Nicholas  Andrew Vlassie, born on May 23, 1918, was the son of Andrew Constantine Vlassie from Corinth, Greece, and Photoula Vlassie (Nicholaides). Nick was the oldest followed by Emanuel (aka Manoli) who also served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed at No. 3 Wireless School, Tuxedo during the Second World War, then Constantine and 14 years later his sister Katina was born.  Andrew came over in the early 1900s, landed in Rochester, New York and later went to LA. While he was in California he was contacted by a cousin in Winnipeg, who worked at the Royal Alexandra Hotel on Higgins, and told him to come to Winnipeg because it was a booming town and there was lots of work. It was called the "Chicago of the North". Andrew packed up and went to Canada, where he also started working at the hotel. Photoula came over in 1914 when she was 16 years old (born in 1898). Andrew wrote to her father to ask him for her hand in marriage and accepted only after he gave her daughter the choice. It is most probable that they knew each other as their families were both from Corinth. After the war, Andrew and his two sons Manoli and Constantine (Gus) purchased The Chocolate Shop, one of the oldest restaurants on Portage Avenue. This family business, a Winnipeg institution, was renowned for gorgeous pastries baked on the second floor and was a regular hangout for many. Manoli and Gus worked The Chocolate Shop for several decades and probably Nicholas would have joined them had he survived the war. Nicholas attended Gladstone and Kelvin Schools and was manager of the College Inn, Portage Avenue before enlistment. He was eager to join the war effort and it is certain that the Greek resistance against the Italian and German invaders motivated him. Actually, he did participate in actions of the Greek Canadian Winnipeg community to aid the war-harassed people of Greece, specifically two dances in which he was dressed in evzone, dancing with Greek folklore music. Nicholas honored Greek customs and according to his file he also spoke Greek fluently. He joined RCAF on September 14, 1942. Later he was posted to No.2 ITS in Regina.

In March 1942, air bomber and navigator specialties were created to separate the roles of navigating and bombing. Air gunners received twelve weeks of ground training and air-firing practice at a BGS. Wireless operator/air gunners went directly from Manning Depot to Wireless Training School for twelve weeks, followed by six weeks of gunnery training. After ITS he transfered in No.7 Air Observer School (AOS) from March 22, 1943 to August 6, 1943 as a LAC and according to his file he was a capable leader, a steady worker and reliable in his air works. During his posting there he had at least 64 day and 29 night hours of navigation training on Avro Ansons. He was promoted to Sergeant and continued his training in No.5 AOS. With the completion of his training he continued his operational training in England in 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit in RAF Winthorpe, he was posted to No.619 Squadron on Febrouary 14, 1944, based in RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. Soon he began flying missions over Europe, onboard the mighty Lancaster. His first mission was as a second navigator to an experienced crew, flying with the Lancaster I LL784, ‘W’ in a mission against Stuttgart, on March 15, 1944. Three days later he joined his assigned crew, with Fl. Lt Guy Gunzi manning the Lancaster III ED859, ‘V’ who was going to be their personal bomber, in a bombing sortie against Frankfurt. The Greek Canadian navigator flew 8 more missions against targets in Germany and France before his last sortie. Gunzi’s crews' beloved ED859 was removed from further flights due to maintenance reasons and in turn they manned the Lancaster I LL919, W which they also used on their previous mission. The fate of Nicholas was to fly his first and last mission onboard a "Willie".

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Nicholas Vlassie pose proudly, maybe after his promoption to Pilot Officer. (https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/)
A Lancaster III of No. 619 Squadron on a test flight from RAF Coningsby 14 February 1944. (CH12346)
Lancaster I LL919, W for Willie was the bomber in which Nicholas A. Vlassie was lost on April 27, 1944, when his airplane was shot down by by Oblt. Dietrich Schmidt of 8./NJG1. Many random cirkumstances led to his loss like the fact that his crew wasnt scheduled for mission that day and their peronal bomber, the Lancaster III ED859, V for Vic was in te maintenance hangar. No 619 Squadron was formed at RAF Woodhall Spa on 18 April 1943. Its first mission took place 11 June 1943 when it took part in an attack on Düsseldorf. This squadron formed a part of the main force of Bomber Command throughout the war. Records indicate that one of this unit’s Lancasters possibly holds a unique record. On 3/4 March 1945 Lancaster PD441 piloted by Wing Commander S G Birch is recorded as having shot down a V-1 in flight. No 691 Squadron also had a long serving Lancaster – EE134 was a veteran of 99 operational sorties before retiring to No 5 Lancaster Finishing School. The squadron disbanded on 18 July 1945. (Profile by Bertrand Brown, further information from )


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Guy Godfrey Charles Gunzi
Vlassie 2
Ernest George Cass
Vlassie 6
Lewis Leslie Feindell
Vlassie 4
Alan Pickstone
Vlassie 7
Nicholas Andrew Vlassie
Vlassie 3
Kenneth Frank
(All photos from https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/, Nicholas photo from his military file)



On 26 April 1944 at 21:32, Lancaster LL919, one of thirteen from No.619 Squadron (5 Group, Bomber Command), took off from RAF Dunholme Lodge, about four miles northeast of Lincoln. The target was Schweinfurt in Bavaria, southern Germany. The crew comprised of Guy Gunzi (pilot), Ernest George Cass (flight engineer), Nikolas Vlassie RCAF (navigator), Jack Mills (bomb aimer), Alan Pickstone (wireless operator), Lewis Leslie Feindell RCAF (mid-upper gunner) and Kenneth Frank (rear gunner).  The original ‘core’ of the crew (Gunzi, Pickstone, Feindell, and Frank) were on their seventeenth operation. Because of the strong headwinds many aircraft were blown off course “due to inaccurate broadcast winds” (Operations Record Book) and LL919 may have been among them. It flew over a heavily defended area where German fighters were out in force and one from the fighter station at St Dizier closed in. The Luftwaffe Night fighters claimed a total of 21 aircrafts of the 215 taking part! LL919 was shot down near the small village of Landéville to the northeast of Chaumont in the department of Haute-Marne at 01:30 (French time) on the morning of 27 April 1944. In the Luftwaffe archives it is listed as being shot down by Oblt. Dietrich Schmidt of 8./NJG1 with combat taking place in the Joinville - Doulancourt area at a height of 4.400 meters. at 00.47 hrs. Nothing was heard from LL919 after take-off; it was one of twenty-one aircraft which did not return from the Schweinfurt operation.  Eyewitness accounts in Landéville say that Lancaster LL919 was on fire and circled low over the village twice, perhaps looking for a place to land, before crashing on a wooded hillside some distance from the town. Flames lit up the night sky so that it was as bright as day. The brilliant, white light was probably caused by burning magnesium, an ingredient of its 1,200 incendiary bombs. The only survivor Jack Mills, the bomb aimer, was severely injured (his parachute had not had a chance to open fully) and was unconscious for six hours. On his regaining consciousness, one of the villagers, Mariette Coutret, offered him coffee and warm milk. His flying boots had fallen off and so she gave him some slippers. He was unable to eat because of a fractured jaw. The local doctor bandaged his jaw and tried to make him comfortable. Jack could speak no French and no one in the village spoke English. However, he wrote his address and gave it to Mariette Coutret, hoping she would write to his family. (She later wrote to the airmen’s families telling them what had happened and continued to correspond with them for some time after the war.) As Jack was so severely injured he had to be handed over to the German authorities who would take care of him and treat his injuries. The German authorities, including a doctor, duly arrived in a car and took Jack to hospital. They treated him kindly and gently. When Jack had recovered sufficiently he was sent to the prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag Luft VII at Bankau in Silesia, now Poland. He became a member of the exclusive Caterpillar Club for those whose lives had been saved by parachutes. The bodies of four other crew members were quickly found. The local French records identified them as Guy Gunzi, Nikolas Vlassie, Leslie Feindell, and Kenneth Frank. The other two badly charred bodies were later identified as those of Alan Pickstone and Ernest Cass. Shortly before his death in 1993, survivor Jack Mills said: "LL919 was a new plane. It had flown only one mission before 26 April 1944. [That was to Munich on 24 April.] We usually flew Lancaster [ED859] V-Vic which was a real old veteran. V-Vic was being overhauled and we were allotted W-Willy. I expect the Air Ministry was annoyed at losing it so soon!" A funeral was held for the identified bodies on 29 April 1944. The church at Landéville was too small to hold all those who wanted to attend; everyone in Landéville came as did people from nearby villages. Many were in tears. Wreaths and floral tributes covered the graves, their cards bearing the words 'Remembrance', 'Regrets', and 'To our liberators'. Over the following weeks, several hundred people came to visit the graves. On the liberation of France, the villagers placed small British and French flags over the graves. "They are ours – they are our soldiers", wrote Mariette Coutret. In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the shooting down of Lancaster LL919, a two-day commemoration and exhibition was held in Landéville which was attended by friends and family of some of the crew members. Mariette Coutret died in 1995, aged 93, and was buried in the family grave in the local churchyard close to the crew of LL919. There are memorials to the crew of LL919 at the former RAF Dunholme Lodge, Welton, Lincolnshire, and Thorpe Camp, Tattershall Thorpe, near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. The Canadians honred the Greek parentage navigator by giving his name to a lake, specifically Vlassie Lake, Manitoba aproxximately 15km east of Snow Lake, Manitoba. May Nicholas Vlassie's memory along with the memory of the rest of the crew be eternal and remind us of the sacrifices of those young men for our freedom.

