RCAF “Umingmak” at Yakutat 1942-1943

Research by Clarence Simonsen


In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, Sitka became the first seat of government in this new possession and first sight for a military base. In the late 1800s, many forts were constructed to provide law and order, and these Army units were also busy conducting geographic expeditions, communications, and a limited zig-zag rail and road network. Control of Alaska remained with the U.S. Army until 1877, then the U.S. Treasury Department assumed control and the U.S. Navy took over in 1884. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the U.S. Army returned for a short time and by 1912, [Alaska became a U.S. Territory] they were mostly gone and would not return for twenty-eight more years. In 1922, several nations signed the Washington Conference Treaty which limited the production of armaments by these countries, including Japan. In 1934, Japan suddenly renounced the treaty and this created no political reaction from the United States Government or more surprisingly no American military response. The following year, General William [Billy] Mitchell, an outspoken critic of military preparedness, spoke to an American Congressional hearing, and told them Alaska was the keystone to American peace and that Alaska was the most central place in the world for American aircraft.

 “Japan is our dangerous enemy in the Pacific” but the American Congress was in no mood to listen or appropriate funds for military construction in Alaska. Five years later, Congress allotted 48 million to start construction of the first new airfields in Alaska, and that marked the beginning of U.S. Yakutat Army Air Base, [Landing Field] Alaska.

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RCAF – Yakutat Army Air Base (PDF version)

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RCAF “Umingmak” at Yakutat 1942-1943

In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, Sitka became the first seat of government in this new possession and first sight for a military base. In the late 1800s, many forts were constructed to provide law and order, and these Army units were also busy conducting geographic expeditions, communications, and a limited zig-zag rail and road network. Control of Alaska remained with the U.S. Army until 1877, then the U.S. Treasury Department assumed control and the U.S. Navy took over in 1884. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the U.S. Army returned for a short time and by 1912, [Alaska became a U.S. Territory] they were mostly gone and would not return for twenty-eight more years. In 1922, several nations signed the Washington Conference Treaty which limited the production of armaments by these countries, including Japan. In 1934, Japan suddenly renounced the treaty and this created no political reaction from the United States Government or more surprisingly no American military response. The following year, General William [Billy] Mitchell, an outspoken critic of military preparedness, spoke to an American Congressional hearing, and told them Alaska was the keystone to American peace and that Alaska was the most central place in the world for American aircraft.

“Japan is our dangerous enemy in the Pacific” but the American Congress was in no mood to listen or appropriate funds for military construction in Alaska. Five years later, Congress allotted 48 million to start construction of the first new airfields in Alaska, and that marked the beginning of U.S. Yakutat Army Air Base, [Landing Field] Alaska.

There are a variety of Indigenous Nations living in the Northwest coast of both Canada and the Alaskan panhandle of the U.S.A. They do not have any strict boundaries and live in areas which occupy territories in British Columbia, Yukon, Canada, and Alaska, USA. Their earliest settlement occupation is now known to be around 13,000 years ago, during the end of the last ice age. Archeological investigations discovered the Tlingit [pronounced “klink it”] lived around the village of Yakutat for the past 8,600 years and their oral history can be traced back to the eruption of Mount Edgecumbe, 4,500 years ago. That’s a First Nation heritage to be very proud of, and I know they are.

Their long peaceful occupation at Yakutat was first altered in 1780 with the arrival of the Russians, who came in search of riches, and lusted for Tlingit lands and their beautiful daughters. In 1790, the Russians established a fort and a prison next to the village of Yakutat, murder and rape followed thanks to the white man. This published story was obtained by Jack Spalding from Indian source Peter Lawrence who lived at Yakutat village in 1940. After the fort and prison were constructed, some visiting Russian Navy Officers abducted and carried off to their ship some of the female teenage girls and transported them to northern Alaska. To obtain revenge, the village males made plans and when the Russians went on a hunting expedition, leaving the fort unprotected, the Indians attacked, killed all on site and set fire to the fort. The returning hunting party were then attacked and all were killed. The native members of the Bear and Crow families, carved an image of a Bear on a large rock, in belief they would be protected from the returning Russians. When the Russian Navy returned in 1804, a short battle took place until the Tlingit ran out of gunpowder, and were forced to escape to Chatham Strait. The Russians then built Novo Arkhangelsk [Sitka] on the site of the Tlingit original winter village site, and this became their colonial capital and Russian Headquarters. After the purchase of Alaska from the Russians in 1867, the military policy of the United States did very little until the creation of Yakutat Bay Naval Reservation, which was constructed in summer of 1930. On 25 April 1939, Congress passed a Navy bill for the construction of air stations at Sitka, Kodiak, and a radio station at Dutch Harbor. In 1940, the very rapid escalation of the war with Hitler in Europe, and the increasing war-like Japanese activity in Asia, forced Congress to pass the Third Supplemental Defense Appropriation Act money [1.7 Billion] for construction of air bases at Anchorage, [Headquarters] Kodiak, Yakutat, and Annette Island in southeastern Alaskan panhandle. In July 1940, Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was assigned commander of the newly created [17 June 1940] Alaska Defense Force, which was in fact a non-existent force, one which he would have to build from the ground up. The first ground troops of the Alaska Defense Force arrived on 27 June 1940, 780 officers and their troops in the 4th Infantry Regiment. The first Air Corps personnel arrived at Merrill Field, [Anchorage’s municipal airport] on 9 August 1940, flying old Martin B-10 Bombers. Major Everett S. Davis became the Chief of Aviation for the new Alaska Air Defense Force, [17 June 1940] and the first Commanding Officer of the future 11th Army Air Force. The new Alaskan Air Force was constituted on 28 December 1941, and activated on 15 January 1942. They officially became the Eleventh Air Force on 17 February 1942, and participated in the offensive that drove the Japanese from the Aleutians. The Aleutian Islands Campaign took place 3 June 1942 until 24 August 1943, and also involved RCAF No. 8 Squadron, “X” Wing, [Anchorage, Kodiak, Nome and Yakutat], No. 14 Squadron, “X” Wing, [Umnak Island, Kiska, Adak Island, and Amchitka], No. 111 Squadron, “X” Wing, Anchorage, Kodiac, Chiniak Point, and Umnak Island], No. 115 Squadron, “Y” Wing, [Annette Island], and No. 118 Squadron, “Y” Wing, [Annette Island].

Gen. Buckner Jr. fully understood the importance of a unit badge or military insignia for his new force and turned to the artist’s at Walt Disney Studios for his “unofficial mascot” insignia.

Created by Walt Disney artist Hank Porter in May 1940, the new Alaska Defense Force Mascot was named “Brenda” and she balanced the letter “D” on her nose. On 4 February 1941, the War Department re-designated the title Alaska Defense Force and they became the “Alaska Defense Command” which caused the original Disney insignia to be changed. The Brenda seal appeared with a white chest on some [not correct] with letters ADC, and this insignia can be found for sale on the internet, in many different colors. The rare collector insignia is the one on the left, designed by Disney artist H. Porter and used for only eight months in Alaska, featuring the letters A-D-F “Alaska Defense Force.

In July 1940, the Quartermaster Corps began construction on the largest military establishment in Alaska at Anchorage, [Fort Richardson]. Fort Richardson was named for Brig. General Wilds P. Richardson, an Alaska pioneer, soldier, explorer and engineer. Next door construction had started on Elmendorf Army Air Field, which was located four miles Northeast of Anchorage, Alaska. The base would have two concrete runways, East-West was #5-#23, 7,500 ft. by 200 ft. and the North-South #15-#33 was 5,000 ft. by 150 ft. The airfield would have three permanent hangars 300 ft. by 275 ft., one small temporary building, with revetments for forty bombers and eighty fighters. The base would also have extensive barracks and messing for all. Elmendorf Field was named for Captain Hugh M. Elmendorf who was killed in a plane crash at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1933. The U.S. War Department would spend $12 million on these two projects.

By late July 1940, the U.S. War Department had acquired 46,083 acres of bush and rock covered muskeg for the establishment of an “Auxiliary Landing Field and Aircraft Staging Area” called Yakutat Army Air Base. In early September 1940, Lieutenant Robert W. Knox, Captain of the U.S. Navy coast and geodetic survey ship “USS Surveyor” dropped anchor in Yakutat Bay, and a construction layout survey plan was measured and marked for the construction of the new air base.

The initial Alaska Defence Force plans in July 1940, had Annette Island and Yakutat Air Bases being constructed by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, however these two airfields had now become a top air force military priority, and the Defense Force [Lt. Gen. De Witt] thought the CAA would take too long to construct. On 20 July 1940, the War Department reassigned the airfield construction at Annette Island and Yakutat to Major George J. Nold, Commander of the 28th Engineer Aviation Regiment, in order to give his new unit training in building airfields in Alaska. On 6 August 1940, the U.S. Department of the Interior was granted temporary [lease] use of the Metlakatla Indian land and now the construction of Annette Island could begin. On 20 August Major Nold, two battalions of the 28th Engineers, two companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps and thirty-five civilian technicians sailed from Seattle, arriving at Annette Island three days later. Construction of a work camp and a dock for ships began immediately, and fifty Metlakatla Indians were hired as laborers as part of the original agreement. The Indians lived in their own camp constructed some distance from the soldiers and this satisfied both sides and caused no friction during construction. The U.S. Coast Guard ship USS Surveyor completed her layout plan work at Yakutat on 9 October 1940 and now the second air base construction could begin, directed from Annette Island Headquarters.

The home base “Mud Turtle” construction camp of the 28th Aviation Engineers Regiment, built on Annette Island beginning 23 August 1940. This became the H.Q. of Major Nold and also served as the main equipment base during the construction of Yakutat Landing Field and Navy Seaplane Base. The insignia became the shared Aviation Engineers badge and served with American units building bases around the world during WWII. A ferocious looking “Winged” red bulldozer holds a piece of pierced steel airfield runway planking, while the helmeted U.S. Engineer has his machine gun ready to fire and wears a shovel on his back. This insignia remained until 1960.

On 23 October 1940, Capt. Benjamin B. Talley of the 28th Engineer Aviation Regiment, departed for Yakutat Navy station dock. This was the off-season for fish canning and many of his engineer troops were housed in the Yakutat Bay canneries buildings. By using U.S. aviation engineers the air force had gotten a head start on these two most important airfields in the Alaskan panhandle. This later proved to be a major part of Alaskan aviation history during the build-up for Aleutian war against Japan. The long subarctic winter had prevented much work from being done other than clearing the small bushes which covered the construction site. In March 1941, the tempo of work at Yakutat quickened, and additional money in amount of $1 million dollars were allotted for installation of aviation fuel tanks at Annette Island and Yakutat Army Air Bases.

In May 1941, General Buckner continued his battle to build up Alaskan strengths for the war he suspected was coming to the United States. At the same time, General De Witt [Commander 4th Army and Western Defense Command] received a report that little progress was being made on the airfields in Alaska and decided to see for himself, accompanied by General Buckner and Colonel Park. Their first stop was at Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Base where they found the construction was most advanced. The three officers arrived at Annette Island on 12 May 1941, and found only one emergency landing strip in use and on the whole the construction was not as advanced as that on Yakutat Army Air Base. Annette Island had many muskeg areas with holes eighteen feet deep and this had to be scooped out by the engineers before the large stone fill could be dumped by Army trucks. General De Witt hoped that at least one runway would be in operation at both Annette Island and Yakuata Army Air Base by December 1941. In June 1941, the 28th Engineer Aviation Regiment was disbanded and divided, becoming the 802nd Engineer Aviation Battalion and the 807th Engineer Aviation Company. General Buckner still had a tiny Air Force and a mere 18,000 troops spread along the Alaskan panhandle and the interior of the Aleutians. Alaska’s defences had one glaring weakness, there were no fully operational airfields on the Alaskan Peninsula or in the Aleutians. The construction of Annette Island [802nd Engineer Aviation Battalion] and Yakutat Army Air Base [807th Engineer Aviation “B” Company] were half completed when Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. On 29 December 1941, sixty-two men and two officers from the 807th Aviation Company were transferred from Yakutat Landing Field to begin priority construction at Umnak, Alaska. The forgotten war in Alaska was beginning along with the forgotten history of the Royal Canadian Air Force Bolingbroke bombers in Alaska, which began 5 May 1942.

For American readers to understand the RCAF Bolingbroke aircraft which served in Alaska, you must first learn the Royal Canadian Air Force was formed on the organization of the Royal Air Force in United Kingdom. The Canadian government then decided it was best to buy or build British designed aircraft and equipment which fit in much better [they believed] than American built aircraft and equipment. In 1935, the RCAF began to purchase Westland Wapiti bombers and Blackburn Sharks from Great Britain. These were WWI era open-cockpit aircraft which lumbered off the ground and struggled to get into to the air, neither were impressive aircraft to see or fly. The following year Supermarine Stranraer’s were ordered and these would later be constructed in Canada, more obsolete airpower. By 1937, seven modern Bristol Bolingbroke aircraft were purchased from U.K. and these would later go into production in Canada with 676 completed, the greatest proportion being model Mk. IVs.  The Bolingbroke Mk. IV met the RCAF coastal reconnaissance bomber requirements and thirty-one of these bombers came to Alaska beginning on 5 May 1942.

[For a more detailed history please read author Blog – Preserving the Past II, The Bloody Bristol Blenheim].

On 1 March 1938, RCAF Western Air Command was formed under Air Commodore G.M. Croil in Ottawa, who now commanded all RCAF units in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. He was responsible for all phases of air defence on Western Canadian coast line and waters. After the Munich Crisis in September 1938, A/C Croil began to focus Canadian defence on the Atlantic coast and transfer RCAF units from the west coast of Canada. To cover more than 1,000 miles of west coast shoreline the RCAF had eight serviceable obsolete British designed aircraft. When Canada declared war on Germany, 10 September 1939, the government understood there was a possibly for war with Japan, but assumed the strong and effective American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor would stand between the Japanese and the small ineffective RCAF aircraft in British Columbia. In mid-September 1939, the RCAF Home War Establishment was formed with two operational air commands, [Eastern and Western Air Command] with seven understrength squadrons flying a wild variety of obsolescent British aircraft.

With the greatest threat being the German surface and U-boats raiders against the Allied shipping in the North Atlantic, top priority was now given to Eastern Air Command, in re-equipping its operational squadrons with modern American Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighters and Douglas Digby long-range patrol aircraft. In October 1940, the Canadian-United States Basic Defence Plan [ABC-Pacific-22] was held [Seattle, Washington] to address a direct attack from Asiatic Powers and mutual support was to be given if needed for defence of British Columbia, Northwestern United States and Alaska. “This first report implied that it would usually be a case of American assistance being given to Canada.” [The Canadian government had planned on this since 1939, saving money which could be spent fighting Hitler] On 5 December 1941, American Lieutenant General John L. De Witt, commanding the Western American Defence Command, suggested a combined meeting be held to draw up a defence plan based on the original 1940 [ABC-Pacific-22] meeting. Both sides agreed and the date was set for the morning of 7 December 1941. Before the meeting could begin, it was announced that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and Canada declared war on Japan that night. The original Canada/United States ABC-Pacific-22 plan immediately came into force in the Pacific. The RCAF now rushed reinforcements west to fill the vast personnel and patrol aircraft shortages. No. 111 [F] Squadron [with new RCAF purchased American Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks] were transferred from Rockcliffe, Ontario, to Sea Island [Vancouver] B.C. No. 8 [B.R.] Squadron [Bolingbroke] joined No. 111 Squadron after a coast to coast flight [with no cockpit heat] from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Sea Island, B.C. Prince Rupert. B.C. now became the major port for the movement of American reinforcements to main land Alaska, as it had an excellent harbour and the most northerly railway in the north-west of Canada. Under the ABC-Pacific-22 agreement, the Canadian government gave full permission and on 5 April 1940, Prince Rupert, B.C., officially became an American sub-embarkation port. Senior Canadian RCAF and American west coast service commanders had discussed the air protection of Prince Rupert in Seattle, Washington, on 6 March 1942, but nothing was agreed upon.

Lt. General De Witt suggested an RCAF Squadron be placed on Yakutat Army Air Base where construction was over half finished, however the RCAF preferred the Army Air Base being constructed on Annette Island. In early April 1942, both sides came to an agreement that one RCAF [B.R.] Squadron and one RCAF fighter Squadron would be placed on Annette Island and they would provide close air cover for the major shipping port at Prince Rupert, B.C., and fly coastal patrols as far north-west as Yakutat Army Air Base. The Canadian aircraft would remain overnight at Yakutat or as long as the weather grounded the aircraft. Juneau Civil Airport, which opened on 1 July 1941, would be used only as a refueling stop. The new unit would be called RCAF “Y” Wing, Annette Island Army Air Base, Alaska, commanded by a Battle of Britain veteran, Wing Commander Arthur Deane Nesbitt, DFC, #C1327.

This RCAF image [PA140638] was taken at Patricia Bay, B.C., on 28 January 1942, showing the Bolingbroke Mk. IV [fighter] aircraft of No. 115 Squadron. These British designed aircraft were in fact obsolete when they were manufactured at Longueuil, Quebec, in 1941, but that’s the best Canada had against Japanese submarine coastal protection. The Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft were in fact twin-engine fighters, equipped with a modified belly-pack of four .303 cal. forward firing machine guns, which can be seen in this above image. RCAF Western Air Command recognized these old fighters were useless against submarines but they felt the Bolingbroke was more suitable for the rough airfield conditions on Annette Island which was still under construction. The true fact is Canada had nothing else to send and were not really prepared to defend her own west coast let alone Alaska. On 11 April 1942, orders were received at No. 115 Squadron to prepare for the move to Annette Island, and under command of Squadron Leader E. Reyno, fourteen RCAF Bristol Bolingbroke [fighter] aircraft landed on Annett Island, 5 May 1942. They enjoyed the special distinction of being the first Canadian force ever based in United States territory to directly assist with the defence of American homeland security.

As the RCAF squadron was settling into her new duties, Imperial General Headquarters in Japan had ordered a new surprise bombing attack on the Aleutians, and yes, the old RCAF Bristol Bolingbroke were going to war in Alaska.

The arrival of No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft on Annette Island, 18:00 hrs., 5 May 1942. Below control tower not constructed until 26 July 1942.

The Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft markings used on Annette Island, Alaska.

I’m sure the Americans were puzzled to see a twin-engine RCAF fighter aircraft with four machine guns in her belly, but for modeller’s this is in fact a rare aircraft that only flew in Alaska until 22 June 1942. This Bolingbroke MK. IV fighter also carried a number of rare markings under Alaska Command, and I have published my work sheet in case anyone cares to built this forgotten model, which you won’t find in British or American aviation magazines.

No. 115 Squadron is another forgotten part of RCAF history which all began as No. 15 [Fighter] Squadron “Auxiliary” on 1 September 1934, at Montreal, Quebec. It was re-numbered No. 115 Squadron on 15 November 1937, and trained many pilots who went on to serve Canada during WWII. One of these pilots was Arthur Deanne Nesbitt, born in Montreal, 16 November 1910. He learned to fly at the Montreal Light Aeroplane Club in 1933, and was judged the most competent pilot in the club in 1936, winning the James Lytell Memorial Trophy. He joined No. 115 Squadron on 15 September 1939, and obtained his RCAF Wings at Camp Borden, 11 April 1940. On 26 May 1940, all of the personnel of No. 115 Squadron were absorbed into No. 1 [Fighter] Squadron and sent overseas, joining the Battle of Britain in August 1940.

On 4 September, Nesbitt shot down a German Bf110 and a Bf109, then on 15 September he was shot down, wounded, but managed to bail out. He returned to action 9 October, but his Hurricane was shot up by a Bf109 and he bailed out again, uninjured. In March 1941, he took over command of his squadron [renumbered No. 401] and returned to Ottawa, Canada, 18 September 1941, having earned a DFC in combat, awarded 23 September 1941. On 1 November 1941, S/L Nesbitt commanded No. 14 Squadron, then on 15 December 1941, took over No. 111 [fighter] Squadron who received their new American Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks on 3 November.  After the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, No. 111 Squadron was moved to Sea Island, [Vancouver] on 14 December 1941, and they became operational for combat on 12 March 1942. On 17 March 1942, the West Coast Saanich Indians adopted the squadron and presented them with a 16” wooden carved Thunderbird Totem. This became the squadron nickname “Thunderbird” and the totem appeared as nose art on a few of their P-40 fighters.

On 15 June 1942, Nesbitt was promoted to Wing Commander and placed in charge of RCAF “Y” Wing, Annette Island, now in control of No. 115, the same squadron he joined as a young rookie pilot on 15 September 1939. His RCAF historical narrative of Annette Island follows:

RCAF “Y” Wing, No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron facilities showing the location of buildings which were shared with No. 118 [fighter] Squadron who arrived 20 June 1942.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drawing. The No. 111 Squadron Thunderbird Totem sat in the RCAF administration building office of W/C Nesbitt, DFC.

Each Canadian anti-aircraft unit were housed in their own camp area, shown on main map.

On 5 August 1942, the two RCAF Squadrons moved into this new location where prefab huts were being constructed. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map of new RCAF quarters, marked as area “C” on main map. The 65 tent area is clearly marked on this map.

On 10 October 1942, W/C Nesbitt was transferred to RCAF Station Boundary Bay, B.C. He retired from the RCAF on 27 November 1945. On 4 February 1978, he hit a tree while skiing in Montreal, and was left paralysed, unable to eat he died 22 Feb. 1978.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map in July 1943.

The No. 111 [fighter] Squadron “Thunderbird” totem carving became the identity of the squadron and many pilots had their photo taken with “their” Totem. When W/C Nesbitt left for command of RCAF Annette Island, Alaska, [12 June 1942] he took the Totem with him, and it was proudly displayed on his H.Q. desk. Presented to Nesbitt by the Saanich Indians, [17 March 1942] for protecting their coastal homeland from Japanese attack, the Thunderbird now protected the coastal lands of the Metlakatla [Annette Island] and the Tlingit [Yakutat] Alaska. It’s possible this original Totem survives today with the Nesbitt family somewhere in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

On 22 June 1942, the fourteen Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft in No. 115 Squadron were converted from a fighter to a bomber reconnaissance aircraft, and equipped with four American anti-submarine 250 lb. depth-charge bombs.

On 1 July 1942, the fourteen RCAF Bolingbroke [B.R.] aircraft began flying eight submarine patrol sections between RCAF Prince Rupert, B.C., and Yakutat Army Air Base, Alaska. The civilian airport at Juneau opened on 1 July 1941, and this was only used as a refueling point if required. Just before noon [11:58 hrs] 7 July 1942, a U.S. Steamship sighted a submarine periscope at reported position 55.5 North – 134 West. Due to bad weather conditions the RCAF aircraft could not take off until 14:17 hrs when Bolingbroke #9125 made a general search, negative sighting. At 16:56 Hrs. Bolingbroke #9118 took off to search assigned areas U-4 and U-2, and at 17:59 hrs pilot F/Sgt. Thomas, P/O Shebeski, and observer Sgt. Le Landais sighted a submerged submarine which was over 100 feet in length and proceeding submerged some twenty feet deep in the water. At a height of 40 ft. while the periscope was still showing, RCAF Bolingbroke #9118 dropped all four depth-charges and two were observed to make a direct hit above the conning tower, within a lethal distance. Five minutes later a large scum of yellow oil appeared on the surface covering approximately 50 feet in diameter. The RCAF action was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard at Ketchikan and two ships were dispatched, cutter WMEC-146 McLane and U.S. Navy vessel YP-251 Foremost.

The Coast Guard cutter WMEC-146 McLane which arrived on scene and conducted an 18-hour search and attack on the damaged submarine. It’s reported the submarine came to the surface once and also fired a torpedo at the Coast Guard cutter which dropped many depth charges and claimed sighting flotsam resembling Rockwool. The RCAF aircrew were mentioned in dispatches and credited with damaging the submarine and sharing in the kill by the cutter McLane. The American Navy reported the sinking as being Japan’s RO.32 but postwar records show no Japanese submarine lost around that date and the RO.32 survived the war. In 1967, the U.S. Navy confirmed the submarine R0-32 was being used as a trainer in 1945, and that seemed to be the end of the history. On 18 August 2008, Vancouver Sun Newspaper reporter Brendon Coyle published a new story [its online] on the sinking and had a photo to back up his claim. Mr. Jim Johnson was an RCAF Photo Tech. stationed on Annette Island and he saved a photo taken by the aircrew of Bolingbroke #9118, showing the enemy submarine with a detonation forward of the conning tower painted with a large number “8”. Dr. Robert Ballard [Titanic fame] works for the U.S. Navy as a Naval intelligence commander, and part of his secret work involves finding lost submarines. He has mapped the ocean floor of both the Canadian and American west coast and taken millions of images of hundreds of lost wrecks. I’m positive he has seen the mystery submarine located near the southern tip of Noyes Island, Alaska, and knows it is Russian. Why not release this information to clear up what submarine was attacked on 7 July 1942 and sunk by the cutter McLane three days later? Please!

In 2015, the world class Pima Air and Space Museum located at Tucson, Arizona, repainted their RCAF Bristol Bolingbroke in the correct markings of #9118, which flew anti-submarine patrols between RCAF Landing Ground Yakutat Army Air Base and their home base RCAF Annette Island, Alaska. Their information data in part reads – “This Bolingbroke has been restored from parts of several aircraft and painted to recreate the RCAF markings on serial #9118, which flew with No. 115 Squadron on Annette Island, Alaska. Bolingbroke #9118 was credited with assisting in the destruction of one Japanese submarine RO-32 on 7 July 1942, sunk by two U.S. Coast Guard cutters. In 1945, the very intact RO-32 was captured in Japan and the credit for the July 1942 sinking was rescinded. In 2008, a photo taken by the aircrew of Bolingbroke #9118 was discovered, which tends to prove they did in fact attack a submarine which appears to be Soviet. Both the Japanese and Soviet navies purchased a large number of submarines from the British-Vickers Engineering Co. between WWI and 1933. The Soviet submarine Shch-138 was reported missing 10 July 1942, and the Russians reported it destroyed by her own torpedo malfunction 18 July 1942. During WWII Soviet submarines were known to have conducted espionage operations along the coast of Canada and the United States. It is unlikely the Soviet government would ever admit that one of their submarines was caught spying and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard. I feel it is very safe to say, on 7 July 1942, a British designed Bristol Bolingbroke, built in Quebec, Canada, and flown by the RCAF in defences of United States coastal waters, damaged a British designed submarine crewed by the Soviet Navy, while spying on the United States in Alaska. I also believe the Pima Air and Space Museum researchers and Dr. Robert Ballard can tell the free world a whole lot more?

Yakutat Army Air Base – June 1942

On 20 May 1942, U.S. Intelligence intercepted and decoded enough of a Japanese message to learn a mobile task force was about to strike in the Aleutians, followed a day later with an attack on Midway.  General De Witt was concerned about the defence of the Alaskan panhandle most of all the Army Air Base under construction at Yakutat, but he did not have any American combat units to defend it. Special joint meetings were held on 27-28 May and General Buckner request that RCAF No. 8 and No. 111 Squadrons be sent at once to Yakutat Landing Field, Army Air Base, and in addition Buckner wanted authority to move the Canadian RCAF units to Kodiak, Anchorage, or Cold Bay if necessary. [Smart U.S. Officer, planning well ahead] After discussing the possible effects of the move, [The RCAF barely had enough aircraft strength to protect the B.C. coastline] the Canadian chiefs of staff agreed with the American request, and within hours RCAF Squadrons were ordered to Yakutat. Alaska. On 2 June 1942, twelve Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft took off from Sea Island, B.C. for Yakutat Army Air Base, Alaska.

No. 8 Squadron was formed as a General Purpose Squadron at Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 14 February 1936. They moved to Rockcliffe, [Ottawa] Ontario, on 1 February 1937, as a photographic unit, but for some reason never designated as such. In preparation for war hostilities they were transferred to a coastal war station at Sydney, Nova Scotia, 26 August 1939. The new squadron official badge [Musk-Ox head] was approved by the King on 21 June 1941, arrived with the squadron in Nova Scotia [below] 10 September 1941. They had been flying anti-submarine German U-boat patrols for one year.

The Musk-Ox is a hoofed mammal which lives in the Canadian Arctic, Yukon, and Alaska, USA. When the badge was chosen, the RCAF members were based in Nova Scotia, and had no idea they would be flying in the Arctic regions of Alaska, which the Musk-Ox called “home.” On 23 December 1941, after Japan entered the war, No. 8 Squadron was transferred to Western Air Command at Sea Island, [Vancouver] B.C., for Japanese anti-submarine patrols.

No. 1 Flight departed Nova Scotia at 09:30 hrs followed by No. 2 Flight at 14:30 hrs. for Ottawa.  The Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft serial numbers were: #9001, #9003 to #9015, #9025 to #9028, #9030 to #9032, #9038, #9040, #9041, #9044, #9047, and #9048. Bolingbroke #9028 crashed at Callendar, Ontario, in a snow storm on 6 January 1942, and #9027 crash landed at Lethbridge, Alberta, 9 January 42.

No. 8 [B.R.] Squadron RCAF image taken at Kapuskasing, Ontario, [528 miles north-west of Ottawa] 26 December 1941. All aircraft arrived at Sea Island, B.C. by 13 January 1942, and sixteen remained on strength. [Below] No. 8 aircrew playing volleyball Sea Island, B.C., March 1942, Star Weekly Newspaper.

On 1 June 1942, No. 8 [B.R.] Squadron has twelve aircraft ready for transit to Yakutat Army Air Base, with fuel stops at RCAF Annette Island and civil airport Juneau, Alaska.

On 2 June the twelve Bolingbroke’s depart Sea Island for Yakutat followed by two Stranraers carrying twenty-three ground crew and essential spare parts and tools. The RCAF had no air navigation maps or charts of the terrain north of Prince Rupert, B.C., and flew the last leg to Annette Island with the route traced on a Canadian Navy depth chart maps.

No. 8 [BR] arrive Annette Island [paved runways] 19:00 hrs 2 June 1942. RCAF PMP79-780.

3 June 1942, No. 8 [BR] ten Bolingbroke’s and two Stranraer flying boats carrying ground crew and essential spare parts arrive at Yakutat Landing Field, Army Air Base, Alaska. [Concrete runway] L to R – Air Gunner F/Sgt. G.A. Anderson, pilot P/O J.M. McArthur, pilot F/O W.J. Smith, and air gunner F/Sgt. F.W. Johnston. Each Bolingbroke proudly carried the RCAF squadron official badge [Musk-Ox] on the nose section. RCAF PMP79-781.

RCAF air photo, looking south. W/C G.R. McGregor in Command of RCAF personnel.

As the Canadians settled into their new home on Yakutat Army Air Base, and all ten Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft were armed with bombs, a Japanese enemy task force had already launched air strikes on Dutch Harbor, Alaska, from carrier based aircraft.

The Japanese air attacks on 3 and 4 June 1942, changed all of the defence plans made by American General Buckner, who commanded all the Alaska air combat units, which in fact was comprised of one fourth being Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft. On 5 June, General Buckner ordered No. 8 [B.R.] Squadron to fly at once to Elmendorf Field, [Fort Richardson] outside of Anchorage, Alaska.

Neither No. 8 Squadron nor the American ground staff on Yakutat had maps of the route north to Elmendorf Field or more importantly knew the correct recognition signals when they arrived. In quick response to W/C McGregor’s urgent request, both arrived on the 6 June, and the Ten Bolingbroke’s arrived at Elmendorf Filed on the 7th, ordered to be held in readiness twenty-four hours a day. RCAF Wing Commander McGregor established “X” Wing RCAF Headquarters which became the direct contact point between RCAF and Alaska Defence Command. The Canadians were going to war in a British designed Bolingbroke twin-engine aircraft that was obsolete when it was constructed in 1941. The Daily Diary of “X” Wing RCAF Alaska would fill a large book, however they also published a short edition, and I will now publish three pages, recording the movement of RCAF aircraft to Elmendorf Field, Alaska.

