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Flt. Sgt. John Clifton Gaudet
John Clifton Gaudet, Flight Sergeant
407 Squadron, RCAF
The large monument, located next to the legion in Rainy River, Ontario is the Rainy River Legion’s cenotaph. This object has the names of the veterans, from the area, who lost their lives fighting for freedom. These people should never be forgotten. John Clifton Gaudet, number R80320, was one of many. He fought for what he believed in during World War Two, and paid with the ultimate cost; his life. Although John is forever gone, he should always be remembered for his bravery and his strength.
John Clifton Gaudet was born on October 19th, 1912, in Rainy River, Ontario. He was the younger of two children born to Frank and Clara Gaudet, also of Rainy River. As an adult, John measured five feet and eight inches in height, with black hair, blue eyes and a dark complexion; he was always slightly underweight.
Considered quick and deliberate by his commanding officers, and also organized and accurate, Mr. Gaudet was a refined, yet rugged man. While young, John received a scar on the little finger of his right hand, and an appendectomy scar on his right side.
He obtained his elementary and high school education at Rainy River Public School and Rainy River High School, and achieved junior matriculation. He attended public school from 1919 to 1926, and high school from 1926 to 1932.
He received a job at Beaver Lumber Company in Rainy River, Ontario and was employed there from 1933 to 1937 as a clerk and bookkeeper, whereupon he resigned to work for the Department of Highways Ontario as part of the Survey Crew.
As a Roman Catholic, John was very religious, and was looked upon with good standing from the Parish Priest of Rainy River.
He enjoyed such sports as curling, hockey, tennis, swimming and badminton. John was considered to be a man of good moral standing and very passionate in the things he believed in.
John Clifton Gaudet joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at the age of 28 on November 28, 1940 with excellent health records and good education. Upon enlisting in Winnipeg, John trained to be an RCAF air observer and bomber. He traveled to Brandon, Manitoba, and flew on December 16, 1940 to Calgary, Alberta. After several weeks of training he headed to Regina, Saskatchewan on January 27, 1941. He then returned to Winnipeg on March 3, 1941, while training in an Avro Anson.
When beginning training John was regarded as “good material. Quiet and reliable,” according to his instructors and he received good averages during his training. “Confident, aggressive, and talkative, inclined to be overconfident and lacking in discipline.” was a remark he received after several months of training. After this, John was said to have lost interest in what he was doing, received increasingly low averages, and he was at the point of being removed from the RCAF.
When John arrived, back in Winnipeg, April 3, 1941, his training ceased due to low test scores during flight training. Although John could have left the air force he was very keen to have another chance. His commanding officer at the time said that John was “sensible with plenty of pep. He drew his chair up to the table and one could not help but be impressed by his keenness at fighting back for another chance at air observer. He threw in every argument he could think of to impress and persuade, even when obstacles were put in his path. All this without belittling his instructors”.
John did fight his way back into training and on November 9th, 1941 John traveled to England to join the 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron. Before John left for the U.K., on September 1, 1941, he received a promotion, from Air Observer, to Flight Sergeant.
The squadron, which John joined, the 407 squadron, was also known as “the demon squadron”. The reason for the nickname is that the 407 squadron would observe and shoot down naval forces of the enemy with great success and few casualties. The motto for this squadron was “To Hold on High”, and the soldiers involved in this squadron worked under the Royal Air Force (RAF).
John Clifton Gaudet was stationed in North Coates, England on air observer and bomber duty. Soon after his arrival to this station John Clifton was killed by enemy fire during a flying battle on January 22, 1942 at Donna Nook Aerodrome, England. He was flying a Lockheed Hudson Bomber, and John’s plane was one of eleven that the 407 squadron had crashed. On that date, the 407 squadron was on an observation mission for naval craft.
Lest We Forger
John died of a fractured rib and several severe head injuries. The death was not discovered until two days after occurring, and was reported as instant. No record of a will was found.
After John’s death, on January 24, 1942 a letter was sent to his parents from the commanding officer, notifying them of the incident. His family also received the medals he had earned, which were; the 39-45 star, the War Service Medal award and clasp, the C.V.S.M. (Canadian Volunteer Service Medal), the War Memorial Cross and Bar, the Air Crew Wings (assuring the ability to fly an aircraft), and the Operational Wings.
The 1939-1945 star was a six pointed bronze star with a ring and royal cipher. The qualification was that the star was immediately awarded after service was terminated by death, if the service was for two months of operation. The War Service Medal was a British decoration awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces and Merchant Marines full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The C.V.S.M. was awarded to those who had been on voluntary and active service, and had honourably completed eighteen months (540 days) total voluntary service from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947. The War Memorial Cross was awarded to mothers and widows (next of kin) of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.
With the letter from his military commanders sent to John’s parents, also came a letter of recognition of his bravery during service, and his Operational Wings. “It is a pleasure to have the opportunity of sending you the Operational Wings and Certificate in recognition of the gallant services rendered by your son Sergeant J. C. Gaudet. I realize there is little which may be said or done to lessen your sorrow, but it is my hope that these “Wings”, indicative of operation against the enemy, will be a treasured memento...”. His mother received the wages he had earned for his time in the military, along with a war gratuity, for he had been aiding her in support before enlisting in the military.
John Clifton Gaudet was buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard in North Coates Village, Lincolnshire, England on January 27th , 1942. He is buried alongside thirty other airmen of the Commonwealth Air Force and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The burials form a small plot which also includes the graves of three German airmen, one civilian and four service burials from between the wars associated with the World War Burial. The churchyard also contains one World War One burial.
John Clifton Gaudet was a young life offered on the altar of freedom, in defense of his Home and Country, and thus his memory should be revered, and never forgotten.
By Adrienne McLean