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Nicholas A. Vlassie in a typical RCAF portrait photo for identity purposes, holding jis serial number. (Nicholas Vlassie Military File)
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Group photo in which Vlassie is standing in the front row, second from the left without a moustache. In this photo he is still a sergeant so it must be taken either in No.7 or No.5 Air Observers School. (Unknown)
Vlassie Combo
Dietrich Schmidt (27 June 1919 – 6 March 2002) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Oberleutnant Schmidt was initially posted to 8./NJG 1 in September 1941, based at Twente in the Netherlands. He claimed his first victory on the night of 24/25 March 1943, a Halifax bomber over Enkhuizen. On 15 June 1943 Schmidt was appointed Staffelkapitän of 8./NJG 1, having claimed five victories by this time. On the night of 1/2 January 1944, he claimed a Lancaster bomber shot down near Ramsel for his 10th victory. He claimed three victories in a single night on 3/4 May, 22/23 May, and 28/29 July. Schmidt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 July for 32 victories. Schmidt transferred as Staffelkapitän to 9./NJG 1 in December 1944. He added five further victories to raise his victory total to 43 by the end of the war. Schmidt was then interned by British troops at Schleswig Holstein,and released in August 1945. He attended Heidelberg University obtaining a doctorate in Chemistry, married and fathered three children. Schmidt retired in 1984. Dietrich Schmidt was credited with 43 victories in 171 missions. All his victories were recorded at night. (Photo and information for Dietrich Schmidt via https://military-history.fandom.com/, Bf 110 photo via https://www.ordinarycrew.co.uk/)
These five young men 0f Winnipeg's Greek community, shown in the costumes made famous by the Evzones, Greek mountain troops, will perform ancient Greek dances at a variety concert to be given for Greek war relief Saturday evening in Winnipeg auditorium. They are: left to right, Paul Carabelas, Peter Hrousalas, Nicholas Vlassie, George Mercury and John Futris. (The Winnipeg Tribune Newspaper)
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The final resting place of Fl. Lt Guy Gunzi crew is the Landeville Churchyard, where they are lay together side by side. Landeville is a village and commune 31 kilometres north-east of Chaumont, and 13 kilometres south-east of Joinville. The churchyard is situated to the north-west of the village; in the south corner behind the church are the graves of four British and two Canadian airmen. P/O Nicholas Vlassie grave is No.2. Fl/Lt Gunzi rest at No.1 while in No.3 rest Sgt Frank, in No.4 F/Sgt Cass, in No.5 P/O Feindell and in No.6 F/Sgt Pickstone. (https://www.aerosteles.net/steleen-landeville-lancaster)
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The Winnipeg Tribute Newspaper announcment of Nicholas Vlassie loss on Friday May 12, 1944 issue.


115 - 03 - 19448:20Lancaster I LL784
"W" for "Willie"
Sturtgart, Germany
218 - 03 - 19446:10Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Frankfurt, Germany
322 - 03 - 19446:00Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Frankfurt, Germany
424 - 03 - 19446:50Lancaster III EE134
"Y" for "Yoke"
Berlin, Germany
526 - 03 - 19445:10Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Essen, Germany
603 - 04 - 19447:25Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Toulouse, France
710 - 04 - 19445:50Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Tours, France
820 - 04 - 19445:05Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
La Chapelle, France
922 - 04 - 19446:10Lancaster III ED859
"V" for "Vic"
Brunswick, Germany
1024 - 04 - 19449:40Lancaster I LL919
"W" for "Willie"
Munich, Germany
1126 - 04 - 1944-Lancaster I LL919
"W" for "Willie"
Schweinfurt , Germany