cities. As the Germans wanted to destroy the shipping, the East End of London was severely damaged. (My sister working in the the Grain Exchange (Lakeshippers Clearance) during the mid-1950's had an English friend 'Moira" who had severe facial burns which occurred during the Blitz fires).

A newspaper clipping from the time describing the early successes of the Canadians:

RAF SQUADRON BAGS ONE PLANE, ANOTHER IS HIT
Belleville and Kirkland Lake Fliers
Share Glory in Sweep Over France
WORK IS PRAISED

Somewhere in England, September 28, 1941 - (CP) - A group of representatives of Canadian newspapers were given an opportunity Saturday to talk with pilots of a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter squadron returning from a sweep of Northern France, in which they destroyed one German fighter and possibly damaged a second. After lunching at a famous sea­side resort, now almost deserted except for local residents, the Canadian party went to the fighter station and waited on the field to greet the pilots as they stepped from their Hurricanes.
Squadron Leader V. B. Corbett of Belleville and Sergeant Pilot George McClusky of Kirkland Lake shared credit for the plane destroyed. Flying Officer Fred Kelly of Toronto saw another pass through the line of his machine-gun fire and possibly "messed it up" enough to place it in the "damaged" category.
The plane shot down, a Messerschmitt 109, was the second confirmed victim of the Canadians' fire since they moved into this station a little more than one month ago. They also have six probables and two damaged, not including Saturday's one.
The newspaper representatives, who were disappointed earlier in the week when operations at a bomber station they visited were cancelled due to bad weather, spent an interesting afternoon with the fighter pilots.

Welcomed by Commander
They were welcomed at the station by its commander, an R.A.F. officer, who praised the work of his Canadian pilots, saying they "are grand chaps" and first-class pilots with an excellent record, considering the short length of time many of them had been on operations.
The visitors learned of the "splendid co-operation" given by the young Canadians and how they had quickly made themselves at home. As the fighters began to arrive back from over France, the newspapermen singled out men from the parts of Canada they represent and got personal stories of the day's engagements from the beaming pilots, who posed for pictures before removing their Mae Wests.
The plane piloted by Pilot Officer Norm Bretz, Toronto, was the first to appear over the field, and Pilot Officer Brad Walker, London, Ont., let out a cheer when he distinguished the lettering on the streamlined Hurricane. "K for Kitty, and all in one piece, too," he said, explaining it was the plane he usually flies, "but I loaned it to Norm for a day."
Corbett and McClusky landed at almost the same time, and pilots and newspaper representatives soon gathered around them when it was learned they had shot down an enemy craft.
Bishop R. J. Renison of Toronto, who was the padre of Corbett's squadron before it came to England, was among the first to congratulate the squadron leader.

Halved the Plane
Corbett did not know he had "halved" the plane until he landed. "I just shot at it and it ran out of my sights, going down," he said. McCIusky, who, like Corbett was claiming his first confirmed victim of the war, said he was on Corbett's tail, and followed the Nazi craft down, firing all the time. "I saw smoke pouring from him, and then the pilot seemed to roll out from the side. His parachute opened up and he went down just like a mushroom."
"It was just like in practice," the Northern Ontario boy said, excitedly. "It was really swell."
Flying Officer Brad Foster of Montreal, who "got in two good shots" at a Messerschmitt, said there was lots of flak and considerable fighter opposition on the way to the target, but that it was "pretty quiet" coming home.
A number of the pilots brought down their machines at other stations to refuel, and landed on their own field as much as an hour later. Kelly, who was one of these, said the German plane flew right in front of his machine guns and "must have taken everything I had."
Nearly all the other pilots on the sweep, including Flight Lieutenant Harry Crease, Windsor, Ont.; Pilot Officer Bill Pentland, Calgary; Pilot Officer Syd Ford, Liverpool, N.S.; Sergeant Butch Handley, North Bay; Sergeant Jerry MacKay, Rock Island, Que., and Sergeant. K. Magee, Moncton, N.B., saw some sort of action.

Tea With Officers
After spending about ninety min­utes at the field, the newspaper representatives went to the officers' mess for tea. The mess was in a huge house built at the time of Ann Boleyn, and is considered by the pilots to be one of the best in the country.
Henry G. F. Christie, Saint John, N.B., thanked the officers on behalf of the visiting group, congratulated them on the day's success, and wished them luck in future operations. The party spent another half an hour talking to pilots on the spacious lawn surrounding the mess, then drove back to London.
Earlier in the day they had their first look at Britain's coastal defenses, a distant view from a hotel window during lunch, of barbed wire entanglements along a beach.
Another visit in the crowded day was a brief stop at a recruiting center for women war workers. Men and women were driving about the town in loudspeaker cars drumming up volunteers, and girls were sitting at the windows of the center, making wireless parts for tanks.
The Canadians were told that the need for more women workers is great.
Finally, upon arriving in London at night, the Canadians had a private dinner, then went to the Ministry of Information for a showing of the film, "Target for Tonight" and a number of documentary pictures.
They spent Sunday as they chose, not having an official schedule for the day.

Norman was promoted rapidly from Pilot Officer to Flying Officer to Flight Lieutenant (and Acting Squadron Leader in the absence of his Squadron Leader Bob Morrow). His log book records many dog fights and later under the command of Sqdn. Ldr. Bob Morrow, commenced low level bombing raids on the rail yards and German airfields in France.

This log records of this low level flying showed that they crossed the channel at zero feet and flew overland at treetop level having to watch for church steeples for fear of losing their wings. With this hedgehopping, they often dropped their bombs at zero, ten, twenty or more feet bringing cinders in their undercarriages to their home base. A definite possibility of blowing themselves up. The very next day, they could be flying at 30,000 feet encountering enemy fighter or bombers.

On the bright side, these pilots occasionally were stationed in stately English country homes with large estates and they returned after these missions to comfortable surroundings. Some did not. Most often, though, they were stationed in barracks on the Air Base (which were not too comfortable as they were cramped, cold, damp and probably drafty). They seemed to always be 'at ready' which meant that they were dressed in flight suits and ready to fly at a moment's notice. Occasionally, there was a weekend's leave in the nearest town.

In March 1942, the Squadron resumed its fighter role and moved to RAF Colerne and converting to Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vbs.

In June or July, 1942, Norman was Acting Squadron Leader of the 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron, when Air Marshall Billy Bishop arrived overseas to visit the only all Canadian fighter squadron in Britain at that time. Great propaganda stuff which was used by the Canadian Press. Shortly before this visit, Norman's Acting Status was made permanent.

Cross-Channel sorties from various bases followed, notably RAF Kenley and RAF Redhill, until August when it received Spitfire Mk IXs, employing these over Dieppe on 19th of August.

For the Battle of Dieppe, along with many other R.A.F. and R C.A.F. squadrons, Norman led four separate flights to defend the Canadians attempting to land on the Dieppe beaches. What a horrible and disastrous attempt which, in retrospect, the military commanders obviously made a mistake (sacrifice). But without the air cover, it may have been worse.

Norman and his pal, Sqdn. Ldr. Lloyd Chadburn of the 401 Squadron and a couple of others were decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross or the Distinguished Flying Medal for the fighting at Dieppe. They were summoned to appear on December 1, 1942 in dress uniform at St. James Palace to be presented their award by King George VI. (Norman wrote that he was "down to London to meet King Rx - really not too bad of a chap"). No doubt, there were a large number of awards to pilots in the R.A.F. and the R.C.A.F at the same time.

 

AIR FORCE, NAVY HAD BIG SHARE IN OPERATIONS
Nine Flyers Have Been Rewarded For Their Work So Far

Ottawa, Oct. 2, 1942 — (CP) — While Canadian army men were in action in the battle of Dieppe last August, Canadian flyers and Canadian naval personnel also played a part in the big combined operations attack. National defence headquarters today announced 178 decorations to army men who were in the hard-fought battle.

So far nine Canadian airmen have been decorated, though their awards were not directly related to the battle of Dieppe and some of the citations referred to service in other operations as well.

Some 100 officers and men of the Canadian navy, serving with the Royal Navy, were aboard ships engaged in the operation and although no naval decorations for Canadians have yet been announced, there is a possibility there will be some.

