Eldon Kearl’s RCAF Log Book – “Bug on a Bomb” PDF version

Updated 8 January 2022

Eldon Kearl’s RCAF Log Book – “Bug on a Bomb” PDF version

Research by Clarence Simonsen

Eldon Kearl’s RCAF Log Book – “Bug on a Bomb” PDF version

Eldon Kearl’s Log

Click on the link above.


Eldon Eastham Kearl was born at Cardston, Alberta, on 26 January 1920, he died 28 January 1944, 26 hours after his 24th birthday. F/L [pilot] E.E. Kearl J18810 and his crew took off from England at 17:50 hrs in Lancaster Mk. II aircraft serial DS709, his eighteenth operation, but they never returned to base. 

Eldon Kearl joined the RCAF on 5 September 1941, at Edmonton, Alberta, when the main criteria in selecting RCAF pilot candidates was physical fitness, education, and learning ability. If an applicant scored well on his test, he was acceptable as a pilot even if he left school without a diploma. Before a selected recruit was definitely assigned to pilot training he appeared before an RCAF board of two or three officers. These officers examined his medical reports, personal history form, classification test scores, results of various aptitude tests and finally questioned the candidate himself. If there was any doubt, the board would select another RCAF aircrew category and the candidate had no choice other than accept the board’s decision. 

Text version (with added images)

Eldon Kearl’s RCAF Log Book – “Bug on a Bomb”

Eldon Eastham Kearl was born at Cardston, Alberta, on 26 January 1920, he died 28 January 1944, 26 hours after his 24th birthday. F/L [pilot] E.E. Kearl J18810 and his crew took off from England at 17:50 hrs in Lancaster Mk. II aircraft serial DS709, his eighteenth operation, but they never returned to base. 

Eldon Kearl joined the RCAF on 5 September 1941, at Edmonton, Alberta, when the main criteria in selecting RCAF pilot candidates was physical fitness, education, and learning ability. If an applicant scored well on his test, he was acceptable as a pilot even if he left school without a diploma. Before a selected recruit was definitely assigned to pilot training he appeared before an RCAF board of two or three officers. These officers examined his medical reports, personal history form, classification test scores, results of various aptitude tests and finally questioned the candidate himself. If there was any doubt, the board would select another RCAF aircrew category and the candidate had no choice other than accept the board’s decision. 


LAC Eldon Kearl #R130549 was selected for pilot training and his new RCAF path took him to three different training schools: an initial flying training school (I.T.S.), an elementary flying training school (E.F.T.S.), and finally a service flying training school, (S.F.T.S.), where he received his wings. In 1942, the time taken to complete the three training schools was up to thirty weeks, and then the recruit became a fully trained RCAF pilot, with the rank of Sergeant.  

In December 1941, student pilots spent only four weeks at initial training school learning classroom instruction in aerodynamics, engines, navigation, meteorology, mathematics and ground drill marching ‘square bashing.’ Next came the elementary flying training school where the student came face to face with his first aeroplane and the civilian flying instructor who would teach him to fly it.

LAC Kearl was posted to No. 6 E.F.T.S. located far north at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, run by the Prince Albert and Saskatoon Flying Clubs, and his civilian instructor was Mr. MacLeod. Eldon trained in Tiger Moth aircraft serial numbers – 4057, 4106, 4037, 5047, 4262, and 4060. 

Photo of Tiger Moths (Fort Williams 1941) 
Collection Frank Sorensen (courtesy Vicki Sorensen)

After eight hours of flying instruction the student pilot was ready for his first solo flight, which student Eldon flew on 28 February 1942 in Tiger Moth #4060. The full course included sixty hours of flying time interspaced with one hundred and twenty-four hours of ground school lectures. The RCAF failure rate at the elementary flying school was 23 per cent, which did not include failure for sickness, injury, or death. At the end of training the student pilots were divided into two groups, fighter pilots and bomber pilots. Potential fighter pilots were now posted to a service flying training school with Harvard aircraft, the others were selected for bomber, coastal, or transport operations and sent to a SFTS which flew Ansons, Cranes, or Oxford twin engine aircraft. 

Eldon was selected to become a bomber pilot and was posted to No. 7 S.F.T.S. at Macleod, Alberta, very close [36 miles – 61 k/m] to his birth town of Cardston, Alberta.

Arrival at No. 7 SFTS was a memorable first step for pilot trainees as they moved to a twin-engine aircraft which was a giant leap for many. The larger size of the SFTS airfield was noticed at once, with six hangars, concrete runways and a large sprawling RCAF base camp area. The students had become accustomed to the more relaxed civilian life at the elementary schools which was free from drill and discipline, but now that all changed. The SFTS was all business with strictly enforced RCAF rules, hours of drill, and Flight Sergeants always on the prowl for students with hands in their pockets, in need of a hair cut or having his RCAF tunic undone. 

Photo from Flying Officer LeVerne Haley’s collection via Pierre Lagacé

This photo shows seven student pilots at No. 7 SFTS Macleod, Alberta, in front of their Avro Anson trainer aircraft. The pilot flying course consisted of twenty-six clearly defined sequences which ended seven weeks later with exercises in aircraft formation flying. All student pilots were under strict RCAF orders on what they were not allowed to perform during training flights, but that did not prevent these teenage boys from showing off their flying skills. 

Eldon began Course #59 on 5 July 1942, and by October 1942, LAC Kearl was flying solo or with only one other student pilot [LAC Slipp] on most of his assigned training flights, October 7, Anson 7496 – solo, 8 Oct. Anson 7496 – solo, 9 Oct. Anson FP715, – solo, 10 Oct, Anson 7487 – solo. This allowed Eldon to “shoot up” his home town of Cardson and when he buzzed the Kearl homestead his mother Rose, came out and waved her apron in proud acknowledgment to her son. 

In a 1942 letter to younger brother Harold, he described how he dove his Anson aircraft down on the home of his close pal Russ, “I about blew the roof off his house and barn.” On 10 October 1942, LAC E. Kearl took his Wings Test in Avro Anson #7487 under instructor F/L Riddell, and he passed. Graduation took place on 22 October 1942, and 54 pilots graduated. Few pilots missed this opportunity of having their photograph taken wearing their brand-new wings. In a week, a package arrived at the Kearl home containing the proud portrait of RCAF pilot Eldon Kearl wearing his RCAF graduation wings. The RCAF also took ID photos of the new Sgt. pilot and these were much more serious looking then the one sent home.

RCAF Official ID photo 
Sgt. Eldon Kearl #R130549

The civilian photo sent home. 

Sgt. E.E. Kearl was now a fully trained twin engine Avro Anson pilot, posted to No. 1 “Y” Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 6 November 1942, where another ID photo card was required before sailing for U.K.

Eldon Kearl was one of very few student pilots who earned his Wings flying over his Canadian birth place where he spent his boyhood summers hiking and fishing in the streams flowing around Old Chief Mountain in Southern Alberta. The sprog pilots, like Eldon Kearl now faced the excitement and danger of overseas posting to wartime Britain. 

Many new pilots expected to be shipped immediately to RCAF Squadrons and operations. They soon found themselves in a south coastal seaside resort town called Bournemouth, where the climate was mild and the British female company was quite willing for good times. Some RCAF aircrew spent three months at Bournemouth, [No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre] which was a holding reservoir for [Allied] Canadian aircrew production line.]

On 23 May 1943, twenty-six Luftwaffe aircraft made a surprise raid on No. 3 PRC, twenty-two buildings were destroyed and over 200 Allied airmen were killed]. Luckily, Eldon was posted out on 9 February 1943, and arrived at No. 15 A.F.U. [Advanced Flying Unit] RAF Station Acaster Malbis, North Yorkshire, the following day. Here he began flying Airspeed Oxfords with camouflaged upper surface and underside painted bright trainer yellow. This unit was formed to teach “Dominion” sprog pilots how to fly in wartime and weather conditions in the U.K., which saved many lives.

The first three flights were made with RAF Sgt. Richardson in Airspeed Oxford #6015, 11 Feb. Oxford #3722, 11 Feb. and Oxford #6282 on 13 Feb. The remaining flights were solo in Oxfords #6282, #417, #6054, #1077, #794, and four flights in #4617. Training was completed in Oxford #6015 on 3 March 1943, and a posting to No. 1512 B.A.T. [Beam Approach Training] RCAF Dishforth on 5 March. Eight [blind instrument] training flights were conducted from 7 to 12 March 1943, with RCAF Sgt. Owen in charge, Oxford aircraft # V4082 and V4132. 

Next came RCAF No. 23 Operational Training Unit, Pershore, Worcestershire, where airmen ceased being an individual and became part of their first RCAF crew. The RCAF ushered groups of pilots, navigators, bomb-aimers, wireless operators and air-gunners into an aircraft hangar and told them to “get on with it.” These young airmen were meeting each other for the very first time, asking a stranger if he wanted to ‘crew up’ and if he shook his head “no”, they moved on to another stranger. 

The food at Pershore was hated by all new arrivals, even the British, as it remained the same day after day, greasy mutton and Brussel sprouts. Poor food, old worn out RAF Wellington aircraft and a few RAF officers who just hated Canadians became the norm. Most RCAF young pilots wore sergeant’s stripes, but they soon found themselves barred from the RAF Sergeant’s Mess, which only allowed RAF British Sergeant pilots. 

Pershore was where new RCAF aircrew formed a band of comrades in the sky and together learned the dangers of operational flying. A large number of Canadians never left RAF Pershore, they were killed in Wellington training accidents. 

Eldon Kearl and crew made their first flight on 26 April 1943, RAF Sgt. Maitland in Wellington Mk. II code “T” for Tom. On 29 April, the new aircrew flew solo for the first time in Wellington code U, and continued training flights once or twice everyday. 


The Eldon Kearl [top center] aircrew Sgt. Adamson, Brown, MacManus, and McLean.

The final stop in the RCAF aircrew training process was the ‘finishing school’ officially called the Heavy Conversion Unit, with the Kearl crew posted to RCAF No. 1659 H.C.U. on 1 July 1943. Formed at Leeming, Yorkshire, on 6 October 1942, No. 1659 moved to Topcliffe, Yorkshire, on 14 March 1943, providing conversion training on veteran Halifax bombers. Halifax bomber training began on 2 July with four flights, under command of instructors P/O Marment and Sgt. Holland, with up to six training flights per day. 

Beginning 2 July and ending 13 July, they completed twenty-nine training flights and twelve were flown in Halifax code letter “P” which became their assigned aircraft code letter. The Kearl aircrew and most likely Halifax code “P.”

Posted to No. 408 [Goose] Squadron at Leeming, Yorkshire, 14 July 1943.

Before a new ‘sprog’ crew flew their first operation they were assigned a training exercise designed to prepare them for the real combat conditions, this was called “Bulls-eye.” The Kearl crew flew their first on 16 July 1943 in Halifax code “R.” Before a new skipper was permitted to fly his crew on ops he was required to fly at least one trip [sometimes two] as Second Dickey. Eldon Kearl flew as Second Dickey to F/O Whiston on 24 July 1943, Halifax serial JB893, bombed Hamburg, Germany.

On 25 July the crew of F/Sgt. Kearl were assigned ‘their’ Halifax serial JD326, with code letter “P” the same letter they trained with at Topcliffe. 

The next four operations are recorded for pilot ‘skipper’ Sgt. Eldon Kearl, as his crew in fact flew one less operation, 1, 2, 3, and 4. 

In August two major changes came to No. 408 [Goose] Squadron, they had a change in aircraft, converted to Lancaster Mk II, and on the 26th of the month they moved from Leeming to No. 62 [RCAF] Base at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire. 

Almost all of the Lancaster aircraft built in WWII were powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin in-line, liquid-cooled engines. The exception was the Lancaster Mk. II which was fitted with four Bristol Hercules radial air-cooled engines. Three RCAF Squadrons are closely identified with this obscure Lancaster Mk. II aircraft, and of the 301 built, 120 bombers served with No. 408, 426, and 432 Squadrons, where 82 were lost on active operations, most during the Battle of Berlin. No. 408 Goose Squadron lost 32 Lancaster Mk. II aircraft during the Battle of Berlin.


Conversion training in the new Lancaster Mk. II began in late August and during the passing weeks new RCAF nose art began to appear on the bombers, many connected to the Canada Goose. Lancaster EQ-S [above cutaway drawing] was serial DS692 flown by P/O John Douglas Harvey, DFC. 

Lancaster Mk. II serial DS707 was called Our Mary II, having completed twenty-one Ops. with No. 426 Squadron code D, then transferred to No. 408 where she became EQ-M for Mary, a Canada Goose. Flew 25 additional operations until 14 August 1944, pilot is P/O C.A. Reid.

Three Lancaster Mk. II aircraft carried the code EQ-G [for Goose], the first serial DS712 arrived in October and completed seven operations from 8 October to 26 November 1943, crashed in training 27 November at Lincoln, U.K. The second to wear “G” was LL631, flew six ops., shot down over Berlin 2 January 1944. The third, and last, was LL636 named “Miss Kingsville” which completed 48 operations 26 March to 14 August 1944. The proud RCAF ground crew seen in June 1944, top left down are – LACs H. Truax, H. Arnold, and Sgt. J. Godfrey, on the right top down – LACs R. Ferry, Sgt. S. McCracken, and K. Cinnamon. The aircraft carried the name Goose with nose code letter, the unofficial red, white and blue Maple Leaf roundel, and the nose art of the squadron badge, which was not painted but riveted on the nose section. [important for model builders] Collection of Sgt. Glen Lloyd 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Edmonton.

This close-up of the 408 badge on LL636 clearly shows it was painted on metal, then riveted to the nose skin and possibly had been on the nose section of another aircraft. Maybe the art first appeared on Lancaster DS712, which crashed near Lincoln, England, 27 November 1943. [Collection Sgt. Glen Lloyd, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron] 

Eldon and crew began Lancaster conversion training on 2 September 1943 and flew their assigned aircraft EQ-P [P for Peter] serial DS709 two days later. 

EQ-E was named “Old Faithful” and she lived up to her name. DS763 completed 35 operations with No. 426 Squadron and then was transferred to No. 408 Goose Squadron flying another 37 operations between 10 May to 15 August 1944. This is possibly P/O E.G. Vaughan in the cockpit as he flew her on most of the operations. Seventy-two operations were the top completed for a Goose Squadron Lancaster Mk. II which survived the RAF air campaign in the Battle of Berlin. Though the Lancaster was constructed strong and could absorb terrible combat damage and return to England, it was designed with awkward escape hatches. Five of the aircrew in the front had to use the emergency escape hatch on the floor of the nose, and the last to leave was the pilot, who attempted to keep the aircraft steady for his crew. Only eleven per cent of Lancaster aircrew survived compared to twenty-nine in the Halifax bomber, and fifty per cent in the American B-17 Flying Fortress.  

On 8 September Sgt. Kearl was assigned a training flight in Lancaster EQ-Q, DS767, [completed eleven operations] later shot down Brunswick, Germany, 14 August 1944. EQ-O, DS731, came next, [completed twenty operations] shot down Schweinfurt, Germany, 24 February 1944. EQ-V, DS761, was flown training on 16 September, she completed 15 operations and survived the Battle of Berlin.

16 September 1943, Sgt. Eldon Kearl has flown 575 hours in the RCAF.

The last three training operations flown by the Kearl crew took place on 26 and 27 September 1943, in Lancaster DS692 EQ-S, which carried the nose art of a Monk with wine flask and 500 lb. bomb. 

Lancaster Mk. II serial DS692 EQ-S came to No. 408 Squadron in September 1943 and was assigned to P/O John Douglas Harvey, DFC. This ‘lucky’ bomber completed 49 operations until 24 July 1944, when she caught fire and burnt on the runway. 

The nose art was a Monk with a wine flask around his neck, holding a 500 lb. bomb. [author sketch] Sgt E.E. Keal and crew flew this bomber training on 26 and 27 September 1943.

 Sgt. E.E. Kearl aircrew flew their last training operation in Lancaster EQ-V, serial DS761, on 30 September 1943. This was one of the few Lancaster Mk. II aircraft to survive the Battle of Berlin, possibly due to the fact she was used mainly for training and only completed 15 operations from 1 August 1943 until January 1944. It appears this aircraft carried no nose art painting or known name.

Public Domain image from Imperial War Museum collection showing the bombing up of No. 408 [Goose] Squadron Lancaster Mk. II, serial LL725. First flew two operations with No. 432 Squadron, then transferred to No. 408 Squadron, coded EQ-Z, completed 42 operations, shot down Hamburg, Germany, 28 July 1944.

With over 600 hours in his log book Sgt. Kearl and crew were ready for air combat in the new Lancaster Mk. II aircraft, and they were now assigned to fly EQ-P [for Peter].

Fifteen Lancaster aircraft were ready for a training exercise on 4 October, however due to weather it was cancelled, [Not Fit for Training]. The following day fifteen aircraft were prepared for a “Bulls-eye operation, but again it was cancelled due to weather conditions, [Not Fit for Training]. Sgt Eldon Kearl was officially assigned to fly Lancaster Mk. II, serial DS709 in early October, and his crew were no stranger to EQ-P, they had flown her six times during training, Sept. 4, 5, 15, 18, and twice on 21 of the month. Now is was time to give ‘their’ aircraft a nose art painting, and they selected a cartoon insect character, “Bug on Bomb.” The reason for the art, the date it was painted, and other information is still unknown. It is possible something occurred during the first two operations flown on the 7 and 18 of October to inspire their artwork, however it will never be known for sure, you can only guess. It is clear the insect is attacking Germany with a machine gun and 500 lb. bomb, and the face could be Eldon Kearl.

Sgt. Kearl [middle] aircrew photo [mailed home to parents in Cardston, Alberta] under the nose art of ‘his’ Lancaster EQ-P serial DS709 displays eight [Red Maple Leafs] likely taken around 25 October 1943. The nose code letter “P” also contains lettering, which could be [for Peter]. The large winged bug, riding a 500 lb. bomb and carrying a machine gun, has a human style face, wearing an RCAF tunic and cap. The reason for the art and correct nose art colors are unknown.

Each completed bombing operation was recorded by a Bright Red Maple Leaf.

Operation #10 was flown in Lancaster EQ-O, serial DS731, which was damaged by a Ju-88 Night-fighter. This RCAF aircraft completed 20 operations until 24 February 1944, shot down over Schweinfurt, Germany. November 1943, was the beginning of the “Battle of Berlin” which ended five months later, 30 March 1944. In a letter home to his younger brother Harold, Eldon wrote – “Completed nine operations, things are the same over here, women are plentiful and willing as ever. Maybe this time next year I’ll have a tour completed.”

The first attack on Berlin for Sgt. E.E. Kearl aircrew came on 26 November, where they lost one port engine, and half power on the other, Lancaster EQ-K, serial DS705. Eldon made it back to England on two and a-half, landing at RAF Station Chedburg, Suffolk, home to No. 1653 H.C.U. flying Stirlings. DS705 flew 32 operations, crashed in Dalton, England, 23 July 1944.

The second trip to Berlin for the Eldon crew came on 2 December 1943, two bombers were lost. EQ-Q flown in training [10 Dec.] would complete eleven operations, lost Brunswick, Germany, 14 August 1944.  

LAC Sidney Moore from Montreal, Quebec, 408 Sqn. electrician, in cockpit of DS737 [PL28448]

No. 408 Squadron Lancaster DS737, EQ-C “The Countess” came from the December 1943 Esquire Magazine “Varga” pin-up girl, with a Christmas poem. She began operations in October 43, completing ten, when the nose art was painted. After take-off for Berlin, 17 December, the Lancaster flew into high ground, [foggy weather] one and a-half miles S.W. of Hawnby, Yorkshire. Pilot R.S. Clark J201183 died in RAF hospital on 21 December 1943. 

For model builders, please note, this RCAF nose art flew with the American “Star and Bars.”

RCAF F/O Michael Marynowski, F/Sgt. J.O. Boily and two RAF crew were killed on impact. Canadian R163586 F/Sgt. L.J. Yeo survived with serious injuries.

This very famous Walt Disney creation, Stork from the movie Bambi, was painted for an American B-17 Squadron, borrowed by the RCAF but the serial is unknown. Photo RCAF PL26028 could be EQ-B [for Baby] DS723, which flew seven operations and was lost over Berlin 27 January 1944, the same operation Eldon Kearl and crew were lost. Airframe Mechanic LAC J.A. Talbot, Pictou, Nova Scotia sits in the cockpit.

The third trip to Berlin came on 16 December 1943, the unlucky 13th operation, and they survived. 

Lancaster Mk. II serial DS726 was first assigned to No. 426 Squadron and completed one operation Sgt. Grifton on 23 August 1943. Transferred to No. 408 Squadron in September, she flew her first operation on 7/8 October as code EQ-T for “Titus.” The nose art was painted in 408 Squadron and the aircraft was involved in an accident. Code “T” was assigned to Lancaster DS845 in November and when “Titus” was repaired she received the new assigned code letter “Y” flying first operation on 2/3 December 1943. The E.E. Kearl crew flew Titus for training on 19 and 27 December 1943. This aircraft completed 36 operations, shot down Cambrai 12 June 1944. 

No. 408 [Goose] Squadron lost thirty-two Lancaster Mk. II aircraft during the Battle of Berlin, twenty-nine were shot down and three crashed in England. Due to the large loss of aircraft, bomber code letters were always changing and today that causes many problems in RCAF nose art research.

No. 408 Squadron assigned the code letter “M” to six Lancaster II aircraft, and two bombers carried the same Donald Duck art work. 

The first Lancaster to wear the letter “M” was DS729, flying one operation on 8/9 October 1943. The code letter was changed to “D” and DS729 completed 41 operations, ground looped 7 June 1944. 

Lancaster DS758 flew two operations wearing “M”, first trip on 20/21 October 1943, second 18/19 November, code letter changed to “H” [flew six Ops.] went missing over Frankfurt, Germany, 21 December 1943.

The next Lancaster to wear the letter “M” was DS797, first operation 29/30 December 43, flew thirteen, missing over Frankfurt, Germany, 23 March 1944. 

The fourth bomber to wear the letter “M” became Lancaster II, serial LL687, first trip on 5/6 June 44 [D-Day invasion of Normandy, bombed Longuis, France] pilot Sgt. D.R. Andrews. On 6/7 June 44 she flew to Coutances, France, bombed railway junction, pilot F/O H.E. McKinley. Third operation was flown by the Commanding Officer of No. 408 Squadron, W/C A.R. McLernon, DFC, bombed Acheres, France, 7/8 June 1944. For unknown reasons the Lancaster was now taken off operations, possibly damaged over France or in training.

Lancaster Mk. II serial LL675 became the fifth to wear the letter “M ” and was assigned to pilot F/O D.T. Ryan, bombed Mayennce, France, railway junction 9/10 June 1944. The aircraft completed fourteen operations until 15/16 July 1944, and F/O Ryan flew her eight trips, and had his bomber painted with Donald Duck, named “Berlin Special.”

This RCAF image PL30770, [date unknown] where three Saskatchewan born RCAF members have a reunion. Left is LAC William Rose from Longbank, Sask., middle is Sgt. Harold Cline, Zelma, Sask., and right LAC Don Smith from Allan, Saskatchewan. It is interesting to note the nose art Donald Duck has been blocked out [censored by RCAF] but the nose code letter “M” and four red Maple Leafs are captured in the photo, plus the toque on Donald Duck, facing backwards from the nose of the Lancaster aircraft. [that is important]

I believe RCAF photo PL30770 is in fact No. 408 Lancaster Mk. II serial LL675 with the name Berlin Special and the first nose art of Donald Duck wearing Santa style toque. This Lancaster II caught fire in the air and crashed seven miles N.E. of Melton Mowbray, on 17 July 1944. The nose art of Donald Duck was lost and no RCAF photos were taken of the complete art image.

The sixth Lancaster Mk. II assigned code EQ-M became LL687, which in fact flew three operations 5, 6, and 7 June wearing the code letter “M.” On 18 July 44, F/O D.T. Ryan was assigned Lancaster LL687 and flew her to Caen, France. On 18/19 July she went to Wessling, Germany, with F/O G.A. Boehmer, F/O Ryan flew her on 20 July and Boehemer on 23/24 July. F/O Ryan took her to Stuttgart on 24/25 July and then the squadron ‘stood down’ for four days.

During this break in operations F/O Ryan had the squadron artist repaint his Donald Duck nose art, which was the reverse of the above image. This second “Donald Duck” nose art was captured in RCAF photo PL28041, LAC Stanley Peacock from Almonte, Ontario, [aircraft instrument mechanic] in the cockpit of LL687. This mix of nose art name and photos with no date or aircraft serial number has confused historians. This RCAF information is only important today for model builders.

The 408 Squadron Lancaster LL687 did not receive her name “Berlin Special” when this image was taken, around 26-27 July 1944. The eleven Maple Leaf operations have confused many historians, and the letter “B” has also been confused with attacks on Berlin. That is not correct.

Lancaster LL675 and LL687 [both named “Berlin Special”] did not fly any operations to Berlin; the Battle of Berlin ended on 30 March 1944. I believe the eleven Maple Leafs stood for the operations flown in both Lancaster LL675 [8] and LL687 [3] by the crew of F/O D.T. Ryan, all targets in France, in support of D-Day invasion of Normandy. 

The complete nose art painted on Lancaster Mk. II, serial LL687, 27 July 1944. The 12th operation will be flown by the aircrew of F/O Donal Ryan on 28/29 July 1944. 

F/O [pilot] Donal Thomas Ryan J216090 from Westmount, Quebec, 24 years, and his crew were killed in action 29 July 1944 flying Lancaster LL687, code “M” named “Berlin Special.” The bomber was shot down by a German night fighter thirty-five miles south of Bremervorde, Germany. RAF Air Gunner Sgt. David Scott was the only survivor, taken Prisoner of War. Three of the RCAF crew were flying their 25th operation, with only five trips to go. 

EQ-B serial LL642 was the third to wear the code letter “B” in 408 Squadron. DS790 was lost on 21 January after flying 10 operations as EQ-B. DS723 flew 7 operations, lost Berlin 27 January 1944. LL642 [above] flew her first operation on 30/31 January and soon carried a rare nude lady as nose art with name “Aurora.” This aircraft completed a squadron record flying 60 operations up to 14 August 1944. The three RCAF aircrew never flew in LL642, [left] F/O R.L. Black, Brussels, Ontario, navigator F/O C. Harder, from Lethbridge, Alberta, and right is F/Lt. A.M. Herring from Long Branch, Ontario. 

Eldon and his crew bombed their assigned target area in the “Big City” Berlin and turned south-east for the return to England.

Suddenly, out of the dark sky a German night-fighter aircraft appeared ahead of Lancaster EQ-P on the port side, and the RCAF bomber was rocked by explosions. With two starboard engines on fire, Eldon ordered his crew to jump, however only RAF Flight Engineer Sgt. Alfred Charles Brown made it out of the nose escape hatch, interned as a POW No. 39979. Sgt. Brown had no idea how it made it out of the Lancaster or how he strapped his parachute on, he was unconscious and came to be tangled in a tree. The Lancaster plummeted on fire, out of control, into a forest near the village of Bugk, Germany, 35 k/m south-east of Berlin Schoenefeld airport. 

A local Bugk German farmer witnessed the fiery crash and located five of the RCAF aircrew bodies on his property. They were not burned and it appears two possibly made it out of the aircraft, but were too low to be saved by their parachutes. The five were buried in a local German cemetery near his farm home and reported to the German S.S. authorities.

Three RCAF Lancaster bombers failed to return from Berlin and twenty-four aircrew members were killed or prisoners of war. This map appeared in Time magazine February 1945, showing the advance of the Red Army [Russian Bear] and the beginning of the Soviet Cold War era. 

In 2008, the author was conducting research on the nose art painted by No. 408 Squadron during the Battle of Berlin, at which time phone and email contact was made with an expert, W/C Ronald William Butcher J209961. 

Ron was born in Sackville, New Brunswick, and enlisted in the RCAF on 20 January 1942, trained as a navigator, graduated No. 4 A.O.S. 20 November 1942. His aircrew were assigned a new Lancaster Mk. II aircraft, serial LL722 on 14 January 1944, and flew twenty-two trips during the Battle of Berlin, including nine to the German capital. This bomber carried nose art of a very suggestive pin-up girl [topless] laying across a bed, with crossed legs and her feet touching the floor. This nose art was painted for their pilot F/L Norman Sutherland, DFC, and flew operations until June 1944, when the King, Queen, and Princess Elizabeth were making a Royal Visit. The Goose Squadron C.O. [W/C A.R. McLernon, DFC] ordered “Put some clothes on her” and the lady was painted over by F/O Butcher, [who stated – “We rebelled against the C.O.s order and removed our topless lady completely”] and I replaced her with large white letters ‘Lady Be Good.’ The Crew Chief artist was away on leave at the time, so I did the painting.” 

This Lancaster went on to survive 55 operations and was later flown by pilot F/L Robert Clothier, DFC, famous for his postwar character “Relic” in the CBC Beachcombers T.V. series. During one email, I asked Ron Burcher if he recalled the aircrew of Eldon Kearl, and this was his reply in 2009. Ron Butcher passed away in 2018, he was 97 years of age.

On 11 August 1944, King George VI was photographed presenting a DSO to P/O J.L. Webb in 408 Goose Squadron. The Lancaster Mk. II in the background is EQ-N, serial LL722, “Lady Be Good” last flown by Norman Sutherland, 24/25 May 1944, and later by F/L Robert Allan Clothier, DFC, J15680 [Relic] pilot inset when above photo was taken. Clothier was on his second tour of operations when he flew Lancaster Mk. II, serial LL722 to Stuttgart 24/25 July 1944, the 3,000th operational sortie for No. 408 [Goose] Squadron. Clothier finished his second tour [56 operations] on 10 September 1944, flying Halifax serial NP761, code letter “A.”

The aircrew of P/O Norman Sutherland finished their tour in June 1944 and had their photo taken. [above]. Eldon Kearl and crew flew five operations beside Lancaster EQ-N, serial LL722, with topless girl nose art, 3 and 16 December 43 to Berlin, 20 Jan. Berlin, 21 Jan. Magdeburg, and the last trip to Berlin for Eldon Kearl on 27 January 1944. I am still seeking an image of the nose art lady.

