Research by Clarence Simonsen
Toronto Island Airport 1940-1943
After spending four years in the Canadian [Army Military Police] Provost Corps, I completed the entrance exam for the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force in August 1965, being sworn-in on 6 October 65, and graduated from the [Metropolitan Toronto] police college in March 1966. After four months of walking the beat in #14 Division [Little Italy, which was another country to this western born guy] I was posted to #23 Division in Etobicoke. After just five weeks, I was detailed to a part-time posting at a special police station which only operated in the Canadian National Exhibition grounds during the month of August, closing on 2 September each year. Born and raised in western Canada, I had no idea of what to expect or the long Toronto history involved. First opened in September 1879 as the Industrial Exhibition, the name was changed in 1912, “Canadian National Exhibition” and a new police station was constructed in the grounds. That is where this rookie police officer arrived, and what an eye-opening experience, as the 1960s and 70s was the golden age for the grandstand shows where world class entertainers performed. Each day you were assigned a different beat in the C.N.E. grounds, and the most hated was standing seven long hours [boring, boring] guarding the Royal Bank of Canada. Out of four weeks each rookie cop got the boring bank duty twice; however I also received the beat on the Toronto Island Airport twice, pilots, aircraft, and the last week of August air show. During my police college training, all recruits received a course on the important historical parts of Toronto, which included Ward’s Island and the creation of the Toronto Island Airport, but nothing was said about the training of Norwegian pilots during WWII.
In 1968, a new senior police constable arrived at #23 Division and from time to time we were assigned to the same [scout] car. This senior constable [can’t recall his name] was posted to #23 for only four winter months, as he was assigned to one of three police boats which patrolled the Toronto harbour front. During those cold winter night shifts, [which he hated] we would get a warm coffee and he would relate his summer time duties to me. He was the very first person to tell me about the Norwegian Air Force that lived and trained at Little Norway from 1940 to April 1943. This came as a complete surprise and my early beginnings to learn more about this Norwegian wartime Toronto history.
As the years passed, I was always assigned duties at the CNE, and then in 1974, I was given the plum-job of the police force, driving the one and only police car on the CNE day shift. The following year, I was working plainclothes and for the ninth year in a row assigned duties at the CNE grounds, including the historical Island Airport.
This was police duty dress for the CNE in August 1975. After working the day-shift, I would stay and work an afternoon [pay duty] which included some big name entertainers. Yes, I got paid to sit in the front row and provide extra security for John Denver and old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra. During this same time period, I was slowly conducting my own research into the history of Little Norway and had a very good understanding of just what took place during the war years, on the very same grounds I was patrolling. In the last week of August 1975, a great world class airshow was performing each day at the CNE and one hot, humid, morning, my partner and I took the short ferry boat to the Toronto Island Airport control tower. The main ground floor of the control tower had a very good restaurant serving pilots, airport staff, and police officers, which was private from the prying eyes and madding crowds of the CNE grounds. As we walked to the control tower, I noticed to my left, one of the Toronto Police boats moored on the east side of the original aircraft hangar used by the Norwegians during WWII. Upon entering the control tower restaurant, there stood my old winter time partner, getting his morning brew. I wish I could recall his name, but I did take his photo, the very last meeting we ever had.
August 1975 ferry crossing to the Toronto Island Airport.
The same spot recorded thirty-five years earlier, late August 1940, the first year Norwegian student pilots taking the ferry from the Island Airport to their training and living quarters Little Norway. The first training class of eleven student pilots began on 21 September 1940, and twenty more soon followed.
The Toronto Island Airport control tower in late August 1975.
The [nameless] Toronto police officer who inspired all my research, holding his morning coffee. The CN Tower was very new to the Toronto skyline and still under construction.
The first history of the Norwegians who came to Toronto “Little Norway” appeared in the January and February 1942 issues of Canadian “White” comics, during the peek period of their training at Toronto Island Airport. When Canada passed the War Exchange Conservation Act in 1941, this opened the door to our first Canadian comic book publishing industry. Maple Leaf Publishing, Vancouver, and Anglo-American Publishing, Toronto, were the first to print Canadian comics in March 1941. In August 1941, three unemployed Toronto artists [brothers Andre and Rene Kulbach and Adrian Dingle] formed Hillborough Studios, 64 Grenville St. Toronto, and began printing their own comic books, Triumph Adventure Comics.
The first issue in August 1941, Vol. #1, issue #1
Each inside cover contained a letter from the editors with the month, volume, and issue number.
In total six issues were published by Hillborough Studios at 64 Grenville St. Toronto. No issue appeared in December 1941.
With the very first issue, it became clear these Canadian comics were different from the others which were just a creation of what might be classified as kid’s fantasy fun. The Triumph Comic drawings and story lines were much better researched and contained stories which could in fact educate Canadian wartime youth.
Churchill appeared in September 1941 and Capt. Cunnington in November 1941. Artist Adrian Dingle created these full-page drawings of WWII heroes and world leaders, the very same style the forbidden American comics were producing on Canadian and RCAF heroes. The Canadian fictional hero characters, like Spanner Preston, were also based on real WWII historical events.
The Canadian Prime Minister appeared in Vol. 1, #4, November 1941.
Today the comic book historians and rich collectors are only inspired by Canada’s first female super hero “Nelvana of the Northern Lights” and her dog Tanero, Vol. 1, #2 cover. The Canadian war content is totally over looked and forgotten. It’s all about money and greed, not history.
In March 1942, the talent of Adrian Dingle was recognized by the more powerful Bell Features comics, who offered to buy Hillborough Studios publishing. Adrian sold the company and most of his staff moved to the more powerful Bell Brothers organization in Toronto. Bell comics were now drawn by a large pool of artists and Dingle would later be promoted to manager in charge of production.
Twelve Bell Feature Canadian comic artists are listed in this 1942 full-page advertisement, created and drawn by Adrian Dingle, at 165 York St. Toronto.
The last two issues of Triumph Comics published by Hillborough Studios featured a two part eight-page strip series [ESCAPE] appearing in January 1942, Vol. 1, #5, and February 1942, Vol. 1, #6. The artist was named H.B. Caulfield, however I believe this was all drawn by Adrian Dingle, under an assumed name. This rare Norwegian comic page series is now public domain.
February 1942, Vol. 1, #6, the last comic issue
printed by Hillborough Studios, Toronto.
This Canadian “White” comic book adventure was in fact based on real events, which I believe were related to artist Adrian Dingle, from which he completed his comic strip drawings under the artist name H. B. Caulfield.
This is the original Norwegian boat in which these three young men sailed to Scotland during thirteen days of terrible storms and Nazi surveillance aircraft.
They were found by a British Royal Navy destroyer and taken to England and then sailed for Little Norway at Toronto, Canada.
Triumph Comics are now owned and published by Bell Features and Publishing Co. Ltd. at 165 York St., Toronto. Adrian Dingle continues to honor WWII heroes with a full-page drawing.
The full “Little Norway” history in photos and research follows in two parts.