Gregory Kopchuk's 429 Squadron Projects
1st Project - On 14 Dec 1999 I was going through my uncle's (F/Sgt John Kopchuk) military file. Turns out 3 bodies were on the dingy that washed ashore in Holland on 22 June 43. One body was identified as Sgt. O'Reilly the other two were buried and marked "Unknown." On 25 Jun 43 a forth body washed ashore, id'ed as Sgt. Orlinkski. In 1947 one body was id'ed as my F/Sgt Kopchuk via dental records. The 4th body was not id'ed.
I contacted the War Graves Commission to see what process is involved in identifying "Unknowns." In this case it is obvious that the 4th body is Star or Parkinson. The War Graves Commission said the bodies are not allowed to be exhumed or DNA tested. This is based on the Geneva Convention. Any identification of a body must be done from the documentary evidence only. The fellow at the Commission advised to get the personnel files of the other crew members and go from there. I requested the crew file numbers from the Archives approx. 4 weeks ago. So I wait.
07 Feb 00 - Sent a letter to Les Allison, author of 'They Shall Grow Not Old.' In his summary of Parkinson it states his name is at Runneymede and is buried at Vlissingen. I have asked for clarification on this. I have also received a letter from the National Archives of Canada (NAC) about the cost of the personnel files of the other 4 crew members. I will order Parkinson's next to see if there is any documentation about his body perhaps being identified with my uncles in 1947.
05 May 00 - Have received Orlinski's and Parkinson's file from the National Archives in Ottawa. I found out from Parkinson's file that they were unable to identify the 4th body in 1947 because they could not find the skull when they exhumed the bodies. Working with J Kuzee in trying to locate as much documentation about the bodies as we can.
02 Jun 00 - J. Kuzee has found out where the crash site of my uncle's Wellington was, from there it has been determined that Oblt Holler shot down my uncle's bomber and not Johnen
2nd Project - I have located the next of kin of the pilot Ernest Star and the Bomb Aimer James O'Reilly. I am trying to locate the next of kin for the WO/AG Cashimiere Orlinski and the AG William Parkinson.
07 Feb 00 - I put a lost trails ad in Legion magazine for people who may have known my uncle or been at 429 Sqn. I received two responses. One was from a fellow who was ground crew with 429 but not at the same time. The other was from Gerry Walls who got on the train in Regina with my uncle and they went through Manning Depot, ITS and AOS together in Edmonton. What a find! Mr. Walls sent me copies of photos from each course, which included Gerry and my uncle.
05 May 00 - I have located the next of kin of the tail gunner William George Parkinson. I have only to locate the next of kin of C. Orlinski
02 Jum 00 - Have located two brothers of WG Parkinson. Only have to locate Orlinski's next of kin
3rd Project - Two 429 Squadron aircraft claimed probable destroyed ME262's on a raid to Hamburg on 31 Mar 1945. I am in the process of trying to confirm whether the 262's actually were downed by the 429 bombers.
07 Feb 2000- Found a more detailed account of this op and am forwarding to the 262 guys.
02 Jun 00 - No change in status
4th Project - On the night of 25/26 March 1944 P/O Steve Puskas encountered 3 enemy single engine night fighters and his air gunners shot down 2 of them. I am trying to confirm the kills and find out what happened to the 3 German pilots from that night.
5th Project - I am going through the 429 Sqn ORB (Operational Records Book) with a fine tooth comb to determine a complete list of a Roll of Honour, a complete list of Ops, a complete list of personnel who were in the sqn, a complete list of members of each crew, collect as many photos of aircrew and the sqn that I can.
6 Jan 00 - I have gone through the period Nov 42- early Aug 43 The Wellington period and have as complete a list of aircrew personnel as I can get. I also have gone throught the casualties from this period and have verified they are accurate.
07 Feb 00 - Working on entering all the ops from the Wellington period which include the planes, aircrews and intelligence debriefs.
