Monthly Archives: October 2021

An RCAF Lancaster Bomber named “Dumb Dora” (PDF file)

Research by Clarence Simonsen

A Lancaster Bomber named Dumb Dora (click on the link)

Text version

An RCAF Lancaster Bomber named “Dumb Dora”

The year 1920 became a momentous year for women’s rights in the United States, as they finally won the right to vote. The effect on comic strip artists was seen almost at once, as suddenly more and more women began appearing in comic pages, and more importantly, many new strips now starred women as the title character. In 1920 “Winnie Winkie” set the pattern, followed by “Tillie the Toller” [1921], “Boots and Her Buddies” [1924], and “Dumb Dora” in [1925].

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Murat “Chic” Young was a young enterprising cartoonist who made a huge career out of depicting a number of frivolous young ladies [The Affairs of Jane and Beautiful Bab] in the 1920’s. In 1925 he created his most famous [to date] innocent college-age girl, a lively, brunette named Dora Bell, and nicknamed “Dumb Dora.” Her adventures were quite popular, and the nickname proved to be most undeserving, as Dora had her good points and was quite bright on occasions. In September 1930, Chic Young created “Blondie” a new exceeding cute fiancée of Dagwood Bumstead, which went on to depict humor in average American family life. This became the most widely syndicated comic strip of all time, and Dumb Dora came to her demise in the fall of 1930. Dora was drawn by cartoonist Paul Fung and last Bill Dwyer in the final few weeks of the strip, August and September 1930.

This growing power of women in American comics and comic strips also had a major effect on young male readers in both United States and Canada. When these young men went to war in 1939 [Canada] and 1941 [U.S.] many of the comic strip ladies came along and appeared as aircraft nose art or as mural art in military buildings around the world.

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In early June 1945, “Dumb Dora” was painted wearing a bright red bathing suit on the nose of RCAF Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB965, code letters LQ-D of No. 405 [Vancouver] Squadron.

Formed at Driffield, Yorkshire, England, on 23 April 1941, the first RCAF bomber squadron on active service overseas in WWII. First equipped with Vickers Wellington B. Mk. II twin-engine aircraft, No. 405 carried out its first operations on 12/13 June 1941, when four aircraft bombed the marshalling yards at Schwerte, [near Dortmund] Germany. After being operational on Wellington bombers for ten months, the squadron converted to the heavy four-engine Halifax aircraft in April 1942, the first RCAF unit to be so equipped. The following month of April became a very significate date in the unit’s history when they became the only RCAF squadron selected to serve with the famous No. 8 [Pathfinder Force] Group, RAF, on 19 April 1943.

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During WWII a special gilt [gold leaf wire] badge was worn by all Pathfinder Force aircrew on the flap of their left-hand uniform breast pocket.

In preparation for the RAF’s “Battle of the Ruhr” in March 1943, two new squadrons were required to strengthen Pathfinder Force, with No. 97 squadron [flying Lancaster’s] and No. 405 [RCAF] squadron [flying Halifax’s] selected. No. 405 [RCAF] flew their first Pathfinder operation on 26 April 1943, when eleven Halifax’s marked the target of Duisburg, Germany. Conversion to the British built Lancaster Mk. I and Mk. III began in August and by the 30 September 1943, No. 405 had nineteen Lancaster Mk. III aircraft on charge. The last bombing operation was flown on 25 April 1945, thirteen Lancaster Mk. I and III’s from Gransden Lodge, Beds., where nine aircraft bombed Hitler’s refuge at Berchtesgaden and four bombed gun positions on the Island of Wangerooge. The Pathfinder Force had gradually expanded, and by May 1945, comprised 19 operational squadrons, but only one was Canadian.

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The official RAF Pathfinder Force badge was not in use during WWII, authority: Queen Elizabeth II, March 1955.

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The last operation [evacuate prisoners] was flown by No. 405 Squadron on 15 May 1945, and now it was time to fly back to Canada in new Canadian built Lancaster X’s. The main party of No. 405 proceeded by rail from RAF Station, Gransden Lodge, Bedfordshire, to RCAF Station, Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, on 26 May and the Rear Party proceeded by road on 29 May 1945. The squadron was now introduced to twenty-two new Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X aircraft, which were taken on charge I June 1945. Flight testing began for the trip to Canada.

It is interesting to note No. 405 Squadron were in fact the first unit to operate a Canadian-built Lancaster Mk. X in 1943, when KB700, was painted as LQ-Q and flew two operations, one was aborted. The only Lancaster Mk. X to fly out of No. 6 [RCAF] Bomb Group, completing one operation with No. 8 [Pathfinder Force] 22/23 November 1943, to Berlin, Germany.  This was all staged for a Canadian Press release and a war propaganda film to be shown to the Canadian public in movie theatres. This most famous RCAF bomber was soon transferred to No. 419 [Moose] Squadron where she completed 47 more operations until she crashed at Middleton St. George on 2/3 January 1945. The full history is found on many, many, websites, books, and historical films.

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No. 405 Squadron also flew two Lancaster Mk. VI, with Merlin 85 engines, [serial JB713, coded LQ-Z] [JB675, LQ-P] on a number of Pathfinder raids March-June 1944. Nine built, only six of these conversion Lancaster ‘test’ bombers entered service with RAF Pathfinder Force.  [IWM]

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The twenty-two new Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X’s assigned to No. 405 [Vancouver] Squadron after 1 June 1945. Twenty-one left England for Canada at 09:00 hrs. 16 June 1945. These aircraft never flew operations in WWII, however a few had been painted with pin-up girl nose art for the return flight to Canada.

LQ-A  KB961

LQ-B  KB964

LQ-C  KB997

LQ-D  KB965           Dumb Dora

LQ-E  KB977            Easy Elsie

LQ-F  KB973

LQ-G  KB991

LQ-H  KB967

LQ-K  KB976           Sold in 1975, survives today Scotland.

LQ-L  FM122           The Lady Love [rare art]

LQ-N  KB956           Natural [Dice]

LQ-O  KB950

LQ-P  KB968           Passionate Peggy

LQ-R  FM110

LQ-T  KB945

LQ-U  KB949          Bomb doors in Calgary Lancaster

LQ-V  KB955

LQ-W KB957

LQ-X  KB952

LQ-Y  KB959

LQ-Z  FM115

LQ-M KB999          “Special” Malton Mike – last Lancaster X to leave England, 28 June 1945.

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A.V.M. C.M. McEwen, CB, MC, DFC and Bar under his No. 405 Squadron Lancaster “Malton Mike” specially painted for his return trip home to Canada. Better known by the men under his command as “Black Mike” his Scotish Terrier carried the same motif. The cartoon [right] was created by one of the RCAF airframe mechanics who served under his command in England, nose artist and friend “Muff” Mills. The nose art on Lancaster KB999 [M for Malton Mike] was painted at Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, in March 1945, where AVM McEwen christened ‘his’ 300th Lancaster Mk. X constructed in Canada. Assigned to No. 419 [Moose] Squadron she flew one operation in WWII as VR-M, [25 April 1945] then was transferred to No. 405 [Vancouver] Squdron and repainted LQ-M for the return flight to Canada. Crashed in lake north of Churchill, Manitoba, 22 October 1955, where she still remains. Now, if you want to recover an important and historic Lancaster, this is the rare bird, but first you will have to talk to the First Nations people who own the salvage rights.

