Category Archives: RCAF

A Few More Norseman Tidbits for the Fans

RCAF Norseman 3528Check out this lovely period photo showing RCAF Norseman 3528 at Watson Lake in the Yukon on June 15, 1944. Whatever task 3528 was about, in these few moments the crew was not too worried. Who would know there was a war on, eh, with the fellows having knocked off for some fun in the cool, fresh water under the wing of their big yellow bird.

Earlier, Norseman 3528 had been on strength at 124 (Ferry) Squadron based at Rockcliffe, but in August 1942 had be reassigned to Northwest Air Command for duty in the Yukon, mainly supporting the Northwest Staging Route and CANOL Pipeline projects. In the Yukon, 3528’s usual pilot into 1943 was a pre-WWII northern legend, F/L Carl Crossley. See Aviation in Canada: The Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.1 for the Crossley/Norseman story.

And what of 3528 in the end? It’s not a happy tale. Moments after taking off from Fort Simpson, NWT on July 10, 1945, it crashed. Crewman LAC Sidney B. Ladell freed himself from the wreck, but powerful currents in the Liard River carried 3528 away with pilot F/O Charles T. Wheeler trapped in the cockpit. He was never seen again. (DND PL25434, click to see full screen) CF-DTL  refuelling at Green's dock, Red Lake (ON)  26-7-2009 (M. Léonard)One of Canada’s best-known Norsemans in recent years has been CF-DTL, owned by Gord and Eleanor Hughes of Ignace, Ontario. Since the 1980s, it’s been a regular summer visitor across the North. Having begun as RCAF 2484 in 1941, postwar CF-DTL had served the Department of Transport and Wheeler Airlines, until wrecked at Moosonee in 1965. Rebuilt by Lauzon Aviation, it flew again for years in the Quebec bush. Gord and Eleanor eventually did their own restoration of this historic Norseman, and still care lovingly for it. While visiting Red Lake from France for the 2009 Norseman Festival, Michel Léonard photographed CF-DTL with Gord up top refuelling.

Still *More* New “De Havilland” Images

In addition to our new Norseman selection, John Wegg also provides these fantastic DH/DHC photos, ranging from Rapide to Comet. All of these build beautifully on the foundations provided by CANAV’s widely-acclaimed De Havilland in Canada and The Noorduyn Norseman. Nice, eh!

Below, three new views of Canada’s last flying D.H.80 Puss Moth — CF-AVC. Brought to Canada in 1935, ‘AVC served various private owners. In 1965 it was sold in the UK, becoming G-FAVC. Here it is some time in the 1950s in period colours – dark blue fuselage with orange wings and tail. When photographed in the UK in the 2010s it still bore these colours.

Wegg 1 CF-AVC Puss Moth-1 Wegg ColWegg 3 CF-AVC Puss Moth-3  Wegg Col

Wegg 2 CF-AVC Puss Moth-2 Wegg Col

Blog D.H.80 Puss Moyj CF-AVA Tim Dube

I had no idea that there was a second Canadian Puss Moth still around. Here it is — CF-AVA aka N223EC — photographed by CAHS Ottawa chapter president Timothy Dubé in the vintage aircraft camping area at Oshkosh on August 2, 2013. Sold originally by DHC in 1934 to Consolidated Mining and Smelting of Trail, BC, there were subsequent BC owners in 1936 – 42, then the plane “disappeared”. The next record that I’ve spotted is of a 1962 sale to Ed Carlson of Spokane. On August 1, 2014 Vancouver Island aviation buff, Dave Fletcher, provided us with an update: “CF-AVA passed through Courtenay Airpark this week. Interestingly, the US register shows it as ‘amateur built’, so I don’t know if it is the original, or, a superb replica.”

Ex-RCN Tiger Moth CF-IVO when owned by Rev. John MacGillivray, an early member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Painted navy blue and white, it’s seen at an EAA fly-in at Rockford, Illinois. John attended his first Rockford event in 1959, flying ‘IVO all the way from Summerside, PEI. Following the 1964 fly-in, John donated ‘IVO to the budding EAA museum, where you may see it today. Before the handover, John made a final flight at Rockford, his passenger being the great aviation historian, EAA pioneer and photographer, Pete Bowers.

Ex-RCN Tiger Moth CF-IVO when owned by Rev. John MacGillivray, an early member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Painted navy blue and white, it’s seen at an EAA fly-in at Rockford, Illinois. John attended his first Rockford event in 1959, flying ‘IVO all the way from Summerside, PEI. Following the 1964 fly-in, John donated ‘IVO to the budding EAA museum, where you may see it today. Before the handover John made a final flight at Rockford, his passenger being the great aviation historian, EAA pioneer and photographer, Pete Bowers.

Tiger Moth CF-BXT on floats, at Fort William circa 1950. Built as 8889 for the RCAF in 1942, ‘BXT served O.J. Weiben’s Superior Airways of Fort William starting in 1944. Later homes included Atikokan, Jackfish Lake and Sioux Lookout, Ontario. The last known owner (1953) was J. Clancy of Terrace Bay, Ontario.

Tiger Moth CF-BXT on floats, at Fort William circa 1950. Built as 8889 for the RCAF in 1942, ‘BXT served O.J. Weiben’s Superior Airways of Fort William starting in 1944. Later homes included Atikokan, Jackfish Lake and Sioux Lookout, Ontario. The last known owner (1953) was J. Clancy of Terrace Bay, Ontario.

CF-GTU at Rockford circa 1960, when owned by Adriaan Cappon of Sarnia, Ontario. Last heard of, this ex-RCAF Tiger Moth was with Classic Wings of Courtice, Ontario.

CF-GTU at Rockford circa 1960, when owned by Adriaan Cappon of Sarnia, Ontario. Last heard of, this ex-RCAF Tiger Moth was with Classic Wings of Courtice, Ontario.

 In 1946 de Havilland Canada introduced the DHC-1 Chipmunk as its natural post-WWII Tiger Moth replacement. CF-CXE was shot at Rockford circa 1960. Last heard of in the 2000s it was N143P in Salem, Oregon.

In 1946 de Havilland Canada introduced the DHC-1 Chipmunk as its natural post-WWII Tiger Moth replacement. CF-CXE was shot at Rockford circa 1960. Last heard of in the 2000s it was N143P in Salem, Oregon.

Beaver CF-ICL at Vancouver soon after being delivered new in 1955 to Queen Charlotte Airlines. After countless bush, coast and mountain flying experiences, in the 2000s this long-lived Beaver was N67DL -- beautifully restored and based in Everett, Washington.

Beaver CF-ICL at Vancouver soon after being delivered new in 1955 to Queen Charlotte Airlines. After countless bush, coast and mountain flying experiences, in the 2000s this long-lived Beaver was N67DL — beautifully restored and based in Everett, Washington.

Built in 1956, Wheeler-Northland Otter CF-IUZ-X did “aeromag” survey work in the 1960s. In 2014 it was a Turbo Otter based in Vancouver with Harbour Air. Much can be learned of any such DHC plane by fishing around on the internet.

Built in 1956, Wheeler-Northland Otter CF-IUZ-X did “aeromag” survey work in the 1960s. In 2014 it was a Turbo Otter based in Vancouver with Harbour Air. Much can be learned of any such DHC plane by fishing around on the internet. The diehard fans, of course, always have De Havilland in Canada to consult!

There always were other interesting de Havilland types to photograph in postwar Canada. DHC at Downsview usually marketed and serviced these – anything from the D.H. Dove and Heron to the RCAF’s Vampire fighters and Comet jetliners. The Heron always caught any photographer’s eye. Three of these attractive mini-airliners had long and useful Canadian careers: CF-EYX with the Department of Transport (usually based in Moncton) CF-HLI with Canadian Comstock (based in the Genaire hangar at Malton) and CF-IJR based at Downsview with DHC. Here is the DOT’s fixed-gear Heron CF-EYX. In 1970 it was exported to Honduras.

There always were other interesting de Havilland types to photograph in postwar Canada. DHC at Downsview usually marketed and serviced these – anything from the D.H. Dove and Heron to the RCAF’s D.H. Vampire fighters and Comet jetliners. The Heron always caught any photographer’s eye. Three of these attractive mini-airliners had long and useful Canadian careers: CF-EYX with the Department of Transport (usually based in Moncton) CF-HLI with Canadian Comstock (based in the Genaire hangar at Malton) and CF-IJR based at Downsview with DHC. Here is the DOT’s fixed-gear Heron CF-EYX. In 1970 it disappeared into Honduras.

RCAF Vampires in a nice flightline scene of the day, location unknown. The natty Vampire served frontline and reserve squadrons from 1948 to 1956, by when the last had been replaced by Sabres. Once retired, 17068 was sold “south of the border”.