Top row L to right – F/O Ron Butcher, Navigator, Sgt. Art Hampson, Mid-upper gunner, Sgt. C.A. [Dusty] Claus, Mid-under gunner, Sgt. J.H.R. [Les] Bore RAF Flight engineer.

Front row L to right –P/O Roy Hobbs, Wireless Operator, P/O Al Demille, Rear gunner, P/O Norman Sutherland, Pilot, and P/O Clive Boulton, Bomb aimer, [KIA 15 March 1945]

In 1939, the RCAF set high education standards [grade 11-12] and did not accept ethnic applications, which closely followed the codes and policies of the Royal Air Force. Aboriginal peoples were an exception to this rule but the Indian Affairs Branch lists only twenty-nine servicemen in the RCAF. Most applicants were eliminated early due to their lack of formal education, as during the war years, seventy-five per cent of First Nation peoples had only grade three to five education and thus most served in the Canadian Army Infantry as foot soldiers.  

Sgt. R190789 C.A. [Dusty] Claus was a Mohawk from the aboriginal reserve near Oshawa, Ontario, trained as an Air Gunner, and arrived with No. 408 Squadron 10 September 1943. He flew with a number of Goose Squadron crews as a Mid-Under gunner trained in a single 50 cal. machine gun which fired down from the belly of the Lancaster bomber. His first operation was flown in Lancaster Mk. II, EQ-S, serial DS692 on 7/8 October 1943, and he had completed nineteen operations when his photo was taken as part of the Sutherland crew above. W/C Butcher stated he was the very first aboriginal member commissioned by the RCAF during WWII, however I can not verify that information. The Sutherland crew made nine trips to Berlin and I’m sure Sgt. Claus completed a number. The history of this First Nation [officer] has been lost with time, and the author would like to publish his RCAF story. Any information or photos would be most welcome to preserve the record of this indigenous hero who also flew in the “Battle of Berlin” and I’m sure knew pilot Eldon Kearl.

Back in Cardston, Alberta, [30 January 1944] younger brother Harold Kearl, age 21 years, had enlisted in the RCAF and was in his final pilot training at RCAF No. 15 S.F.T.S. at Claresholm, Alberta. Harold was just two weeks away from receiving his RCAF Wings and was eager to join his older brother Eldon in the air war over Europe. Harold was home on a weekend pass the morning of 30 January 1944, when a knock came to the front door of the Kearl home. There stood a CPR agent on the family doorstep with a telegram in hand, and the family received their worst words imaginable, “Missing in Action.” The author has known Harold Kearl for thirty years and he described the family feelings on that tragic morning many, many, times, which are impossible to put into simple words. The family gathered in silence, Mother Rose cried, they had lost a loving son, brother, and there stood Harold in his RCAF uniform about to depart for England and the same air war which claimed Eldon. At that moment, Harold Kearl understood his war would never be over until he stood at the grave of his older brother Eldon Kearl, somewhere in a forest east of Berlin, Germany.

Harold Kearl completed his training, [Course #90, 11 February 1944] received his RCAF wings, and followed his brother’s footsteps to England, and the bloody air war over Europe, flying Halifax aircraft in No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron. [Brother Eldon Kearl had completed six operations over Germany flying the same Halifax bombers from 24 July to 2 August 1943, wearing the code letters EQ-P]. Harold now flew regular operations over the same German cities bombed by Eldon and his thoughts always drifted back to that night over Berlin and what occurred in his brother’s burning Lancaster bomber. 


The aircrew of P/O Harold Kearl completed their conversion training to four engine Halifax Mk. VII aircraft at RCAF Station Dishforth, and were posted to No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron 23 February 1945. Harold flew his first operation [Day] as 2nd pilot to S/L K.A. France on 1 March 1945 in Halifax “O” PN229. He again flew [Night] second pilot to F/L Clarke in “D” PN233 on 5 March 45. The first Kearl aircrew operation was flown in Halifax “B” NP736 on 7/8 March. On their fourth operation, 8/9 March to Hamburg, Germany, they flew a famous veteran Halifax Bomber Mk. VII, serial NP755, QO-A, named “The Avenging Angel” painted with a fully nude lady for nose art. This RCAF bomber aircraft went on the complete 70 operations, the most flown in No. 432 Squadron, and today the original nose art can be seen in the Canadian War Museum at Ottawa. On their sixth operation [8th for Harold] they flew another most famous Halifax aircraft, “W” serial NP707 with name “Willie the Wolf” and another nude lady being chased by a Wolf. This rare RCAF nose art flew 67 operations and also survives today in the War Museum collection at Ottawa, Canada. On 8 April 1945, [crew operation #9] the Kearl crew were assigned Halifax “G” PN208 which they flew five times, their last operation on 22 April 45. On 8 May 1945, the war in Europe [V-E Day] ended, and P/O Harold Kearl had completed fifteen operations in six different Halifax aircraft; his crew had completed thirteen operations.

The blonde haired nude “Avenging Angel” Halifax Mk. VII serial NP755, flew the most operations in No. 432 Squadron, completing 70 trips between 31 August 1944 until 25 April 1945. P/O Harold Kearl flew her on 8/9 March 1945 to Hamburg, Germany, the aircrafts 55th operation. This original nose art survives today in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, wearing a green two-piece bathing suit. The original RCAF nose artist is still unknown.

Halifax Mk. VII, serial NP755, QO-A, “Avenging Angel” as she is seen today in the Canadian War Museum at Ottawa, sadly with little educational value. P/O Harold Kearl flew the 55th Red Heart painted on the nose, 8/9 March 1945, however this section of operational [bomb] art was not salvaged at No. 43 Group [Rawcliffe] Yorkshire, England, in June 1945.   

