A Visit from A Legend

By Dave O'Malley, photos by Peter Handley and the Allnutt Bros.

This past weekend, 1 June 2013, the great Canadian fighter ace, Wing Commander James Francis Edwards, paid a visit to the Vintage Wings of Canada hangar in Gatineau. Stocky and his wife Toni were in town for the week to receive the greatest honour a Canadian aviator can be given—induction into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. The Thursday night event was a coming together of hundreds of Canada's civilian and military aviation luminaries, from the RCAF, major Canadian air lines, the 99s, and many civilian aerospace operations. Stocky's career as a fighter pilot and gifted leader in the Royal Canadian Air Force was legendary, historic, praised and his induction was frankly long overdue.

Wing Commander (Ret'd) James Francis Edwards, CM, DFC & Bar, DFM, CD and now member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame arrives at his induction ceremony with his wife Toni, herself a Second World War veteran combat nurse. Photo: John Chalmers, Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame

The five 2013 inductees of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame stand together at the end of the night's ceremonies.  It was the Hall's 40th anniversary induction ceremony. Stocky, the oldest of the group, looks marvelous and in fighting trim in his tuxedo. Left to right beside Stocky are:

Joseph Fernand “Frank” Henley established his career with the RCAF, and also bush flying. Henley held executive positions at Maritime Central Airways (MCA), Nordair and Hydro Québec, where he masterminded immense logistical effort to transport heavy equipment, supplies and personnel to the James Bay hydro project via air. In doing so, he pioneered the use of ice runways for the delivery of heavy loads by air. Henley was named to the Order of Canada in 2003. Photo and text: John Chalmers, Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame

Donald Carty, former president of Canadian Pacific Air Lines. Doug represented Canadian Pacific Air Lines Ltd. which received the Belt of Orion Award for an Organization. CP Air Lines  was established under modest conditions in 1942 with the amalgamation of ten small, independent air services. The airline went on to expand its operations and become a prominent international and domestic provider of scheduled air services. Canadian Pacific Air Lines serviced nearly every province and territory in Canada, as well as 14 countries across five continents. The company also launched Canadian airline services across the Pacific.

John Sanford, former president of de Havilland Canada, was its chief executive during the company’s tumultuous period as a crown corporation. During this time he launched a new generation of regional airliners that saved the company from collapse. His legacy can be seen in the more than 1,000 Dash 8 aircraft used by airlines around the world.

Victor Bennett, whose long career in aviation has seen his active involvement with a host of organizations, spanning business, professional and heritage sectors. His background in the RCAF Reserve, education in law, exemplary leadership skills, business acumen and entrepreneurial talent, have seen him reach the top of his field in providing FBO, repair, overhaul, completion and refurbishing services to customers worldwide, as chief executive at Innotech Aviation.

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The following Saturday, Stocky and Toni dropped into the hangar to meet old friends and see the banner that was raised in his honour the previous winter at the Vintage Wings Gala. Stocky was scheduled to be there for the event, but was unable to attend for a medical reason, which caused him to reluctantly cancel. I was given the honour of speaking to the audience at the Gala about Stocky's remarkable career.

Thanks to this column known as Vintage News and through work on the history of our aircraft, I have met many former aviators from the Second World War... usually in their late eighties and early to mid-nineties. I have never met one like Stocky, who still shakes your hand with an iron grip, looks at you with fire in his eyes and not a little bemusement and carries himself with a backbone of steel. Stocky looked to be ageless. There was not the frailty, circumspection, confusion or whispering voice normally associated with nonagenarians. Despite his 92 years, Stocky was youthful, clear, humorous and deliberate. I only wish I will look like that at 70.

Stocky agreed to stand for our photographer Peter Handley for a formal portrait beside the P-40 Kittyhawk dedicated to his honour and in front of the banner we raised half a year ago. Mike Potter had a surprise for him as well. He walked up to Stocky and asked him if he would like to be reacquainted with the Harvard he learned to fly on at No. 11 Service Flying Training School in Yorkton, Saskatchewan in 1942. Without hesitation, Stocky said yes. Oh, to be so young at heart.

Here are the photos of Stocky's visit for your enjoyment.

While chatting with Dave O'Malley, Stocky notices the dedication panel on “his” aircraft. Dragged from the jungles of Papua New Guinea, the former Royal Australian Air Force P-40N Kittyhawk is not only dedicated to him, but is painted in the exact markings (HS-B S/N FR350) of Edwards' personal Kittyhawk when he flew with the RAF's 260 Squadron of the Desert Air Force in North Africa. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada



The Stocky Edwards P-40 flying for the first time near Ardmore, New Zealand shortly after her restoration. Note the panels behind the cockpit which turn the P-40 into an authentic looking single seat fighter. We normally fly without these so that the second seat can be utilized. Photo: Gavin Conroy, Classic Aviation Photography

As Vintage Wings staffers gather to talk with Stocky by his banner and his Kittyhawk, Vintage Wings photographers Richard Mallory Allnutt (left) and Peter Handley machine gun him with their shutters. Photo: Robin Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Though the P-40 was up on jacks, with cowls removed, it was luckily positioned in front of the Stocky Edwards banner, which Handley would utilize for the formal photograph. Photo: Robin Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Stock lays a hand respectfully on the P-40's radiator housing. The P-40 brought Stocky through more than 200 combat sorties without a scratch, while flying against more experienced pilots with better machines like the Bf-109. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

With the Kittyhawk up on Jacks, Stocky could stand beneath the wing and regale us with stories of flying the P-40. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Though he may be 92, Stocky Edwards clearly still has iron in his back and fire in his eyes. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Stocky obliged us by posing without complaint and with great kindness with his aircraft and his banner. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

For a few shots, Stocky wore his Vintage Wings of Canada cap. Stocky is a great supporter of Vintage Wings of Canada and during his acceptance speech at the Induction Ceremony, he paid tribute to Mike Potter and our organization several times. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Two old friends and Spitfire pilots—The ace, Stocky Edwards, a former Commander of the four Spitfire squadrons of 127 Wing and Mike Potter, one of only a handful of currently qualified Spitfire pilots in the Western Hemisphere. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The activity surrounding the photo shoot with Handley. The two pilots were made to stand on wooden boxes to approximate ground level for the jacked up Kittyhawk. Photo: Robin Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Both men, used to being in the limelight, obliged the photographers with bemusement. Photo: Robin Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

There is no doubt that Stocky's story and his persona can inspire people of all ages... even his great grandchildren who are more than 80 years younger than him. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

While Stocky is inspecting the Vintage Wings Spitfire XVI, Potter approaches him and says: “Hey Stocky, how would you like to reacquaint yourself with the Harvard?” Stocky replied: “Right now?... Well sure!” How many 92-year-olds do you know that would jump at that opportunity? It's a measure of the strength, spunk and adventure in the man who we all look up to. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

With Nomex gauntlets adding that perfect tactical touch of style, Edwards mounts the ladder to the Harvard unassisted. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

While pilots Potter and Edwards strap in, AME Paul Tremblay assists Stocky with reaching awkward straps. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

The former Wing Commander and forever ace, shows us he still has the ember of flight burning in his heart.  Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Clearly, Mike Potter was proud and delighted to share his cockpit with a living legend. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Potter and Edwards run up on the Gatineau Airport ramp. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Edwards takes to the air in a Second World War aircraft one more time. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Potter brings the Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Harvard 4 in low and fast for a good photo op with the ace in the back seat. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Another view of the high speed pass. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Family and friends are busy snapping photos of their hero as he and Potter fly past. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

After his great grandfather flies by, Stocky's great grandson flies after him. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Potter turns off the main runway after landing with Stocky waving to his family and looking decidedly cool. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Under glowering skies, Potter brings the Harvard down the Vintage Wings taxi road, while Stocky slides his canopy forward and gives waiting folks a big Nomex-gauntleted wave. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Potter and Edwards share a moment together after the flight. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Todd Lemieux (Right) and Terry Cooper steady the ladder for the ace as he dismounts. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Stocky and Toni pose with three additional generations of their clan after the flight, while Allnutt climbs the ladder.  Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Yellow Wings coordinator Ales “Alec” Campbell puts one of Stocky's great grandchildren into the cockpit of the Flight Lieutenant Tim Timmins de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk and the Wingco gets the thumbs up. Photo: Robin Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Since Stocky did not get to witness the formal raising of the banner in November of 2012, Rob Fleck, President of Vintage Wings (Left) staged a re-enactment of the event for Stocky and Toni's entertainment. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

As Vintage Wings pilot Bob Childerhose  (his father, Chick Childerhose, a famous F-86 Sabre pilot like Stocky) raises the banner, while the honoured couple looks on. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Stocky was clearly amused, while Toni looks up at an image of the man she married so long ago. There were smiles and thank yous all around. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

It is clear that the entire week was a great experience for the couple who have been together for more than 65 years. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Perhaps the finest picture of the day... The love and ageless beauty of these two humble and elegant people is very apparent to all who were there and also to anyone who looks at this image.  Toni wears (as did other family members) a hand-tied fly-fishing fly made by Stocky. He has made and designed hundreds of different types including a Spitfire fly. I think this is one of the most wonderful symbols of the man, even more telling that the Order of Canada pin he wears on his left collar (out of view in this shot). Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt, Vintage Wings of Canada

Chercher
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