Airmen whose citations mentioned service at Dieppe were: Acting Squadron-Ldr. B. Chadburn, of Aurora and Oshawa, Out.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. Norman H. Bretz, of Toronto; Flying Officer T.A. Casey, of Listowel, Ont.; Flying Officer Donald T. Smith, Oakville, Ont.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. Leslie S. Ford, of Liverpool, N.S.; Pilot Officer J.W. Reynolds, Pembroke, Ont.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. John C. Fee, of Calgary, and Acting Flight-Lieut. Frederick E. Green, of Toronto, all of whom received the Distinguished Flying Cross; and Sgt. Clarence G. Scott, of Tisdale, Sask., who received the Distinguished Flying medal.

Other decorations for Canadian airmen as a result of their Dieppe services may yet be announced. Both the Canadian airmen and naval personnel who were at Dieppe were under British command although several all-Canadian air force squadrons took part.


BRETZ, S/L Norman Hobson (J2975) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.402 Squadron - Award effective 2 September 1942 as per London Gazette dated 22 September 1942 and AFRO 1653/42 dated 16 October 1942.  Home in Toronto; enlisted there 24 April 1940.  Trained at No.1 ITS, Kitchener-Waterloo Flying Club, and No.2 SFTS.  Credited with the following victories, all with No.402 Squadron: 8 June 1942, one FW.190 damaged; 19 August 1942, one FW.190 damaged; 24 August 1942, one FW.190 destroyed; 6 September 1942, one FW.190 damaged.  Commanded No.411 Squadron, 28 September 1942 to 22 March 1943; later Wing Commander, CO of Repatriation Depot at Rocklciffe (1944).  Photo PL-14714 shows him.  Award presented 1 December 1942.

Squadron Leader Bretz has completed many operational sorties including four low level raids in Hurricane bombers, as a result of which, two enemy destroyers were severely damaged.  During the combined operations at Dieppe on 19th August he led his squadron in four sorties and destroyed one enemy aircraft and damaged another.  Squadron Leader Bretz has displayed great courage and initiative which have contributed largely to the successes achieved by his squadron.

 

Back home Norman was in quite a few papers in Toronto and Winnipeg. I recall being told by Bill Bretz (Norm's Cousin) that in probably 1945, he was in downtown Toronto with Norm, both in uniform, and he was amazed by the startled look of other Air Force personnel when they saw his rank and decoration. An immediate salute followed such encounters.

In the fall of 1942, they continued their offensive into France/Holland as well as escorting (circus) as far as they could, the British and American bombers beginning to fly into France and Germany. Later, in some newspaper articles, S/L Lloyd Chadburn was referred to as the "The Angel" by the American bombers crews who welcomed his squadron as their escorts on German bombing raids. Their defense of these bombers was most effective.

Late in 1942 or early 1943, Norman. was transferred as Squadron Leader of the the 411 Fighter Squadron (City of North York) somewhat north of where he was previously stationed (I believe RAF Digby). He described the new location as a little more quiet and that he missed his old squadron.

In the fall of 1943, he returned to Toronto on leave for about a month (and he was the R.C.A.F. representative for the 4th War Bond Drive and later had his picture taken with the Minister of Air, Hon. Charlie Power commenting why 'Canada should have its own Air Force') He went back overseas to attend the "R.A.F. 10th War Course" in November, 1943. Then he was appointed to be Wing Commander of the 416 & 402 Fighter Squadrons, which had been earlier, Lloyd Chadburn's Wing. (416 City of Oshawa & 402 City of Winnipeg).

His letters indicated that at this point in time he was not as aggressive a fighter pilot compared to what he may have been at an earlier time (although some books have stated that he was not a very good shot). Now, he seemed to be more of a 'Mother Hen' to the fighter pilots in his command as his primary concern seemed to be that they safely return to their base after each flight. One of his letters stated that keeping 18 planes in the air was a great deal of responsibility.

At this time, his Spitfire Mark IX (1300 HP with speeds of 350-400 MPH) showed his own initials "NHB" which enabled him to move from Squadron to Squadron without difficulty. However, Air Command frowned on the practice of personal identification for reason that the plane and pilot became a prime target for the German Luftwaffe. (the same idea that the Red Baron was a target during W.W. I).