Four of the other No. 405 Squadron Lancaster aircraft carried impressive RCAF nose art ladies, including a rare nude painted on FM122 called “The Lady Love.” In July 2005, I spent an evening with the nose artist Robert Douglas Sneddon in his home at Calgary, Alberta.

Robert [Bob] Sneddon was born in Taber, Alberta, 21 September 1921 and moved to Calgary with his family in 1932. He graduated from Central High School in 1939 and joined the RCAF in 1940. Bob was born with music and artistic talents, which allowed him to decoriate RCAF aircraft with nose art paintings during WWII. In 1942, he was posted overseas with No. 405 [Vancouver] Squadron where he served as airframe mechanic, promoted to rank of Corpoal in 1943.  On 19 April 1943, No. 405 Squadron joined No. 8 [Pathfinder] Group at Gransden Lodge, Bedfordshire, and Bob painted RCAF nose art on some of the British aircraft, both Halifax and Lancaster bombers. Sadly, Bob was in the early stages of Alheimer’s when our interview took place and so parts of his past were totally blank. In early June 1945, No. 405 received twenty-one new Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X bombers, and Bob did recall he painted female nose art on a few, but again, the name or how many was blank. Robert Sneddon passed away 25 August 2010, and I feel it is correct to credit him with painting the postwar RCAF Lancaster nose art in 405 Squadron titled- LQ-D “Dumb Dora”, LQ-E “Easy Elsie”, LQ-L “The Lady Love”, and LQ-P “Passionate Peggy.”

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The postwar nose art on KB968, “Passionate Peggy” taken Linton-on-Ouse, England, around 2-10 June 1945. [Author collection]

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This small photo [3” X 4”] was taken by Cpl. George Wright R76190, Calgary, Alberta, who was in charge of the RCAF ground crew assigned to British Lancaster Mk. I serial PB627, No. 405 [Pathfinder] Squadron. The lettering on KB968 appears to be red; Peggy has red hair and is wearing a yellow bikini. Photo taken in first week of June 1945, as the new Canadian Lancaster X’s were being prepared for the return flight to Canada, and duty in the Pacific against Japan.

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The Canadian ground crew of British Lancaster Mk. I, serial PB627, LQ-J No. 405 [Pathfinder] Squadron RCAF, March 1945. SOC September 1947 and scrapped. Collection Cpl. George Wright.

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The only known postwar RCAF nose art to appear on No. 405 [Pathfinder} Squadron Lancaster FM122, LQ-L, “The Lady Love” painted by Bob Sneddon of Calgary. Possibly a nude, and the bombs were from the British Lancaster ops flown during WWII.

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This image comes from the collection of Col. Ken Allen, Base Commander of Greenwood, Nova Scotia, obtained in 1993. The line up of No. 405 Squadron Lancaster Mk. X aircraft at Greenwood, N.S., taken sometime after 21 June or early July 1945. The ground crews are working on the bombers in preparation for the air war against Japan, [RAF Tiger Force, No. 664 RCAF Wing] and the aircrews are on thirty days leave in Canada. The nose art by Bob Sneddon is another pin-up lady named “Easy Elsie!” KB977, LQ-E for Easy, with yellow hair and a red bathing suit.

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In the darkness at 1:20 am 13 June 45, Lancaster KB934 KW-I, was the first to take-off for Canada. A second No. 425 Lancaster KB936 taxied into the rear of the first bomber and the rear gunner was struck with the propellers. His last words to his pilot [F/L H. C. Chappel] were – “Pull up, Pull up. “He died on 16 June 1945, the last RCAF casualty in WWII.

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When Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, RAF plans for the air war against Japan [Tiger Force] were stepped up. All RCAF bomber squadrons were equipped with Canadian built Lancaster B. Mk. X aircraft and 164 returned to Canada. [105 were lost to enemy action or accidents] The sudden American bombing of Hiroshima [6 August 45] and Nagasaki [9 August 45] resulted in the surrender of Japan on 15 August [signed 2 September 1945]. Tiger Force, No. 644 [Heavy Bomber] Wing, formed 1 August 1945, at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, was disbanded 5 September 1945, the world believed it was at Peace. The Russian Bear, [Stalin] like a hungry Canadian Polar Bear, was in no mood for world peace and had to be watched day and night.

The Second World War marked the emergence of the Canadian Northern Arctic as a new military frontier, and new airstrips with living quarters would be constructed. But first, the RCAF was given the task of photo-mapping the far north, which required aircraft with a long range for this most remote and inhospitable part of the world. RCAF 13 [photo] Squadron was given this role and selected Lancaster KB884 and KB917 for photo field testing based at Churchill, Manitoba, which began in September 1945. These first two veteran WWII bombers were in exceedingly poor shape and experienced many cold weather problems during the winter trials. At the same time, the RCAF learned the value of these flying camera platforms and from these arctic experiments, Avro [Canada] Ltd, was contracted to modify a new prototype Lancaster serial FM212. From this small beginning, 288 Lancaster 10 WWII bombers would be modified and fly a second life in the RCAF in eight different designations.

Four joint American/Canadian Arctic weather stations [JAWS] were constructed in the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Northern Canada, Eureka and Resolute in 1947, and Mold Bay and Isachsen in 1948. In the summer of 1948 two U.S. Navy icebreakers “Edisto” and “Eastwind” reached Dumbbell Bay on Ellesmere Island and deposited material for construction of a fifth Canadian Weather Station named Alert. One of the most important construction items delivered was a Caterpillar Diesel D-4 Tractor, “Betsy” which would be used to build the first gravel airstrip. Construction could only take place in the summer months, and many equipment problems, and supply problems caused months of construction delays. The Canadian [Ground] Station Alert was finally established by April 1950, however the airstrip was still under construction, and material was still being dropped by mostly American aircraft from Thule, Greenland. Col. Charles Joseph Hubbard, 48 years, had been Chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau Arctic Section since 1946, and he was mainly involved in setting up the five Canadian far-northern weather and observation posts. The American government knew more about our Arctic than the leaders in Ottawa, and were much more interested in what the Russians were doing than Canadian weather reporting. Alert is much closer to Moscow, Russia, than any other part of Canada and it is still a Top Secret listening post today manned by RCAF personnel and Russian speaking specialists. For most of his life Charles Hubbard was an explorer, and during his first visit to Alert found a flask containing original documents left by Admiral Peary during his dash to the North Pole in 1905-07. Later an unknown marker left by the 1875-76 British Admiralty Expedition was also discovered by Col. Hubbard. Makes for very good reading if you are interested in past historical history.

