Canadian Fighter Pilots Association 1992 + Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, Turns 100 + Old Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

One of Canada’s grand annual aviation highlights in “days of yore” was the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association reunion. Hundreds of veterans used to attend to renew acquaintances and keep alive that old spirit of 1939- 45. By the 1980s the fellows still mainly were in their 60s and hadn’t lost much of the old zip from their heyday. Few were worrying about how time slowly was catching up on them, and there were more and more obits to read and funerals to attend. Inevitably, the CFPA dissolved and today almost none of the “originals” survive. I just came across a few miscellaneous old colour prints from the CFPA reunion at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel in September 1992 – getting to be 3 decades ago. It’s important to be reminded about those fabulous Canadians who, when hardly out of their teens, were flying, fighting and dying in theaters of war from the UK to Europe, “the Med”, North Africa, and eastward to India, Ceylon, Burma and (in the Fleet Air Arm) into Japan’s home waters. You’ve read a lot about these great Canadians in many a book. Here today are some of the “quickie” snapshots I took that weekend back in ‘92.

 

A.R. “Andy” Mackenzie (left) with his great wartime pals, Eric G. Smith and Fred Evans. Each had the Distinguished Flying Cross (the striped ribbon on the left in these medal groups). A junior writer of RCAF history (as I was) could not have had such wonderful friends and supporters. During WWII Andy (1920-2009) scored 8 confirmed kills while serving on 421, then, 403 squadrons in the UK and European Theatre of Operations. The citation for his DFC noted: “Flying Officer Mackenzie is a skilful and resolute fighter whose determination to destroy the enemy has always been evident.” Postwar, Andy excelled flying Vampires, then Sabres. He commanded 441 Sqn in the UK, then accepted a tour flying Sabres with the USAF in Korea. On his final patrol there, he was shot down by friendly fire. Captured by the enemy, he spent 2 years in North Korean/Chinese captivity. He was brutally tortured by these masters of the art and forced to sign a phony document admitting to being “a baby killer”. Finally repatriated, Andy returned to RCAF service. He once told me that he was never forgiven by RCAF HQ for his “capitulation” while a POW, so never again was promoted. Andy’s own biography is Mayhem to Mayday: The Two Air Wars of Andy Mackenzie, DFC. For you serious readers … occasionally a copy appears for sale at www.abebooks.com or www.bookfinder.com

I already have featured Eric G. Smith (1921 – 2019) on this blog. You can find that item (with photos) simply by searching for “Eric”. Eric had flown night intruder Mosquitos during the war. The citation for his DFC reads: “This officer has completed a large number of operational sorties. He is a pilot of exceptional ability who has never let either adverse weather or enemy opposition deter him from completing his allotted tasks. He has inflicted considerable damage on the enemy lines of communication, mechanical transport and rolling stock. He has at all times exhibited great determination, initiative and daring and set  inspiring example by his fine fighting spirit and devotion to duty.” That sure sounds like the Eric Smith whom we all knew and loved. Eric also flew Sabres in combat with the USAF in Korea. He then excelled as a Sabre instructor/flight commander at RCAF Station Chatham, but also suffered from RCAF HQ small-mindedness. While CO of 413 Squadron (CF-100s) at Bagotville, one night he “put up a black” (nothing serious) in the mess. As had been Andy Mackenzie, this exceptional Canadian airman then was shunted aside. He soon left air force life to succeed in beef farming and real estate near Oxford Station south of Ottawa. Every summer for many years, the CFPA would enjoy a rip-roaring get together at Andy Mackenzie’s farm in the same neighborhood.

Fred Evans (1919 – 2009) flew Spitfires with 421 Squadron.
Although he tallied just one confirmed kill, he was revered among his
“Red Indian” mates at 421. The citation for his DFC explains: “This
officer has completed a very successful tour of operations. His skill and
resolution to frustrate the enemy on all occasions have set an outstanding example to his fellow pilots. While flying over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, he has destroyed or damaged large numbers of enemy road transport vehicles, five locomotives and fifty railway goods wagons. He has also destroyed one enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of another. Flying Officer Evans’ gallantry and fearlessness have proved him to be a brilliant and capable pilot.” As with Andy and Eric, postwar “civvie” life was not for Fred, so he re- joined the RCAF as a “retread”, flew fighters and also had a USAF Korean Sabre tour fighting the MiG-15. We cover the careers of these wonderful RCAF characters in such books as Sixty Years, The Canadair Sabre and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations. Also see Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky.

Bob and Crystal Middlemiss with Eric and Andy. Bob (1920 – 2013) excelled as a Spitfire pilot first over the UK beginning in late 1941, then in Malta at the height of the German/Italian campaign to destroy that strategic little island, finally in the ETO. Postwar, he commanded 421 Squadron (Sabres), then pioneered on the F-104, being one of the first in the RCAF to fly it (he also flew the Grumman Super Tiger, the main contender challenging the F-104 for RCAF use – see Sixty Years). Bob commanded 427 Squadron (CF-104s) in NATO, and later in life was 427’s Honourary Colonel. One weekend in 2003 he took me along for 427’s annual “Gathering of Lions” thrash at Petawawa – another memorable event done up to perfection, Twin Huey flights for we VIPs included. Bob died on his 93 rd birthday.

(Above) Bob with his great friend, E.D. “Dean” Kelly. In fact, Dean (1920 – 2000) was beloved to every CFPA member worth his salt. I first was in touch with him in the early 1980s, when researching for CANAV’s project covering the first 60 years of the RCAF. When Hugh Halliday and I later wrote The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945, I talked to Dean about his Spitfire days, which also had included Malta. On a later sortie, he ended “in the drink” in the English Channel. I’d heard that there was a photo of him being fished out by an RAF rescue launch. Sure enough, Dean came up with a copy — here it is. For his efforts during WWII Dean received no DFC, but did receive a “Mention in Despatches”. After the war he excelled on the F-86 with the RCAF Air Division in NATO. Writing to me 35 years ago about those days, the great Sabre pilot, Johnny Greatrix of Winnipeg, noted about those times: “There were so many outstanding pilots, men like Dean Kelly, a superb solo aerobatic star. His shows made our eyes pop out!” Dean next flew the CF-100. When Eric Smith left 413, Dean took over from him. He later became one of the kings of the CF- 101 Voodoo, commanding 416 Squadron 1962-64. His solo Voodoo airshows were also said to be spectacular. He would put the normally non-aerobatic (but noisy and smoky) Voodoo, through its paces all within the tight confines of the airfield.

Dean with Andy Mackenzie. In my experience, all such RCAF wartime fellows were so jolly and positive, always ready to answer a question, come up with a photo, or suggest a good lead.

Another CFPA stalwart was R.D. “Joe” Schultz (1922 – 2011), also known as “Dutch” and “The Big Drifter”. Here’s Joe at the Royal York reunion with former CF-104 pilot, MGen D.R. “Don” Williams, then commanding Canadian Forces Fighter Group. Joe is remembered in many books including Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky. He flew the Beaufighter and Mosquito in the UK and ETO, scoring 8 confirmed kills against German night bombers. Postwar, he pioneered on the CF-100 and commanded Canada’s first Voodoo squadron. I first tracked down Joe while researching for my 1981 book, The Avro CF-100. That’s when Joe told me about almost losing a wing, when he over-stressed an early CF-100 at Toronto’s CNE airshow. Joe later appeared in such other CANAV titles as Sixty Years, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace Vol.2. Too bad, but he never took up my challenge to write his own story. Joe was the best friend to any history researcher – generous of his time, demanding of accuracy, always positive, etc. The citation to Joe’s DFC reads: “As pilot and observer respectively, Flying Officers Schultz and Williams have completed several sorties at night and have displayed a high degree of skill, courage and determination. During one sortie one night in December 1943, they destroyed three Dornier 217s, a feat which well illustrates their fine fighting qualities. In other sorties they have attacked locomotives and bridges.” That to the Bar to his DFC states: “This officer has at all times displayed great skill and courage in air operations. He has completed a large number of sorties and has invariably pressed home his attacks with much success. Flight Lieutenant Schultz has been responsible for the destruction of eight enemy aircraft at night, two of them during a patrol in April 1945. This officer has set a splendid example of keenness, ability and gallantry.”

