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My Blog history of No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta, is dedicated to the memory of P/O Albert, Dorey, one of over 5,000 Wireless Operator Air Gunners who completed twenty-eight weeks of training and graduated from [The Castle] what is today the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary, Alberta, also completing his nine-day air training at RCAF Shepard, Alberta.
I first met the daughter of P/O Albert Dorey [Marg Liessens] at the old [Lancaster] Museum in Nanton, Alberta, in late August 2006. During this meeting, I learned that Marg and I were both born in 1944, but she never knew her biological father, due to the fact she was just over three months of age when he was killed in a Lancaster bomber south of Hamburg, Germany. Marg’s mother requested that most of his RCAF records, and material associated with her father’s training in Canada and England not be returned. Since 2001, Marg has been on a dedicated search to recover, trace, and learn the truth of her father’s lost wartime career. Marg made four trips to the Lancaster KB859 crash site at Hittfeld, Germany, and visited her father’s grave site near Soltau, Germany, seven times. This strong devoted love towards her father is also shared with a common bond towards the Canadian constructed Lancaster Mk. X bomber, in which her father was killed in action on 31 March 1945, and our present day 431 Air Demonstration Squadron “Snowbirds.”
LAC Albert Dorey was selected for Wireless Operator Air Gunner trade and arrived at No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta, on 26 June 1943. Assigned to Entry Course #72, containing 230 new RCAF trainees, they officially began training on 28 June 43, however a few days were lost as they took part in the Calgary Stampede parade on 5 July 1943, where 1,100 marched from No. 2 W.S., and the next day all were given a 24-hour pass to enjoy the wild west show. This proved to be a strange and wild experience for many the New Zealand and Australia wireless students. In total 1,128 students were on strength for July 1943 wireless training, conducted by 63 RCAF officers and 589 staff rank instructors. The course fourth week exams were held on 24 July 43, Law, Administration, Hygiene, Radio Theory and Procedure. The first flight in an aircraft for LAC Dorey came on 10 August 43, Norseman #2462, pilot P/O Gardiner, one hour “Air-Experience” flight from RCAF Shepard, Alberta. Mid-term exams, [ninth week] were held on 20 September 1943, then ten more weeks of classroom studies. On 5 December 1943, nine days of wireless air operations exercises began at RCAF Shepard, Alberta. Ten training flights took place at RCAF Shepard, in three different aircraft, [Norseman, Fleet Fort, and Yale] trainers. The flight training course was completed on 17 December 1943, total hours in the air were 19:45 hrs. LAC Dorey reported back to No. 2 Wireless School, for study and preparation of final exams, to be written on 8 January 1944. This covered Morse, [22 words per minute] Signals, Organization and Radio Theory in flight.
The training flights at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, from LAC Dorey log book:
5 December 43 [10:40 hrs] “A” Norseman #2466 F/Sgt. Forsyth 1:30 hrs.
7 Dec. 43 [08:50 hrs] “B” Norseman #2466 F/ Sgt. Gillis 1:20 hrs.
8 Dec. 43 [12:30 hrs] “C” Norseman #3527 P/O Innes 1:30 hrs.
8 Dec. 43 [14:50 hrs] #1 D/F Fleet Fort #3654 P/O Pennington 2:00 hrs.
9 Dec. 43 [09:10 hrs] #1 D/F Fleet Fort #3654 F/Sgt. Ball 2:20 hrs.
10 Dec. 43 [14:55 hrs] #2 D/F Yale #3378 F/Sgt. Arms 2:00 hrs.
11 Dec. 43 [09:05 hrs] #3 NOOP Norseman #2464 F/O Lambert 2:30 hrs.
12 Dec. 43 [12:25 hrs] #3 D/F Norseman #3527 W/O 2 Nelson 2:10 hrs.
14 Dec. 43 [14:45 hrs] #5 Fleet Fort #3592 P/O Cameron 2:10 hrs.
15 Dec. 43 [08:55 hrs] #4 D/F Yale #3391 F/Sgt. Forsyth 2:25 hrs.
There was no pass or fail on wireless air exercises, which were designed just to see how a student could perform in the air.
The final exams were delayed by the arrival of Christmas, where special holiday services were held in the Auditorium [Protestant] and the Assembly Hall [R.C.], plus in the school hospital. 25 December 1943, 30 RCAF officers from the school served turkey with all the trimmings to 350 students who remained on base. The menu read – Tomato Juice, Cocktails, Turkey, Mince Pie, Ice Cream, Fruit, Nuts, Cigarettes, and Beer.
This poor image was taken from the No. 2 W.S. Dairy, 25 December 1943, airmen’s mess where 30 RCAF Officers served Yuletide turkey dinner. At RCAF Shepard, S/L G.T. Steeves and his Officers served Christmas dinner to the Flying Squadron airmen. Both the training school and flying school resumed normal training on 27 December 1943.
On 8 January 1944, F/L Gay [Chief Instructor] supervised over the 72nd Entry final exams in Morse, Signals, Organization and Radio Theory. That evening an Airmen’s Dance was held in the Dry Canteen, which also acted as a going away party for Entry 72. Normally graduation parties were held in the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary, but due to the Christmas holiday, the 72nd were not allotted the time for such a party. The 72nd Entry graduated on 14 January 1944, with 203 receiving their ‘sparks’ badge and promotion to Tactical Sgt. The full 28-week wireless Entry #72 course ran officially from 28 June 43 until 14 January 1944, beginning with 230 students. During this time period 65 students were transferred into the course, and 58 were transferred out of the course. Nine failed due to Math problems, one for sickness, ten failed the 22 words per minute Morse Code test, one was a Theory failure, seven showed lack of application, and six requested reselections to another RCAF aircrew trade.
The disposition of the 203 graduates [183 to Bombing and Gunnery Schools] follows:
22 – No. 1 B & G Jarvis, Ontario.
22 – No. 4 B & G Fingal, Ontario.
22 – No. 5 B & G Dafoe, Saskatchewan.
22 – No. 6 B & G Mountain View, Ontario.
22 – No. 7 B & G Paulson, Manitoba.
22 – No. 8 B & G Lethbridge, Alberta.
51 – No. 2 B & G Mossbank, Saskatchewan. [T/Sgt. Dorey]
19 – No. 8 A.O.S. Ancienne Lorette, Quebec.
1 – Medically retained at Calgary, Alberta.
In 1942, the wireless air gunner’s programme was extended from twenty to twenty-eight weeks and at the same time the air gunner’s programme was extended from four to twelve weeks. This allowed the wireless operator student for six weeks [ground] classroom and six weeks’ air-firing from old Fairy Battle and Bristol Bolingbroke trainer aircraft. By 1943, the ground classroom training was shortened for wireless students, possibly due to a shortage of aircrew from the heavy losses over Europe.
