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Flight Sergeant Joseph Pearson Duns RCAF - 1944 - 576 Sqn 103 Sqn.

Air Gunner

576 Squadron Duns

Joe was born on the 20th July 1924 in Caledonia, Ontario, a small township on the northern shore of Lake Erie. His parents were Joseph Gilchrist Duns and his wife Janet. Joseph snr was a blacksmith and the couple emigrated to Canada from Scotland before Joe was born.

Young Joe attended Caledonia Public and Caledonia High School. He then worked for the Gypsum Lime and Alabastine Co at Caledonia from 1940 to 1941. Then White Canadian Aircraft at Hamilton 1941 to 1942 as a spray painter. Finally in 1942 he worked for the well known engineering firm of International Harvester also at Hamilton as a drill press operator.

Joe then enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in July 1942 at Hamilton. He listed his hobbies as photography and sports as swimming and skating. His height is shown as 5ft 7ins and weight 141 pounds.

Joe trained as an Air Gunner at the No 3 Bombing and Gunnery School MacDonald Manitoba from April 43 to June 43. He then embarked for the UK from Halifax Nova Scotia at the end of June 1943.

On arrival in the UK he was posted to 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth July 1943. Then, several days later 30 OTU 7/43 RAF Hixon Staffordshire. In October 1943 his adopted crew were posted to 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme near Doncaster South Yorkshire and on completion were posted to the newly formed 576 Sqn on the 30th Dec 43.

Joe flew 3 operations in January 44 in the crew of F/L C A B Johnson.

05/01/1944

Stettin

ED888

F/L

CAB

Johnson

14/01/1944

Brunswick

ME583

F/L

CAB

Johnson

30/01/1944

Berlin

ND402

F/L

CAB

Johnson

 

In early Feb 1944 Joe then joined the experienced crew of F/L George Anthony Davison who were posted from 100 Sqn to 550 Sqn  on the 27th Dec 1943. It is not clear how many ops they had flown with 100 Sqn but they certainly flew one op with 550 Sqn on the 1st January 1944 to Berlin. They were then posted to 576 Sqn on the 1st Fen 1944.

576 Squadron Davison

Davison crew pictured above with Joe Duns 2nd left.

The Davison crew then continued their tour with their new rear gunner and it was certainly a demanding one including 2 Berlin trips. The Leipzig, Nuremberg and Mailly le Camp raids proved particularly difficult and costly.

Whilst with 576 Sqn Joe was particularly friendly with another Canadian Air Gunner, Len Sumak, in Cyril Rollins’ crew. Len spoke very highly of Joe and visited the Duns family after the war when he returned to Canada.

15/02/1944

Berlin

LL794

F/L

GA

Davison

19/02/1944

Leipzig

ND362

F/L

GA

Davison

24/02/1944

Schweinfurt

LM438

F/L

GA

Davison

15/03/1944

Stuttgart

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

18/03/1944

Frankfurt

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

22/03/1944

Frankfurt

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

24/03/1944

Berlin

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

26/03/1944

Essen

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

30/03/1944

Nuremberg

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

10/04/1944

Aulnoye

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

11/04/1944

Aachen

LL838

F/L

GA

Davison

27/04/1944

Friedrichshafen

LM527

S/L

GA

Davison

30/04/1944

Maintenon

LL838

S/L

GA

Davison

03/05/1944

Mailly-le-Camp

LL838

S/L

GA

Davison

10/05/1944

Dieppe

LL838

S/L

GA

Davison

19/05/1944

Orleans

LL838

S/L

GA

Davison

21/05/1944

Duisburg

LL838

S/L

GA

Davison

Joe is on record as saying he never actually fired in guns in anger during these operations. He saw his role as to spot the incoming fighters well before they got into an attacking position and to warn the pilot to take evasive action.

After Davison’s crew completed their tour Joe was left with another 10 ops to do to complete his own tour. He was due to fly with P/O R R Reed and crew whose rear gunner was killed on the 22nd May 1944 but 576 Sqn Gunnery Leader F/L G Hill took Joe’s place on this raid. Reed’s crew were lost that night and are all buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Reed’s crew was very experienced and F/L Hill was a very popular member of the Squadron. There loss was keenly felt.

Now without a crew Joe was transferred to the 103 Sqn crew of F/L Bill Way. This experienced crew had not had a regular rear gunner since Bill Donnahey had completed his tour and Joe was a perfect replacement having done a similar number of ops.

Way’s crew were lost on the night of the 6/7th June 1944 in a raid on the railway bridges and station at Vire in Calvados. See the Bill Way Crew Profile on my 103 Squadron website.

Sadly all the crew were killed. Joe Duns is buried alongside his Canadian comrade John Gallacher at the Canadian Cemetery at Beny Sur Mer.

576 Squadron Duns headstone

Many thanks to the Duns and Davison families for the 2 photos.

Item written by David Fell.

 

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