August 4, 1944
Bazalgette’s last mission
Born in Calgary in the final weeks of the First World War, Ian Willoughby Bazalgette served just shy of two years in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, but he packed in a lot of experience, racking up 58 missions before his 26th birthday.
His flying career began in 1942, with No. 115 Squadron, where he flew 13 missions laying mines in the North Sea before transferring to a Lancaster bomber. He displayed “great courage and determination in the face of the enemy,” says the citation for his 1943 Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded after 10 harrowing missions against heavily defended targets, and surviving a crash landing.
After completing his first tour of 28 operations, he served briefly as a flight instructor before being recruited to fly for the No. 8 Pathfinder Force Group, including service during the D-Day Campaign (Click here).
Squadron Leader Bazalgette’s final mission, on Aug. 4, 1944, was to mark the positions of V-1 rocket storage caves at Trossy Saint-Maximin in France for the main bomber force.
His Lancaster heavily damaged and set ablaze by anti-aircraft fire and the bomb aimer badly wounded, Bazalgette kept the burning plane aloft and accurately marked the target. The inner port engine failed and Bazalgette ordered the crew to bail out, then attempted to save two wounded crew members by landing the crippled aircraft. He managed to avoid a village and landed the plane, but it exploded, killing all three aboard.
He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (Click here). The citation reads: “As the deputy “master bomber” had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette, and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly…. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort.”
A junior high school in Calgary, a mountain in Jasper National Park and memorial gardens in New Malden, Surrey, England, have been named after him. The colours and markings of his aircraft have been painted on a reconstructed Avro Lancaster at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alta., south of Calgary.