It’s New Year’s Eve 2015. It is a time for reflection and gratitude. For men and women of my parents’ generation, New Year’s Eve holds a special meaning. As they worked their way through the deprivations of the Great Depression and the horrors and losses of the Second World War, the end of a year was a symbol of hope for better things to come. It was a chance to put the pressures and unhappiness of the previous year behind and, for a few days at least, live in the hope that a job would be found, that life would improve and that children would be coming home alive from the war.
I got to thinking about that generation, about what they went through, about what our children might have to go through and how they will build a life for themselves. I’m not saying that they will have to face the same tribulations as the “Greatest Generation”, but they will need the same virtues to guide them along their way—qualities that might seem outdated to some.
By Dave O’Malley
During the lead up to this Christmas time, there was an ad campaign for a chain of electronics stores here in Canada called The Source. This particular campaign outwardly mocked simple, uncomplicated and handmade gifts and ended with the company’s new tagline… “I want that!”
Every time I watched that commercial, I grew more and more pissed, more and more disturbed by its message. I suppose it’s just the world we live in, but it felt like a cynical play to the sense of entitlement that many young and old people have these days. It was so nakedly and unabashedly a pitch to greed, to consumerism, to materialism and to fulfillment of desire over need. This “I want that!” tagline had all the emotional and social maturity of a small spoiled child before he or she has been taught the values that we all should hope they will one day embrace. To consume is natural, and it underpins our economic structure. By consuming food and products, we build and strengthen industries, create jobs, support our society. But there is a line between a consumption that fulfills need and a gluttony of material possessions that results from an addiction to “want”. Everything these days is a consumable and I am as guilty as the next person of having more than I need… MUCH more than I need.
There was a time in recent memory when consumption and celebrity were at the bottom of most people’s lists of the important things, while belonging to a community, love of family and creating something lasting were at the top. This belonging to a wider community—family, neighbourhood, church or country—bred men and women who, though succeeding in life, did not put themselves at the centre of it. They were resilient, ready to help, environmentally lean, careful with their money, attentive but not indulgent to their children, and willing to sacrifice—for their families, their communities and their countries. Sadly, today, the reverse is true. It is the age of the selfie, of fame for being famous, of sexting and texting, of avatars and false identities and a myriad of norms and phantom goals that serve to detach us from the place where we belong.
There exists a great divide between the generation before me and the one after me. Both have to face or had to face a world that was becoming a more dangerous place by the minute. Both have come out of a period of economic hardship. Both were or are heading into an uncertain time, a vicious and wobbling world where one might think twice about raising a family. I can’t help but think that the link between my father’s generation and my children’s is me… is us. History tells us that our parents had what it took to make it out of the world of darkness and create a new world—a world that quite possibly we, their children, screwed up. Thanks to our parents, our world was a soft one. It was a world of relative peace, of unchanging social complexion, of warm houses and three squares. We were taught virtues by our parents—the ones that got them through a world on fire—but we never really had to employ them to save ourselves. Now I wonder, as I know you must also, whether our children have had, in us, their parents, a fine example of how to live. Have we given them the tools to build a good family, a just society, a strong economy and a better world? I am not sure.
Over the years that I have been involved with Vintage Wings of Canada, I have had the remarkable good fortune to meet, befriend and research the lives of a number of very fine men from around the world. All of these men were veterans of the Second World War. Some I consider my friends. All of them have affected me very deeply. Some I can honestly say that I love—as simple and complete as that.
There was Arch Simpson, a Kittyhawk pilot from Australia—kind, thoughtful, at peace with himself at the end. A storyteller of great humility. There is Hugh Bone, a Hampshire-born Mosquito pilot living in Göteborg, Sweden—kind, direct, warmly nostalgic, loyal, and lively, he is a pleasure to write to and call a friend. My heart aches a bit when I think of my friend and Spitfire pilot Dr. John Bennett—humble, pacifist, mannerly—who balanced the killing he was required to do in the war with the delivery of a new generation of babies after it. I smile when I think of Spitfire pilot Fred Jones of Kincardine, Ontario—precise, patient, soft spoken, fatherly. There was Sabre and Voodoo pilot Ron Poole from Chemainus, BC—in love with his wife, facing cancer with dignity and humour, full of stories and “skits”. So many, so great—so few now.
Some evenings after three fingers of scotch, I look back over the stories I have written of these men and the powerful influences they have had, and I now begin to think that they have much still to teach us. Six of these men I have chosen for the powerful lessons they have taught me. These lessons are the lost values or virtues of my youth, the ones I know my father and mother taught me; the ones I hope I have passed on to my children; values that in today’s lexicon seem oddly outdated—Humility, Duty, Courage, Leadership, Sacrifice and Dignity. These are values I wish to exhibit myself, but I know in my heart I have never been challenged enough to truly display them in a meaningful way.
So, if you will bear with me, I have chosen these men, these friends, to exemplify one of these seemingly lost qualities a young man or woman should have. Four of these men I have known personally, four of them earned their wings right here in Ottawa, two of them died in the war. Two of them are still alive and healthy. All of them I have thought of as friends. All of them are fine examples of any of these six virtues. They have answered the call of a duty, made sacrifices, shown exceptional leadership, exhibited great courage and, despite these accomplishments, have remained so very humble and so wonderfully dignified.
HUMILITY — Flight Lieutenant William Robertson “Bill” McRae, 401 Squadron, RCAF
The last time I saw Bill McRae, he was smiling ear to ear—like the twenty-year-old Spitfire pilot inside his 92-year-old body. It was the night we honoured him with a banner, bearing his name and youthful visage and accompanied on its way to the ceiling of our hangar by a piper playing the Air Force March Past. It was our way of telling him how much we loved him and how much he was revered for his accomplishments during and after the war. Though Bill would never have blown his own horn, the look on his face told us how much he appreciated the gesture and how much he enjoyed the warmth he felt in his heart and the meaning it gave him at the end of his life. Bill died two months later of cancer. He knew he was dying on the night of his surprise tribute, but he never told any of us. He was humble to the very end.