As young men, Ron MacGarva (1922 – 2009, right) and Norm Howe (1920 -2018) flew Typhoons with 175 Squadron (RAF). Hugh Halliday summarizes a bit about Ron in his book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story: “Having joined the RCAF in 1940, he trained at No.16 EFTS (Edmonton) and No.10 SFTS (Dauphin. Overseas, he did his OTU at Crosby on Eden and went for a few weeks to 412 Squadron, before being posted to 175 Squadron at Warmwell in the spring of 1943. There, many of his ops were against shipping targets and enemy airfields across the Channel. MacGarva was tour-expired that autumn and posted to the Far East to instruct on Hurricanes, then flew more ops with 60 Squadron from Agartala [India]. Post-war, he studied agriculture at the University of Manitoba, but the lure of flying drew him back into the RCAF in 1948. He spent several years on Sabres – instructing at Nellis AFB in Nevada and at RCAF Station Chatham, and doing NATO tours. He led the RCAF team, which won the 1959 NATO gunnery trophy [Guynemer Trophy], and finally left the RCAF in 1969 to work for the Department of Transport” For more about this great RCAF fighter pilot, also see The Canadair Sabre and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron MacGarva accepts NATO’s 1959 Guynemer Trophy from A/V/M Larry Wray (Air Officer Commanding of RCAF No.1 Air Division). Looking on are Ron’s teammates Dave Barker and Bill Norm on the left, and Alfie McDonald and Bill “Kiwi” McArthur on the right.

Norm Howe received the DFC on August 8, 1944, the recommendation for which (likely from his CO) reads: “This officer has been with the squadron since March 1942 during which time he has flown 79 hours operationally. He took part in the Dieppe Raid when he led his section in low level attacks on gun positions. He is now a Deputy Flight Commander and has led his flight on a number of occasions. He has displayed great keenness and enthusiasm and throughout has set a magnificent example. During a dive-bombing attack on the Cherbourg area he was very badly shot up by flak and in spite of severe damage he brought his aircraft safely home.” Norm died at age 98 on December 6, 2018. His obituary, describing yet another typical member of “The Greatest Generation”, reads in part: “Decorated Royal Air Force fighter pilot, jazz aficionado, fabulous dresser, champion tennis player, amateur water colour artist, bird watcher and skilled raconteur and joke-teller. He also made a very tasty chili and clam chowder, and his blueberry pancakes were first class. It is next to impossible to come up with any negatives about Normie – except perhaps his penchant for never getting rid of anything that he acquired, ever, and during his heyday making a undrinkable, potent, purple, unfiltered-for-fruit flies concoction that members of his Niagara-on-the-Lake cabal astonishingly termed “wine”. He was intelligent, loving, funny, engaging, generous, witty, empathetic, creative and self-sacrificing. He saw the best in others and gave the best he had. He was just someone you wanted to be around. We will miss him terribly.” See even more about Norm Howe at www.canavbooks.wordpress.com Go there and search for “Typhoon and Tempest – Reminiscences”. That will take you to some rare coverage of the RCAF’s last few Typhoon pilots.

Norm Howe (right) of Toronto with his pal Duval Wescott of Winnipeg, while they were tempting fate on a daily basis flying Typhoons with 175 Squadron.

Stanley M. Deluce (1923 – 2010, left) and R.A. “Dick” Watson (1923 – 2010) at the 1992 CFPA get together. Born in Chapleau, Ontario, Stan flew RCAF Hurricanes with 126 Squadron (Eastern Air Command). Postwar, he founded White River Air Services, a small bush flying outfit in Northern Ontario. He also was an engineer with the CPR, a job he held for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, the Deluce children became involved with the family business, “learning the ropes” as young bush pilots. White River eventually absorbed such companies as Austin Airways, grew into Air Ontario, and operates today as Porter Airlines – still family run. In 2007 Stan was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Born in Oba, Ontario, Dick Watson joined the RCAF in 1941 and eventually excelled overseas as a Typhoon pilot. A 1944 RCAF statement about Dick reads: “This officer has completed a tour of operational duty during which he has taken part in many sorties against heavily defended ground targets. At Caen, on 18th July, 1944, his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and exploded in mid-air. He was able to parachute safely to earth and found himself in the midst of a furious tank battle, but he returned to our lines bringing back 139 prisoners with him. He has displayed great presence of mind and gallantry and has been an outstanding example to all those with whom he flies.” Dick received the Croix de Guerre from both France and Belgium (the medals on the right with red ribbons). Postwar, Dick operated a bush flying and tourist operation from Wawa on the Lake Superior shore. For many years it was an annual thing for Dick and his “wild and crazy” Typhoon buddies to gather at one of his lodges to fish, hunt and reminisce.