RCAF Vampires in a nice flightline scene, location unknown. The natty Vampire served frontline and reserve squadrons from 1948 to 1956, by when the last had been replaced by Sabres. Once retired, 17068 was sold “south of the border”

 An ancient scene at Keflavik, showing RCAF Comet I 5301 on the tarmac. Such early jet transports did not travel far before having to refuel somewhere. Depending on winds, if westbound from Prestwick or Shannon, an RCAF Comet almost certainly would have to stop at Keflavik, maybe also at Frobisher Bay or Goose Bay, before reaching home base in Ottawa. The RCAF was the world’s first air carrier with scheduled trans-Atlantic jetliner service. The story of its Comets is covered in such CANAV titles as Air Transport in Canada and Sixty Years.

An ancient scene at Keflavik featuring RCAF Comet I 5301 on the tarmac. Such early jet transports did not travel far on North Atlantic routes before having to refuel. Depending on winds, if westbound from Prestwick or Shannon, an RCAF Comet almost certainly had to stop at Keflavik, maybe also at Frobisher Bay or Goose Bay, before reaching home base in Ottawa. The RCAF was the world’s first air carrier with scheduled trans-Atlantic jetliner service. The story of its Comets is covered in such CANAV titles as Air Transport in Canada and Sixty Years. Thanks for all these beauties, John!

Important New Norseman Images Emerge

Recently, John Wegg, the renowned publisher of Airways, contributed a series of previously-unpublished Norseman photos. Here are several along with two from the collection of the great Norseman aficionado, Ross Lennox.

Enjoy as always … Larry

Norseman 1 CF-BHU PWA Wegg Col

Having begun with CPA late in 1945, Norseman V CF-BHU later served Territories Air Service and Associated Airways 1949-55, then it moved to PWA, where it is shown in a typical winter setting. CF-BHU ended with Ontario Central Airlines of Kenora. On June 19, 1974 it crashed disastrously at Sachigo Lake, an Indian reservation in far Northwestern Ontario. Date, place and photographer are unknown for most of these photos. Suffice to say that, over the decades, John added these to his monumental collection, mainly as original negatives.

An early Norseman, CF-DFU had begun as RCAF 2458 in October 1940. After a gruelling war with the BCATP, in 1946 it became CF-DFU with Saskatchewan Government Airways. It changed colours in 1950, going to Queen Charlotte Airlines in 1956, then PWA and B.C. Airlines. It was lost in a crash on March 28, 1961. Here CF-DFU sits dormant at Vancouver.

An early Norseman, CF-DFU began as RCAF 2458 in October 1940. After a gruelling war with the BCATP, in 1946 it became CF-DFU with Saskatchewan Government Airways. It changed colours, going to Queen Charlotte Airlines in 1956, then to PWA and B.C. Airlines. It was lost in a crash on March 28, 1961. Here CF-DFU sits dormant at Vancouver.

 An ideal side-on view of Norseman V CF-BHY bearing the logo of Tommy Wheeler’s Gray Rocks Air Service. So pristine is this view than I suspect it was taken at Noorduyn soon after ‘BHY rolled off the production line. Gray Rocks accepted ‘BHY in July 1945 and continued operating it until it was wrecked landing at the railway and forestry centre of Oskelaneo in northern Quebec on December 18, 1959. ‘BHY previously had eluded me, so is not found in either Norseman volume.

An ideal side-on view of Norseman V CF-BHY bearing the logo of Tommy Wheeler’s Gray Rocks Air Service. So pristine is this view than I suspect it was taken at Noorduyn soon after ‘BHY rolled off the production line. Gray Rocks accepted ‘BHY in July 1945 and continued operating it until it was wrecked landing at the railway and forestry centre of Oskelaneo in northern Quebec on December 18, 1959. ‘BHY previously had eluded me, so is not found in either Norseman volume.’

 This view CF-BTC is a real work-a-day snapshot. Ex-RCAF 2456, ‘BTC is well covered in Norseman Vol.2. Here it sits forlornly out in the cold at Winnipeg’s Stevenson Field during its Central Northern Airways era. ‘BTC served CNA/Transair 1948 – 58, then flew with Pete Lazarenko’s Northland Fish Co., Willy Laserich and others until 1998, when it joined the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg.

This view CF-BTC is a real work-a-day snapshot. Ex-RCAF 2456, ‘BTC is well covered in Norseman Vol.2. Here it sits forlornly out in the cold at Winnipeg’s Stevenson Field during its Central Northern Airways era. ‘BTC served CNA/Transair 1948 – 58, then flew with Pete Lazarenko’s Northland Fish Co., Willy Laserich and others until 1998, when it joined the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg.

Norseman 5 CF-HQD        Another of the countless Norseman photos taken over the decades at the town dock in Kenora. OCA’s yellow-and-red CF-HQD awaits its next trip on a fine summer day. Ex-US Army 43-5357, it served in Alaska during the war, then was NC88760 in Minnesota before coming to Canada in 1954 for Warren Plummer of Sioux Narrows/Lake-of-the-Woods. After a later stint with Chukuni Airways of Kenora, it went to OCA in 1960, then joined Slate Falls Airways of Sioux Lookout. In 2014 ‘HQD was one of many Norsemans classified as “projects”, meaning that some day it might be restored for museum or flying purposes. It’s stored at Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay.

Another of the countless Norseman photos taken over the decades at the town dock in Kenora. OCA’s yellow-and-red CF-HQD awaits its next trip on a fine summer day. Ex-US Army 43-5357, it served in Alaska during the war, then was NC88760 in Minnesota before coming to Canada in 1954 for Warren Plummer of Sioux Narrows. After a later stint with Chukuni Airways of Kenora, it went to OCA in 1960, then joined Slate Falls Airways of Sioux Lookout. In 2014 ‘HQD was one of many Norsemans classified as “projects”, meaning that some day it might be restored for museum or flying purposes. It’s stored at Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay.

N41201 at an unknown US location. Someone had metalized the doors -- a noteworthy mod so early in the postwar era. At present there is not much of a paper trail for this aircraft, other than that it had been US Army UC-64 45-41751, the 835th Norseman built.

N41201 at an unknown US location. Someone had metalized the doors — a noteworthy mod so early in the postwar era. At present there is not much of a paper trail for this aircraft, other than that it had been US Army UC-64 45-41751, the 835th Norseman built.

Norseman N58691 in US Forest Service markings at Long Beach, California in October 1954. It has some sort of a belly mod. Perhaps a tray for doing forestry seeding or spreading fertilizer or insecticide? No one seems to know what became of this Norseman, but in 2014 its registration belonged to an amphibious Cessna 182.

Norseman N58691 in US Forest Service markings at Long Beach, California in October 1954. It has some sort of a belly mod. Perhaps a tray for doing forestry seeding or spreading fertilizer or insecticide? No one seems to know what became of this Norseman, but in 2014 its registration belonged to an amphibious Cessna 182.

Another UC-64, NC60671 was acquired in 1945 in South Carolina from the US Reconstruction Finance Corp., the bureau tasked with disposing of thousands of such war surplus military planes. It operated in Montana briefly, then was sold in 1951 for $4800 to Lamb Airways of The Pas, Manitoba. On May 10, 1955, Jack Lamb was taking off in ‘GUQ at The Pas, when everything suddenly fell apart for him. Unbeknownst to Jack, ‘GUQ had taken on a heavy load of water taxiing through the rough water that day. He got airborne, but ‘GUQ suddenly stalled, crashed and exploded. Within moments Jack’s dad, Tom, and his brothers, Don and Doug, had hauled him and his passenger out. Badly burned, Jack spent months in recovery. This story and many other adventures are related in Jack’s wonderful book, My Life in the North. In From Tractor Train to Bush Plane, Jack’s brother, Conrad, also covers many stories of the Lamb family and their legendary air operations.

Another UC-64, NC60671 was acquired in 1945 in South Carolina from the  Reconstruction Finance Corp., the US bureau tasked with disposing of thousands of such war surplus military planes. It operated in Montana briefly, then was sold in 1951 for $4800 to Lamb Airways of The Pas, becoming CF-GUQ. On May 10, 1955, Jack Lamb was taking off in ‘GUQ at The Pas, when everything suddenly fell apart for him. Unbeknownst to Jack, ‘GUQ had taken on a heavy load of water taxiing through the rough water that day. Jack got airborne, but ‘GUQ suddenly stalled, crashed and exploded. Within moments Jack’s dad, Tom, and his brothers, Don and Doug had hauled him and his passenger out. Badly burned, Jack spent months in recovery. This story and many other adventures are related in Jack’s wonderful book, My Life in the North. In From Tractor Train to Bush Plane, Jack’s brother, Conrad, also covers many stories of the Lamb family and their legendary air operations.

 The renowned Norseman CF-BFU during Hudson Bay Air Transport days at Flin Flon. From here in the late 1940s Ross Lennox flew ‘BFU throughout Northern Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. Eventually replaced by a new Otter, in 1958 ‘BFU went to Chummy Plummer of Sioux Narrows., and later served other operators. In 1971 ‘BFU was wrecked on landing at Selkirk, Manitoba.

The renowned Norseman CF-BFU during Hudson Bay Air Transport days at Flin Flon. From here in the late 1940s Ross Lennox flew ‘BFU throughout Northern Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. Eventually replaced by a new Otter, in 1958 ‘BFU went to Warren Plummer of Sioux Narrows., and later served other operators. In 1971 it was wrecked on landing at Selkirk, Manitoba.

 The renowned Norseman CF-BFU during Hudson Bay Air Transport days at Flin Flon. From here in the late 1940s Ross Lennox flew ‘BFU throughout Northern Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. Eventually replaced by a new Otter, in 1958 ‘BFU went to Chummy Plummer of Sioux Narrows., and later served other operators. In 1971 ‘BFU was wrecked on landing at Selkirk, Manitoba.

Ross Lennox got to know CF-BFT and CF-BFU inside out. He later was world famous in the helicopter industry. He finished his main flying career at Pratt & Whitney Canada, where he was chief pilot. Ross’ exploits are recounted in such books as Air Transport in Canada, The Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.2 and Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story. Ross passed away in November 2013.

 

 

Canada’s Air Forces on Exchange – A Book You Are Guaranteed to Enjoy & Treasure

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Since early post-WWI days, Canadian airmen have gone on exchange postings to foreign nations. There they have learned how other air forces operate, become familiar with different aircraft types and procedures, enlightened their hosts about Canadian military aviation, and established new (often life-lasting) professional and personal relationships.

This story always was of special interest to me for, during base visits, while enjoying life in air force messes, attending airshow briefings and parties, etc., I often would meet foreign airman on exchange here in Canada. Once it was a Dutch pilot instructing on the CF-5 with 419 Sqn at Cold Lake, another time a French air force Mirage pilot serving 2 years on CF-5s with 433 Sqn at Bagotville. On a CanForces trip to Somalia one year, our C-130 navigator was on exchange from the RAF. While visiting Canada’s “Willy Tell” team at Tyndall AFB one year, I met another exchange pilot – a USAF fellow flying the CF-18 with 425 Sqn at Bagotville. Eventually it occurred to me – this is a brilliant topic for a book. And … if I don’t do it, no one ever will, right. So the work began.

Through the late 1990s I was travelling around visiting people who had done RCAF/CF exchange postings, or who had been here from foreign militaries. All this turned out to be some of the most fascinating research. Here are some of the characters I encountered either face-to-face or via telephone interviews or in the “dusty” personnel files in Canada’s public archives (Hugh Halliday did a lot of that hardcore research for me). You’ll enjoy reading about these airmen in detail in the book:

W/C William Barker – Canada’s famous WWI fighter ace, whose incomparable efforts led to a Victoria Cross. I cover his exchange duties in Mesopotamia in the mid-1920s, flying the D.H.9 and Snipe. Barker analyzes the type of “tribal warfare” under way and what role the tactical  combat plane had in it. He submitted a detailed field report once back on more routine duties in Ottawa. Reading the original copy was enlightening, but this also tempted me to compare the amazing Canadian with his contemporary – Lawrence of Arabia.

F/L E.L. McLeod, who flew RAF Southampton flying boats in the UK in 1927; and Sgt J.D. Hunter who crewed with 7 Sqn RAF on Virginia bombers in 1933. Also, the likes of F/L F.A. Sampson flying large Singapore flying boats on armed security patrols off Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

F/L A.A. Lewis piloted RAF Heyford pre-war bombers. One of his reports was critical of this type, which just was joining RAF squadrons as the Germans were equipping with such modern types as the He.111. Wrote Lewis at the time of the Heyford: “It is practically useless for modern warfare.”

F/L Ernie McNab. In 1937 McNab had the good fortune for an RCAF fighter pilot (then flying obsolete Siskins) to be posted on exchange to 46 Sqn RAF to fly the high-performance Gauntlet biplane fighter. From his reports we learn much of daily routines on an RAF fighter base and how training was organized.

F/L L.F.J Taylor. This RAF pilot came to Canada on exchange to RCAF Station Trenton. Sadly, there he came to his end in the crash of a Fleet trainer. F/L Ken Mude (RAF) had an early postwar exchange, serving as a navigator on the P2V-7 Neptune at RCAF Station Greenwood. Ken tells how a Brit adapted to life in Canada following WWII. The story of each man’s exchange is packed with details about how his career evolved, led to an exchange, then what was learned and passed on.

Many RCAF aircrew on postwar exchanges with the RAF are covered: S/L A.P. Huchala – piloted Lincoln bombers including on combat against the Mau Mau in Kenya; F/L D.R. Pearce — navigated on Hastings transports and ended in a ditching in the Mediterranean; and F/L Donald T. Thompson — flew Britannias on RAF Air Transport Command global duties.

There also were many RCAF postwar exchanges to USAF flying units, examples being:

  • F/L Douglas G. Scott flying the WB-50 bomber. On one long-range patrol a propeller disintegrated. This was a “dicey do”, but Scott brought his plane back to an Alaskan base.
  • F/L G.G. Webb flew C-97 transports at Kelly AFB, Texas. Later, he evaluated the C-119 in Korea. Data from his C-119 report likely were  studied at RCAF HQ prior to Canada re-equipping with this important postwar transport. Webb even had a mission on the giant XC-99, the transport version of the B-36. He had a further USAF exchange flying the C-118.
  • F/L S.R. Wallis flew the oddball YC-122 transport on exchange in Tennessee. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy such “reverse” exchanges as Major Jack Ralph, who flew RCAF North Stars from Resolute Bay to North Luffenham (UK) to Haneda (Japan). Later, RCAF aircrew would have exchanges on USAF jet transports from the C-141 to today’s C-17 – it’s all here!
  • F/L D.J. Williams and F/L George Conway-Brown: two of the RCAF men who flew the B-47 and B-52 with USAF Strategic Air Command. This reminds me of several retired RCAF officers who were “too tough the crack” – they felt duty bound not to reveal details of their exchanges. This was fair enough, any researcher would understand. Although I earlier had written about this great man’s career, when it came to the top secret B-52 air navigation research he did in SAC, Keith was mum. He since has passed on, but it’s possible that some future researcher may uncover the details.

Test Flying: numerous RCAF pilots had test pilot exchanges abroad, including F/L Roger Mace, F/L Bob Ayres, S/L Frank Phripp and F/L R.D. Schultz flying such types as the early Meteor and Vampire in the RAF. There are some fascinating pages describing S/L Joe McCarthy test flying Luftwaffe aircraft in the immediate postwar months. Joe was an American in the RCAF flying with a RAF experimental unit. Another section covers test flying at RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment. Such UK types as the Venom, Canberra, Beverley and Sycamore are covered.

There is much covering the adventures of RCAF crew on exchange with operational squadrons flying such RAF types as the Canberra (F/L Steve Gulyas, F/L Garnet Ovans, F/L Robert Brinkhurst, F/L Mo Gates, F/L N. Funge, etc.) There are many exciting experiences, including Brinkhurst’s almost-fatal inadvertent ejection. Also covered, is the RAF’s Javelin and the exotic Lightning Mach 2 interceptor, which several RCAF pilots flew. F/L Al Robb’s tour doing Lightning weapons evaluation at RAF Binbrook is one of the more fascinating RCAF exchanges. Canadians flying the RAF and Luftwaffe Tornado also are covered.

Other fighter exchanges involve everything from RCAF F-86 pilots in the USAF fighting MiG-15s in Korea, to F/L Jim Hanna flying early F-94 all-weather fighters at Otis AFB, and F/L Norman and F/O Vaessen on an evaluation tour at Tyndall AFB flying such USAF fighters as the F-89 Scorpion. During his tour at Tyndall, F/L Ted Simkins crews on the F-101, F-102, RB-66, etc. One week he navigated a B-57 on its delivery flight all the way to Pakistan. The summary of his tour helps explain why exchanges often were sought after by the more adventuresome RCAF aircrew. Also covered is the RCAF exchange posting flying the Mirage III in Australia.

Other USAF fighter exchanges include F/L Gordy Joy and F/L Garth Cinnamon flying the F-100 at Nellis AFB, Garth doing trials with such weapons as the Bullpup missile. Buster Kincaid ejects one day from his F-100 over the southwest desert. F/L Ray Carruthers and F/O E.H. Stone are covered re. their USAF tours instructing on the F-105 Thunderchief. Carruthers maneuvers without success for a combat exchange tour in Vietnam, Stone has a scary ejection. Others fly the F-104 from USAF bases, including F/L Larry Sutton instructing Luftwaffe students at Luke AFB. Only two “Canucks” fly the F-106 on exchange — both are covered. Canadians flying F-4s for the USAF, RAF and Luftwaffe also are part of this beautifully-produced book.

Training: Canadians had many tours instructing in the RAF on the Vampire, Meteor and Jet Provost. In the USAF they instructed on the T-37 and T-38. About 100 RCAF instructors were involved with the USAF, this being a little known aspect of Canada’s quiet support for the US during the Vietnam War.

Canada’s Air Forces on Exchange covers many aspects of maritime air warfare, including people on RAF exchange on the Shackleton and Nimrod. In one case, F/L John Hudson survives a horrendous Shackleton crash at night near Inverness, Scotland. Another ordeal involves F/L Herb Smale surviving at sea when his big Marlin flying boat was forced down onto the Atlantic between Puerto Rico and Norfolk. S/L R.E. Hicks’ US Navy exchange on early P-3s involved missions during the Cuban missile crisis. F/L Bill O’Gorman piloted Neptunes during his Australian exchange tour.

Other unusual USAF exchanges see RCAF members on such unusual types as the WB-47 and EB-57. USAF exchanges on the CF-101 and CF-104 also are included. Other unusual material includes Rogers Smith, a former RCAF Sabre pilot who eventually became one of the high time SR-71 pilots, Capt Kevin Whale flying AH-64 Apache gunships, and ex-pat F/O Christopher Hasler, flying RAF Chinooks in Afghanistan and earning the DFC for his good efforts.

This 320-page hardcover is one of Canada’s best aviation reads in decades. “Unique” barely begins to describe it. There are  hundreds of photos, a bibliography, glossary and index. It’s the full package! Get this $50.00 beauty at this time for $30.00 + shipping and tax for a total of $44.94 (Canada) or USA and overseas all in at $54.00. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool aviation hound, you must have a copy of this rare book! Order by cheque or PayPal via CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 3B6. Tel (416) 698-7559. As always, feel free to send an e-mail: larry@canavbooks.com.

The Crash of CF-100 18417: Redux

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A few years back, we posted an item on the mysterious crash of the CF-100 18417. In September 2013 Alistair J. Douglas sent us two excellent photos relevant to this story. Above is a typical CF-100 Mk.IV that he photographed at the RCAF NATO aircraft overhaul base — Scottish Aviation of Prestwick. It’s resplendent in its NATO camouflage and 440 Squadron markings. Then, below, the ill-fated 18417, which Alistair saw scattered in the field near Prestwick, where it crashed so disastrously. (Click on any picture to see it full frame.)

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The Wartime Era Fades

When I was a boy in Toronto soon after WWII, my pals and I were always amazed at something a bit macabre (to we dopey little street kids). Wherever we were in the city there were old men on crutches or with empty shirtsleeves or eye patches. There were also a lot of younger men the same. It didn’t mean that much to 5, 6 or 7 year olds, but we did tend to stare. We eventually learned the story behind this: the older fellows had lost limbs and eyes in WWI (maybe even in the Boer War), the younger guys in WWII.

As time went by we found ourselves eagerly soaking up all this history. We’d scour the shelves at our Gerrard & Eastwood library branch, especially for all those great stories of aerial warfare where Canadians were so involved. Next door at the Eastwood theatre we never missed a movie covering all this stuff — The Malta Story, Reach for the Sky, The Enemy Below, The Desert Rats, etc.

After getting into the aviation history game, I met hundreds of wonderful Canadian airmen. At first there were lots of WWI types around. Many were our speakers at the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society or at CAHS conventions — Punch Dickins, Walter Gilbert, Doc Oaks, Stan McMillan, Alex Milne, etc. When I started writing I met so many others and counted lots of them as real pals. In time, however, the last WWI airman passed on. Now, the last of the WWII fellows are slipping away, most around 90 years of age. A friend in Alberta called lately to report George Aitken, DFC, of 403 Sqn having passed. George was a fine gentleman and true supporter. It was an honour to feature him in Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 more than 20 years ago. Check out his story.

It sure is getting a bit lonely in the 2000s, most of the WWII airmen’s associations by now having packed it in. We used to have 30-35 Typhoon pilots  faithfully to our Typhoon Pilots Association lunches in Toronto. Now five or six fellows make it out. The day is near when few will know much about these wonderful generations of Canadians. When people talk about aerial combat years from now, more and more the topic will be Cold War, where not an RCAF shot was fired in anger, or aerial combat in the wide open, pretty well friendly skies of Iraq and Libya.

Heroism and daring-do are definitely relative, especially when you study the details of something like the raid on Nuremburg on the night of March 30/31, 1944 — 795 Bomber Command planes dispatched, more than 100 (many full of Canadians) were lost. That was just one night of the air war. The survivors of such missions used to cringe a bit when the fighter pilots were whooping it up, as if they had won the war single-handedly. The Bomber Command fellows occasionally needed to remind the fighter types, “Yoohoo, that was really great of you fellows. But don’t forget that we lost more men killed in one night than you did in the entire Battle of Britain.” Well, things are getting pretty quiet these days about all that sort of thing.

