James Zegarchuk

James Eugene Zegarchuk
Military Service Files

Pilot Officer - Air Bomber, Royal Canadian Air Force, 115 Royal Air Force Squadron

| | Service Personnel Information | Essay | Military Service Record | Grave Reference | Additional information/links | Works Cited |

Service Personnel Information

  • Name: James Eugene Zegarchuk
  • Service Regimental Number: R.157738
  • Rank: Pilot Officer - Air Bomber
  • Height/weight: 5'6", 130lbs
  • Colour of eyes: Blue
  • Marital status: Single
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Address: 65 East 5th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Next of Kin (and relationship): Julia Zegarchuk (Mother)
  • Date of enlistment: March 18, 1942
  • City and province of enlistment: Vancouver, British Columbia


James Eugene Zegarchuk was born June 6, 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where he lived until moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Zegarchuk was a member of the L.H.S. Cadets in Winnipeg, and enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Vancouver, British Columbia. There he was assigned to the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron and became a Pilot Officer (Military service files). The brief overview above will be discussed more fully and it will become clear how Zegarchuk was a typical Cadet of his time.

Zegarchuk was one of three of Mrs. Julia Zegarchuk and Mr. Demetrius Zegarchuk’s children, himself, Myron, and Olly who came from Poland. Zegarchuk went by Jim, as noted from the message on his grave photo. While living in Winnipeg he attended Primrose and Greenbush School, later moving on to Isaac Newton, and finally Saint Paul’s College. After moving to Vancouver with his mother and siblings he completed his primary education at King Edward High School, and in December, 1941 enrolled in Dom-Prov “WETp” studying physics, maths, and English. Zegarchuk resided in an average family home on East 5th Avenue, Vancouver, shown on this image map from Google Maps. This image is the location where his home was, however has been replaced by commercial real-estate. Before enlistment, he was employed, firstly working at a fish and chips truck in Vancouver, and secondly working as a forgers helper. Zegarchuk enjoyed sports greatly, and especially skating, hockey, baseball, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and boxing. As is found in Zegarchuk’s assessment paper, he “had not an impressive background but looks satisfactory in all ways” (Military service files). At the beginning of World War II, like 29 000 other boys his age, Zegarchuk became a Cadet in the L.H.S Winnipeg group (#107 Spitfire Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron). His joining in 1940 was likely due to the war, and as such is even more likely the reason he (along with many others) joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on March 18, 1942. Achieving the rank of Pilot Officer Sargeant Air Bomber, Zegarchuk was indeed a successful member of the force, as predicted in his early interview papers. On April 14, 1943 almost exactly one year before his death, Zegarchuk was given an award called the Air Bombers Badge signifying that he was doing well in the Royal Air Force (Military service files).

Upon successful training to prepare Zegarchuk for the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was assigned to the 115 Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadron (Military service files). This was common, as the RCAF was assisting the RAF. The 115th battalion was formed on December 1, 1917 and was given the Motto, “Despite the Elements” ("The Non-Stop Air Offensive"). During the Second World War its sole purpose was to complete bombing operations against targets in Germany. With this purpose in mind, it began attacking shipping and airfields in Norway and continued doing so until the German invasion of France, at which time the 115th Squadron continued bombing Germany (Steve Clements). The 115th Squadron was a member of the Bomber Commands Main Force, meaning it was one of the average bombers. In 1943 the squadron base moved to Witchford, United Kingdom where it remained for the rest of the squadron’s time. Throughout the years the planes used by the squadron changed many times, but were introduced to the Lancaster I and III in March, 1944. This was the type of plane that Zegarchuk and his fellow crew would have flown including on the night that his plane crashed (CF Photo). The 115th Squadron received well over thirteen different awards in its lifetime before being disbanded on October 1, 1993 (Steve Clements). Zegarchuk and his fellow crewmembers, probably accepted one of these awards given for service in France and Germany in 1944. As is apparent this was quite an accomplished squadron especially in World War II.

Beginning extremely late on the night of April 24, 1944 the RAF 115th Squadron flew from its base in Witchford, United Kingdom to Karlsruhe, Germany to carry out a bombing on Nazi Germany as part of the second week of straight bombing ("The Non-Stop Air Offensive"). It was a cloudy night and with strong winds the many planes were pushed far north of their target and as a result the attack was spoiled (Campaign Diary April). On this mission Zegarchuk was a gunner not a pilot officer and this was normal as the crew often took turns with different positions. When Zegarchuk’s crew of seven were flying back to the base in their Lankaster H.K. 542, the plane disappeared, and thus began a search conducted by the Missing Research and Enquiry Service. At 2:00 a.m. Zegarchuk’s plane crashed at Alken, Belgium, 10 miles north of St. Trond, Belgium where he was originally buried along with his seven crew before being moved to their new burial site (Military service files). An article from the Canadian press from April 15, 1944 discusses a similar crash where all nine crew on board crashed into several buildings in Montreal, Quebec showing that this was not uncommon (The Canadian press). In fact, three percent of the total force sent to Karlsruhe on April 24 did not return (Campaign Diary April). No formal obituary was published for Zegarchuk, however his death was published in Casualty List 1054 (The Globe and Mail). He was also mentioned in a memorial put in the Courier-Mail in 1947 by the parents of one of his fellow crew members ("In Memoriam").As discussed above, Zegarchuk was originally buried with his six other crewmembers at St. Trond, Belgium (Military service files). Later he was relocated to Heverlee War Cemetery located in Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium. Heverlee War Cemetery was primarily used for men who fought carrying out objectives over Belgium, or returning from missions over Germany (Reed). This photo is of Zegarchuk's grave stone in Heverlee (Deun and Lam). Heverlee contains 977 Commonwealth burials from WWII, 37 of which are unidentified graves. Zegarchuk lies in peace with all six of his fellow crewmembers here.