P/O Dick Watson (then about age 20) about to take his mighty 440 Squadron Typhoon on an operational sortie from one of our advanced fighter bases in France. This has always been one of my favourite Typhoon “action shots”. (RCAF PL40736)

On October 30, 2019 W.C Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, was honoured for reaching 100th year. Here, he cuts his cake at the Toronto Cricket Club during Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165’s monthly dinner. Russ is a legendary figure in Canadian aviation, famous originally for his wartime career as a Mosquito night intruder pilot. During his many operations in such roles as CO of 418 “City of Edmonton” Squadron, Russ and his navigators attained ace status, destroying and damaging many enemy aircraft in aerial combat and during daring raids on enemy airfields, and downing 19 V-1 flying bombs (more than any other crew). The citation to Russ’ Distinguished Service Order notes, “As squadron commander, Wing Commander Bannock has proved to be an outstanding success. Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross he has destroyed a further seven enemy aircraft bringing his total victories to at least eleven enemy aircraft destroyed and others damaged. He has also destroyed nineteen flying bombs by night. In addition he has caused considerable disruption to the enemy’s lines of communication. Under this officer’s inspiring leadership his squadron has obtained a fine record of successes and reached a high standard of operational efficiency.” Postwar, Russ joined De Havilland of Canada, where he made the first flight of the DHC-2 Beaver in 1947. Russ eventually rose to be head of sales, then president of DHC. He later founded Bannock Aerospace, which operates to this day. His civil honours include membership in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Order of Ontario. Russ is featured in many books from Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky to Fred Hotson’s The De Havilland Canada Story to one that Hugh and I did together, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945.

The famous night intruder team of Russ Bannock (pilot) and Robert Bruce (navigator) under the nose of their Mosquito.

Always supportive of our aviation heritage, Russ Bannock to this day shows up at history events. Here he is (right) ages ago with two other renowned (but late) Canadians at one of CANAV’s famous book launchings. Bob Fowler (left) flew Mitchells over France after D-Day, then excelled postwar as a test pilot at DHC. Centre is K.M. “Ken” Molson, who has done more for Canada’s aviation heritage than anyone. His achievements include founding Canada’s national aviation museum and authoring some of the most prominent Canadian aviation history books. Russ and Bob ever so deservedly are members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. We are hoping that some day the Hall will also admit Ken.

Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

This year, aviation historian, Jan Fosgren, photographed some early Canadair CRJs consigned for parting out and scrapping in Sweden. Shown are photos taken in January 2019, when these aircraft were complete except for engines, then how they recently ended. Jan noted on January 18, 2019: “Just thought I’d send you some photos of three CRJ200’s that have been stored at Arlanda airport near Stockholm for several years. I took these last Thursday at Arlanda’s ‘Desolation Row’, which also includes two Caravelles (destined for preservation), one ATP, one Saab 340 and one DC-8-62.”

CRJ-200 VP-BMR was Canadair Serial No.7192 delivered initially as N623BR in September 1997 to Atlantic Coast Airlines of Dulles International Airport. In 2004 ACA became Independence Air. In 2009 N623BR was acquired by Air Volga of Volgograd, then (when the airline went bankrupt in April 2010), it joined RusLine of Moscow the following year. By 2019 RusLine is said to have had a fleet in 17 old CRJs. “BMR” flew to Arlanda for storage in February 2014. Jan wrote to me again on October 30 this year with some details: “After a Russian team had removed anything of value, the scrappers moved in two days ago. A sad sight, but a reminder that even 20-year old airliners can be of no value other than as scrap metal. I managed to obtain one item from JA01RJ — a ‘Mind the Steps’ sign in English and Japanese.” Notice that these CRJs are in “ER” (“engines removed”) condition. The GE engines go first as quite often they still have a few years left in them. At least they are good for spare parts.

Japanese-registered CRJ-200 JA-01RJ was a very early CRJ-100 (s/n 7012). In April 1993 it went new from Canadair of Montreal as N914CA to Comair/Delta Connection of Cincinnatti. In 2010 it was in storage at Calgary, where CRJs mainly were meeting their sad endings as piles of mangled aluminum (once anything of value had been stripped). Somehow, 7012 ended with a short reprieve, having been ferried out of Calgary some time after October 2012 (no details presently known). What is the meaning of 7012’s Japanese registration? Sometimes such details are elusive.

Built in Y2K, CRJ-200 s/n 7426 VQ-BBW started with ACA and Independence Air as N651BR. In 2006 it moved to Mesa Airlines of Phoenix and in 2009 went to Rusline of Moscow. In their dying days, such well-worn CRJs often get a quick new paint job. They look fine, but really … quite often they are being “flown into the ground” to squeeze the last few cycles/dollars out of them. In June 2011 “BBW” was consigned to the boneyard at Arlanda. Jan adds this interesting bit of history, “Built by Bombardier, the 50-seat CRJ-100 entered airline service in 1994, with 226 being built. The improved CRJ-200 proved a huge success, with 709 being delivered.” Many of these early CRJs remain in daily use. Most are very well cared for, a few “out in the boonies” are basket cases.

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