The “Bearded One” is coming home to Alaska

The Musk-Ox is noted for its thick coat and for the strong ‘musk’ odor used to attract females during mating season. The musk-ox never runs from battle, they form a circle protecting their young in the middle and face their attacker. They also cover great distances in search of food and primarily live in Greenland, and the cold arctic regions of Northwest Canada. Their populations have been re-introduced in Siberia, Russia, Scandinavian Peninsula, Yukon, Canada, and Alaska, USA. In Inuktitut they are called ‘umingmak’ which translates to “the bearded one.” The RCAF “Bearded Ones” landed at Anchorage, Alaska, on 7 June 1942, and prepared to defend the coastal Gulf of Alaska from Japanese attack. RCAF “X” Wing Headquarters were based at Anchorage under U.S. Alaskan Command, and their fourteen Bolingbroke Mk. IV were based at Nome, [five to ten] Kodiak, [three aircraft], Cordova, [one] and Yukutat, [one bomber]. They would remain in Alaska until 26 February 1943, then returned to Sea Island, [Vancouver] B.C. on 4 March 1943.

On 4 July 1942, the Canadian minister of defence for air, Hon. C.G. Power, and chief of the air staff, Air Marshall L.S. Breadner, visited Anchorage and met with American commanders. Both sides agreed that “Canadian Squadrons will only find themselves in a location to see enemy action, if some unforeseen enemy attack takes place.”

When No. 8 [BR] Squadron arrived at Elmendorf Field, Alaska, the strength of General Buckner’s total Alaska Defence Command American bomber force was sixty-eight aircraft.

The first RCAF Alaska assigned anti-submarine patrol [“A” on map] began 13 June 1942, Bolingbroke # 9026, three Bolingbroke’s were later based on Kodiak, 15 November 1942.

The Second assigned coastal route [“B” on map] began on 13 July 1942, Elmendorf Field, to Seward and ending at Cordova, flown by Bolingbroke #9056. On 9 September 1942, one Bolingbroke #9111 was based at Yukutat and flew west [“C” on map] to Cordova, Alaska, weather permitting.

Twelve RCAF Bolingbroke Mk. IV bombers were on strength with “X” Wing at Elmendorf Field on 31 July 1942.

No. 8 [BR] began Northern patrol from Nome in early July with three Bolingbroke aircraft, [serial #9040, #9044, and #9032] joining the USAAF 404th Bomb squadron B-24 bombers. On 21 August 1942, the 404th were withdrawn from Nome for new operations in the Aleutian chain, and the Canadians took over their coastal patrols, Southern and St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. These three patrols show as #1, #2, and #3 on Alaska map. Ten Bolingbroke aircraft were now based at Nome, Alaska, and rotated from Elmendorf Field, new additions were Bolingbroke #9056 and #9111 flown by F/O J.B. Morgo, which arrived from Sea Island, 24 July 1942.

Navy artist Clayton Knight drawing of 404th Bomb Squadron at Nome, Alaska. [Free domain]

Nome, Alaska, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map October 1943.

The three new Nome Alaska Command assigned RCAF patrol areas came into effect on 22 August 1942, and continued until 5 December 1942. The St. Lawrence Island patrol were the most dangerous, as any aircraft forced landing was sure death in the freezing Arctic waters.

On 15 November 1942, U.S. Eleventh Air Force orders doubled RCAF No. 8 [BR] Squadron coastal patrols. Three Bolingbroke bombers were now stationed on Kodiak.

15 November 1942 new patrols for Kodiak, three aircraft.

A single No. 8 [Musk-Ox] Squadron Bolingbroke Mk. IV at Nome, Alaska, November 1942.

RCAF photo – PMR79-465.

U.S. Navy drawings by Clayton Knight at Nome, Alaska. [Free domain]

Yakutat Army Air Base now became a vital refueling staging stop for the large number of civil Lodestar passenger aircraft, C-47 transport aircraft, B-24, B-17 heavy bombers, and U.S. fighters proceeding to Elmendorf Field. On 9 September 1942, No. 8 [BR] squadron based Bolingbroke #9111, pilot F/O Bray, on Yakutat, and weather permitting, he flew daily patrols to Cordova and return. Construction of Cordova began on 19 March 1942, not completed until June 1943.

By June 1942, speed was essential in moving American personnel and supplies to the far north country and two Airlines entered into a contact with the War Department to provide scheduled service. Pan Am [Pan American Airways System] were a pioneer in cold weather aviation and knew the procedures used to fly in the extreme cold air and stay alive in these remote parts of the world. Pan Am would carry over three-million pounds of cargo and transported 77,000 military personnel from Seattle, Washington to Nome, Alaska, during WWII. The two yellow lines on the map show the civil aviation coastal route and display the importance of Yukutat Army Air Base for signals, emergency landings, and fuel. Yukutat was also the dividing point for RCAF “Y” and “X” Wing coastal patrol areas.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map for 1 July 1943. The area marked 1200 contained over three hundred living quarter tents, barracks, mess hall for 2,000 enlisted men, mess hall for 125 officers, and officer’s quarters. Elephant shelter area 700, were concrete curved arches covered with five feet of earth, bombing protection for each aircraft.

All the points around Yakutat Landing Field were manned by 155 mm [above] or 75 mm heavy gun crews and these Aviation Engineers images show the gun at Point Carrow, North-west Navy Seaplane base, and the connecting beach front winding roadway. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction photos taken 15 July 1943.

Life magazine 2 June 1941, author collection.

United Airlines Lockheed Lodestar aircraft flew the same route and came under military contract of USAAF Air Command from Seattle, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska, 1,541 miles.

Hundreds of U. S. Military C-47 transport aircraft flew this Pacific coastal route and a number just disappeared, and have never been found. Others were found.

Seattle to Annette Island 563 miles, 431 miles to Yakutat Landing Field.

In September 1942, Lt. Gen. Simon Buckner Jr. ordered one RCAF Bolingbroke aircraft to be based at Yakutat Army Air Base and fly daily [when weather permitted] patrols to Cordova and return. These patrols began on 9 September 1942, and I believe the No. 8 [BR] Squadron Bolingbroke was serial #9111. This serial number first appears in Daily Diary 20 October 1942.

This RCAF photo captures No. 8 Squadron Bolingbroke #9048, one of ten which flew patrols from Elmendorf Field to Kodiak, Cordova, Alaska, and return. The last No. 8 Squadron patrol from Yakutat Air Base was Bolingbroke #9111 on 2 November 1942.

Yakutat Army Landing Field [official title] construction was completed on 15 June 1943, with two 7,500 ft. concrete runways, operation buildings, storage for aviation gasoline, oil serving pits, facilities for radio communications, and one steel hangar, 118,316 square feet for repairs or storage. The living quarters consisted of over three-hundred buildings, and a mess hall for feeding 2,000 personnel. Designed originally in 1940 as an advanced Army Air Field for supporting pursuit and heavy bombers against the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians, it cost ten million to construct and was never needed. For one year, June 1942 until June 1943, Yakutat Army Landing Field was a vital auxiliary airfield for refueling, repairs, and staging area, for hundreds of American and RCAF aircraft bound for Elmendorf Field, Alaska. For the RCAF, Yakutat became home, the only refueling base, and rest area for “Y” and “X” Wing Bolingbroke’s that flew six to ten hour patrols protecting the coast of the Gulf of Alaska, U.S.A.

This image taken in April 1944, shows the massive number of tents, and buildings which were constructed in area marked on map as 1200, never used, and most were just given to the Tlingit natives in 1948.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo looking north-west to seaplane base 1943.

Construction images taken by 807th Engineers Aviation Company showing their seaplane ramps at Annette Island, [above] and Yakutat Navy base in Yakutat Bay, Alaska, June and July 1943.

No. 8 [BR] Squadron Bolingbroke #9048 flew patrols from Elmendorf Field, Kodiak, and Cordova, Alaska. The outer yellow RCAF roundel ring was ordered painted black by Major Gen. Norman Sillin on 12 June 1942, and clearly shows in this image. The squadron two code letters “YO” were removed on 22 October 1942. The first Bolingbroke to fly a patrol from Elmendorf Field, Alaska, became #9026 on 13 June 1942. Bolingbroke #9048 flew her first patrol on 15 June, as follows:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo of Kodiak, Alaska, the main refueling point for RCAF Bolingbroke aircraft flying patrols from Elmendorf Field, June to November 1942. For some reason, the RCAF Daily Dairy for “X” Wing at Elmendorf Field never recorded the aircraft serial numbers for each patrol, and it can only be estimated Bolingbroke #9048 flew at least forty to sixty patrols from 15 June to 16 November 1942.

A Brief history of RCAF #9048 before it is gone forever and forgotten

Taken on strength by RCAF at Longueuil, Quebec, 8 October 1941. Flown to No. 11 Technical Detachment, Montreal, Quebec, and modified for Reconnaissance patrols. 26 October 1941, flown by pilot’s S/L C.A. Willis, F/Lt. J.K. MacDonald, and P/O H.H.C. Russell from Montreal to Sydney, Nova Scotia, taken on strength by No. 8 [BR] Squadron the eighteenth Bolingbroke. Flew anti-submarine [German U-boats] patrols until No. 8 Squadron ordered to Sea Island [Vancouver] B.C. with advance party leaving 19 December 1942. Aircraft departed Nova Scotia on 23 December and all had arrived at Sea Island by 13 January 1942. Bolingbroke #9048 arrived Sea Island, B.C., 2 January and flew her first anti-submarine [Japanese] patrol the following day, four hours. Seven more patrols were completed – 17 March 42, 20 April, 2,7,12,21 and 24 May 1942. The under surface of #9048 was never painted black like the other squadron aircraft, and it appears it was the aircraft flown by Flight Commander, S/L Russell. On 2 June 1942, departed Sea Island for Annette Island, Alaska, arrived 19:00 hrs. One of ten Bolingbroke’s which flew to Yakutat Army Air Base on 3 June 1942. Arrived at Elmendorf Field, Alaska, one of seven landed 7 June 1942. First anti-submarine patrol flown 15 June 1942, “A” on map, Anchorage [Elmendorf Field] to Portage Passage, to Gore Point, to Kodiak, and return. Continued to fly patrols in “A”- “B”- and “C” [Cordova Staging Field – below] sections on map of Gulf of Alaska, until 16 November 1942.

Beginning 16 November 1942, Bolingbroke #9048 began flying two patrols a day, [Red and Blue] detailed in orders, 200-mile radius from Anchorage.

With the Japanese being expelled from Alaska, No. 8 [BR] Squadron Bolingbroke aircraft returned south to Yukutat for fuel, then home to RCAF Sea Island, B.C., 4 March 1943. Last flight of #9048 was 3 June 1943, escort a flight of P-40 fighters from Sea Island to Annette Island, Alaska. Sent to No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at MacDonald, Manitoba, she joined 46 other Bolingbroke trainers until it closed 17 February 1945. Struck off charge by RCAF on 21 August 1946, she went to War Assets for disposal. Sold to a Canadian farmer and sat outdoors for twenty-five years, then sold to an American collector in California, and another thirty years in the heat, and finally gifted to Bristol Aero Collection in 2006. Today she is being restored as a Bristol Blenheim and her RCAF war history in Alaska will be forgotten and lost. You can go online and see her wearing RCAF yellow and the outline of her serial number. I know the British will take good care of her and possibly [I hope] mention a bit of her past glory days in Alaska, protecting the USA coastline wearing her badge of a “Bearded One.”

The last RCAF Bolingbroke aircraft to fly at Yakutat Landing Field came from No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron.

The last flight to Yakutat Landing Field by RCAF No. 115 [BR] Squadron took place on 7-8 June 1943, Bolingbroke # 9122. No. 115 Squadron returned to Patricia Bay, B.C., 21 August 1943, and the Bolingbroke Mk. IV history at war in Alaska had come to an end.

With the Northwest Staging Route and the Alaska Highway from Edmonton, Alberta to Fairbanks, Alaska, in full operation, Yakutat Landing Field was no longer required and by December 1943, personnel and equipment were being transferred to other American bases in Alaska. The airfield was officially placed on caretaker status in April 1944, and the seaplane base was officially closed on 22 July 1944. Yakutat Landing Field was declared surplus by the Army in December 1945, with the Civil Aeronautics Administration becoming responsible for maintenance and operations of the base area. In June 1948, War Assets Administration began to dispose of the 443 military buildings and only the large hangar remained. Today Yakutat airport still leaves a large “L” imprint on the landscape just like it did during WWII, a most welcome sight to pilots, the same as it was for the returning RCAF aircrews in 1942 and 43.

Brenda the balancing seal draft drawing was created by Walt Disney artist Hank Porter in late April 1940, and can be found on file at Walt Disney Archives, Burbank, California. The insignia color art was completed by artist Roy Williams, Van Kaufman, George Goepperm, or Edward Parks, and appeared in the 2 May 1940 issue of LIFE magazine as Alaska Defence Force, left. On 4 February 1941, the War Department changed the title to Alaska Defence Command and the Walt Disney original colors remained the same as shown on right. The Brenda Seal “A-D-C” insignia which flew with RCAF in Alaska under U.S. Command in “Y” and “X” Wings for one full year. Three different American styles and colors of the A.D.C. insignia appear on the internet, including one with a white seal chest, which possibly could be fake.

The Bloody Blenheim (PDF version)

Updated 6 November 2020

Typo on the name of the WSC-146 McLane in the PDF.

Research by Clarence Simonsen

This research is dedicated to all members of No. 115 [Fighter] and [B.R.] Squadron which numbered almost 300 Canadians in total. Photos would be appreciated to help preserve their historical past, there out there someplace. Thanks to denial by the U.S. Navy and the Russians, true Canadian RCAF WWII history was almost lost along with the actions of Bolingbroke #9118. Now, if we can just get any Canadian museum to save this true part of “Combat” history and paint one Bolingbroke correctly as 9118. Do Canadians have to drive to Pima Air and Space Museum to see their “Bloody” preserved past?


Bloody is mostly a British adjective word used to emphasize what they are saying, and it was spoken many times to describe the RAF Bristol Blenheim in the first two years of World War Two. During the British defeat in France in the months of May and June 1940, the RAF Blenheim suffered the highest loss rate, in operations of a similar size, that was ever suffered by the Royal Air Force, and that is the main and only reason for my title page name.

When the first Blenheim flew in 1935 it was capable of evading and out distancing the fixed wing undercarriage biplanes then in service with the RAF, and the bomber became a victim of British overconfidence based on the performance for the mid-1930s. Four years later the Blenheim was incapable of evading or fighting off the modern Bf109s and Bf110s of the German Luftwaffe. The 1939 sudden rise of the Luftwaffe was a remarkable German achievement, which has been detailed in hundreds of books, videos, aviation magazines and historical documents. The RAF Blenheim has best been summed up in one book “Tale of a Guinea Pig” by WWII pilot Alan Geoffrey Page. “For the RAF pilots sent to war in ‘Fairey Battles’ and “Blenheims” the best thing to say for them was a quiet ‘Amen.’

The Bloody Blenheim (PDF)

Text version without images

The “Bloody” Bristol Blenheim Bloody is mostly a British adjective word used to emphasize what they are saying, and it was spoken many times to describe the RAF Bristol Blenheim in the first two years of World War Two. During the British defeat in France in the months of May and June 1940, the RAF Blenheim suffered the highest loss rate, in operations of a similar size, that was ever suffered by the Royal Air Force, and that is the main and only reason for my title page name.

When the first Blenheim flew in 1935 it was capable of evading and out distancing the fixed wing undercarriage biplanes then in service with the RAF, and the bomber became a victim of British overconfidence based on the performance for the mid-1930s. Four years later the Blenheim was incapable of evading or fighting off the modern Bf109s and Bf110s of the German Luftwaffe. The 1939 sudden rise of the Luftwaffe was a remarkable German achievement, which has been detailed in hundreds of books, videos, aviation magazines and historical documents. The RAF Blenheim has best been summed up in one book “Tale of a Guinea Pig” by WWII pilot Alan Geoffrey Page. “For the RAF pilots sent to war in ‘Fairey Battles’ and “Blenheims” the best thing to say for them was a quiet ‘Amen.’

By 1939, the Blenheim Mk. IV long nose looked very impressive to the people of Britain painted on a British Post Card, which soon proved to be a lot of war propaganda.

The Blenheim Mk. IV was introduced to the public on 20 May 1939. Four months later the Fairey Battle, and Bristol Blenheim went to war. Amen.

At 11:00 am on the 3 September 1939, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced on radio that Great Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Thirty minutes before the speech, the first RAF operation in World War Two was undertaken by F/O McPherson in a Bristol Blenheim, [serial N6215] followed the next day, 4 September 1939, with the attack by fifteen Blenheim bombers on Nazi Germany naval bases at or near Wilhelmshaven.

The British people soon learned the first RAF Blenheim raid on Wilhelmshaven, Germany, took place at 6 p.m. while the crew of a pocket battleship where caught hanging out their wash. The British Blenheims roared in at 100 feet, letting their bombs go as the Germans scurried to their stations. One bomb fell amidships, smashing the plane catapult and seriously damaging the vessel. This drawing of the raid appeared in the Illustrated London News, and the British people were happy, just the performance they expected from the world’s fastest medium bomber.

This RAF propaganda drawing was in fact far from the truth. When the first five Blenheims returned they reported they could not find Wilhelmshaven, and then later a lone RAF Blenheim from No. 107 Squadron returned, the other nine had been shot down by the Germans, with the loss of twenty-four aircrew members. This was the beginning of a long pattern for future “Bloody” Blenheim operations.

The Bristol Aeroplane Company followed up with this impressive poster of the first raid on 4 September 1939. Pure British war propaganda, and the Blenheim fell victim in many ways, amazingly this print is still selling on the internet today. It can be ordered on tea cups, mugs, t-shirts, shopping bags, etc. and this war propaganda art is still confusing the main-stream average internet historian.

On 9 October 1939, American magazine LIFE reported the truth to Canada and U.S. strongly pointing out the conflicting reports about the Blenheim attacks on Germany.

This was Blenheim Mk. IV serial N6184, and much more can be found on many websites.

During the Battle of France, 10 May to 25 June 1940, the RAF Blenheim IVs and Fairey Battle Mk. Is suffered crippling losses at the hands of the Luftwaffe, and both aircraft were withdrawn from further front line combat. Seven-hundred and thirty-nine Fairey Battle aircraft were shipped to Canada, where five-hundred and forty were assigned as trainers at Bombing and Gunnery Schools. This has been fully recorded in my history of No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mont Joli, Quebec, where over one-hundred Fairey Battles flew. It became obvious to the RAF that the Blenheim Mk. IVs could not survive unless they had a fighter escort protection, and that was not always possible. When fighter escort was unavailable, daylight Blenheim operations were abandoned if the cloud cover was less than seven tenths. Another problem were the propellers which could not be feathered in flight, and the wind milling effect added drag to the wing and made the bomber difficult to control. The Blenheim IVs were best at night attacks against German occupied ports and installations in the British frantic attempts to disrupt the German planned invasion of the United Kingdom.

The German magazine Der Adler [The Eagle] was published before and during the Second World War, the main purpose was to publicize the growing might of the Luftwaffe to Europe. From 1939 to 1942, the magazine was also published in English, specifically designed to encourage the isolationism in the United States of America, and emphasizing the world airpower of Nazi Germany. Another German magazine appeared in 1940, titled Signal, it was supervised by Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda and published in twenty-five languages. Today this magazine is a living record of Nazi Germany in a highly illustrated format of colour and B & W photos, line graphs, drawings, and persuasive colour war paintings. Many Nazi magazines used different German artists and I consider the work of Hans Liska to be the finest. He served at the front lines along side the German troops and captured in sketches and water colours stunning images of the German forces in live action. [Look at his art online today] His paintings are in fact an historical document which is now becoming a great source for students and aircraft enthusiasts alike. Der Adler was a mix of straight war reporting and Nazi propaganda showing Goering’s Luftwaffe dominated the skies over Europe, and for the first two years Germany in fact did just that.

Signal was the most widely circulated magazine in WWII, with three million copies sold in 1943, most outside Germany. Twenty thousand copies in English were still selling until the English and French editions were closed with the liberation of Paris in 1944. Today it is unknown how many original German war paintings survived the war, and if they did, most are hidden away in small collections by the rich and famous. Today many issues of WWII German magazines are appearing for sale on the internet, but to conduct proper research an average historian would need bags of money to purchase. Many sketches and water colour art paintings of Austrian born Hans Liska [1907-1983] still remain hidden on pages of Der Eagle and Signal magazine collections.

Liska was dispatched to the front lines of German combat and for that reason most of his sketches and paintings were ground forces of the Heer [Army] but all branches of the Wehrmacht [Armed Forces] were included in his overall work. I believe most of this art was lost during the final days of the war and hope someone [German] will make an attempt to save what remains in German magazine issues. His record of markings, serial numbers, badges, and even Luftwaffe aircraft insignia are important to future historical research.

The destruction of RAF aircraft by the Luftwaffe appeared in limited editions, by different artists, scattered among stories featured in both magazines where ever the German editor decided to place them, part fact and part propaganda.

Artist Liska sketch in the pouring rain as a German Luftwaffe ground crew member attempts to keep dry under a Me110 engine, Signal magazine 1940.

This sketch appeared during the Battle of Britain where a squadron of Luftwaffe Do17 bombers attack British shipping. The surprise is the Luftwaffe emblem badge was in fact correct, no censorship as seen in insert. IV[ERG]/KG3 carried the badge of green hairy caveman with a trident in his right hand and a 500 lb. German bomb under his left arm. Even the jousting shield background is correct, with a top right curl. ERG was Erganzungs-Fernaufklaugs Gruppe, [Long-Range Reconnaissance] and KG was Kampfgeschwader [Bomber Group].

Hans Liska created many war time ads for Mercedes-Benz, which he continued to paint in postwar era. Today his rare originals sell for 5-6 thousand American dollars. Rich Americans just seem to love this Nazi stuff.

“Jagd in der Nacht” [Hunt in the Night] appeared in the October 1940 issue of Signal magazine.

A British Blenheim Mk. IV has bombed a target in German occupied France and a Luftwaffe Bf 109 is attacking in the dark. With both engines ablaze the three-man crew are leaving the Bloody Blenheim and will become prisoners of war. In the background you see the German search lights and the raising smoke and dust from the target area. This painting appeared in one million issues in twenty-five languages, and the British called it pure German propaganda. German artist Liska was posted to operational Luftwaffe units in France and it is possible his painting came from actual pilot reports. Fact – too many Blenheims were lost to enemy fighters in 1940, when the wing tanks were set on fire. Only the Blenheim main fuel tank was self-sealing, while the wing tanks remained non self-sealing, a death trap for many RAF aircrews.

In April 1918, the Royal Air Force introduced a new system of naming British aircraft, which remained in effect until 1932, when more appropriate names were allowed. RAF Heavy bombers were now named after inland towns in the British Empire, Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax, and Avro Lancaster. The new medium bomber was named for the Duke of Marlborough’s 13 August 1704, victory at the Battle of Blenheim, during the Spanish Succession. Other RAF medium bombers had been named for places in France, Boulton Paul Bobolink, Airco Amiens, and Vickers Vimy. By 1942, the RAF Blenheim had found a new life as a radar equipped night-fighter, maritime patrol bomber, and aircrew trainer aircraft.

This ad appeared on inside cover of Empire Air Day 20 May 1939.

In Canada the great Depression had ruined the beginnings of any aircraft industry, and now the Canadian government decided the RCAF would be built on British type aircraft. Nobody seemed to understand bringing aircraft, guns, bombs, and instruments by ship from U.K. in time of war posed a problem, when American aircraft and products were right next door. This is fully detailed in the best book “The Creation of a National Air Force, by W.A.B. Douglas, Part One Between the Wars. In 1935, Canada ordered six Westland Wapiti bombers and four Blackburn Sharks from the U.K., followed in 1936 with five Supermarine Stranraer, all being WWI type open cockpit aircraft with unimpressive flight performance. Contracts were next obtained and Canada was happily constructing these British obsolete military aircraft, which presented no deterrent to the most faint-hearted enemy attack. In 1937, the Liberal government provided more lavish defence spending for RCAF aircraft and that is how Canada received the Bristol Bolingbroke and the Lysander, more obsolete British aircraft. Until England went to war in 1939, the RAF had for the most part, been trained on a generation of World War One aircraft and techniques from the past. The most serious unknown Canadian problem being that RCAF officers sent to Britain received this same outdated training in obsolete aircraft, and now Canada began manufacturing these same obsolete British aircraft. Its recorded page by page in the history books, all true, so political.

In 1937, the Canadian Government issued a license contract to construct the British Blenheim Mk. I and IV aircraft [Type 149] at Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. in Quebec, Canada. American owned company, French-Canadian constructed, [3,900 employees] while the British name “Bristol” must be retained in the original contract.

The original 1937 Longueuil, Quebec, plant [yellow] located 128 miles East of Ottawa, Ontario, was first expanded to accommodate the new production line, and the Canadian manufactured Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. I was born. The first eighteen aircraft were more British than Canadian, constructed with British instrumentation and other equipment shipped from U.K. The Canadian Bolingbroke was not an extension of the British Mk. I Blenheim bomber but developed as a British Coastal Command Reconnaissance Bomber to replace the obsolescent Avro Anson. British land-based maritime patrol aircraft were mostly named for British naval explorers – Lockheed Hudson [Henry Hudson], Avro Anson [George Anson], and Bristol Beaufort [Francis Beaufort]. This new type 149 extended nose aircraft first flew 24 September 1937, released to the RAF as the Bolingbroke Mk. I in 1938, then during the first 1939 production run the name again reverted back to Blenheim Mk. IV bomber. The RAF record the naming for a small Lincolnshire village [Bolingbroke] where King Henry IV [Henry of Bolingbroke] was born in 1399. The RCAF retained this British name or perhaps, as has been suggested, named it for the east coastal community of Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia, which is also possible. The RCAF officially named the American built Douglas “Digby” land-based aircraft and Canadian built “Canso” Flying Boat both for coastal communities in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The construction of the first four Bolingbroke’s began in 1939, and eighteen would be completed in the first production block, with the designation Bolingbroke Mk. I, II, and Mk. III, serial numbers #702 to #719. A good number of these early production airframes were used for experimental and development by Fairchild. Fifteen would be taken on strength by No. 119 Squadron [marked with yellow serial], seven were later passed on to No. 115 Squadron.

Two of these Mk. I aircraft would be used by the Canadian Government and the RCAF for press coverage as special presentation bombers for Canada.

The original first built Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. I serial 702, had been equipped with attachment points for floats but they were never fitted. Aircraft test flights began at the Quebec plant on 3 November 1939, civil pilot Mr. Lymburner and RCAF test pilot S/L Wray, 45 minutes. Accepted by the RCAF, and taken on charge 15 November 1939, it was next ferried to RCAF Test and Development Est. at Rockcliffe on 16 November. At 17:00 hrs, 17 November 1939, S/L Wray piloted the first Canadian built Bolingbroke Mk. I, serial #702, test flown for 25 minutes in front of senior officers and officially turned over to the RCAF at Station Ottawa. RCAF Press photo [below] taken on 22 November 1939, just minutes before S/L Wray took #702 on her very first high speed test in front of Senior RCAF officers, and the Canadian Press, the speed was not recorded in the Daily Diary. [probably around 260 m.p.h.]

This special RCAF event and aircraft images were published in many Canadian magazines, newspapers, and even aviation collector cards.

Test and Development Flight [RCAF Rockcliffe, Ontario] main test pilot S/L Wray signing the RCAF trial book after the fly-over ceremony at RCAF Ottawa, 17 November 1939. On this date, the bomber went to RCAF Test and Development Establishment at Rockcliffe, remained until 5 December 1939, then returned to Fairchild where it crashed on 20 August 1940. Repaired at factory cost, #702 was assigned to No. 8 [BR] Squadron on 18 November 1940 and received the code letters YO-A. Damaged in a Category “C” accident on 31 May 1941, at RCAF Sydney aerodrome. 1940-41 flew with No. 119 Squadron as DM-A and later No. 147 [BR] Squadron at Sea Island, [Vancouver, B.C.] Scrapped on 5 April 1944.

The first Squadron to receive a single Canadian Bristol Bolingbroke [serial #708] became No. 8 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron based at Sydney River Base, North Sydney, Nova Scotia, on 3 April 1940. Formed at Winnipeg, Manitoba, 14 February 1936, they moved to Rockcliffe, Ontario, as a photographic unit on 1 February 1937. Mobilized on 10 September 1939, they moved to war station Sydney, Nova Scotia, on 14 September 1939. Flying obsolete Northrop Delta Mk. II aircraft, Delta #673 failed to arrived at their new posting. F/Sgt. J.E. Doan and LAC D.A. Rennie became the first RCAF casualities of World War Two, and the crash site and bodies were not found until July 1958, north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. The two other WWI style obsolete RCAF aircraft being flown were the Fairchild 71 and Bellanca Pacemaker, making the arrival of the new Bristol Bolingbroke Bombers a huge step forward.

On 11 July 1940, a second presentation Bolingbroke #714 arrived at RCAF Station Ottawa, and two days later a special presentation was made to No. 119 [B.R.] Squadron by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice. This became the very first Canadian built Bolingbroke purchased by donations from the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, and the bomber was christened “Ida.” The bomber was taken on charge by Test and Development Est. at RCAF Rockcliffe, 11 July 1940, taken on charge by No. 119 [BR] at RCAF Station Yarmouth, 18 July 1940, delivered by F/Lt. Wigle. This was the very first Bolingbroke to be delivered to No. 119 [BR] Squadron at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Bolingbroke #709 arrived later that same day.

Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and Her Royal Highness Princess Alice on 13 July 1940, Bolingbrook #714 ceremony at RCAF Ottawa, Ontario. Special guest His Excellency, Governor-General, the Earl of Athlone.

The correct special aircraft nose dedication wording painted on Bolingbroke Mk. I, serial #714, 13 July 1940, RCAF Ottawa.

A Bolingbroke replica of this aircraft has been under restoration at Hamilton Warplane Heritage for the past thirty-years, and will be a most welcome addition to their vast collection. It is also a pure joy to read they will not fly this aircraft, as first intended, due to the fact it would cost around $500,000 to rebuilt the two engines. In 1940, it cost $100,000 to build this complete aircraft and that was the money gift collected from nickels and dimes donated by women from across Canada.

The Canadian Bolingbroke Mk I first entered RCAF Squadron service with No. 119 Squadron in July 1940, as a fighter aircraft, [not a bomber] but never designated such. Many problems faced No. 119 Squadron at Yarmouth, N.S., lack of rations, no water, no fences for security, no sheets or pillowcases for 160 men, and then a sudden rise in Venereal disease. The C.O. read the Station Orders regarding V.D. “protective measures” on the morning parade, and then read the names of several local ladies who were suspected of spreading the sexual infection. Two airmen fainted on the parade square, from Capt. Nora Bottomley, Canadian Armed Forces historian 1985. In mid-August the squadron were assigned their code letters “DM” and instructions for painting the fighter/bombers.

On 1 October 1941, an SOS was received from an USN aircraft which ditched 200 miles off the east coast and Bolingbroke #714 was dispatched with F/L P. H. Douglas as pilot and Sgt. L. C. Fulton as his navigator. They took off at 21:00 hrs and received a recall at 00:15 hrs. but never arrived at base on the estimated time of arrival. The navigator became lost and the crew flew around in the dark until shore lights were sighted, but fuel had become critically low. The pilot made a forced landing in the dark without engines running [no fuel] with aircraft wheels up. None of the four crew were injured but the famous presentation aircraft was seriously damaged. The crew walked for help and surprisingly learned they had landed at Greenland, New Hampshire, USA, just outside of Portsmouth. On return to base the red faced navigator received the nickname “Wrong Way Fulton.”

The 13 July 1940 presentation nose art was still painted on the nose.

The first correct markings of Bristol Bolingbroke MK I, [Fighter] aircraft #716 with No. 119 Squadron August 1940. Final Cat. “A” accident No. 115 Sqn. at Pat Bay, B.C. 30 January 1942.

The two-letter unit squadron codes were created by the RCAF in August 1939, and first appeared on aircraft in August 1940. The squadron two-letter code and single aircraft code letter were underlined with a solid white bar, identifying them as Home War Establishment aircraft. This marking remained in effect until 16 October 1942. The RCAF serial number was painted reverse white under main wing surface.

These Bolingbroke Mk. Is were all long range fighter aircraft, fitted with one Vickers K .303 cal. upper dorsal turret rear firing machine gun and one forward firing .303 cal. machine gun in belly gun packs. The first shipment of Browning machine guns, sights, and gun packs arrived on 14 September 1940, installed in Bolingbroke #709 on 23 September, and the 1st test firing took place on 26 September. These rare RCAF fighter gun pack photos must still be hidden away in the archives somewhere in Ottawa, but I never had the time or money to find them. This gun pack was fitted into the bomb bay of the RCAF Bolingbroke, author drawing below.

Bolingbroke Mk. I, serial 710, became the official RCAF fighter test aircraft assigned to Rockcliffe, Test and Development Est. on 8 June 1940 to 17 July 1940, returned to Fairchild for modifications. Back for extensive fighter testing including four .303 cal. machine gun belly pack testing 16 May to November 1941. A very nice photo of this test Bolingbroke Mk. I, with gun pack, can be found in the book “Canada’s Air Force” Vol. One by Larry Milberry, page 134, donated by David Thompson. The location is not noted, but I believe it was taken at RCAF Rockcliffe, Test and Development Est. after 16 May 1941. I believe these RCAF under-fuselage gun packs were obtained from England, the same as those used on the RAF Blenheim Mk. I [Fighter] aircraft in 1940. The British gun package contained four .303 machine guns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition, however for training the RCAF only installed one single forward firing machine gun, as recorded in the No. 119 Squadron Daily Diary. Test flying, front and rear gunnery training continued into March 1941. Bolingbroke #710 never served with any active RCAF squadron, but possibly was used by No. 119 Squadron for machine gun pack ground school training, transferred to Halifax Nova Scotia, 18 November 1940.

Imperial War Museum photo IWM107160 showing the belly gun pack on a Blenheim Mk. IV.

On 28 May 1942, Boley #710 was transferred to Western Air Command and placed into reserve storage on 25 November 1943. In the spring of 1944, the aircraft was flown to No. 3 Repair Depot, Vancouver, B.C., for scrapping or sale, her days were numbered. That’s where a second life began for #710, purchased by American film studio Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, [2 July 1944] for use in a new Hollywood movie called “Son of Lassie.” Saved from the very brink of scrap-pile oblivion the RCAF Bolingbroke became a feature player beside Peter Lawford and Lassie. The opening scenes in rich Technicolor preserve forever the real life of the Bolingbroke aircraft based at Patricia Bay, B.C., which Hollywood transformed into an operational RAF fighter base somewhere in England. The real RCAF base C.O. Group Captain B.D. Hobbs appears in flying scenes, and two real RAF veterans Wing Commander Eric Jones and pilot S/L Blair A. Fraiser have small speaking parts acting as flying instructors to Sergeant/Pilot Lawford. Flying over Norway, [Banff, Alberta], Bolingbroke #710 is hit by German flak and Peter Lawford is forced to parachute with Lassie in his arms, filmed over Patricia Bay, [15 August 1944].

Movie production began at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on 22 May 1944, then moved North to Banff National Park and Lake Louise, Alberta. [Which became Norway in the film] The German escape scenes were shot at Christopher Point in British Columbia and all the flying scenes were taken at RCAF Patricia Bay, B.C., 13 to 19 August 1944, using three Bolingbroke aircraft loaned from No. 122 [Composite] Squadron. Bolingbroke #9032, #9035 and #9068.

No. 122 Squadron was formed as a Composite unit at Patricia Bay, B.C., on 10 January 1942, and they were expected to perform a wide variety of menial tasks for the RCAF, flying an obsolete collection of British designed aircraft, Blackburn Shark, Westland Lysander, and ten Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft. For RCAF Senior Officers VIP flights pilots flew modern American Grumman Goose and a Canadian Noorduyn Norseman float aircraft. They soon earned the nickname “Flying Joe Boys” from other RCAF units and that was not appreciated by many members, so they applied to Walt Disney Studios for a new unofficial insignia and name. The Disney Artist’s at Burbank, California, were producing hundreds of Air Force insignia for units around the world and they just picked a character that seemed to fit the functions of the unit who sent in the request. When the new RCAF insignia arrived it featured a silver Knight riding a white winged horse and the name “Flying Nightmares.” The new name fit, as a few of the pilots had been involved in mishaps which caused nightmares for the RCAF brass, so the squadron loved it, plus it was in fact rare official Walt Disney designed nose art.

The Hollywood Studio directed painting of the four “Flying Nightmares” Bolingbroke aircraft took place on 13 August 1944, as recorded in their No. 122 Daily Diary.

The Bolingbroke movie star #710 was given the factious code letters DA-H and received a Canadian Maple Leaf roundel nose art painting. The three borrowed No. 122 Bolingbroke received painted code letters DA-D, DA-F and DA-J.

Take offs, landings, and other ground shots were all taken on 14 August 1944. Bolingbroke Mk. I serial #710, [above] was in fact owned by MGM studios and the other three were loaned from No. 122 Squadron, original “Flying Nightmares” aircraft in wartime west coast of B.C.

On 15 August 1944, the sequences of a Bolingbroke flying through simulated German Flak was filmed around Patricia Bay. These flying scenes were piloted by F/O H.R.K. West from Quebec City and his gunner P/O C.N. Kendall, flying Bolingbroke #9032, seen in film as DA-D.

These flying scenes [Boley #9032] are worth watching a number of times as you can see these RCAF pilots were truly a professional group of “Flying Nightmares.”

Just before the final shots were taken [19 August 1944] a special wing parade was held attended by AVM F.V. Heakes, AOC of Western Air Command. MGM Studios presented a cheque for $1,000 to the RCAF station and GC Hobbs received a new station mascot, a female pup from Lassie, named “Miss Patricia.” T

he first RCAF No. 119 Squadron [B.R.] operation took place on 16 March 1941, providing escort for HMS Ramilles. Three months later the RCAF were attempting to form more squadrons for the protection of Canada, [Home War Establishment] but they faced a shortage of fighter aircraft, and that is how No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron was reborn flying Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. I and Mk. IV fighter aircraft with four-.303 cal. belly gun packs. Rare forgotten RCAF history.

No. 15 [Fighter] Squadron originally was an Auxiliary unit formed at Montreal, Quebec, 1 September 1934. On 15 November 1937, they were renumbered No. 115 Squadron and called to full-time duty as Canada went to war 10 September 1939. Their RCAF personnel were absorbed into No. 1 [Fighter] Squadron at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on 27 May 1940, and No. 115 was then disbanded the following day. On 31 July 1941, the RCAF decided to re-form No. 115 Squadron [Order #20] and they became No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron located at Rockcliffe, Ontario, on 1 August 1941.

On 11 August 1941, all of the Bolingbroke Mk. I [Fighter] aircraft in No. 119 Squadron had been converted with under fuselage four .303 cal. gun packages, and they were transferred to No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron in Rockcliffe, Ontario. Fighter training began including front and rear gunnery live firing exercises. The four .303 cal. machine guns’ belly pack reduced the Bolingbroke airspeed by 37 M.P.H. to around 220 M.P.H. On 15 October 1941, No. 115 Squadron was transferred to Patricia Bay, British Columbia, for coastal protection and conversion to the newer Bolingbroke Mk. IV [Fighter] aircraft. Nine Bolingbroke Mk. I fighters were flown across Canada to Pat Bay B.C. arriving 18 October 1941, serial #704, 705, 708, 709, 711, 712, 715, 718, and 719. Conversion to the new Bolingbroke Mk. IV fighters began on 19 November 1941, when six Mk. Is were flown out to Lethbridge, Alberta, [four] and Jarvis, Ontario, [three 705, 712, and 718] and Bolingbroke #9051 arrived at Pat Bay. By the end of December, No. 115 squadron had eleven new Bolingbroke Mk. IV fighters on strength at Patricia Bay, B.C.

This RCAF image [PA140638] taken 28 January 1942, shows No. 115 Squadron Bolingbroke Mk. IV [Fighter version] aircraft all installed with four-gun .303 cal. Browning machine gun belly packs. They had sixteen Boley Mk. IV on strength at Pat Bay, B.C., seven appear in this image. Boley #9059 was taken on strength by RCAF 5 December 1941, arrived with No. 115 Squadron on 23 December 1941, assigned code BK-J. The next aircraft #9060 arrived 4 January 1942, would have a Cat. “A” accident on 6 June 1942. The third aircraft #9122 arrived on 5 January 1942 and still wears sky blue painted under surface, the others were all matt black. The majority of Bolingbroke Mk. IV [eighteen] assigned to No. 115 Squadron came from serial numbers 9118 to 9178, and fourteen of these would serve in Alaska first as twin-engine fighter aircraft, [until 22 June 1942] a rare forgotten part of RCAF Alaska WWII history. Original fourteen to arrive Annette Island, Alaska, on 5 May 1942 – #9030, #9057, #9059, #9118, #9119, #9120, #9122, #9125, #9137, #9140, #9143, #9150, #9154, and #9157.

The first all-Canadian production block of 151 Bolingbroke aircraft were designated the Mk IV and they were constructed in serial numbers 9001 to 9151, with 905 h.p. Mercury XV engines, and American-built instruments and other internal North American equipment.

A number of aircraft in this production block were modified with different engines and propellers and predesignated Mk. IV-W on the records. These fifteen were built with American [825 h. p.] Pratt and Whitney Junior Wasp engines. The Bolingbroke’s were primarily assigned to RCAF Bomber Reconnaissance units and flew anti-submarine patrols along both Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of Canada. Simonsen work sheets with Bolingbroke Mk. IV serial numbers 9001 to 9076, record all the aircraft assigned to RCAF No. 8, No. 115, and No. 119 Squadrons.

The sudden and surprise entry of Japan into the war, with such a crippling attack on the U. S. naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor, quickly changed the plans of the RCAF Home War Establishment. In March 1942, as a result of heavy losses in the Pacific and the lack of immediate reinforcements for the American troops in Alaska, an agreement was signed where the RCAF would assist in the defence of Alaska, under U.S. Air Force Command. A decision was made by RCAF H.Q. to form “Y” Wing, consisting of one Fighter Squadron and one Bomber Squadron, based at Annette Island, Alaska. This decision was based on the fact 50% of all the American war and construction materials were being shipped through Prince Rupert, B.C. and its defence was most vital to Alaska and Canada. Annette Island was situated 75 miles N.W. of Prince Rupert and patrol aircraft could also cover the most important air transport coastal [panhandle] route to main land Alaska. On 11 April 1942, No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron received orders to prepare for movement to Annette Island, Alaska. The O.C. and Flight Officer flew to Annette the following day and the advance party arrived on 21 April. The main force arrived by ship on 27 April and began to set up tent camp.

Following Japan’s sudden entry into the war, the RCAF authorized the formation of ten fighter units and six bomber reconnaissance units. In mid-May 1942, new two-letter squadron code letters were issued, and No. 115 [Fighter] Sqdn. located at Annette Island received new code “UV”. The old letters “BK” were removed from the twin-engine Bolingbroke fighters in Alaska.

The first flight of six Bolingbroke Mk. IV [Fighter] aircraft arrived at 18:00 hrs 5 May 1942, followed by seven more at 18:50 hrs. The fourteenth and last Bolingbroke landed at Annette Island at 20:00 hrs and RCAF history was made. RCAF photo below first flight at 18:00 hrs.

Under command of S/L E. Ryeno, his fourteen Bolingbroke [two-engine fighters] were all fitted with a belly-gun-pack of four forward firing machine guns. All aircraft were in factory markings, RAF Dark Green and tan Light Earth upper markings and new painted matt black under surfaces, as seen in the above photo. The far Bolingbroke #9122 was still painted in sky blue under wing markings and her belly gun pack outline can be seen below the wing. Boley #9122 arrived with No. 115 Squadron on 5 January 1942, the aircraft of S/L Ryeno, which later flew in No. 4 Training Command until 22 February 1945. Why this single Bolingbroke [Fighter] was never under surface painted in matt black is unknown, possibly just to identify this aircraft as the Commanding Officer’s.

This British Blenheim internet photo gives a very good image of what RCAF Bolingbroke #9122 four-gun belly pack looked like in under surface sky blue colors. [internet photo]

This image shows the four-gun belly pack on the camouflage Bolingbroke #9059 of No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron. Boley #5095 was taken on strength by RCAF 5 December 1941, arriving at Pat Bay, B.C. with No. 115 on 13 January 1942. The two squadron letters “BK” with outlined bar were ordered removed in mid-May 1942, at Annette Island, Alaska. No. 115 were assigned new squadron code letters “UV” end of May, but I don’t believe they were ever painted on the aircraft. Converted to a target tow 3 August 1944, flew last with No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery at MacDonald, Manitoba.

RCAF Western Command recognized the Bolingbroke fighters of No. 115 Squadron were vulnerable, slow, [220 M.P.H.] and not a very good fighter aircraft, but in fact they had nothing else. The 1935 British Stranraers, British Shark floatplanes and Canadian built Hurricane fighters were all obsolete, and No. 8 [BR] Squadron sixteen Bolingbroke’s were the only effective submarine strike force on the whole west coast of Canada. The only modern fighter aircraft were American built Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks, which were pried from American hands thanks to Major General H. H. Arnold. The Bolingbroke [Fighter] aircraft of No. 115 Squadron became the first Canadian force ever based in United States territory to assist directly with American defence of their homeland, 5 May 1942. A special distinction which also created many unusual problems, some funny and others very serious. The U.S. Secretary of State declared all the RCAF personnel ‘distinguished foreign visitors’ which granted free entry for all Canadian goods and supplies arriving by ship. At first No. 115 Squadron flew fighter air defence of Prince Rupert and covered the many water approaches, from 5 May until 22 June 1942.

No. 115 [Fighter] official orders dated 18 June 42, they became a Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron on 22 June 1942. The fourteen Bolingbroke four machine gun packs were removed and B.R. training began the following day. The original gun packs might still be in the muskeg at Annette Island today. It cost time and money to transport fourteen gun packs 563 miles south to Patricia Bay, B.C., during time of war and they were now war junk, never to be used again.

Over the passing years the RCAF Bolingbroke Mk. IV [Fighter] aircraft have been both lost in history and lack of photos showing correct aircraft markings. This Simonsen research work sheet was completed for a painting and I believe this to be close to correct fighter markings used in Alaska May-June 1942. Below are British RAF colours, the RCAF were darker in shade and brighter in colour, but I leave that up to the modeling world, the true experts who care.

Canada used the basis of the British Air Ministry and associated technical standards as a starting point for the RCAF. In 1938, the Canadian Department of Defence accepted the RAF Temperate Land Scheme two color upper surface camouflage of Dark Green and Light Earth colouring with an undersurface finish of Sky Blue for both land and sea-based aircraft. All of the Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft built by Fairchild Aircraft Division in Quebec, [above] were painted in the same RAF camouflage example known as Pattern No. 2, for all Twin Engine Monoplanes of less than 70’ wingspan. [The Bolingbroke had a 56’ 4 “wingspan] The painting of roundels followed the RAF in regard to composition and proportions but the Bolingbroke roundels were painted on the outboard wingtips both upper and lower positions. The fuselage type AI roundel was red, white, blue, and yellow, and this outer yellow ring were ordered [12 June 1942] to be painted over in black during U.S. Alaskan operations.

From the Fairchild factory RCAF ferry pilots delivered the new Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft to No. 115 Squadron at Patricia Bay, B.C. Boley #9051 was the first to arrive on 19 November 1941, followed by eight on 23 December, two more on 26 December 1941 and #9050, 9057, and 9120 arrived on 3 January 1942, #9060, 9118, and 9120, came the following day. Bolingbroke #9123 and 9122 landed on 5 January and the last two arrived from Montreal on 13 January 1942. By the end of the month they had sixteen Bolingbroke Mk. IV [Fighter] aircraft on strength and eleven were painted and ready for operations. Eleven [or more] of these fighter aircraft were painted RCAF Matt Black on the complete undersurface and large white serial numbers were painted, half cord wing size reverse, under each wing. This was a feature of RCAF aircraft marking which began in August 1940, and used on all operational aircraft. In 1940, [war declared] the RCAF also established three distinct colour schemes for the thousands of aircraft flying in Canada, silver and white for communications and reconnaissance, yellow for BCATP trainers, and land scheme [Green and Earth] for operational fighters and bomber aircraft. Two-letter unit codes were first issued to RCAF Squadrons on 1 August 1939, and began appearing on aircraft in August 1940. All Squadrons belonging to units in the Home War Establishment were issued code letters which were painted on the fuselage sides and underlined with a bar of matching colour. This remained on No. 115 Bolingbroke Mk. IV fighters until end of May 1942, when all two-letter squadron codes “BK” were removed, replaced with “UV” but never painted on aircraft.

When No. 115 landed on Annette Island, 5 May 1942, only the North-South [left] runway was completed the East-West was still under construction. S/L A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, reported that the RCAF aircraft [Bolingbroke’s] were parked on each side of the runway, which was also used as a road way and large American trucks loaded with crushed rock thundered by all day long. This rock fill base was dumped into the muskeg and quickly sank into the water and mud. Each runway and twenty-seven aircraft hardstands were constructed twelve feet about the muskeg water line, covered with two feet of fine ½ inch crushed gravel, then packed by American civil engineers. On 24 June 42, S/L Nesbitt wrote –

Twelve hardstands were also constructed for the placement of Anti-Aircraft guns, manned by Canadians of the 112th Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. On 21 July 1942, the control tower was completed and commenced operations under control of the U.S.A.A.C., which had a different system from that of the RCAF. To add to general problems, on 4 September, the old RCAF Mess Hall caught fire and the kitchen was destroyed. At the end of September 42, the U.S. government cut overtime pay to the civil labourers, and most quite their jobs and returned to main land U.S. This caused delays in the much needed new hangar, just as wet, cold, winter had arrived in Alaska. The wind and rain caused major problems with the Bolingbroke ignition system and numerous engine failures resulted, with ten of fourteen aircraft grounded. No. 115 Squadron were issued new two-letter codes “UV” in July but unknown if any were ever painted on the aircraft in Alaska. It was not important, and war confusion ruled on Annette Island.

The base was constructed 6 miles South of Metlakatla, on the SW peninsula of Annette Island, at altitude of 50 to 100 ft. above sea level. Position Lat. 55 degrees 03’ N., Long. 131 degrees 35’ W.

This RCAF image PA140643 was taken around 15 June 1942, showing work on the N-S runway, and the maintenance area for the Bolingbroke fighters. The Americans in the foreground are jack-hammering the rock formation where the single hangar will be constructed beginning on 20th of the month. No. 118 [Fighter] Squadron were placed in tents at the intersection of the two runways on 21 June, right in this image, and No. 115 tents were erected to the right on 5 May, in the tree lined muskeg area, all being connected by wooden walkways. No American aircraft were based on Annette Island, but numerous C-47 transports and a few fighters stopped for fuel on a daily basis. On 20 June, the first five RCAF P-40 Kittyhawks of No. 111 Squadron touched down for fuel and stayed the night. The next morning fifteen P-40 Kittyhawks of No. 118 Squadron arrived and they had to find accommodation in a storeroom until their tent area was prepared. Next came the repainting of RCAF aircraft in Alaska.

The first modification of standard RCAF aircraft markings officially came on 12 June 1942, issued by U. S. Colonel Sillin, Officer Commanding Fighter Command. Col. Sillin served as a fighter pilot, flight commander, and squadron commander, before he moved to Alaska, 29 December 1941. Major Sillin organized and commanded the 11th Fighter Squadron in Alaska, including the creation of unit aircraft markings. This P-40E displays early [Lt. Blue] tail fin bar used by 11th Fighter Squadron and unofficial nose art of a mosquito flying over the Alaskan mountains.

On 12 May 1942, U.S. Combined Chiefs of Staff ordered the removal of all red circle and red and white rudder stripes from all American combat aircraft effective 15 May 1942.

This famous No. 111 Squadron image shows the correct marking change, 14” sky blue rear fuselage band, and outer yellow ring painted matt black. RCAF Squadron two-code letters ordered removed 17 October 1942, as seen below, under line white bar remained.

This RCAF image clearly shows the upper wing and fuselage outer ring painted in matt black and not dark green as some historian’s record.

When No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron arrived on Annette Island, 5 May 1942, they came under the same control [Major Norman Sillin] same as No. 111 Squadron P-40 fighters, so, the Bolingbroke’s fighter’s should have been painted the same markings. Right?

This original RCAF image [PMR 79-778] shows a clearer detail of markings.

In early 1942, as Japanese forces swept through South-East Asia, British aircraft camouflage and roundels changed in both colour shades and aircraft position. The most striking change became the upper Type “B” roundel, where the large red center was overpainted in light blue or RAF azure. They appeared the same as Japanese ‘meatball’ red national markings. The RCAF did nothing with upper wing markings until No. 115 and No. 8 Squadron Bolingbroke’s arrived in Alaska, and again, it was the Americans who ordered the repainting on the Canadian aircraft under their command. In May 1963, RCAF Roundel magazine published a history titled “The Aleutian Campaign” by RCAF Air Historian F/Lt. F.J. Hatch. When Major General W.O. Butler took over command of 11th Air Force in Alaska, 8 March 1942, one of his early orders were directed at the RCAF, to paint out all the upper Type “B” red circles, which had a confusing similarity to the red disc carried on all Japanese aircraft, also recorded in No. 115 Daily Diary.

The new formed No. 115 [Bomber Recon.] Squadron now flew eight new assigned patrol areas on the Gulf of Alaska coastline, with refueling bases at Juneau and Yakutat, Alaska.

Patrol flights began 13 May 42 with Bolingbroke #9060 as a fighter aircraft. Bomber Reconnaissance patrols began 1 July, no flying from 4 to 7 July due to weather conditions.

On 7 July 1942, No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron RCAF Bolingbroke #9118 made the first possible bombing of a Japanese [Soviet] submarine at 17:59 hrs., and a direct hit was scored. The U.S. Navy continued the attack and reported the sinking of one submarine R.O. 32. Postwar Japanese records did not mention any submarines lost around that date, and the training submarine R.O. 32 was still in service when the war ended. It appears the Canadians attacked a [spying] Soviet submarine, which were operating in the same area.

On 5 October 1942, Japanese submarine I-25 torpedoed and sank a Soviet Submarine L-16 North-West of the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, [Vancouver Island] in fact there were two Russian Subs L-15 and L-16 running side-by-side on the surface when attacked. The U.S. Navy denied the loss for the next fifty years, same as the sinking of the S.S. Coastal Trader by I-26 on 7 June 1942.

On 18 August 2008, Brendan Coyle wrote a story in the Vancouver Sun Newspaper – “Jim Johnson, an RCAF photo tech. stationed on Annette Island still had a photo of the attack taken by the crew of Bolingbroke #9118, showing the submarine and conning tower.”

The actions of Bolingbroke #9118 on 7 July 1942, were recorded by W/C A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, #C1327, in his own handwriting for a historical narrative of RCAF Wing Annette Island.

By 2009, [American/Canadian historians now suspect] No. 115 Squadron Bolingbroke #9118 damaged a Soviet submarine spying off the Aleutians. No.115 [B.R.] Squadron continued their patrols up and down the Alaska Panhandle under operational control of Western Air Command rather than the 11th U.S. Army Air Force. By July 1942, it was evident to both Americans and the RCAF, the real problem in Alaska was the supply and maintenance of British-designed Bolingbroke’s, when American spare aircraft parts were readily available. The shortage of Canadian felt oil filters and aircraft spark plugs grounded ten of fourteen Bolingbroke’s and the squadron never became fully operational. Other problems were the wet, cold, and freezing to death in tents, which is recorded in the Daily Diaries. Some Canadians went AWOL and others reported for duty drunk, [ninety-days detention and release from the RCAF] just to get out of Alaska. It’s all there in the Daily Diary records. Wing Commander McGregor wrote that Canadians were seen essentially as a convenient rear-area security force for the Americans, but they also recognized the old Bolingbroke aircraft played an important role in freeing other American units for the protection of Anchorage’s defence needs.

Like the British Blenheim the Canadian Bolingbroke was “Too Little Too Late” but she did the best she could. No. 115 Squadron returned to Patricia Bay on 21 August 1943 and converted to new American Lockheed-Vega Ventura G.R. Mk. V aircraft the same month. They were disbanded at Tofino. B.C. on 23 August 1944, and basically just forgotten by historians. The old Bolingbroke aircraft which flew in Alaska were transferred to RCAF Bombing and Gunnery schools where many became target tows, then sold for scrap, ending up in hundreds of farmer dumps. Today five or six old salvaged airframes have been restored back together and a new Bolingbroke once again grace’s many RCAF museums. Another group of scrap sections made their way across the pond and today form the basis of the original British Blenheim aircraft for British museum’s, constructed by French/Canadians in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada. The British never seem to mention that French connection in their history sheets.

Beginning on 19 November 1941, No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron received new Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft at Patricia Bay, B.C., and a total of sixteen were on strength by 5 January 1942. They were equipped with four-gun .303 cal. machine gun belly packs and trained as a RCAF fighter unit. No. 115 Squadron became the only RCAF Squadron to fly both the Bolingbroke Mk. I and Mk. IV twin-engine fighter aircraft, while both were based at Patricia Bay, B.C., rare forgotten history.

This image taken from the internet shows No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron, Bolingbroke Mk. IV, serial 9030 training over Patricia Bay early 1942. Ferried to Pat Bay on 23 December 1942, assigned code BK-U, fitted with four-gun .303 cal. bomb-bay belly pack and trained aircrew as a Bolingbroke Mk. IV fighter aircraft. Arrived at Annette Island, Alaska, 5 May 1942, removed code letters “BK” in mid May and converted to a Bomber Reconnaissance aircraft on 22 June 1942. I do not believe the new Squadron code letters “UV” were ever painted on the Bolingbroke B.R. aircraft, however that has never been proved. The following sixteen Bolingbroke serial numbers were taken on strength by No. 115 Squadron. Bolingbroke serial 9030 “U”, 9057, 9059 “J”, 9078, 9118 “V”, 9119, 9120, 9122, 9125 “W”, 9137, 9140 “P”, 9143, 9150, 9154, 9157, and 9159.

The proper place to preserve, educate, and display an RCAF Bolingbroke Mk. IV “fighter” flown by No. 115 Squadron should be where they operated, Patricia Bay, B.C. The British Columbia Aviation Museum, located at the old Pat Bay airport in fact own and display a beautifully restored Bolingbroke. They state their Bolingbroke is painted in the colours of No. 3 Operational Training Unit, which flew old British Lysander, Stranraer, and later twenty-eight Canadian built modern American Canso “A” flying boats. I think they mean No. 13 Operational Training Unit which in fact flew seven Bolingbroke trainers, serial 9033, 9034, 9036, 9037, 9013, 9042, and 9057. The serial number on their Bolingbroke is #9104, which in fact flew with RCAF No. 122 Composite Squadron [Flying Nightmare’s] at Pat Bay, B.C. They had ten Bolingbroke trainer’s serial 9032, 9035, 9040, 9068, 9084, 9088, 9090, 9092, 9094, and 9104 on strength. The Squadron code markings are shown as BK-L, which flew with No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron at Pat Bay and Annette island, Alaska. OK, they have three different aircraft painted as one, enough said. What do model builders think of that mess?

The only place you can find a properly painted RCAF Bolingbroke Mk. IV from No. 115 Squadron is at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, USA. They not only display a replica of Bolingbroke #9118, BK-V, but they explain the fact it was most likely a Soviet Submarine SHCH-138 which the Canadians bombed and damaged 7 July 1942. Many thanks to all the Americans involved in preserving our long forgotten past from RCAF Annette Island, Alaska.

Replica of Bolingbroke Mk. IV, serial 9118, Pima Air and Space Museum image from website.

Bolingbroke Mk. IV, serial #9118 was taken on strength by RCAF on 22 December 1941, delivered by No. 124 [Ferry] Squadron to Patricia Bay, B.C., on 4 January 1942. Assigned code lettering BK-V, fitted with a four-gun .303 cal. bomb bay belly pack, and became a [rare] RCAF twin-engine fighter aircraft.

y Diary from the War Room, RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa, record whAfter her minor accident repairs, Bolingbroke #9118 conducted training exercises and air to ground live firing of her four-gun belly pack. On 5 May 1942, #9118 arrived at Annette Island as a twin-engine fighter aircraft, code BK-V. In two weeks, mid-May 42, RCAF issued a new revised list of two-letter squadron code letters, and No. 115 Squadron were issued the letters “UV.” Due to the weather conditions on Annette Island, plus no hangar, it was not possible to paint on the new code letters. After 22 June 1942, all fourteen Bolingbroke fighters were converted to Bomber Reconnaissance aircraft and fitted with bomb racks to carry four American 250 lb anti-submarine depth charges. Flights in eight new patrol areas began on 1 July 1942, first patrol for #9118 was 2 July 1942, in areas U-4 and U-2 beginning at 09:30 hrs. Due to fog and rain weather conditions they were unable to complete their very first assigned patrol.

No patrols were carried out by No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron from 4 to 7 July due to bad weather. The WWII Dailat took place on 7 July 1942. At 11:58 Hrs a steamship reports sighting a submarine periscope at position 55.5 North 134 West, some 130 miles Northwest of the RCAF base at Annette Island, Alaska. Due to the weather conditions a submarine search was not launched until 14:17 hours when Bolingbroke #9125 took off, followed by #9118 at 16:56 hrs and #9140 at 17:05 hrs. Bolingbroke #9118 with Flight Sergeant William E. Thomas begin a sea search and Pilot Officer Leonard Shebeski spots a disturbance on the sea surface where the crew observe a submarine periscope, churning water, and puffs of white smoke. The submarine outline is over 100 feet long and submerged ten to twenty feet in the water. At a height of 40 feet the RCAF Bolingbroke drops her four American 250 lb anti-submarine depth charges and a direct hit is observed by two of the bombs. In five minutes a scum of yellow oil appears on the surface covering approximately 50 feet in diameter. The attack takes place at 17:59 hrs, or six hours after the first reported steamship sighting.

The RCAF on Annette Island contact the U.S. Coast guard and the cutter WSC-146 McLane and patrol vessel YP-251 “Foremost” arrive on the last known location of the submarine. These American vessels conduct an 18-hour search and attack at which time the submarine comes to the surface once, then dives and a periscope is seen. At one point the submarine launches a torpedo at one of the American ships, and many depth charges are dropped. Later “flotsam resembling Rockwool comes to the surface which results in a claim of the probable destruction of an enemy submarine. The RCAF Dispatches mention the actions of the crew of Bolingbroke #9118 and they are credited with a shared probable sinking of an enemy submarine believed to be Japanese. For some reason the American’s record this as being Japan’s Ro.32, which still survived in August 1945. The incident is forgotten until 2008, then a photo taken by the crew of Bolingbroke 9118 showing the control tower of the submarine is published. The submarine appears to be a Russian type “Shchuka-class” medium size Soviet submarine built in large numbers and used in WWII. The Canadians bombed a real submarine and I do believe the U.S. Navy know much more about this sinking then they wish to release, even in 2020.

The Canadian reports show No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron RCAF Bolingbroke #9118, sighted, attacked, and damaged the Soviet Submarine Shchuka-138 which was reported missing on 8 July 1942. Other websites carry more information in regards to this incident, which is at least worth reading. The U.S. Navy did not wish to report the sinking of a Soviet [Allied] submarine and the Russians did not want to release the fact they were spying on U.S.A. At this time in history the United States were supplying Russia with aircraft, tug boats, ships, and billions of dollars of other war material. So, both sides shut up and only sixty-five years later the facts start to come together. The Russian word Shchuka means “Pike” and it now becomes clear the Canadian crew of Bolingbroke #9118 went Pike hunting on 7 July 1942, and they got a medium sized one, with a large red star on the conning tower. Now that’s a rare claim for RCAF fame.

In 2010, the U.S. Navy began to survey deep sea wrecks along their west coast, including the S.S. Coastal Trader, which is located in Canadian waters and still has 8,088 barrels of bunker oil on board. Look out B.C. coastline. They surveyed Soviet Submarine L-16 and I’m sure they also found Soviet Shchuka-138 and know the full hidden truth.

Bolingbroke #9118 continued her bomber reconnaissance patrols and on 21 September 1942, took off from Annette Island for what should have been operation number eighteen. Just after lift-off the aircraft lost an engine and made a forced landing one and a half miles from the end of the runway.

This Bolingbroke accident is described [above] by W/C A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, in his own handwriting and a photo of the crash site can be found in the excellent book “Canada’s Wings” Vol. One, by Larry Milberry, page 139. Three of the crew were injured with broken bones and flown to Sea Island, [Vancouver, B.C.] never returning to Alaska.

Original art by Cpl. Vincent Barwood, front cover RCAF Shovel Magazine, Coal Harbour, B.C. 13 January 1944. Serial number and code “V” added by author.

No. 115 [B.R.] Squadron returned to Patricia Bay, B.C., on 21 August 1943, where they converted to modern American Lockheed-Vega Ventura, then transferred to RCAF Tofino, B.C. on 17 March 1944. They received their official RCAF Lynx’s head insignia in January 1945, five months after they had been disbanded on 23 August 1944. The history of RCAF No. 115 Squadron spanned four complete war years, yet few photos appear. They flew 9680 operational hours and lost two aircraft in Alaska, two more in training, one killed and six missing, non-operational accidents. They should officially be credited with damaging one WWII submarine, most likely a spying Russian.

This research is dedicated to all members of No. 115 [Fighter] and [B.R.] Squadron which numbered almost 300 Canadians in total. Photos would be appreciated to help preserve their historical past, there out there someplace. Thanks to denial by the U.S. Navy and the Russians, true Canadian RCAF WWII history was almost lost along with the actions of Bolingbroke #9118. Now, if we can just get any Canadian museum to save this true part of “Combat” history and paint one Bolingbroke correctly as 9118. Do Canadians have to drive to Pima Air and Space Museum to see their “Bloody” preserved past?


Mouse before Moose No. 419 (draft PDF version)

Reseach by Clarence Simonsen

Dedicated to Ley Kenyon, this is my serious effort to document and preserve on original WWII RCAF aircraft skin, his forgotten “Canadian” No. 419 [Moose] Squadron nose art, where he painted the Mouse before the Moose.

Link to the PDF below.

Mouse before Moose No. 419

Text version without images

No. 419 Sqn.

RCAF 1942 -1944.

“The Mouse before the Moose”

The forgotten “Canadian” nose art painted by British Rear Gunner R.A.F. #112179 –  P/O   B. Ley Kenyon.

In 1984, the author was a volunteer with HMCS Drumheller Naval Reserve, involved in research, lectures and taking photos for local Navy Cadet events. In February 1984, [HMCS Drumheller Cadets] were the guests of CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, and we spent six special days living, learning, and touring the large Canadian Air Force training base. To my surprise, there was very little WWII aviation nose art history connected with No. 419 [Moose] Squadron in their base Archives, or at least that is what I was told. Three years later, I found myself conducting No. 419 [Moose] Squadron Nose Art research and that is how I made contact with WWII veteran RCAF pilot Jack McIntosh, from Calgary, Alberta.

Jack McIntosh was born in the town of Medicine Hat, Alberta, on 26 June 1922, his Scottish father was a member of the local Police Department, and played the bagpipes. Jack joined the local Militia [South Alberta Regiment] in the summer of 1938, followed by three weeks Army summer camp being held on the Sarcee military training area, located on the south western outskirts of the City of Calgary. As Canada went to war, Jack was hired by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada, but continued his Militia training, reaching the rank of a qualified infantry Sergeant in March 1941. At age nineteen, Jack decided to enlist and joined the RCAF on 30 June 1941, posted overseas on 15 April 1942, a new pilot in No. 419 Squadron, where he flew his first 2nd Dicky operation on 13 February 1943. After eighteen months of training, twenty-year-old pilot Jack McIntosh became the leader of his five or six man RCAF aircrew, and they were all older in age than their boss.

Jack explained on his third operation, 27 February 1942, they were shot up very badly and one German night fighter killed two of his aircrew [Sgt. A.D. Grogan, Flight Eng. and rear gunner Sgt. G.I. Dunbar] and wounded a third, [Sgt. A. Mellin], they were set on fire and he made a crash landing back at base. Jack continued: stating he was flying Halifax Mk. II DT619, the bomber of S/L D.Clark, [New Zealand] which was painted with a “Kiwi Bird on a Bomb” by aircrew rear gunner P/O Ley Kenyon, the squadron artist. That was the first time I heard the name of the 419 squadron artist, but Jack knew little about him, other than he pocessed great talent and even drew caracutures of the squadron senior officers.

On 6 May 1942, Jack and his crew air tested a new Halifax B. Mk. II Special serial JD114, and this became their aircraft code VR-O. After flying six operations, the crew decided to name their bomber and pilot Jack was asked to select the new name. He picked his home town of Medicine Hat, Alberta. The squadron artist then painted Walt Disney’s Goofy picking bombs from a hat which were dropped over Germany, and after each operation a new bomb was added. Jack never met or learned the name of the nose artist, however he believ it was Ley Kenyon, and for historical records, I believe that is correct. This drawing of Halifax JD114 proudly hung in the home of Jack McIntosh, and I snapped an image.

Over the next years I would often visit Jack and his wife Jan, where a great amount of Moose squadron information was obtained for my new upcoming book on RCAF Nose Art. I also painted the replica nose art of “Medicine Hat” which were donated to two RCAF aviation museum’s [Trenton, Ontario, and Nanton, Alberta] and one for the original pilot Jack McIntosh.

This scale replica painting on original Halifax skin from NA337, was donated to Karl Kjarsgaard, Vice-president of “The Halifax Aircraft Association” in 1998, original art was painted by P/O Ley Kenyon in July 1943. Location of nose art painting today unknown, as these panels intended for RCAF Trenton, Ontario, museum display, were given away to WWII RCAF senior veterans belonging to the Halifax Aircraft Association. This author nose art research involving No. 419 Squadron in fact began ten years earlier after my week long visit to CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.

In July 1988, No. 419 [Moose] Squadron “Canada-wide” two-day reunion was being held at Calgary, Alberta, and Jack McIntosh invited me as his guest. I can fondly recall standing beside Jack in the then Canadian Army Officer’s Mess special log building, constructed in the tree covered area on the Sarcee military training area. Jack proudly explained, this was where his first Army training began back in 1938, when he was only sixteen years of age. At this reunion, Jack introduced me to a very special “unofficial” RCAF Moose squadron historian, Mr. Arthur Herbert Vincent Elmer, known to all as Vince. Vince displayed five large No. 419 photo albums from his vast research collection, and they contained many new 419 early Halifax nose art images. Vince gave his permission, allowing me to make 35 mm copies and record the information attached with each photo in his historical special Moose Squadron Nose Art collection. Today his vast historical collection is part of the No. 419 [Moose] Squadron archives stored at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. The major part of my Ley Kenyon nose art collection came from the Vince Elmer collection, later painted as replica nose art on original WWII RCAF aircraft skins, and published here for the first time.

This WWII British map pin-points over 95 RAF airfields in use during the Second World War. No. 419 Squadron, RCAF’s third Bomber Squadron was born at Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, [yellow #70] on 15 December 1941.

Canadian Wing Commander J. [Moose] Fulton, [RAF/RCAF] DFC, assumed official duties of No. 419 Squadron on 21st December 1941, arriving from RAF Farnborough, England.

The first two Vickers Wellington Mk. IC aircraft arrived on the airfield on 4 January 1942, and eight were on strength five days later. The fifteen original aircraft serial numbers are as follows: A serial Z1145, B – X9748, C – Z1067, D – Z9920, E – Z1146 and Z8967, F – Z1053, G – Z9894, H – Z8981, N – Z9757, O – Z1083, P – Z1077, Q – Z1095 and Z1572, S – DV509.

The first operation to Best was flown on 11 January 1942, two Wellington aircraft serial X9748 and Z1145, followed on 15th of the month to bomb Hamburg, Germany, the same two Wellington bombers took part and Wellington “A” Z1145 crashed in the sea off Spurn Head. The first four No. 419 Squadron airmen missing in action.

From 1 to 5 February, No. 419 Squadron was grounded due to wet snowy weather, then on 6 February, four Wellington aircraft bombed Brest and all returned safely. S/L F.W.S. Turner and his crew flew Wellington Mk. IC on the raid, serial Z8981, coded VR-H, the other three were A – Z1091, N – Z9757, and P – Z1077.

L to R – 9 February 1942, S/L F.W.S. Turner, P/O K.E. Hobson, F/Sgt G.P. Fowler, F/Sgt. C.A. Robson, F/Sgt. N.G. Arthur, and F/Sgt. H.T. Dell. [RCAF Public Relations photo #PL7096] They would fly this same Wellington bomber to bomb Paris on 3 March 1942.

This well published image of No. 419 Squadron Wellington Mk. IC, [Type 423] covered conversion aircraft, serial Z1572, VR-Q, was one of four taken on charge 14 February 1942. No. 419 Squadron was on stand down due to wet snowy weather from 1 to 5 of February, and the first new Wellington Mk. III bombers began to arrive on 13 Feb. 1942. Four Wellington Mk. IC [type 432], arrived on 14 February, including VR-Q seen above, transferred from No. 75 New Zealand Squadron.  On 21 February 1942, the squadron became non-operational and intensive training began for conversion to the Wellington Mk. III aircraft. They had on charge Wellington Mk. III – three, Wellington Mk. IC – fifteen, and Wellington Mk. IC [type 423] – four. RCAF [Canadian] aircrew officers – thirteen, RCAF other ranks aircrew – eighty-five, RAF aircrew officers – seven and other ranks RAF – eleven. On 10 March 1942, W/C J. Fulton made a hand written entry in the squadron Daily Dairy, “It appears that Wellington IC’s were last used by 419 squadron on 10-3-42.” For some reason Z1572, VR-Q, remained on charge and flew twenty operations from 30 May 42 until late November, then went to No. 427 Squadron. She flew until April 1945, training aircrews at No. 16 O.T.U.

On 26 March 42, Flight Lt. D.L. Wolf assumed command of “B” Flight in No. 419 Squadron. A new Canadian squadron “nose art” era was about to begin, but nobody realized what was about to take place.

In January 1942, F/Lt. D.L. Wolfe was the new Captain of four sprog aircrew fresh from operational schooling at a Heavy Conversion Unit, and now their months of training and new-found aviation skills would be put to the real test. It was common knowledge their odds of survival were not very good, however the overall RCAF casualty figures were not posted and became a heavily guarded secret until late in 1944. Before a sprog aircrew were permitted to fly operations their skipper had to fly on one or more operation trips as “Second Dicky.” This was a British RAF term from the WWI days when bombers had two pilots and the co-pilot was called Second Dickey.

F/Lt. Wolf flew Second Dickey to Captain S/L Turner on 21 January 1942, and three of his aircrew Sgt. Pearce, Sgt. Goodwin, and Sgt. Morrison came along on their first combat operation. If the first operation was uneventful, no German fighter attacks, burning aircraft exploding in the air, or aircrew death, the C.O. would send the sprog crew on another introductory sortie over France or Germany. On 28 January 42, F/Lt. Wolfe [Second Pilot] and crew flew their second operational trip to Boulogne, Z1053 came home on one engine, an outstanding quality other twin-engine aircraft could not manage to do.

9 February 1942, image shows RCAF ground crew placing 303 cal. guns in Wellington Z1053, code VR-F, flown by F/Lt. Wolf that night, 10 February 1942. P/O Ley Kenyon flew his first RCAF operation in Wellington Z1053, 8 March 1942. [Vince Elmer collection 1988]

Bad weather delayed flying operations in February, 1-5 and again on 7-9 of the month, wet snow, clouds, and rain. The Wolfe crew flew Wellington Z1053 “F” on 10 February 1942, [above] then the remainder of the month was used for conversion flight training to the Wellington Mk. III which began arriving on 13 February. On 3 March 42, F/Lt. Wolfe and crew flew Z1053 “F” for the very last time, and conversion training continued. On 5 March, a new fair haired, slim, soft-spoken British air-gunner reported to No. 419 Squadron, P/O Bennett Ley Kenyon, RAF #112175. Born on 28 May 1913, in Kensington Church Street, above the family owned undertaking business, he was educated at Marylebone Grammar School. He loved the underwater life, swimming, snorkeling, photography, and painting in watercolors. Ley attended art schools in London and Paris, specialising in water colours, and even taught his favorite subject, water color design and shading. He was very mild mannered and while he fully understood his many talents, to others Ley appeared as being on the shy side. With the outbreak of war in September 1939, Ley volunteered for service in submarines of the Royal Navy, then was informed to go home and wait. Ley was called up as a lorry driver in the R.A.F. in 1940, re-mustered to Air Gunner in March 1941, and graduated with a commission of Pilot/Officer in October 1941. He was posted to RCAF Canadian No. 419 Squadron in late April 1942, flying his first operation 8 March, as rear gunner for F/Sgt. Fawcett, in Wellington Z1053.

Painted on original 1938 RCAF skin fabric [17” by 21”] from Fleet Fawn 7C, serial 123, RCAF #264, trained RCAF pilots at Camp Borden, 1939-1945.

On 10 March, Kenyon flew with Sgt. Foy in Wellington Z1077 [2nd Operation], and on the 25 March with F/Sgt. Shannon, in Wellington X3703 [3]. On 26 March, Flight Lieutenant D.L. Wolfe assumed command of “B” flight in No. 419 Squadron, and he assigned the new British gunner to his own aircrew, flying 28 March 42, in Wellington X3467 [4th Operation].

Op. #      Date                        Pilot                                       Aircraft Serial

5.         8 April 42                   S/L Wolfe [promoted]          Wellington X3711 “R”

6.         10 April 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3711

7.         12 April 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3711

8.         14 April 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3711

9.         22 April 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3711

10.       23 April 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3703             “S”

11.       28 April 42                 W/C Fulton                            X3711             “R”

12.       7 May 42                    S/L Wolfe                              X3486             “U”

Wellington X3486, VR-U, most likely painted with Donald Duck nose art in April 1942.

13.       8/9 May 42                P/O Cavaghan                                  X3715             “G”

14.       17 May 42                  S/L Wolfe                              X3360             “R”

15.       29 May 42                  S/L Wolfe                              X3360

16.       30 May 42                  S/L Wolfe                              X3404

17.       1 June 42                    S/L Wolfe                              X3360

18.       2 June 42                    S/L Wolfe                              X3360

19.       3 June 42                    S/L Wolfe                              X3360

20.       8 June 42                    S/L Wolfe                              X3360

21.       16 June 42                  S/L Wolf                                X3360

22.        25 June 42                S/L Wolfe                              X3360

23.       2 July 42                     S/L Wolfe                              X3360

24.       6/7 July 42                 S/L Wolfe                              X3360

25.       13 July 42                   S/L Wolfe                              X3360              “R”

On 1 August 1942, No. 419 was ordered to stand-down, and prepare for the movement of the complete squadron.

12 August 1942 from No. 3 Group, at Mildenhall, Suffolk, to No. 4 Group, Leeming, Yorkshire, 13 August to 17 August. Then on 18 August they moved to Topcliffe, Yorkshire, until 30 September, then on to Croft, Yorkshire, 1 October 1942 until 9 November 1942.

26.       13 October 1942        W/C M.M. Fleming DFC        X3659             “B”

W/C J. Fulton was killed in action 28 July 1942, [Wellington X3488, “H”] replaced by W/C A.P. Walsh, 5 August to 2 September 1942, killed in action. W/C M.M. Fleming assumed command on 8 September 1942 until 8 October 1942. Rear gunner Ley Kenyon flew Operation #11 with W/C Fulton and his #26 Operation with W/C M. M. Fleming.

Wing Commander John “Moose” Fulton, DFC, 1942, age twenty-nine.

W/C Fulton failed to return on 28 July 1942, Wellington X3488 “H” and his last message was –  “Fighters wounded 500.” The radio fix was ten miles of the Frisian Islands, and this German drawing gives some idea of the last moments of W/C Fulton and his crew.

The RCAF soon discovered that his artistic talents made Ley Kenyon an exceptionally good rear-gunner, able to recognise enemy aircraft in a split second. In August 1942, he was promoted to “Gunnery Leader” teaching aircraft recognition, gunnery instruction, and evasive tactics for escape from Germany if aircrews were shot down. Before going on combat operational squadron flights, sprog aircrews flew in various exercises designed to prepare them for the realities of operational flying. These operations were called “Bulls-eye” and took place over large British cities, where they learned how to avoid searchlights and night fighters. These crews also flew “Nickels” which required them to find a target over France, and sometimes Germany, then drop night leaflets. Other crews in training took part in minor raids, designed to take the German night fighters away from the main bombers force. These operational training flights were just as dangerous, sometimes even worse than the operational operations, as these new ‘sprog’ training crews had no combat flying experience. My Calgary friend pilot Jack McIntosh related how he attended eleven funerals in two weeks of his operational training. RAF Bomber Command did not count these training operational deaths in their causality total, a chilling fact in the cat and mouse game of war, never telling the aircrews or public the whole truth. Gunnery leader P/O Ley Kenyon survived fourteen of these training sorties which were never counted as combat operations. During his own spare hours, Ley began to paint large Walt Disney nose art images on the No. 419 Wellington bomber nose sections.

On 10 November 1942, No. 419 Squadron moved to their final base at Middleton St. George, Durham, England.

This Vickers Wellington Mk. III, code VR-M, is being serviced for an operation in late November 1942, at Middleton St. George. [RCAF PL7091]

The ground crew are L to R: LAC James Gardiner, Lac Fred Fitzhugh, LAC Fred Scott and unknown RAF. The Ley Kenyon nose art of Mickey Mouse stood for the aircraft call sign, “M for Mickey or Mouse” Note large code letter “M” painted on nose, serial unknown. [Vince Elmer image 1988]

This Wellington bomber could be serial X9757, X9874, X9920, Z1085, or Z1085, which had no known assigned code letters flying with No. 419 Squadron.  Nose art artist was British RAF rear gunner P/O Ley Kenyon.

Replica scale nose art painting of VR-M [M for Mouse], correct colors unknown.

Wellington Mk. III, serial X3486 flew her first operation on 25 March 1942, F/Sgt. Elliot, 28 March, F/Sgt. Elliot, 5 April F/Sgt. Swanson, then 8 and 12 April F/Sgt. Elliot. It appears the Donald Duck art was possibly painted for the crew of F/Sgt. Elliot.

Flight/Sgt. William Chester McGuffin, J15712, DFC, came from Calgary, Alberta, flying his first operation as Second Dickey with F/Sgt. Dutton on 2 May 1942, in Wellington Mk. III, X3486, VR-C, decorated with Donald Duck nose art by P/O Ley Kenyon. The bomber code letter was changed to “U” on 8 April. This was the sixth operation for the Wellington bomber and the above photo was taken 2 May 42, at Mildenhall, Suffolk, England. [Vince Elmer collection]

His second operation was flown in the same Wellington Mk. III, serial X3486, and he would survive his first tour of thirty operations.  S/L William McGuffin was nearly finished his second tour, 54 trips, when he was killed in a No. 419 [Moose] Lancaster on 23 October 1944, he was 22 years of age.

It appears this Donald Duck nose art might be the very first painted [April 1942] by RAF rear-gunner P/O Ley Kenyon who arrived at No. 419 Squadron, Mildenhall, Suffolk, on 5 March 1942. The aircrew of S/L Wolfe, with rear gunner nose artist Ley Kenyon flew this bomber [he painted] on 7 May 1942, their 12th Operation, the 9th Operation for the Wellington bomber. The use of Donald Duck was not just another Walt Disney cartoon choice, but closely reflected the Canadian and British spirit of the war in 1942. His anger, desperation, belligerent nature, and red faced aggression made Donald the number one choice in WWII aircraft nose art. Wellington VR-U survived a total of fourteen operations, X3486 went missing on 5/6 June 1942, F/Sgt. Dutton, bombing Essen, Germany. F/Sgt. Joseph Mervyn Dutton R60552 was from Calgary, Alberta, flying his thirteenth operation, age 23 years, his aircrew have no known grave. This replica painting on original WWII Norseman aircraft skin displays how RCAF nose art can be used as a memorial to a long lost Canadian aircrew from the past, rather than just a list of names on a cold marble wall in England.

W/C John [Moose] Fulton, 37095, began his wartime career with RAF No. 99 Squadron flying Wellington aircraft. He was flying his second tour of operations, his 66th on 28/29 July 1942, when his aircraft X3488 “H” was reported missing in action, he was twenty-nine years old.  W/C Fulton has no known grave and his name is inscribed on the Runnymede War Memorial, Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey, England.

From August 1942, onwards the squadron began to unofficially use the name “Moose” derived from the nickname of their first squadron commander W.C John [Moose] Fulton. In January 1943, the City of Kamloops, British Columbia, adopted No. 419 “Moose” Squadron as a gesture of commemoration of their native son. In late August 1943, the unit badge and motto [Beware of the Moose] were designed [Ley Kenyon] and submitted for official Chester Herald approval.

The last three Wellington Mk. III aircraft, serial X3659 “B”, BK364 and K3390 flew on 6 November 1942, and the next day the squadron was ordered on “Stand Down” and operations creased. The Squadron prepared for the move to Middleton St. George and conversion to the Halifax Mk. II, Series I, “Special” with five bombers on strength by the end of November. On 31 December 1942, No. 419 had eighteen Halifax Mk. II Series 1, [Special] bombers on strength and they were fully trained to begin operations on 1 January 1943. They now came under control of No. 6 [RCAF] Group, No. 64 [RCAF] Base, Middleton St. George, Durham, England.

In the summer of 1942, a modification of the Halifax Mk. II Series I aircraft was introduced to the RAF, which was a new clean up of the original design, aimed at reducing the over all weight of the large bomber. The front turret was removed and the top half of the nose section was covered over by a fairing. Officially known as modification #398, it was called “Tollerton” after the Tollerton Aircraft Services where the first modification began. A number of these Halifax modifications also included the removal of the old Boulton Paul Type “C” mid-upper gun turret, saving a total weight of 1,450 lbs., which was equal to a further saving of 849 lbs. of fuel and oil over an average flight range of 1,800 miles. This new designed Halifax was officially designated B. Mk. II, Series I, [Special] beginning RAF service in August 1942.

Two-hundred and fifty were constructed by English Electric Co. Salmesbury, Preston, serial numbers W1270 to W1276, and DT481 to DT808. Another one-hundred and fifty were constructed by English Electric, serial numbers W7801 to W7939. A further seventy-four were constructed by LPTB, Leavesden, serial numbers BB236 to BB313.

The following Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. II [Special] aircraft serial numbers were assigned to No. 419 Squadron, beginning mid-November 1942.

W7857                        “O”

BB283             “O”

DT548             “B”

DT615                          “P”                 Kenyon rare ditching tent art

DT616                          “K”

DT617                          “C” & “G”

DT619             “Q”                Kiwi Bird on Bomb with red Maple Leaf

DT623             “S”


DT629                         “V”                  V for Victory sign

DT630             “T”

DT634             “E”                  Stork and Baby Bombardier [Disney]

DT639             “B”

DT641                         “R”

DT646             “C”

DT669                         “L”

DT672                         “D”

DT689                         “N”                 Moose menacing Hitler [flew record 45 Ops.]

No. 419 Squadron ground crew preparing a Halifax B. Mk. II, Series I, [Special] for Operations.

S/L David Walter Sealy Clark RAF #36213 was posted to No. 419 Squadron in early November 1942, appointed as the new Halifax Flight commander. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1916, he served in the RNZAF in 1938, and was commissioned in the RAF in 1939. He completed his Heavy Conversion training from Wellington to Halifax Mk. II bombers at No. 1653 HCU and reported to No. 419 Squadron on 9 November. He flew his first operation in Halifax VR-Q serial DT619 on 9 January 1943, and this became his aircraft which he piloted on 21 January, 2/3 February, 14 Feb., 16/17 Feb., 18 Feb., and 19 February, his last flight. During this time period the nose art of a New Zealand Kiwi bird diving on a bomb [with Maple Leaf] was painted by Ley Kenyon on the Halifax nose and named “Kiwi.” The Kiwi is a flightless bird species endemic to New Zealand, and that is what S/L Clark wanted on his bomber.

Nose Art image of “Kiwi” from Vince Elmer collection 1988.

This was Halifax Mk. II Special serial DT619 which was assigned to pilot Sgt. Jack McIntosh on 27 February 1943. While carrying out mining operations in the Frisian Islands area, they were attacked by an enemy fighter and the bomber was severely damaged by 20 mm cannon fire, killing two crew members and badly wounding the navigator. McIntosh made a successful forced landing at RAF Coltishall, with three mines on board his bomber. Jack confirmed this nose art to me in person, and he believed the Halifax was repaired and transferred to a Heavy Conversion Unit somewhere in England.

Kiwi replica size 16” by 16” painted on original skin from Fairchild Aircraft Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. IV, serial 9041. T.O.S. by No. 8 Squadron RCAF Station Sydney, Nova Scotia, 3 October 1941.

With the loss of DT619, the Flight Commander S/L David Clark began flying Halifax Mk. II serial W1271, which he piloted on 1/2 March, 8/9 April, 10/11 April, 14/15 April and his last operation flown on 16/17 April 1943.

It has been recorded [Ian Duncan] that Halifax W1271 carried the same nose art of the Kiwi bird, also painted by P/O Ley Kenyon. It has also been reported that W1271 carried the nose art image of an Australian Kangaroo with name “Have Another” but never confirmed. To add to this confusion, the exact very same Kiwi Bird nose art will later appear on a No. 419 Squadron Lancaster KB718, code VR-J, with confirmed photo images. Ley Kenyon was shot down on 16/17 September 1943 in LW240, so he did not paint the last “Kiwi” Lancaster nose art. KB718 first flew on 1/2 May 1944, and was piloted most operations by C18516 P/O G.R.H. Peck and his aircrew who were posted to No. 419 Squadron on 31 March 1944. Why they painted the very same Kiwi nose art which first appeared on Halifax DT619 is a mystery, and most likely will never be known.

The author believes, this Ley Kenyon nose art was possibly painted on Halifax serial W1271, VR-P.

In August 1942, the English Electric Company began to manufacture the new Halifax B [Bomber] and GR [General Reconnaissance] Mk. II, Series I [Special] for the R.A.F. They were built in serial blocks with gaps to confuse the German intelligence. The first to arrive with No. 419 Squadron came from RAF serial block W7801 to W7939, Halifax Mk. II W7857 was first to arrive 9 January 1943, assigned code letters VR-O. Next came W7817, “A” 29 Jan., W7889, 19 February and W7869, 24 February. The fifth to arrived was Halifax Mk. II serial W1271, “P” which flew first operation on 1/2 March 1943, S/L D. Clark.  The Halifax completed six operations in March, five in April, never flew in month of May and continued operations on 12/13 June, 19/20 June with the last flight on 21/22 June 1943. Shot down, all No. 428 Squadron attached aircrew killed in action.

This 17” by 31 “replica nose art was painted on original RCAF WWII aircraft skin fabric taken from Noorduyn Norseman RCAF serial #494, taken on strength 9 September 1942 and crashed into Lake Allen, N.W.T. on 25 August 1947. Recovered from the lake in 1993, restored by Alberta Aviation Museum to static condition in 1997, the original aircraft skins were saved from the garbage by pilot Tony Jarvis in 1999, and obtained by the author for painting.  The full history of this aircraft can be read online at the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta. This original nose art was painted by Ley Kenyon No. 419 Squadron and appeared on one of their Halifax. B. Mk. II bombers, the serial and code letters are not confirmed.

This image is a nose art blow-up from the collection of Vince Elmer, Halifax B. Mk. II, Series I, “Special” which arrived with 419 Squadron in early January 1943. The Halifax came from a batch serial DT612 to DT649, constructed by English Electric Co. Salmesbury, Preston, in December 1942. Given the code letters VR-E, she was assigned to the aircrew of Sgt. B.F. Heintz, flying first operation on 21/22 January, gardening at Nectarine, thirty-five attacked and two bombers were lost. Sgt. Heintz flew the next two operations and on 4/5 February Sgt. L. Bakewill flew DT634 to Turin, where he lost two engines on the return flight. The Halifax was parked for repairs during the next three weeks, [6 to 26 February] and that is when the most interesting Walt Disney insignia nose art most likely appeared painted by Ley Kenyon.

Ellington Field, Texas, was constructed in 1917, to train American pilots for service in WWI. In October 1940, construction began on a much larger airfield, five control towers, two large hangars, and 74 barracks for navigation, bombardier, and pilot training in the United States Army Air Corp. The huge airbase opened on 26 June 1941, and soon became known as “the Bombardment Academy of the Air.” In October 1941, the first bombardier class wrote to Walt Disney to create a new base insignia. [Disney artists created over 500 insignia for U.S. government and military units in pre-war year 1941] The new insignia [above] arrived just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and seems to have been lost or forgotten in the following months of confusion as the United States prepared for entry into World War Two.

When the Disney artist’s designs were published in an aviation magazine, [Insignia Industry by Kurt Rand, February 1942] the RCAF were quick to adopt and copy this insignia on aircraft training in Canada and England. No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mont Joli, Quebec, officially opened on 15 December 1941, and training began with British Fairey Battle aircraft. New Canadian built Avro Anson Mk. II bombers began to arrive on 17 February 1942, and nineteen were assigned to the base. These Avro Anson yellow training bombers were all painted [May-June] with the Walt Disney stork and baby [on white circle] dropping bombs, a most fitting RCAF Bombing and Gunnery insignia.

More Avro Anson Mk. II bombers in training at No. 5 S.F.T.S. at Brantford, Ontario, soon followed and the Disney insignia next began appearing on bombers in Heavy Conversion Units training in England. The Domino effect was taking place and the stork next began to appear painted on combat bombers in the RCAF. The stork first appeared in the movie Dumbo which was released to the American public 23 October 1941, not released in Canada until 31 March 1942. The movie was also released to the American Armed Forces and shown in combat theatres around the world, obviously when the Disney military insignia appeared the Dumbo stork was well known to thousands. During the filming of Dumbo, 29 May 1941, the Disney Studios went on a bitter strike, led by union leader animator Art Babbitt. Disney fired Babbitt, then had to rehire his animator when the union strike was settled, however they remained life-long enemies. The Art Babbitt Western Union stork would not appear in other Disney war created military insignia, but soon found a new home in Canada and England adopted by the RCAF. No. 405, 408, and 419 Squadrons all carried this Stork nose art on Halifax and Lancaster Mk. II bombers during WWII.

Lancaster Mk. II, [Hercules VI engines] serial DS692, in No. 408 Goose Squadron began operations in October 1943. Code “S” she wore the Disney Stork, airframe mechanic is LAC J. A. Talbot from Pictou, Nova Scotia. Crash landed Marston Moor on 23 July 1944. RCAF image PL26028.

The aircrew of Sgt. B.F. Heintz were assigned a new Halifax DT634 and flew seven operations in ‘their’ bomber, 21 January, 23 Jan., 29 Jan., 1/2 March, 3 March, 5/6 March, and 9/10 March. It is believed they were the crew which picked the Walt Disney stork for their bomber nose art painting by Ley Kenyon. The little stork came from the 1941 movie Dumbo, which became one of Disney’s most direct, appealing, and most American of all his movie tales. The stork delivers Dumbo to Mrs. Jumbo dressed as a Western Union messenger, all created by animator Art Babbitt, who hated Walt Disney, and headed the animator union which got him fired. Forced to rehire Babbitt, Art and Walt would be enemies for life. The new military insignia using the Western Union stork was created by animator Hank Porter, and now it was going to war painted on a Canadian RCAF Halifax bomber.

The Walt Disney stork and baby dropping bombs nose art was possibly painted on Halifax DT634 during the three weeks the aircraft was in for repairs and double engine replacement, 6 to 26 February 1943.

F/O Charles Edward Porter J9668, was hit by flak south of Bremen, Germany, and lost one engine, then decided to bomb Magdeburg, instead of Berlin. After his bombing run was completed, his Halifax was attacked by a German night fighter and a second engine was set on fire. The fuselage caught fire and the escape hatches became jammed by the heat, they had to be kicked or cut open with a fire axe. All of his aircrew finally jumped safely, pilot F/O Porter remained at the controls too long [saving his crew] and went down with his bomber.

This 18” by 24” scale replica nose art image was painted on original aircraft tail fin skin taken from Fleet Fawn 7C, RCAF serial 264, constructed in 1938. The tri-color tail markings are original RCAF standard when they were applied in 1938. This is painted as close as possible to the original Ley Kenyon nose art painting completed on Halifax VR-E, serial DT634.

F/Sgt. Harling was one of the original Wireless/Air Gunners in No. 419 Squadron, flying with a number of different pilots, F/Sgt. J.A. Clark, S/L P. Dart and F/O D.H. Kennay.  On 13 September 1942, Harling was flying in Wellington Mk. III, VR-O, serial X3308, piloted by F/Sgt. Cameron. They were hit by flak over the target of Bremen, Germany, and two fuel tanks were pierced and leaking.  They made a forced landing in the sea, just three miles from Southwold, Suffolk, England, around 5 am. Ditching diagram RAF Wellington Dinghy installation and exit points.

In the darkness, second pilot R.A.F. Sgt. A. Donlin released the aircraft dingy, but he failed to exit the sextant escape hatch and went down with the aircraft, the remainder of the aircrew survived in the dingy raft for over two hours and were saved at sunrise.

DT615 became the first new Halifax Mk. II to wear the code letter VR-P in 419 Squadron, flying operations 3/4 Feb., 18 Feb., 19/20 Feb., 24/25 Feb., and 26/27 February. On the 27th the aircrew of Sgt. Bill Gray were assigned Halifax “P” DT615 on a mining operation to the Frisian Islands. The rear gunner was F/Sgt. Russ Harling, and again his bomber was hit by flak and developed engine trouble, forcing them to ditch in the sea. They spent a very wet and cold night [nine hours] in the dinghy, were found the following morning and brought safely home with no injuries. Rear gunner F/Sgt. Russ Harling was the only member of No. 419 Squadron to survive two ditching’s in the cruel Atlantic Ocean. A very lucky Canadian rear gunner.

I interviewed Russ Harling in 1989, and he was kind enough to sent me this image from his collection. This special ground crew tent art of the second Halifax DT615 ditching was painted by fellow rear gunner RAF P/O Ley Kenyon.

The second Halifax Mk. II to wear the 419 Squadron code letter “P” became serial JD270, nicknamed “Popeye.” Constructed by E.E. in a batch of 35 serial JD244 to JD278, she was the last of four delivered to No. 419 Squadron, serial JD256, JD257, JD258, and JD270.

Pilot Sgt. William Donald Leslie Cameron R116979 was born in Sarnia, Ontario, after training his aircrew were posted to No. 419 Squadron in mid-June 1943. Flew his first operation as 2nd pilot with P/O B.F. Haintz, Halifax JB900, 22/23 June 1942. First operation as pilot was flown in Halifax Mk. II serial JD163, 28/29 June 1943, to bomb Cologne, Germany. The sprog aircrew were now assigned a new Halifax Mk. II aircraft, serial JD270, coded VR-P [Popeye]. They flew their first operation in JD270 on 3/4 July, part of 68 RCAF aircraft which were despatched to attack Cologne, Germany, six of these aircraft failed to return. [Which means over forty aircrew members were P.O.W.s or killed in action that night] The Popeye throwing red bombs nose art was picked by the Cameron crew and painted by Ley Kenyon possibly in the stand-down period of ten days 14 to 24 July 1943. The Halifax bomber JD270, VR-P, would be despatched on fourteen operations and eleven were piloted by Sgt. Cameron and his aircrew.

Vince Elmer collection image, ground crew name unknown.

Operations flown by Halifax Mk. II serial JD270, red circle piloted by Sgt. William Cameron.

Scale replica Ley Kenyon nose art painted on original RCAF Norseman skin from #494.

After completing their bomb run over the City of Berlin, Halifax JD270 was in a mid-air collision with a German night-fighter aircraft, and RCAF F/Sgt. Boos, F/Sgt. Scharf, and RAF L. Duggan were able to bail out of their bomber and were taken Prisoners of War. The other four members of the crew were killed in action, buried in the Berlin War Cemetery, Charlottenburg, Germany.

WO2 pilot William Donald Leslie Cameron, age 22 years, killed in action 1 September 1943.

Vince Elmer photo 1988, DT629, VR-V, artist Ley Kenyon.

Halifax B. Mk. II serial DT629 arrived with No. 419 Squadron in late January 1943, flying only one operation 23/24 of the month. The Ley Kenyon nose art was very simple, featuring the famous Churchill WWII sign “V for Victory” for the Halifax code letter VR-V.

In February 1943, DT629 flew six operations, 2, 3, 7/8, 14, 16/17, and her last trip on 18 of the month. The last trip was flown by aircrew of F/Sgt. R.G. Goddard, mining operation to Frisian Islands, where they were attacked by a German night-fighter. Rear Gunner F/Sgt. W.T. Gaunt fired a long burst and tracers were seen to hit the enemy fighter which broke off attack and went into a drive. Claimed as one Enemy fighter probably damaged. The RCAF bomber then disappears from the squadron records, no crash report, possibly transferred to another RCAF Squadron, or most likely to an RCAF Heavy Conversion Unit in England for sprog aircrew training.

Halifax DT689 was constructed in October 1942, by English Electric Co. at Salmesbury, Preston, in British block serial numbers DT665 to DT705. Delivered to No. 419 Squadron in early November she was assigned code letters VR-N, and began aircrew training at Middleton St. George, Durham, sometime after 10 November 1942. This aircraft was soon taken over by the new C.O. Wing Commander M.M. [Mervin] Fleming [his drawing by Ley Kenyon, shown in the cockpit above] and the Halifax became known to all as the “Winco’s Bomber.” The front nose fairing known as the “Tollerton” nose had two factory horizontal widows above the bomb aimer’s panels and this is where Ley Kenyon created his next truly nose art special painting.

Vince Elmer 1988 image.

This nose art was dedicated to the squadron’s first C.O. W/C J. [Moose] Fulton, DFC, and AFC, showing a Moose head which has just taken a bite out of the ass of a running Adolf Hitler. This nose art became an inspiration for all squadron members as Halifax DT689 was never shot down, and set a record for 45 operations over Europe and Germany. Her operation record follows; the red circles stand for the eleven operations flown by W/C M. M. Fleming, DSO, DFC, 8 September 1942 until 8 October 1943.

This replica nose art painting was created by the author to honour W/C J. Fulton, DFC, AFC, painted on an original skin panel [16” by 27”] from Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. VII, serial number NA337. Lost on a combat operation [dropping war supplies] 23/24 April 1945, the bomber laid on the bottom of Lake Mjosa, Norway, for the next fifty years. The full history can be found on many web sites, books, and videos, showing the correct restoration to the specifications of a British Halifax A. Mk. VII. This is not the combat version bomber flown by Canadians during WWII, however that is what the Halifax Aircraft Association RCAF veterans decided, and so be it. In the beginning, [1998] it was decided the author would paint replica nose art on original Halifax salvaged parts, but in the end, the replica panels were given away to WWII veteran senior association members. The black paint patches on the image are the original British WWII matt paint which survived fifty years in the lake in Norway, and today is preserved on this original Halifax skin panel dedicated to “Moose” Fulton.

RCAF Halifax B. Mk. II, Series I, “Special” serial DT689, became the pride and joy of No. 419 Squadron in the first eight months of 1943, dedicated to their first Commanding Officer “Moose” Fulton. British rear gunner Ley Kenyon painted this first nose art of the Moose chasing Hitler in honour of his missing in action C.O., which he flew one operation with as his tail gunner. All this history was saved by Vince Elmer and after his death was donated to No. 419 Squadron archives, where it has been forgotten with the passage of time.

For correct No. 419 Squadron historical records it should be noted that the idea, design, and approval of the “Moose” Squadron crest did not begin until August 1943, then it was submitted to the Chester Herald for British approval on the last day of the month.

The author has searched, but no record can be found naming who designed the original Moose drawing for approval by Wing Commander Mervin Fleming, DFC, in August 1943. It should be very clear to any historian this person was No. 419 British nose artist Ley Kenyon, who painted the first unofficial Moose nose art on Halifax DT689. The official Moose Badge, Motto and authority by King George VI were later approved in June 1944.

Halifax B. Mk. II “Special” serial JB859 “Thundering Heard”

The original replica nose art painted on salvaged skin from NA337, donated to the Halifax Aircraft Association in July 1999, given away, private location today unknown.

Halifax B. Mk. II, “Special” serial JB859 was one of 123 constructed at Handley Page Ltd. Cricklewood and Radlett, serial numbers JB781 to JB974. The bomber was from the second batch of 42 built between 28 February to 23 March 1943. Four of these bombers were delivered to RCAF No. 419 squadron by ferry pilots, serial JB859, JB860, JB861 and JB862. The Halifax would begin operations on 22/23 March 1943, and completed thirteen, with six different Canadian aircrews up to 12/13 May, when it was damaged by German flak and required major repairs.

12th operation was on 4/5 May 43, P/O J.D. Dickson and 13th operation 12/13 May, when the Halifax was hit by flak, rear turret out of action, flak holes in fuselage and port prop holed.

After repairs were completed Halifax JB859 was assigned to the aircrew of F/O Stanley Mervyn Heard, J5535, a twenty-three-year-old farm lad from Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

The Heard aircrew flew six operations in their Halifax, the 14th to 19th operations for the bomber. During this time period Ley Kenyon painted the special nose art of a stampede of cattle called “Thundering Heard.” The Halifax flew two more operations on 10/11 August to Nuremberg and 12/13 August to Milan, Italy. The Halifax was transferred to No. 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit, for training and survived the war, struck off charge by RAF on 1 November 1945, then soon after scrapped.

The Ley Kenyon nose art painting which flew only 5 or 6 operations during WWII. Image from Vince Elmer collection in 1988.

F/L Stanley Mervyn Heard, 23 years, was killed in action on 17 August 1943, raid on Peenemunde, Germany, shot down in Halifax JD158, “Three-headed Dragon” crashed Baltic Sea near Greifswald, Bodden, Germany. Body recovered and buried in Greifswald Cemetery, Germany. 15” by 32“painting on original skin from RCAF Norseman #494.

Halifax serial JD158, VR-D for “Dragon” by Ley Kenyon, from Vince Elmer collection 1988.

Halifax B. Mk. II, Special, serial JD158 was constructed by English Electric Co., Salmesbury, Preston, a batch of thirty-eight serial JD143 to JD180, built between 7 May to 28 May 1943. Five of these new Mk. II bombers were delivered by British female ferry pilots to RCAF No. 419 Squadron, Middleton St. George, Durham, JD143, JD147, JD158, JD159 and JD163. Halifax JD158 was assigned the code letters VR-D, and flew her first operation on 23/24 May 1943, assigned to pilot J8170 F/O Charles Edward MacIntosh and aircrew flying their 12th operation. Charles MacIntosh was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1916, and enlisted in the RCAF on 3 March 1941. Trained at No. 2 ITS, Regina, Sask., graduated 25 May 1941, No. 8 EFTS, Vancouver, B.C., graduated 26 July 1941, No. 3 SFTS, Calgary, Alberta, received his wings, graduated and commissioned 17 October 1941. Aircrew came together as a unit at No. 22 OTU, Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire, and trained at No. 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit at Topcliffe, Yorkshire, 20 February 1943, posted to No. 419 Squadron on 11 March 1943.

Upon arrival at No. 419 Squadron they flew their first operation in Halifax DT789 on 12/13 March, and the Daily Diary [above] spelled the new pilot’s surname incorrectly. The correct spelling should read F/O C.E. MacIntosh, Captain. They completed ten more combat operations in Halifax JB861, DT672 [2], DT616, DT798 [2], BB376, JB859, and BB384 [2]. Assigned new Halifax JD158 on 23/24 March 1943, they would fly her eleven times, marked with red circle.

The aircrew of Flying Officer J8170 C.E. MacIntosh finished their tour on 13/14 July and the Halifax JD158 was taken over by S/L G.A. McMurdy who flew her seven times marked with letter M. The Three-headed Winged Dragon was most likely painted by Ley Kenyon in early June and the reason is not known. The Three-Headed Dragon exist in drawings, myths, and legends created in many different countries, some with wings and others without.

On his second operation in JD158, Flying Officer Charles MacIntosh took part in a 43 plane attack on Essen, Germany, and the bomber was hit by flak. One port and one starboard engine were knocked out of service, plus the rear turret and port wing were heavy damaged by flak holes. With great skill and determination, pilot MacIntosh was able to return across the North Sea on two engines and make an emergency landing at Coltishall, no aircrew were injured. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, effective 1 September 1943. It is possible the Three-Headed Winged Dragon nose art reflected on this dangerous operation and was painted during the two-week repair period, 29 May to 12 June 1943.

This author 22” by 17” scale replica nose art painting was completed on one original skin panel from Halifax B. Mk. A, serial NA337. While the WWII colors are not known, this is very close to the original nose art by Ley Kenyon, and helps preserve his lost Canadian 419 Squadron Halifax aircraft “Dragon” nose creation.

RCAF No. 1691 [Bomber] Gunnery Flight was formed at Dalton, Yorkshire, England, on 2 July 1943, and promoted pilot F/Lt. Charles MacIntosh J8170 was posted to the new unit effective 14 August 1943. On 1 September 1943, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, AFRO 2322/43, dated 12 November 1943.

The Three-Headed Winged Dragon Halifax JD158 was assigned to the aircrew of F/Lt. Stanley Heard on 17/18 August raid on Peenemunde, Germany. Attacked by German night-fighters, they crash into the Baltic near Greifswald, Bodden, Germany, all killed.

Author painting of F/Lt. Heard from original 1943 sketch drawing by Ley Kenyon.

On 22 April 1943, the English Electric Co. Salmesbury, Preston, England, began production of 223 Halifax B. Mk. II, Series 1, “Special” aircraft, serial numbers JD105 to JD476. The first production batch of twenty-four bombers received the serial numbers JD105 to JD128, and they were constructed without the mid-upper gun turret, which was faired over, shown in the flying drawing of JD114, above left. Later production aircraft had the British Boulton Paul ‘A’ Mk. VII mid-upper turret added, as shown in the above Halifax line drawing. Five of these first batch new bombers were assigned to RCAF units, JD107 to 408 Squadron, JD113 and JD114 to No. 419 Squadron, and JD123 and JD124 to No. 405 Squadron. For many new sprog aircrews in Bomber Command, the full risks of death associated with combat flying did not become evident until they began flying operations. A tour of combat was based on the accumulation of 200 hours of combat operations, or roughly 30 operational trips. If they survived a first tour, members were assigned to a training period for the next six months, thirty days leave, followed by a second operation tour of 30-35 trips. During the war, the odds of aircrew survival varied considerably due to the bombing campaign, enemy aircraft involved, ground flak, and always the weather.

The actual RAF odds against combat survival were somewhat withheld from the aircrews and the public during the war, and it was generally accepted that aircrews had a 50-50 chance of survival. In reality it was not that good.

While facts and records could be hidden by RAF High Command, the psychological impact of a battle-damaged aircraft returning to base with dead and wounded had a major impact on both RCAF air and ground crews. Jack McIntosh described his own recollected experience with death, survival, and the level of stress he had to deal with in his early combat operations.

Jack McIntosh flew his first operation [second Dickey] to F/Sgt. Gray in Halifax DT548, code “M” on 13 February 1943. He flew his crew in Halifax DT689 “N” on 26/27 February 1943.

Jack explained he was motivated to join the RCAF out of respect for his Scottish father, who had been wounded twice while serving with British forces in WWI. Rigorously selected and trained as a pilot for the RCAF, the grim realities of operational combat and the high death toll suddenly dispelled the more glamourous ideas in the young pilot’s mind. On their third operation of dropping mines in the area of the Frisian Islands, Halifax DT619 was attacked by a German fighter and two crew members were killed with the navigator serious injured. On landing back at base pilot McIntosh saw the battle damage done to the rear of his bomber, and the death of his two crew members. The psychological impact of seeing the remains of his rear gunner F/Sgt George Irving Herbert Dunbar R108858, age 22 years, had an instant impact on Jack. The 20 mm cannon shells from the German fighter had destroyed the rear gun positon, and the entire gunner cockpit was covered in blood, bone, and brain tissue as his rear gunner had been decapitated. Jack was now overcome with a fear of making a mistake, killing more of his crew, and mostly the fact he would never survive his tour of 30 operations. Jack was taken off combat operations, assigned two new crew members, and began training flights with his new aircrew, navigator F/O G.J.M. Harvey, F/Engineer [RAF] Sgt. E.S. Mulholland, and rear gunner F/Sgt. K.N. Doe, who had been his original mid-upper gunner. They flew together on 1st operation Halifax DT629 “V” on 30 April/1 May 1943, 4th operation for original four crew members.

On 1 May 1943, Sgt. McIntosh was instructed to report to the Commanding Officer W/C Mervin Fleming, where he had a long talk with both his C.O. and the squadron padre. His feelings about the war, life and dead in real combat operations were questioned by both officers. After the talk, the C.O. informed Jack a new Halifax bomber was coming from the factory and he could take this bomber as his own if he wished. Jack made a point to get a ride over to meet the young British female ferry pilot, and could still recall how upset she was to see him. This lady would not look him in the eyes, and refused to talk with him, she did not want to meet any operational pilots as she knew he would be dead in a few weeks. Once again the harsh realities of war casualties during combat operations were confronted by twenty-year-old pilot Jack McIntosh. On 6 May 43, Halifax serial JD114 was ready for her first test flight by the crew of Sgt. McIntosh, assigned the squadron code letters VR and her initial call sign “O for Orange.” After the completion of four operations the aircrew decided to give their bomber a name and nose art painting. Jack was asked to pick the aircraft name and he selected his home town in Alberta, Canada, Medicine Hat. Aircrew photo taken 6 July 1943, McIntosh collection.

The nose art painting of Walt Disney’s Goofy picking bombs from a hat and dropping them on Germany was painted by P/O Ley Kenyon. The painting was completed in one day and first flew on operation number seven, 21/22 June 1943, when fifty-seven RCAF bombers struck Krefeld, Germany, and eight were shot down.  Operations flown by Jack McIntosh aircrew marked in yellow.

During the last three operations Jack and his aircrew experienced an increase in tension and stress, but nothing like some historians have described. Jack McIntosh – “The name and nose art made it feel she was ‘our’ aircraft and would always bring us home.” That was the psychological power of WWII nose art, which is impossible to understand by most of today’s generation of modern jet pilot’s. The navigator and flight engineer required three more operations to hit thirty trips. This was operation number 31 for P/O McIntosh and his Halifax JD114 had completed 32 operations by 28 September 1943.

I ask Jack for the operation which stood out the most and he replied it was number nineteen, bombing the secret German A/4 rocket testing base at Peenemunde, Germany.

The RCAF despatched sixty-two Halifax and Lancaster aircraft and forty-seven hit the primary target, twelve were shot down.

No. 419 Squadron despatched the most RCAF Halifax aircraft with seventeen hitting the primary target and three failed to return.

1          JB965              21:07 hrs.

2          JD210              21:10 Hrs.       nose art Happy Valley Sally.

3          JD114              21:13 hrs.       nose art Medicine Hat [Flying 20st Operation].

4          BB376             21:15 hrs.

5          JD382              21:18 hrs.

6          JD270              21:20 hrs.       nose art Popeye.

7          JD325              21:22 hrs.

8          JD163              21:25 hrs.       “N” Sgt. Patterson, ditched in sea, no trace found.

9          JD158              21:27 hrs        Three-Headed Dragon “D” F/Sgt. Heard, shot down.

10        JD459              21:29 hrs.

11        JD204              21:31 hrs.

12        JD420              21:35 hrs.

13        JD457              21:36 hrs.

14        DT734             21:37 hrs.

15        JB929              21:39 hrs.

16        JD458              21:40 hrs.       “C” F/Sgt. Perkin, Australian, shot down.

17        JD456              21:41 hrs.

This 18”by 24” painting was completed on original aircraft skin from Fleet Fawn 7C, constructed in 1938, trained pilots at Camp Borden, Ontario, until 1946. The nineteenth operation flown by Jack McIntosh to bomb Peenemunde, Germany, 18 August 1943. JD114 took off at 21:13 hrs [third] and arrived back at base at 05:53 hrs, the last RCAF bomber to return. Medicine Hat was the last RCAF Halifax bomber to bomb the rocket testing site at Peenemunde, Germany. Halifax JD114 went on to set a 419 [Moose] Squadron record of 50 operations.

On 30 September 1943, Medicine Hat had a complete aircraft overhaul and her original four engines were changed. During repainting the Halifax was assigned the code letter “V.”

Goofy failed to return from the 51st operation, no trace found and no known grave for aircrew.

Halifax B. Mk. II Special serial JD210 “Happy-Valley Sally”

Vince Elmer 1988 photo of JD210 taken after operation #14 to Remscheid, Germany, 31 July/1 August 1943. JD210 was constructed by English-Electric in a batch of twenty-one JD198 to JD218, 28 May to 7 June 1943. This new Halifax code VR-S was chosen to fly the 1,000th sortie by No. 419 Squadron on her first combat operation 11/12 June 1943, piloted by P/O R.A.H. Bell. One-hundred and one RCAF bombers were despatched to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany, and eight struck the primary target, seven were shot down.

On the 18 June 1943, JD210 was assigned to the aircrew of F/Lt. A. N. Quaile, and they would fly ‘their’ Halifax for a total of seventeen operations until the end of August 1943. It is assumed they were the aircrew which picked the nose art name and Esquire magazine pin-up girl from May 1943, painted by RAF nose artist Ley Kenyon, in June.

The nose art by Ley Kenyon came from the May 1943 “Varga” pin-up from Esquire magazine.

Vince Elmer image 1988, eighteen operations, around 20 August 1943. The Ice Cream cone was the attack on Milan, Italy, 12/13 Aug. 1943, a “Milk Run” target with very little enemy resistance, plus many Italians operated ice cream stores in England.

16”by 22” replica painted on original Halifax skin from NA337.

The 22nd operation to Berlin was flown by F/Sgt. Marjeren, 31 August and 1 September 1943.

Operation #23 took place 3/4 September 43, to Foret de Raismes, France.

A sprog crew piloted by American F/O James Arthur Studer J14875 were assigned to fly the 24th operation to Mannheim, Germany, 5/6 September 1943. F/O Studer flew his first operation 2nd Dickey with veteran pilot Jack McIntosh on 30/31 August 43, in Halifax “Medicine Hat.”

This would be their third operation, from which they never returned.

F/O James Arthur Studer, age 21 years, born Hennepin County, Excelsior, Minnesota, USA, buried in war cemetery at Durnbach, Germany. One of 6,129 Americans serving in the RCAF, after the Pearl Harbor attack, 1,759 were released and enrolled in the service of the United States. Seven Americans would be killed in action flying Halifax bombers in No. 419 Squadron.

P/O Ley Bennett Kenyon [RAF #112175] flew his 25th Wellington Mk. III rear gunner operation in aircraft X3360 on 13 July 1942. He was now promoted to No. 419 Squadron as gunnery leader, teaching sprog air gunners and flying training “Bulls-eye” operations over Europe. In addition to his gunnery training duties he also taught RCAF aircraft recognition and evasive escape tactics for aircrew who might be shot down. It would appear he had little time to paint aircraft nose art during the months of August, September, and October 1942. On 13 October 1942, he flew rear gunner with his C.O. Wing Commander M. M. Fleming, [X3659] his 26th operation and last in the Wellington Mk. III aircraft. In November 1942, the new Halifax B. Mk. II, series I, “Special” aircraft began to arrive at No. 419 Squadron. Halifax DT689, coded VR-N had the front nose painted by Kenyon for his new C.O. Fleming, in honour of their first C.O. “Moose” Fulton. On 4/5 May 1943, Ley Kenyon flew 2nd gunner in DT689 containing the art of a Moose chasing Hitler. This trip became his 28th operation and the pilot was his C.O. W/C Mervin Fleming. The 29th operation came on 10/11 August 1943, Halifax serial BB376, and now Ley Kenyon required only one more combat trip to complete his tour of duty. Kenyon had actually survived 14 training operations “Bulls-eye” trips, three trips to Berlin, and now he would take off on his 44th operation in Halifax serial LW240, fifty-five bombers attack Modane, France, 16/17 September 1943. On the return trip they were attacked by two German night-fighters as they approached the English Channel. Kenyon shot down one German Me 110 but the other night-fighter set two aircraft engines on fire and the crew had to jump. Ley Kenyon avoided capture, made contact with the French Resistance, who attempted to smuggle him to Spain, but the Gestapo arrested him on a train at Bordeaux, France.

The target 16/17 September 1943, tunnel and marshalling railway yards at Modane, France [A], the area around Lisieux, France, [B] where Halifax VR-S, serial LW240 was shot down. F/Lt/ Ley Kenyon was able to evade the Germans and proceeded south by train attempting to reach the Spanish border. He was arrested by the Gestapo changing trains at Bordeaux, France. He was taken to Stalag Luft III, the POW north camp for RAF escapees, [no Americans] and became involved in the Great Escape. His artistic skills allowed him to forge passes, train tickets and identity papers, plus he also manned the all important air-pump supplying air for the tunnel diggers. His tunnel drawings and history have been published many times in books, videos, documentaries and the 1963 American fantasy WWII Hollywood movie “The Great Escape.”

A wonderful 1944 drawing of F/L Bennett Ley Kenyon by a fellow artist in Stalag Luft III.

In the postwar Kenyon became Britain’s greatest painter of underwater scenes, joined Cousteau in 1951, and spent five months with him on the Calypso. Wrote books illustrated with many of his undersea paintings, artist, author, photographer and underwater film maker, taught Prince Philip to deep sea dive in the Buckingham Palace swimming pool. He painted for himself where ever he went and gave free water color lessons to others, lectured thousands of students using his paintings and under water films. In 1988, while camping in the rough jungle in Malaysia he caught typhus, but survived to return home and organize an art Exhibition. In February 1991, while visiting friends in New Mexico, United States, he collapsed and died.

In 2001, [after twenty-two years’ research] the author published the very first RAF/RCAF nose art book which featured many firsts for Canadians, model builders, historians, and generations who were only educated with American Aircraft Nose Art. The cover of my book was dedicated to WWII pilot Jack McIntosh and his Ley Kenyon painted nose art of Walt Disney’s Goofy, named “Medicine Hat.” In 2002, a two-page story appeared in the Calgary Sun Newspaper by British born journalist friend Peter Smith, and veteran pilot Jack was very, very, proud.

Today our RCAF aircrew from the greatest generation are mostly gone and forgotten by a new age and a new generation of Canadian military male and female jet pilot’s. The old nose art from WWII is lowbrow stuff, and the pin-up girls from 1940’s get occasional complaints from even our present-day RCAF pilots of both sexes’. Art historians, sociologists, and even pop culture researchers are starting to look at past war art for clues to their value in time of conflict and social change. They should be looking at the awful military death toll in war, and the murderess effect it has on civilian populations, women, children, the helpless old and sick. After fifty-five years, I have found nose art did in fact boost WWII military morale, they had little else, and if an aircraft returned time and time again, it became famous and was considered lucky. The young RCAF aircrews of WWII knew the survival odds were heavily stacked against them, and painting nose art gave their aircraft an identity, they hoped might just help bring them back home. Sadly, it only worked for a small few like Jack McIntosh from Calgary, Alberta. The Royal Air Force lost 55,358 personnel during WWII, 8,240 of those were Canadians flying combat operations. No. 6 [RCAF] Group lost 127 Wellington bombers, 149 Lancaster bombers, and 508 Halifax bombers over enemy territory.  For the past fifty-five years the author has attempted to document, repaint, and educate Canadians on our forgotten RCAF nose art paintings, which our Canadian RCAF museum’s refuse to properly define or display.

P/O [later promoted to F/Lt.] Bennett Ley Kenyon was one of seven British born RAF officers posted to No. 419 Squadron RCAF on 3 March 1942. Ley was part of the original squadron roots and for the next eighteen months he served as rear air gunner, flying 29 combat operations, promoted to Canadian squadron gunnery leader, flying 14 operations [Bulls-eye] training fellow gunners, and in addition to flying duties he taught enemy aircraft recognition and enemy evasive tactics if they were shot down over enemy territory. During his busy duties he also found the time to decorate at least twelve No. 419 Squadron bombers with Canadian nose art, which today has been forgotten even by his original RCAF Squadron, training NATO pilots, based at Cold Lake, Alberta. Two of his decorated bombers set 419 Squadron records flying 45 and 50 operations, safely bringing the aircrews back to England.

Dedicated to Ley Kenyon, this is my serious effort to document and preserve on original WWII RCAF aircraft skin, his forgotten “Canadian” No. 419 [Moose] Squadron nose art, where he painted the Mouse before the Moose.

Calgary Herald 21 January 1942

This is part of Alan B. Patrick’s collection. It’s a newspaper clipping of the Calgary Herald 21 January 1942

The original is below. Click on the link.

Calgary Herald 21-1-42

Today, long hours of hard work and Intensive training for student pilots at the No. 37 Service Flying Training School (R.A.F.) bore their first fruit as the first group of fliers received its wings in graduation ceremonies this morning.

“Today.” as Air Vice-Marshal’ Croil, A.F.C. inspector-general for the British Empire Air Training Plan, said, as he pinned wings on the new pilots, “was not only a great day in your history, but in the history of this school. Your class, I understand, has graduated with an extremely satisfactory average and with splendid marks, notwithstanding the fact that because the school has been newly opened, you have had to contend with many difficulties.”

Prior to the inspection Air Vice Marshal Croil, accompanied by Air Commodore A. T. N. Cowley, A.D.C. officer commanding the No. 4 Training Command: Group Captain W. H. Poole, officer commanding No. 37 S.F.T.S., and other officials of No. 4 Training Command, conducted a full dress rehearsal of the entire school. The school band played during the inspection.

Leading the entire class, and the first airman to graduate and receive his wings from No. 37 S.F. T.S.. was LAC G. D. Davies.
Among the graduates were:
G. Bates, R. F. Best, L. F. Bickley. W. Boyes, N R. Cave, G. C. Crompton. L. W. Coote, J. J. Carthew. H. J. Dee. G. D. Davies, A. E. Duffield, J. B. Errington. A. G. Emery, W. Fox.

T. C. Graham. H. Gatgutt, R. F. Gabbitas, K. W. Heywood, A. C. Howard, D. P. P. Hurst, M. F. Hewitt, T. D. Jackson, A. J. Keeling. K. H. Leech. T. E. Leggett, D. S. MacKenzie, T. Mair, R. J. Moss, W. G. Metson. H. Maltby, W. McLennan, A. B. Patrick, R. D. Pearce, N. Powell, E. T. Porter, G. W. Robins, J. W. Roll, L. It. Rimes, N. L. Sherwood. R. H. Simpson. J. N. Shirley, J. Simpson, A. N. Stockdale, P. Y. Thomson, D. C. Tanner.

A. C. Thornton, T. C. Vigors, W. G. Walker. A. W. Walledge, L. West, J. B. Wallis, K. W. West, J. T. Wiseman, N. D. Wilkinson, B. Williams. J. Pool, R. A. J. Yates.

Collection Alan B. Patrick courtesy Tim Patrick

Remembering Alan B. Patrick…click here.

More about RAF No. 37 SFTS Calgary

Updated 24 November 2020

In the PDF version, 1942 has to be corrected with 1941.

AT457 3 Sept. 1941 12 Dec. 1941 – Cat. “A” accident 10 Dec. 1942 LAC W.J. McCarthy 656512 killed 20:30 hrs second solo flight. Crashed three miles north of aerodrome, pilot killed instantly. Funeral 13 Dec. 1941.

Also please note that in the draft PDF version, Flight Hangar Museum should read Hangar Flight Museum.

I have updated the original post about the research done by Clarence Simonsen on No. 37 SFTS.

Clarence Simonsen’s research on different subjects is always very long to read. This particular research has more than 130 pages, and it is easy to get lost reading it. Posting it in PDF form makes it easier to read it and use the search function if you are looking for someone who was part of No. 37 SFTS Calgary.

Click below for the PDF file.

37 SFTS Part final version

I have found out early that every research done by Clarence is never over either on Preserving the Past II as well as on the original Preserving the Past. Both blogs were created to preserve the past Clarence wanted to preserve since no publishers seemed interested in publishing his research.

But I am digressing…

On 4 September 2020, I got this comment from someone whose father happened to be in Course 31 at No. 37 SFTS Calgary. His name was not in Clarence Simonsen’s research, but it is now in this updated version. 

I have two pictures taken in the hanger of the students and the officiers of the original 31 course. Happy to let you have electronic copies if you want. Can also tell you that they were doing air experience flights on the 20th October 1941, a day earlier than you thought.

These are officiers who were there in October 1941 with Course 31.

Alan Patrick has been identified by his son as well as three other cadets.

My father Corporal Alan Patrick is seated in the second row (from the front) on the far left hand side.  Next to him is Roy Pearce, then N Powell and then Eric Porter my father’s best friend.  My father never mention Eric ever so I assume he perished or it could just be that because Eric was not commissioned like my father their worlds diverged.

Alan Patrick

Roy Pearce

N Powell

Eric Porter

I have inserted these two images in the text version below, They won’t appear in the PDF version.

This is another photo of Corporal Alan Patrick and what his son wrote about that particular photo.

Finally Eric Porter (on the left) my father (on the right) with local girl Delphine Price.  The Price family seem to have taken the two cadets under their wing and looked after them royally right up to a special dinner before they boarded the troop train to Halifax and then England and the war.  Given they were only there three months this generosity is amazing.

I thought it was important to let you know about the Price family and Delphine.

Now for the original post in text version with the added photos.

Calgary Wings

The Forgotten R.A.F. History –

C.A. Simonsen

This is the forgotten history of RAF No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta, during WWII, dedicated to the 30 British lads who never returned home. 

Royal Air Force, No. 37 Service Flying Training School, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The British Royal Air Force members of No. 37 S.F.T.S. docked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 14:30 hrs. 15 September 1941, with their first train arriving at Calgary, Alberta, five days later. Their new training school was still under construction, with the first 13 British officers and 444 other ranks moving in 30 September 1941. This RAF unit unofficially adopted an indigenous Thunderbird as their new Canadian training flying school insignia, and this image first appeared on stationary and the school newsletter “Wings” cover [above] in November 1941.

The large area surrounding present day Calgary, Alberta, was first inhabited by a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture of peoples who have been radiocarbon dated [human remains] to 10,200 years ago. At the end of the last glacial period, Cordilleran Ice Sheet, 11,650 years ago, this culture began to manufacture distinctive bone and ivory tools with distinctive “Clovis points” and they became known as the Clovis culture. The Clovis people are considered [DNA testing] to be the first ancestors of today’s indigenous cultures in most of North America, reaching to Mexico and South America. The First Nations of present day Alberta came under control of the Blackfoot Confederacy and this included the Blood, Peigan, Blackfoot and Tsuu T’ina indigenous peoples. The first recorded European appeared in 1787, when cartographer David Thompson made contact with the First Nations people and the early white settlers began to arrive in 1873. The North-West Mounted Police arrived in 1875, and the following year Fort Calgary was constructed, named after clear running water on the isle of Mull, Scotland. The Native Thunderbird symbol is a mythical creature still seen as a most powerful spirit which can change into a human form and was believed to be the dominating force of all natural activity, power, protection, and strength. It is clear some forgotten RAF historian carefully did his research long before the RAF selected their British Thunderbird insignia, possibly at RAF Station West Kirby, England, in July 1941.

In the early hours of 17 December 1939, the British and Canadian government representatives signed a document titled “Agreement Relating to the Training of Pilots and Aircraft Crews in Canada and their Subsequent Service.” During the many hours of meetings [which began 5 November 1939] leading up to the signing the BCATP, the United Kingdom government had intimated the possible need to move complete RAF training schools to Canada, but nothing else was discussed. In the spring of 1940, the World War took a turn for the worse and the British faced possible invasion from Nazi Germany. On 4 July 1940, the British High Commissioner in Ottawa ask Canadian Air Minister Hon. Charles Gavin Power if the RAF could move four complete flying training schools to Canada. The British High Commissioner was informed by Hon. Mr. Power the U.K. could move four schools to Canada, then added, “If the British wished to transfer more schools to Canada, room for them would be found, but it must be understood the full cost of these schools must be borne by the United Kingdom.” On receiving this answer, the RAF revised their original request [four] to eight service flying training schools, two air observer schools, one bombing and gunnery school, one air navigational school, one general reconnaissance school and one torpedo bombing school.

The original estimated Canadian cash outlay for building “Part One” of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan came to 441 million dollars and to this total was now added the Canadian cost for construction of fourteen new Royal Air Force special training schools, with an estimate cost of another $50 million.

Canadian cartoonist editorial drawing by Les Callan which was published after the signing of the 17 December 1939 agreement. Repainted and coloured by author. This cartoon in fact projected BCATP history, as the yellow peril [training aircraft] were like wild hornets attacking Nazi leader Hitler. The British also called the plan “Empire Air Training.”

New sites were now selected for hurried construction of the fourteen new RAF schools, [located in Western Canada] to avoid confusion with RCAF training schools under construction in the BCATP. The movement of complete RAF training schools began in earnest in October 1940, and five schools had arrived by the end of the year. In March 1941, the British government again revised the number of RAF schools they would like to move to Canada, nine more service flying training schools [including Calgary No. 37 SFTS], fifteen elementary flying training schools, ten air observer schools and four operational training units. In 1941, Canada constructed and opened thirty-three RCAF training schools in the BCATP, plus constructed and opened seventeen special RAF schools which were operated by the RAF. The RAF schools in Canada were subject to RCAF administration and operational control, while the British had access to Canadian supply, medical, maintenance, and the same services as the RCAF. There was really very little difference between the British RAF special schools and the RCAF schools under construction for the BCATP. The one major division became the British preservation of their national identity in the RAF schools, which were commanded by their own officers and trained in the same custom and traditions as that in the United Kingdom. For administration control the numbering of RCAF training schools was reserved from #1 to #30 and the RAF training schools were allotted numbers #31 and above. During the war the RAF would operate twenty-eight British schools in Canada, twenty-six were for aircrew training, one Radio Direction Finding School #31 RDF at Clinton, Ontario, and the main RAF reception centre, #31 Personnel Depot at Moncton, New Brunswick. By 1942, it had become clear that air training in Canada [BCATP] had far outgrown the size, cost, and organization of the original plan due mostly to the arrival of twenty-eight new RAF special schools. On 5 June 1942, the British partners in the BCATP set down with Canada and deliberated a new agreement, [Part Two] and the plan was extended until 31 March 1945. Canada would bear half of the total cost of the new extended training program, which was estimated at 747.5 million dollars, for a total Canadian cash outlay of 1,188.5 billion. The British contributed 145 million in cash, and 360 million in aircraft and supplies, for a total of 466 million since the beginning of the plan.

The true financial cost of the BCATP will never be known due to the many claims and counter-claims between the various partners. In 1946, a group of accountants produced a balance sheet which seemed to satisfy all the parties involved and that is the best rounded number we have for historians. Canada contributed seventy-two per cent of the air training cost [$1,617,955,108.79]. The United Kingdom paid $54,206,318.22 in cash, and provided equipment to the value of $162,260,787.89 or ten per cent of the overall cost. Australia payment was $65,181,068.00 or three per cent and New Zealand $48,025,393.00 or two per cent of the total cost.

By 30 June 1942, [end of Part One] Canada had spent $212,280,010.00 on the construction of twenty-eight British RAF schools and purchase of additional aircraft for RAF training in Canada. On 13 October 1944, the Hon, C.G. Power released to the Canadian public the first reports, costs, and prospects of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and these figures were staggering to the main stream Canadian taxpayer.

Under the new BCATP agreement, [Part Two] which took effect on 1 July 1942, the RAF schools in Canada would continue in their present form of retaining British identity under the administration of the RCAF. The only change became the RAF and RCAF schools were now all merged with the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and almost all RAF schools were enlarged to take in new trainees from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Free French, Holland, Norway and Poland. These European Allies maintained national squadrons in the RAF and provided individual aircrew for British Squadrons. Now they would be trained in Canada beside the RAF in their operated schools, where a wide variety of English was being spoken in six foreign tongues. When I walk the small forgotten grave sites near No. 36 SFTS Penhold, No. 32 EFTS Bowden, or the largest grave site [43] at Calgary, Alberta, I can historically read the Allies names mixed with their British comrades as they fell from the sky and died during training.

No. 36 SFTS Penhold, Alberta, was officially opened by Group Captain W.B. Farrington, DSO, on 23 August 1941. It was constructed by the Canadian government for the RAF with the purpose of training young British pilots to fly multi-engine Airspeed Oxford aircraft to “Wings” standard. These British pilot trainees had graduated from basic flying on light aircraft at another RAF E.F.T.S. in Alberta, and now they would learn more advanced flying in the Airspeed Oxford twin-engine aircraft. Each course contained 35-55 students on average, and the course ran for twenty weeks. Today twenty casualties are buried in the Red Deer Cemetery and seventeen lost their lives training in the British Oxford aircraft. [above actual accident] Three were non-flying training deaths, 30 January 1942, Cpl. Stan Ryder, plowing snow RAF tractor tipped over killing driver. 24 September 1942, Flt. /Sgt. G.F. Jennings natural death in hospital. 23 July 1944, P/O D.J. Stewart, drown in swimming accident.

At the request of the British government, RAF schools in Canada were the first to close, and this began in January 1944. By November 1944, only two RAF schools remained with 3,800 RAF students in training. The Part Two agreement of the BCATP signed in June 1942 stated the total cost of the Plan would be divided equally between Canada and the United Kingdom. When the books were balanced in September 1945, the U.K. still owed Canada $282,511,039.25 for Part two of the Plan. Counter-claims and dropping of figures reduced the final claim owed to Canada at $425 million for Plans #1 and #2, including the cost of the twenty-eight British RAF schools. On 29 March 1946, the Canadian Minister of Finance introduced Bill No. 208 providing a loan to the British government in amount of $1,250,000,000.00 for postwar Canadian food products. Included in this Bill was a special clause cancelling the $425 million owed for the BCATP. The Bill passed on 7 May 1946, and the BCATP became history. As the Canadian Press reported – “In addition to meeting more than its own appropriate share of the Training Plan costs, the Canadian Government [taxpayer] had played the role of creditor to its British partners on a very large scale.”

Today modern Canadian and British aviation historians continue to state the total cost of the RAF schools moved to or formed in Canada during WWII were paid for in full by the United Kingdom. I believe that claim is false, and in fact the construction of twenty-eight RAF schools, special CN/CP train transportation, bombs, ammo, food, fuel, medical, ground equipment, and the purchase of extra aircraft for RAF training [$104 million] was paid by the Canadian taxpayer, when the British $425 million owed to Canada was cancelled in May 1946.

The second “unofficial” Royal Air Force Thunderbird insignia displayed and created at No. 37 SFTS [Calgary] beginning March 1942 and displayed until they closed 10 March 1944.

Calgary New Airport “McCall Field” and the Second World War

In 1935, Canadian voters defeated the Federal Conservatives and returned the Liberals of W.L Mackenzie King to power. This proved to be the most aviation minded government Canadians had ever seen and many historical changes took place. In 1936, the senior minister of Harbours and Railways, Hon. C.D. Howe, moved civil aviation from under the Department of Defence and placed it in a new formed Department of Transportation. Trans-Canada Airlines was then created by the Crown Corporation Canadian National Railway [CNR] with the first short flight in Lockheed 10 Electra CF-AZY launched Vancouver to Seattle on 1 September 1937. Next came construction of a Trans-Canada Airway, with airports and emergency landing fields spread across Canada, and by 1938 a framework of 94 airfields were nearing completion. Thanks to the creation of Trans-Canada Airlines, a new [fourth] civil airport for Calgary, Alberta, was developed on new farm land purchased for [$31,126.00] located in the North-East of the city, with the first ever designed municipal constructed civilian airport TCA terminal and hangar. The new airport opened [two weeks after Canada declared war on Germany] 25 September 1939, titled McCall Field, for WWI ace and Vernon, B.C. born [Calgary raised] Frederick Robert Gordon “Freddy” McCall. [4 December 1896 – 22 January 1949]

Photo of Freddie McCall taken after 29 May 1918, when he became an “Ace” with five confirmed kills. His full record of 35 confirmed kills and history can be found on many websites including the Hangar Flight Museum of Calgary. His replica WWII aircraft can also be found in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. Image above taken from December 1932 Flying Aces pulp magazine containing the history of Capt. Fred McCall. Today this famous original TCA terminal and historical WWII hangar, named for Capt. McCall still stands, sadly, forgotten by the passage of time and proper historical background education. The first TCA passenger service in Canada began on 1 April 1939, while the Calgary municipal “McCall Field” terminal was still under construction.

The cover of Maclean’s 1 March 1940, featured a color photo of Lockheed Electra, believed to be CF-BAF, the TCA pilots are not identified. Most likely taken at Winnipeg, where this Lockheed 10 Electra was used as a trainer in 1938.

With the Canadian declaration of war on 10 September 1939, the Federal Department of Transport took over complete control of Calgary McCall Field, [Municipal Airport] which was now selected as a potential BCATP training base site. The Dept. of Transport completed surveys, blueprints, and cost estimates, which were submitted to the RCAF Aerodrome Development Committee for rejection or approval. The final construction site approval came from the Minister of National Defence, [sworn in 23 May 1940] Hon. Charles Gavin Power in Ottawa. Calgary’s McCall Field was first selected to train British fighter pilots for the Royal Air Force, becoming No. 35 Service Flying Training School, with construction beginning in late November 1940. Construction continued during the bitter cold winter months when temperatures dropped to 35 below F and gravel had to be steam heated before it could be mixed for cement.

This image [postcard] was taken in spring of 1941, possibly around April or May, giving a clear air-shot of the original TCA 1938 wood constructed “McCall Field” terminal and hangar, which officially opened 25 September 1939. Seven Trans-Canada Airlines Loadstar aircraft can be seen on the ramp, possible delayed in Calgary due to bad weather over the Rocky Mountains. [TCA only had twelve model 14-08 on strength] The three bottom aircraft are CF-TCY, CF-TDG, and CF-TDF, with CF-TCY surviving today and being restored by the Canadian Museum of Flight in B.C., a rare Canadian historical civil aircraft. Calgary became a major cross-over for flights east-west and north-south.

From author collection of Maclean’s magazine dated 1 June 1942, showing the first TCA air routes across Canada. This Lockheed construction Lodestar 18-10 [#18-2061] CF-TCV was delivered to TCA on 7 January 1941.

The postcard air image also captures the future Calgary RAF hangar #1 [under construction] with British control tower, first used by the RCAF. On 24 January 1941, RCAF Flying Squadron from No. 2 Wireless School [SAIT campus today] Calgary, moved from RCAF No. 3 SFTS [Currie Barracks] to TCA operations hangar for training. They would train at the municipal airport for just four months, then move back to Currie Barracks, today Mount Royal University of Calgary.

This important image was found and supplied by Karly Sawatzky, BA, SAIT Archives of Calgary.
These eight D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth II wireless trainer aircraft were the first WWII trainers to occupy the future RAF hangars, they arrived by rail at Calgary on 18 March 1941. The first Menasco Moth assembled was RCAF serial 4843, [first aircraft in line] and the first to fly at Calgary, [officially recorded by RCAF as Municipal Airport No. 35 SFTS] on 20 March 1941. Menasco T-Moth serial numbers were in production order – 4834-35-36-37-38-40-41 and 42. Eight more arrived on 20 March 1941, serial 4833-4839,4843-4844-4845-4846-4847 and 4848. No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron [formed 6 January 1941] became the first WWII Wireless Air Gunners Course 9X [46 trainees] to train and use Calgary Municipal TCA control tower at Calgary. The airport was now under control of the Dept. of Transport, and the British control tower was not in operational order. The Wireless course began on 28 April 1941, with thirty-five aircraft on charge, 9 RCAF Norseman, 1 old Fairchild, 1 Moth 82C and 24 Moth 82C-4 trainers. These trainer aircraft also became the first to used the new constructed Relief Flying Field located at Airdrie, Alberta, however they would never graduate at No. 35 SFTS. On 12 May 1941, No. 2 Wireless School was ordered back to RCAF No. 3 SFTS at Currie Barracks, as the British government had requested the movement of many more Royal Air Force training schools to Western Canada, and training space for twelve schools had to be found in a short period of time. These future RAF training schools were still under construction as the British staff and trainees began to arrive by train, and they would have to double-bunk in H-huts which were still not fully constructed.

On 22 April 1941, RAF Senior Officers and other ranks of newly formed No. 31 SFTS boarded a train 09:30 hrs at Kirkham, England, arriving at Glasgow, Scotland at 13:00 hrs. They sailed on the S.S. “Royal Ulsterman” on 23 April and arrived at Iceland four days later. They departed Iceland on 29 April in the H.S. California and arrived Halifax, Nova Scotia, 6 May 1941. Next came a train ride to No. 31 Personnel Depot at Moncton, New Brunswick, where they were prepared for the train trip west, which took four days and three nights.

A special CPR train transported the entire staff to Calgary arriving on 10 May, where they were trucked from the train station to the Calgary Municipal airport and No. 35 SFTS, their temporary training school still under construction. Two days later RCAF No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron were ordered back to Currie Barracks, [their original base] to complete their wireless flight training, and make room for the arriving British. RAF No. 31 EFTS were never assigned aircraft for training and one RCAF D.H. Menasco Tiger-Moth Mk. II was loaned to them from No. 2 Wireless School on 15 May 1941. This allowed the pilot students to receive aircraft ground instruction until their new trainers were delivered from Toronto by rail. Their first Canadian built De Havilland Tiger-Moth arrived at Calgary, flown from Regina, Saskatchewan, 30 May, and twenty-one more would arrive by CPR rail from de Havilland in Toronto, by the end of June. The first RAF flying instruction at Calgary, Alberta, began on 18 June when Course #22 commenced their first elementary flying school training, containing 93 student pilots, with completion of course slated for 20 August 1941. The RAF staff of No. 31 EFTS at Calgary were 29 Officers, 24 NCO’s and 425 airmen, including the first 93 student pilots. In June the course students flew an average of seven and one half hours, with six pupils flying solo, and six more ready to fly solo. In the month of July 1941, No. 31 EFTS student pilots had twelve Tiger Moth aircraft accidents, fortunately with no loss of life.

The last collision between two Tiger-Moth trainers at Calgary occurred on 11 October 1941, and training was suspended the next day. The advance RAF party of S/L P. Jackson, P/O J.S. Robinson, and 84 other ranks began the move to their new base at De Winton, Alberta, on 13 October, and the main body of the school arrived three days later. Their new school was still under construction, no telephones, poor sanitation, temporary heating, but they had running ‘cold’ water. The British called this ‘blue pencil’ showers. Not one building at De Winton, Alberta, was 100% completed, including hangars, requiring all aircraft to were flown back and forth to Calgary for normal maintenance and major overhauls. Base construction would not be completed until 13 July 1942.

The historic 1938 constructed first Calgary TCA terminal and hangar remains in use today, while her WWII past is largely unknown to the majority of citizens in Calgary. Author in hangar door under the impact point of the world famous WWII RAF Mosquito “F for Freddie.” Believe it or not, the history of the tragic crash of “Freddie” is not even displayed in the Hangar Flight Museum, and the City of Calgary have never designated this historic aviation hangar as a protected heritage building, which is [2018] privately owned and operated by Condor Aircraft. In March 1941, the British once again revised the number of RAF schools they wished to move to Canada, adding nine more service flying training schools, fifteen elementary flying training schools, ten air observer schools and four operational training schools. This caused many additional construction problems for the Canadian government, RCAF reorganization, doubling the size of some schools under construction, and turning relief landing fields into full size training schools. In June 1941, the RAF Officers and ranks of No. 35 SFTS were reassigned from their intended base at Calgary to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, where they arrived on 21 July 1941.
Their original designated RAF school under construction at Calgary, Alberta, now remained an un-numbered temporary training school of RAF No. 31 EFTS until 4 September 1941, then it was officially renumbered RAF No. 37 SFTS.

When this image was taken, 4 April 1941, [5,500 feet] the base was still designated as No. 35 S.F.T.S and the aircraft seen in front of Hangar #1 are four Menasco Moth Mk. II from No. 2 Wireless School. The RAF organization of British Officers and other ranks of new formed No. 37 S.F.T.S. Calgary, Alberta, Canada, came together at RAF West Kirby, England, on 18 August 1941. RAF West Kirby was constructed beginning in October 1939, a large camp designed to train new RAF recruits in education of the wartime RAF, learning air force parade ground drill, later with rifles, and intense physical fitness training. West Kirby was a basic training unit with no airfield, where discipline was much stricter than a normal RAF training school, which earned the nickname ‘square bashing camp.’
After eight weeks of basic training, the new recruit was posted for special trades training or directly to RAF operations. The new staff of No. 37 SFTS were recalled from leave on 2 September 1941, and it appears around 400 were new British airmen who would learn their air force trade at a far-off place called Calgary, Alberta, in Western Canada.

Of all the new formed RAF training units in Canada the elementary flying training schools went through the most numerous changes in construction, location, and student size, due to their rapid expansion. This sudden acceleration of British student pilots also effected the service flying training schools in not only construction, or finding training aircraft but in finding proper accommodations, and Calgary became a perfect example.

When the first No. 37 SFTS RAF train arrived at Calgary on 20 September 1941, they found it occupied by No. 31 EFTS, and new arrival staff [458 all ranks] had no accommodation. The new arrivals had to double-up with the 478 staff members of No. 31 EFTS. The second train was halted at RAF No. 39 Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which was still under construction and would not open until 15 December 1941. The officers from the second train were taken to RAF No. 32 SFTS at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for accommodation. What a confusing greeting to Canada after five or six days at sea, and then four days on a train. The fact being RAF training staff and students were arriving in Canada faster than their training schools could be constructed by Canadians.

On 30 September 1941, 13 officers and 444 other ranks moved into RAF No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta, a very slow beginning, then came aircraft training changes. Calgary originally had been selected as a service flying training school, equipped with Harvard aircraft for RAF fighter pilot training. In 1940-41, Harvard aircraft in Canada were relatively plentiful and twin-engine Avro Anson and Airspeed Oxford bomber pilot trainers were scarce. The British Oxford twin-engine aircraft were being shipped from England and took weeks to deliver, thus more RAF pilots were being trained as fighter pilots and an imbalance was taking place. Fully trained RAF fighter pilots arriving back in United Kingdom had to be retrained as bomber pilots at a British operational training unit, and this wasted time and cost money.
On 22 September 1941, RAF Order #228 advised No. 37 SFTS Calgary, would train bomber pilots flying British built Airspeed Oxford trainers, being shipped across the sea from England. These aircraft would arrive three, four, or six a time depending on the ship size that transported them.

The prototype Oxford flew on 19 June 1937, with 8,586 manufactured by Airspeed, 4,441 at Portsmouth, 550 at Christchurch, 1,515 built by de Havilland at Hatfield, 1,356 by Percival at Luton, and 750 by Standard Motors at Coventry. The RCAF ordered twelve Mk. I and thirteen Mk. II trainers in 1938, the first serial 1501 [Mk. II] arrived at Trenton, Ontario, 8 May 1939. These first twenty-five aircraft were serial #1501 to #1525, serving at RCAF Camp Borden, Trenton, Picton, and Rockcliffe, Ontario.

Oxford #1521 was taken on charge RCAF at Camp Borden 10 September 1939, had a Cat. C accident at RCAF Rockcliffe, Ontario, on 9 January 1942, off charge 19 February 1945.

The RCAF also purchased 188 Oxford AS46 Mk. V aircraft which trained in various parts of the BCATP in Canada. Oxford Mk. V, serial EB623 was taken on charge 19 March 1943, off charge by RCAF 21 August 1945. This aircraft never few training and had only 10:10 hrs when sold by War Assets in 1946.

Due to RAF training school construction delays in Canada, combined with a shortage of RAF Bomber Pilots, No. 37 SFTS RAF Calgary will begin twin-engine Bomber pilot training with the British Airspeed Oxford “All Purpose” RAF trainer. The RAF Calgary airport was constructed at a high elevation of 3,606 ft. [1,099 metres] above sea level, which required a longer runway for take-off in twin engine aircraft and the Oxford was not suitable to operate in this high altitude of Western Canada.

The most notable difference between twin-engine training schools in Canada became aircraft types. The RAF schools flew the Airspeed Oxford, 601 which were shipped from England, [March 1941 to November 1943] then arrived by rail at the assigned schools in Western Canada, while the RCAF schools flew the Avro Anson trainer. The higher the British Oxford trainer flew in Calgary the more power it lost due to thin air density, and the RAF knew this, but they needed bomber pilots, so the decision was made to train bomber pilots at Calgary [for eleven months] until 25 September 1942. The first British Oxford AS276 arrived by rail on 7 August, followed by four T1184, V3426, V3434, and AS365 on 20 August 1941.

The first 68 RAF EFTS pilot graduates arrived at Calgary on 13 October 41, and now these British lads came face to face with their first twin-engine Oxford and their new flying instructor.

Keep in mind all British schools and many RAF course numbers in Canada began with number 31.

This four-page cartoon appeared in No. 32 EFTS magazine “Three Corners” but the humor would apply to any of the 26 RAF wartime training schools in Canada. Joining up and posted to RAF West Kirby, Cheshire [later Merseyside] England, “Fly with the RAF.”

RAF parade ground drill, “square bashing” spit and polish, with strict discipline.

Intensive physical fitness training and weekends of book study, kitchen duty, or Orderly Sgt.

Canadian RAF Flying Training washed-out, replaced by hours of cleaning duties.
On 21 October 1941, RAF ground school lectures and flying instruction began at Calgary, and the next day RAF No. 37 SFTS officially opened for Airspeed Oxford bomber pilot training, Course #31. This first Course began with 68 students and graduated 53 Bomber Sgt./pilot flying badges, with 13 students granted officer commissions. The Wings parade flying badges were presented by Vice-Marshal G.N. Croil AFC, beginning 09:00 hrs 21 January 1942.

This is an actual RAF photo of a Wings Parade Badge presentation at the Drill Hall of No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta. Today this 1940 constructed Drill Hall survives as the Hangar Flight Museum of Calgary. In 2017, the City of Calgary spent one-million dollars to renovate and make this historic old building fire proof, and you can now rent this very space for a birthday, wedding, funeral, or stag party evening, drinking and dancing around old airplanes. Sadly, you will not find one aircraft, photo, or fact sheet which tells the true history of this British WWII RAF pilot training site, or the 30 British lads who died here. One-thousand five hundred and thirty-five RAF trained pilots received their Wings in the Hangar Flight Museum of Calgary, and not one was RCAF or Canadian.

Image from RAF aircraft in March 1942, [looking North-East] showing downtown Calgary and the location of British No. 37 S.F.T.S. Forty-three Mk. I and forty-one Mk. II British Oxford aircraft were delivered directly to the base from Halifax, Nova Scotia, by C.P.R. Railway.

Airspeed Oxford Mk. I, serial number Taken on strength Taken off strength

T1180 2 Sept. 1941 17 Feb. 1945
T1184 [Mk. II] 20 Aug. 1941 17 May 1944
V3379 29 Aug. 1941 3 Oct. 1946
V3393 29 Aug. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
V3426 20 Aug. 1941 18 Aug. 1942
Cat “A” accident, 14 August 1943. Mid-air with AS666, LAC Nimmo and LAC Webb killed.
V3434 20 Aug. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
V3439 12 Aug. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
V3463 19 Sept. 1941 11 Apr. 1944
V3479 3 Sept. 1941 28 Nov. 1942
Cat. “A” accident, 28 November 1942, No. 39 SFTS Swift current, Sask.
X6539 26 Aug. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
X6544 4 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
X6549 4 Oct. 1941 18 May 1944
X6550 2 Sept. 1941 8 Sept. 1943
X6551 2 Sept. 1941 3 Oct. 1946
X6557 22 Oct. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
X6589 24 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
X6590 17 Sept. 1941 10 June 1943
X6593 25 Sept. 1941 11 May 1943
X6881 3 Nov. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
X6883 3 Nov. 1941 3 Oct. 1943
X6884 [Mk. II] 9 Oct. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
X6964 [Mk. II] 2 Feb. 1942 23 Jan. 1945
X6967 [Mk. II] 2 Feb. 1942 12 May 1943
X7143 [Mk. II] 24 Mar. 1942 3 Oct. 1945
X7156 [Mk. II] 14 May 1942 19 Feb. 1945
AP424 [Mk. II] 4 Mar. 1942 23 Jan. 1945
AR969 [Mk. II] 17 Sept. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS266 [Mk. II] 28 Aug. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AS276 [Mk. II] 7 Aug. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS303 [Mk. II] 29 Aug. 1941 17 May 1944
AS321 [Mk. II] 18 Aug. 41 13 Apr. 1944
AS365 [Mk. II] 20 Aug. 1941 11 June 1943
Cat. “A” accident, 1st British bomber student pilot killed at Calgary 5 December 1941, LAC Ernest Thomson 1387318. Flying his first solo, the pilot attempted to land with only one wheel locked in down position, the aircraft stalled and crashed onto nose, killing LAC Thomson. Funeral on 8 December 41, attended by ten RAF officers, firing party, trumpeters and drummer.

RAF crash photo Oxford AS10 Mk. II, serial AS365, 5 December 1941

AS373 [Mk. II] 17 Sept. 41 29 Oct. 1942
19 January 1942, forced landing Cat. “C” accident, extensive damage, LAC Crampton G.C.
AS382 [Mk. II] 29 Aug. 1941 18 Aug. 1942
Cat. “A” accident, LAC E.C. Dunbavand #1218546 killed at Three Hills, Alberta. [1st Solo flight]
Funeral 16 January 1942.

AS396 [Mk. II] 18 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AS475 22 Oct. 1941 2 Oct. 1946
AS599 14 Nov. 1941 3 Oct. 1946
AS603 4 Sept. 1941 3 Oct. 1946
AS610 26 Aug. 1941 28 Nov. 1942
AS612 29 Aug. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS614 2 Sept. 1941 12 May 1943
Involved in collision 11 Dec. 1941, pilot 656537 LAC B. Williams.
AS616 22 Oct. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS617 22 Oct. 1941 11 Nov. 1943
Cat. “A” accident at No. 29 SFTS Swift Current, Sask.
AS619 2 Sept. 1941 28 28 Jan. 1945
AS625 18 Nov. 1941 27 Aug. 1943
Cat. “A” accident 8 July 1943, No. 39 SFTS Swift Current, Sask.
AS629 25 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AS666 17 Sept. 1941 12 Mar. 1943
Cat. “A” accident 14 Aug. 1942, LAC L.R. Nimmo 420814 mid-air.