In April 1947, the RCAF Director of Air Operations was inspired by what was taking place in the UK in regards to modifications of their WWII RAF Lancaster Mk. III bomber aircraft. He flew to England to see this new RAF General Reconnaissance aircraft and was very inspired by what the British were doing. The original Victory Aircraft Ltd. plant at Malton, Ontario, was now officially called Avro [Canada] Ltd and they were the contractor who modified the first nine RCAF Lancaster 10 [B.R.] Bomber Reconnaissance aircraft.  The serial numbers were: KB907, KB919, KB925, KB946, KB957, KB965 [Dumb Dora] KB973, KB995, and KB996.

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In 1949, Lancaster Mk. X KB965, “Dumb Dora” was flown to Avro Canada and the modification began with the removal of all WWII paint. The original RCAF Nose Art painted by Bob Sneddon had lasted for some 60 months. The new modified Lancaster emerged as a Lancaster 10 [BR] Bomber Reconnaissance, high and low-level, all-weather, long range bomber and reconnaissance, anti-submarine attack aircraft.

Under the RCAF postwar establishment, there were no plans to use the RCAF in the defence of Canada’s coastline; it was the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Navy. By late 1947, the growing strength of the Russian submarine fleet, and its presence in Canadian Coastal waters became a real threat to Canadian and North Atlantic sea-lanes. This caused many problems in Ottawa and plans [in-fighting] for the formation of the RCAF to join RCN anti-submarine forces took time. No. 405 [Bomber Recon.] RCAF formation orders were first issued on 1 April 1947, then on 1 October 1947, all were cancelled.

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On 1 April 1949, No. 10 Group was re-designated Maritime Group, and on 1 November formed No. 2 [Maritime] Operational Training Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia. They would be specialized in training all the new Lancaster maritime aircrews. On 31 March 1950, No. 405 [MR] Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron was formed at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and the C.O. was W/C D.T. French, DFC, a WWII veteran.

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The first Lancaster 10 [BR] to arrive on strength was serial #965 [Ex-Dumb Dora]. Other WWII veterans were: KB857, KB868, KB920, KB925, KB929, KB945, KB946, KB950, KB964, KB966, KB995, and KB997.

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On 26 July 1950, two RCAF Lancaster aircraft left Frobisher Bay to take part in operation “NANOOK 50” the resupply of Joint Arctic Weather Stations. W/C French flew Lancaster 965 and S/L Dagg flew Lancaster 925. These two flight crews would be living in RCAF tents on the American base at Thule, Greenland. The first ice reconnaissance flight in Lancaster 965 took place on 27 July 1950, and the following day Col. Charles Joseph Hubbard, Chief of U.S. Weather Bureau, Arctic Section, came along for observations.

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No flying took place on Sunday 30 July 1950, due to the weather conditions. Weather Station Alert was still under construction but the air strip was not completed, and the last spark plugs in the D-4 Cat tractor were fouled. A radio request was sent to air drop two containers of supplies at Alert, one containing urgently needed new spark plugs for the tractor “Betsy.” On 31 July 1950, Lancaster KB965 departed Thule air base at 15:39 Hrs. and headed for Weather Station Alert. The dropping of supplies took place just after 17:00 hrs. and the first container with spark plugs exited the aircraft with no problems, however, the second container parachute caught on the left elevator of the Lancaster fouling the pilot controls. The aircraft crashed and exploded just 2000 feet from the ground JAWS base on Alert, with all personnel killed. The ground members at Alert had no means to fight the fire, which burned for twelve hours, before the bodies could be recovered.

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Impact of Lancaster KB965 from Tony Jarvis

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The crash site fire was still burning on 1 August 1950, when the skeleton remains were recovered.

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Tony Jarvis images taken in 2009

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L. to R. F/O T.D. Martin, LAC Noselski [not in crash] LAC R.L. Sprange, Dr. Kirk, F/O J. E. McCutcheon, F/O J. R. G. Dube, F/O L.M. MacLean, F/Lt. J. F. L. Swinton, W/C D.T. French, DFC.

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When the remains could not be removed, [the Canso aircraft hit ice on take-off 7 August 1950] they were interned on Joint Arctic Weather Station Alert, 12 August 1950.

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The original burial site in 1950 was moved during reconstruction of the CFB Alert runway.

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Tony Jarvis photo

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No. 405 Squadron RCAF Memoriam 5 August 1950.

Over the past seventy-two years, many strips of skin have been removed from Lancaster KB965, and even the rear tail turret has disappeared from the crash site. These were taken by military personnel stationed on the base [or aircrew visitors] as few civilians are allowed. The author wanted a small section of skin to repaint the postwar nose art of “Dumb Dora” but how could it be obtained? Well, I just placed a call to Santa Claus, who is a pilot friend of mine.

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Anthony “Tony” Jarvis [Santa] joined [NWT] Northwest Territorial Airways as a C-130 Hercules pilot in 1981. We made letter contact in 1988, when I joined ‘his’ Ventura Memorial Flight Association, and then we met in person a few days before Christmas 1990. Tony was flying Christmas mail from Yellowknife-Edmonton-Calgary and I joked he not only flew the arctic like Santa, he even did his work for him. Tony goes by the handle “Hercrat” and has over 20,000 hrs in his log flying bush/arctic environment, including 11,400 hrs in Hercules, mostly serial 4799, C-GHPW. This renowned long-distant arctic aviator is also a man without vanity, a gentleman who has time for a nose art researcher. A rare Bush/Arctic pilot unspoilt by praise, a true professional, who also knows all the crash sites in the Canadian Arctic, and has visited many preserving their history in his photographs.

Beginning 20 August 2009, Tony made seven “Boxtop” RCAF fuel resupply flights to CFB Alert, and was kind enough to retrieve one section of Lancaster KB965 skin from the 1950 crash site.

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Tony Jarvis is the expert on the crash site locations in the far north and has visited many wrecks during his 39 years of Arctic flying, taking many photos for his own records and research. The following images of KB965 were taken by Tony at different years up to 2009, shared for my history.

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This history is dedicated to Cpl. Robert [Bob] Sneddon, the forgotten RCAF ground crew nose artist who painted an unknown number of Canadian No. 405 Squadron nose art images during WWII. He also confirmed to the author he painted the art on KB965 “Dumb Dora” in June 1945.

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The postwar RCAF Lancaster Mk. X nose art is long gone; however, the Ghost of Dumb Dora still remains at the loneliest graveyard in the whole world, CFB [Burr] Alert.

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This RCAF history could never be preserved without the years of assistance and friendship from Captain “Ice Pilot” Tony Jarvis who today flies a Lockheed L-188 Electra for Buffalo Airways. Captain C-130 Hercules, 32 years, Captain Lockheed L-188, 5 years, and Captain B-737-200A, one year four months. I’m sure once again this Christmas he will be hauling Santa’s presents to far points in the Arctic, almost to the North Pole.

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A million “Thanks” to Santa.

RCAF Vampire 3

Research by Clarence Simonsen

RCAF Vampire 3
No. 401 [Auxiliary] “Ram” Fighter Squadron

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RCAF Vampire 3

Click on the link above for the PDF file.

