At 22:10 (10:10 p.m.) on June 5, 1944, Halifax bomber RLW174 of 434 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of many that took off from an airfield in Yorkshire, England.
On board were Pilot Officer Frederick Tandy, of North Bay; warrant officer and bomb aimer John Swan of Montreal; flight sergeant and air gunner Preston Legge, of Norfolk; Mass.; Flying Officer and air gunner Ross Hewitt, of Windsor; sergeant and air gunner Charles Dymond of London, Ont.; sergeant and flight engineer Thomas R. Roberts of the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and sergeant and navigator Albert John Morgan of Guelph.
As the big Halifax bomber gained altitude in cloudy skies over the North Sea, the crew knew only that their objective was Merville-Franceville, site of a formidable German gun battery near the Normandy coast. Planes of the Path Finder Force (PFF) flying ahead would drop flares called target illuminators to improve the chances of a successful mission.
Nonetheless, Morgan and his comrades couldn't help but be aware that something big was going on. In the preceding weeks, Bomber Command had reduced the number of raids on Germany, while stepping up attacks on targets in France, striking transportation centres as well as German military installations and coastal defences. The night before, Morgan's plane had dropped its load of 16 500-pound bombs on a target in Calais as part of Operation Bodyguard, designed to trick the Germans into thinking the Allied invasion would come across the English Channel at the Pas de Calais.
By the time Morgan's Halifax had dropped its 18 500-pound bombs and returned to base at 3:25 on the morning of June 6, Operation Overlord was underway. It was D-Day, and the largest armada ever assembled was carrying a British, Canadian, and American invasion force to the beaches of Normandy. Sergeant Morgan was part of the most crucial military operation of the Second World War.
Morgan and his crew got some rest during the daylight hours of June 6. Across the water, the Canadians were fighting their way ashore at Juno Beach, while the British stormed Gold and Sword, and the Americans attacked at Omaha and Utah. At 11:15 p.m., the Halifax bomber went up again. This time the target was Conde-sur-Noireau, one of many Normandy towns that were obliterated as part of a plan to prevent the Germans from rushing reinforcements to the coast. At 5:10 on the morning of June 7, the bomber touched down at home base.
Over the next few days, the successful landings escalated into the bloody nine-week long Battle of Normandy, with the Allies slowly advancing against stiff German resistance. German air power had been greatly diminished, but was still a threat. Due to weather conditions, Morgan's crew didn't get back into the fight until June 12.
The Halifax bomber took off at 11:08 p.m. Its payload was 18 500-pound bombs. The objective was the town of Arras. The plane never returned to base. On June 13, Morgan and the rest of the crew were reported missing, their fate unknown.
Although the Halifax bomber and the remains of the crew were never found, the men's names are inscribed on markers in a cemetery in Dunkirk, France. However, Albert John Morgan's name is not on the Guelph Cenotaph.
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