AS691 12 Nov. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS699 10 Dec. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS701 3 Nov. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AS790 [Mk. II] 4 Sept. 1941 22 Feb. 1943
Cat. “A” accident 12 December 1943, No. 39 SFTS, Swift Current, Sask.

AS798 [Mk. II] 17 Sept. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS802 [Mk. II] 4 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AS834 [Mk. II] 18 Sept. 1942 25 May. 1945
AS837 [Mk. II] 18 Sept. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS838 [Mk. II] 18 Sept. 1941 3 Oct. 1946
AS848 [Mk. II] 18 Nov. 1941 17 Feb. 1945
AS853 [Mk. II] 17 Sept. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS859 [Mk. II] 9 Oct. 1941 12 Feb. 1945
AS860 [Mk. II] 9 Oct. 1941 23 Jan. 1945
AS862 [Mk. II] 22 Oct. 1941 22 Feb. 1945
AS927 [Mk. II] 8 Jan. 1942 19 Feb. 1945
AS931 [Mk. II] 6 Nov. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AT442 3 Sept 1941 2 Oct. 1946
Crashed in landing accident 17 April 1942, no injuries.

Cat. “C” accident 17 April 1942, Oxford AS10 Mk. I, serial AT442, repaired, continued training.

AT444 3 Sept. 1941 2 Oct. 1946
AT446 25 Sept. 1941 19 Feb. 1945
AT447 25 Sept 1941 14 Feb. 1945
AT452 25 Sept. 1941 20 May 1943
Night flying 8 January 1942, hit telephone wires. No injuries.

AT455 25 Sept. 1941 17 May 1944
AT457 3 Sept. 1941 12 Dec. 1942
Cat. “A” accident 10 Dec. 1941 LAC W.J. McCarthy 656512 killed 20:30 hrs second solo flight.
Crashed three miles north of aerodrome, pilot killed instantly. Funeral 13 Dec. 1941.

AT458 17 Sept. 1941 30 Oct. 1945
Cat. “A” accident 14 Sept. 1943, No. 39 SFTS Swift Current, Sask.
AT472 17 Sept. 1941 12 Mar. 1942
Cat. “A” accident 26 Aug. 1942

BG303 [Mk. II] 12 Mar. 1942 23 Jan. 1945
BG328 [Mk. II] 12 Mar. 1942 13 Apr. 1944
BG354 [Mk. II] 4 Mar. 1942 1 Aug. 1943
Cat. “C” accident 1 June 1942.
BG355 [Mk. II] 27 Feb. 1942 25 May 1945
BG363 [Mk. II] 27 Jan. 1942 19 Feb. 1945
BG503 [Mk. II] 14 May 1942 11 Apr. 1945
BM679 [Mk. II] 4 Mar. 1942 8 Aug. 1944
BM701 [Mk. II] 27 Jan. 1942 8 Sept. 1943
BM749 [Mk. II] 22 Apr. 1942 19 Feb. 1945
BM752 [Mk. II] 24 Mar. 1942 17 May 1942
BM807 [Mk. II] 10 Apr. 1942 11 Apr. 1944
BM810 [Mk. II] 10 Apr. 1942 28 Nov. 1942
Cat. “A” 14 August 1942, LAC W.J. Webb killed. Mid-air with Oxford AS666, LAC Nimmo.

The British shipped 601 Airspeed Oxford AS. 10 and AS. 46 trainers to RCAF for training in Canada, five were lost at sea [ship torpedoed] serial – AR809, AR810, AR813, AR814, and AR819. Delivered Mk. I aircraft totalled 281, Mk. II, 318, and Mk. V, 2. Calgary received 43 Mk. I aircraft and 41 Mk. II aircraft which are listed above on date of arrival and date off charge by RCAF.

On 28 September 1942, seventy-eight of the above Airspeed Oxford aircraft were flown to RAF No. 39 SFTS at Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and one-hundred Harvard II trainers were flown to No. 37 SFTS in Calgary. Another five Oxford aircraft were transferred on 30 September, and only six remained on strength at Calgary.

Harvard Mk. II training began on 1 October 1942, [above] is AJ802 [#89] early October 42. Taken on charge by RCAF on 16 October 1941, flew with RAF until March 1944, transferred to RCAF. Crashed 29 September 1944, No. 2 Squadron, [Cat. C] off charge 9 March 1945.

Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta, was established in 1923, containing 22,061 burials of WWI and WWII Veterans from the City. The British Union Jack proudly flies over the hallowed ground which contains 43 WWII graves of RAF students and Flying Instructors who never left Calgary 1941-44. Thirty were RAF members killed while training at No. 37 SFTS, Calgary.

The first British issue of “Calgary Wings” with original RAF [First Nations] Thunderbird on front cover, November 1941. This design changed to a new Thunderbird in March 1942.

The second issue of Calgary Wings came out in March 1942, featuring a new designed [First Nations] Thunderbird which remained with the British school until closing 10 March 1944. It’s possible this image was even painted on a few British flown aircraft.

The first RAF full page cartoon appeared in the March issue. The citizens of Banff would invite 100 RAF students for a weekend of entertainment every few months.

The British RAF feelings towards Wild West Calgary in March 1942.

The first RAF Bomber pilot to solo at No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Sgt. Howard from Course No. 31, trained 21 October 1941 to 21 January 1942.
The second RAF Oxford trained Bomber Pilot class of sixty to graduate at Calgary on 5 March 1942, became Course #33. Seventeen from original class were wastage [failed] posted back to No. 31 RAF Personnel Depot at Moncton, New Brunswick.

Course #35 graduated 52 bomber pilots on 21 May 1942, with 13 wasted [failed]. The last bomber pilot graduation class became Course #57 on 24 September 1942. Sixty-eight pilots graduated and all flying training was suspended on 25 September 42. The next day 73 Oxford aircraft were flown to No. 39 SFTS at Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and exchanged for 100 Harvard trainers which arrived Calgary on 30 September. No. 37 SFTS Calgary had graduated eight Airspeed Oxford bomber pilot courses [#31, #33, #35, #47, #49, #51, #56, and #57] with a total of 385 bomber pilots returning to England. Now, RAF Calgary would begin training fighter pilots for the RAF, flying Harvard II trainers, a new era begins on 1 October 1942.
R.A.F. No. 37 SFTS Relief Field at Airdrie, Alberta
On 10 October 1939, the Canadian government agreed that after the BCATP was signed [17 December 1939] the new Department of Transport would undertake the initial selection of airfield training sites, which must then be approved by the Aerodrome Committee of the RCAF. The erection of all buildings and training aids on each base was totally controlled by the Aerodrome Committee [RCAF]. Government survey crews from the D.O.T were aided by provincial highway survey parties and by 24 January 1940, a tentative selection of eighty schools for the BCATP was summited to Supervisory Board in Ottawa. A good number of these early training sites originally constructed for the RCAF would now be turned over to the RAF as they arrived in Canada, however I’m sure these original records are long gone.

The RCAF training schools in the BCATP were distributed throughout the four Air Force Training Commands in Canada, while the RAF schools were mostly located in No. 4 Training Command, which took up the southern part of Saskatchewan and the complete provinces of Alberta, and British Columbia. The above map shows the locations of thirteen RAF Pilot training schools in No. 4 T.C. and three more located in No. 2 Training Command, with H.Q. at Winnipeg.
Twenty-six Royal Air Force training schools would train 42,110 British aircrew members from October 1941 until January 1945. Almost half [17,796] graduated from Canadian RAF flying training schools in western Canada as pilots. Another 81 RAF pilots were trained and graduated from RCAF schools in the BCATP. After 1 July 1942, these Canadian RAF schools also trained 2,000 Free French aircrews, 900 Czechoslovakian pilots, 677 Norwegian pilots, 450 Polish pilots and 400 Dutch and Belgian pilots. Each of the British run RAF schools had one Relief Landing Ground [some had two] which was used for day and night flying training. These figures give a small account of the tremendous problems encountered and it is still hard for many historians to grasp that the RAF schools were training in the same air space as many other [five] RCAF schools south of Calgary, Alberta. Seventy-eight years later the RAF Relief landing fields are mostly gone, the buildings removed or torn down years ago, the runways over-grown with trees or just a faint outline in the earth seen from the air by passing aircraft.
Today [2019] it is a complete surprise to find a large percentage of No. 37 SFTS Relief Landing Ground at Airdrie, Alberta, still operates and survives like a war ghost from the past. My historical research of RAF in Canada began in 1985, and the hardest part was finding WWII images, and placing the history of this forgotten British training base in correct order. I know that hundreds of photos survive in England, forgotten in old photo albums, which are rarely looked at by today’s generation. The author would really appreciate any British images or shared history from this past RAF history in Western Canada. The majority of my RAF Airdrie/Calgary history was obtained from four caring Canadians, all of whom are now deceased. Mr. Burt Sharp, an ex-RCAF airplane mechanic who was posted to RAF Relief Field in February 1943, Mr. Harry Cromwell, an Airdrie farmer who owned the land surrounding the RAF Bomb Range, Mr. Archie Penny, an original 1942 RAF pilot, who flew Harvard trainers from Calgary, training at Relief Field Airdrie, and Mrs. Gwen Conroy, an amazing lady who owned and lived on the Airdrie Airport, plus being a qualified Harvard aircraft female pilot. Some of these WWII photos are being published for the very first time, with limited information, corrections are always appreciated, to record and preserve the truth. Many WWII photos were copied and shared by other aircrew members, then passed on and later placed into photo albums. For this reason, a good part of Canadian training RAF history was just forgotten and lost.
In December 1940, the aerodrome Committee of the RCAF selected 640 acres of farm land situated almost 3 miles East of the Village of Airdrie, Alberta, for construction of a Relief Landing Ground for RAF No. 35 SFTS being constructed in North-East Calgary. The construction contract was awarded to the Dutton Bros. of Calgary, Alberta, with the airfield completed in May 1941. Airdrie first became a railway siding of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1889, named after a Scottish village, with the first farmhouse constructed in 1901. When the RAF airfield construction began in 1940, the Village of Airdrie had a population of 191 citizens. The runways at Airdrie were first used for training by RCAF No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron using D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth Mk. II trainers based in Calgary, 28 April until 12 May 1941
No. 31 EFTS RAF arrived next, flying Canadian built DH 82 Tiger-Moth training at Airdrie Landing Ground beginning 18 June 1941. No. 31 EFTS moved to De Winton, Alberta, beginning 13 October 1941, and the main party arrived officially three days later. Airdrie Relief Landing Ground officially became the training field of No. 37 SFTS Calgary on 4 September 1941, with British built Airspeed Oxford twin-engine pilot training beginning 22 October 1941, consisting of 68 RAF pilot students in Course #31.

This cold flying shot was taken on opening day of No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, 22 October 1941. The RAF student pilot [LAC Gafney who took image] was being flown by his RAF instructor Reg Eastwood, in a DH 82 Tiger-Moth trainer aircraft from No. 31 EFTS at De Winton, Alberta, and they would be landing in a few minutes. Twenty-five British Twin-engine Airspeed Oxfords are parked on the first snow fall of the fast approaching Calgary winter. The Daily Diary records 8 hours flying time on 22 October, with RAF strength 51 Officers, 136 RAF Student bomber pilot trainees, and 1,044 other ranks of British training staff. RAF Officer’s and Oxford aircraft are still arriving on a daily basis, with 50 aircraft on strength, and by the end of the month, they completed 444 hrs. 55 min. flying training hours. The Relief Landing Ground at Airdrie, Alberta, had suddenly become a busy WWII British airport.

This is the normal “three corner” design of a WWII Relief Landing Ground of the British and RCAF Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This 1991 image was taken by WWII pilot Ernie Thompson showing the RAF Relief L.G. at [Big Bend] Innisfail, Alberta, used by student pilots from RAF No. 32 EFTS at Bowden. Relief Landing Grounds received a fair share of training accidents and loss of life during WWII training in Canada.

Crash image by Mr. George Frost, Chief RAF Aviation Engineer at No. 32 EFTS, Bowden, Alberta. This DH 82C Tiger Moth #5034 being flown by RAF student LAC Thomas Malan hit the power lines over the Town of Bowden on 27 May 1942, and the pilot survived. The man on right in white shirt with hands in pocket is the one and only Town Constable Ed Shenfield. Up to this point in his police career, he had only investigated, stolen horses, car accidents, and drunken Alberta farmers. That possibly explains the puzzled look on his face, what the hell should I do?

The RAF at Bowden picked their news magazine publication cover from Shakespeare – “Come the three corners of the world in arms” a dark period in England, when King John has been poisoned by a Monk. It also stood for the three corner runways of the training fields in Canada, very fitting.

A copy of the original Dutton Bros, ‘Three Corners” construction map created by the Department of Transportation in 1940. Obtained from Mrs. Gwen Conroy in 1991, at which time she was the property owner of the runway portion of the Airdrie Airport, and resided on her very own private airport.

In the spring of 1944, a south-bound American Douglas Digby lost an oil line over Olds, Alberta, then made a forced landing in the wet field just south-east of the Airdrie Relief Landing Ground. The RAF Airdrie Hangar can be seen on the left under the bomber wing. The American airmen [possibly pilot] in the bomber door has dropped his pants, and ‘moons’ the British camera.

Towed from the soft-wet ground by an RAF Cat Tractor, [seen above] the oil line was repaired and the Digby took off south for the United States. The old USAAF bomber had been serving in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the three corners of Airdrie, Alberta, had saved her return flight home.

This original 1940 constructed RAF Hangar survives 2019 [minus WWII control tower] which is still in private use, owned by a German who immigrated to Calgary, Alberta, in the 1960’s.
Airdrie Relief Landing Ground was constructed at elevation 3,602 ft. [1,098 m] and as you drive or fly directly east, the ground level slowly drops. Four miles directly east of the airport the ground suddenly drops 130 ft. and the lowest section contains a two to three-foot body of water which is one-half mile in length, running north to south. This body of water was never claimed by early western homesteaders, as no farmer wanted to pay taxes for a duck pond. Today it still remains Federal government property, [Crown Land] and for that reason the RAF in WWII decided this would make a very good bomb training range for low-flying aircraft.

This author image is looking directly east at the road located four miles east of the Airdrie airport, and this body of water marsh area contains tens-of-thousands of WWII British smoke bombs, some still unexploded ordnance. Farmer Harry Cromwell owned the surrounding farm land and lived on the far south section of land from the lake area. The lake had no official name, however the local Airdrie farmers called it Wood Lake, reason unknown. In January 1942, the RAF approached farmer Cromwell for permission to build two twenty-seven-foot bomb towers, which would be placed on the east and west side of Wood Lake, near the center of the body of water. In the center of the frozen lake they chipped rows of six holes in a square shape and them pile drove thirty-six half length telephone poles in each hole. Each telephone pole was then painted yellow and red in alternating colors, and this became the target for dropping training smoke bombs. On the assigned training day, the RAF placed one LAC student in each tower, and his duty was to point a gun sight device at the white smoke released where the bomb hit the water near the target. Then the number on a map were recorded and this was repeated again, and again, as each aircraft dropped its bombs. In the evening, the maps from were each tower were connected by drawing lines, which marked an “X” and the location each student bomb landed. A very simple, but effective way of giving each RAF student his bomb marks. The RAF called this training area “Wood Lake No. 1 Bombing Range” and it remained in use until 1946, used by the RCAF in the postwar era. The only known accident at the bomb range occurred on 26 October 1943, when RAF Harvard aircraft FE808 struck the centre of the target area with a wing, but made it safely back to base. Today this forgotten WWII bomb site is not even recorded as a government explosive ordnance site, so please use caution, if you are digging for war junk.
Author map showing location of RAF Wood Lake, No. 1 Bomb Range at Airdrie, Alberta.

Airdrie Relief L.G. bomb training is not recorded in the Daily Diary of No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, while farmer Cromwell believed it began in April 1942. RAF Calgary had a staff of 88 Officers, 1,168 airmen and 221 RAF bomber pilot trainees, with 98 Oxford aircraft on strength, 1 April 1942. Airspeed Oxford bomb training continued until 25 September 1942. By 28 September, 78 Oxford trainers had been flown to RAF No. 39 SFTS at Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and 100 Harvard trainers returned to Calgary by 30th of the month.

North American Aviation, Inc. [NAA] was a holding company for many aviation firms, which came together during the great depression, then General Motors obtained 29 percent of the shares in 1933, and decided to create General Aviation Corp. of NAA, located in the Curtiss-Caproni factory at Dundalk, Maryland. In 1934, General Aviation was renamed becoming the Aircraft Manufacturing Division of NAA, and from this came the prototype [future Harvard] aircraft, NA-16 the first of many. The first BT-9, flew on 15 April 1936, and a production line was set up in the new constructed plant at Inglewood, California. The first Harvard I, serial N7000 was built with British-specified equipment, and flew on 28 September 1938, wearing full British RAF markings. Witnessed by British representatives, the aircraft impressed and 200 aircraft were ordered for RAF training in U.K. Another 200 Harvard’s were ordered in January 1939, which were shipped without engines, assembled at a shadow factory RAF Shawbury, England. In April 1939, Canada ordered 30 Harvard I’s [NA-61] which were built for the RCAF, serial #1321 to #1350. The first three were delivered 20 July 1939, eleven in August, eight in November [Canada had declared war on Germany 10 September] and the last seven arrived at the Alberta border on 1 December 1939, serial #1344 to #1350.

This image appeared in the 11 December 1939 issue of American LIFE magazine, titled – BRITISH WARPLANES ARE TOWED ACROSS CANADIAN BORDER AT MONTANA “PORT OF EXIT.” This North American Harvard I is serial #1338, delivered to the RCAF in Alberta, [above] 21 November 1939. The aircraft flew at Camp Borden, Ontario, until 14 February 1945. Flying the last fifteen Harvard I’s to Canada proved to be a problem as the U.S. Neutrality Act prohibited the flying of aircraft to a Country at war. The Nov. & Dec. Harvard’s for the RCAF were flown to Sweetgrass, Montana, USA, landed at the border, and then pushed across to Alberta, [right side of fence wire in photo] then flown north to Calgary RCAF No. 3 SFTS at Currie Barracks.
From this point in time, [January 1940] the Harvard production line officially became the American AT-6 production line for the remainder of the war. Whatever you wish to call it – U.S. Navy J-Bird, Texan, AT-6, or British/Canadian Harvard, it soon earned the unofficial name “Pilot Maker” and the entire Allied war effort would depend on this single aircraft which produced tens of thousands of WWII combat pilots. The largest customer for the Harvard became the RCAF and the Royal Air Force training at their bases in western Canada. On 18 March 1941, the 1,000th Harvard II rolled off the production line in California, and it became the 570th to be flown directly to Canada. The ridiculous process of flying to the Canadian border had been dropped by the U.S. State Department and now direct flights were made to Canadian RCAF bases. For model builders or aviation painters, it is interesting to see the new Harvard II was painted in full British RAF markings on the NAA final production line at Inglewood, California. For flying in the United States the trainers still required U.S. national insignia under the wings, an unusual mix of fuselage British Roundel with American Star National wing markings.

Jeff Ethell collection 1983.
Harvard AJ987 never made It to Canada, one of two aircraft which crashed in California before delivery to RCAF. In the background is AJ986, flown to RAF No. 39 SFTS [Swift Current, Saskatchewan] and taken on charge 3 February 1942. This trainer had a Cat. C-5 crash on 18 March 1942, was repaired and became one of the [100] delivered to RAF No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, Alberta, 30 September 1942. In the Royal Air Force, the American built AT-6C became known as the Harvard IIA. In January 1940, the Canadian government bought the rights to produce the AT-6A by Noorduyn Aviation Ltd. in Montreal, Quebec, and these Canadian constructed RAF Harvard’s became the British Harvard IIB trainer. Noorduyn Aviation would build 2,610 Harvard IIB trainers in Montreal, Canada, 1,500 were lend-lease for the RAF. Uncle Sam paid Canadians in Montreal to build the AT-6, then gave them to the British [Lend-Lease] to train pilots in RAF bases in Canada.
On 30 September 1942, one-hundred RAF Harvard II “Pilot Makers” returned to Calgary, Alberta, where the very first RCAF Harvard I, #1321, touched down on 20 July 1939.

Part Two R.A.F. No. 37 SFTS Harvard Training follows.

No. 37 Service Flying Training School, Calgary, Alberta, – Part Two

RAF Flight of North American Harvard Mk. II trainers on delivery to No. 37 Service Flying Training School at Calgary, arriving over RAF No. 34 SFTS Medicine Hat, Alberta, where they landed for refueling. Date 25 to 27 September 1942. [RAF WWII Image]
On 21 September 1942, all North American Harvard Mk. II aircraft flying training ceased at No. 39 Service Flying Training School, Swift Current, Saskatchewan. In the next five days, One-Hundred Harvard aircraft, thirty-four RAF Harvard Flying Instructors, and a large number of RAF Ground Staff would be transferred to No. 37 S.F.T.S. at Calgary, Alberta. This large base transfer included four Senior RAF Officers, 62 Junior Officers, and 313 other British ranks, mostly Harvard trained ground crews. The one-hundred Harvard Mk. II aircraft flew west from RAF No. 39 SFTS to RAF No. 34 SFTS [refuel] then north to RAF No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, Alberta. The refueling arrival over Medicine Hat was captured on rare color film by an RAF flight member.

The new RAF administration staff at Calgary Headquarters were:
G/C J. B. Stockbridge, [C.O.] S/L G.S. M. Warlow, [S. Adjutant] F/L E.T. Hawley, [Admin. Officer] W/O R. H. Evans, [S. Warrant Officer] Sgt. D. Abery, Cpl. E.A. Palmer, LAC G. Wishart, LAC K. Jennings, AC1 G. Meakes, LAC E. Dickinson, Cpl. E.W. Bryant, LAC E.D.G. Crowe, LAC W. Goodlett, AC1 J. Coppock, LAC V. Gould, LAC P.G. Ross and LAC L. Calver.
The 34 RAF Harvard Flying Instructors consisted of twenty-one officers, and thirteen NCO’s. The Flying Instructors were composed of four squadrons commanded by F/O R.H. Saxton, F/O E.O. Jones, W/O R.H. Evans, and F/Lt. Peter F. Middleton. [remember that last name] On 1 October 1942, RAF Calgary began training of British Fighter pilots in North American Harvard Mk. II aircraft, using Airdrie Relief Landing Ground. Seven Cat. “A” fatal crashes took place.

North American Harvard Mk. II T.O.S. RCAF Taken Off Strength by RCAF
The dates shown are for RCAF Harvard aircraft Taken on Strength and shortly after they were delivered to RAF No. 39 SFTS Swift Current, Sask., which opened on 5 December 1941. All of these one-hundred Harvard MK. II’s were delivered to No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, Alberta, by 30 September 1942.
2566 23 Sept. 1940 18 Oct. 1960
2586 4 Oct. 40 15 Jan. 1947
2631 26 Oct. 40 1 Dec. 1943, Cat. “A” 21 Oct. 43
2698 2 Dec. 40 1 Oct. 1946
2726 20 Dec. 40 18 Oct. 1960
2937 5 Mar. 41 31 Aug. 1946
3274 2 Feb. 42 4 Dec. 1946
3278 9 Feb. 42 7 Nov. 1957
AJ582 29 July 41 14 Mar. 1945
AJ583 [#46] 29 July 41 21 Jun. 1960
AJ723 9 Sept. 41 21 Oct. 1957
AJ753 16 Sept. 41 21 Oct. 1957
AJ758 16 Oct. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ759 16 Oct. 41 2 Mar. 1943, Cat. “A” 10 Dec. 42

Airdrie Relief L. G. claimed the first qualified Flight Commander F/Lt. E.G. Ford #81636 and his pupil from No. 70 Course, when Harvard AJ759 stalled just after takeoff.

Recovery of RAF Harvard Mk. II serial AJ759, 10 December 1942.

AJ760 [#73] 16 Oct. 41 23 Oct. 1946
AJ762 16 Oct. 41 18 Oct. 1946
AJ766 16 Oct. 41 4 Feb. 1943
AJ793 16 Oct. 4 24 Apr. 1944
AJ795 16 Oct. 41 4 Dec. 1946
AJ796 16 Oct. 41 24 Sept. 43, Cat. “A” 28 Aug. 43

AJ798 16 Oct. 41 27 Nov. 1958
AJ799 [#87] 16 Oct. 41 4 Dec. 1946
AJ802 [#89] 16 Oct. 41 9 March 1945
AJ824 3 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ825 11 Nov. 41 24 Nov. 1946
AJ827 14 Oct. 41 23 Jan. 1946
AJ830 29 Oct. 41 16 Apr. 1945
AJ833 16 Oct. 41 1 Oct. 1945
AJ834 16 Oct. 41 9 Mar. 1945
AJ835 [#91] 16 Oct. 41 21 Oct. 1945
AJ836 16 Oct. 41 12 Mar. 1945
AJ847 3 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ848 3 Nov. 41 11 Mar. 1958
AJ849 3 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ850 11 Nov. 41 9 Jun. 1946
AJ851 3 Nov. 41 26 Nov. 1945
AJ852 4 Nov. 41 18 Oct. 1946
AJ853 3 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ854 3 Nov. 41 12 Mar. 43, Cat. “A” 15 Dec. 43
AJ893 30 Dec 41 5 Sept. 1946
AJ894 11 Nov. 41 29 Sept. 43, Cat. “A” 4 Aug. 43
AJ896 11 Nov. 41 10 Nov. 1945
AJ897 11 Nov. 41 21 Oct. 1945
AJ898 11 Nov. 41 2 Mar. 1943
AJ899 11 Nov. 41 16 Feb. 1944
AJ900 [#21] 11 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ901 11 Nov. 41 4 Dec. 1946
AJ902 11 Nov. 41 4 Dec. 1946
AJ903 26 Nov. 41 18 Oct. 1946
AJ905 26 Nov. 41 18 Oct. 1946
AJ906 26 Nov. 41 6 Nov. 1946
AJ908 26 Nov. 41 27 Oct. 1955
AJ909 26 Nov. 41 9 Mar. 1945
AJ910 27 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ912 26 Nov. 41 11 Mar. 1943, Cat. “C” 22 Jun. 42
AJ913 26 Mar. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ914 26 Nov. 41 22 Dec. 1954
AJ915 27 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1945
AJ917 27 Nov. 41 18 Oct. 1946
AJ920 26 Nov. 41 1 Oct. 1946
AJ921 26 Nov. 41 4 Dec. 1946
AJ927 30 Dec. 41 29 may 1944
AJ930 [#39] 26 Mar. 42 4 Dec. 1946
AJ948 17 Jan. 42 22 Feb. 1945
AJ949 14 Jan. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ951 [#40] 19 Jan. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ954 9 Feb. 42 1 Nov. 1960
AJ955 21 Feb. 42 23 May 1945
AJ956 22 Jan. 42 20 Sept. 43, Cat. “A” 8 Aug. 43
AJ957 14 Jan. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ958 17 Jan. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ960 14 Jan. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ961 17 Jan. 42 4 Dec. 1946
AJ962 14 Jan. 42 22 Dec. 1954
AJ963 17 Jan. 42 18 Oct. 1960
AJ964 14 Jan. 42 4 Dec. 1960
AJ965 17 Jan. 42 7 Dec. 1950
AJ966 14 Jan. 42 16 Feb. 1944
AJ967 14 Jan. 42 9 Mar. 1945
AJ968 14 Jan. 42 1 Nov. 1946
AJ970 14 Jan. 42 7 Nov. 1957
AJ971 14 Jan. 42 25 May 1951
AJ973 14 Jan. 41 11 Mar. 1946
AJ974 17 Jan. 42 21 Jun. 1955
AJ975 17 Jan. 42 18 Sept. 1947
AJ976 17 Jan. 42 18 Oct. 1960
AJ977 17 Jan. 42 3 Nov. 1950
AJ978 17 Jan. 42 5 Aug. 1948
AJ979 17 Jan. 42 11 Mar. 1946
AJ980 17 Jan. 42 11 Mar. 1946
AJ983 6 Feb. 42 1 Oct. 1946
AJ984 9 Feb. 42 14 Dec. 1960
AJ986 3 Feb. 42 6 July 1955
BW204 [#100] 14 May 42 2 Feb. 1946
FE405 5 Aug. 42 2 Oct. 1946
FE406 5 Aug. 42 15 Jan. 1947
FE407 5 Aug. 42 12 Nov. 1946
FE408 5 Aug. 42 2 Oct. 1946
FE409 5 Aug. 42 2 Oct. 1946
FE411 5 Aug. 42 20 Aug 43, Cat. “A” 6 Jun. 43
FE808 7 Feb. 43 2 Oct. 1946
FE824 9 Feb. 42 2 Oct. 1946

North American Harvard Mk. II pilot training began at Calgary/Airdrie on 1 October 1942. Today it is hard to believe this RAF training was done by hand signals, without the benefit of aircraft radios for air-to-air communications.

To the west of Calgary were the foothills and towering Rocky Mountains to explore, and to the east the flat prairie and desolate Red Deer River badlands to Drumheller.

On 30 June 1942, the original part one of the BCATP was terminated and phase two began dated 1 July 1942 until 31 March 1945. This became a turning point in the history of the BCATP with many major changes related to a large expansion for RAF’s Bomber Command. In England, RCAF and RCAF squadrons were being equipped with four-engine Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster bombers and aircrew training numbers must increase. In January 1943, total aircrew production in Canada was 39,354 compared to 19,423 in all other Dominions, Canada was training 45 per cent of all Commonwealth aircrew. This would increase as RAF schools were enlarged and began training students from Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Free French, Holland, and Norway. In August 1942, five new buildings, [red] were constructed for increased training [including Wood Lake Bomb Range] at Relief Landing Ground RAF Airdrie. A large percentage of these graduating students became RAF Mosquito Fighter/Bomber pilots.

The original RAF administration building constructed in summer 1942 is still in use today, the left section in original WWII condition, used for storage.

Inside the original WWII RAF 1942 administration building, Airdrie, Alberta.

The location where the first [1940] RAF H-Hut building once stood.

This is the original 1940 constructed RAF Motor Transport building, located at the entrance to the main gate. This is where the 1941 Ford [Marmon-Herrington] 6X6 crash fire truck, medical ambulance, [RCAF 30-632] Dodge Station Wagon Transport vehicle [RCAF 31-162] Crash Tender Recovery Truck, [RCAF 33-741] RCAF Tractor [20-247 CL] refuelling tender [RCAF 34-276] and mobile radio control tower vehicle [RCAF 31-129] were parked and maintained for over three years. These emergency vehicles were on 24-hour standby during night and day flying training at Airdrie landing ground. The right side building addition was constructed in August 1942, for increased vehicle space.

The RAF Airdrie Relief L.G. 1941 fire-crash truck, [Marmon-Herrington Ford 6X6] aircraft fire-rescue suit, and the mobile radio control tower truck, RCAF #31-129 with wind sock. The mobile radio tower vehicle was painted bright yellow, with complete top a bright red, with a large white letter “T” painted on roof for trainee pilots to see. Image taken in front of hangar doors, east side of building summer 1943.

RAF Medical Officer “Doc” Al Walton beside ambulance and mobile radio control tower truck.

The RAF mobile control tower airmen sending lamp signals to the Harvard pilots, [no aircraft radios] with the Airdrie hangar and main control tower in the background. The bright red painted roof clearly shows in this image. RCAF and serial number 31-129 in black are stenciled on yellow driver/passenger doors.

RAF Doc Walton [left] and “Meathead” RAF Service Police Sgt. Crawford, south side of hangar, summer 1943. The Air Force Police Sgt. wears an RCAF Sweat-Shirt, lettered North Atlantic Squadron. The Airdrie L.G. Camp Commander was F/Lt. F.R. Britton.