Born a normal boy into a family in Poland, no one could have ever expected James Eugene Zegarchuk would end up dying, fighting for Canada and the United Kingdom. As noted before, when Zegarchuk signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force his interviewer said that he would be a good candidate, and indeed he must have been. Zegarchuk died along with many other Royal Canadian Air Force, and undoubtedly Cadets. He will forever be remembered as Pilot Officer James Eugene Zegarchuk of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron, laid in his final resting place at Heverlee Cemetery.

Military Service Record

  • Age (at death): 21
  • Force: Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Unit: 115 Royal Air Force Squadron
  • Service Number: J.89947
  • Honours and Awards:Air Bombers Badge (April 14, 1943)
  • Photograph: Yes
  • Next of Kin (and relationship): Julia Zegarchuk (Mother)
  • Date of Death: April 25, 1944
  • Country of Burial: Belgium
  • Cemetery: Heverlee War Cemetery
  • Grave Reference: 5.E.10.
  • Location: 30km from Brussels, 3km south of Leuven
  • Book of Remembrance: 1944 Page 486

Grave Reference

  • Name of Cemetery: Heverlee War Cemetery
  • Grave Reference: 5.E.10.

Additional information/links

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A - Witchford, United Kingdom (RAF Base)
B - Karlsruhe, Germany (Location of bombing on night of death)
C - Alken, Belgium (Location of crash)
D - Leuven, Belgium (Heverlee War Cemetery)

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Link to a list of other Royal Canadian Air Force members that died on April 24, 1944

Works Cited

#107 Spitfire Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. “Royal Canadian Army, Air and Sea Cadets.” Government of Saskatchewan Education. N.p., 2007. Web. 7 May 2012. http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/‌adx/‌aspx/‌adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=2890,88,Documents&MediaID=6476&Filename=Cadets.pdf.

“Campaign Diary April 1944.” Royal Air Force. N.p., 2004. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://www.raf.mod.uk/‌bombercommand/‌apr44.html]].

The Canadian Press. “9 Die In Bomber Crash In Montreal.” The Winnipeg Evening Tribune 25 Apr. 1944: 1+. Manitobia. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://manitobia.ca/‌content/‌en/‌newspapers/‌WPT/‌1944/‌04/‌25/‌articles/‌13.xml/‌iarchives]].

CF Photo. Avro Canada Lancaster. Canadian Combat and Support Aircraft. By T.F.J. Leversedge. St. Catherines, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2007. 64. Print.

Deun, Eddy Van, and David Lam. “Zegarchuk, James Eugene.” The War Graves Photographic Project. Commonwealth War Grave Commission, 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://www.twgpp.org/‌information.php?id=3080354]].

The Globe and Mail 31 May 1944: n. pag. Canadian Museum of Civilisation. Web. 7 May 2012. <ons.civilisations.ca/‌warclip/‌objects/‌common/‌webmedia.php?irn=5017976>.

“In Memoriam.” The Courier-Mail 24 Apr. 1947: 12. Trove. Web. 7 May 2012. [[http://trove.nla.gov.au/‌ndp/‌del/‌article/‌49322297]].

“James Eugene Zegarchuk.” Canada At War. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://www.canadaatwar.ca/‌memorial/‌world-war-ii/‌147725/‌pilot-officer-james-eugene-zegarchuk/]].

“The Non-Stop Air Offensive On Axis Europe In 2nd Week.” Middlesboro Daily News 24 Apr. 1944: 1. Newspaper Archive. Web. 7 May 2012. [[http://newspaperarchive.com/‌middlesboro-daily-news/‌1944-04-24/]].

“No. 115 Squadron.” Royal Air Force. N.p., 6 Apr. 2005. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://www.raf.mod.uk/‌bombercommand/‌h115.html ]].

Reed, Paul. “Heverlee War Cemetery.” World War 2 Cemeteries. N.p., Oct. 2009. Web. 7 May 2012. [[http://www.ww2cemeteries.co.uk/‌belgium005.htm]].

Steve Clements. “No 111 - 115 Squadron Histories.” Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. N.p., 30 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. [[http://www.rafweb.org/‌Sqn111-115.htm]].

Archival Reference

Military service files of Private Officer James Eugene Zegarchuk (RG 24, Volume 29008) obtained from Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario.