Category Archives: WWII

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.

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.

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?

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


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.