Canada 150 Vignette Series
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Vignettes
PART XXVII: Nos. 131-135
By Greg Sigurdson/Bill Hillman
131. Just As Brave - Flying Instructors
132. Winnipeg Women's Auxiliary Air Force: Airmen's Club
133. LeBoldus Brothers
134. Silver Cross Mothers
135. A WW II Memory – Sam and Glen Merrifield: Part 13
Continued in PART XXVIII: Nos. 136-140
131 of 150: Just As Brave - Flying Instructors
Just as Brave by Dan Black
Legion Magazine June 1988
Strapped to the rear seat of bright yellow Harvard 3209, pilot instructor John Sweet felt like the number two man on a horse: He was aboard, but for the moment control was in the hands of student pilot Ken Child up front.
It was January, 1944, and the two were returning to base at Aylmer after a day spent with other trainees flying target practice over the flat, snow- covered farmland of southwestern Ontario. Unknown to either airman, disaster was about to strike.
"We were four to five miles from base and went into a dive to drop to 1,000 feet, and I remember looking over to my right and seeing (Harvard) FE662 trying to fly formation," Sweet recalls. "I don't know why he did that, but there we were 30 feet apart and low on fuel." Seconds later, the other plane disappeared, "but as we turned into the wind on our landing approach, he came out of the blue and went through our wing. All that remained was three-quarters of a wing. We were upside down."
British student pilot Peter Stratton was decapitated as FE662 slammed nose first into the airfield 750 feet below. His Canadian instructor, Reg Scevoir, had the flesh ripped from his face and required extensive reconstructive surgery. The Harvard's 575 h.p. engine drove into the frozen ground as the rest of the plane ripped free and landed 50 yards away.
Still upside down, 3209 was losing altitude. Rescuers ran to what remained of FE662, while others watched in horror, then relief, as Sweet fought with the controls and righted his aircraft. "I don't know what went through my mind," recalls the former instructor, now 70. "For the longest time, I had trouble remembering anything after or before the crash."
When 3209 came down in a field behind a hangar it was doing 200 m.p.h. Normal approach speed is 110. "We lost our right wheel and headed toward the road," Sweet recalls. "I couldn't make the runway. Nothing was said. It happened so fast."
Ripping up chunks of earth and grass, 3209 punched through a road fence, taking out eight posts before hitting the first ditch where it lost the left wheel. After skidding across the ·road, the nose of the plane slammed into the next ditch, before taking out another fence and sliding 80 feet into a field. Fortunately, the Harvard's fuel tanks, located near the rear seat, were almost empty. Sweet was pulled unconscious from the burning wreck with a rope tied to a crash truck boom. He had a broken arm, broken left leg and a gaping hole in the front of his skull. His hospital treatment would last a year and include psychiatric examination. Ken Child came away with a broken left arm.
''A person can ask me today if being an instructor in Canada during the war was dangerous," Sweet says. "You bet it was." All volunteers who had freely offered their lives to serve Canada during WW II, most, if not all of the men who served at No. 14 Service Flying Training School under the wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), wanted to go overseas. Sweet himself enlisted in 1942, and before advanced training at Aylmer passed through Manning Pool No. 1 in Toronto, initial training school and elementary flying training school on Tiger Moths, in Oshawa.
After receiving his wings in Aylmer, Sweet could have gone to Bagotville, Que., and then overseas. Instead, he was assigned to Trenton, Ont., for pilot instructor training. "Once you went to Trenton, you were stuck," he says. "There was no way out.
You were going to be an instructor." Sweet recalls a lot of men purposely gave the wrong answers on their written instructor's tests, hoping they'd fail and be reassigned overseas. "But the teachers at Trenton were wise to this. They knew who was trying to fail. They knew the guys had the right answers in their heads, if not on paper."
The service flying training school was the student's introduction to heavy, high performance WW II aircraft-in particular the Harvard, and adds Sweet, those in his charge weren't all choirboys. "You'd have to knock the overconfidence out of them during the first month, “he says." It took the next month to teach them about flying, and in that month they learned so much they were scared to fly in the third month. Sometimes you'd have to go looking for them."
Instructors prepared students for the worst conditions, allowing them to learn from potentially fatal mistakes. The risk was understood. Says Harry Saelens of the Tillsonburg, Ont., Branch: "It doesn't matter whether you're pranging in a Tiger Moth over Neepawa or in a Halifax over Berlin, you're just as dead." Mute evidence of the truth of that statement was found in the small cemeteries that dotted the countryside. Canada only servicemen would eventually comprise 10 per cent of the 44,000 Canadians killed in WW II. "These young fellows were just as loyal just as courageous, just as young and just as prepared to go and do those big and glorious deeds as those who got to do them, but they never got the chance and they got none of the rewards. Nobody ever talks about them any more and I think they should," says Saelens.