In July 1990, the author conducted a five-hour interview with No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron ground crew member, 79-year-old nose artist LAC Thomas H. Dunn, #R86146. Tom had no idea his original nose art WILLIE “The Wolf” survived until I told him I had seen it in 1977, hanging in the RCAF Officer’s Mess on Glouster Street in Ottawa. He was more than thrilled, and the following year [7 August 1991] two photos were received from artist Dunn, reunited with his original [believed scrapped] Halifax nose art. Halifax NP707 was constructed in late June 1944, and delivered to No. 432 Squadron on 5 July 1944, assigned the code letters QO-W [for Wolf]. LAC Tom Dunn was posted to No. 432 Squadron at Skipton-on-Swale, on 16 September 1943, Fitter Class II A, assigned to “M” Flight, moved to East Moor, Yorkshire, 19 September 43. Tom was a sign painter by trade [high School training] with limited artistic talent, but soon discovered he could make good money [five quid $25 Canadian] painting RCAF nose art. When NP707 arrived in July 1944, Tom had completed seven Halifax nose art paintings and now the crew of P/O A. Potter J87003, requested the new art of Willie “The Wolf” a running nude lady being chased by a Wolf. The British ladies stated when the RCAF aircrew went on leave they chased them like a pack of hungry Wolves, with only one thing on their mind. This famous bomber flew the second most operations in No. 432 Squadron and today survives as the largest original RCAF nose art in the world, 11 feet 3 inches wide by 5 feet 1 inch high. 

25 March 1944, P/O Harold E. Kearl J91181 in the cockpit of Halifax B. Mk. VII, serial NP707, after flying a day trip to bomb Munster, Germany, the 60th operation flown by this famous RCAF aircraft. When the war in Europe came to an end, 8 May 1945, Harold Kearl had completed fifteen combat operations, just two short of the number his brother Eldon had completed when he was killed in action. Harold was given the choice of returning to Canada or flying C-47 aircraft in Transport Command, delivering passengers and freight in northwestern Europe. Harold knew he couldn’t return to Canada, he had to find a grave site located somewhere East of Berlin, Germany, in the Soviet Zone, during the early dark days of the Cold War. 

Harold Kearl faced an impossible task, and he knew the odds were against him, it was very risky, but he had to find his brother’s resting place. He arranged for an RCAF transfer to Brussels, and from there got a free ride to West Berlin, landing at RAF Gatow, on 25 February 1946. For the next three days he had little success and then he made contact with Lt. Gen. Maurice Pope, the officer in charge of providing support for Canadians in West Germany. Pope explained to Harold the relations between the Soviets and Allied Forces [Canadians] had deteriorated and he would not be welcome or safe in the Soviet Zone, he could be arrested, imprisoned, or even killed by Russian troops. Harold was determined to go and eventually Pope relented and turned to his deputy, Col. McQueen, to arrange for the trip into the Soviet Zone of East Berlin. McQueen provided Harold Kearl with an official black staff car, a driver, and a German speaking translator. Next, McQueen’s secretary, a young charming lady [the words of Harold] named Alla Jacobs, from Montreal, Quebec, typed a letter in Russian. A colorful official looking Canadian stamp was placed on the bottom of the letter and it was signed by McQueen, as requested by Harold. The letter was bogus and contained no Soviet signature or authority, it just appeared to be an official Russian issued document, and the success of the trip now depended on the goodness of the Russian troops he might come in contact with. 

The three passed through the bombed remains of the Brandenburg Gate into East Berlin on the morning of 28 February 1946, and for the next five hours drove by trial and error on blocked and bombed streets.

Brandenburg Gate in June 1945.

Harold had learned from the Canadian Red Cross, his brother Eldon and crew were interred near the village of Bugk, Germany. Eventually they broke free of the bombed City of Berlin and drove south-east towards Bugk. To this point they had not been stopped, but ahead lay a Russian check-point and the troops trained their weapons on the approaching staff car. The interpreter rolled down the window and at once a Russian sergeant jammed the barrel of a machine gun to his head. He attempted to explain their mission but the illiterate Russian refused to listen and they were ordered from the car and marched to his superior officer. The fear which Harold felt was soon overcome with the sense of his mission, and being in the Russian Zone, nothing could change what was about to occur, it all depended on a single bogus Russian letter. The three were brought before a tough combat looking Russian Captain and the German interpreter explained their story. The Russian officer carefully examined the fake letter and after some time took it as being legitimate, and to the relief of all, nodded his head in approval.  

The original Russian letter was donated to the RCAF archives in the Military Museums of Calgary, Alberta, by Harold Kearl in 2012. 

Then the Russian officer surprised Harold by giving directions to the village of Bugk, and the three drove off. Upon their arrival at the small village of Bugk, at 2:30 pm, the interpreter suggested they stop at the local pub where the German farmers would be drinking beer. In German he asks if anyone knew the location of a bomber crash on 27/28 January 1944, and where the fallen Canadians were interned. 

One old German farmer stood up, and came forward with answers. He was named Karl Konig, and on the way to his farm he explained he had seen the burning bomber fall from the night sky. The following morning Karl found four bodies, which were not burnt, and he buried them in the local cemetery near his farm. He gestured with his hands as he related to Harold what he had seen and yes, he recalled he found the pilot’s body [Eldon Kearl]. He further explained, later he found a fifth body and placed crosses on all five graves. This was reported to the German S.S. who in turn destroyed the crosses. On arrival at the grave site Harold Kearl was immediately flooded with emotion as he looked at the perfectly manicured plot of his brother Eldon, surrounded with planted flowers. Harold offered to pay Konig, but the German farmer refused. Harold stood alone at Eldon’s grave, said a silent prayer, then stepped back and saluted. The three then returned to West Berlin and for Harold Kearl the Second World War had finally come to a close. 

In the summer of 1945, the British Occupation Forces [Authorities] in Berlin selected the location for the 1939-45 Commonwealth Berlin War Graves Cemetery, Charlottenburg, Germany. Bodies of fallen airmen were removed from burial sites around the German capital and interned in the Berlin War Cemetery. Today 3,595 graves are located in the Berlin Cemetery, with 397 unidentified. Eighty percent of these young men were killed in air raids conducted over or around the City of Berlin, mostly during the RAF “Battle of Berlin” November 1943 to March 1944. This became the final resting place for F/Lt. Eldon Kearl, DFC. 

Harold and wife Marilyn Kearl visited the grave of Eldon in 1992, recorded as row Five, section “D” number twenty-three.  

On 20 November 2010, the author was invited to a special screening of a film titled “Brothers in Arms” held at the Royal Canadian Air Force Museum, which is part of the Military Museums of Calgary, Alberta. I was honoured to be seated with the Kearl family members and relatives from both Canada and the United States. 

This touching historical RCAF film on the Kearl “Brothers in Arms” plays regularly in the Military Museums of Calgary, 4520 Crowchild Trail, S.W., and educates thousands of school children every year. The RCAF museum was designed by Mr. Don Smith from Nova Scotia and the “Brothers in Arms” film was produced by Mr. Robert Curtain from Calgary, Alberta.


My last visit to the Kearl home was 24 December 2019, where I recorded four images of pilot Harold for my RCAF research. In one photo [above] I captured the image of wife Marilyn in the living room mirror. Marilyn passed away 14 January 2020, at the age of 95 years, the loving wife of Harold for the past 72 years. Harold gave his permission to publish this image. 

Due to the Covid-19 virus I am still unable to visit Harold Kearl, however we do keep in contact by phone. On 10 December 2021, Harold turned 99 years of age, and I called to wish him a Happy Birthday and a Merry Christmas. He is in fact older than the Royal Canadian Air Force where he served during WWII, and he did fly Halifax Mk. VII serial NP707 called “Willie the Wolf” and Halifax Mk. VII, serial NP755 called “Avenging Angel.”

On 30 October 2011, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper printed a story titled – Dave Brown: “Bomber nose art carries a story” – which can be read in full online. The column recalls the RCAF storyline of 88-year-old RCAF pilot Ron Sierolawski, who flew 33 operations with No. 415 [Swordfish] Squadron during the last year of WWII. The RCAF nose art research came from the Canadian War Museum resident historian Mr. Jeff Noakes, and sadly, he made a mistake when he guessed the nose art WILLIE “The Wolf” in the Ottawa collection was the same Halifax flown by Ron Sierolawski. That is not correct, and this historical error is still being repeated and read online by a new world generation and it should be changed. 

This is the second WILLIE “The Wolf” nose art painted by Thomas Dunn on Halifax serial MZ632 code 6U-W, in No. 415 [Swordfish] Squadron. F/O Ron Sierolawski J27553, flew this Halifax four times, 25 Aug., 12 Oct., 14 Oct., and 14/15 October 1944. Ron finished his last operation [#33] on 2 December 1944, posted to RCAF “R” Depot on 23 January 1945. After flying 42 operations, Halifax MZ632 was transferred to No. 1665 H.C.U. for training and burst a tire landing at RAF Station Tilsock, [Operational Training Unit] 17 March 1945. Aircraft and nose art scrapped at No. 43 Group, Rawcliffe, [near Clifton] Yorkshire, May 1945.  

Thomas Dunn [photo] and his original nose art painting taken in RCAF Officers Mess, Glouster St. Ottawa, 7 August 1991. Halifax NP707 painted at East Moor, Yorkshire, England, in August 1944, assigned No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron. 

This original nose art panel from NP707 went on public display for the first time at the Canadian War Museum in 2005, clearly showing the 65 bombs for operations flown in No. 432 Squadron. The last two operations, R189599 F/Sgt. P.C. Neville to Bremen on 22 April 1945 and J41957 F/O A.R. Nicholson to Wangerooge on 25 April 1945 were never painted on the bomber. The War in Europe had come to an end and so had the life-span of the Canadian flown RCAF Halifax bombers.

Halifax NP707 [WILLIE “The Wolf”] completed 67 combat operations in a nine-month period, 11 July 1944 until 25 April 1945. During this time frame, 112 RCAF bombers were shot down over Europe, with at least 784 young Canadians lost, a few became prisoners of war, but most were killed in action and have no known grave. 

Twenty-five different aircrews flew in Halifax NP707 WILLIE “The Wolf” with the following breakdown.

1 operation 13 RCAF aircrews. [P/O Harold Kearl – 25 March 1945]

2 operations 5 RCAF aircrews.

3 operations 1 RCAF aircrew.

4 operations 4 RCAF aircrews.

5 operations 1 RCAF aircrew.

24 operations 1 RCAF aircrew.

Halifax QO-W, serial NP707 completed five operations, 11 July, 15/16 July, 18 July, 20 July, and 25/26 July 1944, then was involved in an accident and repairs took one month. It is believed the nose art was painted on the bomber by Thomas Dunn while the aircraft was in the hangar for repairs. [He could not recall] NP707 returned to operations on 27/28 August 1944 and was assigned to the aircrew of J87003 P/O A. Potter at the end of August. They flew their first operation on 3 September 1944, [above] to bomb Volkel Air Base in Netherlands, used by Luftwaffe night fighter units. [Today 2021, Volkel Dutch Air Field stores NATO nuclear weapons in secret underground bunkers, keeping the Russian Bear in check]. The Potter aircrew completed 23 more operations in “Willie” the last on 1 March 1945, bombing Mannheim, Germany.

On 29 May 1945, P/O Harold Kearl and his navigator were ordered to fly Halifax NP707, WILLIE “The Wolf” on her last 30-minute flight to the huge aircraft graveyard RAF No. 43 Group at Rawcliffe. Harold Kearl wrote in his log book the following – 

“Willie The Wolf, ‘W’ graced the sky for the last time. She was no longer needed as the war was over. I flew her to Handley-Page, Clinton Dome, near Yorkshire, her birthplace and to her end. Hundreds of aircraft were assembled there to be scrapped, bulldozed, and burnt. Such a fatal ending for a Halifax bomber that gave so much to so many Canadians in Yorkshire, and over the wartime skies of Germany and Europe.”

This became the last entry in the RCAF log book of P/O Harold Kearl, and it would take another fifty years before he learned the original nose art of WILLIE “The Wolf” was in fact salvaged and returned to Canada. It was saved by F/L Harold Lindsay in May 1945, to educate future generations of Canadians and RCAF veterans, however the Canadian War Museum has failed all Canadians and even managed to confuse the history of the nose art WILLIE “The Wolf.”

Ninety-nine-year-old Harold Kearl keeps his RCAF war records and photographs in a large red binder and taped across the front cover is a Russian proverb. Harold will translate it into English:

“Dwell on your past and you’ll lose an eye; forget your past and you’ll lose both eyes.

2 thoughts on “Eldon Kearl’s RCAF Log Book – “Bug on a Bomb” PDF version

    1. Pierre Lagacé Post author

      I am copy editing right now for a few typos. I will be adding some photos of the Lancaster Mk II. Clarence said I could add more.
      I won’t be adding more information to the core of the story though.

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s