Category Archives: RCAF

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 (, and you may hear him recounting some  POW recollections on “The Memory Project” website (‎). 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?

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.

CANAV announces 2 new titles: The Canadair Argus and … Night Fighters!

Note … This book no longer available at CANAV. If you wish a copy see what you can find at such websites as … When I launched The Canadair North Star in 1982, I mentioned that I hoped to publish a book about the Canadair Argus and Yukon. I carried on to produce The De Havilland Canada Story the following year, then 30+other books, including Sixty Years, Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace (Vol. 3) and Canadair: The First 50 Years each with some decent Argus content. But I failed in the end to do the Argus book.

Here are a few Argus photos (not shown in the book) that I took in years gone by. To begin, check out the shadow of 407 Sqn Argus 20718 as we scorched low over Eagle River crossing in the Yukon during a NORPAT (Northern Patrol) of March 22, 1977. The crew had me along as a freeloader that week. Needless to say, a great time was had be all.

In the end some ex-RCAF Argus folks got themselves organized “committee-wise” to gather enough material to turn out The Canadair Argus: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Maritime Hunter. And a fair effort it is — all things considered (lots of anecdotes, tons of photos, etc.). The book gives some basic background about RCAF Maritime Air Command in its early postwar days, when the Lancaster and Neptune “held the fort” against a formidable Soviet submarine fleet. As the Cold War heated, a more capable anti-submarine plane was needed and that gave rise to the Argus.

August 29, 1968 and Argus 20732 flies through its maritime patrol demo over the Toronto waterfront during the Canadian International Airshow.

There follows the story in good detail of this grand RCAF legend in service with the Argus Conversion Unit, 404, 405, 407, 415 and 449 squadrons, on test and evaluation tasks, etc. Amazing stuff about training & tactics, weapons and the previously secret guts of the operation. Through the 1960s-70s the Soviet submarine service knew it would take a beating if push came to shove in the cat-and-mouse game that went on 24-365 on Canada’s coasts. The Argus would ensure that.

Andy Graham photographed 415 Sqn Argus 20712 taxying at Greenwood on a rainy day in April 1969.

20723 seen along the Lake Ontario shore from RCN Tracker 1545 on August 28, 1969 during a CIAS practice flight.

Besides the ASW game, the book mentions Argus squadrons on such special taskings as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also “Fincastle — the Commonwealth ASW championship exercise, where the Argus always shone. Search and rescue, Arctic patrols and mishaps also are covered.

The “committee” part of the book comes through with the lack of so much as a table of contents, let alone an index (forget about a bibliography, eh!). As for typos? Well, they are always a real bugger to chase down. We scramble like mad at CANAV to put out a clean book and haven’t yet succeeded to perfection. However, the Argus committee don’t appear to have bothered at all with copy editing, and don’t seem to realize that there is such a thing as photo-shopping to clean all dust, etc. from a photo. From what I can see, they went 90% – 95% of the distance, then pooped out. Oh well … if you’re an RCAF bibliophile, you still need this one. So says ye olde scribe.

NB … The Argus book is no longer carried by CANAV. See such used book sites as or where you might find a used copy.

Tracker 12131 and Argus 10739 on gate guardian duty at Summerside in January 1987.

Right behind the Argus book … here comes Night Fighters: Stories from the Flyers of Canada’s All-Weather Fighter Force, Canada and Europe 1953 to 1984. Compiled by an all-weather committee headed by John Eggenberger, Bob Merrick, and Doug Munro, this new title focuses on CF-100 and CF-101 days.

CF-100 100784 as a gate guardian at Baden-Soellingen. The photo was taken from a 444 Kiowa on July 8, 1982. ‘784 now resides in the heritage air park at CFB Winnipeg. (Both pix by Larry Milberry)

Very cleanly done, very much worth the price of admission, Night Fighters is packed with “True stories told by those who watched over Canada’s and NATO’s airspace during the crucial years of the Cold War. Whether scrambling to intercept a Bear, taking part in realistic exercises to maintain their combat readiness, flying in the daily training adventures, or thrilling airshow crowds with thunderous formation displays, these flyers were constantly honing their arcane skills.”

The last CanForces Voodoos. Tail numbers 101006 and 101067 operated from CFB North Bay with 414 (EW) Sqn — ‘067 as an electronic warfare trainer, ‘006 as a pilot proficiency trainer. Retired in 1987, ‘006 ended on display at Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, while ‘067 today is in Minneapolis in USAF markings. Photo taken from T-bird ‘473 on April 3, 1987.

No longer sold by CANAV Books

CANAV’s “Do Not Miss” Summer Booklist!

The warmer weather is coming and CANAV is urging it on with the release of our  Summer booklist and … a great special offer you won’t want to miss!

Order yourself a copy of CANAV’s globally-acclaimed The Wilf White Propliner Collection at 50% off! Total price (Canada) $20.00 + $10.00 postage + GST $1.50 = $31.50.

Add The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection and get both books for $35.00 + $15.00 postage + GST $2.50 = $52.50. USA and overseas check for a postal rate by e-mailing

Here are four great Canadair photos that you’ll enjoy in The Wilf White Propliner Collection. In one of Wilf’s wonderful Prestwick views, TCA North Star CF-TFM thunders in on short final circa 1950. ‘TFM gave fine service at TCA until sold in 1961, but it ended badly thereafter, crashing while running guns in West Africa.

Then, RCAF 17510 on departure from Prestwick. The RCAF operated North Stars 1947-66, then the fleet dispersed to the tramp freighter world, ‘510 becoming CF-UXB with Air Caicos. For several years it freighted between Sarasota and the islands, carrying anything that would fit through the cargo doors. It finally was scrapped in 1971 after logging nearly 22,000 flying hours.

Next, a wonderful Wilf White propliner scene — BOAC’s stately C-4 Argonaut G-ALHG “Aurora” in the days long before nutbar terrorist losers ruined the possibility of such a happy scene occurring today. Poor ‘HG came to an ignominious ending, crashing at Manchester while in its British Midland Airways days.

Finally, the hybrid Canadair C-5 — the cream of the RCAF fleet in the  1950s — caught taxying by Wilf at London circa 1960. This beautiful VIP transport ended in a California scrapyard, instead of where it should have gone — to Canada’s National Aeronautical Collection. Unfortunately, museum people have their priorities and the power to turn thumbs down. Sad to say, but BOAC fans also know this all too well — they watched the world’s last Argonaut also go for pots and pans. Only one North Star survives anywhere — ex-RCAF 17515 at the Canada Aviation Museum. After 30+ years of rusting outside, it finally is receiving a long-overdue restoration.

If such types as the North Star and all the lore about them interest you, you’ll love both the CANAV propliner books, to say nothing of The Canadair North Star, a renowned best-selling CANAV classic. Also take a look at Air Transport in Canada at a $60.00 discount. Propliner fans will find no other book in the world with such a variety and quantity of incredible propliner photos and history. So take advantage of these great deals and heat up your aviation book collection! Like summer, these great prices won’t last…

Download our Booklist Summer 2011 or check it out below!

Typhoons and CF-100s: 440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa, September 2010


Jay Hunt (orange shirt) of Vintage Wings has the attention of a crowd of 440 CF-100 era guests during the squadron reunion. A Finch, Beaver, Tiger Moth and Fox Moth form the backdrop. (Photos by Larry Milberry unless noted).

One of the RCAF‘s renowned combat squadrons of WWII and Cold War days was 440, which had its beginnings as 11 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in Vancouver in October 1932. Initially without airplanes, the squadron didn’t get airborne until delivery of its first D.H.60 Moths in October 1934. It carried on with training through the Thirties to the eve of war, when it received its first combat types — the Atlas and Lysander. On June 29, 1940 F/L W.J. McFarlane flew 11 AC’s first wartime operation — a patrol in Lysander 428 scouting for a reported Japanese submarine from RCAF Station Patricia Bay, near Victoria.

440 Sqn grew out of 11 (AC) Sqn, which formed in 1932. One of the squadron's first combat types (1939) was the Westland Lysander, still a frontline plane at the time. This fine "Lizzie" greeted the 440 old timers for their visit to Vintage Wings.

11 (AC) Sqn disbanded on February 1, 1941. Its successor, 111 (Fighter) Sqn, formed the following November 3 at Rockcliffe under S/L A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, a Battle of Britain veteran. Equipped with Kittyhawks, 111 went to the Pacific far northwest to bolster defences against the Japanese, who had occupied the Aleutian Islands. 111 flew its first “ops” on September 25, 1942, when four of its Kittyhawks escorted USAAC B-24s bombing Japanese positions at Kiska. On this mission S/L K.A. Boomer, 111’s CO, shot down a Japanese fighter — the first and only RCAF kill in this theatre.

Veteran Canadian aviation artist Graham Wragg created this lively scene depicting S/L Boomer's Aleutian kill. The painting appears in 440 Squadron History.

111 withdrew from Alaska in August 1943 to resume operations at Patricia Bay. It disbanded in January 1944, then proceeded overseas, where it formed anew, this time as 440 Squadron at Ayr, Scotland. It briefly flew Hurricanes, then converted to the mighty Typhoon. Along with 438 and 439, 440 was one of three RCAF Typhoon squadrons comprising 143 (RCAF) Wing, part of RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force. 440 soon moved south to Hurn to begin tactical operations against German targets in France in the lead-up to D-Day.

A 440 Squadron Typhoon taxies on operations at Eindhoven, Holland over the spring of 1945. Minutes later it would have been delivering its two 1000-lb bombs. Typhoon I8-P/RD389 was Harry Hardy's last Tiffie of the war -- he christened it "Pulverizer IV". Harry attended this reunion. (RCAF)

440 Squadron flew to the Normandy Beachhead at B.9 Lantheuil on June 28, 1944. Moving frequently hereafter, it operated non-stop to war’s end, busy days seeing each of its dozen or so “Tiffies” flying 4, 5, 6 or more sorties daily. Many aircraft fell to German flak and far too many 440 pilots were lost. The squadron disbanded at B.166 Flensburg on August 26, 1945. Its record included 4213 operational sorties with 2215 tons of bombs dropped. These efforts resulted in 420 rail cuts and hundreds of enemy troops, vehicles, barges, etc. blasted. The brutal cost? 32 Typhoons lost, 28 pilots killed. Five 440 pilots received the DFC for their good efforts. The details of this amazing RCAF era are best read in Hugh A. Halliday’s 1992 book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story, which anyone with an interest in 440 will want.

440 Squadron CF-100 Mk.III fighters on the flightline in Bagotville circa 1954. Then, a 440 Mk.IV during NATO years. (RCAF)

With the Cold War, 440 re-formed in October 1953. Stationed initially at Bagotville with the machine-gun armed CF-100 Mk.III, in February 1955 it re-equipped with the Mk.4B, which added air-to-air rockets to the arsenal. In May 1957, 440 flew that Atlantic to take up residence at RCAF 3 Wing at Zweibrucken, West Germany. There it bolstered NATO’s all-weather fighter bastion against the Warsaw Pact forces. The squadron again disbanded in December 1962. 440s CF-100 era is covered in good detail in Larry Milberry’s 1981 book The Avro CF-100. This classic title is out-of-print, but copies can be found on such used book internet sites as or Another essential book is 440 Squadron History published in 1983 by The Hangar Bookshelf.

440 Typhoon pilots on the Vintage Wings tarmac on September 10, 2010: Alex "The Beast" Scott, Harry Hardy, John Flintoff, Ted Smith and Wally Ward with Michael Potter (in flying suit) and Pearl Hayes, whose late husband Bob, also flew Typhoons.

This illustrious squadron again re-surfaced in 1968, this time as a transport, and search and rescue unit operating the H-21, Dakota, Buffalo and Twin Otter over the decades. 440 still does good work with Twin Otters from its home in Yellowknife.

The 440 gang is briefed by Paul Manson at the start of their tour of the impressive new Canadian War Museum.

CF-100 era 440 aircrew Cliff Cassidy (All-weather interception navigator), Bob Hyndman (pilot) and Clive Loader (pilot). Clive had joined the RCAF in the 1950s following an RAF career flying such fighters as the Hunter. This weekend Cliff briefed the reunion about plans to permanently display the 440 Sqn crest in the Royal Air Force Club in London. On the spot this evening half the money needed to get this done was raised.

September 9 to 12, 2010 former squadron members gathered in Ottawa for what was one of the great RCAF squadron reunions. The 80 or so attendees included Typhoon pilots plus CF-100 pilots and navigators and their ladies. Excellent sessions were organized in some of Ottawa’s best military messes, the RCAF Gloucester Mess included. Half a day was spent at Vintage Wings in Gatineau, where we enjoyed informative guided tours in small groups. The icing on this cake was a wonderful air display put on by Michael Potter in his pristine P-51 Mustang.

CF-100 AI navs, Lonnie Maudsley and Ron Williams, meet at the bar of the Navy Mess in Ottawa. Their squadron mate Ron Leather (pilot) looks on. At the end of the bar Gord Smith (CF-100 pilot) chats with Ted Smith (Typhoons).

An afternoon was spent at the Canadian War Museum, where the new establishment’s first CEO, Gen Paul Manson, was our chief tour guide. Paul had flown CF-100s with 440, later flew CF-104s, then rose to be Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff. The reunion finished on another high note — a send-off breakfast back at the Gloucester Mess, from where everyone dispersed until next time.

Duane Sharpe as he was checking out some other memorabilia. His photo as a young CF-100 AI navigator is on the cover of Canada's Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron Bell (AI nav), Jim Terry (AI nav) and Gord Smith (pilot) look over an old copy of the 440 history book as they reminisce about CF-100 days.

Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force: Launched and in Orbit!


After dozens of book launches, such events sure can be predicable but, in CANAV’s experience, every one has turned out to be a blast. I sometimes am asked about book launches of yore, and those days sure race back to mind. The first was with McGraw Hill-Ryerson’s Aviation in Canada back in 1979. That one I held in the back yard at 51 Balsam, which then became the venue for several similar excellent thrashes — Sixty Years and Austin Airways are memorable.

The first all-CANAV event was held at Pete Mossman’s great uptown domicile in the summer of ’81. There we launched The Avro CF-100, for which Pete had done the fabulous artwork. November 2, 1982 came next — my first $3000 hotel splash, held at the Cambridge Inn out by what we used to call Malton Airport (today’s YYZ). The idea was to kick off The Canadair North Star, but the weather closed in — IFR all the way and I could foresee disaster. Astoundingly, things panned out beautifully. Piles of North Star fans from Canadair, TCA and RCAF times suddenly materialized. Through the efforts of Canadair exec Dick Richmond, the company Lear flew to Malton with several senior Canadair retirees, Dick included; other folks turned up wearing old time TCA stewardess and pilot outfits and, miracle of miracles, a good few North Star books were sold.

John McQuarrie and old team mate Larry Milberry have just exchanged their new books at The Brogue. John got his start in publishing after a conversation with Larry back around 1990. That day he showed out of the blue with a series of questions starting with, "I think I'd like to get into publishing. Where does a fellow start?" He began by producing some world-class Canadian military titles, branched off into a series on ranching, then got into cities, canals, etc.

A 1986 Ottawa launch for The Canadair Sabre brought out a fabulous crowd of Sabre pilots and groundcrew. Included were several who had fought in Sabres in Korea — Ernie Glover (3 MiG-15 kills), Andy Mackenzie, Omer Levesque (1st RCAF MiG-15 kill), Claude LaFrance, Eric Smith, Bruce Fleming. Talk about the cream of the crop. There also were Golden Hawks milling around and Vic Johnson screened a fine team video. It was either here or at our Ottawa launch for Sixty Years that the Soviet air attaché showed up — some former MiG-21 pilot who pretended not to speak English. A CanForces general in the crowd explained that such fellows attend any such Ottawa event just to check on who’s in town, in this way getting some “intel” to pad their reports back to Moscow! Sadly, no one seemed to be taking photos that night in Ottawa — I don’t have a one.

The De Havilland Canada Story was launched at the roll-out of the Dash 8 in 1983, Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story at Hart House at the University of Toronto, and Canadair: The First 50 Years took flight at a glitzy affair down in old Montreal. That was an amazing one with hundreds of Canadair retirees and VIPs, including three CanForces generals. At each of these affairs, books were given out by the hundreds, so what a way to spread the good word at your clients’ expense!

Another zany book launch was for Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story held at 410 Wing RCAFA at Rockcliffe (Ottawa). As Hugh Halliday and I were setting up in mid-afternoon, a blizzard descended. By the time we had been hoping to see a crowd, only a few old 410 regulars were on hand. They’d been sitting all afternoon at the bar, so weren’t much interested in books. Never mind, however, for people gradually started to filter in, storm or not. About 8 o’clock there was a clatter outside. I looked but could only see snow streaking by horizontally. Then, out of this cloud entered 438 Sqn Hon. Colonel Andy Lord, a former 438 Typhoon pilot. Andy had commandeered a 438 Kiowa helicopter to fly up weather-be-damned from St. Hubert. Naturally, he looked ready to party or take on the Hun, but not so his young pilots — they were white as sheets!

Book launch show-and-tell: John Hymers, Dennis, Rick, Kelly and Andrew look over a photo album put together by John showing WWII PR photos taken by Goodyear Rubber in Toronto. No one had seen these since the war. Happily, John had rescued the negs from the trash one day ... such amazing scenes as a Bolingbroke on show at the CNE.

Tony (Aviation World), Rick and John looking to be in decent form.

So what happened on the book launch scene last week — August 19, 2010? It was as predicted — a super bunch of supporters, old friends, some of whom have been there for CANAV since Day 1. Renowned author Fred Hotson (age 95 or so) made it with  his chauffeur, Dave Clark, an old-time Canadair type. A few other vintage CAHS members turned up — Bill Wheeler, Shel Benner, Pete Mossman, Gord McNulty, etc. Rae Simpson, with whom I used to photograph planes in boyhood days, showed, fresh in on a King Air flight from The Soo. Photographer-publisher John McQuarrie blew in from an assignment in Kingston, showing off the glitziest book of the day — his magnificent new “Spirit of Place” title — Muskoka: Then and Now. Ace photographer Rick Radell and Aviation World stalwarts Tony Cassanova and Andy Cline showed with all their great support — lugging boxes and such. Two other fine party guys on the scene? AC 767 and CWH Canso driver John McClenaghan and geologist George Werniuk. John Timmins, of Timmins Aviation fame, was taking in his first CANAV event. Milberrys Matt and Simon/Amanda (plus wee ones) arrived as per usual.

Fred, Sheldon and Gord. Fred spent years as national president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, was an early member of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. A former DHC employee, Sheldon became an early CAHS member. Gord followed his famous father, Jack, into the hobby aviation world and in recent years has been an indispensable member of the CAHS Toronto Chapter.

Larry makes a sale to Gord as ex-RCAF radar tech and military policemen Al Gay watches. Al and some friends have been developing a flight simulator series based on all 100+ aerodromes of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. (Tony Cassanova)

Rick wants a book but is having trouble letting go of his $50 bill. The aviation gang ... what a bunch, eh! This joke is no laughing matter to anyone publishing aviation books: "Question: Who invented the world's thinnest copper wire? Answer: Two airline pilots fighting over a penny!" Sad to say, but this seems to be true. As a group, airline pilots religiously avoid CANAV book launchings. (Tony Cassanova)

Wartime-wise? Well, due to time doing what it does so efficiently, there were few on hand from 39-45 times. John Coleman (Lancaster pilot 405 and 433) and Jack McCreight (Lancaster nav) were the sole RCAF reps, whereas in days gone by dozens of such super Canadians used to show. Fred Hotson of Ferry Command was the Methuselah of the wartime bunch on this day. Other friendly folks came and went as the afternoon passed — just A-1 all the way.

Lancaster pilot John Coleman chats with renowned aviation artist Pete Mossman at The Brogue. Pete's artwork helped CANAV's early books gain fame -- our CF-100, North Star, DHC and Austin Airways titles. In recent times Pete painted dozens of magnificent aircraft profiles for Dan Dempsey's incomparable book A Tradition of Excellence.

Rae Simpson and Jack McCreight had lots to talk over through the afternoon. Rae flew CF-104s during the RCAF's NATO heyday in the mid-1960s, then rose to be the CanForces chief test pilot. Jack's wartime training story is told in our new book.

The staff at The Brogue in Port Credit supplied the yummy food and whatever liquid refreshments we needed, so the whole effort came off as finely as a publisher could wish. Toronto’s summer nightmare traffic scenario sure tried to put the kibosh on things, but CANAV’s “solid citizens” toughed it out, battling off the worst that the QEW and 427 threw at them. Thanks to everyone for making it all another gem of a day — Book No.31, if my count is on. Cheers … Larry

CANAV fans at The Brogue: banking man Tony Hine, geologist George Werniuk, computer guy Matt Milberry and astronomer Andrew Yee.

John, Bill Wheeler and Larry shooting the breeze about RCAF history, books and publishing. Bill edited and published the CAHS Journal for more than 40 years. (Tony Cassanova)

While we were partying at The Brogue, Andy Cline was sweating it out at Aviation World, but after work he joined us anyway. If you haven't yet visited Aviation World on Carlingview Dr. near YYZ, in Richmond, BC near YVR, or in Chicago near Midway MDW, make a point of it. (Tony Cassanova)