This is something that Bill McRae and most of his mates share. Whether they hail from Canada or Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States, the veterans of the war have, by some unspoken and mutual agreement, decided that the terrible things that happened to them during the war, that the deaths and injury to their friends and their shared sacrifice would be dishonoured if one man were to brag or gain heroic status by self aggrandizement or self-promotion. Almost to a man, they share their stories only with each other and with those who take the time to understand the context of their suffering and open doors to their memories ever so slowly.
Bill was a Spitfire pilot with 401 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. He flew Spits in Scotland, in the south of England and throughout France and Belgium following D-Day. At one point, Bill flew at least one combat sortie on 60 consecutive days leading up to, during and after D-Day.
Bill did what all the reluctant warriors did at the end of the Second World War—he went home and got back to what he was meant to do before the Nazis upended his life. He married Mary Denholm in 1946 and had three children—Wendy, Ian and Marilynn. The war was a dangerous endeavour, one he was lucky to survive. Upon return home, he took up a safer pursuit—explosives. Bill spent his entire working life working in the Explosives Division of Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L)
Most veterans of that war would take their stories to the grave, but there are just a few with the gumption, the time and the reasons to tackle these memories, to sift through them, to bring out the best of the men, the friendships, the shared terrors and miseries and put them down in words. Bill found a voice after retirement—a humble voice that spoke with the collective voices of all of his mates—and began writing elegant historical vignettes for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, its Newsletter and Journal. His considerable body of work—at times wistful, gently humorous, poignant and always humble, has provided lessons in writing to many of us—observant and detailed, without putting himself at the centre. While the stories were about his experiences, they were never about him. Courageous and dignified, Bill exemplifies all lost values, but humble was how we knew him.
DUTY — Pilot Officer David Francis Gaston Rouleau, 131 Squadron, RAF
I strongly doubt that, as a child, David Rouleau would ever have thought he would become a fighter pilot. Photographs of him with members of his Lisgar Collegiate drama club show a young man with soft features, receding hairline, wispy hair and an expression that showed a young man unsure of himself, yet possessing a quiet sense of humour. Despite his softness, there was a hint of pain and a sense of hard-bitten experience upon his countenance. If you were to pick a man to be a fighter pilot based on looks alone, he would not be the man you chose.
David was an only child, living in Ottawa with his widowed mother in the house of her father, along the historic cut that is the Rideau Canal. His family was from the upper-middle class, his grandfather having been Deputy Minister of Justice for Canada as well as a much respected Parliamentary Counsel. David summered along the shores of the Gatineau River near Wakefield, Québec, played golf at Larrimac Golf and Country Club and shared the long, hot summers with his cousins. His closest companion in these heady days was his cousin Peg. Upon graduation from high school, he attended the University of Toronto working towards an Arts degree.
Considering his love of the theatre and literature, I suspect that David would have chosen a career as a teacher or perhaps a journalist. As a teacher, I believe he would have been dedicated, kind and inspiring. We will never know how his life should have turned out, for on the bright Mediterranean morning of 3 June 1942, David Rouleau, the quiet, demure boy in the drama class, flew a 2,000 horsepower Supermarine Spitfire from the heaving deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, bound for the embattled island of Malta.
He went in the company of 8 other pilots in unarmed Spitfires equipped with long-range “slipper” tanks. His only goal was to reach Malta and deliver himself and his vital aircraft safely to the island, a few hundred miles to the east of Eagle’s position. He never made it.
David Rouleau and three other Spitfire pilots were shot from the sky. They had the misfortune of running into the Messerschmitt Bf.109s of one of the most experienced and deadly Luftwaffe fighter squadrons in the Mediterranean Theatre. It is difficult to piece together the last glorious hours and the final violent moments of David’s life, but when his burning Spitfire struck the surface of that great blue sea, he and his future were shattered and ruptured and his story, his life, simply vanished. Gone.
There were short column inches in the Ottawa newspapers no doubt, perhaps a mass at his church. There were tears and most certainly the girls he once admired now saw him in a different light. His mother remarried at the end of the war, time passed and David’s memory soon receded as life moved on. The pain remained in the heart of his mother, his grandfather and his beloved cousins, but in the decades that followed, he would cease to exist. A name on a plaque. A memory whispering on a summer wind through the trees along the Gatineau River.
David, who had so much to give, had done his duty. He lay on the line a future he had not yet chosen, and lost it. The road that was his life took a hard turn to his destiny, but, with his grandfather’s connections, he could easily have chosen an easier route, one that contributed to the war effort, but which kept him safe.
If you walk up the old and worn stairs of Lisgar Collegiate into the historic lobby of Ottawa’s first high school (1843), you will see two large bronze plaques mounted to the walls. Embossed on these plaques (one from the First and one from the Second World War) are the names of nearly 300 young men who lost their lives in battle. Three hundred from one high school! There were more than 2,000 Lisgar students who enlisted during these two wars—15% were killed.
These plaques bear grim witness to the obscenity and destruction of war, and to the honour of many, like David, who did their duty—a sense of duty to a wider community that took them to their deaths. Comparing the soft questioning face from his Lisgar yearbook to the oil slick and debris that spread out across the sea where his life ended, my heart breaks at the loss.
When thinking of David Rouleau and all the young men and women like him from this generation I am reminded of the words of Frederick Forsythe in The Shepherd, his hauntingly simple ghost story of an airman facing death—“It’s a bad thing to die at twenty years of age with your life unlived and the worst thing is not the fact of dying, but the fact of all the things never done.”
COURAGE — Flight Lieutenant Robert “Kirk” Kirkpatrick, 21 Squadron, RAF
The American-French author Anaïs Nin once wrote that “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” I believe this deeply. The most powerful feelings about family, love and the simple beauty of just breathing are paired with the greatest fears and danger. It is the soldier pressing his body hard to the ground in a slit trench during a mortar attack who understands the love of his mother more than any man. It is the wounded pilot fighting hard to keep his battered and smoking Halifax bomber steady for home on three engines who fully grasps the true nature of the love of his fellow crewmen. It is the young American boy who, slipping out of the cockpit of his Mosquito and taking in a deep, fragrant breath of Norfolk County evening air, feels the life drawn back into his body and, in so doing, understands the great incongruity of those contradictory bed mates—fear and life.
All of the men in this story have displayed incredible courage in war and for those who survived, also in the manner in which they conducted their subsequent lives.
Flying Officer Bob Kirkpatrick, an American, was an officer and a gifted pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. American to the bone, he was nonetheless very proud of his Canadian service and his Canadian wings. He served with the Royal Air Force’s storied 21 Squadron on Mosquito intruder missions of extreme danger, including Operation Carthage, the now legendary low level, precision bombing attack on Gestapo headquarters in central Copenhagen. The photographic imagery and film from that dramatic raid, some of which is on YouTube, was all shot from the cockpit of Bob’s “Mossie”, an aircraft he lovingly referred to as the “Queen of the Skies”.
The Latin motto of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and in fact all Commonwealth Air Forces, is Per Ardua ad Astra, which, in English, means Through adversity, to the Stars. So completely different than the more aggressive, jingoistic and somewhat less poetic motto for the USAF, Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win, this Haiku-like sentiment of the RCAF remains a perfect and poetic phrasing of the work, risks, losses and ultimate victories of this remarkable and storied service. It is deeply beautiful in that it lays out, in two simple and contrasting halves, the powerfully contradictory Latin root words of “Ardua” and “Astra”. This balance, this admission of the existence of both the horrors and the glories, is sublime.
It is a motto that could have been the personal motto of Flying Officer Robert Kirkpatrick, as he processed through his beautiful life until his death two years ago. Bob learned early on that Ardua came with Astra, hell with heaven, work with play, loss with joy, pain with love and fear with courage. Bob embraced the difficulties of life for the sweetness of their overcoming. This is the true nature of all experience, not just in times of war. It took a man who I had never met; a man from the heartland of America, not Canada, a man of 91 years and short future, to show me that courage can be called for and answered throughout life and not just, as we often think, in times of war.
Though Bob was in hospice care in Humboldt, Iowa, I had suggested he might think about coming to Hamilton where the newly-completed de Havilland Mosquito of Jerry Yagen’s Military Aviation Museum was making its Canadian air show debut. I did not expect that he would accept, but he did not dismiss the suggestion either. Instead he kept the possibility of such an adventure as a wonderful dream to help him through his painful days. We kept in touch via email and, thanks to his wonderful neighbours, Dave and Deb Dodgen, he made it all the way to Hamilton—a six-day trip in the Dodgen’s RV which they bought to bring Bob to see the “Queen”.
No one could fault a 91-year-old man fettered with a continuous pain management regimen, if he declined an invitation to attend an outdoor air show in the heat of summer, nearly 1,000 miles away. But Bob Kirkpatrick was a 91-year-old man on the outside, and a virile 24-year-old on the inside. He still thought like a young man. He still looked out upon life as a young man. He saw that the pain, the work, and indeed the risks, if faced, could pay out in silver dollars—in one more life-confirming experience, one more time to see an old gal named Mossie, The Queen of the Skies, who once took him to Hell through the Ardua and brought him back to enjoy seventy years of stars at night and more than 25,000 sunrises.
Bob’s courage to the very end of his life has been one of the greatest lessons of my life. His joy and pride transcended his pain and his fears of end of life. Supported by people who loved him, Bob passed away the following February, just days before his 92nd birthday.
LEADERSHIP — Lieutenant General William Keir Carr, 683 Squadron, RAF
There is an old saying that “At the Moment of Greatest Slaughter, the Great Avenger is being Born.” It is a beautiful, if somewhat dramatic expression, which simply means that out of times of stress and intensity, the greatest leaders are born. It was in this cauldron of anguish and menace, that the future leader known as the Father of the Modern Canadian Air Force was created from a young and fresh-faced Pilot Officer Bill Carr.
Carr completed his Elementary Flying Training on Fleet Finches at No. 22 EFTS at L’Ancienne-Lorette outside of Québec City. He did his Service Flying training on Harvards right here in Ottawa at No. 2 SFTS Uplands. His wings were pinned on him by no less a man than Air Marshall Billy Bishop. He flew Photo Recon Spitfires deep into enemy territory from bases in England, Malta, and Italy. Twenty-year-old Carr would strap himself into a Spitfire and deliberately take it deep into a Europe run by Nazis, the greatest evil known to modern man. In broad daylight, he would fly over their encampments, their anti-aircraft installations, their factories, their cities, their airfields, travelling at 300 mph, never positive that his oxygen system would continue to feed him life, or that his engine would continue to run in the thin air, always on the lookout for an attack. He did this 142 times. Each of these times, he would wake from sleep, eat breakfast, flight plan and ready his mind and body for a mission alone—a mission that could very likely end in his own death, far from friendly skies. To understand just how many times this was, I challenge you to start counting slowly from one to one hundred and forty two. I promise you that by thirty, you will begin to understand just how many dangerous recce sorties 142 really is.
Leadership is a pay it forward business. Great leaders beget great leaders. This great future air force leader had one of the finest role models imaginable in his Commanding Officer at 683 Squadron—Wing Commander Adrian Warburton, one of the most decorated RAF pilots of the war with no less than two Distinguished Service Orders and three Distinguished Flying Crosses!
Upon returning home, he spent a few summers with Bill McRae flying Norseman bush planes surveying the North of Canada. However challenging the work was there, it was perhaps the perfect way to decompress from years of hard flying and the deaths of so many friends. There was fishing, flying, camping and lots and lots of open skies for flying… with no enemy aircraft to ruin your day.
Following this period of decompression, Carr began a steady climb through the ranks until he came out on the very top as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff and ultimately as the first Commander of Air Command. Bob Fassold, himself a retired Major General and former Comet pilot on 412 Squadron at the time of Carr’s command had this to say about Carr’s leadership style: “He had very high and inspiring expectations and performance standards for all aircrew and squadron members. Consequently, we achieved such high levels on our own, that we not only took great pride in ourselves, but also in our 412 squadron mates, and especially our CO. Carr seemed then and still today to somehow quietly radiate competency and authority … and a high regard for the importance of everyone to the unit objectives. He never went around ‘commanding’… he just ‘did’… and clearly expected the same of you. Throughout his career, day in and day out, and to this day, he has set a glowing personal example of leadership in how to get things done right… sometimes even having to resort to unorthodox methods. In so doing he has contributed to the successes and enjoyment of life for so many.”
Bill Carr’s name, when accompanied by his accomplishments, says all you have to know about the man: Lieutenant-General William Kier Carr, Distinguished Flying Cross, Venerable Order of Saint John, Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Legion of Merit, Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, First Commander of Air Command, Vice-President of Canadair and Bombardier and widely known as the “Father of the Modern Canadian Air Force”.
SACRIFICE — Flight Lieutenant Arnold Walter “Rosey” Roseland, 442 Squadron, RCAF
Of all the virtues in this list, sacrifice is likely the most distasteful to members of our modern Western society. It requires quite simply that we go without something or give up something. We are a society of not-in-my-backyard and me-first. We are a society that fights rather than shares. A society that bristles at the possibility that others want to share in our good fortune. Once we have everything we need, then we suggest that others might think about sacrificing—it should be OTHERS who take a pay cut, make concessions to keep a company in business, allow development in their community, cut emissions to save a planet, and who should stay in their war-damaged country. Sacrifice is a great concept, but it should be made by others, not us.
In the period of the Second World War, nearly everyone on the planet suffered in some way. Nearly everyone sacrificed something—gasoline for the car, food for the belly, and children for the war. The price was hunger, hard work, loneliness, sorrow, disability, disfigurement and even death. Everyone gave up something. Some gave up everything.
Those men and women who went to war suffered the most—years away from home, poor food, dangerous pursuits, mental health problems, injuries and death. Each of them was willing to sacrifice their futures for their community, their country and above all, their comrades. They knew the risks, of this there is no doubt. After a night raid, they could see the empty revetments at dispersal, see the mechanics hosing out a tail gunner’s turret, see the new crews standing bewildered, see the upside down beer mugs on the mantles, see their friends hospitalized with mental illness. They knew the risks, yet they still were willing to sacrifice all the remaining 25,000 or more beautiful mornings a young man might consider his due.
Arnold Roseland was a Canadian, born in a sod hut, the son of Norwegian immigrants in the middle of the last Great War in the middle of the sweeping cattle country of the Canadian prairies. Today, his birthplace Youngstown, Alberta, boasts a population of 170 souls. It was from small rural towns such as Youngstown that men like Arnold Roseland came to place their lives on the roulette table of war for, as the motto of his 442 Squadron said: One God, One King, One Heart.
“Rosey” was a young Kittyhawk fighter pilot with No. 14 Squadron, RCAF and then, when the unit became 442 Squadron, he flew Spitfires. His war was four years long and it took him across the country—Elementary Flying in Québec, Service Flying Training in Ottawa, staff flying in Trenton and McDonald, Manitoba, Kittyhawk flying in Ottawa, and then British Columbia—and the distant Aleutians fighting the Japanese and across the Atlantic to England and France on Spitfires, fighting the Nazis.
Sacrifice may not in fact be a virtue, it may be something unavoidable, something you have to do. But putting yourself in a place where the sacrifice required was death is a virtue akin to courage. All of Rosey’s squadron mates were making sacrifices, but Rosey had much more to lose than most of them, probably all of them. Most of the young men on squadrons during the Second World War were young unattached bachelors. Many may have had a sweetheart at home waiting for their return, but Rosey was married and had two young sons, one of whom he had barely even met. There is no doubt that after four years of flying and two of fighting, Arnold Roseland was weary, tired of the deprivation and longing to go home to his beautiful wife Audrey and to hold in his arms his new son, Ronald.
Of course, as you might imagine, Arnold did not get that chance. He died in a running gun battle high in the skies over a small French farming village called Saint Martin de Mailloc. His Spitfire was shot down and Roseland fought desperately to get out of it. According to those that watched on the ground, Rosey slid the canopy back and seemed to be steering the dying Spitfire away from a farmhouse. At the last second, he emerged from the cockpit and pulled the ripcord of his parachute while villagers watched in horror. The trailing chute caught in the Spitfire’s tail and Rosey followed his burning aircraft over the heads of the young French onlookers and straight into ground not ten metres from the farmhouse. The forward motion from the descent and crash catapulted the dying pilot over the wreckage in the manner of a trebuchet—a full 100 metres further, where his broken body collided with a thick fencepost snapping it in half. A small photo of Audrey was found in an adjacent field, as well as a brass Zippo lighter with the name “Roseland” engraved on it.
Arnold never got to hold his new son again, nor hug his firstborn or make love to his beautiful wife again. He never saw his hometown again, nor the heartbreakingly beautiful foothills of Alberta and those big skies that work their way into your soul. This was Arnold’s sacrifice, but the sacrificing did not end there. Audrey never saw him again, never saw her two boys playing with their war hero father in the backyard. Audrey would remarry and the boys had a strong father to help them grow up, but it wasn’t Rosey. He was lying in the now-liberated ground of the country he sacrificed his life to free.
So when you think you are sacrificing by eating out at restaurants two nights a week rather than three, or you are putting off getting a next generation iPhone until the one you have is a year old… you are not. You are just consuming at a reduced rate.
DIGNITY — Warrant Officer Harry Hannah, 602 Squadron, RAF—Glasgow’s Own
In the late winter of 1944–45, then Flight Sergeant Harry Hannah had been sitting, alone, with nothing to warm him but his thoughts, in a small, cold and damp solitary confinement prison cell in Poland for the worst part of a year. Before that, he had spent another year as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 4. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure out what he thought about to sustain himself through the long periods of abject loneliness—food, drink, friends, home, family, peace, flying, warmth, women, and a future that was quite possibly about to be taken away from him.
Harry could easily have been much changed by the near death experience when he was shot down, or the months in hospital and the long years of deprivation and imprisonment. He could have been a hard man, a bitter and unhappy human being. But he is most definitely not. Though enduring the loneliness and the deprivation was a terrible hardship, Harry would consider himself lucky that he was alive, for his fate, as he has described, could have been much worse at a number of turns in his flying life. One of the cannon shells that ripped apart his Spitfire’s engine on the coast of France in 1943 could just as easily have ripped apart his body. But it did not. When he tried to get out of his crippled Spitfire, the canopy jettison cable came free in his hand. He could just as easily have been trapped inside the dying Spit, but he managed to push the canopy back. He could just as easily have landed in the English Channel and drowned, but he did not. Instead he landed in the tidal mud flats of the Abbeville Canal and was captured. During the following year that he spent in solitary confinement, his subsequent liberation by Red Army soldiers and his dangerous overland and sea voyages of repatriation, Harry could have met a different and unhappy end. But he did not. He looked at everything with a positive mind and came through with inspiring dignity.
He was a Spitfire pilot flying for 602 City of Glasgow Squadron, one of the most vaunted and storied fighter squadrons of the Second World War. Some of the greatest and most highly decorated aces of the aerial war were also in the same ranks as Harry at 602 including Squadron Leader James Harry “Ginger” Lacey DFM & Bar, Free Frenchman Pierre Clostermann, Grand-Croix, Croix de Guerre, DFC and bar, DSC, Silver Star, and Air Medal, Wing Commander Brendan Eamonn Fergus “Paddy” Finucane, DSO, DFC & Two Bars, South African Johannes “Chris” le Roux, DFC and two bars, Air Vice Marshal Alexander Vallance Riddell “Sandy” Johnstone CB, DFC, AE, DL, and New Zealander Air Commodore Alan Christopher “Al” Deere, DSO, OBE, DFC & Bar.
Harry’s story equals any one of these great men, though he was not offered the accolades, gongs and gazetting heaped upon these heroic men. Harry’s story is one of survival, determination and heroism in the face of deprivation and malevolence. Harry’s story is one of dreams realized, of achievement unheralded, of greatness untold, of a life rejoined.
He carries himself with dignity and delight, humour and sartorial elegance. He is a man of few words, but great kindness. He is a man for men–imbued with humility, great sporting skill and a discerning eye for the ladies. He speaks highly of you if you deserve it and not at all about you if you don’t. He carries himself to this day with a back as straight as his 95 years will allow. He dresses like an aristocrat, speaks softly like a gentleman and smiles like a fighter pilot. No better man ever shook my hand.
FAITH — Hugh Thomas O’Malley, Farquhar Ship Chandlers
Although these stories on the Vintage News service are meant to be about aviation, aviators and the culture surrounding Canada’s considerable contributions to the history of aviation, I would be amiss if I left out another virtue which, in most cases it seems, sustained these men throughout the war, its deprivations and dangers—Faith. But the man who for me best embodied this key ingredient of a life of duty, sacrifice, courage, dignity, and humility was my father. He was not a fighter pilot nor was he even a veteran of the war. Before war broke out, my father finished high school in Halifax and went to Gaspé, along the southern banks of the St. Lawrence River, to work building gun emplacements and other facilities as war loomed. Following the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy, but failed the physical. Doctors detected a heart murmur. This, along with a slight congenital deformity known as pigeon chest, kept him out of the war. His heart condition did indeed kill him, but 73 years later after a very full life.
When, in later years, he spoke to me about his rejection from the Navy, I could feel his disappointment. Instead of navy service, he went to work for a ship chandler in Halifax, supplying the massive convoys of ships that were assembling in Bedford Basin—not with their cargoes, but with the supplies they needed to operate—fuel, oil, food, and maritime equipment.
Throughout the war and all through his life, Hugh found, in his God, the strength to make the sacrifices needed for his family, to remain dignified, to lead his family and to be a dutiful husband.
He was both a simple man and a complex man. He asked for nothing, except good fortune for his family. He required little in the way of material things—nothing fancy to eat, to wear or drive. He did not hang out with the boys, play sports, drink or indulge in typically male pursuits. The metric of his success was calibrated not in possessions, but in the quality of his children and their children and their children. When he said Grace before a meal, it was both poetic and compassionate. When he joked it was definitely corny. When he was disappointed in you, you knew it.
As children, we saw him as a father figure in the uncomplicated mid-century sense—strong, compassionate, firm. He remained loving but always a father—a man of strength who took his role seriously. He had a career, but it was secondary to family life.
Despite his simple, outward persona, our father was perceptive, thoughtful, inquisitive, enamoured of God’s universe and capable of understanding complex and confounding theories. In the times he grew up, a young man who finished high school ceased to be a burden on his family and went out in the world to find a job and a bride and raise family. If he had been raised in the more privileged world he worked so hard to give his children, he would have been a scientist, a theologian, a philosopher, a quantum mechanic.
As it was, he was an armchair physicist. He loved creation for all it complexity and layered mystery—from the outer cosmic ripples of the expanding universe, to the reverse infinity of atoms, protons and quarks. He loved the complexities of the mind and convolutions of the brain. He was fascinated, some might say obsessed, by the existence of free will, and believed that its principles existed even in sub-atomic particles. He eschewed technology, but remained fascinated by its underlying science.
He was a deeply religious Catholic, a man of traditional but changing values, but his beautiful mind saw no conflicts with science, no threats to his faith. In fact, the more complexities of the universe that were revealed to him, the more his faith grew. In the cosmic dust of the universe he found affirmation of his profound Christian faith.
As any veteran of the Second World War will tell you, there are no atheists in a foxhole or the turret of a Lancaster. No one has ever thought of me as a religious man, but I understand and have witnessed that Faith is a virtue that sustains a person through tribulation. I have seen it in all the veterans I have known. For its unquestionable powers to keep people strong during adversity, to provide meaning in the face of tragedy and to sustain a soul in jeopardy of destruction, Faith is a virtue that we all must find. For me, and for now, I will put my faith in the strength of our heroes, armed forces, first responders, hard workers, volunteers, givers, team players and history makers—so many of whom hold faith in a God I have yet to find.
Happy New Year, and may good fortune find you this coming year.
The Tabletops Explained
William Robertson McRae
1. RCAF brass hat badge
2. 401 Squadron embroidered badge—Bill’s Spitfire unit
3. Photo of Bill taken following his months in the Canadian North flying Norseman aircraft—the beard didn’t last one day after his return to RCAF Station Rockcliffe. It was ordered removed immediately, but not before Bill had his portrait taken at the Photo Unit.
4. Postcard of SS Nicoya—the freighter Bill crossed the Atlantic on when 1/3 of the convoy was sunk by U-boats.
5. A Noorduyn Norseman embroidered patch. Following nearly four years of service with the RCAF, much of it combat time, Bill returned to Canada, and in the summer of 1945, flew Norseman aircraft carrying survey crews who were mapping the uncharted northern lands.
6. A very telling group photo. Bill McRae (third from right) and six of his Portage La Prairie EFTS buddies are about to board a train at the town of Fort William (now Thunder Bay), bound for southern Ontario, the war and, for five of the seven, their deaths in combat. It is the winter of 1940–41 and the day is sharp and clear. There is much bravado on the faces of these boys, but Bill’s face displays that humility and gentleness he exhibited to the day he died. In Bill’s hand, we see a camera with which he would record many of the faces and events of his journey through hell. With his photos and logbooks, Bill would later be able to recall events and friends with great clarity and write vignettes of life among the warriors. Along with Bill, the only other pilot to survive the war was Omer Lévesque (far left) who would go on to become a fighter ace and, in Korea, become the first Canadian to shoot down an enemy aircraft in jet-to-jet combat.
7. Period postcard of the loading docks of Port Arthur, Ontario on Lake Superior (now, joined with Fort William and known as Thunder Bay). Bill was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but moved to Port Arthur with his family and grew up there.
8. Official RAF booklet of Pilot’s Notes for the Mk IX Spitfire—basically an owner’s manual
9. RCAF pilot’s brevet of the Second World War. Bill earned his wings at No. 1 Service Flying Training School, Camp Borden, Ontario.
10. A tin of C-I-L blasting caps. After the war, Bill went to work for Canadian Industries Limited (C.I.L.) a Canadian producer of explosives.
11. A Vintage Wings of Canada pilot crest—Bill was an important volunteer with Vintage Wings, able to express the veteran’s point of view during special events.
12. A copy of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) Journal. Many years after the war, Bill began to write short vignettes about his experiences during his nearly five years with the RCAF. These he continued to share with the CAHS and later with Vintage Wings of Canada. His writing voice is the voice of all his comrades and squadron mates those many years ago. This voice like all of the men of that age is remarkably humble, often gently humorous, never angry, and touched with a sadness for all the friends lost and damaged.
David Francis Gaston Rouleau
1. Portrait of David from the winter of 1940–41 in Ottawa. He wears the propeller emblem of a Leading Aircraftman in the RCAF and the white cap flash of a student pilot.
2. A Kodak Bantam camera similar to the one in David’s hands in the portrait. He carried it to Great Britain and it was forwarded to Malta arriving the day of his death. It was returned to his mother Gertrude in 1946 as part of his personal effects.
3. A period postcard from Lisgar Collegiate Institute, the Ottawa high school where he earned his Senior Matriculation and where he was a member of the Drama Club.
4. A pair of brass Flight Sergeant crowns of Second World War vintage (the King’s Crown). Upon earning his pilot’s wings, David was promoted to Flight Sergeant. A year later he was promoted to Pilot Officer prior to boarding a ship for Malta.
5. A period copy of A History of English Literature. David’s personal effects, which were returned after the war, included a copy of this book.
6. The list of personal effects returned to his family after the war included a “trinket elephant”. It is not known what that looked like.
7. Second World War restaurant ration tickets from Dover, England. David spent a year in England with 131 Squadron, before his ill-fated attempt to get to Malta. It was a time of rationing at every level.
8. NAAFI Tokens. NAAFI tokens were used to purchase anything from haircuts to dance tickets. Being far from home, David likely would have found comfort and friendship at his NAAFI establishment. The Navy, Army Air Force Institutes ran recreational establishments for British armed services and sold goods to servicemen and their families. It still exists today.
9. HMS Eagle embroidered badge. David flew his last flight in a Spitfire from the deck of Eagle on 3 June 1942. Of the 32 unarmed Spitfires that flew off Eagle that day, four did not make it, having been shot down by Luftwaffe Messerschmitts.
10. Embroidered blazer badge for 131 Squadron, Royal Air Force. After completing his fighter OTU in England, David was assigned to 131 Squadron with which he flew until May of 1942.
11. A photograph of David’s first flight—in a Fleet Finch at Number 13 Elementary Flying Training School, St. Eugène, Ontario in the winter of 1940–41
12. The RCAF pilot’s brevet that was sent by the RCAF to Gertrude Rouleau, David’s mother, after his death. David earned his wings at No. 2 Service Flying Training School, Uplands in Ottawa.
13. The telegram sent to Gertrude three days after David’s death informing her that he was missing in action.
1. Portrait of Harry taken by author in 2013 in Burlington, Ontario. All of Harry’s service photographs have been lost over time.
2. Pilot’s notes (“Prepared by direction of the Minister of Aircraft Production”) for the Spitfire Mk V in which Harry was shot down in 1943.
3. Diecast toy of all-silver US Army Boeing Stearman training aircraft, in which Harry learned the basics of flying at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona.
4. Embroidered King’s Crown for RAF Flight Sergeant sleeve rank badge. When Harry was shot down he was a Flight Sergeant pilot. He was commissioned as a Warrant Officer following his liberation from Stalag Luft IV POW camp.
5. RAF pilot’s brevet. Harry earned his wings at No. 4 British Flying Training School at Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona—an all-through school where he did all of his flying training.
6. Embroidered sergeant’s rank badge—along with the crown, it formed his Flight Sergeant’s identity.
7. Ford Motor Company hood badge from the 1950s. Harry immigrated to Canada after the war and was hired by Ford. He spent his entire career with the company, including two years in Africa and two years in the Far East. He drives a Ford to this day.
8. Embroidered 602 Squadron blazer badge. Harry is a proud member of the 602—Glasgow’s Own, one of the storied squadrons of the Royal Air Force of the Second World War.
9. RAF Brass Apprentice Badge. When Harry joined the 602 Squadron, he was just 17 years old and an apprentice engine mechanic. As such he would have worn these propeller insignia above his corporal stripes.
10. Caterpillar Club Pin. This pin comes in various forms and is issued by a number of companies. It is awarded to and worn by anyone who has used a parachute to save his or her life, having bailed out of a disabled aircraft. This does not include those who use parachutes for recreational use or those involved in pararescue or any form of military parachuting other than emergency. The pin is a small silkworm caterpillar, signifying the silk used in original parachutes.
11. Prisoner of war identity tag worn by aircrew at Stalag Luft IV, in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Poland). Harry survived two years here, including one year in solitary confinement for his part in an escape plan. Harry was liberated by the Red Army and, despite being only a few kilometres from the Baltic, was forced to make his way to Odessa on the Black Sea—a walk and box car ride of more than 1,000 kilometres.
12. Prisoner of War letter post for Stalag Luft IV.
13. Golf tees. Like many a fighter pilot, Harry has always enjoyed the social and physical aspects of golf, the game that was born in his native Scotland. At 95, a round of golf is tough these days, so Harry and his wife Yvonne enjoy the camaraderie of the Oakville Golf Club, where Harry has long been involved in the Tin Hat Golf Tournament, a golf event for veterans. When they started 45 years ago, there were veterans of the First World War involved. Now, only a few Second World War veterans attend, but Canada’s newly minted veterans are now attending.
1. Portrait of Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Bob Kirkpatrick, likely after the end of the war, as Bob is wearing his campaign medals. Judging by the stone railing he is sitting on and the distant river behind him, this was taken at the lookout on Mount Royal in Montréal, Québec on the occasion of his honeymoon with his new bride Ginny.
2. Iowa State University pennant. Bob grew up in the mid-west, and after returning there would spend the rest of his life moving—26 times in all, finally settling and retiring to Humboldt, Iowa.
3. A copy of Pilot’s Notes for Mosquito (Promulgated by order of the Air Council)
4. RCAF Pilot’s Brevet. Bob earned his wings right here in Ottawa at No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Uplands.
5. A postcard from the Statler Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Recruiters of the famed Clayton-Knight Committee, ensconced at the Statler, were still interviewing potential American pilot and aircrew trainees for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan after Pearl Harbor. Kirkpatrick, a native Clevelander, ended up at the hotel where his interview was a success. They handed him a letter of introduction and recommendation for an RCAF recruitment office in the border town of Windsor, Ontario, across the St. Clair River from Detroit, Michigan.
6. A tin of fishhooks and a treble-hook lure. Bob loved to fish and made time every year of his busy life to fly somewhere in his personal aircraft to fish or hunt.
7. Bob’s American Red Cross card from the Second World War. Attempting to return to the USA in 1945 with his new bride Ginny (they were married in Montréal upon his return), he could not convince the border guards of his American citizenship. He had neither an American service record nor passport, having served with the RCAF. He remembered his Red Cross Card, which stated his American identity and which he had used to get access to the Ambassador Officer’s Club in Bournemouth when he was in England.
8. A Danish flag pin. Bob took part in Operation Carthage—the destruction of Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen. The attack, made at extreme low level, was successful freeing prisoners of the Gestapo, while killing Nazis and destroying Nazi intelligence about Danish resistance. The Danish resistance and the Danish postwar government expressed their gratitude to Bob and his squadron mates.
9. A 21 Squadron RAF blazer badge. Though Bob was an American in a famed British intruder squadron, he was most proud of being a member of the RCAF.
10. A partially burned Gestapo index card from the Shell House Raid (Operation Carthage) with details about a Danish saboteur Jens Stenz (a farmer) who survived the raid. The attack on the Gestapo in Copenhagen gave the resistance a needed respite. Around 60 Germans were killed, including Gestapo Chief Schwitzgebel and several other senior Gestapo members. Large parts of the German archive material about the resistance movement were lost.
11. Canadian nickel and pennies from the 1940s and an RCAF brass button from a winter great coat. Bob was actually born in Canada when his parents were visiting relatives in Manitoba, but his true Canadian spirit flourished when he was learning to fly in the winter of 1942–43.
12. Bob’s business card, depicting a cowboy riding a Cessna. He was a cattle buyer and seller, based in Humboldt, Iowa. He used his personal aircraft to attend auctions and meet distant clients.
13. A toy de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber in RAF markings camouflage. No doubt Bob’s children, John, Barb and Mary, would have admired their father greatly, as did everyone who was lucky enough to meet him.
William Keir Carr
1. Portrait of a young Bill Carr taken in a photography studio on the island of Malta in 1943. His mother had written him there and asked him for a photograph.
2. After a stellar career in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Bill was made a Commander of the Order of Military Merit, its highest level. The Order of Military Merit recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service to the armed forces of Canada. The highest level, Commander, is for “outstanding meritorious service and demonstrated leadership in duties of great responsibility.”
3. The ribbon and decoration for members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Bill was inducted in 2001.
4. The Distinguished Flying Cross. He was awarded this “gong” in 1944 during the Second World War and the citation which accompanies it reads “His missions lacked nothing in determination and accuracy… F/L Carr is outstanding as a PR pilot and as a Squadron Detachment Commander.”
5. RCAF pilot’s brevet, Second World War. Bill’s air force career started in 1941, and continues to this day. Bill earned his wings at No. 2 Service Flying Training School, Uplands in Ottawa.
6. Metal RCAF pilot’s wings from the 1970s period when Bill Carr was the first commander of Air Command—known today as the “Father of the Modern Canadian Air Force.”
7. Second World War pilot’s map of the island of Malta. Bill flew 143 reconnaissance sorties in enemy skies over Europe, Malta, North Africa and Sicily, gathering intelligence that proved invaluable to the Allied forces. All of these sorties were made with a single aircraft, unarmed and unescorted.
8. Spitfire lapel pin. Bill’s Second World War combat flying was done entirely in Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires.
9. Stamps of Newfoundland—when Bill joined the RCAF, he was not in fact a Canadian. He was a citizen of Newfoundland, which, at the time, was an independent dominion of the British Commonwealth. Bill was born in the small fishing community of Grand Bank.
10. A photo of Bill getting his wings pinned on at No. 2 Service Flying Training School Uplands in Ottawa. The officer pinning those wings on him was none other than Billy Bishop, a Canadian fighter pilot legend of the First World War and recipient of the Victoria Cross.
11. Gold lapel pin of a de Havilland Comet. As a Wing Commander, Bill was in command of 412 Squadron at Uplands in the early 1950s. As such he was instrumental in establishing the first Trans-Atlantic scheduled passenger jet service in the world, using the de Havilland Comet aircraft. He also flew many world dignitaries in the Comet, including Queen Elizabeth II, Charles de Gaulle and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
12. Gold lapel pin of a Canadair Challenger business jet. Bill held a number of senior management positions at Canadair following his retirement from the Air Force. The website for Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame says “His sale of seven Challengers to the German government at a crucial time in the program’s survival was followed quickly by sales to other governments and reportedly provided the spur the program then needed.” His old squadron, 412, operates Challengers and 2016 will be its 75th Anniversary.
13. Model of a Photo Reconnaissance Spitfire
14. Blazer badge for 683 Squadron, his last posting on the Spitfire
Arnold “Rosie” Roseland
1. A publicity photo for the RCAF during the Second World War. Arnold’s image was used widely, representing epitome of the steely jawed and heroic pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force of the period.
2. RCAF pilot’s brevet
3. An RCAF Sweetheart locket. Sweethearts were RCAF wings, sometimes attached to a locket, which were manufactured by jewellers like Birks of Canada and given to the girlfriends and wives of aircrew as a keepsake. Sweethearts were largely made of sterling silver, but some were encrusted with jewels. It is not known if Audrey actually had a sweetheart pin.
4. A brass Zippo lighter engraved with the name “ROSELAND”. After he was shot down, his body came to rest next to a fence post in a farm in the small French village of Saint Martin de Mailloc. While the photo of Audrey was taken by the Germans, they did not find the Zippo. It came into the possession of a teenager named Behier. Later in life Behier became Mayor of the small town and searched for the owner of the Zippo. His efforts led to finding Rosey’s sons and grandsons.
5. A box of “It’s a boy!” Tampa Nugget mild cigars. Unlike the vast majority of young RCAF pilots who were bachelors, Rosey had two sons before his death.
6. A toy P-40 Kittyhawk. His sons no doubt knew of their natural father and were proud and inspired by his service.
7. A Toy Supermarine Spitfire
8. A series of Spitfire “tea cards”, collected by young boys in the late 1940s and early 1950s
9. A humorous period postcard from Alaska—Rosey served in the Aleutians at Amchitka with 14 Squadron (which was to become 442 Squadron a year later) attacking Japanese military establishments on the island of Kiska.
10. A Photo of Arnold with his bride Audrey. A small photograph of Audrey was found in the soil of the field where Rosey’s body was found after he was shot down in France.
11. Two Roseland Spitfire “challenge coins”. The Spitfire image in this fundraising project was made from aluminum wing panel materials from Spitfire TE294, which is being restored at Vintage Wings of Canada as Y-2K, the 442 Squadron aircraft favoured by Arnold Roseland.
Hugh Thomas O’Malley
1. Hugh around the time he was courting my mother. He is sitting on the rocks along the western shore of the Northwest Arm in Halifax. Across the water at the left is St. Mary’s Boathouse, where they socialized and fell in love.
2. A period postcard depicting St. Mary’s Boathouse. Hugh owned a lovely war canoe that he and my mother paddled, but sold it when my brother came along to help pay for the beginning of their family.
3. A small patch of the flag of Nova Scotia. My father and mother were dyed in the wool “Bluenosers” and though he moved away from his beloved city to find work and raise a large family, he travelled back there nearly every year.
4. A lapel pin for the Holy Name Society, of which, my father was a past-president in the Ottawa area. The Holy Name Society, as well as doing good work in the community, was created to promote reverence for the holy names of God and Christ. In a nutshell, it required that members never take the “name of the Lord” in vain. I only heard my father swear once in his life, after hitting his thumb with a hammer. The words he chose kept his promise to the society intact, but I learned some new words that day!
5. A campaign pin-back button for John Fitzgerald Kennedy—a Catholic, an Irishman and a Maritimer! My father had great respect for Kennedy and had a vinyl LP record of his greatest speeches. He would often end a bedtime story or a family lesson with the words “Ask not what you Family can do for you, but what you can do for your Family.”
6. A copy of The Phenomenon of Man, by the great Jesuit philosopher Teilhard de Chardin. My father adored this greatest of all Christian thinkers. A paleontologist, geologist, decorated First World War hero and philosopher, he took part in the discovery of Peking Man. During de Chardin’s lifetime, he was censored by the Catholic Church, but my father embraced his deep thinking and the concept that Christian belief and advanced science were not mutually exclusive. My father was deeply religious, but he was no fundamentalist or creationist. He saw the work of his God in the evolution of man. There were times when my father would call me and read to me from one of de Chardin’s books—The Divine Milieu, The Future of Man, and the beautifully titled Hymn of The Universe. I never understood a thing that was being read to me, such was the complexity of the thinking… but Hugh was agitated with excitement with what he found in de Chardin’s words.
7. A medallion with the effigy of Pope John the 23rd—for my father, the greatest, kindest and most important of all the Popes. My dad was a Papist, that’s for sure, and any suggestion that they were not all divinely selected could result in days and weeks of conflict between the two of us.
8. The centre of my father’s universe—Catherine Mary “Kitty” Ashe. Both beautiful and intelligent, she still, to this day, embraces innovation, inclusion and culture. Like our father, we all looked to her for leadership.
9. Rosary beads, my father prayed every day of his life.
10. O’Malley family crest—Hugh was deeply proud of his County Mayo roots, and was a closet Republican (the Irish variety).
11. Harry McClintock—“Haywire Mac”, an American singer and poet, and the writer of “The Big Rock Candy Mountains”, a hobo song he sang to us every night before going to bed.
12. Two fingers of single malt whiskey. My father never really drank. He and Kitty saved their money for their kids and for the household. In the last two years of his life, my father grew to like single malt on ice, and after a lifetime of conflict and distance, he and I found some common ground when we drank that whiskey.