02 Jun 00 - Have inputted the aircrew up to May 44 into a database
6th Project - On the night of 21 Jun 43 there were reporters at East Moor Station taking photos of the crews before they took off on the raid to Krefeld. There had been a National Saving Drive (war bond) in the area. The locals donated the stamps they received to the Sqn and the stamps were put on the bombs. On this Op 4 aircrews Failed to Return including the one my uncle belonged. I am trying to locate these photos.
07 Feb 00 - No luck on these photos. I have mailed a letter to Brian Shields who is a historian at the Yorkshire Air Museum and negative results. I have emailed the 3 main newspapers in Yorkshire and no luck there either.
05 May 00 - Jack Kerr provided me with his notes he made in 1946. Turns out the photos taken were of one crew. The photos were never printed in the local paper because the crew FTR'ed from Krefeld.
7th Project - I have been invited by the Commanding Officer of 429 Sqn to speak at a weekend reunion they are hosting for their war vets at the end of April. I have until then to prepare a presentation and a proposal for a 3 volume series which could be written about 429 Sqn.
07 Feb 00 - I think the presentation will involve information I have found, the difficulty in finding the information and a proposal for doing the Sqn history. See project 9 for details on Sqn history book.
05 May 00 - I have returned from the reunion weekend. It was an experience that had a profound experience on me. The vets are very keen to get the Sqn History Book going. Jack Kerr, Bill Morison and the Hon. Col. Ron Dennis are doing a feasibility study.
8th Project - Locate and find as many 429 Sqn vets as possible and collect as many photos as possible
06 Jan 00 - Have located several more vets. Have collected 2 more crew photos.
07 Feb 00 - I have finally heard back from the CF Photo Unit. They faxed me a list of 429 Sqn related photos. The list is 36 pages long. Gold Mine!!!!
05 May 00 - I have found Bob Thorne's next of kin for Bill Morison. I am know trying to find Howard MacNair Brown for Denison Bruno.
02 Jun 00 - Have located numerous 429 vets to date including the widows of W/C Avant, Piddington and Pattison
07 Jul 00 - Mr. Dennison Bruno asked me to locate the only other surviving member of their crew when they were shot down on 3 Dec 43, the navigator Howard MacNair Brown. It took me several months but I finally located Mr. Brown's sister and his daughter. Unfortunately Mr. Brown had died of cancel in Vancouver in 1995.
9th Project - Investigate cost of doing 429 Sqn History book.
06 Jan 00 - I have contacted a local printing company to get an estimate of costs to print the book. I am guessing 200-300 pages in a minimum of 3 volumes.
Vol 1 - 429 Sqn Fact Book - This would contain information such as the missions flown, lists of aircrew who flew each mission, intelligence debriefs of each crew, casualties, POW's, evaders that sort of thing. The basic facts as best as we can get them. The tough part will be getting ground crew information
Vol 2- 429 Sqn Stories from the Front Line - This would be personnel stories of people who served in the sqn.
Vol 3 - 429 Photo Album - This will be photos of all types of the Sqn
Future volumes - Information about the Bombing Campaign, info about the planes, bombs, flak, radar used. Perhaps info about the Luftwaffe pilots that 429 encountered.
07 Feb 00 - Have talking to Ted Byfield (Publisher of Alberta Report), Donald Graves (The South Alberta Regiment history) , Larry Milberry (numerous RCAF books) and Larry Motiuk (Thunderbirds at War - 426 Sqn History) about the Sqn history. They were all very helpful.
It appears the audience will be the veterans and grandchildren of 429 Sqn. The concensis is to follow a narrative format around the ORB or to group them according to the various phases of battles Bomber Command fought, eg. Battle of the Rhur, Battle of Berlin. I was thinking to base the chapters on the Battle Honours of the Sqn and add others, eg. Training, the Electronic war, etc. Appendixes would include: List of ops and which crews participated, Roll of Honour, List of Honours and Awards.
05 May 00 - I have put together an basic outline and presented it at the reunion weekend. We are one step closer.
Yes, I do have a real job. I own a real estate company in Edmonton, called Realty Vision Inc and I also am a computer consultant. I have a wife and two children as well.