Norman was 'Wing Commander' of these two squadrons until May, 1944 when he was recalled to Canada. His War Records from the Archives indicate that he was now 'too old' at age 31 to continue in active combat.

As he was not with the 402 Squadron at the time of the Normandy Invasion, he was deeply saddened by the death of his good friend, Wing Cmdr. Lloyd Chadburn D.F.C., D.S.0. & Bar, in a mid-air collision with another Spitfire during takeoff, in France, about ten days after the Normandy Invasion. This loss deeply distressed Norman for a long time afterwards as the two of them had been in the Air Force together since their first classes at Kitchener and Uplands.

Squadron Leader Lorne Cameron of the 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron was shot down about a week after the Normandy Invasion and became a prisoner of war. I believed he escaped and returned to the Squadron to take it into Germany. Squadron Leader Lorne Cameron had earned both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bar (receiving the same award twice). Following the war, he became a very successful financial person with James Richardson & Sons Co, (I believe a Vice President) who retired to Victoria, B.C. after a distinguished career. His brother, Don Cameron, (also an R.C.A.F. veteran) was the Personnel Manager of the Great West Life. With some coincidence, I work with his son-in-law, Claude DeGagne at the Teachers' Retirement Fund. Also, I was a 'Toastmaster with. one of Lorne Cameron's staff members, John Tyler, who had grown up in England during the war years who recalled having sat in the cockpit of a Spitfire (a little too young to be a participant).

Wartime aircraft of the 402nd Squadron

 

Locations of Wing Commander Norman Bretz in England 1940-1944.

Strange as it may seem, when Norman arrived in Canada in May, 1944, his brother Howard was being transferred as a CANLOAN officer to the Welsh Regiment, the Monmouthshires, and these brothers arrived in Halifax at the same time. Although they didn't get to see each other, they did have the opportunity to talk to one another on the telephone. Howard then sailed for Britain to join his new Regiment for the Normandy Invasion.

Shortly after returning to Canada, Norman was assigned to be the Chief Flying Instructor at CFB Baggotville, Quebec and then become the O.C. at CFB Rockcliffe, Ontario. Norman then became the Base Commander at Lachine, Quebec, setting up the No. 1 Repatriation Centre for the expected returning Airmen after the hostilities had ceased. These changes all occurred within a very short space of time.

There wasn't much written to my mother about this time probably because the base was extremely busy in the following months from August 1944 to August, 1945. My grandfather wrote to my mom explaining that occasionally Norman or some other Officer would venture by train to Halifax or New York to escort returning air force personnel to Lachine, Quebec for demobilization.

My grandfather also wrote in 1945 that one weekend from Friday to Sunday, the Base staff processed 1800 Discharge Certificates. He also mentioned that there was some rumour that Norman was to be made a Group Captain, which suggestion he said in the same letter, 'was not true'.

There is a picture which I reproduced showing a Garden Party at the base with Canada's Governor General (Lord & Lady Byng) as guests of honour.

Norman remained there as Commanding Officer until August, 1945, when he married Elizabeth Bie, (born at Moose Jaw and lived on the family farm at Belle Plain, Saskatchewan; who had received her B. A. Degree at the University of Saskatchewan and her Master of Arts Degree in Seattle (major in education - specializing in sociology and personnel work and later taught at Moose Jaw Technical High heading the Health and Phys Ed departments); a senior W. D. Officer - formerly Assistant Adjutant at Dartmouth and they were posted to Whitehorse, Y.T.

Elizabeth had resigned from the Air Force when she was married to Norm. He was Commanding Officer at Whitehorse when the U.S.A.F. had their "Handing Over" ceremonies to turn the Air Force Base over the Canadian Government. Their duty often included air patrols over the Queen Charlotte Islands and Aleutian Islands. Norman had rounded out the hours in his Log Book at 1,000 hours -- about three quarters overseas in England in a theatre of war. Amazing ( and good fortune) that he survived.

I was told by Irene Bretz last summer (1991) that Norman had a girlfriend before leaving Canada in 1940. Norman wrote to my Mom that it was his intention not to marry until the end of hostilities (which was not unusual for fighter pilots) . His girlfriend decided not to wait and married someone else. This was shattering to Norm. Apparently this girl's marriage was not great and Irene described the later consequences as being four destroyed lives.

