408 Bomber Squadron loses steadfast member

News Article / January 7, 2016

From Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs

Several Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons will be celebrating their 75th anniversaries in 2016, with some being able to trace their roots back to the Second World War as squadrons flying out of various bases in England.

Sadly, one of these units will be missing an important member of the squadron, one who has been there almost since its inception and who was affectionately referred to as “Mother Goose”.

Henrietta May “Molly” Rayner, 96, passed away on December 10, 2015, at the Brampton, Ontario, Civic Hospital. Molly joined the RCAF in 1941 as cook for 408 “Goose” Squadron, serving under the founding Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Nelles Timmerman, and seven others after him.

“She maintained close ties with 408 Squadron even after leaving the RCAF,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor Teller, commanding officer of 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. “Despite calling Brampton, Ontario, her home, she remained woven into the fabric of squadron life.”

The following is an excerpt from the bio of Ms. Rayner, provided by the 408 “Goose” Squadron Association:

Indelibly etched in [Molly’s] memory are the men, most still in or barely out of their teens, who were among the squadron’s 936 killed, missing or captured. Virtually taking sole responsibility for the well-being of the bomber crews, Molly would remain on duty in the kitchen until the last aircraft had returned after a raid, serving the exhausted crews a welcoming breakfast of bacon and eggs. There were poignant moments:

“I knew that while relationships between members of individual aircraft crews were often very close, it was not always so between them and the crews of other aircraft — whether from 408 or from a sister squadron sharing the same field,” Molly said. “That was because the deep regret at losing a close, personal friend could be crushing, and so, as a defence mechanism, they would try to hide behind a display of bravado.

“I recall early one morning, the crews were returning from a sortie, one by one, landing, being debriefed, then making their way to the mess hall. I noticed this young lad, hanging back, his eyes sweeping the room. ‘Molly,’ he asked, ‘has Dan of “V” Vicki been in yet?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘that crew has been reported missing.’ You could see the agony in his eyes –  but only for a split second. Recovering, he asked, ‘Well then, can I have his egg?’”

Mother Goose provided so much more than meals to the tired bomber crews returning from their missions. She was a link to our past and the epitome of pride in service, and she was a steadfast supporter and member of the 408 Squadron and greater RCAF family for 74 years. She will be deeply missed and loudly toasted as the squadron celebrates its 75th anniversary in June.


With files from Paul Nyznik, a former navigator with 408 Squadron / 408 “Goose” Squadron Association

Bomber Command:  No. 408 Squadron RCAF

Motto: “For freedom”

Badge: A Canada goose volant. The Canada Goose, a powerful flier, covers vast distances in its migratory flights, and is at home in Canada, England and Scotland. Its great speed and endurance make it a fitting symbol of the squadron’s operations.

Authority: King George VI, 0ctober 1942.

No. 408 Squadron was formed at Lindholme, Yorkshire, on June 24, 1941, and was the second of the many RCAF bomber squadrons which served overseas in the Second World War. The squadron took part in the first 1,000-bomber raid on Germany, flew many missions against naval and industrial targets, and played an active part in gardening (mine-laying) for victory.

Beginning operations with Hampdens in 1941, No. 408 was given Halifaxes toward the end of the following year and later, in August 1943, Lancaster IIs. In the summer of 1944, 408 returned to Halifaxes and flew them for the rest of the war.

In all, No. 408 flew 4,610 sorties with Hampdens, Lancasters and Halifaxes, and gained more than 210 awards, including 160 Distinguished Flying Crosses and more than 30 Distinguished Flying Medals.

Today, 408 Squadron is a tactical helicopter squadron, flying CH-146 Griffons.

Bomber Command Second World War bases:

       Lindholme: April 1941 – July 1941

       Syerston: July 1941 – December 1941

       Balderton: December 1941 – September 1942

       Operational echelon detached to North Luffenham January – March 1942.

       Leeming: September 1942 – August 1943

       Linton-on-Ouse: August 1943 onwards

Bomber Command Second World War aircraft:

       Handley Page Hampden I : July 1941 – September 1942

       Handley Page Halifax B.II and B.V : October 1942 – August 1943

       Avro Lancaster B.II : August 1943 – August 1944

       Handley Page Halifax B.III & B.VII : July 1944 – May 1945

Code Letters: “EQ”

First Operational Mission in the Second World War: 11/12th August 1941 : Two Hampdens bombed Rotterdam docks; & two aborted the mission.

Last Operational Mission in the Second World War:  25th April 1945: 17 Halifaxes dispatched to bomb gun batteries on island of Wangerooge. Sixteen aircraft bombed the primary target

Date modified: