Category Archives: Bomber Command

Three top aviation book choices for year’s end 2016 and heading into the New Year.

In case you don’t happen to have a really good new book at your elbow this time of year, here are three wonderful titles. Pick one up and you’ll be a happy camper.

Canadair SabreThe Canadair Sabre is respected far and wide as the loveliest book ever produced about the F-86 Sabre. This beauty is the story of Canadair turning out 1815 North American Sabres in the 1950s, mainly for RCAF NATO squadrons. It starts with all the background from early postwar days when Mustangs and Vampires equipped the RCAF at home. With a better day fighter needed in the face of the USSR’s MiG-15, Canadair proves itself up to the task, setting up the production line at Cartierville. Soon the RCAF is known as No.1 in the NATO day fighter game. Sixty Canadian Sabres even fight in Korea with the USAF, where they account for several MiGs.

The Canadair Sabre covers the development story, then operations at the famous Sabre OTU at Chatham, details of NATO operations from the four Leapfrogs to daily patrols right up to the NATO/Warsaw Pact buffer zone, service back home with the home front squadrons in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and much more. Then come South Africa and Colombia, and there’s even a failed deal with Israel. As earlier Canadair Sabres are replaced by the hotter Orenda-powered models, earlier examples go down the line to such allies as Italy, Greece and Turkey. Some even end in Yugoslavia. A large number of ex-Luftwaffe Sabres end clandestinely in Pakistan, where they down India AF MiG-21s in a brutal 1971 air war. Talk about Sabre coverage, eh!

With 372 pages and some 600 photos, production and accident lists, fold-out line drawings, maps, index, etc., you won’t find a much more impressive or beautifully-produced aviation hardcover. Air Fan called The Canadair Sabre “The aviation literary event of the year.” Air International added, “There seems scant prospect of a better history”, and Greece’s aviation monthly Ptisi concluded: “A real oasis for F-86 fans and anyone interested in the Golden Years of the 1950s-60s.” You can have your own copy autographed by author Larry Milberry at the all-in special price (book, shipping, tax) of CDN$44.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$56.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

LostLost: Unsolved Mysteries of Canadian Aviation offers top coverage of this theme including such famous crashes and disappearances as the Flying Bank Robber, Johnny Bourassa & Chuck McAvoy in mysterious NWT cases, and hockey star Bill Barilko. Other episodes include long-distance Russian flier Levanevsky, and TCA’s tragic Lodestar and North Star crashes in the BC mountains. 224 pages, softcover, photos, index. CANAV’s all-in price (book, shipping, tax) CDN$33.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$36.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

CotliffeUnder the Maple Leaf by Kenneth Cothliff recounts the remarkable adventures of four young Canadians in Bomber Command during WWII. Four lads from different backgrounds fight overseas in deadly night skies punctuated by flak and crawling with heavily armed, radar-directed night fighters. Somehow, they beat the survival odds and get home, but each is much changed from the innocent fellow who had enlisted back in Canada. Says one reviewer, “Ken Cothliff’s book is extremely valuable in telling of Canada’s vital contribution to the air war against Germany.” 240pp, hard cover, photos. CANAV’s all-in price (book, shipping, tax) $60.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$68.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

Click here for CANAV’s complete list for more great titles tailor-made for any serious reader:

Canadian Aeorplanes Ltd. marks 100th anniversary!

December 15. 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. CAL was the first company in Canada to have an aircraft production line. Its operations in west Toronto (1917-18) turned out more than 2000 Curtiss JN-4 Canucks. These were used by the Royal Flying Corps (Canada) to train Canadians to fly. Many of the RFC (C) graduates would fight overseas with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, then the Royal Air Force (once the RFC and RNAS merged in 1918).

JN 4s in productionIn these two fine photos from CANAV’s archives JN-4s (above) are seen on the CAL line. JN-4 C142 (below) is seen dormant in a typical Southern Ontario winter scene. The RFC (C) operated training bases from Leaside and Armour Heights in suburban Toronto, to Camp Borden, Beamsville, Deseronto and Texas. Flying continued in the toughest of winter weather in the rugged wood-wire-and-fabric JN-4C.


More “Thumbs Up” for Bombing and Coastal Operations

Canadian-built Lancaster Xs with 419 Sqn at Middleton St. George in May 1944. (RCAF Photo)

In the latest edition of the “971 Air Marshal Slemon Wing,” RCAF Association (Colorado Springs), George Sweanor — aka “Ye Olde Scribe” (of Great Escape fame) — included a few words about “Bombing and Coastal Operations”:

This massive work contains 661 photographs and mentions 1388 individuals. There are several pages devoted to the crew of one minor contributor known today as Ye Olde Scribe. This book, embracive as it is, can only begin to depict the slaughter, the sacrifice and the material destruction seen by two Canadian WWII operational commands.

While Bomber Command suffered the highest casualties – 59 percent, Coastal Command ranged further afield. So many stories that Larry has revived for us. There are copies of log book entries, letters home, leaflets, church memorials, newspaper columns, and a list of the 24 officers commanding 6 Group squadrons who became casualties: 18 killed, 4 POWs, 1 evaded and 1 an escaped POW.

It is simply impossible to adequately thank Larry for the years of research and interviewing (the vast majority now dead) he has devoted, at small financial return, to broadcasting Canada’s aviation history.

Christmas 1945 and 2011 – A Kriege Looks Back

George Sweanor and his mates of 419 Squadron were on operations to Berlin on March 27, 1943 when shot down. This was the crew while flying Wellingtons a few months earlier: rear gunner Sgt Scotty Taylor of Kirkland Lake, Ontario; wireless operator Sgt Frenchy Lanteigne of Caraquet, New Brunswick; navigator Sgt Bid Budinger of London, England; skipper F/O Pat Porter of Manson Creek, British Columbia; and bomb aimer P/O George Sweanor of Port Hope Ontario.

In Bombing and Coastal Operations I describe a bit about the Bomber Command tour of George Sweanor of Port Hope, Ontario, these days in Colorado Springs. This year George sent us a different take on Christmas — the views of a former RCAF POW, or, “Kriege” (as the fellows called themselves). George’s thoughts arise after more than 65 years of contemplation:

It was a universe not of our making nor of our choosing. Yet is was beautiful and deceptively peaceful in German Silesia that Christmas eve. For a brief moment the moon was alone and silent in the night sky. It softly and kindly illuminated the blanket of snow that hugged our barbed wire and the guard towers as we few survivors of aerial battles, some as long as five years ago, remembered distant homes and better times.

Suddenly, the quiet was shattered by the foreboding wail of sirens, soon followed by the ugly sounds of exploding flak and bombs. Bomber Command and the Luftwaffe were taking and losing young lives and killing or maiming hundreds in their homes while sickening us with a revulsion against all who worshipped the same God, yet saw fit to continue the slaughter even on his birthday.

We all longed to be home with the war a receding memory, yet there was little or no animosity towards the Luftwaffe flak gunners or fighters killing our comrades, while defending their homeland. We were all victims of man’s insanity.

In a way we pitied them. We believed they were fighting a losing and hopeless battle. And they had it so much worse. We, in Bomber Command, were excused further operations on the completion of 60 operations (a fond hope when the life expectancy was only five), but the Germans had to go on until they found “the Hero’s Death”. One of the many was Helmut Lent, who destroyed 110 of our bombers before he found his Hero’s Death in October 1944. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer fought 164 night battles in an Me 110, destroyed 121 of our bombers, survived the war, only to be killed in a car accident. Men, boys really, like these caused us grievous losses, like the night of 30/31 March 1944 when, during a Nurnberg raid, they destroyed 94 of 705 bombers, killing 658 of 4,935 aircrew.

In the end we prevailed, at enormous cost, yet even greater cost to them, but what did we learn? This Christmas our highly-flawed species remains at war. For me, it all seemed so sad when in 1957 I met and became friends with the German who had shot me down in March 1943. I felt that both of us were flanked by the ghosts of lost comrades, created by the inability of our victorious veterans of WWI to prevent inept politicians from setting the stage for WWII,  robbing the world of the promise of the war-to-end-all-wars.

In wars it is the military that creates and endures so much suffering. So, in those countries where individual rights are cherished, and where civil authorities control the military, is it not the responsibility of less-restricted veterans associations to speak for the concerns of the military with its enormous stake in world peace, and to ensure that they get at least as much attention as commercial and political interests?

The Readers Are Getting into It … The Latest “Bombing and Coastal” Commentary

For any book publisher reviews are part of the business. On the whole, however, the book reviewing trade has been sliding for years. While the daily press used the revere its full-time and professional book editors, today many dailies have pitifully watered down this important arts feature.

Book editors/reviewers are more than ever inclined towards fiction, so that makes it harder than ever to get any Canadian history book noticed. Right off the top, Canadian dailies are almost guaranteed these days to ignore anything to do with an aviation book. Apparently, this is drab, démodé stuff. But give them something in the line of fiction — some easy reading, nothing to tax the brain — then you might catch their eye. Or maybe a nice shallow cook book or some Hollywood starlet’s latest sexercise book, or something really intellectual, maybe about ultimate fighting or hockey violence. Above all, give them something out of New York vs any hopeless Canadian effort, right! This said, there always will be serious reviewers seriously reading serious books. The smaller Canadian dailies and weeklies seem to attract this sharper type of book critics. These fine citizens  are rarely arrogant the way our “supporters” in the mainstream press tend to be.

CANAV has had a few hundred solid reviews over 30 years, and only the one dud, that from Aeroplane Monthly by some poor sod who does not appear to have done any serious history or arts studies.

Many fine comments have already reached CANAV about Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overs 1939-1945. On the whole people are getting the big picture — this is a good book. Roger Lindsay in the UK submits the comments below — his first impressions. Roger knows a bit about books, having toiled at serious research and writing for decades. His publications about such aircraft as the Javelin, Lightning and Venom are classics. His latest — Cold War Shield — is simply magnificent. Here is Roger’s take on Bombing and Coastal Operations:

Hi Larry … your new “Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas” arrived today by post. I’ve spent the best part of a day drooling over the photos and absorbing the personal recollections covering so many of your courageous countrymen who served in the RCAF. The book is magnificent and already a total joy, a stellar production. As usual I’m in awe at the detail, the exceptionally high standards of layout, design and printing, and can only imagine the effort expended in putting it together.

I feel that we Brits owe a huge debt to the thousands of Canadians who came across to our side in the last war, not least those who served in Bomber Command at such great sacrifice. Your book brings that terrific contribution into focus with more impact than many other publications.

I’m also greatly enjoying your Coastal Command coverage, which never receives the publicity it warrants. You’ve found some super photographs, almost entirely new to me, and I suspect most readers. 

Finally, I must congratulate CANAV Books on achieving 30 years of fabulous top quality publishing, in spite of all the problems. I hope the book sells in truck-loads and brings in a small fortune!

What great stuff, Roger. This worn-out old publisher is grateful.

Another note comes from Ron Butcher, who served his tour on Lancasters with 408 Squadron. I cover a bit about his crew on pp 133-34. Ron requests an amendment ref. p.133. In the centre column he has asked that I add how his crew completed two operations on D-Day. Then, he correctly raps my knuckles for saying that his crew completed their tour February 20, when the date should be June 11. Somehow the odd such gaff creeps into every such book, to say nothing of ordinary typos which always evade the proof readers. We spot them in the highest quality books and everyone understands how those nasty little cockroaches creep in. Ron notes some of these, which I’ll add to the errata list and send to my readers at the next mailing. I’ve asked Ron to join my cadre of intrepid proof readers. One can never have too many eyes checking manuscript and galleys.

All in a Week’s Work, Version 2011: Toronto/Winnipeg Turn-Around – Bombing and Coastal Operations is off the Press

Stop the press! The first readers’ comments about Bombing and Coastal Operations are already coming in from those receiving early copies. The first review comes from one of my sterner critics, Hugh A. Halliday. Hugh is a historian and noted author retired from the Canadian War Museum and a frequent, much appreciated, CANAV collaborator.

Hugh has posted these comments about the book on the busy internet forum rafcommands. Of note he writes (to my approval) that what the book may lack by way of a consistent narrative, “it makes up in anecdotes and insights from documents, personal recollections, contemporary letters and the contents of trunks and scrapbooks.”

Commenting about my coverage of Laird Jenning’s unique wartime career, Hugh finds that certain excerpts “make amusing and provocative reading, and some pointed remarks have relevance today”, then he generalizes how “There is plenty of drama, heroism and tragedy here (the reports of ‘sole survivors’ of downed bombers are striking). Larry does not skimp on indexes, paper quality, photo captions and clarity of reproduction.” Also commenting in advance of our official book launch this Saturday (October 8), RCAF history aficionado and aviation bibliophile, Ian Macdonald, observes, “Your new format with much larger pictures really is excellent … a wonderful addition to Canadian history.”

On October 18 one of the family members e-mailed about the coverage of her uncle as given in Bombing and Coastal Operations:

“Just wanted to let you know that the book arrived and I must say it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I’ve really been enjoying reading all about the pilots, their crews, their missions.  Most engaging!  And the photographs! My goodness! The way you’ve designed the book really brings these stories to life.  You do the airmen a great honour.  If my Dad was here he’d be so pleased; he’d be pouring out the compliments to you. I know he really enjoyed the interview he shared with you and he would have really been touched by your telling of his brother’s story.  I want to thank you so very much for all your dedication to the preservation of aviation history. As you say, so many stories would otherwise be slipping away with the passing of the old guard.  For me, whenever I pick up the book and other books like it, it’s kind of like being near to my Dad again, which brings great comfort and keeps his memory alive and close to my heart. Thanks again, for documenting such a moving historical legacy.”

And now, back to “Turn-Around” … In August 2010 we posted “All in a Week’s Work” covering CANAV’s visit to Friesen’s in Manitoba for the printing of Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force. Well, we didn’t rest a minute since then, and here is my report about this year’s pilgrimage to Manitoba to print Bombing and Coastal Operations. Here we go …

Normally, CANAV does not run freebee adverts. WestJet gets the very first one. Here we are on the way in from YYZ with beautiful downtown Winnipeg below. Always a fun sight!

September 18 and off I go again to sunny and always surprising Manitoba. WestJet did the job just beautifully. I sure find their website more user friendly than Air Canada’s, but to each their own, right. WestJet gets this plug, but not that it, Air Canada, etc. ever order a  book from CANAV. Gotta really love the airlines for their support of Canada’s aviation heritage.

Norsemans LZO and BSB are long-time residents at Selkirk.

Alamo had my car ready at YWG and, better still, a very nice upgrade, so off to Selkirk on the usual country drive to see what’s new at Bob Polinuk’s float base and airstrip. Scads of airplanes as always, but not a soul anywhere, not a prop turning on a decent fall day for flying.

I wandered around snapping a couple of Norsemans, a Beaver, Beech 18, Luscombe, turbo Otter, etc. Then it was on to Lac du Bonnet. An easy drive as usual, but little on the aviation side at the end of the road– one MGAS turbo Otter guarded by a big, taciturn bald eagle.

"Taciturn" the raptor apparently scares away nesting and pooping birds.

Some of the fascinating historic vessels on display at Selkirk's marine museum.

It was a good day altogether, especially my stop at the Selkirk marine museum. Don’t miss it next time you’re in Manitoba.

Welcome to Altona, Canada's Sunflower Capital

Now it was time to get serious — go to Altona, old boy. So off I headed on a course of 1-8-0 pretty well and before long … Altona, that idyllic Southern Manitoba home of sunflowers to the horizon … and of Friesens, my printer for many a year. But there was quite the difference since 2010 — something like 65 massive windmills were churning away between Manitoba 75 and 30, the route into Altona. Last year these were just holes in the ground, but now … yikes! You have to see these monsters to believe them, then you really have to scratch your head.

Altona is traditionally the home of sunflowers and Friesens. But ... Kowabunga! Now you have to add windmills (for better or worse).

Why is a province with a super-abundance of hydro power doing this to formerly beautiful, peaceful farmscape? Oh, well … what can one say or do about politicians and “green” hucksters? I toured around a bit, took a few pix, then settled in at the Altona Motor Inn. A fine meal was had at Bravo’s then, early next morning, it was breakfast at the Four Winds — the place for a good meal to get your wheels turning for the rest of the day. After checking in early at Friesens, I headed over to Winkler to see what was doing at Arty’s Air Service. By this time of year, the flying is fairly quiet, just a few final runs over the extensive local potato fields. Arty still had his three Air Tractor AT-402s from last year, but had added a new ‘502. His Weatherlys are long gone, but I was surprised to hear that there’s still a market for these weary old P&W-985-powered ag planes.

One of Arty's impressive AT-402s in between missions -- mainly spraying potato fields.)

Arty's Weatherly 201 C-GBWC over Winkler cornfields in July 2007. Long live the thundering, oil-dripping P&W R-985!

Arty had sold his off here and there to smaller operators from Manitoba to Mexico who could still make a go with them. Took a few photos and shot the breeze a bit with some of Arty’s excellent people. Found out that a couple of the pilots now work in Australia during Manitoba off season, so were gearing up to head down again to fly Dromaders. The pay’s less, but the flying’s always good.

Heading back to Altona for my appointment with the pressman, I spotted a potato sorting operation outside Winkler. This was too good to pass up, so I peeled off to grab a few pix. Trucks were coming in from the fields each with 15 tons of potatoes. The spuds were being fed onto a conveyor that split left into a truck for waste, and right for potatoes.

A Friesen-MacDonald truck feeds a fresh load of potatoes into the sorting system set up along Hwy 14 near Winkler.

You wouldn’t believe it but two good ladies were standing either side of the
conveyor and sorting all those tons of potatoes. Their hands flew as they spotted duds and tossed them onto the tarmac. The rest continued into a 30-ton trailer. Quick as could be, I was back on Hwy 14 for Altona for 1100.

Pressman Dennis Penner pulls a sheet off his press...

...then checks the results, ensuring that inking stays consistent, etc.

The pressman's set-up for checking the dust jacket before that press rolls.

It was a slow start with a balky press — no big surprise in printing. At noon Mike Fehr and Jody Penner of Friesens treated me to a nutritious lunch at Altona’s best burger joint. Then I took a few minutes to walk Altona’s cemetery to see if Peter Engbrecht might be lying there. Peter had been a Bomber Command gunner ace from Boissevain, Manitoba. As I was almost finished my survey, Mike Fehr called to say that Peter was actually in Boissevain. How did he know this? He had called Peter’s widow, Ramona, who was still in Altona, and we had an appointment to see her. That proved to be just a super visit. Peter had remained in the postwar RCAF, then retired in Altona. All this was a bit amazing, as Peter is written up in my very book that was on press today!

The names of two RCAF Altona boys are engraved on the town memorial. Age 21, Joseph Krause died with five of his 7 Squadron mates when their Stirling went down over France the night of August 25, 1942. In 1941 Krause and crew had been forced down in Spain. He only recently had returned to operations following a year's internment. He is buried in Secheval, France. Age 28, Herman Stephen Schellenberg was a navigator with 418 Squadron. On November 21, 1943 he and his pilot, F/O Thomas Thomson (age 25 from Vancouver), were on a night training flight when their Mosquito crashed in Sussex. They are buried in Woking, Surrey.