In this week’s local paper there was the obit of one of our great RCAF air warfare heroes — William Ward Osborn, DFC, February 15, 1921 – January 13, 2012. His obit mentions how he flew Lancasters with 419 Sqn from Middleton St. George. Postwar he graduated in civil engineering from the University of Toronto, added a Masters degree, then re-joined the Canadian military, where he fought in Korea and served on UN postings. Back on Civvie Street he served the country again — in government. His family notes, “He is our unvanquished hero and our perpetual guiding light.” What a life lived, what a legacy, what a fine Canadian.

Every reader needs to be familiar with the magnificent website that is largely the work of one of Canada’s pre-eminent RCAF historians — Hugh Halliday. Go there (google AFAC Halliday Website RCAF Gongs 1939-45) and get the real story of Canadians in the air war. Today I looked up William Ward Osborn. Here is Hugh’s outline of this great citizen in the RCAF:

OSBORN, F/L William Ward (J26673) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.419 Squadron – Award effective 8 September 1945 as per London Gazette dated 21 September 1945 and AFRO 1704/45 dated 9 November 1945. Born 1921 in Preston, Ontario; home in Hespeler (labourer); enlisted in Hamilton, 14 July 1942. Trained at No.6 ITS (graduated 21 November 1942), No.20 EFTS (graduated 6 February 1943) and No.6 SFTS (graduated 11 June 1943). Commissioned May 1943. Medal presented 22 June 1949. No citation other than “completed…numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty.” DHist file 181.009 D.1941 (RG.24 Vol.20612) has recommendation dated 5 April 1945 when he had flown 36 sorties (237 hours 15 minutes), 10 September 1944 to 15 March 1945. Flight Lieutenant Osborn commenced his tour on September 10th, 1944 by doing a trip to Calais. On this first effort he brought his aircraft back to base on two and one-half engines. As gaggle leader on a daylight trip to Cologne on March 2nd, 1945, he again lost an engine in the target area and returned to base on three engines.

At all times during his tour of 36 trips this pilot has shown a high degree of courage, initiative and keenness. He has led his crew in bombing such difficult targets as Dresden, Munich and Nuremburg. This pilot’s standard of crew captaincy has been exceptional. For fine record on operation, his coolness, skill and leadership this officer merits the award on a non-immediate Distinguished Flying Cross. Thanks, and keep on reading books! Larry Milberry, January 2012

Addendum, January 4, 2013

Through 2013 there were fewer and fewer obits in the press for the wartime “demographic”. By then probably 95% of the whole generation had passed on. However, in the Toronto Star of January 4, 2014 I spotted two obits, one for A. Robert “Bob” McQuade, DFC,  an alumnus of 419 Sqn, the RCAF 6 Group squadron with the highest combat casualty rate. Bob passed on January 2, 2014 in a seniors’ residence in Newcastle, Ontario.

Also listed was Donald Halberston McSporran, whose family posted one of those really fantastic obits upon Don’s death on December 27, 2013. Here was another ace of a Canadian — a King’s Scout, WWII bomber pilot, POW for 3+ years, postwar a husband, father, school teacher, construction and design man, nature conservationist, etc.

Having trained as an RCAF  pilot in the BCATP at 1 EFTS (Malton) and 5 SFTS (Brantford), McSporran was posted overseas, where he eventually ended on 61 Squadron flying the unremarkable Manchester bomber. On his first operation as crew skipper (LeHavre, April 10, 1942), his Manchester 5785 lost an engine due to flak, forcing McSporran to ditch in the Channel 20 miles off Cherbourg.

The crew got into their dingy, where they held on for 5 – 6 days. That must have been a living hell, since they had no fresh water. At one point they were in sight of England, then were blown away and cast upon the French coast. In getting ashore, one crewman, Sgt D.J. Meikle, drowned. The  six survivors then were destined to wretched lives as German POWs.

In summarizing their great hero, Don McSporran’s family observe:

Don McSporran was one of those great Canadians who, having lived through the adversity of the Depression and the War, came home and made his country the peaceful and just society that it has become. He was a model citizen providing an example for all of an honest, ethical, hard-working member of society. He was frugal, yet generous, optimistic and steadfast, the kind of Canadian we all hope to become.

Don McSorran also is honoured on the “Billy Bishop Home & Museum” website (info@billybishop.org), and you may hear him recounting some  POW recollections on “The Memory Project” website (http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/1120:donald-mcsporran/‎). If you have a copy of Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984, you can read a summary of McSporran’s ordeal on pp.161-162.

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?