In the Spring of 1946, Norman received his discharge from the R.C.A.F. and. they returned. to civilian life, moving to Aurora, Ontario; buying a very large three storey turret style home from Mrs. Allen, the mother of the late Wing Commander Lloyd Chadburn. She helped to arrange the financing for the house. Unfortunately, Norman didn't obtain, a regular civilian job but rather hired a housekeeper, and rented rooms (and board) by the month to fellows who were working with the Ontario Hydro north of Toronto (when Norman died, he left the use of the house to the housekeeper for as long as she would want it - and I stayed there in 1963 with two other fellows).

In 1946 Norman was also presented with a "Hero's Scroll" by the Mayor of Toronto indicating that his name had been placed on the 'Honour Roll of Heroes' of the City of Toronto for all time as an example to others of the dedication and courage displayed by Canadians in a time of conflict or war.

It is now well known after the many wars fought from from the 1950s to the 1980's including the Korean, Vietnam and now, the Gulf War, that those participants (Army, Navy or Air Force) members suffer a great deal of Battle Fatigue or irreconcilable stress after the conflict has ended and they are returned to civilian life. Our society in the eras following the First and Second World Wars were either unaware or were unsympathetic to those returning from the battlefront. The Department of Veterans Affairs made disability claims most difficult for those needing help (either mentally or for physical wounds).

As a consequence, many combatants did not have the assistance they needed nor any government to help them deal with the stressful horrors of combat. However, most were able to return to their former employment and their families, blocking out the horrific past. Sadly, there were some who were not as fortunate in these circumstances nor their abilities to rationalize their past roll of the soldier/sailor/airman and to resume a regular type of employment and civilian lifestyle. Such misfortune probably befell my uncle Norm as he was one of those who could not adjust to civilian life. He soon after became addicted to alcohol.

As my Aunt Elizabeth was already in her late thirties when they married and Norman was about six years younger than she was, they had no children following their marriage in 1945. They did, however, find themselves socializing too much and both became alcoholics.

During their first visit to Winnipeg that I can recall, about 1951, in a small British made Anglia car, it was obvious that they were (moderate) alcoholics at that time. This situation continued for a number of years (I'm not sure whether or not Norman was having difficulties dealing with memories of the War) but Elizabeth did travel again to Winnipeg at least once before their deaths in 1956.

It seems that at home in Aurora, Ontario, Elizabeth was apparently having difficulty sleeping and regularly took sleeping pills to assist her getting rest. Sadly, in the spring of 1956, with the combination of the sleeping pills and the alcohol, she died in her sleep.

Her death deeply affected Norman. as he felt very responsible in causing it. He came to Winnipeg for two or three weeks to stay with his sister and brother; and I recall as a 15 year old boy, I gave up my room to him and catered to his needs as he requested them. He was a rather handsome fellow in his Blue and. Aviation. sunglasses which were exemplified. with. his personal Blazer habits of smoking cigarettes with a silver tipped cigarette holder and a silver cigarette case. He seemed to be most humble type of person at this.

In addition to his alcoholism, he suffered, greatly from weeping eczema on his legs which were always wrapped in elastic bandages. I helped change these bandages every day and my mom washed them for reuse. I realize that Eczema is an external form of body stress (as both my mother suffered and I suffer from the same skin problems).

Norman had all the known afflictions of an alcoholic which I found very sad (even when I reflect on this situation today). He hallucinated in the depths of alcohol and received very little nourishment in the form of meals. He obviously lost the will to live as his life fell apart. He was one of the only two uncles I had, and I really didn't know him at all (or not well enough).

The Bretz family was always most gracious as I never heard any member swear nor did they say derogatory remarks about others. I never, ever saw my Mom cry. We seem to have had a very small family on both my mother and father's sides. I later got to know Uncle Howard quite well for which I am grateful. I want to maintain contact with my Aunt Jean and my three cousins and even the three Bretz girls in Toronto (if they'll let me write). Betty Friend (nee Bretz), Bill's brother did not communicate with him for many years before he had his stroke and a second stroke, when he died. Very sad.

