The Bloody Blenheim (PDF version)

Updated 18 January 2021

A comment left on the blog today…

Hi Clarence and Pierre,
My Grandpa, F/O Norman Arnott Folkersen was a pilot with WAC from 1942-44, (120 Squadron & 122 Squadron) then was sent over to the UK. My Great Uncle, Flight Sgt John Brock Folkersen who was a MUG with the Cradle Crew, 408 Squadron Linton-On-Ouse (usual Halifax PN225).  As well, my other Great Uncle F/O Victor Roy Folkersen was a navigator who died along with his crew and an instructor in Lanc W4929 Sept 5/43 on a training flight out of RAF Winthorpe with 1661 HCU.  I just wanted to pass along that I have read many your books and online articles on the nose art and insignia.
If it wasn’t for your research, our family wouldn’t have known that the RCAF 122 Squadron unofficial insignia of Patricia Bay was the “Flying Nightmare” created by Disney Studios, or that 120 BR Squadron of Coal Harbour, also had an original unofficial insignia drawn by a squadron member or that Disney studios also provided a redone insignia (Pluto on a bomb).
Also discovered that the Cradle Crew flew one sortie I Halifax NP714, Veni Vidi Vici, the Drum Major Girl on Feb 9/45 to Wanne Eickel.  Lovely to find out that original piece of nose art is in the Canadian War Museum, also which you’ve written extensively about.
I have started a private family Facebook group (we are only 36 members), but have been providing research links and articles as my research goes along, as have one of Brock’s sons, Ross.  The family history we have is being shared and also researched further.  Your work has contributed to our family WWII history and remembrance, so no amount of thanks can be enough.
Thanks from the Folkersen Family tree

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 McLean 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?


5 thoughts on “The Bloody Blenheim (PDF version)

  1. a gray

    This is a fascinating report on Annette Island. I’ve by the island by boat several times, but I never knew of it being an RCAF airbase site during World War II. Thank you for this post.


    1. Pierre Lagacé Post author

      I think my friend Clarence Simonsen has done more research on Annette Island during WWII. I will look it up and repost it on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person


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