Gateway Gazette

RCAF Airman Who Survived a Nazi Death Camp Passes Away

Edward Carter-Edwards speaks with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during the dedication of the Bomber Command Memorial in London, England, on June 28, 2012. PHOTO: Getty Images, via Zimbio

By Joanna Calder

Edward Carter-Edwards, who survived the notorious Nazi death camp Buchenwald, died February 22, 2017, in Smithville, Ontario. His funeral will be held on Monday, February 27.

Sergeant Carter-Edwards was a wireless air gunner on a Halifax Mark III bomber when it was shot down over occupied France in 1944. He made his way to Paris, but was picked up by the Germans, imprisoned and eventually shipped by cattle car to Buchenwald: five long days under brutal conditions. He and other airmen should have been sent to a prisoner of war camp but his captors refused to believe that he was an Allied airman and instead accused him of being a spy and saboteur.

“The thing that frightened us the most,” he said in a video posted on the “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” Facebook page, as he described his arrival at Buchenwald, “was this tall chimney with smoke belching out of it. And the only way to get out of Buchenwald was through the chimney.”

Sergeant Carter-Edwards was one of 168 airmen—including 26 Canadians—wrongfully imprisoned in the concentration camp. While there, he fell sick with pneumonia and pleurisy, which ordinarily would have been a death sentence as there was no medical treatment for those who were sick; the prisoners got better or they died. In fact, anyone who was considered too sick was hastened to his end with fatal injection.

According to Nathan M. Greenfield in his book The Forgotten: Canadian POWs, Escapers and Evaders in Europe 1939-1945, one of the reasons that Sergeant Carter-Edwards survived was that “at night, the orderlies ‘submerged’ the Canadian delirious with fever; that is, they moved him bed to bed so that the Doktor would not recall him from the day before and order his death.” In addition, a French doctor who was also a prisoner used a syringe to extract fluid from Sergeant Carter-Edwards’ lungs.

Eventually, Sergeant Carter-Edwards and all but two of the Allied airmen (who died of illness in the camp) were transferred out of Buchenwald to Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp on November 28, 1944, through the intervention of members of the Luftwaffe.

“Somehow, the German Air Force—who was our enemy in combat but strictly comrade-in-arms—found out there was 166 allied airmen in Buchenwald,” he recounted in a video posted on the Veterans Affairs Canada website. “Our enemy, who was German Air Force and maybe even shot some of us down, saved our lives, saved their lives . . . they found out after they got out that five days later we would all have been hung on the meat hooks below the crematorium by stringing piano wire around our necks and hanging them on these meat hooks. We would have all been strangled to death. That was the orders that came down from Buchenwald.”

For many years, Edward Carter-Edwards didn’t speak of his experience in Buchenwald because, simply put, no-one believed him. But in 1988 the International Red Cross confirmed, from its investigation of German records, that he had been committed to Buchenwald by the SS, treated several times in the infirmary, and transferred to Stalag Luft III. In his later years, Edward Carter-Edwards became a tireless speaker about his war experiences and the dangers of intolerance.

At the end of his talks and speeches, Edward Carter-Edwards would often sing Vera Lynn’s beautiful song, “We’ll Meet Again”:

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where, don’t know when.
But I know we’ll meet again
Some sunny day.

God speed, Ed, from all of us at the Royal Canadian Air Force, and we’ll see you again some sunny day.

Edward Carter-Edwards sings “We’ll Meet Again” during a visit to Buchenwald concentration camp in 2014. PHOTO: Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Dean Black, Royal Canadian Air Force Association.

Obituary

The tenor voice, endless jokes and talks about his POW experiences that were so much a part of Edward Carter-Edwards are now history. In his 94th year, Ed passed away Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

Born in Montreal in 1923, his family moved to Hagersville then Hamilton, Ontario. Ed joined the RCAF during the Second World War. When his Halifax bomber was shot down June 1944, he was captured and incarcerated along with 167 other allied airmen in Buchenwald Concentration Camp. . . . Ed spent many hours talking to elementary through university level students, service clubs, and various associations at home and abroad on his war experiences, the dangers of intolerance and need for compassion and human understanding. Ed’s message is still relevant and will be in years to come.

Visitation was held at Merritt Funeral Home, Smithville, Ontario on Sunday, February 26. Funeral Service were held at Smithville United Churchon Monday, February 27. Interment preceded the service at the Church’s adjoining cemetery.

Go to http://merritt-fh.com/tribute/details/664/Edward-Carter-Edwards/obituary.html to read Edward Carter-Edwards’ full obituary.

In 2012, Edward Carter-Edwards spoke at the Royal Canadian Air Force Association’s Aviator of the Year luncheon. He is flanked by the award winners, Master Warrant Officer Marc Fontaine (left) and Master Corporal Chris Merlin. PHOTO: Ken Allen, RCAF Public Affairs

Source: Royal Canadian Air Force

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1 Comment

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  • Malcolm , March 2, 2017 @ 10:17 am

    Thank you so much for this article. Doubtless we will not see it in the mainstream media.
    I am a history buff and a former RAF member. I had no idea about this episode in the lives of those 168 Allied Airmen. The SS were a breed apart and the story says much about them as well as those men who flew with the Luftwaffe and who had such mutual respect for their aviator enemy.
    I am sure that many know of the story of the German Fighter pilot who escorted a crippled B17 out of danger and who after the war came to Canada and became close friends with the pilot of that Bomber.
    Thank you again for this little known piece of real Canadian History.

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