T/Sgt. Albert Dorey was posted to No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mossbank, Saskatchewan, assigned to Course #73 which began training on 31 January 1944. [Where the Snowbirds airshow flight train today] In 1944, the wireless gunnery course had been shortened to six weeks, where T/S Dorey flew twenty-two air-firing exercises from 1 February until 9 March 1944. Each flight lasted around 35 minutes, for a total of 13:55 hrs daytime and 1:55 night, where he fired 6,090 rounds of .303 cal. ammo. He graduated on 13 March 1944, with a passing mark of 81.5%. His grand total aircraft flying time in Canada was now 36:35 hrs. Next stop was No. 1 “Y” Depot, Lachine, Quebec, where he arrived on 27 March 1944. He departed Halifax, Nova Scotia, for United Kingdom on 10 April 1944, [with 1,256 new RCAF aircrew] arriving eight days later. Albert arrived at No. 3 [RCAF] Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth, a southern coastal seaside resort town which was a holding area for RCAF aircrew production line. This was a reserve stockpile for new aircrew arrivals, who could remain here for weeks until they were needed. On 16 June 1944, T/Sgt. Dorey was posted to No. 2 [Operational] Advanced Flying Unit at Millom, Cumberland, where he flew bombing, signals, and navigation exercises in Avro Anson trainers. He made thirteen flights, averaging 3 hours per fight, totalling 29:15 Hrs. He placed 10th [average] in a course of 21, with a passing mark of 62%.
The dates of his RCAF service movements in England are now recorded:
After training at No. 2 AFU, next came No. 82 [OTU] Operational Training Unit at Ossington, Nottinghamshire, [arriving 20 June 44] a most important place where every airman became part of a complete crew. This became a very significant moment in each airman’s life, and the RCAF brass left the “crewing-up” mostly in the hands of the airmen themselves. Groups of pilots, bomb-aimers, navigators, air gunners, and wireless operators were just ushered into a hangar or other large building and told to “get on with selecting their flying mates.” It was a crazy haphazard method of selection, where young men had just five to ten minutes to size up a complete stranger and decide if they wanted to fly with him. Each airman’s loyalty and chance of survival belonged to six of the other young men he flew with, and they became known as the ‘Fighting Comrades of the Skies.”
Wireless Operator T/Sgt. Dorey “crewed-up” with pilot F/O P. J. Hurley on 10 July 1944, and the new crew first flew together in Wellington “L” two days later.
The Hurley aircrew photo from Marg Liessens, donated by Bruce Hurley’s son of the pilot, via Dave Burrell.
This sprog [new] crew flew 33 training flights in Wellington Mk. III and Mk. X bombers, totalling 51:05 hrs day and 40:00 hrs night. On 28 August 1944, they were posted to the final base in the RCAF training process, the Heavy Conversion Unit or finishing school, where they would learn to fly the four-engine Halifax bomber. They arrived at No. 1659 H.C.U. Topcliffe, Yorkshire, on 28 August, and flew twice [14:20 and 17:35 Hrs] in Halifax bomber FD-Z, the second flight piloted by F/O Hurley. Eighteen more training flights would take place until 22 October 1944, total 36:20 hrs, [Day] and 9:25 hrs [Night]. The crew was rated as “Average” and posted to No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron at No. 64 Base [RCAF] Croft, Yorkshire, England. The Iroquois squadron began ground school training for conversion to the new Canadian built Lancaster Mk, X bomber on 15 October 44, and “A” Flight had just completed flight training in the Lancaster when the new Hurley crew arrived. Ground school training began for “B” flight on 20 October and five of the new sprog crew of pilot F/O Hurley arrived on 24 October 1944. They had never been trained or even flown in a Lancaster Mk. X bomber, and this conversion would take two more weeks training at Croft, Yorkshire, as members of “B” Flight.
The five Canadian aircrew reported to No. 431 Squadron on 24 October 44, and the British flight engineer Sgt. L. J. Mercer arrived two days later. New “Sprog” pilots were not allowed to take their new crew on operations until they had flown at least one combat operation as a [Second Dickey], a term from the early RAF days when bomber aircraft had two pilots. No. 431 squadron flew their first complete Lancaster operation on 1 November 1944, when they had nineteen bombers on strength. F/O Hurley flew his first operation as “Second Dickey” to F/O T.A. Rhodes on 2 November 44, in Lancaster serial KB803, coded “N.” From the 3 to 21 November 44, the Hurley crew flew training exercises [Bombing, Cross-Country, Air to Air, Air to Sea, and more Bombing] in six different Lancaster aircraft code W, [KB822] V, [KB802] G, [KB818] M, [KB827] D, [KB774] E, [KB823] and last on 21 November in SE-V. They completed 13:20 hrs day and 7:45 hrs night training while assigned to “B” flight of No. 431 [Iroquois] squadron.
No. 431 Squadron became the eleventh RCAF Bomber Squadron formed overseas at Burn, Yorkshire, England, on 11 November 1942, flying under RAF Bomber Command No. 4 Group, with a British Commanding Officer, W/C J. Coverdale. On 21 June 1943, their British C.O. was killed in action [Wellington HF518] and their first Canadian C.O. arrived, W/C W.F.M. Newson, DFC. They moved to Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, on 15 July 1943 and their third base became Croft, Yorkshire, on 10 December 1943. During WWII, Canadian service clubs, and city councils adopted an overseas RCAF squadron and then supplied members with gum, toothbrushes, cigarettes, candy, books, sweaters, and wool socks. The Town of Simcoe, Ontario, records show that on 11 November 1943, [anniversary of formation] a motion was put forth to adopt No. 431 Squadron. Due to the Christmas holiday nothing officially took place until late January 1944. By late February, official word was received from RCAF H.Q. in Ottawa, that the adoption was approved. The squadron Daily Diary reported No. 431 was adopted by the Town of Simcoe, Ontario, on 10 April 1944, and five thousand cigarettes were sent as a first gift. On the 15 May 1944, the squadron took the unofficial nickname “Iroquois” and submitted this design to the British College of Arms, Chester Herald [Inspector of RCAF Badges] for approval. The official badge or crest became an Iroquois Indian head showing one feather, with the official motto in Iroquois – “The Hatiten Ronteriios” [Warriors of the Air] approved by authority of King George VI, March 1945.
During the Second World War historians and reporters were instructed [for security] not to refer to RCAF squadrons or wings by their number, but rather use their title, which in most badges featured a Canadian bird or animal which reflected on the reason the squadron was created. The use of indigenous people, totem poles, and other native symbols was in fact approved by some band elders themselves, standing for the first nations of Canada, and support of our Armed Forces fighting Hitler and Nazi controlled Germany.
Today the indigenous people in North America are beginning to reclaim their lost Native Culture and tell ‘their’ truth. This includes changing the insulting way in which native symbols are used everywhere from sports teams to life-size mascots. During WWII, many Canadian indigenous leaders fully supported the war effort, supplying carved native Indian totem poles, headdresses, and other symbols for use by Canadian flying squadrons. I have studied RCAF aircraft nose art paintings for over fifty years, and hundreds of wartime airplane images featured native indigenous warriors with a tomahawk in a fighting stance, which stood for Canada. I know they were not painted to insult or show disrespect towards indigenous people, but today they are also coming under attack, unjustly I feel. I do not wish to become involved in what today is considered right or wrong indigenous art, and only attempt to preserve, show, and educate the RCAF historical facts during the Second World War.
I will now give one very nice example of early RCAF bomber squadron use of both an indigenous bird to Canada and a first nation warrior who represented Canada. No. 408 [Goose] Squadron was the second bomber squadron formed overseas at Lindholme, Yorksire, England, on 24 June 1941. They picked the Canada Goose for their official badge with the motto “For Freedom.” The first British Handley Page Hampton bombers began to arrive shortly after the formation of the squadron, with aircraft number six ferried in 14 July 1941. This new Hampton bomber serial AE245 was given the squadron single aircraft code letter “C” and call sign C for Canada. The aircraft was next assigned to “A” flight in the squadron, commanded by S/L W.J. Burnett, DFC, who had just arrived with No. 408 Squadron on 3 July 1941. The new Commanding Officer allowed ground crew to paint this bomber with an impressive first nation’s warrior nose art and the name CANADA. For every completed bombing operation, a tomahawk was painted beside the native warrior art.
S/L W.J. Burnett, DFC, in Hampton bomber serial AE245, “C for Canada” early August 1941.
The original name “Iroquois” is still somewhat obscure in its own origin, and even disputed by the Six Nations indigenous people themselves. It is believed the name Iroquois originated in 1142, when the Iroquois Confederacy was formed bringing together “Five Nations” in the Southern Great Lakes Region of present day southern Ontario, Canada, and the northeastern United States. In 1722, the original Five Nations [Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca] were joined by the Tuscarora becoming the present day Six Nations.
In 1751, Benjamin Franklin recognized and recorded the richness of the Iroquois form of culture and government, which today is well worth reading and learning from their past, which also helped shape both Southern Ontario, Canada, and the United States. This historical connection in naming a Canadian WWII bomber squadron [No. 431] was also a huge part of our founding Canadian history, especially Southern Ontario. The Town of Simcoe, Ontario, was named after John Graves Simcoe, a British Army General and first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796. Today he is seen by many Canadian historians as one of the founding figures of Canadian history, who fought against the Americans in the Thirteen Colonies, and was promoted to Captain of the 40th Regiment of Foot in July 1776. In 1777, Simcoe attempted to form a Loyalist regiment of free fighting blacks who had escaped from Boston, as he strongly opposed all slavery and racial discrimination. On 11 September 1777, during the Battle of Brandywine, he ordered his troops to stop firing on the fleeing rebel Americans, one of whom was a chap named George Washington. Simcoe commanded many attacks on the enemy forces including Native Anti-British Indians, where his troops massacred over forty on 31 August 1778, at what is today a park in the Bronx, New York. In 1793, he was instrumental in passing an Act against Slavery, introduced courts of law, common law, and freehold land tenure. For the indigenous Six Nations [Iroquois] who escaped the American Revolutionary War, due to the fact they supported the British, he established large tracts of land in Southern Ontario. He formed York [Toronto] Ontario, where he is still commemorated with Simcoe Day.
“Tkaronto” is an Iroquois word which originally referred to the area around Lake Simcoe, and later came to refer to the large region which is today part of present day Toronto. It should not come as a surprise that the official WWII Iroquois badge and title would now come from a new RCAF Wing Commander born and schooled in Toronto, Ontario. On 9th May 1944, Wing Commander [first Canadian] W.F.M. Newson, DFC, and his crew completed their operational tour of duty, and were screened. On 14 May 44, S/L H. R. Dow [J4893] was promoted to Wing Commander and officially took over command of No. 431 Squadron. This officer understood the historical connection between the Town of Simcoe and the Six Nations Iroquois, and from this date onwards, the name and Iroquois paintings begin to appear on the base at Croft, Yorkshire, England. The Daily Dairy on 15 May 1944, records F/L Instrell suggested a large Indian Head stencil be created and painted on the north inside wall of the aircrew room. The bricks under the painting would be adorned with the names of the squadrons bombing operation targets, all approved by W/C Dow. Two outside walls were also painted with large mural Indian Head paintings which appear in many photos. Smaller Indian Head paintings also appeared over the doors to many RCAF sections in the squadron, and Halifax nose art began to carry Indian images.
The most famous squadron nose art name became Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, serial LK828 which arrived at Croft, Yorkshire, on 20 March 1944. This bomber was assigned code letters SE-S and became the famous “Simcoe Warrior” containing both the adopted Town name and an Iroquois warrior. This Halifax bomber completed 40 combat operations with No. 431 Squadron and today this original ‘rare’ aircraft skin panel is part of the War Museum WWII Halifax nose art panel collection in Ottawa.
From July 1943 until April 1944, No. 431 Squadron flew the British Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. V aircraft, and these bombers were slowly being replaced by the newer more powerful Halifax Mk. III aircraft, beginning in early March 1944. Halifax Mk. III, serial LK828 was from the first batch of twenty-four bombers constructed 19 March 44, and delivered to No. 431 Squadron the following day. This Halifax was one of the first twelve new Mk. III bombers to fly an operation with No. 431 Squadron and the first to wear nose art carrying both official Iroquois badge warrior and title connection. She also became the good-luck bomber of Iroquois squadron, flying 40 operations with 22 different crews, totalling over 160 aircrews who returned safely to No. 64 Base at Croft, Yorkshire. Simcoe Warrior flew her last combat operation on 27 September 1944, Sterkrade, Germany, pilot J27637 F/O D.L. Hagar, then was transferred to No. 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit at Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England, arriving 29 September 44.
This proud historic bomber now completed ten training raids [without bombs] teaching new sprog crews the experience of flying actual combat operations. The original nose art of Simcoe Warrior was painted over and she became “Jake Sent Me” with fake “Bullseye” bomber raids. This complete nose art story makes for a very rare historic chapter in RCAF past, which also reflects on our present day Snowbirds. Unlike British and American aviation museums, our Canadian War Museum displays little historical data with ‘their’ WWII Halifax bomber nose art collection, and RCAF history is just lost.
Colourised by Pierre Lagacé
This RCAF image photo PL29675 was taken 14 May 1944, and the proud ground crew members pose on the nose of ‘their’ Halifax Mk. III, “Simcoe Warrior.” Left to right- Sgt. Len Coolican, LAC Lloyd Bissell, LAC Johnny Lougheed, Cpl. Bill Wilson, LAC Harry Natowich, LAC Dick Lacey and in the cockpit is Sgt. Pat Lassardo. These are the forgotten heroes who kept this famous bomber flying and possibly one of these ground crew even painted the nose art, and added a blood dripping tomahawk for each operation flown. The first tomahawk was painted after her first operation flown to Noisy-le-Sec, France, on 18 April 1944, where four RCAF bombers were shot down.
[1st aircrew 18 April 1944, below]
The famous Halifax nose art “Simcoe Warrior” was also used officially by the RCAF for promotional images during the early month of May 1944. A few of these images are now included in my history, showing bombs being dropped for the Air Cadets from the Town of Simcoe, Ontario, good wartime public relations for the folks back in Canada.
The above image in front of Halifax “Simcoe Warrior” was also taken on 14 May 1944, where W/C Newson [right] relinquishes his command to W/C [Hank] Henry Robinson Dow [left] the man who gave 431 squadron their official badge and title. Photo PL29674 RCAF.
Colourised by Pierre Lagacé
The famous Halifax bomber serial LK828, has completed nine operations, [18 April to 7 May 1944] painted as nine blood dripping tomahawks. RCAF Wing Commander Hank Dow was the driving force behind the use of the Iroquois artwork at Croft, and the RCAF officer who officially submitted the Iroquois badge to the Chester Herald [College of Arms, U.K.] for approval. He also approved the painting of large mural art featuring the Iroquois Warrior images, a proud connection with his birth City of Toronto, Ontario, and their historical Canadian past. He also possibly knew “Tkaronto” was an Iroquois word for their large homelands surrounding Lake Simcoe, which later became the location of present day City of Toronto.
This image was taken by pilot P/O William [Bill] E. Dowbiggin, #J37628, a few days after he arrived at Croft, Yorkshire, No. 431 Squadron, 18 January 1945. This mural was painted on the outside wall of the headquarters Nissen Hut building, measuring 8 feet wide by 10 feet in height. The author repainted this image in full color, plus the Halifax LK828, “Simcoe Warrior” [presented to 431 Air Demonstration Squadron – “Snowbirds” in 2006, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta]. This original mural wall art idea was first suggested by artist F/L Instrell, 15 May 1944, approved by W/C Dow and painted by June of that same year.
L to R – S/L W.C. Vanexan, F/O R.D. Lawson, F/O Bruce Hutchinson, W/C Eric Mitchell, F/L Frank Guillevin, F/L R.M. Mickles and F/O Bert Kaplansky. [RCAF PL32028]
Replica art painted on original WWII Lancaster skin and presented to 431 Air Demo. Squadron in 2006.
A second smaller mural was painted on a headquarters Nissen Hut and Commanding Officers had their official RCAF photos taken with this painting as a backdrop.
Left is W/C Ralph Frederick Davenport, Commander from 14 January 45 until killed in Action 11 March 45. His Lancaster KB853 was shot down on a raid to Essen Germany, all aircrew killed in action.
Right is W/C W.F. McKinnon who served as Commander from 18 March 45 until 15 June 1945, return to Canada. P/O Bill Dowbiggin served under both these fine officers, flying Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB773 “P” for Piddlin’ Peter. These two official RCAF images came from his photo collection. The large mural paintings and title “Iroquois” remained with the squadron for one full year, from the end of May 1944, until the squadron departed for Canada on 7 – 11 June 1945. The author completed a smaller scaler replica color painting of this mural wall art which today hangs on the replica Nissen Hut building, D.N.D. Military Museums of Calgary, Alberta.
Mr. Don Smith [Phoenix Consultancy, Nova Scotia] designed and created 80% of the Military Museums of Calgary, Alberta. Upon my request, he allowed me to paint this for No. 431 Squadron, and Marg Liessens. Photo from Marg and special thanks to Don, a true historian and expert in his profession.
This is possibly the last photo taken of W/C “Hank” Dow [center] in front of Halifax “Simcoe Warrior” on 7 June 1944, where he awarded a D.F.C. to S/L W.G. Vanexan on the far right. The F/L on the far left is R.M. Mickles and the famous aircraft has just completed seventeen operations, the last on [D-Day] 6 June 1944, to support troop landings in France at Merville Franceville.
On 23/24 July 1944, W/C Dow and his crew take off in Halifax MZ858 at 21:13 hrs but never return to base. It is later learned they became P.O.W.s, shot down over Stuttgart, Germany.
On 27 July 1944, a new commanding officer arrives and a new chapter begins for No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron, converting to the Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X bomber.
No. 431 Squadron began ground school conversion to the new Lancaster Mk. X bomber on 15 October 1944, and the old Halifax bombers were now transferred to Heavy Conversion Units in Yorkshire, England. Their famous “Simcoe Warrior” Halifax SE-S, serial LK828 flew her 40th and last operation on 27 September 1944, where 143 bombers struck Sterkrade, Germany, pilot J27637 F/O D. L. Hagar.
Simcoe Warrior was next transferred to No. 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit, Topcliffe Air Station, No. 61 [Training] Base RCAF on 3 October 1944, and flew ten training exercises until 27 November 1944, when she overshot making a three-engine landing and was damaged. Sent for scrapping at No. 43 Group Rawcliffe, where nose art was saved by F/L H. Lindsay in June 45.
The three squadron Iroquois art [wall] murals were all present when the crew of F/O P.J. Hurley [F/Sgt. Dorey] began flying their first operations. The Hurley crew were assigned as Spare Crew on 1 November and 2 December 1944, with F/Sgt. Dorey flying his first wireless operation on 21 December 44, with the crew of F/O J.P. Duggan in Lancaster “U”, serial KB808, to bomb Cologne, Germany.
The new Hurley aircrew became members of No. 431 Iroquois Squadron in time for their special events on the 2nd Anniversary, 11 November 1944. The afternoon was devoted to taking pictures by the Canadian Press, the introduction of the new squadron mascot “Minnie Simcoe” seen far right in arms of Adjutant, and christening the Lancaster Mk. X, KB801 “Simcoe Warrior II” with a bottle of Coke by Nursing Sister Louise Dawson. Many photos were taken, supported by the gals from the RCAF showgirl troop called “Blackouts.” The fourth Canadian Commanding Officer, W/C E.M. Mitchell [left of nursing sister] is looking upwards towards the new “Red Indian’ nose art and name Simcoe Warrior II.
A lady from the Town of Simcoe chapter of the Imperial Order of Daughters, constructed an Iroquois female doll from a burlap type material, which she named “Minnie Simcoe” and now she became the squadron mascot, flying on active combat operations.
To read the complete history and learn of two recreation flights by the Snowbirds, please go to the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton, Alberta, Website and enjoy Minnie Simcoe. W/C E. M. Mitchell posed wearing an Iroquois headdress and [above] with Minnie Simcoe in the cockpit of Lancaster KB801, which carried her new “Red Indian” nose art. Simcoe Warrior II was one of the first ten Lancaster Mk. X [Canadian] bombers to fly their first squadron operation on 1 November 1944, serials SE-N KB803, SE-P KB817, SE-Q KB809, SE-R KB796, SE-S [Simcoe Warrior II] KB801, SE-U KB808, SE-V KB802, SE-W KB822, SE-X KB806, and SE-Y KB741.