Uncle Norman told me at the time he stayed with us in 1956 that he went all through the war without a bullet touching his plane. (his log book shows only one entry when he stated "had my tail shot off today - shakey do").

I will always remember that we took him to St. Luke's Anglican church (where we were choirboys/Alterboys/Cross Bearers and. Bell Ringers with Dr. Herbert White and Later (Captain) Herb Belyea - school teacher) whose white haired pastor was Rev. Canon John (Jack) Clough who had been a Padre during the Normandy Invasion (with the initial invasion force) and throughout Europe. I have read about Canon Clough in various books. He welcomed my uncle into his church and escorted him to a pew near the front of the church. He spoke of the honour and respect he had, not only for Norman, but also for all those fellows who had endured the horrors of battle.

Canon Clough told Norman that he would always be welcomed in his church. (Canon Clough died only two or three years ago about 1989 in Ontario). The father of one of the choirboys, Harry Gore, was a frogman during the war. While we were choirboys at St. Lukes, we received Christmas gifts from (I'm told formerly of the Winnipeg Rifles) Colonel Edgar and his wife who had no children. He was a First World War veteran who lost his leg in battle. Another person who sang bass with us in the choir was Bill Empy who had a shrapnel wound in his neck while serving in a tank in Europe. He was a CNR machinist.

Before Norman was to return to his home in Aurora, Ontario, in 1956 he asked my Mother and Dad whether or not I could come there for the summer to help around his house with the lawn, groceries and painting (although he still had his housekeeper). Unfortunately, my Dad would not permit me to go there (probably because of his alcoholism - he had burned a hole in our chesterfield and my parents probably feared for my safety).

Norman died on Boxing Day, 1956, at age 43. He was given full military honours at the funeral ceremony with a flag draped coffin and he was buried beside his wife, Elizabeth in the Aurora cemetery. There was an autopsy for the cause of death (but there really was no need).

I would like to thank the members of the Bretz family for much of this information. I hope that it has been of some interest. I would especially like to thank my Aunt Jean Bretz for donating Norman's silk "Escape Map" which was given to Uncle Howard many years ago. Also I would like to than Mrs. Irene Bretz (now, I must thank her daughters as Irene died unexpectedly in March, 1992) for the 411 Squadron Mug, 402 Squadron Picture, Initial Class BCATP Picture, R.A.F. 10th War Course Picture, Norman's Log Book, 5 Wartime Navigational Maps, Wedding Pictures and newspaper articles etc.

Further thanks must be mentioned to Ed McGlennan & Jim Caldwell, retired teachers and members of the 402 Squadron Association who had initiated the idea of my donating this collection. I want to thank Reg Delannoy who reproduced these pictures as a member of the Camera Club of Manitoba. Also to Charlie Carter, mechanic, retired career R.C.A.F. member (my wife's cousin) who did a great deal of photocopying, Dave English who reproduced the video tape, Lt. Col. Robert Patrick (recently retired O.C. of the 402 Squadron) who set up a mannequin display case at the Base Hanger displaying Norman's Medals including the DFC and to (Hon) Lt.Col. Al Gamble of the 401 City of Montreal Squadron who sent me a video tape of W.W. II action footage of their fighter squadron. Many thanks to Bruce Hardman of Canadian Marking Systems for the donation of a rubber stamp "Donation from the Collection of Wg.Cmdr. Norman H. Bretz, D.F.C. A special thanks to Capt. Dean Krall and the 60th. Anniversary of 402 Squadron, committee who included Darlene and me as their guests for the Dinner & Dance Breakfast, Change of Command Ceremonies and our neighbours, Bob & Giselle Simmonds who escorted us to these activities. We enjoyed ourselves greatly.

And, last but most specifically ....... a special thanks to my wife, Darlene, for permitting me to undertake the huge task of reproducing about 100 pictures (in quadruple) and recording info on the back of each one and dealing with many aspects which were no doubt interfering with everyday family life. Darlene, "it was a necessary undertaking". My children have moaned a little whenever I mentioned what I was doing in this process.

 

Wing Commander Bretz's service medals include (left to right);

The medals now reside with his nephew Harry McFee.

 

 


 

Further reading: