Noorduyn Norseman – The Story is Far from Told and … Vol.1 Rates an “Airways International” Review


No sooner do we get a book into print, than readers pop up with supplementary material. This helps keep any story fresh and moving ahead. First to jump aboard re: Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.2 is H.E. “Herb” Smale. From London, Ontario, Herb joined the RCAF at Hagersville in 1946. Trained in radio, he requested a posting to the RCAF crash boat unit at 12 Group (Vancouver). Instead, he was sent to Fort Nelson, BC, far up the wartime Northwest Staging Route. There, one of his tasks involved the Station Flight Norseman in which he would got to ride along, sending radio messages over an HF radio set using a Morse key. (Double click on any photo to see it full size. Thanks to Andrew Yee for high-lighting these important new Norseman pix.)


Herb submits these photos of Fort Nelson Norsemans 3538, still in wartime yellow with the prominent radio mast (a trademark of BCATP wireless training Norsemans), and 2476 in its flashy new postwar aluminum-with-red paint scheme. Taken on strength in March 1941, 2476 is noted in John Griffin’s seminal Canadian Military Aircraft as serving that year with 119 Squadron at Yarmouth. In July 1942 it was on strength with 121 (Composite) Squadron at Dartmouth. A related in Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.1, from January 17 to 26, 1943 it was stranded due to weather on a desolate frozen lake, while being ferried by F/L S.A. Cheesman from the RCAF repair depot at Scoudouc, New Brunswick, to Goose Bay. Spotted by a patrolling Hudson on January 24, the crew soon was rescued.  Norseman 2476  reached Goose Bay on the 29th. Its ultimate fate presently is unknown.


Norseman 3538 joined the RCAF in January 1942, serving that year along the Northwest Staging Route. In January 1944 it began a stint with 4 Wireless School, where it flew from the RCAF satellite station at Burch, Ontario, not far from Brantford. Late in 1944 it supported Ex. Eskimo, a major cold-weather exercise in Northern Saskatchewan (Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.1). From August to October 1946 it conducted experimental aerial spray trials at RCAF Station Suffield in Southern Alberta (also in Vol.1). It’s noted as joining North West Air Command in August 1948. It was struck off RCAF strength in June 1953. From then into 1957 it served the Royal Norwegian Air Force as “R-AY”. Finally, it had a long career in civil aviation in Norway and Sweden, and today resides in the aviation museum at Arlanda Airport near Stockholm.

While he was at Fort Nelson, LAC Herb Smale’s request for an aircrew slot was accepted. In 1949-50 he trained at RCAF stations Clinton and Trenton in radio and air gunnery, then flew many years in Maritime Air Command on the Lancaster, Neptune and Argus. From 1965-68 he commanded 407 Squadron at Comox. As Colonel Smale, Herb finished his career as Base Commander Greenwood, retiring in 1974.

Airways Mag Jan. 2014 Meanwhile .. it’s encouraging to report the newest book review for Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.1. This has just appeared in the January 2014 edition of Airways International: The Global Review of Commercial Flight ( Written by “The King of Airways”, John Wegg, have a look at how it goes:

To paraphrase publisher Larry Milberry’s introduction, ‘More than 75 years have passed since the Norseman first flew and the brilliant design of Robert Noorduyn has become the enduring symbol of everything typifying the Canadian bushplane. The Norseman blazed new trails in the North, serving trappers, hunters, fishermen, prospectors, explorers, sportsmen, missionaries, medical people, policemen, government representatives, military personnel, and all others inhabiting or visiting Canada’s remoter geographical niches. Whatever these people needed, the Norseman carried it all. Inevitably, the saga of the Norseman arose, and every saga needs a good book, but none ever appeared.’

Until now, that is, and heeding what he calls readers’ complaints about his overly large books, Milberry has divided his subject into two volumes. The first covers the genesis of the Norseman and its career through Word War II and the transition into a more peaceful world. A dozen chapters examine all facets of this aircraft’s development, such as design, early sales and operations, Royal Canadian Air Force and US military service, commercial use during the war, and search and rescue operations.

As CANAV ‘regulars’ already know, Milberry’s approach is to combine facts from original documents with the stories of those associated with the subject, drawing upon logbooks and personal albums. The result is, as expected, another splendid title, the 33rd from this award-winning publisher.

Richly illustrated, with intelligent and well- researched captions to accompany the hundreds of period photos, this is a fact-filled and comprehensive account of bushplane history by two of Canada’s leading aviation writers (Halliday is a retired Canadian War Museum historian). Finally, the saga of the Norseman has been told in superlative style. I can’t wait for the second volume, which as a bonus is illustrated in color throughout.


Reminder to  EuroZone bibliophiles … pick up your copies of Norseman Vol.1 and Vol.2 at  Henk Timmers’ Aviation Megastore at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. Email:

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