The Maple Leaf of Mexico
By Richard I. Bourgeois-Doyle
Lying on her deathbed in November 1980, 75-year-old Elsie Gregory MacGill could think back on a life that influenced Canada in many ways. As the effective Vice-Chair of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and a leader in the manufacture of fighter aircraft during the Second World War, she had helped to change laws, advance the cause of women in education and the professions, and develop the Canadian aviation industry.
She might have even reflected on the fun and energy of her early career as an aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer. But to her last days, Elsie remained oblivious to the effect one of her projects had in another country. She was not alone.
Although her creation, the Maple Leaf Trainer II, has status as the first aircraft fully designed by a woman, its ultimate fate remains a bit of a mystery and its impact rests largely undocumented. Aviation histories that cite the aircraft periodically mention that a few trainers modeled on its design were built outside of Canada, but rarely do they speculate on the fate of the prototype. Elsie had been told that it was sold to Republic Aviation and that Republic shared it with the U.S. Navy. Documents for its export say something other, and evidence that includes declassified military reports, photographs, and inconsistencies in public statements suggest that all of this was a ruse.
The best guess now suggests that the manufacturer, Canadian Car and Foundry (Can-Car), sent the aircraft surreptitiously into Mexico where it and the others modeled on it played a unique role in the birth of that country’s modern air force.
Elsie, the aircraft’s then 34-year-old designer, beamed on the late fall day when the Maple Leaf II rolled out of the hanger at Can-Car’s Fort William plant. The project marked a high point in what had been a challenging career. Now widely recognized as the world’s first woman aeronautical engineer, because of her gender, MacGill had initially been rejected by educational and professional institutions. Nevertheless, she survived in the crucible of all-male engineering classes at the University of Toronto where, in 1927, she became the first woman in Canada to earn a degree in electrical engineering. Two years later, at Michigan, Elsie added to her firsts with a Master’s in Aeronautics, and in the early 1930s, at M.I.T., she pursued doctoral studies with pioneers in aerodynamic research. Later in the decade, the Engineering Institute of Canada admitted Elsie as its first woman member and then recognized her with its Gzowski Medal in 1940. Dozens of honours like this marked her life.
But none of the intellectual and professional challenges these accomplishments embody matched the personal one that arrived on the eve of her graduation at Michigan.
After going to bed with a flu-like cold, she woke up paralyzed from the waist down due to a form of polio that she labelled acute infectious myelitis. For three years thereafter, MacGill struggled to regain strength at her family’s Vancouver home. At first, Elsie was bed-ridden, then she moved to a wheelchair, and finally she rose to walking sticks and a cane. The ability to walk gave her the capacity to resume her engineering career, but the time in bed was not a professional waste. After a year at M.I.T., Elsie moved to the Fairchild plant in Longeuil where she conducted stress analysis and designed components for iconic Canadian bush aircraft such as the Super 71, the 45-80 Sekani, and the 82.
At Fairchild, she made contacts that brought her that job offer as Chief Aeronautical Engineer at the revived Can-Car manufacturing facilities in Fort William. Arriving there in the summer of 1938, she stepped into an operation that had been struggling. While Can-Car had showed some capability in the manufacture and even engineering of innovative aircraft (one was the first Canadian-designed fighter - the Gregor Biplane), it had not found a dependable market for its products and had even managed to offend the U.S. and Canadian governments by circumventing the arms embargo around the Spanish Civil War. A story in itself, the Can-Car manufacture and meandering Spanish sale of its version of the Grumman FF-1 fighter (the G-23/ GE-23 “Goblin”) did not affect Elsie MacGill’s career profoundly, but it helped create the ambiance of uneasy subterfuge that surrounded the eventual disposition of her own aircraft. In the year prior to Elsie’s arrival, Can-Car also produced a prototype biplane trainer based on the design work of American engineer Leland Stamford Wallace. The firm dubbed the modified aircraft the Maple Leaf Trainer I and was poised to produce a quantity for export when performance problems and poor test results forced it to scrap 1 the project.
Before this happened, however, a group of Mexican military and government officials, visiting Fort William in connection with plans to build Goblins in Mexico, saw the biplane in the Can-Car Shops and added a trainer to their aero-equipment wish list. This, along with the growing prospect of Canadian military demand, led Can-Car to task Elsie MacGill with reviving the project and designing something that would work.
In a way, Elsie had been preparing over a decade for this opportunity. Even when bed-ridden in the early 1930s, she studied, read and wrote articles for magazines and journals that not only fantasized about the ideal aircraft, but flying them herself. She understood well what needed to be done. Within a year, she and the team at Can-Car had the prototype aircraft (registered eventually as CF-BPU), The Maple Leaf Trainer II, in the air and on the way to receiving its Certificate of Airworthiness 2 (Acrobatic Category) in a time that was cited as “a record-breaking achievement.” The aircraft drew some attention because of the novel gender of the designer in stories that stressed that an "attractive young lady” was behind the “very attractive” machine. But most reports focused on the aircraft’s smooth handling and operation. 3
The unfolding British Commonwealth Air Training Program offered a tremendous market for trainer aircraft at bases across Canada and one might think that there might have been special interest in something Canadian designed and made.
But the aircraft’s performance in the air may perversely signaled future problems, as it did not provide an adequate challenge to trainee pilots. At the same time, the British military were calling the shots early in the war and leaned to British designed equipment such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth series which had already been adopted by the RCAF.
When it came to aircraft purchases in the early 1940s, the Mexicans could not be that picky. Officially neutral in the first part of the war when equipment was in demand everywhere, they were happy to acquire a certified device that could also be manufactured in their country. With rigours of mountain flying and other hazards, they were also inclined to the easier to fly Canadian designed trainers.
They were all set up to receive parts and start work at the Can Car plant at Balbuena, and Can-Car and its Chief Engineer Elsie MacGill, who were by then preoccupied by the production of Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft for Britain, were happy to pass the project to the Mexicans. But when it came to a proposal to send the prototype to Mexico, they ran into a glitch.
Earlier in the year, the Government had rejected an application to ship the Can-Car Gregor biplane to the country. So, Can-Car never went ahead with an export application to send the prototype Maple Leaf II to Mexico. Instead, Can-Car produced papers to sell Elsie’s prototype to an individual associated with Columbia Aircraft in New York. In the fall of 1940, Elsie’s aircraft was photographed on Long Island around the time of the documented sale. But the aircraft disappeared shortly thereafter, and there is no record or remembrance that Columbia ever flew the prototype, kept it at its plant, or produced any examples of the design.
At the same time, Can-Car finalized negotiations with the Mexicans to wrap up their deal on the trainer and to transfer parts and plans to Mexico. The Mexicans were frustrated because the shops in Balbuena had not managed to finish a single aircraft under the contract for Grumman Goblins even though it was working with a proven and well-defined design. Given that Elsie’s aircraft had been sent to New York months before, it is significant that the Mexicans came to “la cuidad de Nueva York” 4 to conclude their negotiations with Can-Car rather than Fort William or the firm’s head office in Montreal.
Less than four months after the deal-sealing trip to New York, they had an entirely new design built and in the air over Mexico City.
Before Mexico’s decision to officially support the Allies in the war, at the time, the country was riddled with German spies, and other countries, besides Canada, were uneasy about shipping military equipment to it. U.S. intelligence officers kept a close watch on the Mexican military activity, and on August 8, 1941, a U.S. military attaché based in Mexico City filed Report No.75 stating: “The first training plane constructed entirely in Mexico City was tried out on August 6  by pilot Captain Luis Noriega Medrano, who put the plane through the most rigid tests, from which it came out alright ... General Fierro states that he has all the parts, including engines, for 10 more planes of this type and design.” 5
Experts who have reviewed the photographic evidence from that day, say the aircraft looks exactly like Elsie’s prototype although it was touted as having been built in Mexico. The suggestion that this aircraft was discrete from the Mexican production of trainers is also supported by later historical references that only cite ten (10) of the aircraft having been built in Mexico and with different parts and external features than the first.
Regardless, the aircraft flew well and impressed the crowds, and as noted in the Military Attaché report, Mexican General Fierro announced on the spot, a commitment to take the proven design, equipment and parts to build another ten. Yet it took two years to produce a second aircraft. It took four months for the first - the reverse of the normal timeline for aircraft design, development and manufacture.
Eventually, 10 additional aircraft using Can-Car parts and Elsie’s design were built under the supervision of celebrated engineer Roberto de la Barreda. The aircraft were dubbed the Ares models (numbered and named Ares 01 to Ares 10), celebrating the mythical Greek god of war and recognizing Mexico’s entry into the Second World War on the side of the Allies on May 22, 1942.
Mexico supported the Allies with supplies and many other forms of assistance throughout the war. But when it came time to participate militarily, all concerned, the Mexicans and the other Allied nations, pointed to the country’s small but well-trained air force as the best resource. About 300 members of the Mexican air force formed El Escuadrón 201,which took part in fighting in the Pacific theatre in 1945. Dubbed “the Aztec Eagles”, the pilots and aircrews are still celebrated as heroes in both Mexico and the Philippines.
While most of the Aztec Eagles and other Mexican airmen took their flight training in the United States, the records show that at least one pilot gained key experience in the cockpit of the Maple Leaf II.
By the time German U-boats began their attack on Mexican shipping in May 1942, Noriega Medrano, the man whom U.S. Military Intelligence recorded as being in the Maple Leaf II-like biplane in August 1941, was in command of patrols off the Mexican coast. 6 On July 7 that year, he spotted U-129, the German sub responsible for sinking two Mexican tankers, and hit it with two “one-hundred-pound” bombs. The act and subsequent patriotic publicity paved the way to the formation of the Aztec Eagles.
Through its contribution to the Allied effort, Mexico gain many benefits, including a “combat experienced air corps” and a new role on the world stage. Those Mexican airmen are also credited with building a school. On July 20, 1944, the pilots, aircrews and mechanics who were to form Escuadron 201 assembled at the Balbuena base to listen to President Avila Camacho before shipping out. He ended his speech with an invitation to assembled servicemen “to petition me with whatever you may desire.”
A soldier in the rear ranks took two steps forward, smartly saluted, and said in a loud voice, “Mi Presidente, I request that a school be built in my home town of Tepoztlan, Morelos.” The Escuadrón 201 Heroes primary school still stands in that town today. 7
As these events unfolded during the war, Elsie MacGill was consumed by other pressures. In many quarters, she is best known for having led the Can-Car Engineering Shop during the time that over 1,400 Hawker Hurricanes were built at the plant. Later, Elsie contributed to international aviation safety as a consultant to governments and as the first woman to chair a United Nations Technical Committee.
Yet given Elsie Gregory MacGill’s later life dedication to equal access and educational opportunity, had she known, she might have been most moved by the story of the Mexican primary school and its association with the final days of her biplane trainer.
1 The Maple Leaf Trainer I was evidently built with the intent of sales to Nicaragua, as the prototype tested in Fort William Apr. 18, 1938, bore identification (GN-3) from that country. K.M. Molson and H.A. Taylor, Canadian Aircraft Since 1909. Stittsville, ON: Canada’s Wings, Inc.,1982, 165.
2 F.H. Ellis, Canada’s Flying Heritage. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954, 298.
3 “Introducing The Maple Leaf Trainer”, Canadian Aviation, August 1940, 20 said a number of civilian pilots “enthused over its performance.” Similar quotes in Gordon Burkowski, Can-Car: A History 1912–1992. Thunder Bay, ON: Bombardier Inc., 1995, 46.
4 José Villela Gomez, Breve historia de la aviacion en México, D.F. Mexico (s.n.) 1971, 228–230.
5 Interview with Dan Hagedorn, Archives Research Team Leader and Adjunct Curator, Latin American Aviation, Archives Division, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC (Nov. 17, 2006), in the U.S. National Archives at College Park, MD 2007
6 Schwab, Stephen I., “The role of the Mexican expeditionary air force in World War II: Late, limited, but symbolically significant”, Journal of Military History, 66 (2002): 1119
7 http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-mexican-air-force-helped-liberate-the-philippines.htm September 4, 2014
Dick Bourgeois-Doyle is a developing writer, government administrator, skilled daydreamer, and aging jogger living in Ottawa, Canada. Currently Director of Corporate Governance at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), he has worked on a number of special projects since joining the NRC Executive Offices in 1987. Bourgeois-Doyle previously served as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Science and Technology and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and was start-up manager of successful technology and public relations firms.
A former broadcaster and journalist, he has contributed to many books, articles, TV features, and radio programs on science history. Bourgeois-Doyle authored the
Canadian Science Publishing (CSP) Biographies – George J. Klein: The Great Inventor and Her Daughter the Engineer: The Life of Elsie Gregory MacGill and edited
and co-wrote CSP’s Renaissance II: Canadian Creativity and Innovation in the New Millennium. His other works include the story of survival and Northern Ontario
firefighting Stubborn: Big Ed Caswell and the Line from the Valley to the Northland and the satirical novel The Most Integrated, Strategic and Aligned Servant of the Public Don Quincy de la Mangement. Bourgeois-Doyle is one of several people sometimes referred to as “The 6th Beatle.”
The Air Cadet League of Canada
by Alen T. Hansen
To Learn. To Serve. To Advance.