I finally knocked it off early in the evening and headed back over the Bravo’s, after checking half or so of the forms going on press. It all looked good to me, so back to the inn it was. The pressman never called, so his snags must have
been cleared and he got his mighty KBA Rapida 130 churning smoothly.

Up at 0500 and on the road in the blackness and a heavy rain. Up Hwy 30 and east to 75 midst the eeriness of the windmills, whose presence was announced by a line of unseemly flashing red lights. Just weird and maybe a good advertisement for not necessarily having windmills in an electricity-swamped province.

It sure was a relief to gradually get some light, Hwy 75 being “under construction” (as it seems perpetually to be) and find YWG. Back I winged on a nifty WestJet 737-700. I was on the ground again by noon at YYZ, then home to start hammering away again on the hundred and one things that CANAV Books does to make its so-called living. Books were promised for delivery on Monday, October 3, but Friesen made up some time and they arrived at TTS in Aurora the previous Friday. Good going as usual, Friesens! And the final product looks just super, so if you’re a fan of RCAF history, you’ll totally enjoy a copy!

Click here to order your autographed copy of Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas 1939-1945.

Friesens publishers' Hall of Fame, always a fun display to check out when in the plant. CANAV's 2010 book is front and centre this year, along with such other renowned (no doubt million-sellers) as "Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals" and "Bad Girls". What the heck, they all look great, right (this will sure burn the nincompoops who keep babbling mindlessly about the book being dead)!

Evolution of an Air Force … The Reviewers Speak Up

Aviation history books keep rolling off the binderies, so don’t be listening to those dopes going around ceaselessly chanting all about the book being “dead”. What a crock that is, and rue the day that it actually ever happened — it would be a dark one. As usual, it’s the Brits who still lead the way in aviation publishing. A fair list of solid new titles continues to come off their presses, even though print runs are far smaller than in bygone years.

On this side of the pond, the many US aviation publishers of the 1950s-80s have nearly all faded. Where once it was barely noticeable in a long list of such North American publishers, CANAV Books now stands almost alone. General publishers in Canada also are hurting. Recently one of the “darlings” of the CBC went belly up — Key Porter Books. How the mighty have fallen, eh, but CANAV’s still here.

It sure doesn’t get any easier in this biz, especially with the market shrinking by the day, as our great generation of readers, who came up through the 1920s and ’30s, rapidly fades. Since CANAV began in 1981, those were my chief fans. If you looked up “book people” in the pictionary, you ought to see a photo of a bunch of them. They were the lucky kids who had parents who read to them, teaching them the joys and wonders of the printed page.

But all is far from lost. At CANAV I continue to add new and younger readers. Once someone buys his first aviation book, he usually gets the look and feel of it right away, then reacts: “Wow, I think I like this.” It’s fun making a new convert!

CANAV’s newest title is Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force, Vol.3 of a new series. Take a look at the recent reviews in Combat Aircraft (4 out of 5 stars — no too bad) and Air Force Magazine. If you’re in any sense a fan of aviation history, especially the Canadian side of things, you’ll want this one and its two shelf mates on your bookshelf — you do have a bookshelf, right?

Vol.4 is coming down the line, as promised last season. However, it’s grown so large that I’ve had to take my publisher’s sword and split it asunder. Now, Vol.4 mainly will cover the RCAF overseas 1939-45 Bomber Command. Day and night fighters will fill the pages of Vol.5. Coastal Command, the Far East, air transport and other topics will be included as well in these two books. Vol.4 has a chance of getting out later this year.

Aviation in Canada Vol.4 will mainly cover Canadians in Bomber Command 1939-45, whether on RAF or RCAF squadrons. You’ll revel the massive text — a largely new repertoire of personalities and events. There also will be 100s of photos —  great old favourites as well as many that you’ve never seen before.

Keep an eye for updates at canavbooks.wordpress and Here are the reviews. Take a look and also check out the websites for these two great mags. For further info about Aviation in Canada see CANAV’s website and blog.

Happy reading as usual …

Larry Milberry, publisher