The Making of a WWII RCAF Fighter Pilot

Spitfire Mk. XIV E, October 45, B.174 Utersen, Germany.

Online soon…


First Steps to Tokyo – Revisited

You probably have skimmed through this little booklet a year ago.

It was Clarence Simonsen’s first post on this blog I have created in April 2016, especially to publish his incredible research into the past.

First steps to Tokyo cover page


Well it’s time to revisit the past after preserving it.

Tony Irwin, whose father was a Spitfire pilot with 443 Squadron during the war, wrote me this a few days ago…

I also have a (somewhat dog-eared) copy of a small book by the title of First Steps To Tokyo which chronicles the US-Canadian effort against the Japanese in the early days of WWII. Pictures in it include my father. 

Stay tuned…

After staying tuned, Tony sent me this…

After page 18, sitting in the front seat of a jeep with poles across his lap.

Also a couple of pages further, standing on skiis.

Mentioned on pg 34

I just had to take one more look!


If you are wondering who is Pilot Officer Johnny Irwin from Toronto?

He is featured on this other blog.




Gordon McKenzie Hill – Chapter Two

Gordon McKenzie Hill – Chapter Two


Gordon was born in the prairie town of Canora, Saskatchewan, 11 November 1923, located in the south-east corner of the province, 35 miles north of Yorkton. Gordon reminded me this should never be confused with the Kenora in northern Ontario. In 1923, the population was 1,230 and by 1940, it was reduced to around 1,200. This was in part due to the number of young men who enlisted in our Canadian Forces, with the outbreak of World War Two.

Gordon left High School, and at age eighteen he joined the RCAF at a recruiting depot in Regina, Saskatchewan, the date was 15 December 1941. Next stop was No. 2 Manning Depot located at Brandon, Manitoba, where Gordon was indoctrinated into the service life of the RCAF. In February 1942, LAC2 Gordon Hill and eleven of his classmates were loaded on a train, bound for a secret location in Camp Borden, Ontario.

The United States of American had just entered the war, after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and the RCAF was undergoing an extensive internal reorganization. In peace time, the Air Force construction projects had been completed by the Royal Canadian Engineers in the Army, however that was no longer possible. In March 1940, the RCAF formed the Directive of Works and Buildings, and new construction contracts were issued by the Department of Munitions and Supplies, then construction was completed by private building firms. The new British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (B.C.A.T.P.) alone required the construction of over 8,300 buildings.

No. 13 “X” Depot

On 1 May 1941, the RCAF issued organization order No. 122, the formation of No. 13 “X” Depot for the supply of explosives and ammunition to units of the B.C.A.T.P. This new explosives depot would be formed at Camp Borden, near the Village of Angus, Ontario, and it would supply the requirements of Nos. 1 and 3 Training Commands. On Monday, 9 June 1941, No. 13 [X] Depot, RCAF, Angus, Ont., became a self-accounting unit of the RCAF, with administration Staff housed at No. 1 S.F.T.S., Camp Borden, and construction of the underground storage bunkers began. This new [explosives] base was under “Top Secret” classification and required 24 hours Security Guard protection. New young RCAF Air Crew students were now selected from Manning Depots and proceeded by train to Camp Borden, where they completed a two-month tour as security Guard. As the construction of the underground ammo bunkers and other concrete buildings took place, a contract was now issued for the erection of two “Watchman” security fences. This is all recorded in the Daily Diary on 10 September 1941, and includes some interesting history on the new Canadian manufactured concertina barbed wire, used for the first time in Camp Borden, at No. 13 “X” Depot, Angus.

Concertina wire was the invention of the Germans in WWI, then re-developed by German Horst Dannert in the 1930s, as a high-steel razor wire. It was used in all battle fronts and home military security during WWII. Today it is also called “Dannert” razor wire, and effectively used by modern military and prisons around the world.

When this inner and outer fencing was completed in mid-October 41, this became the security area where the new RCAF recruits patrolled day and night. Each AC2 on duty received a British Webley pistol, and placed back and fourth on eight hour shifts. Gordon and his class spent two months at this boring site, living in the isolated Angus compound, alongside tons of explosives. The normal time a new recruit spent at a manning depot was five weeks.

RCAF guard Al Ryan at No. 13 [Explosive] Depot, RCAF Angus, Ontario, March 1942

PL52226 Main Gate entrance, postwar date unknown (1950s)

PL52234 Main Gate, postwar

Bomb Storage Bunker No. 13 [Explosive] Depot, Angus, postwar image.

PL52232 Main Barracks for personnel of No. 13 X {Explosives] Depot Angus, Ontario.

This is the location Gordon Hill began his WWII RCAF pilot career.

No. 5 Initial Training School

After two months of guard duty, [March-April] the recruits were again on a train for No. 5 Initial Training School at Belleville, Ontario.


Class #53, 11 May 1942, No. 5 I.T.S. Belleville, Ontario

This building had been a mental institution before the war.

The course lasted six weeks, with pre-flight instruction given in navigation, aircraft engines, mathematics, science, meteorology, and aerodynamics. The I.T.S. course ended on 29 June 1942, and twenty-two airmen were now posted to No. 4 E.F.T.S. at Windsor Mills, Quebec, effective 19 July 42.

But before being posted at No.4 EFTS Windsor Mills, the complete class were given two weeks leave. Since Gordon was short on money to travel back to Saskatchewan, his fellow classmate friend, Larry Legace, invited Gordon to join him on a trip to visit his cousin Ralph Hector Lagace, living in Syracuse, New York. The above picture shows the Hector Legace’s family and Gord in yard, in early July 1942. In mid-July they proceeded back to Windsor Mills, Quebec, and the next step in becoming pilots in the RCAF.

No. 4 E.F.T.S. at Windsor Mills

Course #60, began 20 July 1942, and two pupils were transferred from course #59, which brought the total to 24 airmen. This was where the pilot candidates came face to face with their very first aircraft [Fleet Finch or Tiger-Moth] and the flying instructor who would teach them to fly it. All E.F.T.S. schools, except one, were under civilian management, and Windsor Mills was run by the Montreal Flying Club. This had one advantage over RCAF run schools, as they blended in with the local communities and took more pride in their teaching operations. They also hired the best cooks and served the local farm products, thus their meals far surpassed the RCAF schools. No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School, Windsor Mills, opened on 24 June 1940. It was originally constructed by T.C.A. [Trans Canada Airlines] as an emergency strip, and taken over by the RCAF as part of the BCATP. The field was a grass strip with training buildings, one hangar, flying Fleet Finch trainers, with 32 on strength.

No.4 E.F.T.S. Windsor Mills, 26 July, 1940
Colorised by Pierre Lagace

The original training organization of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan calculated 3,540 training aircraft would be required, including 702 Fleet Finches and Tiger Moths. All of these training aircraft were standard aeroplanes used in British training schools, other that the Fleet Finch. This Canadian built aircraft with an American-built engine, presented a small problem, however the Fleet Finch became a major early RCAF trainer aircraft until more Tiger Moths were built. No. 4 E.F.T.S. Windsor Mills flew the Fleet Finch until 7 June 1942, when the first eight Tiger Moths arrived. By the middle of July 1942, the school had 32 Tiger Moth trainers on strength and the Finch was gone forever.

Gordon Hill took this photo around 20 July 42, No. 4 E.F.T.S. Windsor Mills, and recorded fifteen of his original course #60 classmates.

Left to right
Top row – Dempsey – J. Grayouel – Nick
2nd row – Mort Soble – Nose – Clem – Bush – Larry Love, – Al.
Front row – Hodge – Swede Dona – Brownie – Larry Legace – Bob S.

This course lasted eight weeks, with pilot flying time a maximum of sixty hours, slow learners were allowed seventy-five hours and then total failure. This saved lives in the long term. The average student pilot was supposed to be ready for his first solo flight after eight hours of flying instruction.

On 7 August 1942, [above] student Gordon Hill soled in Tiger Moth #8932, the flight lasted 15 minutes. He had received six hours and 45 minutes of flight instruction, rated an average pilot.

The Tiger Moth flight line at Windsor Mills, Quebec, containing many of the aircraft Gordon Hill trained in July, August, September 1942. The obsolete British Fairey Battle [right] was shipped to Canada in 1940, and used as a target tow and for gunnery training.

Colorised picture by Pierre Lagace

The training also allowed for the members to enjoy the sights and sounds of Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the possibility of meeting local ladies. The only entertainment on base was a recreation hut, which featured a ping-pong table, radio, and reading material. On a Tuesday and Thursday night, two local middle-aged ladies arrived with cake or cookies, and played ping-pong and chatted with the young RCAF trainees. During the second week of training, [first weekend in August 42] these ladies became very friendly, and ask Gordon Hill and Larry Love if they would like to spend the weekend at a private beach and cottage on Lake Magog, south-west of Sherbrooke, Quebec. They could meet and join a local group of girls and guys, their same age, and swim in the lake. At first, Gordon and Larry were unsure if they should attend or not, but in the end decided to take a chance.

Jack Dempsey and [right] Larry Love, who joined Gordon at the beach in first week of August 1942.

The new found friends at Lake Magog, [Shore Acres] Quebec, early August 1942. This became a regular weekend holiday for Gordon and Larry Love, and the group were known as “the Gang.”

Joan ? and June Bryant 1942.

Mr. Guy and Mrs. Olive Bryant in front of their home at Sherbrooke, fall 1942.

Gordon Hill soon learned the cottage “Shore Acres” was owned by a wealthy soft drink owner and the Mayor of Sherbrooke, Quebec. They would adopt Gordon into their family, joining their son [John] and daughter [Elizabeth].

6 – 7 August 1942, the wonderful times at “Shore Acres” Lake Magog, Quebec.

Guy and Olive Bryant treated Gordon Hill like their own son and he would spend almost every weekend in their home. The ‘Gang” in the Bryant’s basement playroom.

This is where Gordon Hill met his first girlfriend, Dora Keen, September 1942.

Course 60, graduated on 11 September 1942, one student failed training, three were transferred to Course 61, for further training, ten were posted to No. 6 SFTS, Dunnville, Ontario, and ten were posted to No. 13 S.F.T.S at St. Hubert, Quebec. L.A.C. Gord Hill was posted to St. Hubert, Quebec, effective 26 September 1942, Course #65.

No. 13 S.F.T.S St. Hubert, Quebec

In June 1942, a new agreement was signed, which brought profound changes to the B.C.A.T.P. From this date on, Commonwealth Air Training became centered in Canada to a degree more than ever before, and aircrew training was expanded on a vast and complex scale.

Course #65 – No. 13 S.F.T.S. St Hubert., Quebec.

From left to right –

Top row – Gauthier, Wash [RAF], Shannon, Ryan, Young, Hill, Muir, Hone, Rancourt, Cote, Maranda, Chene.

Sitting – Hallett, Harve, Zimmerman, Stewart, Clark, Legace, Le Gare, Bireau, Picard, Hudon, Murphy.

Colorised picture by Pierre Lagace

The service flying training schools were completely operated by the RCAF, and at once the students experienced a huge change from the more relaxed civilian run elementary school. No more pretty young girls in the mess halls, and tough looking Flight Sergeants were always around spying for a student with no hat or his tunic undone. The trainees would now learn and adjust to the real air force environment, with drill, and the strict business of the challenge in learning to fly a new complex, massive, heavy, Harvard trainer.

While the sequence of training was much the same as elementary training, it was far more advanced and demanded more responsibility and maturity from the new pilots. Learning to fly the Harvard and controlling it solely by the use of instruments proved to be the greatest challenge for many young students. The students were also required to perform all important aircraft manoeuvres using visual flight as well as instruments. The time spent in the Link trainer saved many future pilots from failure, and each student was required to spend at least twenty hours in the Link by 1942. The Harvard had a massive 600 horsepower Pratt and Whitney engine, and it had a tendency to swing out of control upon landing, causing many minor accidents. Fifty per cent of training accidents were in the minor category, and few resulted in serious injury. It was the loss of training aircraft and the expensive cost of repair that annoyed the RCAF brass the most. Many fatal accidents were the direct result of new Harvard pilots performing escapades that outmatched their level of skill. In total, 856 pilot trainees would be killed during Service Flying Training in Canada from 1940-45.

In September 1942, the RCAF introduced a new programme of accident prevention, including a stricter code of air discipline, combined with a monthly newsletter – “In Despatches.” This Air Training cartoon style newsletter featured the Donkeys in the RCAF.

The Donkey’s of the month were real RCAF pilots and aircrew.

Even the monthly RCAF pin-up “WingsGirl” got into the safety warning.


No. 65 Course finished on 22 January 1943, and the “Wings” parade was held at 14:16 hrs. Group Captain J. S. Scott, M.C. A.F.C. Commanding Officer, No. 13 S.F.T.S., St. Hubert, P.Q. presented the Wings to fifty Sergeant pilots.

The course began with 67 students and 50 graduated, 11 failed, 6 were transferred to another course due to delayed training. Seven graduates were posted to No. 1 F.I.S. at Trenton, Ont., ten went to No. 31 G.R.S. Charlottetown, P.E.I., six to No. 1 G.R.S. at Summerside, P.E.I., sixteen to No. 1 “Y” Depot, Halifax, N.S., six to No. 3 F.T.S., Arnprior, Ont., one RAF to No. 31 Personnel Depot, Moncton, N.B. and the last four to No. 1 O.T.U., Bagotville, Quebec.

Flight training graduation photo 22 January 1943, and promotion to Sergeant Pilot, a qualified non-commissioned pilot in the RCAF. From a class of 50 who graduated, only four were posted for fighter pilot training at No. 1 Operational Training Unit, Bagotville, Quebec. Gordon continued to the spend weekends at the Bryant home in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

L to R – Carl, Ann, Liz Bryant, Do, [Dora Keen], Gord, Jane, Cam, Don Ives.

I January 1943, at train station in Sherbrooke, girlfriend Dora Keen, [left] and Liz Bryant.

No. 1 Operational Training School [Fighter]
Bagotville, Quebec.

During the formation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, [1940] the RCAF had problems fitting Operational Training Units into the overall training structure. The proper larger airfields and combat experienced instructors were just not available. British O.T.U.s were relocated to Canada, [No. 31 OTU in May 1941] and Canadians were gradually posted to these units to gain experience.

On 20 July 1942, No. 1 Operational Training School [Fighter] opened at Bagotville, Quebec. This base had been designed and constructed with stronger and longer runways, large working areas, and more buildings for training fighter pilots. No. 3 [Flying Boat] opened at Pat Bay, B.C. in November 42, and No. 5 [Heavy Bomber] at Boundry Bay, B.C. in April 1944. From 1 August 1942 until 31 March 1945, these three RCAF O.T.U.s trained and graduated twelve thousand pilots, and Sgt. Hill was one of them. When selected as a potential fighter pilot, the new Hurricane fighter was another large step up from the Harvard flown at St. Hubert. The new course consisted of conversion training, navigation exercises, cross-country flights, both day and night, bombing, and reconnaissance flights. Gordon would now fly these Canadian built Hawker Hurricane fighters, seen below on the assembly line at Fort William, Ontario. Each week fifteen new fighters rolled off this line and a percentage were flown to units of the Home War Establishment. On 27 January 1943, four new Hurricane fighters arrived at Bagotville, 5649, 5645, 5652, and 5648, replacing fighters that crashed. This continued week after week.

Gordon was scheduled for Course #8, start date 30 January 1943, then “Mother Nature” stepped in and delayed everything. A large cold front moved in over Quebec, bringing high winds and heavy snow fall. On 2 February 1943, visibility was 1,700 yards, winds at 20-30 MPH and temperature 5 to 8 degrees F, [-17 Celsius] all runways and taxi strips unserviceable with heavy snow. Only four student pilots had arrived for the course, as train travel was 10 hours behind schedule, or not at all. Snowbanks lined many buildings and the Officers Mess was completely obscured over the windows, plus the roof was drifted over in front and back. On 4 February, the storm began to let up, however the heavy snow falls continued most of the day. All runways and taxi strips had been plowed, but now the base had been without Hurricane aircraft petrol [one hundred Octane] for six days. The full enrollment of thirty-one pilot students had arrived, 19 officers and 12 non-commissioned pilots, but their flying training would be delayed for a few more days. Gordon first took to the air in Harvard FE505 on 5 February 1943.

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, code “Y”, Bagotville, Quebec, February 1943. Note the huge snow drifts in the background. Gordon took this image and he believes it was the first Hurricane #5646, which he soloed in, 13 February 1943. The fight time was 30 minutes, all recorded in his log book.

This image was taken by Gordon in the control tower at Bagotville soon after he arrived.

It captures the training activities at the base, and shows the two digit numbers painted on the nose and fuselage of the Hurricane trainers.

Gordon trained in Hurricane #3-8-10-12-16-20-24-25-26-27-28-31-34-37-39-41-43-45- and #47. He flew #27 [above] on 25 March and #43 on 29 & 30 March 1943.

The same control tower in early postwar period.

Gordon recalls – the powerful Canadian built Hurricane had a pronounced tendency to swing to the right on landing and a new pilot could very easily lose control.

Gordon completed his last Hurricane flight in #8 on 19 April 1943, the course ended on 23 April, and he prepared for his new posting to No. 133 Squadron at Boundary Bay, B.C. His last day at No. 1 OTU Bagotville, Quebec, was 24 April, and he took this last image of Hurricane #5472 crash landing by a British R.A.F. student.

On 25 April 1943, Gordon says a last goodbye to the Bryant family.

25 April 1943, a last goodbye to the Bryant family, mother Olive,
daughter Elizabeth, and Gordon.

A goodbye to girlfriend Dora Keen.

Many of the old gang are now in the Canadian Forces, fighting for Canada.

Don Pankevitch and Gordon exchange service hats.

The old gang, two in uniform.

Course No. 8 was completed on 23 April 1943, 29 pupils graduated, Pilot Officer W.R. Campbell was transferred to course #9, for disciplinary reasons and Pilot Officer N.H. Davidson was killed on flying training, 19 March 43. Seventeen pilots were posted overseas, six went to Eastern Air Command and six to Western Air Command, Home War Establishment in Canada.

On 26 April 1943, Gordon Hill leaves Quebec, for No. 133 Squadron, Boundary Bay, B.C.

26 April 1943, at the train station

Western Air Command, Home War Establishment

The history of Canada’s Home War Establishment is a large and confusing story in itself. The main problem being was that Canada had no aero-engine manufacturing during WWII, and depended on Great Britain and the United States to supply all aircraft engines needed for the aircraft built in Canada. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, the Canadian H.W.E. numbered twelve combat squadrons, with 160 aircraft, twenty-eight of which were obsolete.

On 9 March 1942, the RCAF began planning for the air defence plan of Canada and requested forty-nine squadrons for the Home War Establishment, including 380 Canadian built Hurricanes. This caused months of political infighting, but in the end the Americans and British in fact controlled the distribution of the fighters and bombers needed for the protection of Canada.

In October 1942, the Canadian Air Council realized this, combined with the simple fact they would never get the aircraft requested for Canadian requirements, so they down scaled to ten fighter and six bomber squadrons.

By November 1943, the Home War Establishment had reached its peak with 37 squadrons, 19 in Eastern Air Command and 18 in Western Air Command.

The manpower problem in finding trained fighter pilots was easily solved in May 1942, when the British and Canadians met in Ottawa at the Air Training Conference. The British Air Ministry agreed to raise the proportion of Canadian pilots posted to Home War Establishment to 9% of the total BCATP output. That was the reason twelve fighter pilots from Course No. 8 were posted to the Home War Establishment and remained in Canada. Six pilots went to Eastern Air Command and flew with No. 125, 126, 127, 128, or 129 employed in air defence of Eastern Canada, while gaining combat experience in the Canadian Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and XII fighters. The other six fighter pilots were posted to Western Air Command and flew Hurricane aircraft with No. 133, 135, or 163 Squadron. No. 163 had a short career and only flew Hurricane Mk. XII fighters from June to November 1943, and most fighter pilots in Western Air Command flew with No. 133 or 135 Squadrons.

No. 133 Squadron at Boundary Bay, B.C.

After graduation, Sgt. pilot Gordon Hill was posted to No. 133 Squadron at Boundary Bay, B.C. on 11 May 43, and reported for duty the following day.

No. 133 had been formed at Lethbridge, Alberta, 3 June 1942. Equipped with new Canadian built Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII fighters, they trained in southern Alberta and moved to Boundary Bay, B.C. on 4 October 1942. No. 133 Squadron ground personnel consisting of 135 Airmen and Officers, departed Lethbridge, Alberta, on a special C.P.R. train, under supervision of F/O Thompson, at 23:59 hrs. The next morning, sixteen Hurricanes and two Harvard trainers departed Lethbridge at 07:20 hrs, 5 October 42, stopping for fuel at Spokane and Yakima, Washington, arriving at Boundary Bay, B.C. by 16:00 hrs of the same day.

The ground crew arrived by truck transportation from Vancouver, around the same time. On paper, the squadron move was completed, but in reality the base was not ready for them.

The red line marks the air route taken on 5 October 42, from Lethbridge, Alberta, and the yellow area shows the future patrol and training area in yellow. Enlarged for the protection of Vancouver city and area, it was still under major construction and the runways were not completed, so no official flying could take place. The squadron was put to work preparing sections of the hangar so they could become operational at the earliest possible date.

An operation report sent by Commanding Officer, S/L W.T. Brooks, No. 133 Squadron, dated 11 December 1942, outlined all the problems to Western Air Command Headquarters in Victoria, B.C. The housing was very poor and inadequate. The senior NCOs and airmen were placed in various uncomfortable sections of the station, as civilian workers occupied two H-Huts and the Airmen’s Mess. The squadron could only give lectures, physical training, and organized sports events. The squadron had 17 Hurricane and two Harvard aircraft on charge, 29 fighter pilots, 27 of which had been fully trained for overseas service. As soon as the air strip was completed, they would begin training for air defence of their patrol section, [above in yellow] which was a small area between Patricia Bay [Victoria] and Sea Island [Vancouver]. When you read the Daily Diary, it is very clear Boundary Bay would mostly be used as a training area for fighter pilots to gain experience.

The first practice scramble took place on 27 October 1942, at 11:00 hrs and lasted twenty minutes, Hurricane 5389, pilot F/O F.N. Sproule. Today Canadian built Hawker Hurricane Mk. XI, 5389 is the only original No. 133 Squadron fighter to survive in the world.

The Daily Diary for the end of December 1942, records the number of buildings under construction and not one was fully completed.

To fully understand the problems No. 133 Squadron had flown into, we must go back to the fall of 1940, and the planning of BCATP schools in Canada. RCAF Station Boundary Bay was formed on Organization Order No. 99, 12 February 1941, and designed to operate at double the capacity of a normal training school. It was built as the largest RCAF Elementary Flying Training School, up to this date, and officially [without ceremony] opened on 10 April 1941, home of No. 18 E.F.T.S., Boundary Bay, [Ladner] B.C. The first class of 70 trainees arrived from No. 2 Initial Training School, Regina, Sask., however due to the unserviceability of the station, 35 were sent to Patricia Bay to start training. The Daily Diary records the strength on opening day as, Officers – 5, Airmen – 93, and the airfield was unfit for flying training.

By the beginning of July 1941, the school was nearing completion, and now the official ribbon cutting could take place by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and hundreds of V.I.P.s. It is all recorded in the Daily Diary for 2 July 1941.

Prime Minister King and the First Nations Chiefs smoke a Peace Pipe.

2 July 1941, 15:30 hrs., Prime Minister King addresses the VIPs as four thousand people look on. This was the first time a Prime Minister had visited Delta, B.C. The Canadian Red Ensign proudly flies from the new RCAF control tower, one day after “Dominion Day.”

This was the Canadian flag [Red Ensign] all members of the RCAF flew and died under 1939-45. 1 July 1944, was “Dominion Day” and today both are gone. Cover art – Gordon W. Rayner. The Red Ensign was in use from 1870, but very unpopular in Quebec, along with the name “Dominion”, [too British] so the Liberal government replaced both, and that is why we now have the Maple Leaf and “Canada Day.” A huge land of diversity, now with one common identity.

Training at No. 18 E.F.T.S. proceeded normal for the next five months, until 7 December 1941. The needed improvements in West Coast aircraft, equipment, and RCAF strength, had moved alone at a leisurely pace, the real threat to Canada was still in the North Atlantic and Newfoundland. Suddenly, the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, caused a new military threat to the complete coast of British Columbia, and American had entered the Second World War. The complete 9,000 miles of coast line from the tip of the Aleutians to the Panama Canal, must now be protected from Japanese attack. This brought on an extraordinary expansion of the Home War Establishment and the 900 miles of Canadian West Coast, much of it due to political pressure and the near panic of the large population living in Victoria, New Westminster, and Vancouver, B.C.

The Daily Diary at No. 18 E.F.T.S. Boundary Bay, records the events on 8 December 1941. The school was run by the civilian Aero Club of B.C. and it seems they did not wish to follow RCAF “Blackout” orders. On 1 May 1942, Organization Order No. 191, stated – “due to the present emergency of possible Japanese invasion, it has become necessary to make Boundary Bay available for Home War Establishment Squadrons.” No. 18 E.F.T.S. will now relocate to Caron, Saskatchewan. Home War Establishment took official control on 1 October 1942, and the following day the advance party of No. 133 Squadron [F/Os’ Aslin, Sproule and Cull] arrived. Construction priority was now underway on two new airfields on Vancouver Island, Tofino and Port Hardy, and eight new airstrips were in various stages of building. Boundary Bay would be enlarged with construction of 26 new buildings, plus a second new hangar and more runways. No. 133 Squadron Hurricane fighters officially arrived at Boundary Bay, 5 October 1942, during this rapid airfield-expanding-building programme. It would take 22 more days before they could begin patrols or organize any form of fighter pilot training.
Beginning in February 1943, four or five qualified fighter pilots would be transferred to RAF and RCAF fighter units overseas, replaced by graduate pilots from Service Flying Training Schools, and sometimes ex-Flying Instructors posted for fighter pilot training. The first operational patrol was flown on 25 February 1943. On 12 May 1943, two new fighter pilot graduates arrived at No. 133 Squadron, Boundary Bay, P/O T.W. Wann and Sgt. pilot Gordon Hill, R14282.

Copy of Daily Diary – 12 May 1943. Arriving at No. 133 Squadron.

Sgt. Hill flew his first West Coast Hurricane 5384 on 13 May 43, from 10:40 to 11:30 hrs. That same afternoon, he flew 5390 on local reconnaissance. His third and fourth flights took place 14 May 43, both in Hurricane 5385.

On 15 May 43, Sgt. Gordon Hill flew Hurricane 5389 for the very first time, 12:45 to 13:10 hours.

For this date in history, I completed a painting honoring Sgt. pilot Hill and his first combat patrol in Hurricane 5389. The totem inspiration came from the front cover of the Toronto Star Weekly magazine dated 2 October 1943. This also honors the First Nations people who have continuously inhabited these coastal waters of British Columbia for the past five thousand years. In 1941-42, these First Nation people opened their doors to Canadian troops who came to defend their land and way of coastal life. I feel this this has been overlooked in the history books far too long, as native farmers, trappers, fishermen, and woodsmen also shared the remote coast-defense patrols with the RCAF.

Gordon recorded the Hurricane code letters in his log book and “M” was 5389. The others were – “D” 5384, “U” 5390, “V” 5385, “A”, 5391, “E” 5401, “B” 5395, “O” 5386, “W” 5378, “L” 5397, and “T” 5381. On 24 May, Gordon flew a “Wing” exercise in Hurricane 5391, with American B-17 bombers, explained in detail later.
This rare 75-year-old restored [by fall 2018] fighter Hurricane 5389 survives today, property of citizens of Calgary, Flight Hangar Museum of Calgary, Alberta.

The 94-year-old original fighter pilot, Gordon Hill, also survives today in Calgary, Alberta, and was most kind to sign my painting on the afternoon of 7 June 2017.

My painting appears on one section of original fabric from Fleet Fawn 7C, Mk. II, serial number 123, RCAF #264. This aircraft was delivered to the RCAF on 7 July 1938, and arrived at Camp Borden 2 December 1939, assigned to “E” flight. It trained hundreds of future pilots at Camp Borden and later Trenton, Ontario, until S. O. C. on 3 December 1945.

In March 1942, Gordon Hill was a recruit guarding No. 13 [X] Depot at Camp Borden, Ontario, while overhead this very aircraft was flying and training future RCAF pilots. This original aircraft is restored to flying condition and can be seen and heard at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, at Nanton, Alberta. The full history of RCAF Fawn #264 also appears on their Website. The bottom right hand corner of this skin fabric contains one-quarter section of the original RCAF roundel painted in 1938. On this section, Gordon Hill autographed my painting.

After all these years, history has found a unique way to come back, unite, and preserve its very own past.

In May 43, the new Hurricane pilots at Boundary Bay were assigned dawn and dusk patrols, combined with hours of local flying, instrument flying, dog fighting, formation flying, spins, test aircraft flights, and combat exercises with American B-17s and P-38 fighters. The fighter pilots were tested, judged over and over, then each month five or six qualified pilots were posted overseas.

Sgt. Gordon Hill had arrived at Boundary Bay in the time period where Home War Establishment, Western Air Command had become a fairly strong and well-balanced fighter force in southern British Columbia. No. 132 was based at Patricia Bay, [Kittyhawks] for protection of Victoria, No. 135 at Tofino, [Hurricanes] protection of Vancouver Island coast, and No. 133 at Boundary Bay, [Hurricanes] for protection of Vancouver area and the north-west United States of America.

In 1941, the Canadian Government had assumed the strong and effective American Pacific fleet would prevent any aggression from Japan in the possibility of war. The sudden unexpected damage done to the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor altered all Canadian plans in regards to a West Coast possible invasion. The United States and Canada now stood side by side in the protection against an enemy invasion of the Pacific Northwest. The United States Army Air Force at once established and began construction of numerous airfields in Washington for protection and training of pilots and aircrews. This would take time and protection was needed at once.

While the Pacific fleet remained on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, American airpower would now protect any incursion into American territorial waters, and No. 133 Squadron of the RCAF unknowingly joined this defence planning. On 13 January 1942, a Joint Canadian-United States Pacific Coastal Frontier Plan No. 2 was approved and signed, official title ABC-Pacific-22. This new plan was designed to protect sea communications and territory from Alaska to the Northwest United States, most of all major ports of Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Victoria, and further north Prince Rupert. This report also found the Canadian West Coast was much better defended than that of the United States, due to the simple fact Canadians had been at war for two years.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor would also produce the greatest engineering feat of the century, the construction of the Alaska Highway project. Seattle became the major American port for embarkation of vast shiploads of supplies headed north to Prince Rupert, B.C. These two important port facilities would transport 1.6 million tons of freight in three years, and they needed priority protection. The area around Portland, Oregon, contained six major ship building yards and Boeing Field was building the mighty B-17 Flying Fortress, needed in the Pacific campaign and Mighty 8th A. F. in England.

Seven major American airfields were constructed surrounding the territorial waters in Washington State, Bellingham, Paine, McCord, Gray, Olympia, Port Townsend and Port Angeles. Beginning on 27 February 1943, all of these American airfields were patrolled by RCAF Hurricane fighters from No. 133 Squadron, RCAF Station Boundary Bay, B.C. In March and April RCAF Hurricane fighters and pilots would be temporary posted to these U.S.A.A.F. airfields.

On 2 March 43, three American P-38 fighters spent the morning dog-fighting with five Hurricanes from No. 133 Squadron. That evening four more RCAF pilots are transported to McCord Field for Temporary duty. In March, April, and May 43, No. 133 Hurricane fighters are flying patrols from Canada over American Territorial waters and involved in training with American B-17 Heavy Bombers. 11 March 43, Hurricanes 5381, 5383, 5388, and 5390, leave for temporary duty at Paine Field, and remain for four days. In April routine RCAF patrols begin in American airspace, and Sgt. Hill arrives on 12 May 1943.

The unsung heroes of Boundary Bay, B.C., the RCAF guards and mechanics 1943.

17 May 1943 – Hurricane 5391, 5382, and 5397, Boundary Bay to Port Angeles, [11:45 to 12:20 hrs.] Port Angeles to McCord Field, [13:30 to 14:00 hrs.] McCord Field to Boundary Bay, [15:45 to 16:45 hrs.]

18 May 1943 – Eight Hurricanes [5397, 5401, 5382, 5389, 5391, 5383, 5381, and 5384] escort a squadron of B-17s [390th Bomb Group] exercise over the Strait Juan de Fuca.

20 May 1943 – three Hurricanes 5385, 5381, and 5389, Boundary Bay to Paine Field, [11:10 to 12:00 hrs.] Return to boundary Bay, [12:50 to 13:35 hrs.]

24 May 1943 – Gordon Hill flying 5391, “A”, and seven other Hurricanes [5385, 5401, 5395, 5381, 5388, 5384, 5389] involved in a “Wing” exercise with a Squadron of B-17’s [390th B.G.] escorted by P-38s. Walla Walla A. A. F. and Geiger Field A. A. F. were two bases which trained B-17 combat crews for the 8th Air Force in England. The 390th Bomb Group had commenced training at Geiger Field on 26 February 1943, and were nearing the end of their course [5 June 43]. This American Heavy Bomber Force graduation exercise was designed to attack the City of Victoria, B.C., and the pilots of No. 133 were acting as the enemy German fighters.

Some of the forgotten RCAF pilots who also defended the United States of American in March, April, May of 1943. The German Sheppard pup was the new No. 133 Squadron Mascot.

The RCAF Hurricanes departed Boundary Bay for Patricia Bay, took on fuel and waited until 14:00 hrs., then took off to attack the approaching Americans. The dog fighting lasted 30 minutes, and all was recorded on gun cam film. No. 133 landed back at Pat Bay, 14:50 hrs, fuel, and left for home. Gordon Hill recorded the total flight time as 2 Hrs. and 30 mins. This rare and forgotten part of U.S.A.A.F. pre-combat B-17 training involved Calgary Hurricane 5389, and possibly all of the above Sgt. pilots.

The 390th B.G. graduated and departed for England on 17 July 1943, based at Framlingham, American Base #153. They flew their first mission on 12 August 43, and last on 20 April 45. They lost 144 Fortress B-17 bombers shot down, 32 crash landed, with 714 men killed in action.

The background Japanese identification chart makes interesting reading.

No. 133 Squadron move to Tofino, B.C.

No. 132 Squadron flew Kittyhawk aircraft in air defence from Sea Island, [Vancouver] 4 June 42 to 17 July 42, then Patricia Bay, 18 July 42 to 15 October 42, and Tofino 16 October 42 to 30 June 1943. They now replaced No. 133 at Boundary Bay. B.C., 30 June 1943. No. 132 became the first Home War Establishment Squadron to sight a Japanese submarine on the surface in Canadian waters, 7 November 1942, which was kept secret and classified for many years.

This complete new patrol section received the name Ucluelet Area, and ran 400 miles from main land B.C. into the Pacific Ocean. Just under half of this remote coast line area provided thousands of bays for Japanese submarines to surface unnoticed.

RCAF Station Tofino, B.C. would become one of the most important west-coast airfields from November 1942 until May 1945. The site chosen was first called “Burnt Lands” by the First Nation Indians, [Nuu-chah-nulth] due to a forest fire that swept the complete area. The site was in fact a poorly drained sandy mud flat, extending between Long Beach Ocean front and Grice Bay. The Coast Construction Company were hired by the government but gave up [machines repeatedly bogged in the mud] and sub-contracted to Gordon Gibson construction. The modern cement runway was completed on 14 October 1942, and the first aircraft landed, a Lysander which lost control and ran off the east-west runway. No. 132 Fighter Squadron Air Party of two, [P/O R.W. Rogers and P/O J.H. Beatty] arrived the next day with their Kittyhawk aircraft and found their new home in an appalling condition. This remote RCAF base soon earned the name “RCAF Mudville” and nobody wished to be posted to this “bush” station.

No hangars had been completed and ground crews had to stand outdoors, working under tarpaulins tied over the nose of fighter aircraft. They had no electricity, no water, no inside toilets, no showers and no washing facilities. The outdoor lavatories were of quick construction, the multi-hole’s style with no partitions, reached by a trek across the sea of mud and sand littered with construction debris. Reading the Daily Diary is a comedy of errors that lasted for many weeks. In a desperate move, the RCAF decided to assign airmen to assist the civilian unionized construction workers, who promptly threatened to strike and shut down all work. Slowly the new station took form and the routine of patrolling for Japanese submarines began. They all knew the Japanese submarines were close by and very active.

Source of the image

The Japanese submarine I-26 sunk the first American freighter on 7 December 1941, 300 miles off the coast of California. This attack was focused on the simultaneous bombing at Pearl Harbor, when I-26 surfaced beside the Cynthia Olsen, fired a warning shot, and after the crew abandoned their ship, sunk the freighter by gunfire. The poor American crew perished at sea, before they were found. The I-26 then moved north to the area outside the Strait of Juan de Fuca, [Vancouver Island] where she fired one torpedo and sunk the freighter Coast Trader. Moving further north, I-26 surfaced at Estevan Point and shelled the lighthouse and radio-direction-finding installation, causing no damage. This caused the Canadian government to extinguish all lighthouses on the West Coast, fearing they would be used by enemy vessels. The I-26 returned to Yokosuka, Japan, 7 July 1942. The American government did not acknowledge this Japanese submarine activity until fifty years later and in fact attributed the sinking of Coast Trader to an internal explosion. Today the true facts tell a possible much different story.

I-25 was a sister submarine, in the B1-Type, which carried a two-seater Yokosuka E14Y Japanese reconnaissance floatplane. This aircraft which the Allies named “Glen” was disassembled and stowed in a hangar, located in front of the submarine conning tower.

Source of the image

The I-25 took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, patrolling just a hundred miles north of Oahu. Then she sailed eastward and took up a patrol area near the Columbia River, and her patrols can be read online. Following successful observation flights on her second and third patrols, she was assigned a special incendiary bombing operation on the West Coast of North America. Again, this can all make for good reading online. On 9 September 42, her floatplane bombed Brookings, Oregon, the only bombing attack on continental U. S. in WWII. After the floatplane was secured, I-25 was attacked by a U.S.A.A.F. Hudson bomber and only minor damage was possibly done. 29 September 42, she struck at Port Orford, Oregon, but no fires reported. 4 October 42, torpedoed the tanker Camden at mouth of Columbia River. The tanker was only damaged, but while being towed to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 10 October, she caught fire and blew up. [or was she torpedoed?] 5 October 42, I-25 torpedoed Larry Doheny near Port Orford, Oregon, and she sank. 11 October 42, two Soviet submarines are leaving the coast of Washington by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, when I-25 fires her last torpedo, sinking Soviet L-16. The I-25 has no more torpedoes, but today the records show she did not return to Kwajalein, Japan, until 11 January 1943. Where did she go and what did she do?
The United States withholds all this information for the next fifty years and most is forgotten.
Then – while reading the Daily Diary of No. 132 Fighter Squadron, RCAF Station Torino, B.C., 7 November 1942, “Sighted Submarine.”

This is the official report from P/O R.O. Holland, the only witness and attached as Appendix “C” his hand drawn map of the position of the Japanese submarine.

I believe this is where I-25 went to hide for possibly two weeks, and was just accidently found by the passing Cessna Crane. I also believe Stewardson Inlet was used more than once, and possibly a hiding spot for even submarine I-26. This inlet was located on the border of two RCAF patrol areas, which was possibly known by the Japanese.

If you go to Google Earth, Latitude 49* 25’ 55” North – 126* 17’ 56, you will arrive at Stewardson Inlet, B.C. and it even has a little beach, in a most isolated area of trees and mountains. Perfect for hiding and resting. Did the Japanese go ashore or have a base?

On Sunday 7 June 1942, the Japanese submarine I-26 fired her last torpedoes at freighter Coast Trader and she was on the bottom in 40 minutes. She remains two miles inside the Canadian boundary line today. I believe I-26 then proceeded to Stewardson Inlet to hide, rest, and recharge. On 20 June, she shelled Estevan Point, which was just around the corner, and departed for Japan, arriving 7 July 1942.

Submarine I-25 fired her last torpedo on 11 October 42, and headed north to Stewardson Inlet for rest and possible repairs to minor damage. In the attack on 9 September 42, by the American Hudson bomber near Tacoma, Washington, she was possibly damaged and leaking oil. When I-25 crash-dived on 7 November 1942, she left a very large slick of oil, which remained until dusk. I-25 arrived in Japan 11 January 1943, for refuel and to be refurbished.

Over to all you submarine experts.

On 1 July 1943, No. 132 Fighter Squadron flew its Kittyhawks to Boundary Bay, and No. 133 flew its Hurricanes to Tofino. Eight months later, these two squadrons switched places again, and so on, ‘musical chairs.’ When RCAF Station Tofino was finished, it supported fighter protection, fighter pilot training, and became a main base for bomber reconnaissance, then in 1945, No. 133 Squadron returned to guard against the Japanese fire-balloons, flying de Havilland Mosquito F.B. Mk. 26 aircraft.

Sixteen No. 133 Squadron pilots delivered their aircraft to Tofino, and in the next fifteen months, five [red circle] will be killed flying fighters in action over Europe.
Gordon Hill flew to his new home at RCAF Tofino in the squadron Norseman aircraft. He will fly his first Hurricane 5382, “R” at Tofino on 5 July 1943. The move is not recorded.


Gordon could identify five – #2 – WO2 E. F. Gainforth, #7 – F/Sgt. F.S. Legear, #11 – F/O J. M. Ingalls, [American] #12 – F/O R. M. Tracy, and #13 – P/O V. J. Le Gear.

Left is P/O Stan V.M.J. Le Gear who flew Hurricane 5393 to Tofino, and Sgt. Daisy D.J. Dalzell who flew Hurricane 5388 to their new isolated sand strip.

F/Sgt. Ronald Alastair “Gus” Gaskin from Windsor, Ontario, admires the flight shack. Gus will later fly with No. 184 Squadron, killed at age 21 years, during a rocket attack on a German train in Typhoon MN851, Grefrahn, Germany, 19 October 1944. A close friend of Gordon Hill.

Dale and Herbie, No. 133 mechanics

P/O Bud Long and Ken Hossack

Gordon Hill would fly Hurricane 5382 on 3 July, 5384 on 5 July, 5401 on 6 July, 5386 on 8 July and 9 July, he was assigned to fly Hurricane “M”, [Calgary today] serial 5389. This would become his only, and last flight at Tofino in this fighter. Five days later Hurricane 5389 was involved in a Cat. “B” accident, loaded on a ship and transported to Coates Ltd. at Vancouver for repairs. The old Hurricane fighters were no longer a priority for aircraft repairs, and 5389 was not made airworthy until 15 March 1944. Her combat patrol days were over.

My second painting honors pilot Gordon Hill on the one and only flight he made in Hurricane 5389, at Tofino, B.C., on 9 July 1943. To make this painting as correct as possible, I completed two fact sheets on RCAF Hurricane markings, which were checked and approved by original pilot Gordon Hill.

P/O Gordon Hill flew Hurricane “B”, 5395 on 30-31 January, 26 February 1944

RCAF Station Tofino was constructed on a geographical region called “Clayoquot Sound’, comprised of land and hundreds of marine inlets. This coast has been carbon dated and it is thought to have been continuously inhabited for the past five thousand years. The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations are believed to have made this inlet their home for the past 3,000 years. For all those old history buffs, it is most interesting reading, including war with the Spanish and British. In July 1774, Captain Juan Perez reached the Queen Charlotte Islands aboard the ship Santiago. He traded with the Haida people and then sailed south to Perez Rocks, just 40 km north of RCAF Station Tofino, which had no name at that date. He claimed this land in the name of New Spain, which beat the more historical celebrated British Captain James Cook by three years. In 1792, Spanish Captains Galiano and Valdez made a complete exploration of Vancouver Island and from this many areas received Spanish names that remain today. A most important member of this team was the Spanish hydrographer, [map maker] who taught Captain Galiano cartography. The name Tofino honours Spanish map maker Vincente Tofino, and the map in my painting preserves his past. The current town site was established on Esowista peninsula, in 1909.

From a very modest beginning, the prefix “ROYAL” was officially adopted on 1 April 1924, and Canada’s Fifth Air Force became a permanent component of our defence forces. The actual permanent force of the RCAF was 62 officers and 262 airmen. Just like its predecessor, the Canadian Air Force, the new RCAF was unique to all other air forces in the world, as 90% of its work was not at all related to the protection of Canada, but non-military in character. The very principal justification for Canada having an Air Force was for Home Air Defence from enemy attack, but this was deemed far remote and forgotten by our government. The Liberal Cabinet of Mackenzie King did very little to prepare Canada for war with Hitler, and when we went to war, Canada did the right thing by sending assistance to Great Britain, at the very expense of our own home defences. Our Home War Establishment came last in men, modern aircraft, and all operational equipment. Another major problem was the failure of Canada to develop any aircraft engine manufacturing, and thus we had to beg, borrow, and steal, from the Americans and British. We produced the Hawker Hurricane in Canada but the Packard Rolls-Royce engines were manufactured in Detroit, USA, and we could not demand, but had to plead for these fighters for Home War Establishment. With the Americans and British together controlling the allocation of engines and airframes to Canada, it was only the attack by Japan on 7 December 1941, which brought America into the Second World War, and thus improved our country’s fighter defences. Again a very complex problem and very political to read, solved by the Japanese. It was simple – the United States was now our ally, and Canada and the U.S. each faced enemies on both coast lines, a real threat to attack as never before. On 9 March 1942, the RCAF began drafting a new air defence plan for Canada, and P-40 Kittyhawks and Hawker Canadian built Hurricanes were a major part. These new Hurricane and Kittyhawk aircraft filled the new formed H.W.E. Squadrons.
When these new RCAF Hurricane Fighter Squadrons of the Home War Establishment were formed on paper, they were notified by orders they would not be permitted any official RCAF motto, badge, or authority from King George IV in England. They must pick a squadron name and submit it to Headquarters in Eastern and Western Air Command. Most squadrons submitted a name and Walt Disney became the most chosen nose art paintings. Still a forgotten part of our RCAF WWII history.

No. 125 Fighter Squadron, formed Sydney, Nova Scotia, 20 April 1942. No known name or badge. Flew Hurricanes East Coast air defence until 22 December 1943.
No. 126 Fighter Squadron, formed Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 27 April 1942, September 1942, took name “Flying Lancers” from Walt Disney. Flew Hurricane fighters East Coast until disbanded 31 May 1945. The very first Home War Establishment Squadron to apply to Walt Disney artists in Burbank, California, for ‘unofficial’ badge and nose art. The badge featured a Black Cat with sword and shield, not very lucky, but it was created by the design team of “Mr. Disney.”

No. 127 Fighter Squadron, formed Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 1 July 1942. No known name of nose art. Flew Hurricane fighters on East Coast air defence until 17 December 1943.
No. 128 Fighter Squadron, formed Sydney, Nova Scotia, 7 June 1942. First took name “Dragon” [September 1942] but then submitted design to Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

Disney design [Fighting Fox] arrived on 18 January 1943, appearing in the squadron Daily Diary. Appeared as nose art on many of the squadron Hurricane fighters. Disbanded at Torby, Newfoundland, 15 March 1944.

No. 129 Fighter Squadron, formed Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 28 August 1942. Name “Micmac.’ Flew Hurricane on East Coast air defence, disbanded at Gander, Newfoundland, 30 September 1945. No known photos of badge or nose art on fighters.

No. 130 Fighter Squadron, formed Mont-Joli, Quebec, 1 May 1942. Name “Panther.” Flew P-40 Kittyhawk fighters on East Coast air defence until disbanded at Goose Bay, Labrador, 15 March 1944. No known badge or nose art on fighters.

No. 132 Fighter Squadron., formed Rockcliffe, Ontario, 14 April 1942. No known name or nose art. Flew P-40 Kittyhawk fighters on West Coast air defence until disbanded at Sea Island, [Vancouver, B.C.] 30 September 1944.

No. 133 Fighter Squadron, formed Lethbridge, Alberta, 3 June 1942. Took the name “Falcon” in September 1942. Flew West Coast air defence until disbanded at Patricia Bay, B. C. on 10 September 1945.

I believe No. 133 took the Walt Disney insignia “Butch A Falcon” but cannot find any photo proof. My painting honours the original people, Nuu-chan-nulth, the Spanish name Tofino”, pilot Gordon Hill, Hurricane 5389 and the First Nations Nuu-chan-nulth “Falcon.”

F/L Dunn was a talented artist who created charcoal drawings which hung on the Officers mess wall. Sgt. Hill captured this image of RAF [British built] fighters in action Battle of Britain.

The complete squadron in October of 1943. [Below] Two flights March 1944.

Another charcoal drawing by F/L Dunn which hung in the Officers Mess at Tofino in March 1944.

They had been informed they would soon be converting to the American Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. I fighters and many pilots believed they would be flying this fighter in Europe.

The seventeen Hurricane fighters flown to Sea Island from Tofino, Gordon flew 5378.
Once again the RCAF musical chairs will began as these seventeen fighters will be transferred to No. 135 Squadron and flown to Patricia Bay, B.C., departing 11:25 hrs. 12 March 1944. On 11 March 44, at 17:00 hrs. thirteen Kittyhawks and two Harvards arrive at Sea Island from Patricia Bay and No. 163 Squadron. No. 163 will be disbanded on 15 March 44, and now No. 133 Squadron will fly their old fighters. Now remember Hurricane 5389 [Calgary today], had been under repair at Vancouver and now it is flown to Sea Island, then transferred to No. 135 Squadron and flown to Patricia Bay on 15 March 44.


Well here are the original Daily Diary records. For the second time in her career, Hurricane 5389 [Calgary today] will fly with No. 135 [Bulldog] squadron, and that’s where her fighter days came to an end.


RCAF Station Sea Island 1944

Close-up of Sea Island, [Vancouver, B.C.] 1944.

On 21 March 1944, P/O Gordon Hill was giving flying instructions to P.O E. E. Long in Harvard 2565, when the C.O. ordered them for a photo shoot on the 5th War Bond Drive.
Gordon Hill spent 39 days at Sea Island and no photos were taken. He was advised by his C.O. that a posting was coming and it officially arrived on 18 April 1944. P/O Hill flew eighteen Kittyhawk flights in March, the first [solo flight] in Kittyhawk 731, 20 March 1944.

Ten more flights were made in April 1944, the first in Kittyhawk 1051 on 11 April, the last wo flights in Harvard 2565 on 17 April 1944.

Gordon wrote – “18 April 1944, – Vic Legear, Terry Watt, Gus Gaskin and self posted overseas.”

The four pilots will now leave for England, to be trained as Typhoon or Spitfire fighter pilots. P/O “Gus” R. A. Gaskin will be killed in action, age 21 years, flying Typhoon MN851, 19 October 1944.

Flying Officer Legear will suffer the same faith…

P/O Gordon Hill is selected for Spitfire fighter training in England. [Chapter Three begins]

Intermission – P/O Eli M. Rosenbaum

In January 2015, this story appeared on Lest We Forget, a blog that I created in 2009 with the idea of paying homage to my wife’s uncle who was a sailor aboard HMCS Athabaskan G07.

Little did I know back then that I would virtually meet Clarence Simonsen thanks to another blog I had created to pay homage to RCAF 128 Squadron. People might consider Clarence as a amateur historian.

I don’t. This is why I had created Preserving the Past to share Clarence’s impressive research.

Clarence is always afraid I might get tired posting his stories. This will never happen. So without further ado, here is the story that was posted in 2015.

The original is here:

Except this picture shared on a Facebook group page…

Canadian Military Aircraft Crashes, Wrecks, Relics, Retired & Displays

I could not resist colorising it to show my appreciation for Clarence.

Another impressive research from Clarence Simonsen

During WWII the Canadian Jewish Congress published four comic style books recording the history of Jewish Heroes.

comic book

The Jewish WWII Decorations speak for themselves.

decorations won by Canadian Jews

One of the RCAF officers who never appeared in the comic style honor book was P/O Eli M. Rosenbaum, [Air Force Cross] from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He cheated death flying in a RCAF B-17 on three different occasions.

Eli Maximillian Rosenbaum

P/O Eli Maximillian Rosenbaum #J27043, 1943 [Rosenbaum collection]

This story begins in the fall of 1943, when a very serious Canadian political and military problem had developed, slow mail delivery to our Canadian troops in England and the new Mediterranean war zone. For the first three years of the Second World War, the Canadian Government had largely relied on the British and Americans to deliver our military mail to the battle front. With thousands of Canadians now serving in the air and ground forces in North Africa, the mail was not getting to the fighting man, and with Christmas quickly approaching the Government was feeling the heat, both from home and the war front. At once official pressure was applied and RCAF activity began on 17 October 1943, when Wing Commander R.B. Middleton was ordered to disband his present squadron and form a new squadron in his Hangar #66 at Rockcliffe, Ontario. The next day, official RCAF authorization was received for forming No. 168 [Heavy Transport] Squadron, under No. 9 [Transport] Command, Air Force Headquarters, Rockcliffe, Ontario. That same afternoon three Lodestars arrived from No. 164 Squadron, sub-detachment at Edmonton, Alberta. By the end of October, a total of eleven Lockheed Lodestars were on strength at 168 Squadron and training began on 9 November 43. The non-stop direct training flights were flown from Rockcliffe to Edmonton, Alberta, the approximate same distance as an Atlantic crossing from Rockcliffe to Scotland. It soon became obvious to all squadron members the Lodestars were not suitable for long-range flights and due to extra fuel could carry very little mail cargo.

On 2 November 43, the new Commanding Officer W/C Middleton and two other officers left for the USAAF B-17 instructional school at Lockbourne Army Air Base, Columbus, Ohio. The Canadian Government had purchased six veteran aging B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, which had previously been used to train USAAF crews, and now arrangements were made for delivery to Rockcliffe plus the training of new RCAF aircrew at Lockbourne Army Air Base.

Eli Maximillian Rosenbaum was born in the Jewish section of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and joined the RCAF in 1942. He attended No. 2 Initial Training School at Regina, Saskatchewan, trained at No. 8 EFTS, Vancouver, B.C. and earned his wings at No. 7 SFTS Fort Macleod, Alberta. I made mail and phone contact with Eli in 1993, during which time he informed me he never used his full surname and always went by the name Eli Ross, even during WWII. Due to his nationality, he was instructed he would remain in Canada, posted to the newly formed No. 168 [HT] Squadron which was in the rushed temporary building stage. He first reported to Dorval for instructions on transatlantic operations and briefings from RAF instructors who came from No. 31 RAF Radio Direction Finding School at Clinton, Ontario. This B.C.A.T.P. school was run by the RAF and became the only one of its kind in all North America, training American, British and Canadians. It was taken over by the RCAF in July 1943 [in paper only] and became No. 5 Radio School, still manned by original RAF instructors, who instructed co-pilot Eli Ross.

On 26 November 43, Eli Ross was one of six RCAF Officers selected for training at the American B-17 Training Base at Lockbourne, Ohio. Two Canadian pilots, two co-pilots, and two wireless operators joined the Americans in the class room, when the USAAF instructor’s allowed the RCAF personnel to interrupt their normal training. While Eli was in training, the very first American B-17F arrived at Rockcliffe airfield 4 December 43, during a heavy snowfall, which proved the American pilot with poor runway conditions and limited visibility. Unfamiliar with Canadian winter conditions the USAAF pilot continued to fly overhead again and again, waiting for the snow conditions to clear. After the runway was plowed, he made his successful landing and turned the first USAAF B-17F [42-3160] over to W/C Middleton.

newspaper photo of unknown American

The newspaper photo of unknown American who delivered the first B-17F to Rockcliffe in the Canadian snow storm


With the arrival of B-17F [Douglas] serial 42-3160 on 4 December 1943, the RCAF began their Fortress serial numbers with 9202. It is interesting to see the runway had been cleared of snow and in the background are the Lockheed Lodestars used for early training. The following day B-17F, serial 42-6101 [Vega] arrived and received RCAF serial #9203. On the 8 December B-17F [Douglas] serial 42-3360 arrived and took serial 9204.

With the arrival of the first three B-17s, a great amount of RCAF pressure was applied to get the first Christmas mail to England as soon as possible. Fortress #9202 was prepared for the flight, loaded with mail and prepared for take-off on 14 December 1943. During the run-up, one engine developed an engine gear failure which required the entire replacement. An overnight change of aircraft was hurried into effect and the next morning Fortress #9204 was ready for take-off.

The RCAF officer in command was W/C Middleton, the pilot was F/L B.G. Smith, co-pilot P/O Eli Rosenbaum, F/O F. B. Labrish navigator, F/O C.A. Dickson wireless operator, with passengers W/C Z.L. Leigh Air Force H.Q., Ottawa, F/O J. F. Irvine, technical officer and F/O S. Tingley, H.Q. staff Ottawa. In total 189 mail bags were placed on board and combined with the RCAF brass a total weight of 5,502 was recorded.

The crew of the first flight of the RCAF Overseas Airmail Service


The crew of the first flight of the RCAF Overseas Airmail Service [Mailcan]
on 15 December 1943

Left to right P/O Eli Rosenbaum, [co-pilot Winnipeg]; F/L B. G. Smith, [pilot American- Nebraska]; F/O C. A. Dickson, [wireless Edmonton]; and F/O F.B. Labrish, [navigator Montreal]. The background B-17F is 42-6101 which became #9203 and arrived on 5 December 1943, the same date three RCAF crews had their official photo taken in front of the Fortress.

The pre-flight farewell ceremony

The pre-flight farewell ceremony held before the take-off of Fortress 9204, 15 December 1943. [Eli Ross collection]

The above photo came from Eli Ross [center under over-painted American white star and bars] who can be seen looking over the shoulder of civilian [Post Master General of Canada]. Three of the RCAF crew members [far left] are seen chatting with the young lady, possibly a secretary to a senior officer. The special guests included the Minister of National Defence for Air, the Deputy Minister of DND for Air, Deputy Post Master General and other senior RCAF officials. After the official ceremony the B-17F with passengers and crew departed to Dorval for the overnight stay, then on to Gander where they were delayed three days with gas leaks in self-sealing tanks.

Take-off from Rockcliffe on 15 December 1943

Take-off from Rockcliffe on 15 December 1943, Fortress 9204
heads to Dorval for the overnight stay. [PL23408]

On 20 December 1943, [just after midnight] the crew and passengers of B-17F #9204 departed Gander, Newfoundland for Prestwick, Scotland. At 20,000 feet they broke free of clouds and navigator Labrish took a star fix. At this point they discovered the fortress had a tail wind of 60 knots, and then they settled in for the long trans-Atlantic flight. As the Eastern sunrise climbed into the morning sky, pilot Smitty switched to the auxiliary fuel tanks and in turn each engine quit. Due to the [jet-stream] tail wind the aircraft made a landing at RCAF No. 422 Squadron, flying boat [Sutherland] base at St. Angelo in Northern Ireland, with twenty minutes of fuel in the main tanks. When the ground crew checked the fuel lines they found the Americans had clamped off the auxiliary tanks, which were not required for training flights. In the rush to get the Christmas mail to Scotland, the Fortress had not been properly checked, and this almost cost the lives of all the crew and senior RCAF Officers. No blame was directed at the ground crews as the senior officers realized they had in fact caused the problem. Official report – “It is not possible to lay on an important transport operation with second-hand aircraft in a hurry, without taking serious chances.”

Co-pilot Eli Ross fully understood that the 60 knots tail wind and pure luck had saved all of their lives, and lady luck would ride with him two more times and save his life again and again.

At Rockcliffe, two more B-17E aircraft had arrived and joined the growing fleet. On 15 December 43, USAAF serial 41-9142 arrived and took RCAF #9205, followed by B-17E, serial 41-2438 on 21 December, which took RCAF #9206.




The No. 168 engineering officer S/L W. H. Lewis looks on as the squadron artist LAC Freemantle paints a Canadian Mail bag for each operation flown. Ground crew LAC Murray admires his art work. RCAF Fortress #9202 was the first to return to Rockcliffe on 10 January 1944, with 1,400,000 Christmas letters. The near tragedy of this first flight was not reported to the public, while the Canadian Government took the occasion to give it considerable publicity, which pleased the greater majority of Canadian families with sons and daughters at war overseas.


By the middle of January 1944, the five B-17s of No. 168 Squadron were providing regular overseas airmail delivery from Rockcliffe to Preswick, Scotland. During the spring of 1944, LAC Freemantle created and painted a special nose art insignia for the B-17 aircraft and it first appeared on the nose of B-17F serial 42-3369, RCAF #9204, featuring an American Eagle in full flight carrying one Canadian mail bag in each claw.


Eli Ross photo showing the first RCAF B-17 nose art

Eli Ross photo showing the first RCAF B-17 nose art on #9204, spring 1944

nose art

The same nose art would later appear on Boeing built Fortress B-17E, serial 41-9142, RCAF 9205. Please note these two nose art insignia featured a full white tail on the American bald Eagle. This was painted in honor of P/O Eli Ross and donated to the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg, March 2009. This nose art resulted from the following story.

On the night of 23 January 1944, the very first airmail flight took place from Prestwick, Scotland to Italy with a fuel stop at Gibraltar. The crew would fly together for the first time with new pilot F/O H. B. Hillcoat, co-pilot Eli Ross, F/O Freddie B. Labrish, navigator, F/O Cec A. Dickson, wireless, and Cpl. Al de Marco as crewmember. They departed Scotland in Fortress #9205 for Gibraltar, flying just below the freezing level of 5,000 feet. Some ninety miles south of Brest there was a sudden tremendous impact with another aircraft, which they later learned was a Vickers Wellington of RAF Coastal Command. The Fortress lost two engines, the nose was bent, the complete under side was damaged, and they only had one supercharger in operation. For the next two hours pilot Hillcoat and Eli Ross fought the damaged controls, with the shuddering aircraft flying near stalling speed. Near the coast of Cornwall they began to call for help and received a reply from RAF Station Predannack, where they landed. For their heroic actions and exceptional airmanship, Hillcoat, Rosenbaum, Labrish and Dickson were awarded the Air Force Cross, while de Marco received the Air Force Medal. For the second time lady luck had saved the lives of Eli Ross, Labrish and Dickson. [At this point in the war the RAF had advocated all aircraft on the Gibraltar to England flights be allotted different heights of flight, but nothing had been officially done]. Shortly after this RCAF Fortress and Wellington head-on collision the new rules came into effect, saving future air force lives.


Eli Ross images of damage to RCAF Fortress

Eli Ross images of damage to RCAF Fortress #9205

Due to the shortage of four engine aircraft Fortress #9205 was completely rebuilt, striped of camouflage paint and give an unglazed silver fabric nose cone. The American Bald Eagle with solid white tail appeared as nose art on the new natural metal skin. The much delayed sixth and final Fortress B-17E, [Boeing] serial 41-2581, arrived on 1 February 1944 and became RCAF #9207. Her life was very shot when she crashed on take-off from Prestwick, Scotland, on 2 April 1944, all killed. This was caused by shifting of mail cargo during take-off, causing the aircraft to stall and spin in. The aircraft was not installed with proper strapping to prevent the movement of mail bags in flight and was carrying a heavier than normal load.

No. 168 Squadron took delivery of its first Dakota [DC-3] aircraft in late January 1944, and the first two flew overseas on 21 and 22 February 1944. These aircraft carried a new modified nose art insignia created by LAC Freemantle, and each featured a solid black tail on the American Eagle.

Simonsen replica painted Dakota nose art

This Simonsen replica painted Dakota nose art is in the private collection of Richard de Boer, Calgary, Alberta

On 17 September 1944, Fortress #9204 was landing at Rockcliffe when the undercarriage was accidently retracted, and damage was so severe it was written off. [Second B-17 lost]

Eli Ross photo collection

Eli Ross photo collection

New B-24 Liberator aircraft which had been converted to transports began to arrive in Mid-October and the first flight took place on the 19th of the month.

On 15 December 1944 [one year to the date of the first mail flight] Eli Ross was on leave when his normal aircrew of pilot F/L Horace Hillcoat AFC,AFM, navigator F/L Fred Labrish, AFC, and wireless F/O Cecil Dickson, AFC, depart Rabat Sale, Morocco, in Fortress 9203. Eli had been replaced by co-pilot F/L Alfred Ruttleledge, DFC, and bar. Twenty minutes before they were due to land at the French Morocco base in Azores, they called in for landing instructions. The B-17 and crew were never seen again and only a few mail bags were found floating in the Ocean. A South African Ventura was dispatched to the area and this aircraft also went missing. It was believed a German U-boat shot down both aircraft.

This would mark the third time Eli Ross had escaped death.

By mid-February 1945, the squadron had on strength nine Liberators, ten Dakotas, one Hudson and three B-17 Fortress aircraft. For the new B-24 Liberators LAC Freemantle created the same nose art insignia as painted on the B-17s however each one had a solid black tail.

RCAF 578

This is RCAF 578, “QN” USAAF 44-10581, 27 July 44 to 7 July 1947


F/L John Harding, DFC, standing in front of RCAF “QK” #575 USAAF serial 44-10592,
27 July 1944 to 7 July 1947

John Harding was born in London, Ontario, in 1919, and joined the RCAF in 1941. He served in RAF Bomber Command as a navigator with the rank of Sgt. and after his first tour with No. 130 Squadron was promoted to Flight Lt. He flew 30 operations in Lancaster bombers with 130 RAF Squadron and completed another 20 operations in Lancasters with No. 550 Squadron RAF. He painted his Lancaster serial #4901 in 130 squadron with nose art of a Red Devil under the pilot cockpit area for his skipper Sid Burton, RAF.

After two tours with the RAF, F/L John Harding, DFC, arrived in Ottawa, posted to No. 168 Squadron for his third tour, flying in Liberators beginning early August 1944. He was not alone as other members of the squadron wore decorations and also had completed one or two operations overseas. Another famous WWII pilot F/O Johnny Bourassa, DFC, had completed 43 operations with No. 635 Pathfinder squadron, which was unheard of at that time due to the low survival rate. He later became a well known bush pilot who became lost on 18 May 1951, returning from Bathurst Inlet in North West Territories, and force landed on a northern lake. He left a note in his aircraft and departed on foot at 14:30 hrs 23 May 1951, but has never been found. His aircraft crash site was located on 15 September 1951, by an American B-17 Fortress flying to Edmonton, Alberta. I have a copy of his log book and for his third RCAF tour. He flew Dakota aircraft with No. 168 Squadron all over Europe, Biggin Hill, Brussels, Minden, Germany, Naples, Italy, Cairo, Egypt, Benghazi, Libya, Apeldoorn, Holland, Hengelo, Holland, and Bückeburg, Germany.

John Harding also related to me how No. 168 Mail Squadron had two pilots who came from rich families living in the Ottawa area, and they had used political power to have their sons posted to the much safer mail squadron. Some of the WWII veterans took a dislike to these pilots, including John Harding who refused to fly with one, which possibly saved his life. John was assigned to navigate the new Liberators, [first week in November 1944] while the pilot he did not respect was later killed, flying with his crew in the older B-17 Fortress aircraft.

The end of the war in Europe, 8 May 1945, did very little to change the daily operation of No. 168 Squadron, as the mail must still go through. The new Liberators had taken over the major work load, which included an increase in senior RCAF and civilian VIP passengers. Liberator 574 was extensively modified and became Canada’s first VIP official transport aircraft, flying the Prime Minister, Governor General and other cabinet ministers to meetings.

The RCAF Fortress would have one last moment of glory when #9205 and #9202 were rushed into a special delivery of penicillin from Canada to Warsaw, Poland in October 1945. Due to the increasing Cold War pressure the Russians had to first grant flying permission to the RCAF which they did. On 4 November 1945, Fortress #9202 hit a mountain near Muenster, Germany, and all five crew were killed.

B-17 9202

F/L John Harding, DFC, flew his last operation as navigator in Fortress #9202 on 14 October 1944, and took this image at Gibraltar. The B-17 had completed thirteen compete round-trips, and was half-way to her next little mail bag painting.

Eli Ross photo collection 2

Eli Ross collection

Loading the much needed miracle drug of penicillin into the fold-down nose cap of Fortress #9205, showing the solid white tail of the American Eagle “mail Squadron” insignia.

With the birth of another new year, 1946 would mark the end of No. 168 [H.T.] RCAF Squadron. On 3 March 46, the very last flight took place when Liberator #575 switched her engines off at Rockcliffe. When you look at the squadron records it shows the Liberators completed the most mail trips with an impressive three hundred and thirty-two, however the six B-17 Fortress aircraft were the trail blazers and completed two hundred and forty trips.

From 15 December 1943 to 21 April 1946, No. 168 [H.T.] Squadron delivered 9,125,000 pieces of Canadian service air mail, lost five aircraft and eighteen personnel killed in action. From the very beginning the six old American B-17 Fortress aircraft carried the work load, after they had already served a hard and useful American life, thus they required constant maintenance just to keep them flying. In the end, four B-17s would crash and their casualty list reached fifteen RCAF killed in action.

  1. B-17F RCAF #9203, lost at sea 5 December 1943. [Five killed]
  2. B-17E RCAF #9207, crashed Scotland, 2 April 1944. [Five killed]
  3. B-17F RCAF #9204, damaged beyond repair, Rockcliffe, 17 September 1944.
  4. B-17F RCAF #9202, hit mountain Muenster, Germany, 4 November 1945. [Five killed]


The two remaining B-17E surviving aircraft were #9205 and # 9206, which were sold by War Assets to a pilot in Argentina, where they both arrived on 12 April 1948. After a brief period of flying cargo, both were parked on the field at Moron, Argentina, where they were dismantled and hauled away for scrap in 1964.

Born in the family farm house, located six miles east of the small village of Acme, Alberta, on 24 March 1944, I grew up with the love of aviation and comic books. At age three, I saw a pattern for making a child’s uniform based on the RCAF uniform of WWII, and I wanted it. From the magazine pattern my mother made the uniform which I proudly wore on our train trip to Vancouver, B.C. in the summer of 1947. On my very first train trip, I met my very first girlfriend named Patsy Gibson, and had no idea that girls and uniforms would form a major part of my future aviation research.

Oh, the power of a pilot uniform.


The photo back reads – “Twenty minute train stop at Revelstoke, B.C.,
1 June 1947, girlfriend Patsy Isabel Gibson.


Growing up on our mixed farm of cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, was constant day to day work, which gave me very little time for my love of drawing and painting airplanes, most of all the American B-17 Flying Fortress. Due to the fact all comics were American, I became an artistic expert on the Fortress, and dreamed of what it would be like to fly in such a famous aircraft. I grew up in a world with no electricity, no in-door plumbing and my entertainment became newspapers, comics, and radio programs. Unlike today’s computer generated fantasy world of super monster heroes, I had to use my imagination, which involved hours of flying in the B-17. In 1962, I jointed the Canadian Army Military [Provost] Corps and learned firsthand the impact of cartoons and art in the Armed Forces. This led directly to my future research and painting of WWII Aviation nose art, which began with the B-24 and B-17 aircraft of the 8th Air Force in England. In 1980, I joined the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, while I was busy editing my own column of the nose art used by the American who flew in England during WWII. I was learning what it was like to be a pilot in a B-17 during WWII, from the very veteran aircrews and making contact with the men who painted the Fortress nose art. This became the best part of my B-17 nose art research as I fully understood, I would never be able to fly in a real Fortress.

By 1990, I was completely consumed by nose art, working on an American nose art book with Jeffery Ethell, plus interviewing and recording as much as I could on the RCAF WWII nose art and artist. I learned the full history of the Calgary Lancaster FM136, a proud bomber that had marked the entrance to the Calgary Airport until 13 October 1977, when the new airport opened further north. The Lancaster was now exposed to vandals and pigeons, which left years of droppings inside the bomber. On 10 March 1992, a special committee was formed to move the Lancaster to a safer location. On 23 April 1992, the WWII Lancaster was removed from her pedestal where she had been placed on 11 April 1961. The original pedestal contained 140,000 pounds of cement and 8,000 pounds of steel which was secured inside the bomber fuselage attached to the main spar. Almost half of the bomb bay door was cut and removed for the cement base to fit inside the aircraft. This large section of bomb bay boor needed to be replaced for the new restoration.

In 1993, I spend two days with No. 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at CFB Namao, Edmonton. I was researching the full history of Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB994, which Neil Menzies had donated to the squadron in July 1984. This bomber was donated for restoration but the new C.O. Lt. Col. Lee was an Army pilot and he strictly forbade any work to be completed towards the restoration. Frustrated the Air Force members returned the bomber to Menzies, who sold KB994 to Charles Church in England, which he planned to mate with KB976.


The two Lancaster aircraft owned by Charles Church in England,
date unknown, after 1988.

For some reason the two bomb bays doors from KB994 were never shipped to Charles Church in England and they remained near a storage fence in Edmonton. I photographed the doors on my visit in summer of 1993 and then informed 408 Helicopter Squadron that the Aero Space Museum of Calgary required two bomb bay doors.

bomb bay doors

In 1994, the original KB994 bomb bay doors were donated to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, and restored into the Calgary Lancaster FM136. I obtained the scrap sections that remained for future nose art replica paintings. Then in the spring of 1996, I learned that the owner [Gordon Laing] of Sunwest Aviation in Calgary airport was bringing the B-17G “Sentimental Journey” to Calgary for a five day visit. It is not possible to describe my feelings at that moment.

The General Manager of the Aero Space Museum of Calgary was Mr. Everett Bunnell, an ex-WWII Flying Instructor, Mosquito postwar pilot, CF-100 jet pilot and British Bristol Air pilot. He was not an overly friendly person and ran ‘his’ museum like the wartime Air Force, he was top brass and did not speak to the “Erks.” I had been a museum volunteer for the past 16 years and wanted to welcome the Confederate Air Force and their B-17 and German He-111 to the City of Calgary. This was a no brainer for the WWII connection and the warm hospitality shown by the people of Calgary, so I approached Mr. Bunnell in his office for the one and only time. I wanted to know what the Aero Space Museum had planned to do and I wished to be involved, if possible. The reply from Mr. Bunnell was very upsetting, shocking, and totally unexpected. He informed me ” I don’t want a thing to do with the Yanks or their damn B-17 aircraft, period.”

I next approached Richard de Boer who was the third in charge at the time and we both expressed outrage over the remarks of Manager Bunnell, but he was boss and nothing could be done to change him. During my life, I found I do some of my best work when people tell me “no” or “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough.” I informed Richard I would paint a WWII nose art replica and present it to the CAF from myself, Richard de Boer, and the Aero Space Museum of Calgary.

I had just made contact with Eli Ross [1993] and learned the full history of the six B-17’s that flew with the RCAF during WWII, and that triggered my nose art idea. I would paint the American Bald Eagle insignia that flew on the two RCAF B-17’s that hauled mail to England. From the bomb bay section of skin I saved from Lancaster KB994, I stripped the original paint, hand polished to a bright shine, and then painted the replica insignia of the RCAF WWII, B-17E, #9205 mail squadron.


The 1996 presentation to the Confederate Air Force, Arizona Wing, painted on original WWII Lancaster skin from bomb bay of KB994.

The two WWII aircraft of the Confederate Air Force, Arizona, Wing, arrived at Calgary International Airport on 28 July 1996 and the pilots were presented with white hats from the City of Calgary. I then approached the pilot of the B-17G, Sentimental Journey and presented him with the replica nose art of the WWII RCAF Mail Squadron. He was most pleased and ask me to tell him more about the use of the American B-17 by the RCAF during WWII, as he had no idea Canada flew any Fortress aircraft. After a brief history conversation, the pilot invited me to arrive at the airport the next morning at 5 am, and I would be taken for a ride in their B-17G. I didn’t sleep much that night as the excitement was running very high, plus it was such an impossible dream, now coming true.

The next morning I was taken onto the wing of the B-17, shown how they checked the oil on each engine and then I did my own pull through on one engine. You had to turn the props on each engine, five or six times to get the oil to coat the cylinders. [That may not be the correct terms but it is close]



This photo taken by the B-17G pilot is out of focus, however it captures the moment.

I was next instructed I could go anyplace in the bomber once we had reached our altitude of 6,000 ft, just be careful and hang on. We would be doing a pilot check ride and it would last for the next two hours. I was then introduced to the new pilot, who had in fact flown B-17s with the 15th Air Force during WWII, just amazing. Then came the start and warming of the four engines, while we sat between the two hangars at Sunwest Aviation.


In 1996, regulations did not allow the landing or take-off of any aircraft until 7 am, and then the Calgary Tower gave the visiting B-17 priority for first take-off. We proudly taxied past all the airliners waiting in line for take-off clearance.

view 2

view 3

This is what you see from the nose blister of a WWII B-17G during take-off from the Calgary International Airport, 29 July 1996.

view 4

Coming in to land with a few bugs on the nose. [Just think the pilot
and co-pilot are sitting eight feet behind you]

Even after the passage of almost twenty years, it is still hard to imagine what occurred in the next two hours of flying over southern Alberta. Twice the pilot shut down two engines, first the two inner, then restarted each, and then the two outer, then restated. Next came shutting down two engines on each wing, and for the first time I could imagine what it had been like for Eli Ross and crew to fly back to England on one and one/half engines. We then did three touch and go landings at the Calgary Airport, but the best was still to come. In the last hour we flew over my home town of Acme, Alberta, the very farm land I worked, hunted, and played on including the old farm house where I was born on 24 March 1944. This still ranks as the most touching aviation event I have experienced in my 70 years of life. All because of my one nose art painting.

To the Arizona Wing of the Confederate Air Force, now named the Commemorative Air Force, “Thank You.”


The Zodiac Squadron and the Two Virgos – Courtesy U.S. Air Force magazine

2017 Summer Journal V1.3-zodiac

The attached story by Mark Parkhill has been published in the U.S. Air Force magazine this month.

I have permission to use it in the Blog.

Clarence Simonsen


By Mack Parkhill

As my computer screen displayed a stream of photos arriving from a mountain crash site 2,000 miles away, it was obvious what huge strides technology had made since I was a kid living near the site where the crash occurred. My brother and his grandson had climbed to the location of a tragic World War II training accident to retrieve some pieces of “skin” (as the flat metal pieces of a crashed aircraft are referred to), one of which would eventually become a nose art reproduction of a famous B-24 squadron aircraft. They were fortunate to have enough cell phone signal strength to speak to me, as well as send photos of various pieces of wreckage remaining at the site. Based on their transmissions, I was able to determine the possibility of their use for the intended project, almost as if I was with them on the mountain. The lesser-known tale of a military aircraft accident which occurred within the 48 states during the war is part of the larger story of the Zodiac Squadron.

From my personal collection



Collection Clarence Simonsen


Colorised version by Pierre Lagacé

Painting by Clarence Simonsen

More of Brinkman’s nose arts



Five Other Pilots who flew Hurricane 5389 and who did not Survive the War

Remembering five other pilots who flew Hurricane 5389

Lest We Forget II

There were five other pilots who flew Hurricane 5389 and who did not survive the war… (The link in green will direct you to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial Website).

P/O R. H. Brown flew Hurricane 5389 on 14 July 1943 

F/L E. H. Treleaven flew Hurricane 5389 on 19 February 1943

F/Sgt. A. J. Ness flew Hurricane 5389 on 6 February 1943 

 Sgt. Gaskin R. A. flew Hurricane 5389 on 22 February 1943

P/O R.R. Law flew Hurricane 5389 on  6 May 1943 

F/Sgt. L. R. Allman flew Hurricane 5389 on 14 May 1943

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