Pilots and instructors weren't the only ones at risk. John French, 67, of Langton, Ont., was an airframe mechanic based in Yorkton, Sask. He recalls one close call while flying as a passenger in a Cessna. "It started to snow heavily and we got down to 50 to 60 feet off the ground to spot the lights of a town or village . The pilot followed a railway line, figuring we'd come across a grain elevator with the name of the town on it. We spotted an elevator, but while making a pass we barely missed a water tower. We felt awfully lucky."
Before moving to Kingston, Ont., in August 1944 -- where it operated for another year -- No. 14 Service Flying Training School enjoyed three productive years at Aylmer with 4,144 pilots earning their wings. The school had an excellent safety record considering the high-pressure training.
But by 1944, there were up to 500 landings a day and accidents were inevitable. During its four years of operations, including the time in Kingston, 26 fatal crashes killed 12 instructors and 26 students.
Overseas, a tour of operations called for 300 hours flying before a leave was granted. "Back here in Canada," says Sweet, "an instructor would have close to 2,000 hours. He'd be flying the seat of his pants off to keep his students up on their time."
The diary from No. 14 describes forced landings, nose-ups, ground loops, bent air screws, collisions with trees and even a Harvard's run-in with an outhouse. "A dense ground fog closed in with 13 aircraft away from the field," notes a booklet by M.L. Mcintyre. "One found its way back, 10 landed at London, one was forced down near London and one force-landed near some cottages at Port Bruce on Lake Erie.
The plane was undamaged, but in the attempt to fly out, an instructor had the misfortune to hit an outhouse on his takeoff run. Luckily the outhouse was unoccupied and its damage appears to have been slight.
With planes buzzing overhead-some occasionally crashing in farmer's fields the war arrived in Aylmer as it did in other towns with a training base. Newspaper accounts tell of practice bombs crashing through greenhouses and bullets dropping from the sky. A March i7, 1943, story in the St. Thomas Times-Journal describes how Mrs. A.S. Taylor, of Port Stanley, had a narrow escape when a .303 bullet tore through the roof of her kitchen, grazed her left arm below the elbow and then bounced onto a breakfast plate.
But despite narrow escapes for civilians and military personnel, communities were proud of their training bases. Students and instructors were invited into private homes for Thanksgiving dinner and other celebrations.
Romances blossomed and the towns' economies grew. It was a sad day when a base closed. "No. 14 brought the war very close to home," says Aylmer high school history teacher Kirk Barons. "It made the war very real for this community and if you compare the small number of fatal accidents that happened in this area last year to the number that occurred back then, you can recognize the element of danger that existed.''
Former flying instructor Archie Londry, 66, a service officer with Gen. Hugh Dyer Branch in Minnedosa, Man., recalls working on a broken radio receiver in the back of an Anson one night. About 30 miles from Brandon and at an altitude of 3,000 feet they ran into a severe ice storm with lightning. The starboard engine kicked out. ''We had to maintain our flying speed to avoid a complete stall," recalls Londry, who took control of the training aircraft.
The lightning helped Londry spot a small slough, which cushioned the plane before it crashed into a bush, losing its wings. There were no injuries, but the crash marked one of many close calls for the instructor, whose room-mate, also an instructor, died in a mid-air collision between two Cessna Cranes. "The students didn't learn by you telling them the mistakes," he says. "You had to go as far as you could go and let them make and see the mistake and then show them how to recover. It was a necessary part of training and it's how the majority of accidents happened."
Saelens says that, as host of the BCATP, Canada trained 125,000 men from all over the Commonwealth, including 50,000 pilots. During the five years it operated, more than 800 trainees died. "In my army service I never knew of anyone being killed, but it did happen," he says. "Navy men drowned during training, but the largest losses were suffered by the air force .''
"People are just beginning to realize what the training casualties were," adds Londry. "Forty five years ago people didn't talk about it because they were preoccupied with the war effort. But the sacrifices were made here as well as overseas. From my graduating class alone, about the same number of graduates died in Canada-only service as those who died overseas.''
132 of 150: Winnipeg Women's Auxiliary Air Force - Airmen's Club
"What did we do for them? Found homes with kind people. Soon their longing for home faded away only to return when they were on their way home. Many boys who failed as Pilots, had to be comforted. We sewed stripes and wings on by the hundreds, darned sox, mended uniforms. Listened to their love stories, looked at hundreds of photographs of their wives, babies and sweethearts, and we loved it all. Many times our laughter was very close to tears. We were like a big family, our own Canadian boys and others from all over the world.'"
The Airman’s Club booklet featured in this Vignette was produced for volunteers, friends and airmen and airwomen at the end of World War II as a memento of the club which was soon to be closed. It was one of many programs offered by the Winnipeg Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, a determined group of voluteers making a difference for thousands of civilians and service personnel wrapped up in the war. It is a remarkable story which chronicles how amazingly far people were willing to go to help others during `this darkest hour.’
WITH THE OPENING of the Empire Air Training Stations in the vicinity of Winnipeg, and the arrival of so many young Airmen from Overseas it was soon obvious that some place should be available for these boys to meet and make friends with us. And so, the Airmen's Club opened January 18th, 1941.