Such is the motto of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, 25,000 of whom in 440 squadrons, and close to one million former cadets who have preceded them have celebrated more than seventy years of learning, service and advancement in personal and national terms. In so doing, pride will be evident among today’s 5,000 civilian volunteers who are the Air Cadet League of Canada and their antecedents, as well as partners in the Canadian Forces; a partnership that is the reason for the outstanding success of the Air Cadet movement.
To understand why and how the Air Cadet League of Canada came into being, it is necessary to recall the early days of the Second World War. France had fallen, the Low Countries had been invaded, and Great Britain was under heavy attack from the air. The critical need was for planes and more planes - and for trained young men to fly them in defence of freedom.
As early as 1938, an interest was shown in such a youth program when a member of the Winnipeg Lions Club, Albert Bennett, formed one of the first air cadet squadrons in Canada. The squadron eventually numbered 800 youths in training. In 1941, the squadron became #6 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron with the Winnipeg Lions Club continuing till today, as the sponsor of #6 Squadron and its predecessor. Prior to the formal creation of the Air Cadets, other units in Vancouver, Penhold, Windsor and Montreal, did exist on an ad hoc basis.
In 1940, the then Minister for Air, the Hon. Charls G. Power, gathered together a group of influential civilians and asked them to develop a country-wide organization to sponsor Air Cadet Squadrons. The national response was immediate, and on the 19 November 1940, Order-in-Council PC 6647 was passed, authorizing the formation of the Air Cadet League of Canada, to work on a partnership basis with the Royal Canadian Air Force; terms and objectives being clearly described. Such an act took place about the same time in other countries of the then British Empire. In England, New Zealand and Australia, for example, it was, and is known as the Air Training Corps.
On the 9 April 1941, the Air Cadet League of Canada received its National Charter to operate as a non-profit entity. Air Marshal William (Billy) Bishop, George B. Foster and Hugh P. Illsley were instrumental in obtaining the charter. To meet its mandate, it was structured on a national, provincial and local sponsoring committee level, each with its recognized part to play and each with its corresponding liaison level in the RCAF. A National Board of Directors in Ottawa was chosen and met for the first time on the 2 June 1941. One of its first acts was to appoint a chairman in each of the then nine provinces.
The provincial chairmen then established their committees, and according to the responsibilities transcribed, achieved the vital business of recruiting sponsoring committees for each squadron wishing to be formed. This latter portion has come to be recognized over the years as the most vital segment of the three tier structure for without a sponsoring committee to finance, provide needed accommodations, squadron staff, efficient management and other amenities, a squadron can not come into existence, and emphasizes the valuable contribution to society of its volunteer members. This was most evident when less than six months later at the end of 1941, 79 squadrons were approved.
In May 1942, the movement grew to over 10,000 cadets in 135 squadrons, and 23,000 cadets in 315 squadrons in 1943. By 1944, a peak was reached encompassing 29,000 cadets, 374 squadrons, 1,750 officers, instructors and over 2,000 civilians supplying financial and volunteer support. Accurate records do not exist to compile the contribution made by Air Cadets who joined the wartime forces, however, it is known that over 3,000 graduated and entered the Royal Canadian Air Force in varying capacities.
The primary purpose of the Air Cadet movement during its formative years was a military one, but its founders were also thinking in terms of the long-range benefits of Air Cadet training. Through participation in supervised squadron activities, they would find opportunities to develop those qualities usually associated with good citizenship. It was the character-building aspect of Air Cadet training which appealed most strongly to the youth leaders of the country. Service Clubs, Educators, Boards of Trade and Veterans Groups offered their services to the League, not only as a contribution to the war effort, but also as a means of assisting the youth of the country along the road to good citizenship.
To successfully carry out this peacetime conversion, the League and its partnership had to find and provide incentives that would appeal to the age group of 13 to 19 years that could replace the wartime goals. How best to do this? The answer was found within and by a re-affirmation of the valued partnership. Over a period of time, a system of challenges and rewards in a variety of ways beginning with an annual two-week basic summer camp for deserving cadets, at a number of RCAF stations across Canada. This has come to be greatly sought after by 1st and 2nd year cadets.
In 1946, the RCAF introduced Flying Scholarship Awards for competition among Senior Cadets. In 1947, with the co-operation of the Air Training Corps of the United Kingdom, the first Overseas Exchange Awards were introduced and since expanded to over 12 countries in Europe and Scandinavia, United States, Eastern Middle East and the Pacific Rim.
An example of the acceptance of the Air Cadet movement occurred in 1949. Within six weeks of Newfoundland entering Canadian Confederation, the provincial and sponsoring structures were in place and six squadrons were approved. 1952 saw the first Leadership Training Course of seven weeks duration, and in 1953 a course for Drill Instructors. In 1958, the establishment, (maximum number allowed) of cadets was 25,000. In order for the League to operate within this number, it was necessary to introduce quotas. The result was a waiting list for boys wishing to join, and new units to be formed. In 1962, in view of the growing demand, the League was granted authority to increase, by stages, Air Cadet establishments to 30,000 cadets. In terms of numbers, peaks and valleys have alternated over the years, but the cadets and the League continued to flourish.
In 1968, the three elements of the Canadian Forces were unified. At this time, the Air Cadet League lost its original partner, the RCAF, and started a new partnership with the Canadian Forces. In 1969, a Directorate of Cadets was formed at National Defence Headquarters to create policies and coordinate the activities of the three different cadet movements- Air, Sea and Army Cadet units.
In the early seventies, a pleasant challenge presented itself. For some time girls had shown interest and willingness to be part of the cadet programme. Recognizing the valuable factor of family participation, the League authorized the formation of girl cadet “flights” attached to established squadrons, and by 1974, this had grown to 115 flights and 2,500 girl cadets across the country. While the girls participated in the formal squadron training, certain activities were denied them by virtue of wording in the original Charter. One of the purposes stated in the original Charter being: “… to establish Air Cadet units for boys under 18 years of age.” A whole chapter of chagrin and laughter can be written on alternative subjects and activities suggested by the girls themselves. Something had to be done.
The League made it clear that all activities and opportunities would be available to girl cadets. In 1975, the National Defence Act was minutely amended to read “persons” in lieu of boys. This made provision for females to participate fully in all segments of the cadet programme. (Perhaps it can be said, as a result, elsewhere in the Canadian Forces.) Today, girls represent a large percentage of the cadet establishment.
|Air Cadet Wings Parade (power flying scholarship graduation), St Andrews, Manitoba, 2008|
The cadet training year coincides with the school year. From September to the following August, during 50 periods of approximately one-hour duration at the squadron, the syllabus covers a number of mandatory subjects which the Junior Cadets are required to pass, usually in their second year, before graduating to Senior Level and advanced aviation subjects, practical leadership exercises and special activities. In unison is assembly and parade training.
Leadership and citizenship is paramount in Air Cadet training. So, is it any wonder that today, tonight, tomorrow, Air Cadets stand possessed of immaculate appearance, impressive bearing, and a future that is not a rudderless future, by accepting the knowledge that before you can lead you must be led. As their experience advances, cadets may qualify for higher rank, added responsibilities and compete for special summer activities and training awards.
The principle being with increased knowledge comes increased responsibility, and added opportunity. Apart from absorbing the attributes of good citizenship, standards of mental alertness, physical fitness and qualifying for rank structure up to Warrant Officer First Class, what are some of the opportunities earned by this personal discipline? Space and time does not allow for a full description of each. All are summer courses, and while locations may change from time to time, the majority are conducted at Canadian Forces bases.
The DND provides the control, graduate and Senior Cadets form the staff. Several objectives are attained, among which being the valuable advancing experience gained by all and the opportunity to utilize such, usually during July and August of each year, when the DND conducts what is possibly the largest Glider Pilot Training programme in the world. To conduct and sustain such an all- encompassing programme requires the continuous development of skilled personnel.
It would not be proper for me to end without emphasizing the Air in Air Cadets. The Air Cadet League Of Canada has quite an “Air Force” of its own, consisting of over 50 gliders and 30 tow aircraft, winches, trailers etc; owned by individual Provincial Committees. Each is civilian-licenced. Each year across the nation, thousands of Senior Cadets will have earned the opportunity to compete through squadron and Provincial Selection Boards for the coveted Private Pilot and Glider Pilot Scholarship Awards. All are
worthy candidates. Up to 300 are selected and trained, mainly at Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association locations, to Transport Canada Private Pilot Licence Standards. Over 300 are selected and trained to Transport Canada Glider Pilot Standards at DND designated Glider Pilot Training Schools. In time the product of the two meld and become what may be termed a “Cadet Air Operation.”
Throughout the spring and fall, a Glider Familiarization programme is conducted in each Province. This provides for an added squadron activity when, subject to the vagaries of weather, an attempt is made to expose each cadet in each squadron to an air experience at least twice per year.
Thus, the spring and fall gliding operation and the Regional Training Schools supplement each other. This is paramount. It includes the participation of our Private Pilot graduates as they qualify as Tow Pilots, our Glider Pilot graduates as Fam pilots, and as they too qualify as Instructors, plus other cadets in logistic support.
Many volunteers in this youth movement must have been asked the same question. Why? Whatever the myriad of volunteer time, whatever the funds invested personally, privately or otherwise throughout half a century, a true added value is on record. While there is always the odd exception to the rule, and weed themselves out very quickly, our cadets do not squander time, pr, the time of the courts. What price factor may be attached to this? What price to parental peace of mind as a result? Volunteer time is well spent. The system achieves much via the required activities. The paramilitary discipline is not overly strict. No reward or award comes automatic or exactly easy. As a result each cadet experiences pride in achievement and thus self-esteem.
How do we know these things? When the Charter was born many like myself were among the first Air Cadets in the country of our birth, served in wartime with former Air cadets; and thankfully, when accompanied by the joys of peace, watched our children and succeeding generations benefit and graduate from what we feel is the finest youth movement in Canada.
In the staff of every squadron, on each Sponsoring Committee, Provincial Committee, and at the National level of the Air Cadet League of Canada are a preponderance of former Air Cadets, giving back' something of which they received and perpetuating the movement. There for with pride in our past let us celebrate proudly. With faith in our future let us bow to that past and roll up our / sleeves to a challenging future, for in this day and age of questionable standards of conduct, rapidly expanding technology, man
having been and returned from the moon and continues to explore outer space, advance the science of extended life, we can not expect this age group of our nation to accept a programme that does not contain a challenge. A programme chosen by them because it contains a challenge not found elsewhere.
Contrary to some opinions, cadets are not committed to any military service. Some, utilizing their options in life do join, and are eagerly accepted; promotion to the rank of General being on record. Among many law enforcement officers of the land are former Air Cadets. In my capacity as an Airline Transport Licenced pilot over 40 years crossed trails with many Captains and First officers of today’s major and regional carriers, and how nice it was to recognize and be recognized by former Air Cadets; but most are and will be good and leading citizens in all walks of life.
Alen T. Hansen
Alen T. Hansen, born in New Zealand, trained in Canada as a Wireless Air Gunner in 1943 before going overseas, completing an OTU on Wellingtons just prior to war’s end. Returning to New Zealand, he emigrated to Canada, attending the University of Manitoba, and gaining a Business Management certificate. He later became a bush pilot and worked for Trans Canada Pipelines, inspecting thousands of miles of pipelines and logging over 20,000 hours of flying time.
Mr. Hansen dedicated a significant portion of his life to the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program and aviation in Manitoba. He was President of the Wartime Pilots' and Observers' Association in 2006-2007, also serving as the Chairman of the Flying Committee with the Winnipeg Flying Club for eight years, as well as a founding member of the Western Canada Aviation Museum.
Mr. Hansen served on Manitoba Provincial Committee of the Air Cadet League for 24 years, active in the Gliding Program. He was awarded a Certificate of Honour in recognition of outstanding service in 1981, the Douglas Inglis Award for exceptional long-term service in 2011 and also awarded the distinction of Life Member of the Air Cadet League of Canada (Manitoba) Inc. Mr. Hansen has sponsored the Alen T. Hansen Trophy since 1973. This trophy is awarded annually to the top Manitoba Glider Pilot Scholarship graduate. Alen T. Hansen passed away on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Janusz Żurakowski: Glider Pilot
by Bill Zuk
Now one of Canada’s aviation icons, Janusz Żurakowski’s first flights were in gliders in Poland.
Ten of the burliest boys grabbed up the ends of the long rubber bungee cord laid out in front of the glider in the shape of a “V.” One of them attached the end of the line to the tow hook on the glider’s nose. Another boy standing behind the glider, reached behind the tail and attached a long length of rope to an eyehook. That rope was securely attached to a stake driven into the ground. In the open cockpit, sixteen- year-old Janusz Żurakowski snuggled down in the seat, tightly cinching up the lap belt.
At a command, “pochod” “march”, the group moved forward and down the ridge, drawing up the slack on the cord. The club members had now pulled the bungee cord tight. “Przesuwany szybko” came the cry and the boys as one struggled forward against the tension of the rubber cord. “Teraz!” “now!” shouted Janusz who raised his hand and dropped it swiftly as a signal to the boy at the tail. He cut the line with one swift slash of a long kitchen knife.
The Wrona [Crow] glider jumped into the air directly into the wind, sailing over the launch crew who had thrown themselves face first on the ground. Bronek looked up as the glider gracefully dipped and turned. He smiled as he saw his brother was skillfully riding an updraft. Janusz was having an easy time, swirling around on a thermal deflected by the ridge.
|Bungee launch of a Komar glider|
That summer in 1932 would be an exciting one for young Janusz Żurakowski who had caught the “flying bug” at the age of seven, when he had been trudging home from school in Garlowin, Poland, and had been startled by the sight of a beautiful “white bird” swooping above him. That day, Żurakowski had breathlessly chased after the humming contraption until it was out of sight. He never forgot that first glimpse of a flying machine.
In 1927, the Żurakowski family moved to Lublin, where his father, Dr. Adam Żurakowski was a district medical inspector. Janusz attended the Stanislaw Staszic High School but did not take a great interest in his studies. He loved skating, skiing and swimming but he commented later, “I didn’t show too much enthusiasm for learning; I would rather follow in the footsteps of my brother,” who was studying aeronautical engineering and had become an accomplished glider pilot.
By the 1920s, Poland was establishing an aviation industry producing “home” designs for both civil and military aviation demands. Civil aviation in Poland developed along the lines of other European nations with the Polskie Linie Lotnicze (LOT), state airline established at Strachowice Airfield in 1928. Civilian airfields provided training facilities as recreational flying in both glider and powered aircraft became popular.
Air-minded young Poles were in the forefront of gliding and sailplane advances in the inter-war years. Whereas Germany had embraced gliding as a means of training a generation of future military pilots, the Polish gliding movement had developed as a recreational activity. During this exciting period in Polish aviation history, Janusz’s brother, Bronislaw, three years his senior, studied aeronautics at Warsaw Polytechnic.
Żurakowski emulated his brother’s interest in flying and began to build flying models at an early age. Both he and Bronislaw were members of a school model club where larger and more elaborate models were constructed. This hobby became Żurakowski’s preoccupation where he excelled at the construction of intricate balsa and cloth models. His memories of that period reveals that there were numerous model plane competitions between schools and at regional and national levels.
In 1929, when Żurakowski was 15 years old, he won first prize in a national competition for flying models. His award included a flight in a small single-engine Lublin LKL-5 trainer at the Lublin Flying Club, piloted by a First World War veteran, Sergeant Żuromski. His account of the flight came later in 1959 when he wrote: “I remember what was surprising to me as we got up: that everything on the ground seemed to move very slowly. We were up 20 minutes. Coming down, everything moved faster … I knew two things: that I had to finish school and that then I would fly!” This brief first flight was the beginning of Żurakowski’s life- long passion for flying.
One obstacle had to be overcome, however. Żurakowski intimated that “the idea of becoming a pilot met strong opposition from my father, who made sure that his doctor friends at the Aviation Medical Examination Centre in Warsaw refused my application. I allegedly suffered from tuberculosis in the collarbone.”
Although upset over his treatment, Żurakowski persevered, and, in 1932, as a youth in high school, he gained flying skills at the controls of gliders. He signed on for a gliding course at the Gliding School in Polichno-Pinczow, instructed by Tadeusz Ciastula, attaining a Category A and B there. During his next holidays, after his matriculation exams, at another gliding club camp, he attained his Category C, which called for greater proficiency and the ability to climb above the launch point.
His first piloting experiences were still memorable years later. “Flying in the right kind of weather over a beautiful countryside is wonderful. Seeing the sunset above the clouds is not to be forgotten; and flying is relaxing. It takes the tension out of me … The best flying really, which I remember, was flying gliders and sailplanes.”
The operation of the single-place glider involved a team of helpers stationed near the ramp at the apex of a hill. Unlike modern gliding or sailplane launches, Janusz recalled “… one started, without using a tow plane or takeoff winch, just with the help of two rubber lines and six people, who on order pulled and ran downhill, stretching the lines, the tail of the glider being secured by a quick-release peg. On the pilot’s command, ‘release,’ the tail was released, and the glider shot in the air like from a catapult. The pilot started flying figure eights trying to catch either up-draughts or thermals. Considering the low height of the launching field, that was quite an achievement.”
By 1934, Żurakowski had completed his matriculation at Lublin. While his sisters intended to study in Warsaw, he dreamed of becoming a pilot, although his father did not approve. Dr. Żurakowski threw up many objections but his son determined there was another way to achieve his goal. He volunteered to join the Army. “As a graduate, I had a choice of service. Of course, I choose the Aviation Reserve Cadet Officers’ School at Deblin and as an 20-year-old candidate, I joined the Polish Air Force.” That year, Żurakowski enrolled in Deblin as one of only 40 successful applicants out of 2,000 prospects. At that time, the fledgling air arm was part of the army, which had a long and proud history, and, from 1935 to 1937, much of Żurakowski’s studies prepared him for a military career.
Even after completing his flight-training course under the able tutelage of Stefan Witozenc, and a promotion to Sub-Lieutenant, Żurakowski continued to fly gliders in his spare hours, and loved the sheer exhilaration of flying. He spent his holiday leave soaring in gliders at the Pinczow gliding field. There he carried out a 15-hour flight in a Komar [Mosquito] glider, which was an extraordinary accomplishment, considering the crude construction of gliders and the primitive conditions of flying at the time.
In July 1938, Żurakowski went to the famous Gliding Academy in Bezmiechowa near the Carpathian Mountains. Earlier, in May of that year, the school had received worldwide acclaim when one of its young pilots, Tadeusz Gora, had set an international record. After starting from Bezmiechowa, Gora had reached the city of Wilno, his family home, establishing a new record for the longest flight (578 km) and winning first place in the World Lilienthal Medal Competition. A year earlier Wanda Molibowska had flown above
Bezmiechowa for over a day (exactly 24 hours and 14 minutes), a record that wasn’t surpassed for two decades.
Żurakowski was determined to leave his mark on Bezmiechowa, a quest which almost led to tragedy. The school’s gliders were constantly in use, so he arranged to take a Delphin [dolphin] high-performance glider out at night when he had a better chance of having it for a long period of time. The dangers of a night launch were apparent but with the proper use of the variometer, a climb indicator mounted in the glider, Żurakowski judged that he could manage the flight safely. He recalled that on the night he chose for his flight, “It was pitch black and I could not see the top of the hills that I knew were just below.” Soon after the takeoff, Żurakowski sensed that the wind had shifted and taken him over the hilltop.
At the last moment, Żurakowski glimpsed the dim outline of the horizon and the hill in front of him. Banking the Delphin steeply, his wingtip caught the top branches of a fir tree on the slopes of Slone and he crashed heavily. The young pilot cracked his head and didn’t remember how he managed to crawl back to the Academy buildings as he lost his memory for a couple of days.
With his head wound healed, Żurakowski reported back to his squadron. Despite his crash, gliders remained his first love in the air. Recalling the period later, he remembered that he had begun his first aerobatics in gliders, and had attracted a great deal of interest from both civilian and military officials as a leading glider pilot in Poland.
In early 1939 came news that Poland would field a team for a gliding competition at the 1940 Olympic Games to be held in Rome. Żurakowski was selected to be one of two military pilots that along with two civilian fliers would make up the Polish team. As war neared in the late summer of 1939, the plans for the Polish Olympic gliding team were suddenly dropped.
After his return to the squadron, Żurakowski learned that his skills in the P.11c single-seater fighter had led his flight commander to identify him as a possible instructor with responsibilities for tactical and weapons training. Orders for Zurakowski to return to the Central Flying School in Deblin as an instructor came in the spring of 1939. He bitterly complained to his commanding officer about the transfer. “I asked him ‘why would you lose a fully qualified fighter pilot at this time?’ He stared at me and then pointed his
finger at me, exclaiming, ‘I had no choice. They asked for you.”
It would soon be evident why Żurakowski had been chosen as an advanced flight instructor. That summer Poland prepared for war; there would be little opportunity for Janusz Żurakowski to think about gliders again.
Wrona Glider at the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow, Poland
It was a pleasure to represent the Toronto Chapter of the CAHS and the national CAHS for the presentation of the Douglas MacRitchie Memorial Award at Centennial College in Toronto on Feb. 19, 2014. Andril Ralko of North York was the recipient of the $500 scholarship, presented to the top graduating student in the highly regarded Aircraft Maintenance Technician Course at Centennial during the college’s gala Student Awards Night 2014.
The scholarship was established by Douglas’ family and friends. Douglas (CAHS member no. 76) was an exceptional volunteer for the society, who played a key role for many years in the production and distribution of the CAHS Journal, and had many friends in the aviation community. He was a national director at the time of his death at Burlington, August 20, 1980, while flying his Stinson 108, CF-DAF, to Fort Erie, to visit his brother, Bruce, at Fleet Industries Ltd. in Fort Erie and help in the restoration of a Cornell.
Andril told me he had tried to research information on Douglas from the Internet, but wasn’t successful. I was able to mail him a copy of Bill Wheeler’s excellent In Memoriam tribute to Douglas in the Journal Vol. 18, No. 4, winter 1980 (transcribed below - Editor). I also referred Andril to a story in the Welland Tribune, headlined “Niagara College urged to spread wings and teach pilots.” The story described how the Welland Aero Center, of which Bruce is president, has trained about six hundred pilots over the years - many of whom have gone on to successful careers in civil or military aviation.
Bruce also ensured that Douglas’ memory continues to live on through the presentation of an award presented in Douglas’ name for a volunteer in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum maintenance restoration program. The award is presented at the CWHM Annual General Meeting.
Centennial College, established in 1966, is Ontario’s first community college. It primarily serves the eastern Greater Toronto Area, with four campuses and seven satellite locations. Led by President Ann Buller, who became president in June 2004, Centennial is best known for exemplary teaching, innovative programming and extensive partnership building.
Douglas Graham MacRITCHIE
1924 - 1980
By William J. Wheeler
Reprinted from the CAHS Journal Vol 18 No 4 Winter 1980
(Note: the first several paragraphs describing Doug's aircraft accident and the subsequent search have been omitted. Other than minor spelling corrections, the rest of the article is as it appears in the Journal - Editor)
Doug MacRitchie was one of those capable and quietly enthusiastic people who are the real strength of an organization like the CAHS. He was the sort of person who, when once convinced of an organization's value, makes a whole-hearted commitment. It is difficult to fully assess the extent and importance of his contribution to our JOURNAL. His name seldom appeared in its pages although his efforts were acknowledged occasionally (but all too rarely it now seems) in our Editorials. And yet, almost since the beginning every copy of every issue passed through Doug's hands in his capacity of Distribution Manager.
Doug joined the CAHS in June 1963 at the Oshawa Airshow (member no. 76) along with so many others who became prominent in our Society and within weeks he was taking an active part in its operation. At that time the executive of our young and relatively small group was searching for a location where our JOURNALS could be collated and stapled on a regular basis; Doug immediately offered the use of his basement playroom.
A typical JOURNAL issue would arrive at the MacRitchie home in the form of sixteen cartons each containing 1000 pages. These were laid out in sequence on the ping-pong table for collation by a crew of volunteers who circled it endlessly, it seemed. Stapling was done on a machine which came to be known as the "Long MK. II", designed and built by the late Don Long. Doug presided over the entire operation and then undertook to mail each issue (usually with the help of son Peter) and store the remaining several hundred copies. As our stock of back issues grew, Doug constructed shelves to hold them, filling an entire wall of the room which was now unofficially but effectively devoted to CAHS use. These back issues which have always been an important source of revenue eventually overflowed the basement and had to be stored in the MacRitchie attic. Although it became necessary a few years ago to disperse stock to one or two other members of our executive, Doug still kept the largest portion while retaining an amazingly accurate mental record of our, by then, extensive inventory. With Shel Benner, our Membership Secretary, he shared an equally impressive faculty for remembering with accuracy those among our hundreds of members who were currently paid up.
In 1972, with the switch to professionally done saddle stitching our collating sessions came to an end and were succeeded by "stuffing and stamping" sessions. These get-togethers also proved valuable as informal meetings where a great deal of JOURNAL planning was carried out. Often there was input from members who, because of the continually changing make-up of the group, might not otherwise have been involved. While serving a practical purpose they were enjoyable social occasions thanks to the hospitality of Doug, his wife Fae and the entire MacRitchie family. None of those who were ever present will forget how good the coffee and doughnuts tasted as we surveyed with satisfaction the stock of brand new JOURNALS ready to be taken to the post office in the morning. Doug's role in the CAHS was obviously a key one, particularly in the production and distribution of our JOURNAL. He will not easily be replaced.
Doug's unfailing readiness to help showed itself in many other ways and few who knew him could not recall some thoughtful act on his part. Charlie Catalano, our longtime Toronto Chapter President, remembers just such an incident. On a winter day a year or so ago Charlie had driven out to the Markham airport for a flight in his own elderly aircraft, an Aeronca Chief of 1946 vintage. At the airport he ran into Doug who had just flown in from Maple (near Toronto - Editor) and together they walked over to where the Chief was tied down. Charlie was about to climb into the aircraft when he discovered that the cabin floor was inches deep in a pink sludge and smelled strongly of gas. Immediately he realized that his gas tank, located just ahead of the instrument panel, must have sprung a leak and he was now looking at its contents.
As Charlie stood wondering how to handle the problem Doug went over to DAF (CF-DAF, his Stinson - Editor) and returned with his tool kit. Immediately he pitched in and with Charlie helping soon had the cowling off, the gas lines disconnected and the tank removed ready to be taken in for repairs. All this, done in temperatures below freezing and in an exposed location, demonstrated the rare sort of practical meaning Doug gave to simply being a friend.
Doug MacRitchie was born in Toronto on 24 December 1924 and grew up there, attending Earl Grey Public School and Danforth Tech. He joined Sangamo Electric early in 1942 and his employment with that firm, until his death 38 years later, was interrupted only by war service. In December 1943 he enlisted in the RCAF and became an LAC Aero Engine Mechanic. He was stationed successively at No. 1 Technical Training School; No. 8 Repair Depot, Stevenson Field Winnipeg; and No. 19 Service Flying Training School, Vulcan, Alberta. Upon his discharge in March 1946 he returned to Toronto and three years later married Alice Fae McLellan, formerly of Drinkwater, Saskatchewan, and at that time a registered nurse in Toronto. Two children were born, Peter and Sharon.
Doug had always been fascinated by aviation and Fae recalls that when he first learned of the CAHS she sensed immediately that our Society was exactly the sort of interest he had been looking for. His long and energetic involvement must bear out her supposition. In 1977, after actively supporting the CAHS for so many years Doug finally agreed to become a director.
During the early 'sixties Doug often worked weekends for Carldon Aviation, a Toronto Island Airport Cessna dealership, in which his brother Bruce was a partner. One result was that the Carldon "Bus" regularly appeared at southern Ontario air shows, used by Doug to transport the CAHS display panels. In payment for his work with Carldon, Doug was given flying lessons by Maple Air Service, gaining his pilot's licence in July 1966. He bought his Stinson 108 in the U.S. in April 1972 and immediately applied for and obtained a dormant registration, CF-DAF, containing both his and his wife's initials. The Stinson was always beautifully maintained and was given a tasteful red, white and ultramarine colour scheme. Doug flew it an average of 100 hours per year, mainly in Ontario. Longer trips included participation in the "Great Canadian Air Race" to Montreal and a flight to a Waco Club meeting at Dayton, Ohio. The elegant old Stinson was a cherished possession and afforded its owner much pleasure and satisfaction.
Two separate annual CAHS awards are to be instituted in Doug's memory. While precise criteria are still in the process of being finalized the basic ideas have been agreed upon. (Donations to the "Doug MacRitchie Memorial Fund" made payable to the Canadian Aviation Historical Society will be acknowledged with tax deductible receipts.) A scholarship will be presented by the CAHS in Doug MacRitchie's name to a top student in the highly regarded Aircraft Maintenance Technician's Course at Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technologies. The College will select the recipient and the presentation will be made at the annual Transport Canada Maintenance Symposium (Ontario Region) by a member of the MacRitchie family.
Within our Society recognition in the form of a scroll and possibly a small honorarium will be given to a member whose involvement has been substantial but unsung. Where our C. Don Long and Research Awards acknowledge our writers and researchers the new award will be for the sort of person whose contribution emulates that made to our Society for so long and in such unselfish fashion by the late Doug MacRitchie.
We tend to think
There is no end,
And then one day
I lost a friend.
- from a poem written by Bruce MacRitchie 6 September 1980 en route to Munich, Germany.
All photos of Doug MacRitchie were provided to the Journal by the MacRitchie family and used with permission.
BRISTOL BOLINGBROKE MK. IV DONATED TO 17 WING
TRAINER SLOWLY SANK INTO PRAIRIE SOD FOR 60 YEARS
By Sgt Bill McLeod – 17 Wing Photojournalist
Briefly and at a very low altitude, a Bristol Bolingbroke Mark IV aircraft took to the sky for the first time in over 60 years near MacDonald, Manitoba, as it was lifted from its resting place in the prairie sod on October 23, 2013. The Bolingbroke was donated to 17 Wing by David Morris, Ian Morris, Stephen Morris and Royal Canadian Air Force Captain 20940 Sean Morris – Class of 1997. The Bolingbroke was originally purchased in 1946 by George Morris, grandfather of the men, for $150 as surplus from British Commonwealth Air Training Plan RCAF Station Macdonald. The aircraft was towed from the rear wheel by a grain truck to the family farm, just a few miles away.
“I think the intention was to use the bits and pieces of it for farming,” says Captain Sean Morris, a helicopter pilot who was just posted from 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage la Prairie, just a few miles from the family farm, to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Esquimault, British Columbia. “From what I’ve been told, all they really took off was the tail wheel, used on a wheel barrow, and the gas tanks for use on a sprayer,” he added. “My dad remembers pumping up the hydraulics and spinning the turret around,” says Captain Morris. “In reality, it is probably his love of the plane and aviation that got me into it. So I guess I am a second generation inspired pilot.”
From October 21 until October 30, the 17 Wing Recovery and Salvage Team led by Warrant Officer Steve Sagriff and assisted by members of 17 Wing Transport, Electrical, Mechanical Engineers carefully dug the aircraft out of the ground and gently disassembled the aircraft for trucking back to 17 Wing. “We had to dig down about four feet with the excavator,” said Warrant Officer Sagriff. “The guys on the Recovery and Salvage team are a great bunch of guys,” said Sagriff. “They didn’t even stop for lunch on Tuesday (October 22) until 3:00 p.m. They just kept saying, ‘We’re so close, so close’,” he said. “The TEME (17 Wing Transport, Electrical, Mechanical Engineers) guys were great too,” he added. “They were slinging lumber around with us and everything.”
On Tuesday, October 29, the last and biggest piece of the Bristol Bolingbroke Mark IV, the fuselage, was lifted off the flatbed in Winnipeg under the watchful eye of 17 Wing Heritage Officer Lieutenant Amber Dodds. “It’s going to be a long process to restore it,” Lieutenant Dodds said. “Our Ghost Squadron is a group of 5 volunteers who come in every Monday so it would be impossible to provide a guess on when the aircraft would be completed,” she said. RCAF Station Macdonald is one of the waypoints for the students doing pilot training with 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School at Portage la Prairie so the aircraft is familiar to everyone at the school. “If you ask anyone who has been flying at the school in Portage for any length of time, they will know the plane,” says Captain Sean Morris. “It’s an easy thing to see from the air.
In the early to mid-thirties, the Royal Air Force was woefully under-equipped to wage any kind of modern war. Both fighters and bombers were typically fabric-covered bi-planes not capable of much more than 200 miles per hour. Armament of a .303 or two was considered adequate. Government exercises seemed to prove that bombers flying in neat boxes could properly cover each other with those rifle calibre machine guns. Because fighters were nearly as slow, it was assumed that bombers would always get through – speed being considered relatively unimportant.
With hindsight, of course, this stance can be seen to be completely ridiculous ...
By 1935, Germany began to re-arm, in flagrant disregard for the Treaty of Versailles. They busily began building a totally modern air force ... that finally convinced Britain to grudgingly begin upgrading.
The impetus for a totally new aircraft came from Lord Rothermere, a British newspaper magnate. With foresight, he had seen what would be required in the future.
The Bristol Aircraft Company had begun work on a high-speed commercial monoplane with retractable gear capable of at least 250 miles per hour. When Rothermere's rival, Lord Beaverbrook, ordered an American DC-1, he was stung into action. Lord Rothermere had a Mercury-engined version of the new Bristol aircraft built to his specifications. This machine, he christened "Britain First", and presented it to the air ministry for testing. It did indeed catch the air ministry's attention and pointed up the inadequacies of their existing craft. Tests showed a top speed of 307 mph, or 285, fully loaded.
A military version (now known as the Blenheim) was soon produced, with the wing mounted higher to provide for a modest bomb bay area. It had a controversial powered upper turret, as well (this last item reduced the speed to 265 mph). The government was committed heavily to this new type.
Events, however had overtaken them.
By this time, of course, the norm was for eight-gun fighter planes capable of well over 300 miles per hour, e.g. Spitfires and Messerschmitt Bf 109s. The latter had proven themselves amply during the Spanish Civil War.
The Blenheim's cruising speed with a load was barely, or even less than 200 mph. With only a single machine gun pointing forward and another in the turret, it was incapable of defending itself. It had virtually no armour plating. Its radios, navigation equipment, oxygen systems and heaters were all outdated. Even the British bombs and bombsights were grossly inefficient, compared to the current German items.
But ... it was the best Britain had, and consequently, they were used in a variety of roles at the outbreak of hostilities, including flying the very first sortie of the war. The type was even operated as a fighter in the intruder role, usually under cover of darkness ... surprisingly with some success.
As soon as other types became available, the Blenheims remaining in service were relegated to training, utility, and communications roles.
|Bristol Bolingbroke recovered by WCAM. Photo by Gord Nowicky|
|Bristol Bolingbroke in flight. Photo via the Canadian Museum of Flight|
The RCAF wanted a maritime patrol general reconnaissance (GR) aircraft and, in accordance with Canadian policy, looked to Britain for its supply. The Bristol 142M Blenheim was being tested primarily as a bomber; the Bolingbroke, a maritime GR development of the Blenheim [there were substantial differences], was designed as an interim replacement for the Avro Anson GR aircraft of RAF Coastal Command. The Blenheim was ruled out because of its poor visibility. This narrowed the choice to the Bolingbroke.
Although the British Air Ministry had decided to drop Bolingbroke development, at the RCAF’s request the Bolingbroke was continued and it first flew on 24 September 1937. When the excellent performance of the Bolingbroke became known, the Air Ministry decided to redesign the Blenheim to incorporate some of its features, resulting in the Blenheim IV which, in outward appearance, is very similar to the Bolingbroke.
The Bolingbroke was of all-metal, stressed-skin construction. It carried a crew of four and had one fixed forward firing 0.303 Browning machine gun in the port wing and a turret-mounted 0.303 (first a single, and later twin Brownings) for rear defence. It carried up to 1,000 lb (454 kg) of bombs.
The contract for RCAF Bolingbroke production was given to Fairchild Aircraft of Longueil, Quebec in November 1937 and covered 18 aircraft. The first Bolingbrokes had all-British equipment and were designated Bolingbroke Is. The first of these made its maiden flight in September 1939.
Fairchild was also given the contract to develop the type as a seaplane for coastal GR. To improve the performance, the RCAF ordered 920 hp Mercury XV engines installed in place of the 800 hp Mercury VIII inherited from the Blenheim and so created a new version, the Bolingbroke III, that was first flown as a seaplane on 28 August, 1940. Only one of the Bolingbroke seaplane variant was completed.
The principal version of the Bolingbroke was the Mk. IV which had the basic British airframe fitted with Mercury XV engines and numerous Fairchild Canada designed refinements including new cockpit instrumentation and equipment to better accommodate both overwater and cold weather operations. The latter included, for example, rubber de-icing boots installed on all wing and tail leading edges. In RCAF Service the type was nicknamed the "Bolly" with the initial variant of the Mk. IV used in the intended Bomber Reconnaissance (BR – the RCAF equivalent to the RAF's GR) role.
The most numerous of all Bolingbroke variants was the Mk. IVT for bombing and gunnery training. Like the later-service Mk. IVs of the BR squadrons, this variant was fitted with a Boulton Paul Type C turret mounting two Browning machine guns. Some of these aircraft were later modified as target tugs with the armament removed. A total of 626 Bolingbrokes were built between December 1939 and September 1943.
Early Bolingbrokes served operationally on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and two squadrons also served in Alaska during the Aleutians campaign. The most prolific users of the Bolingbrokes were in the bombing and gunnery schools of the BCATP.
TECHNICAL DETAILS (Mk. IV/IVT):
Engine: Two 920 hp Bristol Mercury XV radial engines
Maximum speed: 262 mph (421 km/hr at 14,000 ft (4,267 m)
Cruising speed: 214 mph (344 km/hr at 14,000 ft (4,267 m)
Empty weight: 8,963 lb (4,069 kg)
Loaded weight: 14,500 lb (6,583 kg)
Span: 56 ft 4 in (17.17 m)
Length: 42 ft 9 in (13.03 m)
Height: 9 ft 10 in (3.0 m)
Wing area: 469 sq ft (43.57 sq m)
Armament: One 0.303 Browning machine gun in the wing, and one, later two, 0.303 Brownings in a dorsal turret; 1,000 lb bomb load.
|Bolingbroke from the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum on display at Brandon, Manitoba. Photo by Bill Zuk|
|A Bolingbroke sits in the long grass in the reclamation yard at Westbourne, Manitoba. Photo by Bill Zuk|
- by Will Chabun
The Royal Canadian Air Force had a certain wartime tradition: when mechanics finished repairs on an aircraft, one, perhaps more, of them got to go on the test flight. It helped keep up mechanics' morale. It meant trained eyes and ears checked for problems when in the air. It meant that mechanics put their own lives, or those of buddies, on the line when a repaired aircraft flew again.
And that was how Anne Heath-Moulding faced one of the most frightening moments of her life. It was 1943 or ’44 and her new husband, an aero engine mechanic at the sprawling (she was told it had about 3,000 personnel in late 1943) wartime 5 Bombing and Gunnery school at Dafoe, 150 kilometres north of Regina, was scheduled to go up in an aircraft. Mere hours later, she heard sirens, then saw smoke on the horizon. As she stood, transfixed, a buddy of her husband blurted out a question: “What are you going to do if George is in there?”
“Some friend!” Heath-Moulding, sharp as a tack at 89, said last autumn. George was in another aircraft, so he was OK. But it was the kind of thing you don't forget. Nor does she forget Boomtown, the ramshackle strip of shacks and converted granaries where 450 airmen, wives and children lived. None had electricity, running water or indoor toilets. Lacking insulation, the tiny stove left the young couple's shack so cold she routinely slept in three pairs of her husband's long johns.
Aircraft took off all day and all night until 3 a.m. — with machine gun fire on the training range starting at 5 a.m. “I think I cried, that first year, more than I ever cried in my life,” said Heath-Moulding.
Born near Wolseley but raised in Regina, she met George Moulding (from Abernethy, northeast of Regina) at Regina's famous Trianon Ballroom on April 1, 1943. They married on Sept. 4 and after he rented living quarters near the Dafoe station, she took the 4 1/2 hour bus trip to join him. She was only 20. Just about the first thing she saw upon arrival was a young woman, “barely dressed”, brushing her teeth near one of the adjacent shacks; she was an airwoman who’d moved into an officer’s shack while his wife was in a Winnipeg hospital, recovering from a miscarriage. Another shack’s resident was a civilian pharmacist traumatized when the car he was driving was in a collision, killing his father; he would throw his head back and laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. “I was just terrified,” she recalled.
Near as she could determine, Boomtown's shacks were owned by farmers and businessmen from the district around it. With only coal-oil lamps for light, she couldn't read at night. Nor could she work on the base because of RCAF regulations. Thinking back on how she passed her time, she said, “I don't know — I really don't know!” A major improvement in her life came when George secured a battery-powered radio for his wife.
The RCAF gave remote stations like Dafoe, facilities like a bowling alley, skating rink, movie theatre and swimming pool that doubled as a reservoir for firefighting. Mart Kenney brought his famous band to play at a dance — though the night ended with mass food poisoning. There was even inadvertent humour, like when a tipsy airman tried to crawl over the perimeter fence -- mere feet from the guardhouse at the main gate. At the bowling alley, Heath-Moulding, her husband and their friends once began an evening with five consecutive strikes — causing the large, tipsy American setting up pins that night to emerge from his cubbyhole and ask, with much bafflement, “Wheah y’awl folks from???”
But times were tough, too. She remembers another young wife waiting in Boomtown for her husband to arrive at Dafoe. “He was flying in from Burma — and he never made it.” Near the station, one training aircraft accidentally landed atop another, decapitating the pilots in the lower one. Another, carrying five men, crashed near a school, “and the kids saw them burned to death”, said Heath-Moulding, who remembers a crash — perhaps this one — where she and a friend walked to the crash site and were struck by the odd sight of the airmen’s boots, every one yanked off by G-forces, lying separate from the bodies. The memory remains with her to this day.
Heath-Moulding decided to stay in Regina when George was posted in 1944 to a base in Manitoba from Dafoe. He survived the war, farmed for many years in the Abernethy district and lived until 2007. On her year at Boomtown, she looks back and says simply: “I grew up a lot.”
This is a lengthened version of an article that originally appeared in the Regina Leader-Post on November 10, 2012 and was republished in the CAHS Windsock, the newsletter of CAHS Roland Groome Regina.
The chapter is named in honour of Roland Groome, the first commercial pilot in Canada, a member of the Royal Air Force in the First World War, and a founder of the Regina Flying Club - and the CAHS Regina Chapter strives to represent all these areas of aviation. To do this, the chapter established ties with the Saskatchewan Aviation Council, the Airport Display Committee, and played a role in the launch of the Silver Dart stamp in 2009.
CAHS Regina also explores Saskatchewan’s rich and varied aviation history through monthly meetings. These gatherings range from popular film and photo nights to guest speakers from around the province and beyond. Past topics have include: military careers, continental air defense, international museum collections, ratio-controlled aircraft races, civilian flying operation and aviation entrepreneurs.
Their monthly newsletter, Windsock, records these fascinating talks and events and provides articles, announcements and other notable aviation news. CAHS chapters that have similar newsletters or newspapers are encouraged to share articles that would be of interest to the wider range of CAHS membership, to be posted on the CAHS History Newsreel of the national website.
For more information on CAHS Regina, see:
CAHS National website: http://www.cahs.ca/chapters/regina
CAHS Regina Chapter website:
Follow the chapter on Twitter: @CAHSRegina
The CAHS Roland Groome Regina Chapter will be hosting the 2014 CAHS AGM and Conference in Regina. Author Will Chabun is presently working on a “Call for Papers” for the conference, inviting authors, researchers and historians to submit written as well as media presentations for the speakers’ program of the conference.
A Memorable Festive Season
By G.R. Waver
December 1944; Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, England; home to two RCAF heavy bomber squadrons, namely No. 426 and No. 408. Ours is No. 408 "Goose" Squadron. We flew in Halifax aircraft; each of the four engines gave a 1,650 hp output. We are members of 6 Group, which has 14 RCAF heavy bomber squadrons in Yorkshire.
Here's a wee bit of background information. On 25th August 1944, our crew was posted to No. 408 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, from 1659 Conversion Unit, Topcliffe, Yorkshire.
Pilot F/O R.M. Armitage J.35566 “Bob”
Navigator F/L W.G. Heughan J.13150 “Gord”, or “Brother Heughan”
Bomb Aimer F/O S.R. Lloyd J.36908 “Lloyd,” or “Roy”
Wireless Air Gunner F/S G.R. Waver Rl66339 “Gordie” or “Chorchie”
Mid-Upper Gunner Sgt H.W. Sullivan Rl15588 “Sully”
Rear Gunner Sgt K. Beresford R69482 “Ken”
Flight Engineer Sgt J. Green (RAF) 1895570 “Jack”
(Ranks shown are as of 23 December 1944)
The three commissioned officers have living accommodation on the base. The four of us NCOs are billeted in Beningbrough Hall located about two miles from the field. Beningbrough Hall was commandeered during the war by the military. The Hall is the home of Lady Chesterfield; she currently lives in an adjacent building on the property. The Countess makes periodic inspections of the Hall accompanied by a senior air force officer. We have a room on the “attic” floor. Our Sergeants Mess is located about a ¼ mile from the base. Via bicycles and trucks for transportation, we survive.
Now, let's get back to the story. On the 24th of December we have a big party planned in our Sergeants’ Mess.
On the 23rd, a battle roster is posted for tomorrow’s operation—and our crew is on it. Why would anybody want us to go on a bombing trip on Christmas Eve, especially when we have a big mess party planned? Obviously we're going to miss the groggy shindig, and end up celebrating Xmas by having people shoot at us whilst we spoil the festive season for them.
December 24th: It’s foggy out. It’s pea soup weather; why even the birds are walking. Initial briefing is at 0800 for pilots, navigators, and bomb aimers; this is followed by the general briefing with all the crew members present. Unfortunately Sully is late reporting in to the Gunnery Section prior to briefing, and, as a consequence, a spare gunner is assigned to take over the mid-upper turret duties for this operation — F/Sgt A.W. Greig is the incumbent.
Fourteen bases used by German air force single-engine fighters operating over the Ardennes battle area are to be attacked today by both the 8th USAAF and the RAF Also, the objective is to hinder the movement of supplies by transport aircraft from the Ruhr to the German forces pressing forward in this area. Lohausen Airfield (now the civil airport for Dusseldorf) is the target allotted to RCAF Six Group. The American ground forces are having a rough time at St. Vith and also at Bastogne. The “Battle of the Bulge” is in full swing!
At briefing, we are told that there should be no problem with take-off. Visibility is at least 150 yards, and to assist us there will be three 45-gallon drums of burning oil spaced out along the left side of the runway to guide us. After passing by the third drum, you have a maximum, often seconds to lift off.
Our bombload? It’s 9 x 1,000 lb, 2 x 500 lb, and 2 x 250 pounders.
After briefing, a lorry drops us off at our dispersal unit where "L-Love” is parked. A pre-flight inspection is made by all crewmembers. A trolley accumulator is wheeled into position to relieve the aircraft's internal batteries of the initial starter load. One after another, the stone cold engines cough into life; it takes 50 gallons of petrol just to warm the four of them up.
Bob gives a hand signal. Chocks away. The entrance hatch is closed and secured. Our kite slowly moves to join the others wending their way along the perimeter track to the runway for take-off. Which runway to use? Why, the longest one of course; in fog there is no wind, no crosswind to cause troubles. Taxiing these heavy bombers is not easy. The pilots have to keep them on the narrow 50-foot wide perimeter track using the brakes, rudders and carefully judged bursts of power on the outer engines. If an aircraft should wander off the concrete, it could have problems in this wintertime Yorkshire muck.
The Thunderbird types, No. 426 Squadron are also on this do. They are coming around the perimeter from their dispersals across the field. Aircraft from the two squadrons alternate turns at take-off. There is radio silence. No R/T or W/T (radio telephony & wireless telegraphy). Visual instruction is received via a control van that is located to the left of the runway. As one bomber begins its take-off run, the next one turns onto the active runway, and is held there by the controller's red Aldis lamp until the runway is clear.
Finally it's our turn; there's the "Green" signal from the control van. At the side of the runway there's a small group of station personnel to wave us, "safe trip”. Keeping the bomber on the runway requires intense concentration; if it swings off at any speed the undercarriage could collapse. Bob opens the throttles slowly at first, then fully as the aircraft accelerates. There is a slight tendency to swing to starboard but the aircraft can be kept straight initially on the throttles, and, as the speed increases, by the rudders. The tail comes up easily as speed develops.
Jack is beside Bob assisting him with take-off. I'm in the Flight Engineer's section to operate the engine cowling gill controls. As we took off, we were watching the left side of the runway and counting. It seemed like an eternity until we saw the first drum of burning oil and we shouted “ONE”, a seemingly long pause followed, and then “TWO”, and finally “THREE”. In a few seconds, we lifted off in dense fog at 1145. Our speed was 110 knots. Upon gaining altitude, bright sunshine greeted us. This December 24th operation was our 17th and it was the one and only time that we took off in fog out of 34 operations.
It was rather an uneventful flight all the way to the target, and then things got a wee bit hairy with all the heavy flak coming up. We were continually flying through these huge black balls of smoke lingering in the sky, with the accompanying acrid smell of cordite that permeated the aircraft. On our bombing run at 16,000 feet, I was standing beside Bob (pilot), when all of a sudden there was this huge red ball of fire right in front of us that instantly turned black. There was a sound like hail rattling against our aircraft. I've seen enough of this scary tomfoolery, and I stepped down into my wee cubbyhole located right below Bob. I closed the curtain over my small window, held my breath, and quietly said "let's get the hell out of here". At 1452 hours, I listened to Roy's chatter via the intercom, "left, left, steady, s-t-e-a-d-y", and finally, "Bombs Gone".
On the way back to base, I received a coded Morse Code message instructing our squadron to divert to an airfield by the name of Earls Colne. It appears that we're going to miss the big Christmas Eve party in our mess, What else can go wrong?
Earls Colne, Essex. It's the home of two RA.F. Halifax squadrons, namely 296 and 297. They are actively involved in towing Horsa gliders. We landed at 1610. Being an RAF station means that the food is just on a par with our home field. We prefer to make a diversionary landing at an American Air Force base—the food is better, or at least it's prepared in a tastier manner.
It's Christmas Eve, and we are stuck down here in Essex. We have to stay overnight. It so happens that most of the station ground personnel have been granted Xmas leave. From some of the WAAF gals on the station, we heard that the “erks” are having a big party on New Year’s Eve, and furthermore, that they already have seven kegs of beer on hand for the occasion. After a bite to eat, we are assigned a bunk and given a blanket.
We tossed off our flying toots, and then it's goodnight; we are tired from our harrowing trip.
On Christmas morning, with not much else to do. Ken and I sauntered over to the Airmens’ Mess to check things out. Not a soul was around, and sure enough those seven tubs of joy were sitting there, just waiting to be plucked. We lifted one keg off its stand, and rolled it over to the Sergeants Mess, but alas we had forgotten all about a tap for the keg. So back we traipsed to the Airmens’ Mess, and, by this time, a chap was on location. We inquired if he could let us have the loan of a spout as we needed one for a keg of beer over at the Sergeants’ Mess. He checked around and finally came to the conclusion that the brewery had left him an extra one, as there were six kegs and seven taps. He handed us the extra tap, we thanked him, and returned triumphantly to our Mess. Catastrophe had struck. The impatient lads had emptied the round-bottomed fire pails of sand, hacked the keg open with the fire axes, and as the beer spewed forth, they rinsed out the fire pails with beer, refilled them, and drank heartily. The floor in one corner of the Mess was awash with beer and sand. So much waste, and Ken and I never got a drop of the suds for our efforts; it's just another wartime frivolity that went sour.
The best thing that is going to happen this Christmas day is that the Glenn Miller band has a radio program at 1 PM. Glenn is the greatest of the great band leaders of the ‘40s. The program began with the announcer reporting, "Major Glenn Miller, Director of the United States Army Air Forces Band, is missing. No trace of the plane has been found". The band duly made the promised broadcast from Paris on Christmas day - but without its devoted leader. The first number played was a special rendition by Glenn of an Old English ballad, “Oranges and Lemons". His band played as usual; it sounded better than ever. The announcements were made in the same clipped American drawl by a voice that was quite unmistakably Glenn Miller. It was a recording. The band had recorded six programs to ensure there would be no interruption in the weekly BBC broadcasts whilst the band was in France.
So how does one go about enjoying the Xmas festivities? Well, so far, we’ve had to go on a bombing operation. We had to take off in fog. We had a rough time over the target. We were diverted to Earls Colne; the “Beer Keg” fiasco. And now the sad news about Glenn Miller. Merry Christmas.
It was a considerable time later that I had information regarding Glenn Miller's disappearance. On Sunday, 15th December 1944, he took off from RAF station at Twin Woods, near Bedford, in a Norseman aircraft. The Norseman is a small utility transport plane with a high wing and a radial engine. It is officially designated a UC-64A. On board, in addition to Glenn, were Colonel Norman Basselle and an experienced American transport pilot, Flight Officer John R.S, Morgan of the 35th Depot Repair Squadron from Abbots Ripton. They were flying to France to prepare for a special show, which was to be broadcast live from Paris on Christmas Day. There had been no flying by RAF planes at Twin Woods all day; conditions weren’t good enough for training flights. But the field wasn't technically closed. If the Americans liked to take the responsibility, that was up to them, (the RAF had, in fact, advised them not to go). The fog was drifting in more thickly now, and as the Norseman taxied out towards the runway its outline became indistinct. Soon it disappeared altogether in the mist and fog. As the hours passed and Glenn didn't arrive in Paris it became apparent that he must be missing somewhere and most possibly it was in the vast area of the North Sea. A search was begun along the route from Bedford to Paris, a search which revealed nothing. RCAF aircrews participated in the search.
On the same day that Glenn went missing, 138 Lancasters of RAF No. 3 Group set out on a raid to bomb Siegen (a city about 100 miles east of Cologne), but the raid was recalled because bad weather prevented their fighter escorts from taking off. The raid was aborted south of Brussels, and on the homeward flight the usual procedure was carried out to jettison some of the bombload over the North Sea to get down to safe landing weight. Several RAF crewmembers recalled seeing a Norseman aircraft plunge into the sea below them as each of the bombers discharged a 4,000 lb blast bomb and a stream of incendiaries. While the evidence is inconclusive regarding Glenn’s final flight, it is possible an aborted RAF raid was involved. The jury is still out on this one.
Let's get back to Earls Colne. It’s the afternoon of Christmas Day. Ken and I are itching to do something, anything to alleviate our frustration caused by this unwelcome "Merry Christmas” scenario. So—with the wee little military issued penknife that each of us has "hidden” (stowed away) in one leg of our sheep-lined flying boots, we cut off our "rank" insignia and wandered over to the Officers Mess and spent the afternoon enjoying life as well as could be expected. According to the Geneva Convention (Red Cross), the penknife with the short blade is not considered a wartime weapon.
Boxing Day, Linton-on-Ouse is still fogged in. About a dozen of us chaps "borrowed” bicycles parked around the station. Remember, most of the personnel were on Xmas leave. We peddled our way into the town to visit a pub where we enjoyed a few grogs. Back on base whilst chatting with a few RAF types, I suggested (with tongue in cheek) that possibly we might be taking a few bicycles back home with us to Linton; we would hide them in our bomb bays.
December 27th: In the morning the weather is clearing; we can fly back to base. It will be so nice to get these flying boots off; after wearing them steadily for three days the wool lining in the insoles becomes matted and bunched up under the toes.
Prior to take-off, the local Service Police visited each aircraft and made us open our bomb bays to ensure there were no bicycles hidden there. Finally we are back home at Linton-on-Ouse.
So how did our squadron make out on our operation to Lohausen airfield? The usual interrogation of each crew revealed that the bombing carried out was "bang-on”, but unfortunately a number of our squadron's aircraft were damaged by the vicious flak being thrown up. Of the 13 that bombed the target, eight (including ours) had flak damage. Also, one of our aircraft has not been heard from; the kite captained by Flying Officer Dunwoodie is missing.
It wasn't until after the war that the 'hairy do” Dunwoodie's crew was subjected to, came to light.
The report reads as follows:
This all-Canadian crew took off from Linton-on-Ouse at 11:38 A.M. on the 24th of December 1944, in their Mark 7 Halifax bomber for what they thought was a four-and-a-half hour trip to bomb the airport at Dusseldorf in the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley.
Over the target, the bomb aimer had just released the bomb load when a German 88 mm shell came through the aircraft and on its way out the top took with it the pilots control column, blinding the pilot and leaving him unconscious. Other No. 408 Squadron aircraft were near enough to see the roof of the aircraft explode as the shell and debris tore through on the way out. They were also close enough to see five of the crew toil out a moment later and then slowly disappear from sight as their parachutes carried them safely to the ground.
Dusseldorf was no stranger to Bomber Command and No. 408 Squadron had visited there 11 times previously. The total damage inflicted in the area had been widespread and serious; serious enough to enrage the local population to take action of their own. The five crewmen who were seen to safely bail out were soon reported dead by the German authorities. The evidence is, of course, not clear but the family of one of the dead crewmen received a letter from a German padre years later asking forgiveness for the rash and hasty action the local townsfolk had taken.
When the pilot regained consciousness a few moments later, the aircraft was still in stable flight. He was unable to see but after he got no response from the nearby crew stations, he pressed the signal key to indicate bail-out to anyone still in the aircraft. As it happened, the rear gunner was still in the turret but somewhat uncertain as to what had happened in the front office.
When the rear gunner received the signal to bail out, he rotated his turret to get out and after getting part way out he found that his parachute had become caught and had partially opened. He struggled his way back into the turret and as he did so he saw the parachute holding the pilot go drifting past. Finally he was free of the aircraft. The pilot and rear gunner landed, not together but nearby, about 18 miles from where the rest of the crew had landed. The pilot, with the splendid kind of irony the gods of war sometimes use, landed in a farmer's pigpen - unable to see but his other senses were receiving loud and clear. The farmer soon had him in the hands of the local authorities and after some hours in a barn with cows for company, he was taken to the hospital in Krefeld where he spent the next few months.
With partial sight returning in one eye, the local hospital authorities gave him a treatment which again rendered it of no use and so Dunwoodie was unable to move far from his bed. The next time there was some partial sight recovery, he somehow forgot to bring this to the attention of the staff.
Allied air raids brought the sirens into play and all the patients were locked into their rooms while the staff went to the air raid shelters. One day, a thoughtful United States Army Air Forces pilot blew a hole in the wall of the hospital and Dunwoodie, accompanied by a British Marine from the next room, casually vacated the premises, and made their way out into the unfriendly German world. They were recaptured later that evening and sent to Dulag 111 to be guests there until General Patton and his army were able to persuade the German authorities to release them. Dunwoodie found himself back in England on Easter Day, 1945.
Upon landing, the rear gunner was quickly taken prisoner by some of the local army who proceeded to beat him with their rifle butts. He was saved from certain death by the fortuitous arrival of a Luftwaffe officer whose un-holstered pistol persuaded the soldiers to desist and hand the prisoner over for more normal treatment. It meant marching, with a crowd of other prisoners to the Polish border where they were kept until the arrival of the Russian Army. An American Army group was nearby but there seemed to be more friction than cooperation between the two "Allies”. No prisoners were released and it was only after some of the prisoners, including this rear gunner, provided themselves with forged exit authority cards that they were able to get past their illiterate guards at the camp gate and make their way to the American camp and so back home.
As a small footnote to history, the two German soldiers who were intent on beating the rear gunner to death shortly after his capture, were later tried and sentenced to 10 and 20 years in prison.
So - it's still the 27th of December. We missed the big party on the 24th, but we're back home at Linton. Living in Beningbrough Hall and flying from Linton down the road gives a contrast to life, which is paradoxical. One night we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of country life and the next, sweated it out over Germany.
There's a battle roster posted, and we are on it. We've been assigned to fly in "N-Nan"; our regular kite is undergoing repairs. It's an early morning take-off on the 28th, and when I say early, it’s real early. Our bomb load is 1 x 2000, 3 x 1000 and 8x 250 pounders. Our target was Opiaden, which is located about 12 miles north of Cologne.
We began our take-off at 0325. As we picked up speed down the runway, we heard a loud explosive noise, and the aircraft tilted to the starboard. Our speed was about 95 knots. Bob quickly lifted the starboard wing and got us airborne. It was nip-and-tuck as we seemed to “float” until we had sufficient speed to gain altitude. There was dead silence for a few minutes, and then someone asked, “What happened?" "The starboard tire blew!"
I thought to myself, this is going to be an uneventful bombing raid. The enemy is not going to give us any trouble at all, we're going to have to come home to Linton and land on one wheel—the port wheel.
Bombing was carried out at 0630 from 18,000 feet, now we’ve got to go home. We arrived back in the Linton circuit shortly after 0900, and Bob, via the R.T. radio, advised the control tower of our problem. All the other aircraft from both squadrons were permitted to land prior to us; we were stacked at the top.
At 0943, we received permission to land but— not on the runway in use. We were instructed to land on a cross-runway, and not to touch down until after we had passed over the runway in use. This shouldn't be any problem, we've only got a few hundred yards available for landing, but we aren't going to travel too far. As we made our approach the undercarriage was lowered. A visual inspection revealed the starboard tire was in shreds. The crew took our “ditching positions”, the same as if we were preparing to ditch in the North Sea (my instruction sheet is attached). The fire engines and meat wagons (ambulances) were parked on the perimeter, and as we passed overhead on our approach, they followed us down the runway. Bob brought "N-Nan" down on the port wheel, and as we lost a wee bit of momentum, he gently lowered the starboard side of the kite onto the damaged wheel. We made a long swing off the runway onto the green infield. It was a spectacular landing. Our crew was able to walk away.
On the 29th, there is a Battle Roster posted, and yes, we're on it. The target is Troisdorf marshalling yards near Bonn, We took-off in "H-Harry" at 1526K. Our bombload was16 x 500 pounders. Upon returning to Linton, we landed at 2203. There was nothing noteworthy about this trip.
On the 30th of the month, we're on another raid. The target is Cologne Kalk-Nord marshalling yards. We took off at 1740 in "H-Harry"; our bomb load was 1 x 2000, and 12 other smaller bombs. We landed back home at 0022 on the 31st. Unfortunately upon landing, the tail of our kite came in contact with the runway first, resulting in the tail wheel being pushed up into the rear turret (the gunner is not in his turret during take-offs and landings). It was soon determined that the longerons were sprung (the fore and aft members of the framing of the aircraft fuselage), not to mention the damage to the tail turret. That's just one more of our kites undergoing repairs. There's no Battle Roster posted; we're going to be home for New Year's Eve - HOORAY!
In our Sergeants Mess, we were bragging that we're the only crew that has three kites; two in the hanger undergoing repairs, and one out at the dispersal unit.
Early on New Year’s Eve, Bob, Brother Heughan and Roy came over to the Sergeants’ Mess for a couple of drinks. Brother Heughan was noticeably upset; there were a few tears in his eyes. He had just received word that his brother had been shot down and killed on a raid to Politz, near Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) on 21st/22nd December. It was a sad moment. Gord Heughan was not an imbiber, but he had a few groggs, and possibly a couple more than he should have, to drown his sorrows.
Later the seven of us sauntered over to the Officers’ quarters. We visited in the sleeping quarters; not being officers, we NCOs were not permitted in the lounge area. As all of us were a wee bit “oiled”. Bob loaned me one of his uniforms, and he and I entered the lounge. Bob told me to sit down, don’t move, and be quiet, whilst he got us a beer from the bar. A "happy" F/L Andy Scheelar sat down beside me. He recognized me but he couldn't remember where we (pilots) had met. For him, everything was out of context as I was sporting pilot's wings on my borrowed uniform. He questioned me about various places “we” had trained. The guy sees me just about every day but didn’t twig that I was Bob's WAG. Bob suggested we return to the sleeping quarters before either of us got in trouble; impersonating an officer is a “no-no”. We tucked Brother Heughan in bed; he was drunk and sobbing. We called it a night. Happy New Year!
On the 5th of January we went on our 21st bombing sortie, it was to Hannover. There were 664 aircraft on this raid; of the 340 Halifaxs participating, 23 were shot down. One of them was Andy Scheelar's kite from our squadron. Data obtained later offered the following info:
F/L A.F. Scheelar, piloting “A-Able” of the Goose Squadron, had bombed the target and was setting course for home when a night fighter made a surprise attack from below. One engine caught fire as the Hally dived steeply. Scheelar then leveled out while he and the flight engineer sought in vain to extinguish the flames. The side of the fuselage was red hot when the pilot gave the bale out order. Three of the crew jumped but immediately after they left, the Halifax exploded in mid-air. The others were lost.
During these harrowing times, one seems to become oblivious to the horrors of war and isolates his feelings accordingly.
This ends my thoughts of "A Memorable Festive Season".
For any given 100 aircrew in Bomber Command, 1939-45, the daunting breakdown was:
Killed on operations........................51
Killed in crashes in England............9
Prisoners of war...............................12
Evaded capture................................ 1
Survived unharmed......................... 24
First of all, kudos to Tim Dubé for organizing a fine convention, The Big Five-O, in Ottawa for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, and keeping it running right on time.
I enjoyed very much all the program sessions presented at the hotel, as well as the evening at Vintage Wings, the air show at the Gatineau airport, the time at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Battle of Britain Parade there on Sunday. As my flight home to Edmonton on Monday didn't leave until 7 pm, I had the day to myself and spent four hours in a return visit to the Canadian War Museum.
However, one of the main reasons I attend CAHS conferences is to meet again friends and colleagues I know, and to make new acquaintances who share an interest in aviation history. It was great to see you all!
The session by Edward Soye, dealing with the Fokker trophies of the First World War and the first CNE Airshow, was all new information for me. I was particularly interested to learn that one of the Fokkers obtained from the war was to be assigned to my alma mater, the University of Alberta. Some time ago I learned a little about that, but only a little. See attached image, a photo I shot of the screen in Ed's presentation, which is a letter that names the U of A as a Fokker recipient.
I inquired about the U of A Fokker D.VII to Dr. Rod Macleod, professor emeritus of history at the U of A. I had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Alberta Aviation Museum with him for five years. Rod is a past president, and I believe back on board for another term. We have a Fokker biplane at the museum and I asked for details about it.
Rod replied with the following note. Henry Marshall Tory, mentioned in the note, was first president, and president at the time the Fokker was offered to the University:
"Our Fokker is a D.VIII, not a D.VII and is a replica. The story of the U of A Fokker is interesting. Henry Marshall Tory wanted to set up an aeronautical engineering program at the end of the war and requested war trophy aircraft. Whether or not any were ever delivered is a mystery. The UFA government that came in was opposed to any government spending that didn't directly benefit farmers. They also had a strong pacifist element. For both those reasons they killed Tory's initiative. I suspect the aircraft were never delivered. Certainly there is no indication in the university archives that they were ever here."
So now I'm more curious than ever! What happened to the U of A Fokker? Does anybody know? Is the engine still somewhere?
Yesterday I stopped at the magazine stand in the grocery store and out of idle curiosity, picked up a copy of the October/November issue of Our Canada, a magazine that once published an article of mine, and which I buy from time to time. Amazingly, there is an article in there about the Fokker D.VII in the museum of the Brome County Historical Society in Québec, which Ed Skoye mentioned in his presentation!
Attached, from the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary, is a picture of a Fokker D.VII. Could it be the U of A Fokker? Seated in the cockpit is Elmer Fullerton (1891-1968), a Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, the person who designed the RCAF tartan.
For more information and photos of that aircraft, see:
Scroll to the bottom of this page: http://www.aerofile.info/fokkerd7/d7html/canada.htm#Alberta to see a note about the U of A Fokker.
More information about the Fokker D.VII is at: http://www.outerzone.co.uk/plan_files_01/1018/fokkerd7.pdf (PDF file), including the plans for building a model!
Here are some YouTube clips of Fokker D.VII models or replicas flying:
and some air to air video of a Fokker replica.
While there seems to be doubt about whether the University of Alberta received a Fokker D.VII in 1920, and if it did, its whereabouts appear to be unknown. However, Edward Soye in my previous letter, has provided some excellent information.
To start with, here is a news clipping he sent from the December 6, 1935 front page of The Gateway, the student newspaper of the University of Alberta.
The aircraft that was shipped to Alberta was none other than Fokker D.VII 8493/18. This was one of the aircraft that had been used widely by the CAF in England. In fact, it was the one that had been emblazoned with the No 1 Squadron logo. I showed a photograph of the squadron's CO, Andrew McKeever, leaning against the leading edge of this very machine while it was still in England.
It was shipped from Borden on May 12th, 1920. Apparently it was displayed at the university between the 6th and 8th of July, 1920. The engine from this aircraft (45105) is the one that is now in a flying D.VII Replica in the Netherlands - via Tasmania.
See Edward's impressive, highly informative and well illustrated about the Fokkers that came to Canada, published by Vintage Wings of Canada, at: Those Canadian Fokkers - War Trophies and the Nascent Canadian Air Force.
More to come...
The Big Five-0
The Canadian Aviation Historical Society held its fiftieth annual convention in Ottawa, from September 11th to the 15th.
By Gord McNulty
A hearty thumbs-up is in order for everyone who made the CAHS 50th convention in Ottawa a five-day aero-extravaganza enjoyed by approximately 90 people. The milestone celebration was organized by Timothy Dubé, Chairman of the host Ottawa Chapter, and CAHS President Gary Williams, actively supported by our friends at Vintage Wings of Canada and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
From excellent historical presentations at the convention headquarters at the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel in downtown Ottawa, through to closing day events including the 73rd annual Battle of Britain Parade and Flypast and the CAHS Banquet and Awards, the program more than lived up to expectations. A 50th anniversary silent auction enriched this year’s event. Good weather prevailed for an exceptional Wings Over Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow at Vintage Wings of Canada on September 14, where afternoon sunshine ensured impressive flying demonstrations.
|Speakers and the Annual General Meeting, Albert at Bay Hotel, September 12th and 13th|
|Rob Fleck, president of Vintage Wings of Canada, spoke about the "Cross-Canada Air Cadet Programme" they flew in the summer of 2013||Dan Dempsey, former commanding officer of the Snowbirds air demonstration team, spoke about Canada's air display team heritage|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk
|Linda Granfield spoke about Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, author of High Flight. The portrait of Magee was unveiled during her talk, and will hang in the Canadian War Museum||The national executive committee presents reports to the membership - from left, Caitlin McWilliams, vice president, Gary Williams, president, Jim Bell, secretary, and Rachel Lea Heide, treasurer|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
Presentations opened on September 12, with a fine discussion on War Trophy Fokkers and the First CNE Airshow by Edward Soye. An experienced glider tow pilot, he flies the First World War replica aircraft of the Great War Flying Museum and the Harvard with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. He also flies the John Gillespie Magee Harvard with Vintage Wings of Canada as one of the volunteer pilots on its Yellow Wings Tour. Edward outlined how famous wartime fighter pilots William Barker and Billy Bishop brought factory-new examples of the German Fokker D.VII to bring military aviation to the public. Bishop Barker Aeroplanes Limited (BBAL) gained access to six D VIIs that were used widely in 1919 and 1920.
The Canadian Air Force in England had used some of these spoils of war during the spring of 1919, before packing them for shipment to Canada. Upon arrival, the aircraft reached the zenith of their popularity while being flown at the CNE in 1919. Thereafter, they faded from public memory until historians, such as Fred Hitchins and Ken Molson, began to uncover this fascinating story. Only one of the D. VIIs is extant today: 6810/18, “The Knowlton Fokker,” on display at the Brome County Historical Society museum in Knowlton, Quebec.
Edward also explored the role of Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist and Keeper of the Record, in developing the Canadian war trophy program, both during and after the Great War. He underscored Doughty’s role in safeguarding the artefacts that eventually formed the nucleus of the Canadian War Museum and the CASM collections. For more, search “Those Canadian Fokkers” on the Vintage Wings of Canada website.
The next speaker, Lieutenant Col (Ret’d) Dan Dempsey, presented From Siskins to Snowbirds: Canada’s Airshow Team Heritage, a history of Canada’s military air demonstration teams. Having flown two tours with the Snowbirds, including Commanding Officer and Team Leader in 1989-1990, Dan’s expertise on the subject is second to none. His outstanding flying career of more than 14,000 hours also includes flying the Vintage Wings of Canada F-86 Sabre Hawk One with the Centennial Heritage Flight in 2009, and team leader and demonstration pilot for Hawk One in 2011 and 2012. He authored the classic A Tradition of Excellence: Canada’s Airshow Team Heritage.
Dan’s engaging presentation traced the early days of aerial demonstration flying by pioneers like Lincoln Beachey in 1914 and covered all of Canada’s legendary military teams – from the RCAF Siskins through to today’s RCAF Snowbirds. It was enhanced by scores of photographs and the impressive 14-minute video “Pursue Your Dreams.”
Jay Hunt, the next speaker, reviewed his colourful personal flying story in The Adventures of a Competition Aerobatic Pilot. Jay described his preparations for the World Aerobatic Championships at Kiev in 1976, the challenges of getting to the Soviet Union, and the experience of being a first-time competitor at a world contest. Returning to Canada convinced of the benefits of a monoplane over the biplanes of the day, Jay partnered with Chris Heintz of Zenair to design and develop the Super Acro-Zenith CH-180. Jay competed and flew airshows in the prototype aircraft, C-GZEN, dubbed “The J-Bird,” through the 1980s. Jay’s extensive accomplishments and experiences in aerobatic flying made for a lively presentation, bolstered with video excerpts from the National Film of Board of Canada’s short Video Roll.
Rob Fleck, president of Vintage Wings of Canada, then made a presentation outlining the organization’s policy of dedicating the aircraft in its collection to distinguished airmen. As he reviewed each aircraft, and the people whose names are recognized, Rob said that honouring Canadian aviators who have made a difference in wartime or in civilian service helps to get the Vintage Wings message across to the public in a way that the public can relate to.
Rob, who is one of the pilots of the Fern Villeneuve F-86 Sabre and the Robillard Brothers P-51 Mustang, covered various aspects of the Vintage Wings including Vintage Wings West. The growing Yellow Wings program, paying tribute to the BCATP, touched 6,000 air cadets in the Cross-Canada Air Cadet Tribute of 2013. With the support of Raytheon Canada and others, some 500 cadets were selected to fly in a Vintage Wings aircraft. Rob’s dedication to the leadership of VWoC and confidence in its future was readily apparent as he emphasized the importance of grooming the leaders of tomorrow on the wings of history.
Next, three key figures with Project North Star: Richard Lodge, president; Bruce Gemmill, project manager, overseeing the airframe and the interior; and Garry Dupont, deputy project manager, responsible for the engines – discussed restoration of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s Canadair C-54GM North Star. RCAF 17515, retired in December, 1965, is the last remaining example of the North Star in the world. Restoration has proven to be a challenging task. The classic aircraft stood outside the hangars of the museum, unattended, for almost 40 years.
In 2003, Project North Star was launched as a collaborative effort between the museum and an all-volunteer group to restore the aircraft to its former glory. About 20 stalwart volunteers are actively working to overcome many challenges, from tackling the effects of corrosion to the need for fundraising. To their great credit, they are making progress with the engines and the interior of the fuselage in methodical fashion.
That evening, we boarded buses to visit the CASM, for a barbecue and a tour of the storage hangar, workshops and library. We enjoyed a much-appreciated opportunity to see the interior of the once-mighty North Star, courtesy of Project North Star volunteers. For additional details, visit the website, www.projectnorthstar.ca.
The next day’s presentations opened with author Hugh Halliday, a founding member of the CAHS Ottawa Chapter, discussing Canadians in the Battle of Britain: Where did they come from, and where did they go? True to form, Hugh gave a comprehensive overview of more than 100 Canadian fighter pilots who flew in the struggle, either as members of the RCAF or as men who had enlisted in the RAF before the outbreak of hostilities.
Hugh, who previously wrote about this subject in the CAHS Journal, updated his findings with previously unavailable personnel records, squadron diaries, and other official files. Outlining the service of pilots such as Willie McKnight, Stan Turner, Ernie McNab, Gordon McGregor, Hartland Molson and Edwin Reyno, Hugh showed that the Battle of Britain was as much a turning point in personal lives as in military events.
A moving presentation on the life of Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr., author of High Flight, was provided next by award-winning author Linda Granfield. An Associate Air Force Historian with the RCAF’s Office of Air Force Heritage and History, Linda showed photographs and art revealing fascinating personal and family details about the poet-pilot. The materials became available while she met John’s brother, David, in 1998 while collecting materials for her book, High Flight: A Story of World War II. So began a close friendship with David, and later another brother, Hugh, that has continued to grow.
Some stories told to Linda by David and Hugh, and the men who trained with John, had not been heard before. Linda has transcribed Magee writings and facilitated donation of Magee materials to various collections including, most recently, a charcoal portrait of John Jr., done for the family just after his death by the New York artist Jere R. Wickwire. It was given to the Canadian War Museum in 2012 by the Magee family. Linda unveiled the portrait, which the museum loaned for the occasion to Linda’s pleasant surprise. It was, as she said, “a nice first public welcome here in Canada.”
Linda also replayed a brief 1938-vintage audio tape of John which is the only known voice recording of him. She is currently working on a major biography of John’s father, the Reverend John Magee. The Internet has numerous references to Linda’s work and the VWoC website also has an excellent story, Finding Magee: The Story Behind the High Flight Harvard. Linda’s presentation was compelling and her passion for the subject was readily apparent to everyone.
Peter Allen, a familiar figure to everyone in the CAHS, closed the presentations by outlining his remarkable personal flying story in Views from the Cockpit: An Aviation Biography. Peter, CAHS national president from 1985 to 1987, has accumulated more than 2,500 flying hours. He’s flown in more than 120 different aircraft types covering the history of flight from the Silver Dart to the Concorde. Peter drew from his extensive slide collection as he described his many accomplishments and adventures in flight.
Among other things, Peter described ferrying Citabrias from the factory in Wisconsin while a university student, overnight deliveries of car parts in C-47s for Millardair, and his involvement in the Great War Flying Museum and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. He recalled his considerable experience with the GWFM’s Dr. 1 Triplane, and also working for Antilles Air Boats, flying both the Grumman Goose and Short Sandringham (a civilianized Sunderland). Peter’s wide-ranging aviation background and personal reflections engaged the audience from start to finish.
The CAHS Annual General Meeting and Election of Directors took place at the hotel on September 13. Various reports were presented, including updates from the Chapters. The membership update showed that 822 members were on the spring 2013 mailing list for the Journal.
|Vintage Wings of Canada "Wings over Gatineau" Airshow, Saturday September 14th|
|Vintage Wings Canadair Sabre "Hawk 1", commemorating the RCAF Golden Hawks air display team. The fiftieth anniversary of their final show was September 30th, 2013||Vintage Wings North American Mustang Mk IV in the colours of 442 Squadron|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
|Vintage Wings Vought Corsair commemorates Lt Robert Hampton Gray, VC||The Canadian Warplane Heritage's Fairey Firefly, painted as an aircraft that flew from HMCS Magnificent in 1949|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
|Vintage Wings Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe is painted in the colours of No 421 Squadron, RCAF||Vintage Wings Westland Lysander flew with Nos 110 and 112 Squadrons, RCAF, in Rockcliffe in 1939|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Jim Bell|
|Convention attendees watched the show from the Veterans Tent, close to the flight line. Sheldon Benner, William Wedderburn, George Fuller, and Brian Griffiths chat with Vintage Wings of Canada pilot Rob Erdos||Vintage Wings fighters peel off before landing, the Corsair first, then the Spitfire, Mustang, and Kittyhawk|
|Photo by Jim Bell||Photo by Jim Bell|
After the AGM, we boarded the buses to enjoy an evening barbecue and engage in hangar flying at VWoC in Gatineau. An overcast, chilly evening eliminated any potential sunset pictures of visiting aircraft that arrived for the air show the following day, but it was a great opportunity to touch base with guests such as Buffalo Airways’ Mikey McBryan of Ice Pilots fame. Skies cleared beautifully for the Vintage Wings Wings Over Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow, an aerial circus that included formation flypasts of the CWHM Lancaster with the Vintage Wings fighters and many other highlights during five hours of flying. Convention attendees enjoyed Veterans Tent seating, close to the flight line, with lunch and hospitality provided by the Vintage Wings of Canada and its volunteers. For more show photos, go to: www.Gusair.com.
Plan to attend our fifty first convention in Regina, Saskatchewan, 4 - 7 June 2014!
Images are copyright by the photographer, and used with permission.
Mississauga’s Doors Open Features Avro Arrow Display
by Bill Zuk
On September 28, 2013, the City of Mississauga, in conjunction with the Ontario Doors Open program, will host a display on the Avro Arrow at the International Centre (6900 Airport Road, Mississauga). A unique collection of documents, newspaper accounts and artifacts was recently donated in April to the archives of the City of Mississauga, by the estate of J.H. (Bert) Scott, Deputy Chief Engineer, Avro Orenda Engines Limited. Mississauga City press release
With the addition of artifacts on loan from the Canadian Air & Space Museum, including the full-scale replica of RL-203, the showpiece of the museum’s collection, the Avro Arrow Display at Hall 1, Upper Mezzanine of the International Centre, is part of the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS), September 30–October 3, 2013. The Avro Arrow exhibit at CMTS, Canada’s largest manufacturing event, will “showcase a remarkable Canadian manufacturing and technological innovation, which is representative of what the show’s all about,” said Nick Samain, Group Manager of SME Canada, organizer of CMTS.
|Once it was different. The first Avro Arrow at roll out, 1957.|
In recent years, the saga of the Avro Arrow has taken on mythic proportions. A cottage industry has materialized with countless books, movies, and a stage play about the Arrow. Among those who designed, built, and flew the Avro Arrow, there is unanimous consent that their beloved aircraft would have achieved greatness. Quoting Avro Canada’s Chief Experimental Test Pilot, Janusz Zurakowski: “It was far ahead of its time, and it showed that this country was in the forefront in aircraft technology worldwide. There will never be another Arrow.”
One of the most enduring elements of the Avro Arrow myth was the tale of the “one that got away.” The story was perpetuated by a Maclean’s magazine article by reporter June Callwood that appeared shortly after the Arrow’s cancellation. Callwood, like many of the period, was enamoured with the aircraft; she once wrote, “it was the most beautiful plane I will ever see… When it lifted straight up into the sky, a slim white arrowhead, it was poetry. I never saw it take off without my eyes stinging…” She had flown in the B-47/Orenda testbed and knew one morning when she was startled awake by the roar of an Arrow’s engines filling the sky above her, that, as she wrote, “someone had flown an Arrow to safety.” Most Avroites knew the truth. None had escaped the wrath of the demolition crew’s axes. But one Avro engineer had almost pulled it off.
The date was April 22, 1959. Gerry Barbour, an Avro Aircraft engineer in the Lofting Department, where blueprint drawings were scribed on metal sections before being cut out, was furious at the decision to cancel the Arrow, but was even more enraged by the scrapping of all the aircraft. As he watched foreman Al Cox begin the butchering of the five flying examples, Barbour formulated an elaborate heist. He had access to the high-security area where he would steal a “mule” (a small tow truck) and tow one of the complete airframes to a horse-breeding farm he had in mind as a hiding place. His plans had gone as far as imagining his friend, Lorne Ursel, as the pilot of the aircraft. He settled on RL-204 as his target. This Arrow sat at the end of the row and unlike RL-205 which was flat on its belly, looked complete. RL-202, RL-203, and 201 were in pieces, but his early morning tour of the area confirmed that the RL-204 was intact. Barbour even mused to his boss, Wilhelm “Woo” Shaw, about the possibility of a plan like his working.
Signing in that evening at the security gate was no problem, and Barbour immediately deked out of the hangar and slipped into the experimental flight test section. Moving stealthily in the dark along the row of Arrows, he stumbled noisily over the remains of RL-201’s wings. Pausing for a few moments to ensure he hadn’t been heard, Barbour found a set of tools he needed in a tool crib and prepared a mule. Returning to RL-204 to hitch up the tow bar, he stared into the darkness, trying to make out its shape. Something was wrong. The plane hunched down on its front undercarriage leg, but the nose wheel had been cut off. Shaw! Now Barbour remembered on his morning visit that he had seen his boss take the foreman off to the side. Abandoning the mule, he stormed off in a rage. When the guard at the gatehouse greeted him with the request to sign out, he angrily refused and stalked off into the night. It would be the last time that he saw the Arrows.
Today, the Avro CF-105 Arrow is only a memory, although the nose and front landing gear of RL-206, the outer wing panels of RL-203, and an Avro Iroquois engine are displayed in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. The chopped-off nose section of the ground-breaking Avro C-102 Jetliner sits nearby. Visitors often marvel at the sleek lines of the Avro Arrow, but are saddened when they notice the jagged end of the cockpit where years before, wreckers had sawn and chopped it apart.
At the back of the same museum is a Boeing Bomarc missile. The Bomarc proved to be an expensive dud, only to be replaced by the McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo. Prime Minister Diefenbaker had reluctantly ordered this American fighter to replace the long-departed Arrow. A prime argument he had invoked in cancelling the Arrow was that the manned interceptor had been “overtaken by events” in the missile age. Recently released cabinet documents reveal that Diefenbaker recognized the political ramifications of ordering a successor for the Avro Arrow. Only after the Chiefs of Staff demanded a replacement for the obsolete Avro CF-100 Canuck, was the Canadian government forced to act. Some military advisors poignantly noted in the initial development of the Avro Arrow, that the Voodoo had once been rejected as unsuitable.
Not far from the original Avro and Orenda factories in Toronto, the Avro Arrow has been reborn in the form of a replica of RL-203, the third of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrows that flew. Unlike recreations such as the movie model used in the CBC television mini-series, The Arrow, the Canadian Air & Space Museum (formerly Toronto Aerospace Museum) at Downsview Park, has faithfully replicated the Arrow, albeit as a static model.
|Claude Sherwood (centre)|
Led by Claude Sherwood, the volunteer crew, including many ex-Avro Canada personnel began their work in 1998. Dating back to his final days at Avro, Sherwood had located technical drawings that he had “squirrelled away” and on the basis of these drawings, the Avro Arrow project was created. Sherwood’s background with the Avro story began in 1956 when he was hired as a draftsman at the age of 18 to work on the CF-105 Arrow. Three years later, along with thousands of other Avro employees, he was out of work, but landed back on his feet with a position at the Ontario Department of Transportation (Ministry of Highways at the time). After a lengthy career with the department, he retired and became one of the leading figures in the Toronto Aerospace Museum.
The steel-framed replica began with a cockpit and nose section, fuselage, tail, and various outer wing panels completed as modular components. One of the project's dilemmas was building the Arrow’s complex landing gear. Messier-Dowty built and donated new versions of the original undercarriage units. Other industry partners include Associated Tube who donated 3,000 metres of stainless-steel tube, Sico who provided paint, and Bombardier Aerospace, who looked after related tools and hardware necessary for the project.
Although the replica was finally completed and shown to the public in 2009, the ravages of time eventually caught up to the museum and many of its supporters. The initial plans that Sherwood had formulated involved introducing the recreated Avro Arrow to the public with its first test pilot, Janusz Zurakowski, in the cockpit. Sadly, the famed pilot passed away on February 9, 2004, in his hometown of Barry’s Bay, Ontario, after courageously battling leukemia for years. The sprawling 400-acre Avro plant, after going through a number of new owners, ceased to exist after 2004, as successive buildings were torn down until only rubble remained as the Toronto Lester Pearson International Airport consumed the facility as part of its expansion.
The giant Avro Orenda plant managed to survive in the form of the International Centre which took over what was formerly Plant #1 where Avro Orenda undertook research and manufacturing of their signature family of jet engines. Even the Canadian Air & Space Museum which had resided in the former de Havilland Canada factory, and whose mandate was to preserve the aviation heritage of the Toronto area, which included the Curtiss-Wright, de Havilland, and A.V. Roe Canada companies, was forced to close its doors in 2013, and is presently looking for a new home.
As of this writing, despite the efforts of a group of historians and concerned citizens in Toronto, there is little left of the Avro Canada legacy. Janusz Zurakowski had once written, “It is impossible to destroy everything … Governments and torches can destroy an aircraft but they cannot destroy hope and aspiration, and the majesty of the questing spirit. In the hearts of the people, the dream lives on.”
All photos from the Bill Zuk collection.
Editor’s Note: Local CAHS chapter newsletters often have fascinating stories that are shared with the chapter membership. Occasionally, articles from the newsletters will also be featured in the History Newsreel, beginning with the following article that originally appeared in the CAHS Manitoba Chapter Newsletter, April 2010, which details use of new photographic technology in aviation museum displays.
A Trip into the World of the Future for Photography
by Bill Zuk
Our last Canadian Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) meeting in March was an unusual session led by Professor Jean Vouillon. For the last six years, he has been teaching in the Multimedia Communication program at Winnipeg’s Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface, particularly the use of software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Flash and Director. M. Vouillon is also known by the moniker, “Pixel Manipulator” as his background is in incorporating a wide range of “cutting edge” technical electronic media innovations, literally “manipulating pixels”. See his site: jeanvouillon.com for examples of his work in graphic and photographic illustration.
After completing his Master’s in Image Art and Technology (Art et Technologies de l’Image) at the University of Paris VIII, Vouillon worked for eight years as an independent multimedia developer and 3D illustrator. Among his clients were the French space agency (CNES), the publishing house Flammarion, and the lottery corporation La Française des Jeux. During the same period, he gave many training sessions on the principal online and offline multimedia creation software for professional development organizations in Paris and Marseilles.
The main focus of the evening presentation was in illustrating the projects Vouillon has undertaken as a volunteer with the Western Canada Aviation Museum, working closely with Gary Styrchak, the Graphics and Displays Coordinator. Two intriguing projects based on the artifacts and display aircraft in the museum collection were presented, the first being High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.
High dynamic range (HDR) images enable photographers to record a greater range of tonal detail than a given camera could capture in a single photo. This opens up a whole new set of lighting possibilities that previously were almost impossible to duplicate. The HDR image allows the photographer to combine a series of bracketed exposures into a single image that encompasses the tonal detail of the entire series. At least three exposures taken of a subject, bracketing a “proper” along with an underexposed and overexposed image are required.
Nearly every modern digital camera has the capability to adjust for a dynamic range and the “sandwiching” of the multiple exposures creates an image that brings out detail that was previously hidden. The multiple exposures have to be merged through a computer application to produce a true HDR image. The only restrictions to this process is that to ensure three identical images are shot, a very stable camera platform (tripod or other) has to be used, and that only “still” photography is usually possible. The results, however, are spectacular.
The other photography project at the Western Canada Aviation Museum that Vouillon has taken on is creating Cubic VR galleries of the aircraft on display, a first for the museum. Cubic VR is a 360-degree viewable panoramic image constructed with the use of a high-resolution digital camera, a wide-angle lens (Vouillon uses a “fish eye” lens), a sturdy tripod with several levels (because you need to be absolutely level when you photograph the images), and a special panoramic head made specifically for the model of camera.
The aircraft that have become Vouillon’s subjects are the WCAM’s display aircraft that every visitor can see but not typically from the inside. His work will eventually be posted on the museum site as an interactive tour of the collection, but for now the images are found on his personal website. Taking a photo tour inside the Fairchild 71 provides a fascinating look inside an aircraft that was previously “out-of-bounds.” See: www.wcam.mb.ca/virtualcockpits/.
Thanks to both Jean Vouillon and Gary Styrchak for arranging the presentation and giving the CAHS crowd a foretaste of what the future for interactive museum displays will entail.