Text version with images

RCAF Vampire 3
No. 401 [Auxiliary] “Ram” Fighter Squadron

The D.H. 100 Vampire was a single-seat, twin-boom, jet propelled fighter monoplane with the pilot located in the nose of the central nacelle in a pressurised cockpit. The Vampire was all metal construction except for the forward fuselage which was wooden construction covered by metal skin.

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The de Havilland Engine Co. designed the first jet engine in April 1941, and by March 1943, it was flying in a Gloster Meteor [twin-engine] and by 20 September 1943, it was powering the D.H. 100 Vampire on its initial test flights. The RAF Vampire fighter reached a top speed of 540 mph [864 kph] over a wide altitude range, the second jet fighter operated by the RAF, and the first powered by a single jet engine.

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The RCAF’s choice of the D.H. 100 Vampire as its first postwar jet fighter had more to do with politics and money, rather than fighter pilot operational considerations. In 1945, the United Kingdom owed Canada 242 million for the construction of the BCATP, and this debt was forgiven by the government of Canada in 1946. Acquiring British jets for the RCAF was another complex financial agreement which was controlled by credits [not money] which Canada had secured in Britain during the war. The RCAF had hoped for both Vampire [single engine]and Meteors [twin engine] jets but the Canadian government did not have enough British credits for both, and thus picked the cheaper Vampires, when available credits allowed for 85 fighters, rather than 66 Meteors. So “Bloody” Canadian.

The first RAF jet shipped to Canada for testing was Meteor EE311, which arrived by ship in Montreal, August 1945. Assembled and test flown at Ottawa, the new jet fighter was ferried by rail to Edmonton in December 1945, for cold weather testing. On 1 April 1946, RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment [W.E.E. testing] was moved to Namao, [North Edmonton] Alberta, and a second RAF Meteor EE361 was shipped to Canada joining EE311. On 29 June 1946, F/L William H. McKenzie J16763, was ordered to ferry Meteor EE311 to Malton, Ontario, for an RCAF airshow, where the RAF Meteor would become the big attraction. The pilot ran out of fuel [external tank would not feed] and the new RAF Meteor EE311 was ditched in Helen Bay Lake, north of Nipigon, Ontario. Pilot McKenzie survived three weeks in the Canadian wilderness and was not found until 25 July. Meteor EE361 was returned to England in 1947, and these two RAF Meteor jets were the only pair flown by the RCAF for testing. Meteor EE311 was recovered from Helen Bay Lake in 1946, and most likely scrapped.

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This Library and Archives of Canada image shows RAF Meteor jet-fighter EE311 at RCAF Rockcliffe, Ontario, in October 1945. She will be shipped by C.P.R. rail to Edmonton, Alberta, in December 1945 for cold weather testing. RCAF test pilot officers [L to R] F/Lt. Jack Robert Ritch, F/O Everett L. Badoux and F/Lt. William H. McKenzie who ditched in Helen Bay Lake on 29 June 1946.

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On 22 December 1946, the first RAF Vampire 1, serial TG372 [below] arrived by rail at RCAF Namao, [North Edmonton] Alberta, for cold weather testing. First flight 4 January 1947, instrument check by pilot F/L Ritch, 5 minutes. Test flown until 11 June 1949, then remained at Edmonton base and only used for local test flying, last flight by W/C W.B. Hodgson on 17 November 1949. Replaced by RCAF Vampire 3, serial #17055, taken on strength 20 August 1948, test flown W.E.E. Edmonton, on 25 November 1948, F/L Robert Ritch.

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The first RCAF Vampire F.3 was test flown by de Havilland at RCAF Downsview, Ontario, 17 January 1948, and soon went into service as Central Flying School training aircraft at RCAF Trenton, Ontario. The Vampire was already an obsolescent jet fighter by the time it entered service with the RCAF, but the American F-86 would soon be built by Canadair in Montreal and the new Avro CF-100 was being designed at Malton, Ontario. The British Vampire 3 introduced Canadian fighter pilots to jet propulsion, a pressurized cockpit and tricycle landing gear, however the fighter had no ejection seat, which did cost lives. Ten RCAF squadrons flew the Vampire, with a total of 86 acquired in 1948, only forty survived by 1956, when the jet fighter was withdrawn from RCAF service. The serial numbers of the 86 aircraft follow, with dates of the twenty-two lost in Category “A” accidents.

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RCAF Vampire 3 Serial Numbers

The yellow indicates seventeen DH-100 Vampire 3 fighter jets taken on charge by No. 401 [Auxiliary] “Ram” Fighter Squadron based at St. Hubert, Quebec, March 1948 – February 1956.

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The Early History of No. 1 [RCAF] Fighter Squadron 1937-41

No. 1 [RCAF] Fighter Squadron was formed at Trenton, Ontario, on 21 September 1937, the nucleus of the unit came from No. 3 [Bomber] Squadron “Fighter Flight” which was formed at Camp Borden, Ontario, on 1 September 1935.

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These RCAF fighter pilots trained in five obsolete Armstrong Whitworth Siskin Mk. III A aircraft serial #302, 303, 304, 305, and 309. This RCAF image was taken at Trenton, Ontario, in July 1938, Siskin #302 being prepared for flight. No. 1 [Fighter] Squadron moved to Calgary, Alberta, 30 August 1938, where the first modern Hawker Hurricanes fighter aircraft arrived in crates from England. Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, #316 arrived at Sea Island, [Vancouver] B.C. on 17 May 1939, was assembled and test flown. First British Hawker Hurricane fighter #316 to arrive in Calgary, Alberta, 1 June 1939, pilot S/L Fullerton. [author collection]

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The first RCAF Hawker Hurricane fighter training took place at Calgary, Alberta, 28 June 1939, when S/L Elmer Garfield Fullerton took #315 for a test flight. This RCAF airfield is today the location of Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta. Fighter training continued until 3 September 1939, when England declared war on Germany. On 10 September 1939, war was declared by Canada, and No. 1 Squadron moved to St. Hubert, Quebec, with seven Hurricanes fighters on strength, serial #311, 315, 316, 324, 327, 328, and 329.

On 28 May 1940, before going overseas, No. 1 Squadron absorbed No. 115 [Fighter] Squadron which was an RCAF Auxiliary Active Air Force unit from Montreal, Quebec. RCAF Auxiliary Squadrons and their ‘part-time’ aircrews saved Canada [and England] during the early six months of WWII. Canadian history forgotten by the passage of time.

