Rainville's Rescue

John Rainville in the "President Roosevelt" of 403 Squadron.
This Spitfire was a gift to England from Warner Brothers™
With permission from Flying For Your Life

On 3rd February, 1943, 416 squadron, RCAF, were escorting Ventura bombers to St. Omer (Circus 258), when they were attacked by FW190s of JG26. This is the operation which cost Flying Officer Turp his life.

Flying Officers Gofton and McKendy were shot down and taken Prisoner of War. Pilot Officer Rainville was shot down and rescued from the Goodwin Sands. Here is his own account of the ordeal..

“There was another FW190 on my tail which fired at roughly 350 yards, his gunfire striking my petrol tank and my starboard aileron. My trimming tabs were gone and I had gunshot in my leg. He broke away and when I looked for my squadron I could not see them. The only Spitfire I could see was one six or seven miles away; black smoke was pouring out of it and it was heading for the Channel.

“I was attacked by FW190s several times but shook them off and dropped for cloud cover to 8000ft. I came out just North of Boulogne……on arriving at the coast there were four FW190s waiting about 2000ft above me. They commenced the attack and I dodged them as best I could by skidding. At this point I found my guns to be unserviceable. I couldn’t use my engine violently as my oil temperature was rising and most of my gauges were unserviceable, although my engine functioned. As I couldn’t climb, I started diving slowly, opening to full bore, trying to get to the English coast.

“I started giving a Mayday, giving in error Yellow 2 as my call. I had a reply to this asking for my course and height. I replied that I was sterring due west and at about 3000ft. My engine commenced to surge and I decided to bale out. By this time I was halfway across the Channel. The FW190s were still attacking, hitting the aircraft all over. I gave another Mayday saying I was baling out. I did not attempt to do so immediately as the FW190s were still attacking. They must have hit my radio shortly before this, as at this time I tried to give another Mayday unsuccessfully. I pulled out my R/T plug and unhooked my oxygen apparatus and threw my helmet away. The enemy then turned back to France and as they did so my engine failed. I was then too low to bale out.

“I was by that time near Goodwin Sands, and I decided to ditch the aircraft. I have no idea of my speed hitting the water as my A.S.I. was unserviceable. I was still wearing my harness as I touched the water; my undercarriage was up. The only injury I received at this time was a scratched nose. I climbed out immediately and inflated my dinghy and sat on the fuselage of the aircraft, remaining in this position, there being only three or four feet of water over the Sands. I removed the petrol cap and stuck the telescope flag in the tank. The time was approximately 1545 hours. At once I saw 7 or 8 Spitfires coming from seawards almost over Manston at about 5000ft. I fired a rocket signal and apparently they failed to notice it as they gave no sign of recognition. Approximately 45 minutes later I saw two Typhoons flying North. I fired another signal and they circled me. Shortly after, the RAF rescue launch came. I had to walk more than half a mile as they could not approach closer. I was taken aboard and taken to land.”

According to some sources, Rainville was flying Spitfire IX, EN907.
‘The RCAF Overseas – The First Four Years’
Many thanks to Joe at ‘Flying For Your Life’ for permission to use the photo of P/O Rainville. https://flyingforyourlife.com/pilots/ww2/qr/rainville/

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