Lancaster SE-S, KB801 survived the war, [36 Operations, three fighter kills] above at Pearce, Alberta, 15 September 1945. Flew postwar Canada as a Mk. 10S, [Standard] at RCAF Namao, Alberta, Winter Experimental Establishment [WEE] then flew fighter affiliation for Canadian Navy, scrapped 8 May 1956.
Under the Lancaster nose art name [Simcoe Warrior II] they painted a new nose art of a Red Indian Headdress emblem in a circle, borrowed from No. 421 [Red Indian] Fighter Squadron and the American/Canadian Oil Company who adopted them.
No. 421 [Red Indian] Fighter Squadron was formed at Digby, Lincolnshire, England, on 9 April 1942, the last RCAF squadron formed overseas, flying Spitfire aircraft. They took the official badge of a Red Indian warrior with crossed tomahawks, his tradition weapons of war. The Indian stood for the courage and silent fighting qualities of the native Canadian warrior, the appropriate qualities of the fighter squadron.
In 1927, two American oil companies [McColl Brothers and Frontenac Oil Refineries] merged and as a result McColl-Frontenac Oil Company was founded. The oil company also branched into Canada and during WWII they adopted No. 421 [Red Indian] Fighter Squadron, which was a perfect fit for both. This unofficial motor oil badge had established such a strong public image; it was one of only a few WWII RCAF unofficial art images to take on an RCAF official title “Red Indian.” In 1942, the company ownership was taken over by American Texaco, and later became Imperial Oil in 1989. This image is even stronger today, with Red Indian items selling for thousands of dollars to world-wide collectors.
The members of No. 431 [Iroquois] Bomber Squadron also took a fancy to this impressive design and painted it on three Lancaster Mk. X bombers, beginning with “Simcoe Warrior II” on 1 November 1944.
Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB861, SE-Q, became the second bomber to wear the McColl-Frontenac Oil Company “Red Indian” unofficial crest as nose art. During WWII “Squaw” was a familiar word which had been used since the 16th century to mean an Indian wife or female. There was absolutely no derogatory meaning to “Our Squaw” which only described the Lancaster bomber as belonging to her RCAF male aircrew. This word can be traced back to the Massachusett [no “s” in spelling] and the Algonquin tribes, and much more on these historical facts can be found on the internet, if interested.
The F/O Hurley crew began operations in the Lancaster Mk. X in late December 1944, and W/Operator F/Sgt. A. Dorey flew his first operation with F/O J. P. Duggan, [Lancaster “U” KB808] to Cologne, Germany. Fifty Canadian bombers were despatched, and 49 bombed the primary target, with all returning safely to base.
The Hurley crew first flew together as a complete aircrew on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1944, to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany, with 150 bombers despatched. They flew in Lancaster SE-T, serial KB811, and were part of 144 which struck the primary target, two were shot down.
On 27/28 December 44, they flew Lancaster “V”, KB802 to Opladen, Germany, 150 attacked and two were shot down.
In January 1945, they flew four operations beginning on 6 January, “V” KB802 to Manau, 12 Jan. “W” KB822 to Mersberg, 14 Jan. “W” KB822 to Ziest, and 28 January, “C” KB741 to Stuttgart Rail Yards. Twelve RCAF bombers were shot down during these raids.
In February 1945, major attacks were being made on German cities which were key locations in their network of communications and war supplies to the Soviet Eastern Front. The Hurley crew flew six operations during the month, shown on map with red dot and Germany City name.
Operation #8 – 2 Feb. 45, Lancaster “C” KB741, Weisbaden, Germany.
Operation #9 – 4 Feb. 45, Lancaster “R” KB847, Bonn, Germany.
Operation #10 – 7 Feb. 45, Lancaster “R” KB847, Goch, Germany.
Operation #11 – 20 Feb. 45, Lancaster “U” KB808, Dortmund, Germany.
Operation #12 – 23 Feb. 45, Lancaster “U” KB808, Pforzhiem, Germany.
Operation # 13 – 26 Feb. 45, Lancaster “C” KB741, Mainz, Germany.
By March 1945, the German armies were in disarray and retreating on all fronts for a last stand fight to protect Berlin. By now Allied Air power had virtually eliminated the heavy German war production, and the German population had abandoned what was left of many major cities. The bomber pounding of Germany continued and for the first two weeks of March not one aircraft was lost from No. 6 [RCAF] Group, but their luck was about to change. The notorious flak stations were still capable of inflicting serious casualties to the Canadians, while the bombers had no normal evasive action against the new German Me262 jets.
The Hurley crew completed seven operations until the last day of March, targets were: Mannheim, Chemnitz, Dessau, Essen, Dortmund, Zweibrucken, and Hagen on 15/16 of the month. During this time period, No. 6 [RCAF] Group lost seventeen bombers and fifty plus aircrew over Germany. A copy of F/Sgt. Albert Dorey’s original log book for March 1945 now follows.
The changing of Lancaster aircraft code letters was common during the war due to bombers shot down, crash landings, and the arrival of new aircraft. F/Sgt. A. Dorey had flown his first operation in Lancaster serial KB808, code letters SE-U, and the Hurley crew had completed two more operations in “U” in February 1945. On 4 March 45, the code letter of KB808 was changed from “U” to “Y”, and a new Lancaster KB859 took the code letter “U”. The Hurley crew flew this new bomber on operation #15 and #16 on 5 and 7 March 45. This new Lancaster serial KB859 became the third aircraft to wear the nose art image of the “Red Indian” crest from the McColl-Frontenac Oil Company.
On 31 March 45, the Hurley crew were assigned Lancaster KB859, SE-U, wearing her Red Indian nose art, and took off at 06:26 hrs, target Hamburg, Germany. No. 6 [RCAF] Group despatched 200 bombers, part of a total force of 469 aircraft delivering a heavy bombing attack on the U-Boat assembly docks at Hamburg. The first RAF aircraft bombed without any attacks, but the Canadians were ten minutes late arriving over the target, and their fighter protection was headed back to England. The RCAF squadrons were attacked by 12-15 German Me262 jet fighters and eight bombers were shot down. The jets had a top speed of over 500 mph and armament of four 30 mm cannons, while some carried 50 mm rockets.
These statistics “Daily Diary” of the 31 March 45, attack on Hamburg submarine docks, records the 200 bombers despatched by the fourteen squadrons of No. 6 [RCAF] Group, and the eight shot down.
The Hamburg dock target was obscured by solid cloud cover, the Master Bomber then called for sky marking, and the first two waves of RAF squadrons [280 aircraft] bombed the target without interference, then the final third wave of 189 RCAF bombers arrived, ten minutes late. The Canadians were testing a new daylight bombing technique, called “gaggle formation” where the aircraft flew wing-tip to wing-tip, [like the Americans] the closest formation of Canadian bombers ever flown by the RCAF. Suddenly 12-15 German jets rocketed up from the cloud cover at an amazing speed, and no normal evasive action could be taken by the bombers. No. 433 squadron suffered sixteen attacks on seven of their ten Lancaster aircraft but none were shot down. Some bombers were attacked by three different jets at the same time, the losses were five Lancaster and three Halifax aircraft, with twenty-six aircrew killed in action.
The last Battle Order for the Hurley aircrew and Lancaster KB859. Photo Bruce Hurley.
Years ago, I learned the very first causality of war is always the truth, and that is the main reason I attempt to tell the truth in my Blog research, then the readers can decide what is fact or fiction. I have been very fortunate to study the inside structure of three different Lancaster aircraft [FM136 Calgary, three times, FM159 Nanton, five times, and FM213 Hamilton, twice]. Due to the confined space in the Lancaster, five aircrew members could not wear their parachute and each had a designated parachute storage area. The Lancaster aircraft was constructed with six emergency escape routes, however the three roof escape hatches could only be used for water ditching or ground crash landings, they were not large enough for a parachute exit. The rear gunner could exit by the two rear sliding doors in his gun turret or join the mid-upper gunner and jump from the aircraft starboard door. The five remaining crew members had one escape hatch which was located on the floor of the nose section, and measured 22” by 26.5 “or [560 mm by 670 mm]. The five crew members were trained to jump in order, with the pilot being the last to leave his bomber. The size of the escape hatch was a problem as each aircrew member had to force his way through the narrow opening while wearing his parachute, and this wasted an agonizing amount of time and cost many lives. The RAF kept stats on everything, which included the survival rate of bailing out of different aircraft. The American bombers escape hatch was one inch wider with a survival rate of 43%. The RAF Halifax was two inches wider, with a survival rate of 29%, and the Lancaster survival rate was just 11%. These chilling facts were kept secret from aircrew in RAF Bomber Command until the postwar era. Many websites contain more detailed information.
Five of the Lancaster emergency escape hatches are marked in red. Five of the seven aircrew had to wait their turn as each member wearing his parachute forced his way out of the single floor nose escape hatch. This escape hatch size and single location problem was identified in 1943, but not corrected until the war had ended.
After dropping their bombs on the Blohm and Voss submarine assembly shipyards in Hamburg Harbor, KB859 turned south where their Lancaster was then repeatedly attacked and badly damaged by rocket fire from a number of German Me262 fighter jets. Internal communications were shot out and pilot F/Lt. Hurley lost all contact with his crew, not knowing how many were killed or injured. With that in mind, and his aircraft going down, the pilot decided to attempt a belly landing in a German field, then realized he would never make it, he gave the order for his crew to bail out. Minutes later, the Lancaster bomber exploded in mid-air, with the rear tail section landing in a field at the parish of Lindhorst, and the main fuselage, main wing and four engines falling 3 k/m away in the village of Hittfeld, Germany. Pilot Hurley was blown clear of his aircraft at 200 ft. and his parachute had not fully opened when he landed in a farmer’s manure pile, which saved his life. The rear gunner [F/O J. J. Casey] was found dead in the tail of the Lancaster bomber, and the mid-upper gunner [F/O P.B. Dennison] had bailed out but his parachute did not have time to open. Four of the remaining aircrew, including F/Sgt. A. Dorey were found badly burnt in the fuselage section of the aircraft.
The following images at Hittfeld, Germany, [Black and White taken in 1932] from Marg Liessens history and used with her permission.
The crash site of the forward section of Lancaster KB859, fuselage, main wing, and four engines which were consumed in flames. The original burial site for the Hurley aircrew in March 1945.
Marg Liessens at Lancaster tail section crash site 2017, where today a tree grows.
The possible original burial site in 2017.
Marg Liessens aerial photo  of Hittfeld, Germany, and the location of Police Chief Wenzek’s home. In 2009, Marg met with eyewitness Ernst-August Sahling at his home near the crash site. The original crash site is today an Aral gas station.
Copy of Lancaster KB859 crash report from Sgt. of Police Wenzek, who resided near the crash site.
Flt. Sgt. Albert Dorey was Commissioned to Pilot Officer on 11 January 1944, however the official appointment had not taken place. He was posthumously awarded his Pilot Officer Wings on 7 February 1947. Originally buried at the cemetery at Hittfeld, Germany, his body was exhumed in 1946 and reburied in the Becklingen War Cemetery near Soltau, Germany.
During WWII No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron lost 72 aircraft, 490 aircrew members, in which 313 were killed in action, 54 missing, [no known grave] and 104 became Prisoners of War. They flew 2,584 sorties, including 11 operations [postwar] returning 240 POWs to England. They flew 14,621 operational hours, dropped 14,004 tons of bombs and destroyed six confirmed German fighters.
On 7 June 1945, they flew their Lancaster aircraft back to Canada, No. 662 [RCAF] Tiger Force, [Bombing of Japan] and began training and reorganization at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima, [6 August 45] and Nagasaki, [9 August 45] resulted in Japan’s acceptance of the Allies terms of total surrender. The surrender was signed 2 September 45, and No. 431 was disbanded at Dartmouth, N.S. on 5 September 1945.
In 2006, the Lancaster Museum at Nanton, Alberta, [Today the Bomber Command Museum of Canada] obtained ex-Snowbird number 4, Tutor #177. For the unveiling of this new aircraft in 2006, the author painted two presentation panels on original WWII Lancaster skin wing panels. The original wing panels had been purchased by a local Nanton farmer in the postwar scrapping era, and he had used them in construction of a storage building.
In the 1990s they were donated to the museum and thanks to this Alberta farmer a part of our RCAF past was saved. The above skin panel was painted to honour the connection between the present day “Snowbirds” and the “Red Indian” nose art on Lancaster KB859, where Marg Liessens father P/O Albert Dorey was killed 31 March 1945. This panel was unveiled by Marg Liessens in the summer of 2006, however the full artistic historical meaning is a bit confusing to the general public without the proper history to accompany this artwork.
During my early art preparation and research, [which took ten weeks to paint] I also read a Nanton Museum copy of the one-of-a-kind book “A Tradition of Excellence” by ex-C.O. of the Snowbirds, retired Lt./Col. Dan Dempsey. This bible on Canada’s airshow team heritage is a must read from a pilot who has been there, done it, and in fact this historical book formed the inspiration for my painting. In researching a brief history of present day 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, I was very lucky to make email contact with Dan Dempsey who kindly supplied the answers to my postwar questions. The full Snowbirds history, circumstances surrounding the awarding of squadron status, and the Commanding Officers involved is all explained in his heritage book.
No. 431 [Fighter] Squadron was re-born on 18 January 1954, flying new Canadian built Canadair F-86 Sabre jets, stationed at RCAF Station Bagotville Quebec. They were formed on a temporary basis to provide aerial combat training and display the jet fighter capabilities to the public at selected airshow locations in western Canada. The team consisted of four Sabre jets and one solo Sabre aircraft, which became the first jet team to be authorized to perform formation aerobatics in Canada.
Although they were disbanded on 1 October 1954, No. 431 Squadron [Stand-Up] was reborn 1 April 1978, when the Snowbirds received official Squadron status and official title 431 Air Demonstration Squadron. The idea came from Mr. George Miller, who suggested that 431 Squadron be reborn in the Snowbirds as they were the first Canadian jet aircraft approved aerobatic team. A great deal of thanks was also owed to L/Gen. Bill Carr, his Deputy M/Gen. Ken Lewis, Admiral Robert Falls, and Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Barney Danson. From this date onwards, all members of the Snowbirds were proud to adopt the squadron’s original WWII Iroquois official heraldic badge, motto, and all of the direct WWII inheritance history that came with it.
Photo kindly sent by L/Col. [retired] Dan Dempsey. Col. Dave Tate [left] and Major Gordon Wallis stand beside the new official badge of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, 1 April 1978.
The original badge was created by the Chester Herald of Arms, College of Arms, U.K. and featured the Tudor [King’s] crown, approved by King George VI, March 1945. The wording Royal Canadian Air Force appeared on the original WWII badge. The normal RAF badges were surrounded by a wreath of leaves, while the Canadians were allowed the use a wreath of Maple Leaf’s.
The new [Snowbird] official 431 badge was designed by Mr. H. A. Diceman, Directorate of History, Ottawa, featuring the St. Edward, [Queen’s] crown. The Iroquois Indian warrior head and motto “The Hatiten Ronteriios” remains the same as the WWII badge, signed, and approved by Her Majesty the Queen. The RCAF words were removed and replaced with French Escadron, surrounded by modern Maple Leaf’s.
This is the official RCAF Unit Badge of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron with title “Snowbirds.”
On 16 October 1999, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron [Snowbirds] were very proud to accept the World War Two colors of No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron, denoting 25 years of service to the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canada.
Photo used with permission of L/Col/ [retired] Dan Dempsey.
The WWII Battle Honours read – English Channel and North Sea 1943-1944, Baltic 1943-1944, Fortress Europe 1943-1944, France and Germany 1944-1945, Biscay Ports 1943-1944, Ruhr 1943-1944, Berlin 1943-1944, Germany Ports 1943-1945, Normandy 1944, Rhine Biscay 1943-1944.
When 431 Air Demonstration Squadron accepted the Battle Colors of WWII No. 431 [Iroquois] they also inherited the past ancestry in official badge, motto, and historical past squadron history. That also includes the history of the Hurley aircrew and P/O Albert Dorey, killed in action 31 March 1945. The very nature of No. 431 Squadron organization, wall art, the name Iroquois, the markings on aircraft, plus the role they played 1942-1945 makes their aircraft an inseparable element in the triumphs and defeats during WWII.
I fully understand why a young “Snowbird” pilot can only show a small general interest in his or her past squadron published history and old photographs, when that is all they have. However, that is not all they have.
With the end of World War Two in Europe, 8 May 1945, the British Government ordered thousands [21,842] of surplus aircraft to many large storage airfields in England. Part of these orders including the scrapping of 1,376 British built Handley Page Halifax veteran bombers. This included the Halifax Mk. II , Mk. III , Mk. V , and Mk. VII,  and half of these 914 old bombers contained the very best of Canadian WWII RCAF Nose art, and the roots of No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron.
Canadian RCAF Officer F/L Harold Hunter Lindsay C11987, was the Operations Officer stationed at High Wicombe, RAF Bomber Command H.Q., when he realized it was extremely important that some of this RCAF Halifax WWII original nose art must be saved for historical merit. Lindsay was granted approval from Wing Commander W.R. Thompson, A.O.C. of RCAF Operations Overseas, to travel to each British graveyard, take photos of the RCAF nose art and then select some of the best panels to be cut from the bomber nose before it was scrapped.
Lindsay captured nose art images of 63 different Halifax bombers, including 54 Canadian RCAF flown Halifax aircraft. Next he selected 14 panels to be cut from 12 different bombers, including one rare RCAF tail art painting, the only one in the whole world. The cutting, crating, and shipping of each nose art was completed by three civilian British workers from the scrapping company. The full history and names are not important to our War Museum and much too long to be included in this story.
While these original nose art panels were sailing for Canada, their mother aircraft were being scrapped and destroyed along with the remaining Halifax nose art paintings. The salvaged nose art panels arrived at the War Museum in Ottawa on 7 May 1946, and remained in storage for the next 56 years.
My research began in March 1977, and continues to this very year, 2019. I found this combined collection flew over seven hundred operations during WWII, manned by over three hundred individual aircrew members, which adds up to over two thousand one hundred different nationalities – French, Australian, Dutch, Polish, American, British but mostly Canadians who flew in these Halifax bombers wearing the uniform of the RCAF.
On 8 May 2005, these original fourteen nose art panels were placed on public display at the War Museum for the first time in sixty years, sadly during those passing years many of the veteran aircrew survivors had died, never knowing the nose art from “their” WWII aircraft had been saved by Lindsay in May and June of 1945.
This is the second largest aircraft nose art collection in the world, and the largest surviving Halifax bomber aircraft nose and one tail art from the Second World War. It should be a complete display by itself, but it still hangs on a cement wall with no history, no education, and even our veteran and new Snowbird pilots have little idea their very roots inherited from No. 431 Squadron are preserved today in two of these WWII nose art panels.
Collection Pierre Lagacé (August 2008)
This is F/L Harold Hunter Lindsay, RCAF Operations Officer, standing beside a small RAF truck, and one large Halifax Mk. III aircraft. The date is unknown, but it is late May or early June 1945. This RCAF officer has photographed 63 different Halifax bombers and selected the nose and tail art from twelve different bombers to be cut from the aircraft and shipped to the War Museum in Canada. The location is the largest Halifax bomber storage airfield in the United Kingdom, the former Handley Page Repair Depot at Rawcliffe, Yorkshire, England. The RAF have re-numbered this aircraft storage airfield and scrapping location No. 43 Group, Rawcliffe.
In the following twelve months, over one thousand Halifax bombers were chopped up into squares, forming a hug pile of metal 80 feet high, and many contained the remains of RCAF nose art. F/L Lindsay understood the historical value of the nose art images he selected for salvaging, and completed photo negative numbers, full record data cards, and even placed copies of the aircraft operations on the rear section of each panel.
This was all done to help the researchers, and aviation historians in the Department of National Defence of Air, Ottawa,  to record and display the RCAF nose art to teach and educate future generations of Canadians. The sad part is to date, not one taxpayer cent has been used to display this rare aviation art, but why?
Today, more and more Canadian DND aviation museums are being run by a President, CEO, or what-ever title “Director of Collections” and they have little or no WWII military aviation understanding. Add to this the Canadian Government political correctness and WWII nose art slowly become a No-No.
By the time the nose art collection went on public display  at the War Museum, appealing to public taste was considered far more important to aviation museums than just telling and displaying the truth. Please keep in mind, this is the same political group of experts who created a display calling our WWII No. 6 [RCAF] Group veterans mother and baby killers.