AIRMEN'S CLUB ~ 1941 to 1945
THE OBJECT OF THE CLUB was not only to have a meeting place and a small Snack Bar, but more important to place these boys in private homes for their "Leave." In this way they would become acquainted with Canadian Life, and at the same time have pleasant homey surroundings for their furlough.
The response to our appeal for people who would like to entertain these young men in their homes was overwhelming. The boys were from all over the world, of many races and creeds, and, without exception, they were all entertained in private homes. In the past four years 39,732 have been placed.
All work in connection with the Club was voluntary, members of the Winnipeg Women's Air Force Auxiliary comprised our personnel.
Shortly after we opened, the U.T. (under training} Pilots, for the first Royal Air Force Station to open in this Command, viz., Carberry, arrived. The Ground Crew for this station having arrived in early December, 1940.
Who will ever forget that morning, forty below zero! But the boys said the warmth of our welcome soon made them forget the cold weather. Many of us had the pleasure of entertaining these boys in our homes for Christmas and New Year's Leave and, although the Club was not open we had already started what was later to be called the "Placement Desk."
The first Australians and New Zealanders arrived in February, 1941. They were met at the railway station by the Auxiliary's Station Reception Committee, and brought by bus to the Club, where they were served light refreshments before they proceeded to their Station. We will always remember these boys, and the Maoris who came with the New Zealanders.
Boys still kept arriving from Overseas but in the early spring came many from the United States. At one time we thought of the United States as "Texas" as so many American boys seemed to come from there. However, by early summer, boys from every State in the Union were arriving to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and some 700 registered at the Club.
Those boys from Texas who will ever forget them? "Tex" from Odessa, "E.L." from Houston, Johnny who hitch-hiked 1,500 miles from Childress, and others too numerous to mention. We placed many of these boys in private homes, until they were taken into the Air Force and were posted. We have many letters from these boys, who, shortly after Pearl Harbour transferred to the United States Air Corps. It was these delightful Texans who suggested that the Snack Bar should provide something a little more substantial than sandwiches. And the fact that we were having more boys every day, led to us enlarging the Club. Three more rooms were added, including a much needed Canteen.
About this time, we began to notice the names of different countries on the shoulder badges worn. Young men from all over the world-France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Denmark, many of these boys having escaped from occupied territory. We tried to place them with people from their homeland, and in some small measure bring comfort to these boys, who in many instances did not know what had happened to their dear ones.
Boys from British Honduras, British Guiana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and the Bahamas, also arrived about this time, as well as several South Africans. The insignia B.L.A.V. on shoulder badges puzzled us for a time, but on inquiry we found these boys came from South America. It meant "British Latin America Volunteer" and was worn by those from the Argentine, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia and Paraguay. Some of the boys were native to those countries, but the majority were British.
Our Club had indeed become cosmopolitan, Canadians rubbing shoulders with boys from all over the world. We had thirteen boys who came direct to Canada from Singapore, among them was a Chinese boy named Tan Kai Hai. According to the "London Times" he was the first Chinese Pilot in the Royal Air Force, of the others nine were Englishmen, two Danes, and Tullah, a native of Johore.
Our boys from India: The first one we had was David who was with the R.A.F. but later there were the boys of the Royal India Air Force. Our most picturesque guest from India, with his airforce blue puggree or turban, his short black beard, and about six feet tall, was nineteen-year-old Sandhu of Pakho Pur. Sandhu was a Sikh. The darling of our hearts was Gopi from Tranvencour, southern India, who was with us so long at Deer Lodge Hospital, having had a very bad crash which necessitated many operations. Gopi received his wings a short time ago, and once again our prayers were answered.
Among the Maoris was "Snow" whose real name was Kereama, of Marton, New Zealand. Many of these Maoris had beautiful voices, and we volunteers will never forget the evening we listened to Maori songs, sung in the Canteen by three of these boys.
There are many stories to be told, some full of humour and others full of pathos. The very young boys homesick, and finding everything strange in our Country. What did we do for them? Found homes with kind people. Soon their longing for home faded away only to return when they were on their way home. Many boys who failed as Pilots, had to be comforted. We sewed stripes and wings on by the hundreds, darned sox, mended uniforms, listened to their love stories, looked at hundreds of photographs of their wives, babies and sweethearts, and we loved it all. Many times our laughter was very close to tears. We were like a big family, our own Canadian boys and others from all over the world.
How did we entertain our big family? Always they were encouraged to accept the hospitality of private homes. Concerts and dances were given at the Club, where the Junior Hostesses from the Auxiliary helped to entertain. Parties were given for newly arrived trainees, who were to be stationed in and around Winnipeg, for boys who were passing through and would be here only a few hours, and there was the night we entertained 289 Sergeant Pilots, of the Royal Australian Air Force, and Gracie Fields sang to them after her concert at the Auditorium, coming from there with His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. McWilliams. That was a gala night for all of us. We volunteers enjoyed the parties as much as the guests.
Our first Christmas party in the big lounge is a happy memory. Christmas dinner was served to over 200 boys from all over the world, meetings of old school friends and friends, they had left behind in England. The boys were all very interested in our guests from Singapore, especially the Australians and New Zealanders, as many had hopes of being sent to the Far East, and especially to Singapore, where countless numbers of their countrymen were stationed during 1941.
The busiest place in the Club was the Canteen. We had seating capacity for twenty-four. Breakfast, dinner and supper were served. During the week we averaged around 200 meals a day but on week-ends, which began on Friday, when trainees as well as Station Staff arrived on Leave, we served anywhere from twelve to fifteen hundred. Bacon and eggs were in great demand and thirty to forty dozen eggs cooked in an evening soon became routine. How the volunteers in the Canteen did this, no one will ever know, but it was done, and on a four ring gas stove with oven. Finally, the Winnipeg Electric Company took pity on us, and built us a six ring stove. And a kind friend gave us a steam table. Then we went to town! No request of the boys, were they Canadian, American or from across the Sea, was too much trouble for the volunteers who cooked for them. 596,879 boys were served in the Canteen during the last four years.
We were the first Airmen's Club in Canada. All work was done voluntarily and we all had the same idea in our minds, to make this a home from home, and not just a Canteen. The boys watched us do the cooking as they had watched their Mothers in their own homes. They helped us wash dishes, peel potatoes, and in fact did everything but the cooking. Indeed many the bowl and spoon were licked after the cake was iced.
The expenses of the Club were not carried by the Canteen. When, by any chance we were on the right side of the ledger, we had chicken or turkey for Sunday dinner. Never did we hear the song "A Wing and a Prayer" without thinking of our Club. We had many interested friends, and they always seemed to be on our doorstep when anything was needed. Our donations every year exceeded our losses.
Not many people know that the Airmen's Club of Winnipeg is called by the boys far and wide as the "World's Most Famous Club." And perhaps with good reason, for our boys are all over the world. Letters and messages come from Canadians, who have never been in the Club (but who come from in and around Winnipeg) and they tell of meeting Indian boys in India who speak to them of the Airmen's Club, Australians and New Zealanders who meet our boys in Italy and the middle East who speak of us. It would not surprise us at all to learn someday, that we were known by the underground of all occupied countries in Europe.
Our volunteers, be it Placement, Canteen or Housework, gave many hours of untiring service. Many of the Canteen shifts are still working together in 1945. We do not need thanks. The hundreds of letters from our boys are enough. One, received from David Kumar (Viiendra Kumar) our first Indian Airman expresses the finest thanks which could be given:
"Believe me, a club like yours does more to bring International Friendship together than all the Leagues of Nations in the world."
This outline of the activities of the Airmen's Club is prepared as a souvenir for all those, whose work made the Club possible.
Chairman ~ Winnipeg, Manitoba ~ April 30th, 1945.
Click for full size
133 of 150: LeBoldus Brothers
The inspiration for our Remembrance Day Vignette came with a message from Will Chabun who was responding to our Canada 150 Vignette No. 122 Drama On Main Street. The photo showed some sort of gathering on Moose Jaw’s main street during World War II. It included a Westland Lysander aircraft, a number of airmen, and a crowd of civilians watching the proceedings. Will, who is a member of the Regina chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, suggested this scene might be showing a memorial service that was held for the three brothers from the Leboldus family who were killed while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. I was unable to absolutely determine that the photo was in fact a memorial to the Leboldus airmen, but felt their story is a poignenet topic for our Remembrance Day Vignette.
Peter, Martin and John Leboldus were three of 12 children in the family of John and Regina Leboldus of Vibank Saskatchewan. A Saskatoon Star Pheonix article dated September 8, 2016 revealed the following information. On Remembrance Day 1955, Regina Leboldus was chosen by the Royal Canadian Legion to be the Silver Star Mother whereas she had been asked to lay the wreath at the national Remembrance Day service in Ottawa that year. She was to represent all of Canada’s mothers who had lost a son or daughter in World War I and World War II. This she did, flying for the first time in her life, to attend to her duties as the 1955 Silver Star Mother.
Official RCAF reports, as documented in the Commonwealth Air Training Museum memorial book, "They Shall Grow Not Old" can be seen on the left. Additional information about each of the brothers can be seen below.
Peter John Leboldus was born in 1918. When ware broke out, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and trained as an Observer. He was killed while flying as Navigator in a aircraft with his RCAF Squadron. Among his achievements in his short life was taking tea with the Queen Mother and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor castle with a group of newly arrived Canadian Airmen in England during World War II.
John Anthony Leboldus, born in 1922 was trained as, an deployed as an air gunner stationed in the Middle East during the war. He had attained the rank of Flight Sergeant. He was killed in a mission related air crash in Italy.
Martin Benedict Leboldus, born in 1921, attained the rank of Flight Engineer and was killed on a bombing raid in Germany
The three brothers were honoured by the Government of Saskatchewan which named a lake, channel and island, all adjoined, after them. The three geographic features are connected to Frobisher Lake in northern Saskatchewan
Another Leboldus son, Michael, survived the war and went on to a distinguished career as a doctor in Regina.
The following are the entries for the Leboldus brothers in the Commonwealth Air Training Museum’s memorial book "They Shall Grow Not Old."
LEBOLDUS, JOHN ANTHONY FS(AG) R155568. From Vibank, Saskatchewan. Killed In Action Nov.24/43 (age 21). #142 Squadron (Determination). BROTHER to Martin Benedict and Peter John LeBoldus. Target - Turin, Italy. The crew of Wellington aircraft LN 566 (QT-D) took off for the target and was never heard from again. FS. R.C. Tyas (RAAF), Sgt.s F.E Summers (RAF), W.R. Knight (RAF), H.A. Clark (RAF) and A.D.J. Smith (RAAF) were also killed. Flight Sergeant Air Gunner LeBoldus is buried in the Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy.
LEBOLDUS, MARTIN BENEDICT SGT(FE) R61333. From Vibank, Saskatchewan. Killed In Action Feb.20/44 age 31. #419 Moose Squadron (Moosa Aswayita). BROTHER to John Anthony and Peter John LeBoldus. Halifax aircraft JD 114 (VR-V) failed to return from a night raid against Leipzig, Germany. F/O. J.R. Piper, P/O.s D.K. Macleod, D.C. Lewthwaite, Sgt.s A.H. Hackbart, T. Gettings (RAF) and WO. J.L. Beattie were also killed. Sergeant Flight Engineer LeBoldus has no known grave, his name is inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial, Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey, England.
LEBOLDUS, PETER JOHN F/O(N) J15034. From Vibank, Saskatchewan. Killed In Action Feb.13/43 age 26. #418 City of Edmonton Squadron. BROTHER to John Anthony and Martin Benedict LeBoldus. Boston aircraft # AL 766 was shot down while engaged in night operations over France. FS. R.R. Jackson (RAF) was also killed. One crew member, not Canadian, missing believed killed. Flying Officer Navigator LeBoldus was buried in the Communal Cemetery at St. Riquieres-des-Plaines, Seine, France, exhumed, and reburied in the War Cemetery at Grandcourt, France.
Photos of the Leboldus brothers and Regina Leboldus courtesy of Veteran’s Affairs Canada.
While researching this vignette, we came across a number of heartbreaking situations like the Leboldus family endured during World War II. We will look at these events as Part II of our Remembrance Day Canada 150 BCATP Vignette.
134 of 150: Silver Cross Mothers
In World War II, over 42,000 men and women died in service to Canada’s armed forces. For the families, notice of the death of a loved one must have been a deeply traumatic and long-lasting experience. There is no way to tell how one family’s tragedy compared to that of another, but for a number of families, and mothers in particular, the death of three loved ones must have been especially sorrowful.
A note from Hugh Halliday in an internet post where he talked about five instances where families lost three members in World War II inspired this Canada 150 Vignette. Further research turned up the Canada Veteran’s Affairs web site where the National Memorial Silver Cross Mothers are listed. On this site, 12 Silver Cross Mothers lost three loved ones to World War II and their names and circumstances are listed below. Please note that the entries and photos shown are exactly as they are presented in the Veteran’s Affairs web site:
We have a suspicion that there were more than 12 Canadian families who lost three family members in World War II, and suggest that possibly some families lost more..
1968 - Mrs. Pearl Rich of Vancouver, British Columbia, was named 1968 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1968, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
Canada’s WWII Sliver Cross Mothers with Three Family Members Killed
On November 2, 1943 her son, Private William Rich, was killed while serving with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.
On December 22, 1943, a second son, Private George Rich, was killed in action also while on duty with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.
On July 24, 1944, a daughter, Wren Mary Rich (Rech) drowned while serving with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service.
Mrs. Rich was the wife of Charles Rich.
1966 - Mrs. Josephine Stephens, formerly Colville, of Toronto, Ontario, was the 1966 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1966, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On May 6, 1942, her son, Flight Sergeant William Freeborne Colville, was killed in an airplane crash in Newfoundland while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On March 16, 1944, a second son, Flying Officer Alexander Colborne Colville, went missing while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in a bombing raid.
On August 18, 1944, a third son, Flying Officer John Spencer Colville, was killed flying a typhoon fighter-bomber in France while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Every Sunday, Mrs. Stephens (Colville) would make a big chicken dinner for her family and up to five servicemen, temporarily posted in her area. In the years following the war, she received hundreds of letters of gratitude from men who had survived and whom she had welcomed into her home. She remarried in 1949 to George Stephens.
1965 - Mrs. Nora Wagner of Teeterville, Ontario, was the 1965 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1965, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On July 18, 1944, her son, Private Ivan Samuel Wagner, was killed while on duty with the Royal Regiment of Canada.
On August 12, 1944, a second son, Corporal Harry Everett Wagner, died of wounds while serving with the Royal Regiment of Canada.
On January 31, 1945, a third son, Private Bruce Howard Wagner, was killed in action while serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada.
Three sons, all dead in barely six months were survived by two sisters, Mary and Nora, and one brother, Jack who was not able to join the forces due to health reasons.
Mrs. Wagner, née Boswell, was born in 1890. She married Bruce Wagner and was widowed in 1961. She was a dignified and resolute woman. Even after the loss of her three sons she never complained about anyone or anything. She carried on for them.
One of her first acts as the National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother in 1965 was to visit the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower, in Ottawa. Later that afternoon, she and her daughter were guests of the Ottawa branch of the Silver Cross Mothers. Mrs. Wagner died in 1980.
1964 - Mrs. Bernadette Rivait of Windsor, Ontario, was the 1964 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1964, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On August 19, 1942, sons, Private Leon Maxime Rivait and Private Alphonse Cecil Rivait were killed in action during the battle of Dieppe while serving with the Essex Scottish Regiment.
On November 23, 1944, another of her sons, Private Lawrence Rivait was also killed in action while serving with the Essex Scottish Regiment.
Two other sons of Mrs. Rivait, Raymond and Edward, also served in the Second World War. Raymond was taken prisoner for three years. When Edward enlisted shortly after Lawrence was killed, Mrs. and Mr. Rivait drew up a petition to get him out of the service and while they succeeded in having him discharged, he rejoined a month later.
At the time of the National Remembrance ceremony in 1964, she expressed that she held the memory of her sons dear and found some consolation in her five married sons, five married daughters, 58 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Mrs. Rivait enjoyed playing bingo while her husband was an avid gardener. Two of their grandchildren also joined the military; Raymond in the air force and Albert in the navy.
1963 - Mrs. Mary Stodgell of Norwood, Manitoba, was the 1963 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1963, at age 74, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On December 19, 1941, her son, Private Stanley Fredrick Stodgell, was killed in action in Hong Kong while serving with the Winnipeg Grenadiers.
On March 20, 1943, a second son, Private Garnett James Stodgell, was taken prisoner in Hong Kong while serving with the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He died while in captivity.
On September 11, 1944, a third son, Corporal Cyril Angus Stodgell, was also killed in action while serving with the Lake Superior Regiment (Motor).
Mrs. Stodgell had five sons enlist during the Second World War, Stanley, Garnett, Cyril, Norman and Roy. Only Norman and Roy returned home.
1962 - Mrs. Vitaline Lanteigne of Caraquet, New Brunswick, was the 1962 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1962, at age 73, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada. She was the first French Canadian and the first from New Brunswick to be selected.
On June 12, 1944, her son, Private Jean Baptiste Lanteigne, was killed in action in France while serving with Le Régiment de la Chaudière.
On August 14, 1944, a second son, Private Philippe Joseph Lanteigne, was also killed in France while serving with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.
On September 15, 1944, a third son, Lance Corporal Arthur Lanteigne, was killed in action in Italy while serving with the Royal 22e Regiment.
Born on December 9, 1889, Vitaline is the daughter of Odilon and Marguerite Doiron of Caraquet. She married Dominique Lanteigne on November 11, 1907. Five of her 13 sons enlisted during the Second World War. Three did not return, dying within three months of each other. Her surviving sons returned home wounded. Lucien was wounded at Dieppe and Daniel was wounded in the Netherlands.
Mrs. Lanteigne died in 1984.
1961 – Mrs. Sylvia Kimmel of Mission, British Columbia, was the 1961 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1961, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On June 8, 1944, her son, Rifleman Gordon Leroy Kimmel, was killed while serving with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.
Just ten days later, June 18, 1944, a second son, Corporal Richard Kenneth Kimmel, was killed while on duty, serving with the Regina Rifle Regiment on June 18, 1944.
On December 5, 1944, a third son, Corporal Clifford Howard Kimmel, was killed in the line of duty while serving with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.
She lost three of her sons to the line of duty during Second World War. Five of her eleven children were in the Armed Forces. Her three deceased sons joined up within a month of each other in 1940 and all were killed within a six month period in 1944.
The weather was very cold when Mrs. Kimmel arrived in Ottawa in November 1961 in preparation of her duties as National Memorial (Silver) Cross mother. When she and her husband went to the department store, Eaton’s, to purchase a warmer coat, the store manager, upon discovering that she was the Silver Cross Mother and did not have a proper coat for the weather, allowed Mrs. Kimmel to choose one to her liking--a warm, black mink coat, on behalf of the store.
1960 - Mrs. Julienne Cantin of McCreary, Manitoba, was the 1960 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1960, at age 80, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada. Mrs. Cantin, who had also received the Legion of Honour from the Government of France, stood with the Governor General of Canada and received her three Silver Crosses, leading the nation in silent tribute. She remarked, “I’m not doing this for myself, but for the children who deserve it. We never asked them to go.”
On November 4, 1940, her son, Private Wilfred Cantin, was killed during a training exercise while training with the Fort Garry Horse.
On October 9, 1942, another son, Flying Officer Clement Francis Cantin, was killed in action while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On November 26, 1943, a third son, Flying Officer Maurice Raoul Cantin, was killed while also serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Noel and Clement Nivon landed in France on D-Day, and Noel was wounded twice while serving with the Fort Garry Horse.
Julienne and Amedee Cantin (originally from Brittany, France) married in 1910 and began farming near McCreary, Manitoba. Together they raised ten children—nine sons and one daughter. During the Second World War, all ten children, as well as a daughter-in-law, enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. Sons Lionel, Clement, Maurice, Joseph and Albert joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Wilfred, Amidee, Clement (Nivon) and Noel enlisted with the Fort Garry Horse of the Canadian Armored Corps. Daughter, Marie, served overseas as a nurse with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. When Wilfred died in 1940, daughter-in-law, Evelyne joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and served overseas.
The Cantin’s extraordinary contribution to the Second World War possibly represents the largest single contribution by any Canadian family. Neither Mrs. nor Mr. Cantin encouraged nor discouraged their children from enlisting; they were patriotic and believed in the cause.
1959 - Mrs. Anderson of Craigmyle, Alberta, was the 1959 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1959, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On October 17, 1942, her son, Flight Sergeant James (Jimmie) Sangster Anderson, was fatally injured in a crash landing over Germany while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On January 20, 1943, a second son, Flying Officer William (Billy) Boyd Anderson, was on a secret mission, as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force "Demon Squadron", when his plane sent out a SOS 40 miles off the coast of England. The plane was never found.
On March 31, 1944, her third son, Flight Sergeant Lloyd George Anderson, was killed during an air raid over Nuremberg, Germany while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Mrs. Anderson was born in Denmark and immigrated to Canada in 1913, living with her aunt and cousin on a farm near Craigmyle. She married William Boyd Anderson, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, and together they raised three sons—James, William and Lloyd. Twin sons, Billy and Jimmie enlisted for service on their twentieth birthday while attending the Calgary Stampede. Lloyd enlisted in 1942 at age 25.
Mrs. Anderson loved to knit and was a curling enthusiast, attending as many curling bonspiels as possible. She and her husband were avid scrabble players.
Her sons’ memory was honoured with the naming of Anderson Creek in Alberta for James, Boyd Creek for William Boyd and Lloyd Creek, Alberta for Lloyd. The Anderson of Craigmyle School was also named and opened locally in memory of the three boys but has since been demolished.
1958 - Mrs. Helen Forestell of Coniston, Ontario, was the 1958 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1958, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On April 5, 1943, her son, Warrant Officer Class II Daniel Arthur Forestell, was killed while on duty serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On March 20, 1944, a second son, Warrant Officer Class II Thomas Bernard Forestell, was killed during a navigation exercise in Canada while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On August 8, 1944, a third son, Flying Officer Robert Samuel Forestell, was killed in action also while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
1957 - Mrs. Zylpha MacFarlane (formerly Griffiths) of Truro, Nova Scotia, was the 1957 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1957, accompanied by her daughter, she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On April 9, 1917, her first husband, Private John Henry Griffiths, was killed at Vimy Ridge during the First World War.
On May 26, 1943, her son, Flight Sergeant David William MacFarlane, was killed while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On July 8, 1944, a second son, Sergeant Robert James Griffiths, was killed while serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
The widow of John Henry Griffiths, Mrs. MacFarlane remarried and was a mother of 17 children—five of whom were step children. In addition to sons, David, Joseph and Robert, two of her other children, son, Herbert MacFarlane and daughter, Mrs. Douglas Alice Boutillier also served during the Second World War.
Mrs. MacFarlane attended the First Baptist Church in Truro, Nova Scotia and was an active community member and volunteer. She was superintendent of Sunday School, Truro Heights for eight years, past mistress of Loyal True Blue Lodge, Truro and worked with the youth movement of the International order of Good Templars. Mrs. MacFarlane was also a member of the Women’s Missionary Society, Ladies Auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion and Nova Scotia Temperance Federation.
She enjoyed crocheting and felt she had been blessed with many fine children, including 30 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
1956 - Mrs. Gertrude Edna Reynolds of Chatham, Ontario, was the 1956 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. During the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on November 11, 1956 she laid a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child in military service to Canada.
On January 16, 1943, her son, Flying Officer Hugh Gordon Reynolds, was killed in a flying accident while on duty serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On January 31, 1943, a second son, Warrant Officer Class II Arthur Mac Reynolds, was killed in action while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On April 15, 1944, a third son, Pilot Officer Douglas Glen Reynolds, was killed in action while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
1955 – Regina Leboldus – subject of previous Canada 150 Vignette.
135 of 150: A WW II Memory – Sam and Glen Merrifield: Part 13
In this 13th installment of Sam & Glen Merrifield’s oral history, the brothers provide an excellent description of the duties of various aircrew groups within the Pathfinder squadron – it is much more complex than what one might be guess.
A Lancaster Crew (Bomber Command Museum)
Brother two, dressed in bluePreparations for the second front were in hand all through Britain and Steve Ridell who came to us for exposure in the fall of '41 as an airman visited us as a Flying Officer after receiving training as a Signals Officer. He gave a good report of the course which included a lot of higher mathematics and Sam and I saw a means of advancing our education. Because John was our CO (Commanding Officer) and remembered us, our applications went forward well recommended and I left on a scheduled leave. I returned to be informed that we were deep in glue and headed for service in the army. They had given Sam a medical while I was away and discovered we were red-green color blind. Well we knew we were beaten but Fauquier was not ready to give up and insisted on us being sent to the RAF Hospital at Ely and being tested by a Specialist. There we passed the red but not the green. It was not easy but John had the Adjutant destroy all traces of the venture and so the status quo was maintained.
Bomber Command Squadrons had a large number of personnel. On February 29, 1944, we had 86 aircrew officers and 112 aircrew OR's 3 groundcrew officers, 288 groundcrew OR's and 9 WAAF OR's for a total of 498. These were 356 Canadian, 136 UK, 3 Australians, 1 New Zealand, 1 Rhodesian and 1 United States. Quite a mixed bag. The ones you knew best were your section workmates who often shared the same billet. In most instances groundcrew and aircrew stuck to their own kind except the groundcrew who were assigned to work at one aircraft in the flights. We quickly learned that it was easier to lose strangers than friends and so rarely sought friends in the aircrew ranks. Sometimes our work threw us together and we learned that the "better than thou" attitude so often attributed to aircrew was a good deal rarer than many thought.
Many of the aircrew were well known and very highly regarded by everyone for their achievements. One such was Flight Sergeant Bonikowski, who my memory tells me was one of the finest blind markers in PFF (Path Finder Force) and often had officers with ranks as high as Wing Commander flying in his wake or as his alternate. We lost him and his fine crew on their 20th mission on the night of January 30/31 1944 in a/c "S" for sugar.
While in Brisbane Australia in February 1988 I found a book entitled "Pathfinders light the way" by Harold J. Wright. On page 37 of his book he explains the PFF grading and I quote; "First of all, this is a Lancaster Squadron and there are four grades of crews here. Supporters, backup, illuminators or blind markers, and lastly visual markers. Working up, there are the supporters, They are the crews in training for the other jobs. They carry only bombs and go in with the early wave to lend weight of numbers. Backers-up go in throughout the raid, to keep the target marked during the attack. They normally drop green Target Indicator Flares or T.I.s as we call them. Above them come the illuminators or Blind markers. They work on radar and go in before the zero hour. They mark the area with red T’s and drop illuminating flares which light up the target for the last group, the visual markers. They go in two to four minutes before zero hour to find an actual aiming point on the ground, a building, a railway or road junction or something which stands out."...
Now about the shite-hawk, the Pathfinders emblem... You wear it on your pocket flap below your wings or wing, but before you wear it you earn it. To earn it, we expect you to do six good supporters trips at least. You get temporary award then if we think you deserve it. It doesn't become yours permanently until you have finished your two tours of forty five ops unless you are shot down or wounded and taken off flying."
A section favorite with us was Danny Langley, a British Sergeant WAG who won the DFM at Pocklington when he repaired the TR9F in flight and got a vital message through. Danny was a P/0 and flew with W/C Reg Lane as "Master Bomber" in a/c "Y" Yorker in December 1943 which is the last record I have of Danny. Now flying with the Master Bomber is a great honor but also a great hazard because you are over the target for half an hour or more instead of two minutes. Danny was the WAG on the Ruhr Express so this is a good place to insert my anecdote of that name.
Late in 1943 W/C Reggie Lane arrived at Gransden Lodge with the first Canadian built Lancaster KB 700. We had on hand copies of McLean's Magazine telling us how this aircraft was already bringing Hitler to his knees, when we were asked to get it ready for a "milk run" op and then send it to 6 Group. My part was to install and wire up a plate cutting recording machine to the intercom just ahead of the rear turret to record the actual bomb run-up for posterity. On this first mission over the channel one of the Packard built Merlin engines failed and the a/c couldn't hold its altitude, which was uncommon for a Lancaster. All but one bomb was jettisoned. Still no good, mission aborted. Engines were changed to British Merlins and after a short trip over the channel without propaganda gear it was sent off to 6 Group - 419 Squadron I believe. Strangely enough, this "lemon" got its picture in "History of the RAF". As mention of the RCAF in this book is scant I hope the author didn't feel this was our best effort.
Part 13 – 965 words.
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Continued in PART XXVIII: Nos. 136-140
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