14 November 1942, Harvard AJ758 nosed-over at Airdrie, pilot LAC F.S.T. Chesterfield. Night landings were made by coal oil goose-necked flare pots which were spaced beside the runways.

Cartoons can become real, mopping hangar floor 1943. The same Airdrie hangar floor today.

RAF 1942-44 Practice Smoke Bomb Loading Range Airdrie, Alberta.

In August 1942, the RAF began construction of three concrete buildings for the purpose of storage and arming of RCAF 25-pound white smoke practice bombs. This original construction bomb-assembly building blue-print copied from Mrs. Gwen Conroy collection 1991.

Bomb building #6 contained the gun powder, building #7 contained the 25 lb unarmed smoke bombs, and the third building was where RAF ground crew members primed the smoke bombs, [seen above]. Four smoke bombs were then attached under each wing of the Harvard II trainer and the training could begin. I believe this bomb dropping course lasted one week but no records can be found. The RAF total inventory, unused bombs, and student records were ordered buried on the airport property in April 1944, by the British rear party before they departed for U.K. That’s another story of time capsule war junk.

The author spent one day with a metal detector and above are the RAF smoke bombs which were used at Relief Field Airdrie, Alberta. Most bombs have the tail section broken off. The land on the airfield also contains a burial pit [location unknown] where hundreds of unused bombs were bumped in March 1944. Image below shows bombs on Harvard wings.

When each No. 37 SFTS Course graduated and their new pilots received their wings, these pilots had also qualified in a one-week bomb training at Airdrie Wood Lake No. 1 Bombing Range. The RAF Harvard carried four 25 lb. smoke bombs under each wing, as seen in above photo taken at Airdrie in early January 1944. These are seven RAF members of Course #90 which began with 59 students on 20 September 1943, graduated 56 new fighter pilots on 14 January 1944. The Course had twenty-seven members of RAF, six from R.A.A.F. and twenty-three from R.N.Z.A.F. The course lasted 117 days in which 113 days permitted full pupil flying conditions, class rated Average, discipline Very Good. Thirty-four pilot cadets received over 70% in their final graduation marks. RAF cadet 51513 P/O J. Brown was killed in flying accident 26 November 1943. 1314739 LAC R.W.G. Sadler failed due to medical reasons. 1604059 LAC R.L. Mitchell failed due to being mentally unsuitable, bad temper. 1624942 LAC G. Bradley and 1582558 LAC D.B. Holland both failed due to lack of natural flying ability. Fourteen of the new pilots were granted officer commissions with all [except six] posted back to home country, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Six students were selected for Flying Instructor Training [top course marks] and remained in Canada posted to No. 1 Flying Instructor School, Trenton, Ontario. Each student pilot made four flights over the Airdrie bomb range at Wood Lake, dropping two smoke bombs on each pass. That means this course dropped at least 448 smoke bombs in Wood Lake, where they remain today, beside a few unexploded ordnances.

One rare photo taken from the mobile radio control tower vehicle showing a Harvard taking off and the three cement bomb storage/assembly buildings on the right of the aircraft.

This unknown British/Australian/New Zealand RAF future fighter pilot has dropped all his eight smoke bombs and now for a little aviation fun. What an impressive photo that needs no words, taken in late 1943 or early January 1944, over Wood Lake No. 1 Bomb Range Airdrie, Alberta. Pilot graduates RAF 17,796 – RAAF 4,045 – RNZAF 2,220 and most earned their Wings over southern Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

The WWII RCAF and RAF practice smoke bombs which were used at Wood Lake, Airdrie, Bombing Range, 1942-46. When the RAF left on 10 March 1944, the RCAF moved in and continued to use the bomb range until late 1946. After release from the Harvard aircraft the 25 lb. bomb striker head would hit the water or ground causing the striker rod to be driven back igniting the gun powder which gave off a large white smoke. The smoke travelled up the round tail tube showing the location the bomb landed. These bombs were painted solid white, and some had red rings painted on round shaped tail fin or rear section of the bomb casing. It is estimated over 10,000 of these smoke bombs remain in Wood Lake, Airdrie, today, some still armed and dangerous.

Each evening the RAF instructors aligned the recorded map numbers and drew two lines which made an X on the location the bomb was dropped. This very simple bomb record was the modern computer for the war years [1942-44] at Airdrie, Alberta, Wood Lake Bomb Range.
The two RAF constructed bomb towers base measured twelve feet wide at front and back, the sides measured thirteen feet in width. The structure was twenty-seven feet high in the middle with a roof that sloped down four feet on each side. The front side facing the lake contained three joined windows, ten feet width by four feet high, located on the second floor, which was reached by a single set of stairs running up the inside rear wall of the building. The two side walls each contained a four foot by five-foot window, on the second floor, allowing the airmen to look left or right to observe the arriving Harvard aircraft. The right side on the main floor wall contained a single seven and one half-foot high door for entering the building. The front of the building main floor contained a small hatch door which only opened outwards, locked from the inside. The rear wall of the structure contained no openings, doors, or windows.

This RAF tower was used by the RCAF from April 1944 until the fall of 1946. Farmer Harry Cromwell then purchased the tower from the RCAF for $125.00, pulling it by his tractor to his farm property, where it was placed over his water well. Seventy-three years later this WWII RAF Airdrie Bomb tower survives and it is still being occupied. The far right wall is today [2019] home to wild honey bees, who have taken over the space between the walls. This is possibly the only surviving original RAF WWII aircraft bombing range observation building in Canada. Nobody cares, and no Canadian Museum wishes to preserve RAF bomb range history.

By July 1942, the Canadian aviation industry still struggled to get the Avro Anson II into full production, with most of these new aircraft were assigned to pilot training schools, the navigator training schools continued to fly the ancient Mk. I, III, and IV aircraft. In early October 1942, No. 37 SFTS RAF Calgary received on strength six new RCAF Avro Anson Mk. II aircraft [three more arrived in November 42] for navigational student pilot training, and staff transportation.
Anson #11300 28 Dec. 1940 Calgary Oct. 42, accident 18 May 43. Off strength 17 Aug. 1946 – 406:15 Hrs. flying time.
Anson 7402 11 May 1942 Calgary Oct. 42, accident 13 Feb. 45, Off strength 10 May 1945.
Anson 7403 11 May 1942 Calgary 25 Sept. 42, Off strength 14 May 1947.
Anson 7404 11 May 1942 Calgary Oct. 42, accident 20 May 43, Off strength 15 Jan. 1947.
Anson 7405 11 May 1942 Calgary Oct. 42, accident 1 June 43, Off strength 17 Aug. 1946.
Anson 7407 11 May 1942 Calgary Oct. 42, accident Calgary 10 Dec. 42, crashed Vulcan 9 Jan. 45, 439:15 hrs. Off strength 22 Feb. 45.
Anson 7409 12 May 1942 Calgary Nov. 42, Night crash 30 Nov. 1943, Off strength 16 Aug. 1946.
Anson 7410 12 May 1942 Calgary Nov. 42, accident 10 June 43, Off strength 27 Jan. 1947
Anson 7411 12 May 1942 Calgary Nov. 42, accident burst tire 13 June 1943, Off strength 12 Nov. 1946.

The RCAF Anson II had cabin heating, a square astrodome fitted with heat jets, and two navigator desks with a complete set of instruments. This allowed for training of four students on each flight, as noted above in Daily Diary Anson serial 7411 crash report. Below is a nice flying shot of Avro Anson 7411 in the farm country around Airdrie, Alberta, fall of 1943. This also records the correct RAF roundel wing markings locations used at RAF Calgary, Alberta.

Permanent RAF Staff Officers’ and NCO’s at No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta, October 1942.
P/O Baker, F/O Bates, S/L Best, W/C Blake, F/O Booth, P/O Bower, Sgt. R.N.G. Bray, F/O Bromfield, P/O Brown, F/O John Brown [killed 24 Nov. 43] F/O Bryant, F/O Casley, F/O A. S. Carter, F/O O.S.D. Carter, F/O A. Chadwick, F/O F.F. Clarke, F/L Clelland, F/O Cooper, P/O P.D. Corlette [killed 7 Jan. 43] P/O Darke, S/L Davies, F/O Deane, F/O De Verteuil, F/Lt. E.G. Ford [killed 10 Dec. 42] F/O Gale, F/O Greig, P/O M.J. Gubbims, F/O Hames, W/C Hancockes, F/O Hicks, S/L Jackson, F/O Jeffery, F/L E.O. Jones, F/L H. B. Jones, P/O Jackson, F/L Korer, P/O Lattin, F/O Leeming, F/L Luck, F/L Mason, F/O Maxwell, F/L McArdle, F/Lt. I.F. McDermott, F/O McKelvey, Sgt. G.F. Lambert, F/L Peter Middleton, F/L M. V. Morgan, F/O Morgan, F/O Muirhead, F/L North, F/O Norminton, P/O Offen, F/O Osborne, F/L Ossulston, P/O Passey, S/L Palmer, F/O A.I. Philips [killed 12 Oct. 42] P/O Potter, P/O Ray, S/L Reuss, P/O Ridgeway, F/Sgt. K.W. Rosewell [ killed 8 Jan. 44] F/L Ross, F/L Samuel, F/O Saward, F//O Saxton, F/L Scott, F/O Seldon, P/O Severn, P/O Stephens, G/C J. B. Stockbridge, F/O Smalley, Sgt. S.D. Timms, P/O Walkden, S/L Warlow, F/L Werner, F/L Wheeler, F/O J.K. Williams, and F/L Wright. Thirty-four of these seventy-nine RAF officers and NCO’s were Harvard II aircraft Flying Instructors.

This image was taken at No. 37 SFTS RAF Calgary on Christmas 1943, showing eight RAF Flying Instructors. Correct names would be appreciated by the author.

The majority of these British Harvard II Flying Instructors remained at Calgary until closing 10 March 1944. The Flying Instructors of the BCATP [both RCAF and RAF], were the unsung heroes of the Second World War, chosen from the best pilots of their class and not always keen for their frustrating and often dangerous student training job. They received eight weeks special training and were rated in four main categories: A1, granted to only the most experienced instructor with exceptional flying ability. A2, was for a very good instructor, B1 and B2 was awarded to an outstanding or more capable flying instructor. On 10 March 1944, these Flying Instructors returned to England, and a large number became Mosquito pilots.

Peter Francis Middleton was born at West Yorkshire, England, 3 September 1920, joined the RAF in 1940, and became a flying Instructor the following May 1941. I do not know his rating, possibly one of the few A1 instructors. Posted to Canada RAF No. 39 SFTS, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, promoted to F/Lt. 9 March 1942. Arrived RAF No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta, 28 September 1942. F/Lt. Peter Middleton led the RAF student/pilots from course No. 80 [60 students began 3 May 1943] and No. 82 [68 students began 1 June 1943] in the official 58th opening parade of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, 5 July 1943. I feel he was selected by his Commanding Officer [Group/Captain D. Iron, O.B.E.] for his special Flying Instructor leadership abilities.

Many RAF WWII parade images are preserved in the archives of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede; however, the author cannot afford the cost for long-time usage on my free Preserving the Past Aviation Blog site.

Sixty-eight years passed before a small forgotten part of RAF history would repeat itself at the Calgary Stampede Parade, 8 July 2011. A most gorgeous Royal British [cow-girl] watched the Calgary Stampede Parade, seated beside her new RAF helicopter pilot husband Prince William, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine [Kate] Middleton was the granddaughter of F/Lt. Peter Francis Middleton. On this same spot in July 1943, a young RAF Flying Instructor Peter Middleton led 128 British student Harvard fighter pilots on their one and only appearance in the Calgary Stampede. Twenty-two Australians led the first RAF July 1942 Stampede parade. F/Lt. Middleton departed Calgary at 19:00 hrs, 10 March 1944, on a special CPR officers train headed for eastern Canada, and back to U.K., where he flew de Havilland Mosquito Mk. VI aircraft with No. 605 Squadron at Manston, Kent, England. Capt. Middleton flew postwar with British European Airways, and much more family history can be found on the internet. Capt. Middleton [90 years] passed away 2 November 2010.
In learning to fly the Harvard the RAF student pilot made a great jump from the RCAF Tiger Moth or American PT-27 Stearman [March to November 1942] aircraft they flew around 70 hours as an elementary trainer.

The RAF service flying schools were equipped with a Harvard cockpit drill trainer, such as above taken at RAF No. 34 SFTS Medicine Hat, Alberta, December 1943. [PMR 81-138 Ottawa] This was where the students began by making themselves familiar with the layout and many functions of instruments and controls in the new Harvard cockpit. Next came four hours of dual instruction and the pre-take-off drill which had to be memorized perfectly, H-Harness/Hatches, T-Trim, M-Mixture, P-Pitch [prop], F-Flaps, C-Carb/heat, G-Gas, and S-Switches. After three or four flights the Flying Instructor decided when the student was ready to make his first solo flight and take full control of the tremendous 600 h.p. Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine. A few good RAF students never returned from their first solo flight. Harvard manoeuvres were repeated again and again until the student obtained a degree of proficiency, then he was slowly given more freedom and encouraged to get the best performance out of the massive, heavy, rugged, Harvard II trainer. Cross-country flights by day and night raised the discomforting thought of engine failure and a forced landing in an inhospitable section of vast farm and ranch lands in Western Canada. As the weeks passed the RAF students gained confidence and experience and now two-hour sessions of aerobatics were introduced. The night landing flights were very primitive by today’s standard, as simple coal oil goose necked flares lined the runway, smoking and flickering for the returning pilots. With all these hurdles and obstacles safely passed, graduation day arrived and the proud pilots received their coveted Wings. The American Harvard trainer aircraft truly earned the title “Pilot Maker.”
The above history came from letters and phone calls received from Archie M. Pennie a British pilot who trained in Harvard’s at No. 37 SFTS Calgary, beginning 7 December 1942. Archie took his basic RAF training at Heaton Park, Manchester, England, and sailed for Canada on the troopship H.M.T. Letitia, arriving at Halifax in early August 1942. He still had his RAF ship pass which read – “C” Deck, Mess #21, Hammock #86. At RAF No. 31 Personnel Depot, Moncton, New Brunswick, LAC A.M. Pennie was assigned training at No. 32 EFTS Bowden, Alberta, and after five days on a train, arrived at Bowden, which was in full prairie harvest mode. He joined 61 other students in Course #64, beginning 14 September 1942. At the elementary flying training school student pilots came face to face with their first aeroplane and the RAF instructor who would teach them how to fly it. Due to a shortage of Tiger-Moth Trainers, No. 32 EFTS at Bowden flew sixty-six American PT-27 Stearman biplane aircraft from April to 14 November 1942, and LAC Pennie was a member of the last RAF course to train in these freezing open cockpit biplane aircraft. RAF personnel had flown to the Stearman Aircraft Company, at Wichita, Kansas, on 17 October 1941, and ordered 300 American biplane trainers [lend-lease] which were designated PT-27 for the British. The first PT-27 arrived at No. 32 EFTS Bowden on 2 March 1942, and all of these aircraft would be modified to Canadian weather conditions in the following months. The pilot canopy modification and cockpit heating system never arrived from Wichita, and all open cockpit training was halted by the RAF on 14 November 1942. The 60 British pilots in Course #64 were issued with leather face masks, which they wore to complete their flying training in the freezing skies around Bowden. On 28 November 1942, the British RAF made the decision to return the remaining PT-27 open cockpit trainers [287 survived] to Great Falls, Montana, in the coldest months of Alberta winter weather. RAF Course #64 graduated 54 student pilots on 6 November 1942, one was killed in training, and seven failed the course. Thirty-five RAF students were posted to RAF No. 36 SFTS at Penhold, for bomber pilot training in Airspeed Oxfords, while the remaining nineteen were posted to No. 37 SFTS at Calgary for fighter pilot training in the Harvard II trainer. Archie Pennie was one of the nineteen students selected for pilot training at Calgary, and each of these student pilots were ordered to fly a Stearman PT-27 trainer from Bowden to No. 37 SFTS at Calgary on 6 December 1942.

LAC Archie Pennie stands beside an American PT-27 at No. 32 EFTS Bowden, Alberta, 6 December 1942. In a few minutes [the engine is running] he will put on his leather face mask and fly this open cockpit trainer to No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, the outside air temperature is -50 degrees F. LAC Pennie will begin fighter pilot training in the Harvard II at Calgary, Alberta, the following day, Course #70, with 64 pupils, another twelve will be added during the training, two will be killed in flying training accidents.
Flying Students at Calgary shared a small room with a double bunk bed, and Archie described his upper bunkmate as a nineteen-year-old, very keen, bright-eyed lad, quick to learn. On 7 January 1943, LAC A. Leder # 1397463 [Pennie’s bunkmate] and his RAF flying instructor P/O P.D. Corlett were flying two-and one-half miles east of Conrich, Alberta, when they collided with another Harvard flown by a pupil from course #68, LAC D.A. McAuley. The two aircraft AJ912 and AJ953 were destroyed and three members of No. 37 SFTS were killed instantly.

Archie Pennie graduated on 2 April 1943, received his wings, was promoted to F/Lt. and selected for Flying Instructor training in Canada. In April 2010, I donated all of my RAF Bowden research, photos, and letters from F/Lt. Archie Pennie to Dave O’Malley of Vintage Wings in Ottawa. Please go to Vintage Wings of Canada to read three excellent stories on this WWII RAF Flying Instructor [night] P/O Archie M. Pennie #157698, who flew 252 hrs, training RAF students in night flying, No. 34 EFTS, RAF Assiniboia, Saskatchewan. Canada provided a safe training site for the British students, an abundance of healthy food, bright lights for study and entertainment, and as would be expected, many fell in love with Canadian girls and married. The normal training time spent in Canada averaged around eighteen months and a staff posting lasted two years. Generally, most of the RAF student trainees looked forward to receiving their wings and then returning to the United Kingdom, where over half would be killed in flying accidents or WWII combat. A large number of RAF airman who survived the war returned to Canada, and I have interviewed a few in southern Alberta. Archie Pennie returned to eastern Canada after the war, married and resided in Ottawa, for the rest of his life.
No. 34 RAF Assiniboia, Sask., closed 30 January 1944, taken over by RCAF and re-designated No. 25 EFTS, closing for good 28 July 1944. In 1958, Archie Pennie returned to visit his old RAF base and it was totally gone. On 18 March 1959, he published his story “Assiniboia Revisited.”

Archie was very proud to know his old training base at Airdrie, Alberta, had somehow survived the passage of time, also troubled by the fact WWII RAF history of Calgary, Alberta, was not being preserved.
Nineteen single-engine Harvard II pilot training courses were held at No. 37 SFTS Calgary
Course #60 [students were in Harvard II aircraft mid-training when they arrived at Calgary 25 September 1942] seven failed, graduated 57 pilots, 6 November 1942.
Course #62 [in training when they arrived Calgary] five killed in October 42, LAC Darling, LAC Buckley, F/O A.I. Philips, F/Sgt. R.F. Warner, and LAC H.C. Cormack, graduated 53 pilots, 5 December 42.
Course #64 graduated 51 pilots, seven failed, 30 December 1942.
Course #66 graduated 56 pilots, two failed, 5 February 1943.
Course #68 began 9 Nov. 42, graduated 54, six failed, 5 March 1943.
Course #70 began 7 Dec. 42, graduated 56, two ceased training, two killed, 2 April 1943.
Course #72 began graduated 60 pilots, six failed, one killed, 30 April 1943.
Course #74 began 8 Feb. 43, graduated 55 pilots, one ceased training, 28 May 1943.
Course #76 began 8 Mar. 43, 63 pupils, 34 failed medical reasons, 25 transferred to Course #78, six posted away, graduated 35 pilots, 25 June 1943.
Course #78 began 5 April 43, 31 transferred to Course #80, graduated 55 pilots, 23 July 1943.
Course #80 began 3 May 1943, one killed, five discontinued training, graduated 55 pilots [45 RAF], 20 Aug. 1943.
Course #82 began 1 June 1943, one killed, twelve discontinued training, graduated 53 pilots, [first class of all RAF Sergeants], 17 Sept. 1943.
Course #84 began with 55 pupils 28 June 1943, one killed, three discontinued training, graduated 46 pilots, 15 October 1943.
Course #86 began 60 pupils 26 July 1943, graduated 60 pilots, 12 Nov. 1943.
Course #88 began 23 Aug. 1943, 62 trainees, one killed 51513 P/O John Brown 24 Nov. 43, four failed, graduated 56 pilots, 10 December 1943.
Course #90 graduated 56 pilots, 14 January 1944. This course consisted of twenty-seven RAF, six RAAF, and twenty-three RNZAF.

At the request of the British government, Canada allowed their RAF schools to be the first closed. This British closure began with RAF No. 41 SFTS Weyburn, Saskatchewan, which officially closed on 22 January 1944. Their last two courses totaling 117 students in training, were transferred to No. 37 SFTS at Calgary, where they graduated 105 pilots. No. 41 SFTS had received 1,425 students for instruction in twenty-five courses, graduating 1,036 Harvard II pilots, for return to wartime England. Over half will be killed in action.

Course #92 at No. 37 SFTS Calgary, [This course with 61 pupils was posted from No. 41 SFTS Weyburn, Saskatchewan, on 15 January 1944]. They graduated 52 pilots at Calgary, 11 February 1944.
Course #94 at Calgary contained two groups of students. Course #94A began 15 November 1943, with 69 students, 64 graduated on 10 March 1944, one RCAF, thirty-four RAF, one RAAF, and twenty-eight RNZAF, four students were wastage and transferred out, New Zealand student LAC W.D. Shaw was killed 31 December 1944. This became the last RAF fatal flying training accident at No. 37 SFTS, Calgary, Alberta, during WWII.

No. 94B Course graduated the last 53 pilots from No. 41 SFTS Weyburn, Sask. 10 March 1944. This became the very last graduation course at No. 37 SFTS, Calgary, Alberta, and the last Wings Parade at the Drill Hall, today home of the new Flight Hangar Museum of Calgary. It is a pity, each new generation of Calgary citizens can party and dine on this space, where 1,535 pilots [Australian, New Zealand, and British] received their wings, yet there is no memorial to their sacrifice.

Nineteen RAF Harvard II [fighter] pilot courses were completed at No. 37 SFTS Calgary, Alberta, 1 October 1942 until 10 March 1944, with 1,150 RAF students receiving their Wings. Calgary averaged a graduation of 60 students per Harvard II course, plus first graduated a further 385 twin-engine Airspeed Oxford bomber pilots for England. That’s 1,535 RAF pilots [including Australian and New Zealand students] who returned to United Kingdom to fight Nazi Germany.
On 10 March 1944, two special CPR trains departed Calgary for Halifax, Nova Scotia, the beginning of their return trip home across the sea. The first train with NCO’s, ground crews, and airmen, departed Calgary at 19:00 hrs, the second train with RAF Officers, and Station Commander Group Capt. J.B. Stockbridge and family departed Calgary CPR main station at 20:00 hrs.

This forgotten plot of land in Calgary will forever be a part of RAF Britain.

Thirty members of RAF No. 37 SFTS were killed in southern Alberta, Canada, and they rest in Burnsland Cemetery, where the Union Jack flag flies. Twenty-seven were killed in aircraft training, [one student from New Zealand and twenty-six British], twenty were killed flying the Harvard II, while one walked into a spinning Harvard propeller.
LAC John Broadhurst #573151 Killed 8 January 1944, Harvard AJ889, Drumheller, AB. Last member killed at Calgary.
P/O J. A. Brown #51513 Killed 24 November 1943, Harvard 2739 mid-air with Harvard 2566.
LAC Cornelius C. Buckley 15396504 Killed 5 October 1942, Harvard AJ836.
F/O G.A. Clegg Killed 7 January 1943, Harvard AJ953.
P/O Peter D. Corlett Killed 7 January 1943, Harvard AJ953.
Cpl. C.A. Crapper Died natural causes, 11 March 1942.
LAC Hubert C. Cromack 1125880 Killed 12 October 1942, Harvard AJ854.
LAC John C. Darling 1560163 Killed 5 October 1942, walked into Harvard Propeller.
LAC Edward C. Dunbavard 1218546 Killed 14 January 1942, Oxford AS382.
LAC Mosttn V. Eckert 1350866 Killed 28 August 1942, Harvard 8127.
F/Lt. E.G. Ford #81636 Killed 10 December 1942, Harvard AJ759.
LAC H.N. Hall #1512542 Killed 10 December 1942, Harvard AJ759.
AC1 L.A. Keeble #1426377 Fell out of boat, 17 July 43, in [ice cold] Bow River at Banff, body recovered 8 August 1943.
LAC A. Leder #1397463 Killed 7 January 1943, Course 70, Harvard AJ953.
Sgt. Charles A. Lockett #988641 Killed 12 October 1943, Harvard 2631.
LAC Jack Major #1339948 Killed 28 August 1943, Harvard AJ796.
AC1 N.J. Mann #1234015 Died from auto accident, Airdrie, blizzard 6 February 1943.
LAC Henry T. McCarthy 656512 Killed 10 December 1941, Oxford AT457.
LAC D.A. McAuley #1483473 Killed 7 January 1943, Harvard AJ953.
LAC James McNaught #1566353 Killed 5 March 1943, Harvard AJ986, mid-air, student bailed out. Too low, hit ground before parachute opened. The Flying Instructor safely landed the damaged Harvard back at base.
LAC Laurence R. Nimmo 1389540 Killed 14 August 1942, Oxford AS666.
F/O Anthony Phelps Killed 12 October 1942, Harvard AJ898.
Sgt. Kenneth H. Rosewell #1586791 Killed 8 January 1944, Harvard AJ889, crashed Red Deer, River, Drumheller, Alberta. Second last member killed at Calgary.
LAC J.G. Rynn #1459936 Killed 12 October 1943, night flight Harvard 2631. Ex-Scottish Army Major who transferred to RAF.
LAC William D. Shaw NZ4216082 Killed 31 December 1943, Harvard AJ966.
F/O Iain A.L. Stewart #49623 Killed 1 August 1943, Harvard AJ894.
LAC W.I. Stonebridge 1331534 Killed 10 August 1942, Oxford AS610.
LAC Ernest C. Thomson #1387318 Killed 5 December 1941, Oxford AS365. First student pilot killed at Calgary.
F/Lt. Robert F. Warner Killed 12 October 1942, Harvard AJ898.
LAC William J. Webb 1331223 Killed 14 August 1942, Oxford BM810.

Relief Field Airdrie was taken over by the RCAF in March 1944 and used for pilot training in Cessna Cranes which were based at RCAF No. 3 SFTS Currie Barracks, Calgary. [Bert Sharp]

[Image Pat Ferber]

The RAF/RCAF base was closed in 1946, sold in 1948 and this postwar era history can be found on other websites.

Thomas Conroy [top right] purchased the airfield in 1975, and flew three Harvard aircraft.
Above family photo taken in 1978, was given to me by Mrs. Gwen Conroy in 1993. Tom Conroy was killed in a tragic aircraft accident in 1979, and Mrs. Conroy remained in her airport residence until 1998. I would visit her three times and recorded this lost history.

Above image from Mrs. Gwen Conroy 1978, showing all the original RAF buildings. Thanks to the Conroy family three Harvard’s once again thundered over Airdrie, Alberta, and many others were housed on the old base. A small forgotten part of our past Alberta Aviation History.

One of the Conroy Harvard aircraft is on loan at the Hangar Flight Museum of Calgary, while the other two are based in Airdrie. For many years Thomas P. Conroy [WestJet pilot] flew the Harvard’s for special events in Alberta. Thanks to Thomas Conroy the Harvard’s still fly over Airdrie and on a very cold Alberta afternoon, you can hear the engine start, as the sound is accentuated by the cold dry air, and soon the characteristic Wasp engine passes over my home in south Airdrie. When my wife asks, what was that thundering noise, I reply, just an RAF Thunderbird.

Little Norway – Another contribution from David Wold

Updated 9 September 2020

In the comment section

My Mother had a beau from « Little Norway » in 1940 and early ’41. He was « B » in Cabin 5. He was Elwood Norman Eriksen, nicknamed « Erik », from near Oslo. She was 20, he was 21 in ’41. He lost his life in an accident at RAF Chilbolton, Hampshire, England in September ’41. My Mother, Marjorie Morse, from Toronto and Black Lake, Haliburton, mourned him the rest of her life. He was handsome, brave and I think had much strength of character as well as a sunny personality. I believe they would have married. Many, many thanks to David Wold for his on-going and so very helpful research and assistance. The light burns so much brighter for all his contributions.

These are the two ships manifests that came over to Montreal and Toronto with the original pilots for the RNoAF.


SS Iris

SS Iris manifest

SS Lyra manifest

Riksarkivet (the National Archives)

People are still remembering Little Norway in Illinois



Story by Jon McGinty
Layout by Scott Schwalbach

Kaare (pronounced CORY) Nevdal, Rockford, Ill., was just 19 when the Germans invaded his homeland of Norway on April 9, Life in his small, west coast village near Bergen soon became intolerable under the occupation.

By the following spring, he decided to escape to England. I couldn t stand not to be free, recalls Nevdal. We had to carry identity papers everywhere, and someone was always watching us. If I stayed much longer in Norway, I knew I would end up in jail.

After one escape attempt was thwarted by a North Sea storm, Nevdal succeeded in reaching the Shetland Islands by fishing boat on March 15, He went to London to enlist in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, and the Norwegian government-in-exile sent him to Toronto, Canada, for training.

While in Canada, Nevdal visited his aunt in Rockford, who sent a picture of the two of them to Nevdal s family in Norway, claiming it was her and her son, in order to fool German censors. This was the first indication his family had that Nevdal was still alive. He also met his future wife, Muriel, in Toronto.

After completing his training as a radio operator/gunner in 1942, Nevdal was sent to Iceland where he joined the 330th squadron of Coastal Command. He flew on long, tedious anti-submarine patrols and convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic, first in N3PB Nomads, then in PBY Catalina float planes.

In March of 1943, Nevdal was transferred to Scotland in the Shetland Islands. From there he flew patrols along the Norwegian coastline in huge, four-engine Sunderland flying boats. The Germans called them flying porcupines because they had so many guns (18) on board.

One purpose of these flights was to keep German submarines from surfacing, thus slowing them down and making it difficult for them to attack Allied shipping on their way to Russia. But in May of 1944, Nevdal s plane caught one on the surface. We dropped depth charges on the sub from about 50 feet above the water, recalls Nevdal, but it took two attacks. All the time they were shooting at us and we were shooting at them. The nose gunner was killed during the battle. The attack was successful, and on May 16, 1944, the U- 240, a type VIIc German submarine, sank to the bottom with all 50 crewmen.

Later that year Nevdal was again re-assigned, this time to a special unit which flew civilian aircraft in and out of neutral Sweden. His unit carried VIPs, spies, and important documents between Stockholm and St. Andrews, Scotland. We had BOAC uniforms and British passports, says Nevdal. Sometimes we even transported escapees from Norway.

Since Sweden was neutral but blockaded by belligerents, some consumer goods were available in Stockholm that were unattainable in war-rationed Scotland. Nevdal s cousin s wife asked him to bring her a girdle on one of his flights. Kaare Nevdal was in Norway when the Germans invaded his homeland in (Jon McGinty photo) I had to smuggle it out by wearing it under my uniform, says Nevdal. It was very uncomfortable. I gained lots of sympathy for ladies who wore them.
Nevdal recalled a Norwegian poem he copied when he reached England the first time. Its meaning could speak to the motivation for many veterans of World War II.

Kjemp for alt som du har kjart Do om see det jelder Da er livet ie saa svart Doden ikke heller

Fight for all that you hold dear Die if it s that important Then life will not be so hard Neither will be death

Nevdal s Aunt in Rockford, Ill., sent this photo of the two of them to Nevdal s family in Norway to let them know he was still alive. Northwest Quarterly Spring

Kaare Nevdal