The world-wide depression of 1932, had a drastic effect on the RCAF and they were barely able to survive, with a strength of 103 officers and 591 airmen. [I won’t mention the obsolete aircraft they were flying] Since the RCAF inception in 1924, it was mainly employed with the Canadian government’s civil flying duties, and it was not until 1936, the government decided they should reorganize as a purely military organization. Almost too little too late, as only the growing threat of Hitler’s conflict in Europe resulted in federal funds for the RCAF to expand and form new commands under their own control. On 15 November 1937, to allow for the expansion of the RCAF Permanent Force, Non-Permanent Auxiliary Air Force units were assigned and renumbered in the 100-block squadron numbers. No. 15 [Auxiliary] Fighter Squadron in Montreal, Quebec, now became No. 115 Squadron, and the RCAF Auxiliary Active Air Force was created on 1 December 1938, with twelve squadrons by 1939. On 19 December 1938, the RCAF became an independent arm directly under the Minister of National Defence, controlled by the Chief of the Air Staff. As a result, the new commands were fully operational when war was declared and the RCAF were able to handle the sudden rapid air force expansion. On 10 September 1939, when war was declared, the twelve Auxiliary units were mobilized, and this ‘part-time’ Auxiliary Active Air Force now represented one-third of the RCAF’s total strength. These Auxiliary units supplied half of two RCAF squadrons which sailed to England in 1940, so often forgotten by historians in modern unit history. Forty-three per cent of No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron came from No. 115 [Fighter] Auxiliary Squadron from St. Hubert, Quebec.

On 26 August 1940, they were the first to encounter German aircraft, suffer combat casualties, the first RCAF squadron to engage in combat during the Battle of Britain, and to win gallantry awards. When mobilized at St. Hubert, Quebec, 10 September 1939, they also created an unofficial unit badge with a large blue number 1, a flying Canada Goose, with a Red Maple Leaf, which served with pride in the unit until 1 March 1941, when a new official badge was created at Digby, Lincolnshire, England. No. 401 [Fighter] Squadron was approved featuring a Rocky Mountain Sheep [Ram] Head, Motto – Mors celerrima hostibus [Very swift death for the enemy]. They flew Hurricane and Spitfire fighters on offensive and defensive combat air operations over England and in air support of Allied ground forces in North-West Europe. They held the record for RCAF sorties flown at 12,087, and lost 62 pilots, 6 killed in action, 10 killed in accidents, 28 presumed dead, no body ever found, and 18 POWs. On 5 October 1945, No. 401 scored the very first RAF/RCAF kill over a new German Me262 jet fighter over the Arnhem-Nijmegen area of Germany. In total they destroyed 195 German aircraft, probably destroyed 35 and damaged another 106 fighters, making them the top-scoring RCAF fighter squadron in WWII. They remained in Germany under No. 127 [RCAF] Fighter Wing, and were disbanded at Fassberg, Germany, on 10 July 1945.

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It is possible the No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron ‘unofficial’ badge was created at Calgary, Alberta, during Hawker Hurricane training 28 June to 3 September 1939. On 10 September 1939, No. 1 Squadron was mobilized at St. Hubert, Quebec, and this is where the first image of the unofficial badge was photographed by Quebec pilot F/O Nesbitt. This unofficial badge served with No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron during the Battle of Britain, however nothing else is known. I’m sure it was painted on a few Canadian aircraft, but again, just lost when aircraft were shot down and no photos were taken of the Canadian Hurricane fighter art.

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During the Battle of Britain, five urgently needed Hurricane squadrons joined the fray, No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron, No. 302 and No. 303 [Polish], No. 310 and No. 312 [Czech] Squadrons. The RAF allowed these five squadrons to paint a national emblem on the Hurricane fuselage, provided it did not take up more than one square foot. RAF fuselage and nose art was permitted and No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron became part of RAF aviation aircraft marking history. History painted and self-explained on the front cover of Toronto Star Weekly magazine 5 July 1941. [author collection]

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The inside story of Toronto Star Weekly, 5 July 1941, exposed the full impact of RAF Hurricane fighter fuselage [pilot position] art which was first allowed during the Battle of Britain, and involved No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron.

The RAF soon expanded the use of national emblems used by all Allied Squadrons serving in the RAF, they had no choice, the Polish, Norwegian, Greek, Dutch, Free French, Belgian, Czech, Americans, and Canadians were all painting their British flown aircraft with art. RAF Command simply attempted to take some form of control, and orders read – “National Emblems must be positioned on fuselage sides close to pilot position and conditioned not to exceed 100 Square inches in area.” RAF squadrons began to paint different forms of pilot position art and this slowly moved forward to the nose and became commonly called “Nose Art.” For some insane reason, today’s RCAF Aviation Museum’s are afraid to paint and display WWII aircraft properly, and American [internet] publications are slowly claiming they were responsible for WWII aircraft nose art. This simple fuselage art all began in August 1940, when Allied pilots flying for the RAF in the Battle of Britain, just wanted to display their national pride, and maybe bring them some combat luck.

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This Star Weekly image clearly shows the proper RAF approved “pilot position” art on a Battle of Britain Hurricane, not exceeding 100 Square inches. S/L John Simpson flew with No. 35 and 245 Squadrons, thirteen kills, became Group Captain in RAF, died 8 December 1949.

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The second photo came from No. 5 S.F.T.S. at Branford, Ontario, as RCAF ground crew pretends to paint a flight squadron Devil stencil on a British Avro Anson Mk. I trainer. Most of these WWII training flight aircraft art insignia were not preserved and have been lost and forgotten.

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Sadly, this also applies to the original No. 1 [RCAF] Squadron badge, the very roots of our Canadian fighter unit which has been overlooked by historians and forgotten as non-important Canadian RCAF history.

The RCAF reached its peak wartime strength in 1944, with 215,200 all ranks, including 46,272 serving overseas. On 6 February 1946, the government approved a peacetime RCAF of four components, a Regular Force, an Auxiliary, a Reserve and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The Regular Force were assigned 16,100 all ranks and eight squadrons, while the Auxiliary were assigned 4,500 all ranks and fifteen squadrons. The Auxiliary were assigned the role of Canadian Air Defence and began to form flying squadrons in April 1946.

No. 401 [Auxiliary] Squadron was reborn on 15 April 1946, at Montreal, Quebec, and once again the head of a “Ram” took to Canadian skies. On 1 October 1945, No. 401 took over all ground and air training aspects of a RCAF Regular fighter squadron.

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The official WWII badge, approved by King George VI, September 1944, was once again the official badge of No. 401 [Auxiliary] Squadron, Training Command, Air Defence, St. Hubert, Quebec.

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In September 1946, No. 401 [Auxiliary] Squadron took on strength twelve North American Harvard Mk. II trainer aircraft serials: #195, 586, 2680, 2760, 3046, 3082, 3091, 3123, 3192, 3288, 3300, and 3586. Around this period an ‘unofficial’ badge of a vicious Flying Rocky Mountain Sheep [RAM] was created by the squadron, appearing on beer mugs, glasses, plus an unofficial cloth badge [left] worn by Auxiliary aircrew members until 1956. The Squadron colors became Dark [Roundel] Blue and each Harvard trainer aircraft cowling, wing tips, and rear rudder were painted Dark Blue. [Decal and cloth badge from collection of F/O Denis LeBlanc]

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On 9 May 1947, RCAF Routine order 250, issued in a new five-letter Post-War code system with a new International Civil Aviation Organization registration of aircraft. Harvard serial #3288 now became VC-ABG and was marked as such. The “VC” [on paper] denoted RCAF, “AB” was No. 1 [Auxiliary] Squadron, and the “G” became the aircraft assigned letter. This VC system code was not discontinued by the RCAF until 19 November 1951. While the No. 401 Squadron Ram head appeared on many aircraft, Harvard, Canadair Silver Star [T-33], Canadair Sabre [F-86] and Beechcraft Expeditor Mk. 3, no photo evidence can be found showing the unofficial badge [Flying Ram] was ever painted on any aircraft. I’m sure it was, but again lost by time.

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Harvard flying training consisted of four, six, and eight aircraft flying in close formation, aerobatics, instrument flying and long range navigation. Ground lectures were held on navigation, air traffic control, armament, and survival.

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Early March 1948, four RCAF D.H. Vampire 3 jets begin to arrive with No. 401 [Aux.] Squadron.

Vampire #17008, 17014, 17024, and 17040 received the same VC system of identification as the Harvard’s, with the nose given the letters AB – A to Z on each side. The twin tail rudders were painted in Dark Blue, the same as the Harvard trainer aircraft.

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Vampire training consisted of four, [later six, and eight jets] flying in formation, pipelines, cine range firing, air to ground live firing at Diver Range, Instrument flying, low and high level navigation with and without fuel drop tanks and jet conversion training. Special pilot training instructions were also given in the dangers of baling out of the new Vampire jet as the pilot was likely to strike the twin tail plane and would be killed or seriously injured. A special technique was developed which involved an inverted half-roll before the pilot jumped, however this was only effective in normal controlled aircraft flight. If you lost an engine or the aircraft was on fire, you rode the Vampire to a forced landing and hoped for the best. No. 401 Squadron had a total of seventeen Vampire 3 jets on strength and six were lost in Category “A” accidents, killing four pilots.

F/Lt. Charles Stewart Buchanan, Vampire #17024, killed 22 July 1952. F/O Donald Ross Wright, force landed Vampire 17035 at Joliette, Quebec, killed 11 June 1954. F/O Peter Albert Read #105313, arrived 25 April 1951, mid-air #17086, killed 10 July 1954. F/O George Harry Griffin, crashed on take-off #17059, killed 22 July 1954, Toronto. S/L T.W. Dowbiggin baled out of Vampire #17054 [survived] after mid-air with #17086, 10 July 1954.

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The official title “City of Westmount” never appeared on aircraft, while the Ram’s head unit insignia continued to appear on Canadair [T-33] Silver Star, Canadair [F-86] Sabre and Beechcraft Expeditor until 1968.

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When the International Civil Aviation Organization system of registering individual aircraft was introduced 9 May 1947, the Canadian government did little research and soon the RCAF problems with the system began to mount. When an RCAF aircraft was transferred to another unit, the aircraft had to be re-registered and all new markings must be applied. This was too costly and very time-consuming for the RCAF who had enough common problems to deal with. Since no other military organization in the world had adopted the VC code ICAO system, the Canadian government officially discontinued the markings on 19 November 1951. New two letter codes were issued to all RCAF units and all aircraft had to be repainted, again with more cost and time. New Squadron two-letter codes were now assigned [to selected units] with the last three digits from the aircraft serial number, so simple, and cost saving. No. 401 [Auxiliary] retained their squadron code “AB ” and the last three digits for each aircraft serial were applied to both sides of the nose. The AB code letters were painted after the national insignia on each twin boom of the jet. The nose area in front of the cockpit was painted black, the underside nose wheel area was painted black and the underside of the engine fuselage was also painted black. The two twin rudder tails remained painted dark [Roundel] Blue. The wing undersurface contained the three digit [030] serial numbers in reverse with Maple Leaf national marking.

No. 401 [Auxiliary] Squadron establishment was broken into two sections; the Auxiliary [part-time] Air Force and the RCAF Permanent Air Force, which was called the Auxiliary Support Unit.

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In August of 1951, Permanent Air Force Flight/Sgt. Denis [Denny] LeBlanc, twenty-eight years old, was posted to No. 401 Squadron for fighter training in the new D.H. 100 Vampire 3 jet aircraft.

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Denis Denny LeBlanc was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick, 28 February 1924. He joined the Canadian Army in September 1941 and was released from the Army in December 1942, so he could enlist in the RCAF.  He received his Flight Sgt. Wings in 1943, No. 1 Flying Training School, Trenton, Ontario.

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Promoted to F/O in January 1952, Denny LeBlanc #J8805, [middle right] was an experienced pilot when he arrived with No. 401 Fighter Squadron, sadly his log book is missing and much information was lost. The photo is not dated and the Chaplain is believed to be F/Lt. J.A.R. Ducharm, St, Hubert, Quebec. The Dakota DC-3 was taken on charge RCAF 17 January 1945, U.S. serial 43-49872, RCAF VC-BNA serial 983, sold to the Indian Air Force 12 March 1963.

S/L Fred L. Mitchell first soloed in a Vampire jet on 18 January 1951, and one year later was assigned training officer for F/O LeBlanc. At 09:30 hrs., 9 March 1952, the two pilots were flying a normal routine training flight at 3,000 feet, then around 10:00 hrs S/L Mitchell noticed black smoke streaming from the engine of LeBlanc’s Vampire jet serial #17029. Mitchell ordered LeBlanc to make an immediate forced landing, and the pilot selected a snow covered field beside the main highway to Lanoraie, Quebec, thirty-five miles from RCAF St. Hubert, Quebec.

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The D.H.-100 Vampire 3 RCAF jet trainer serial #17029, coded “AB-B” with possibly pilot LeBlanc at the controls. [Date of photo unknown]

As he prepared for his wheels-up forced landing, the extra under wing fuel tanks were jettisoned, and the flaming jet touched down and began to slide along the snow covered ground. In seconds the flaming jet slid about 150 feet and then suddenly disappeared in a blinding flash. S/L Mitchell circled the crash site and as the smoke cleared could see no sight of pilot LeBlanc. Fearing the worst, Mitchell gained altitude and raced for the base, informing the control tower of the crash location, as ground and RCAF ambulance were dispatched. The force of the aircraft engine explosion had blown the aircraft cockpit sideways and LeBlanc was found half-conscious in his cockpit amid the wreckage. His escape from Vampire aircraft death was described as “nothing short of a miracle” with superficial injuries and no broken bones. He was rushed to Queen Mary Veterans Hospital where he remained in a body cast, a precaution for healing of his spine, for the next four months.

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The remains of DH Vampire #17029 under investigation at St. Hubert, Quebec

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Queen Mary Veterans Hospital June 1952 and pilot LeBlanc is still in partial spine body cast.

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31 May 1953 F/O LeBlanc [right] was posted to RCAF Station London, Ontario.

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Converted to F-86 Sabre and flew at RCAF Chatham, New Brunswick.

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In December 1954, two Canadair Silver Star [T-33] arrived, serial #21437, and #21439. Trainer serial #21476 and #21530 arrived in 1955, with 530 [above] the last to leave April 1958.

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Vampire training was slowly coming to an end and by the fall of 1955, they were parked, officially off strength in February 1956.

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Seventeen D.H.–100 Vampire jets served with No. 401 [Aux.] Squadron from March 1948 until February 1956 and now the Vampire Bats were going into storage.

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In total 3,268 Vampire jets were constructed in fifteen different versions and today [2021] at least eighty survive, with a number still flying. Canada has seven, including four Vampire 3 aircraft. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa has the world’s second oldest Mk. 1 and most original intact RAF Vampire TG372, which was used for winter flight testing [W.E.E.] at Edmonton, Alberta.

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RAF DH-100 Vampire 1 serial TG732 arrived in Canada from England and was taken on charge by the RCAF 22 November 1946. Taken on strength RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment [W.E.E.] Edmonton, [Namao] Alberta, 30 November 1946. First flight 4 January 1947, F/L Ritch, test pilot.

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RCAF Vampire #17055 arrived at RCAF Edmonton in the fall of 1948, flying her first W.E.E. testing on 25 November 1948. The test flying hours of Vampire TG372 slowly dropped to around fifteen hours a month and she was used in an Edmonton airshow on 11 June 1949, pilot K.W. Brown. On 17 November 1949, Vampire TG372 was taken for a test flight by W/C W.B. Hodgson, testing and local area flying. The Vampire still flew a few test flights up to February 1958, eleven years of service in the RCAF. Somehow this rare Vampire Mk. 1 was saved from scrapping and today is in storage at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, complete with rare “My Assam Dragging” nose art. Canadian RCAF museum’s have a very bad track record of destroying one-of-a-kind historical aircraft and then repainting them as replica aircraft, or just failing to paint them correctly. I do hope [our Canadian Smithsonian] Canada Aviation and Space Museum will preserve Vampire 1 serial TG372 in her original markings and also preserve the original Dragon nose art painting.

The art work reflects on the long service record [eleven years] and the fact the RAF Vampire jet was in fact dragging her ‘ass’ by 1958. The RCAF artist or date of the nose art are unknown to the author but the hard part will be attempting to preserve this artistic history by Canadian historians in Ottawa.  The painting “Our Assam Draggin” dates back to 1942, when the USAAF 25th Fighter Squadron went to war in the India-Burma campaign.

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American General Pershing landed at Liverpool, England, with his staff, on 8 June 1917, to organize the American Expeditionary Force. The American Air Service would procure 4,791 front line aircraft from France, 261 from Britain and 19 from Italy. In addition, 1,216 D.H. 4 aircraft were shipped from the U.S. which were mainly used for training, as they were not front line combat aircraft.

Forty-four American combat squadrons were organized in France and saw active service at the front flying mostly modern French aircraft. Each A.E.F. Aero Squadron painted insignia art on the French aircraft they flew and most of this insignia were retained when the U.S. Army Air Corps was formed on 1 March 1935. As new Air Corps squadrons were formed new insignia was created and approved, while others were never officially approved. The 25th Pursuit Squadron was constituted on 20 November 1940, activated on 15 January 1941. On 20 June 1941, the American War Department created the U.S. Army Air Forces, and during the war A.A.F. combat units were assigned to wings and numbered air forces. The 25th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the 51st Fighter Group, 10th Air Force, flying the India-Burma WWII campaign, based at Karachi, India, in the North-East State of Assam, 12 March 1942.

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 Their official insignia became “Our Assam Draggin” with a P-40 shaped Dragon, designed by an ex-Walt Disney artist This insignia inspired many nose art paintings of “Our Ass is Dragon” during WWII, and possibly inspired the nose art on RCAF Vampire TG372 in mid 1950s. Will the bureaucrats in Ottawa preserve their rare Vampire nose art and tell the history? I can only hope!

RCAF Jewish War Heroes

50 years of research about aviation by Clarence Simonsen

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

Screenshot 2021-10-16 06.34.24

RCAF Jewish War Heroes

Click on the link above⇑

Text version

Jewish War Heroes 1

Jewish War Heroes was a third “Canadian” special edition magazine published in 1944, informing the Canadian public of a few Jewish War II Heroes. This forgotten magazine is in fact an historical document which reflects on the attitudes and beliefs of our Canadian past, and it is just as important today. [Possibly more than ever with hate crimes on the rise in Canada]

The football player running with the ball on the front left cover was not identified, but his name was Lou Warren Somers, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Somerstein of 93 Kendal Avenue in Toronto, Ontario. Born 21 January 1920, as Leo Somerstein, he changed his name, and attended Harbord Collegiate and distinguished himself in athletics. He received his Jewish education at the University Avenue [Goel Tzedec] Synagogue, and starred as a halfback for the intercollegiate rugby teams of University College. In 1940, he graduated as an honour student in commerce and finance winning the Jules J. Allen Award, plus the Cody Trophy for a student who has contributed the most to the athletic life of University College.

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In early 1941, Lou was a staff writer and analyst for a Toronto financial paper, when his brother Gerald G. Somers joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Lou followed his brothers footsteps and began his RCAF Initial training at No. 1 [I.T.S.] in Toronto, No. 14 E.F.T.S. at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and received his Wings at No. 12 S.F.T.S. at Brandon, Manitoba. He completed his Heavy Conversion training to fly the Halifax Mk. V Bomber at RAF No. 1654 H.C.U. RAF Wigsley and was posted to No. 427 [Lion] Squadron of the RCAF on 18 January 1943.

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No. 427 Squadron became the eighth RCAF bomber squadron formed on 7 November 1942, when ten aircrews arrived from No. 419 [Moose] Squadron, three posted, [seven were attached] until the squadron reached operational flying strength. The first operation was flown on 14 December 1942, when three Wellington Mk. III bombers attempted to lay mines in the Frisian Islands, two aircraft aborted due to bad weather. Over the next two months, many new trained members of the RCAF were posted to 427 Squadron and their Wellington Mk. III bombers on strength grew to eighteen by 30 November 1942.

A – BK604 and BK137, C – BK268, D – BJ778, E – BK164, F – BJ886, G – K1626, H – X3562, K – BK364 and BK437, L – BK389, P – Z3872 and X3752, Q – Z1572, R – X3569 and X3563, S – Z1676, T – X3569 and X3563, U – Z1604, V – BT349 and Z1626, W – K3873, X – BT668, Y – X3593 and Z – X3348.

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RCAF Library and Archive of Canada photo MIKAN No. 4359665.

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On 3 March 1943, No. 427 Squadron began converting to the Wellington B. Mk. X, the final variant of this bomber constructed for RAF Bomber Command. In total 3,803 of these aircraft [Type 448] would be constructed and they were already slow and obsolete. The following Wellington Mk. X serial numbers appear in order as the new aircraft squadron code letters were assigned in March and April 1943.

L – HE264

S – HE279

Y – NZ313

D – HE547

X – HE743

J – HE553

V – HE668

W – MS743

W – HE425

U – HE683

X – HE278

T – MS485

C – HE653

A – LN429

B – HE730

E – NE745

M – HE637

J – HE744

K – HE729

Z – LN435

N – HE638

R – HE686

P – HE681

S – HE279

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P/O Lou Somers J8219 flew his first combat operation as 2nd Dicky to Sgt. B.R. Chambers R96292 on 14 April 1943 in Wellington B. Mk. X serial HE553, code letter “J” to bomb Stuttgart, Germany. Somers first operation with his own aircrew took place on 27 April 1943, in Wellington Mk. X serial HE653, “C” gardening [mines].

On 1 May 1943, No. 427 Squadron became non-operational and moved to No. 63 [RCAF] Base at Leeming, Yorkshire, on 5 May. New conversion training in the Halifax B. Mk. V bombers began and on 13 May a special event took place and the official title “Lion Squadron” was approved. The Lion squadron was adopted by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Halifax DK186, ZL-L was painted with large nose art of a flying Lion holding a bomb in his paws, named “London’s Revenge.” Many of the bombers were painted with contemporary MGM film stars’ names and other nose art images as listed in the Operational Records book.

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Lion squadron became operational on 28 May 1943 and twelve Halifax Mk. V aircraft attacked Wuppertal, Germany. Take-off order – DK184 “D”, DK191 “K”, DK192 “E”, DK190 “F”, DK186 “L” for [London’s Revenge], DK185 “B”, DK183 “S” – [Canadian Warrior], DK146 “Q”, DK181 “T”, DK140 “Z” for [Zombie], and DK139 “P” for [Pompers].

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The Lion nose art was a very simple design, replica painting in 2005 for Karl Kjarsgaard.

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The impressive nose art on Halifax B. Mk. V, serial DK186, coded ZL-L, taken after her 20th operation, 3 October 1943. She flew three more, the last on 25/26 November 1943. Ended her days training at No. 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit, taxied into a water ditch on 22 April 1944, scrapped in May 1945.

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In 2003, the author painted replica nose art of the original Halifax “L” DK186 and it was presented to 427 Helicopter Squadron [Special Operations Squadron 2009] at Petawawa, Ontario. Painted on original WWII Halifax skin from NA337, displayed at RCAF Trenton, ON.

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Very rare No. 427 [Lion] Squadron Halifax Bomber nose art.

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Halifax B. Mk. III serial LK644, came to No. 427 Squadron in August 1943, and was assigned the code letter “C” for Charlie. The nose art name became MGM star Joan Crawford but her body came from the pages of Esquire magazine, “Petty Girl” for June 1941, [left]. The painted bombs [operations flown] formed a large “V” for Victory letter. The Halifax failed to return from bombing Frankfurt, Germany, 21 December 1943. The author’s replica nose art painting [right on original WWII aircraft skin] is in a private collection in the United States. Another second replica painting hangs in the Bomber Command Museum of Canada at Nanton, Alberta.

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During the Halifax Bomber conversion in May 1943, a new Jewish Navigator F/O Max Shvemar was assigned to the aircrew of Flying Officer Lou Warren. F/O Shvemar was a veteran crew member having flown with RAF No. 57 Squadron, where he was wounded and upon recovery was posted to RCAF No. 425 Squadron. On 21 April 1943, he was posted to No. 427 [Lion] Squadron and after Halifax conversion training flew his first operation in Halifax DK185 “A” on 11/12 June 1943 to Dusseldorf, Germany. Eighty bombers attacked the primary target and seven were shot down.

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On 12/13 June 43, the target became Bochum, another heavily defended industrial city in the German Ruhr Valley. The Somers crew flew in Halifax “A” DK185, one of twenty-eight RCAF bombers which crossed southern Holland and then turned south for their selected German target. During the turn, a navigational error was made by F/O Max Shvemar and their lone RCAF Halifax bomber appeared over the heavily defended City of Essen, Germany. Three aircraft were shot down, including DK183 ZL-S from No. 427 Squadron.

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The bomber was holed by flak over twenty times, and both inboard engines were hit but continued to operate. When they finally got clear of the flak and searchlights, Somers flew north to Holland and then set a course for home base. Upon landing the ground crew observed the Halifax was covered in flak holes on the starboard rudder, fuselage, main plane, with twenty large flak holes counted, but none of the aircrew were injured. The news event made headlines in major Canadian newspapers and the crew posed for RCAF photos.

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No. 427 [Lion] Squadron Halifax Mk. V serial DK183, ZL-S, shot down over Holland after a raid on Bochum 12/13 June 1943.

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F/O Lou Warren Somers, age 24 years, posed for the press in his rugby sweater with lucky #74 he always wore on operations. RCAF official photo.

The Somers crew received a new Halifax Bomber Mk. V [seen above] serial DK180, which again received the code letter ‘A’ and they continued operations. On 19/20 June they were part of thirty-eight RCAF bombers which struck Le Creusot and part of fifty-seven bombers which attacked Krefeld on 21/22 June. On 22/23 June, they attacked Mulheim where six bombers were shot down. On 24/25 June at 23:07 Hrs. they took off for Wuppertal, Germany, in Halifax B. Mk. V serial DK135 code ZL-B, part of sixty-two dispatched and forty-eight hit the primary target, “B” failed to return.

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Only one RCAF aircrew member survived the fighter attack on Halifax DK135, over Holland, P/O White, who was taken Prisoner of War. F/O Navigator Max Shvemar is buried in the Crosswijk General Cemetery, Rotterdam, Holland. F/O Lou Somers is buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Nijmegen, Holland.

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A very large number of Canadian Jews are serving with the Canadian Army, the Royal
Canadian Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Navy. As a matter of fact if they were all in
the Army there would be nearly enough to form an entire Jewish division. The Government does not issue statistics on the exact number of Jewish men in the forces, but the Canadian Jewish Congress has requested every Jew in Canada to write them the names of Jewish men in uniform that they know of. In this way the Congress has the names of over 12,000 Jews who wear Canadian uniforms, and there are probably a great many more than that number.

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So many Canadian Jews have fought well with the army, navy and air forces in this war that dozens of them have won medals, decorations, and awards and have been mentioned in dispatches. A Montreal Jewish doctor won the Order of the British Empire in Africa,—Jewish fliers from Toronto, Montreal and other cities and towns have won the Distinguished Flying Cross. A Vancouver Jewish sailor who had served on the famous St. Croix was mentioned in dispatches. A Montreal signalman at Dieppe was
awarded the Military Cross; a flier from the same city won the British Empire Medal; a Vancouver flier won the Air Force Cross; a Regina Jewish doctor was mentioned in dispatches, and so on and so forth Canadian Jews valiant in battle.

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There are 1,500,000 Jews in the armies, navies and air forces of the United Nations.
One out of every seven Jewish men and women all over the world are in uniform.
In Canada there are 12,000 Jewish service men. In the U.S. there are 500,000 Jewish servicemen. In Palestine there are 50,000 Jews in the army and the home guard.
In England there are 50,000 Jewish servicemen. In Russia there are 500,000 Jewish men in uniform. In Australia, New Zealand and Africa there are 12,000 Jewish servicemen.
Jews everywhere have declared war on Hitler, war to the death, without reserve and without compromise. They know and the whole world now knows that Hitlerism is the enemy of all civilization. Men cannot live free and decent lives if Hitler remains on earth or if his ideas remain. Jews and all civilized mankind are fighting this war to destroy Hitler and his evil ways.