Lindsay Rachel Giacomelli
This painting is dedicated to our daughter Lindsay Rachel Giacomelli who died on March 18, 2005 at the age of 20 years.
The image is based on a photograph taken at the cemetery in Dieppe, France on July 19, 1999, which Lindsay had visited with her family. Lindsay was touched by the experience and developed a keen interest in Canada’s military history; she clearly understood the sacrifice of soldiers and the cost to secure freedom.
Just prior to her death, she had managed to make a significant donation from her own meager funds to the Juno Beach Centre in France, built to recognize the sacrifice of Canadian veterans of the Second World War.
Remembrance and Dieppe
Lindsay was born on June 18, 1984 in Red Deer, Alberta, the eldest daughter of Leslie and Gerald Giacomelli. She started dancing at the young age of three, and passionately pursued it throughout her life.
At an early age she danced with the Red Deer School of Ballet, and the Mount Royal College Conservatory School of Dance. She participated with the Alberta Ballet summer school and at the age of 17 she enrolled into the University of Calgary dance program.
Through Lindsay’s upbringing, family discussions and trips to both First and Second World War battlefields, Lindsay developed a keen interest in Canada’s military history and the sacrifice of its soldiers.
Lindsay's grand-uncle, Jake Giacomelli, was a navigator and bomb aimer with the RCAF flying Stirling and Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.
When Lindsay was 15 years old, her family made a trip to France, during which Lindsay, along with her younger brother and sister, were lucky enough to travel to Normandy, Dieppe and Vimy Ridge, all key locations for First and Second World War battles. As a family, they also visited several military cemeteries.
At the time of Lindsay’s death she was in the process of switching into a History major at University because her interest in history was so keen. Just prior to her death, she had managed to make a significant donation (from a frugal university student perspective) to the Juno Beach Centre in France, which was built to recognize the sacrifice of the Canadian Second World War veterans.
Lindsay’s life was tragically cut short before she was able to achieve her goal of dancing as a professional. As Lindsay's Parents said in tribute to their daughter, “We believe she continues to dance in Heaven.”
Jake Giacomelli was Lindsay's grand-uncle. He was a Flight Sergeant navigator on Stirling bombers and Flying Officer bomb aimer on Lancasters during the Second World War. This is some of his story.
Jake was born in Hamilton, Ontario on 9 Nov 1920 and christened Ferruccio Joseph Giacomelli. He was afterwards known as Jake Giacomelli, or more commonly by his nickname “Fritz”.
His parents had come to Canada from Italy before the First World War. Jake was a star athlete in high school in Stoney Creek, Ontario and broke all inter-school pole-vaulting records. He was also a talented football player and tried out for the Hamilton Tiger Cats football club after the war.
Jake trained as an Air Observer at the Air Observer School in Toronto, Ontario and at the Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario where he received his 'wing'. He was sent to England in April 1942 where he continued his training at the Advanced Flying Unit in Dumphries, Scotland and the Operational Training Unit at Cottesmore, England where he met his operational tour pilot, Laurie Blair.
He joined 149 Squadron in December 1942 based out of Lakenheath in Suffolk, England flying the four engine Stirling bomber.
Jake Giacomelli's Flying Operations
Jake's first flight with 149 Sqn was a training flight on 30 Dec 1942 in Stirling R9334. On 3 Jan 1943, they took off again on a training mission but crashed during an overshoot into Lakenheath village, killing one of the aircrew. Due to injuries, the crew did not fly again until February 1943.
|Mission Date||Target||Log Book|
|27 Feb 1943||Bordeaux||dropped sea mines off the French coast|
|28 Feb 1943||St. Nazaire||‘whole area blazing’|
|9 Mar 1943||Munich||shot down JU-88|
|22 Mar 1943||St. Nazaire||recalled, landed with full load of 8,500 lb incendiaries|
|27 Mar 1943||Berlin||‘many fires, heavy searchlights, attacked by two fighters’|
|29 Mar 1943||Berlin||did not complete mission due to pilot illness|
|1 May 1943||Bordeaux||dropped sea mines. Attacked by JU-88, plane severely damaged, bailed out over England|
|12 May 1943||Duisberg||‘very heavy searchlights, coned 5 minutes over target’|
|13 May 1943||Bochum||‘many huge fires, very heavy searchlights and flak, hit by fire over target. Almost rammed by another Stirling. Rough trip’|
|24 May 1943||Dortmund||‘800 bomber raid, saw 5 shot down, very heavy searchlights, coned 10 minutes, many big fires’|
|25 May 1943||Dusseldorf||‘many big fires, no searchlights over target, heavy flak’|
|29 May 1943||Wuppertal||Fritz Giacomelli's last operation in Stirling bombers|
Attacked by a Junkers-88
On 1 May 1943, the crew of Stirling Bomber BK696 took off from Lakenheath airfield and headed for the Gironde estuary in Bordeaux to drop sea mines. After the last mine was dropped, the starboard engine was hit by gunfire.
The pilot, Laurie Blair, leveled out the aircraft and headed back to England. They were jumped by a Junkers-88 which fired at them, damaging the port inner engine and the radio. The weather was stormy and severe icing was encountered.
The wireless operator got the radio working and called in. They were told to fly to West Malling airfield. But the pilot realized they were low on fuel and wouldn’t make it. Fritz plotted a course to the coast and they prepared to abandon the aircraft.
"A German Spy"
The pilot pulled up with the remaining fuel and they all baled out. Because of their altitude, the aircrew ended up scattered 12 miles apart over the English countryside of Sussex. Fritz landed safely near a lake, but overcome by fatigue, he wrapped himself up in his parachute and slept until morning.
At daylight, he walked over to a nearby military post, and while explaining his situation to the guards, they noticed he was wearing a bracelet his girlfriend (and future wife) had given him. The bracelet had the name “Fritz” engraved on it.
The guards thought they had a German spy on their hands. They held him there for the morning, until they were convinced he was on their side.
Jake’s son, David Giacomelli, who was a parachutist in the Canadian Army after the war, still has his father’s original bracelet which he used to carry with him on his parachute jumps, “for good luck”.
Instructor and Lancaster Bomb Aimer
After Fritz left 149 Squadron, he spent over a year as a radar instructor at the 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Wratting Common. This was where crews were trained in operation of the four-engine heavy bombers.
Fritz would likely have been instructing in the use of radio beacon navigational aids, Oboe and GEE, as well as the first airborne ground scanning radar known as H2S.
During this time, Fritz was granted leave to Canada to get married. When he returned in September 1944, he began additional advanced training before arriving with 419 Squadron in March 1945, where he was bomb aimer on Canadian built Lancaster Mk X bombers. He flew three missions with the Squadron:
|Mission Date||Lancaster||Log Book|
|16 Apr 1945||KB851||Schwandorf, successful night raid|
|22 Apr 1945||KB865||Bremen, thick cloud over target|
|25 Apr 1945||KB783||Wangerooge coastal defences in the Frisian Islands. The crew saw four bombers collide during the raid|
After VE day on 8 May 1945, Jake volunteered for Tiger Force to fly bombing missions in the Pacific. Jake and his crew flew their Canadian built Lancasters back to Canada in June 1945 in anticipation of flying operations in the Far East, but the war ended before the Tiger Force was formed.
Many of the returning Lancasters were used by the RCAF in Canada for maritime reconnaisance after the war.
Fritz passed away in 1981, at the age of 60.