Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski was born in Winnipeg, Canada and joined the RCAF in 1941. During a raid on the Cambrai railway yards in France on June 12, 1944, Andrew Mynarski made a heroic effort to pry his rear gunner from the turret of his burning Lancaster even though his own parachute and clothing were on fire. Ironically, Mynarski, who was able to bail out, died in the action while the gunner, who was trapped, survived to tell the tale. For his heroism he received the Victoria Cross.
The Citation read:
“Pilot Officer Mynarski was the mid-upper gunner of a Lancaster aircraft, detailed to attack a target at Cambrai, France, on the night of 12th June 1944. The aircraft was attacked from below and astern by enemy fighter and ultimately came down in flames.
As an immediate result of the attack, both port engines failed. Fire broke out between the mid-upper turret and the rear turret, as well as in the port wing. The flames soon became fierce and the captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.
Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski left his turret and went towards the escape hatch. He then saw that the rear gunner, Flying Officer Pat Brophy, was still in his turret and apparently unable to leave it. The turret was, in fact, immovable, since the hydraulic gear had been put out of action when the port engines failed, and the manual gear had been broken by the gunner in his attempts to escape. Without hesitation, Pilot Officer Mynarski made his way through the flames in an effort to reach the rear turret and release the gunner. Whilst so doing, his parachute and clothing, up to the waist, were set on fire. All his efforts to move the turret and free the gunner were in vain. Eventually the rear gunner clearly indicated to him that there was nothing more he could do and that he should try to save his own life. Pilot Officer Mynarski reluctantly went back through the flames to the escape hatch.
There, as a last gesture to the trapped gunner, he turned towards him, stood at attention in his flaming clothing and saluted, before he jumped out of the aircraft. Pilot Officer Mynarski’s descent was seen by French people on the ground. Both his parachute and clothing were on fire. He was found eventually by the French, but was so severely burned that he died from his injuries.
Pat Brophy had a miraculous escape when the aircraft crashed. He subsequently testified that, had Pilot Officer Mynarski not attempted to save his comrade’s life, he could have left the aircraft in safety and would, doubtless, have escaped death. Pilot Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that, in trying to free the rear gunner, he was almost certain to lose his own life. Despite this, with outstanding courage and complete disregard for his own safety, he went to the rescue. Willingly accepting the danger, Pilot Officer Mynarski lost his life by a most conspicuous act of heroism which called for valour of the highest order.”