These Canadian nose art paintings were on the RCAF bombers that dropped the bombs, which killed the German enemy, and that was not good. Hiding the truth from the Canadian public is one thing, but hiding the truth from our present day RCAF squadrons is totally different, but that’s what they have in fact done.
The complete RCAF Halifax bomber scrapping operation was captured on 35 mm film by F/L Lindsay and remains in Ottawa today.
My research began in 1977, however I could only afford to purchase selected nose art photos, and many other images remain in the forgotten negatives. Negative RE77-88 shows F/L Lindsay and the next RE77-89 shows the British man in charge of the salvage operation at No. 43 Group, Rawcliffe, May-June 1945.
Robert Goodwin, 4 Lilac Grove, New Earswick, Yorkshire, England, is the man in the photo and he was the one who cut the Canadian nose art panels from the Halifax bombers before they were scrapped, then crated each one and shipped to Canada. Three British lads worked under Robert and they scratched their name and address on the back of each nose art panel they salvaged, where they remain forgotten today in the War Museum. Painted on the Halifax bomber nose is a small Indian Head, which was photographed and selected to be saved by F/L Lindsay.
Negative RE77-90 shows what F/L Lindsay saw and captured on Black and White film, early June 1945.
Thanks to F/L Harold Lindsay this original heritage of No. 431 Iroquois Squadron today hangs in the War Museum, Ottawa, the smallest Halifax nose art panel in the complete collection.
Collection Pierre Lagacé (August 2008)
This rare Handley Page Halifax bomber nose art collection first went on public display 8 May 2005, but still fourteen years later hangs on the museum exit hallway with no RCAF history, thus, no learning or educational value to even our “Snowbirds” 431 Air Demonstration squadron ground and aircrews. [It’s their RCAF heritage]
The British Handley Page Halifax bombers were largely constructed at Cricklewood, England, and assembled at a number of sub-contractors in the U.K. At peak production in 1943, the group was comprised of 41 production factories, and over 600 [shadow] sub-contractors, with 51,000 employees, [over 50% were female workers] who produced one complete Halifax bomber every hour. The Iroquois Indian Head nose art came from Handley Page Halifax B. [Bomber] Mk. III, serial MZ655. This bomber became the 39th Halifax [batch of 45] constructed by London Transport Aldenham Bus Depot, Northwest of London, and assembled at Leavesden, Hertfordshire, in early May 1944. Leavesden aerodrome became the largest aircraft factory in U.K. and survives today as Warner Brothers Studios, where all the Harry Potter films were produced. This Halifax production batch of 45 bombers were given serial MZ617 to MZ660, with construction beginning on 24 April 1944. The new Halifax serial MZ655 was flown [ferried] to No. 431 [Iroquois] RCAF Bomber Squadron on 10 May 1944, painted with code letters SE-T, then assigned training flights seven days later.
Below is the [War Museum] aircraft data file card on this Halifax bomber which records all the dates taken on strength, units, and the final date she was sent to No. 43 Group, ex-Handley Page factory at Rawcliffe for scrapping [breakdown] on 12 June 1945.
Copy of original data card completed by F/L Lindsay [June 1945] and in the War Museum collection, Ottawa, Canada, today.
First operation Halifax Mk. III serial MZ655, completed on 24/25 May 1944, target Trouville-sur-Mer, France, 54 bombers attacked, all returned to base. Bombing target was a French fishing village located north of the invasion beach [Secret] code “SWORD” where British infantry and airborne forces would land on D-Day, 6 June 1944, invasion of North Normandy coast.
RCAF June 1945 data card created by F/L Lindsay for Halifax Mk. III, serial MZ655, which flew 39 operations with No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron as SE-T.
This is original Halifax nose art history from the very roots of today’s Snowbirds, but nobody knows due to the fact the original panels hang on the War Museum cold cement walls containing no history.
You have to guess what the hell it was painted for, by who, and why an Indian Head. Museum’s are built to educate future generations; the War Museum has no interest in WWII Nose Art or telling the reason for painting this Halifax aircraft art.
Another RCAF Canadian nose art panel is the rarest in the world, and at the same time the most important in regards to the Snowbirds ancestry history. The name is “Jake Sent Me” and this original panel flew 40 combat operations with No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron as SE-S, serial number LK828.
Today it hangs in the War Museum with no history; however my black painted area gives a clue to its hidden true identity. The full history of “Jake Sent Me” will appear later on my Blog, in possibly a month or so.
I wish to acknowledge the help from the following – Mr. Michael Whitby, Senior Naval Historian and Acting Inquiries Officer, Directorate of History and Heritage, DND, Government of Canada. Commanding Officer 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, [Snowbirds] L/Col. Michael French. L/Col. [Retired] Dan Dempsey, former Squadron C.O. Snowbirds, author of “A Tradition of Excellence” for answering specific questions regarding the early formation of the Snowbirds and providing important photos. Karly Sawatzky, BA, [SAIT] Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Archives, Calgary, Alberta, for allowing me to dig through her files and photo albums. William Heron, author of “A Yorkshire Squadron, History of 431 Squadron 1942-45.” Bill Heron’s brother F/Sgt. A.B. Heron flew rear gunner in the crew of F/Sgt. F.A. Badgery, completing operations in Halifax Mk. III, SE-W, serial NA499, “Big Chief Wha-Hoo” and five operations in the famous Simcoe Warrior. William Heron is a friend, and one of very few authors who knows the true history behind the Halifax nose art named “Jake Sent Me.”
In 2005, I painted replica nose art on original Halifax skin from Halifax NA337, [Trenton RCAF Museum] in honour of F/Sgt. A. Heron, No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron. [Photo from Bill Heron December 2018]
In 2008, I became involved with Marg Liessens featuring an idea that grew, and grew, into a replica doll mascot, like the original which flew operations with No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron during WWII. Capt. Jennifer Jones presents Minnie Simcoe with her Snowbird pin as Marg holds Minnie.
Capt. Jennifer Jones and Marg at Rocky Mountain House Alberta, Airshow.
Full story on Bomber Command Museum of Canada, at Nanton, Alberta. This was a special moment for Marg which many people never fully understood, possibly including the Snowbird pilots. Marg’s father P/O Albert Dorey joined No. 431 [Iroquois] Squadron at the time the squadron was converting from the Halifax Mk. III bomber to the New Canadian constructed Lancaster Mk X bomber. The original mascot arrived at the same time [early November 1944] and began flying operations in the Lancaster bombers.
I hope my history now explains the strong connection which Marg shares today with the mascot, the Lancaster, and our world-famous Snowbirds. A special thank you to Marg Liessens for keeping the memory of her father alive, and for sharing with me her research, memories, and most of all her friendship. P/O Albert Dorey would be very proud.
[Marg Liessens image] 24 August 1917 – 31 March 1945
Colourised by Pierre Lagacé