I am not alone

I am not alone by all means who pays homage to the men and women of the BCATP.

Click here for a great source of information.


The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

As the focus of a Commonwealth-wide effort to instruct aircrew, Canada made a major contribution to Allied air superiority during World War II. Called the “Aerodrome of Democracy” by US President Roosevelt, Canada had an abundance of air training space beyond the range of enemy aircraft,excellent climatic conditions for flying, immediate access to American industry, and relative proximity to the British Isles via the North Atlantic.

It is part of this larger Website.

About the airplanes used in the BCATP.

About the Harvard used at No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands.

133 (f) Squadron Hurricane Mk XII

I got a present from RCAF Boundary Bay 1941-1945 Facebook Page.

A picture of a Hurricane Mk XII.

133 Squadron Hurricane

133 Hurricane credit

DesMazes collection

This is the caption.

Although this image was taken in Lethbridge Alberta in late 1942-early 43, it was one of the No. 133 Fighter Squadron Hawker Hurricanes that made an historic trip to Boundary Bay Feb.1943. Boundary Bay had been re-designated a Home War Defense Station and No. 133 was tasked with protecting the Air space of the Greater Vancouver Area from possible attack from Japanese Forces. The Squadron made the trip non stop from Lethbridge and by the time they reached Boundary Bay they were “sucking fumes”, recalled Pilot Officer McGowan. “We had no fuel left, not even enough to circle the aerodrome and so we landed in Squadron Formation of three at a time, all twelve aircraft. As far as I know it was never done before or since, (during WW2), as it was very dangerous, if someone screwed up it would be catastrophic.”

Hurricane 5387

This is the same type of plane Sgt Grissom was flying on April 15, 1943.


5387 Hawker Canada Car & Foundry, Fort William 812
Hurricane Mk. XII  
  first date: 23 June 1942 – Taken on strength
  Delivered to stored reserve with No. 4 Training Command.  Issued to No. 133 (F) Squadron at Lethbridge, Alberta on 3 July 1942.  Still with this unit when it transferred to Western Air Command and moved to RCAF Station Boundary Bay, BC on 26 October 1942.  Coded “FN*D”.  Dove into ground near Boundary Bay on 15 April 1943, and was totally destroyed.
  last date: 19 April 1943 – Struck off, reduced to spares and produce

This is the source.

I got help from someone on a Facebook group page dedicated to RCAF Boundary Bay 1941-1945.

He must have been a new addition to No. 133 (f) Fighter Squadron. I wonder if it was a familiarization flight on the Hurricane? 133 was part of the Coastal Defense for the Vancouver area and not actually a training unit.

Linking this information with Mr. Walker’s Website was a struck of luck.

© 2007 by R. W. R. Walker      All rights reserved under the copyright laws.
This is an amateur site – please don’t rely on any of this data for anything important!
Created 13 January 2007. Updated 13 January 2007.

Sgt. Ervin Earl Grissom

logbook Uplands page 13

Ervin Earl Grissom is not just a name anymore in a logbook. He got his wings in Uplands, but lost his life in British Columbia flying a Hurricane.


April 15­ – Boundary Bay based Hurricane 5387 crashed just half a mile east of the airfield, killing trainee pilot Sgt. E.E. Grissom.

In memory of Sergeant

Ervin Earl Grissom

who died on April 15, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number:R/137479


Force: Air Force

Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force

Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Grissom, of Lake Charles.

Cemetery: LAKE CHARLES (GRACELAND) CEMETERY; Louisiana, United States of America

Grave Reference: Lot 177. Sec. K.

(Canadian Virtual War Memorial Website)

I found these images on Find a Grave, and I was allowed by Charles T. Baggett to post them on this blog for just this purpose… to pay homage to Sgt. E.E. Grissom.

Grissom headstone 1


Grissom headstone



LAC Grisholm or LAC Ervin Earl Grissom?

logbook Uplands page 13


Just a name in a logbook?

Think again. I found this on the Internet. All entries with the word Hurricane are in red.

Other B.C. crashes and losses

The loss of training and coastal defence aircraft was not confined to those flying out of Pat Bay.

By Times Colonist – November 9, 2006

The loss of training and coastal defence aircraft was not confined to those flying out of Pat Bay.


July 27 – An Alliford Bay based Blackburn Shark 4 bi-plane lost a wing during a dive and crashed into the sea, position unknown. The bodies of F/Os Halpenny, Simpson and Richardson were not recovered.

Aug. 8 – ­Also lost at sea were the two airmen, names not given, aboard a Northrop Delta 2 which had cleared Coal Harbour.



Feb. 21­ – A Royal Norwegian Air Force Northrop N-3PB crashed into the sea off Point Atkinson, killing Flight Pupil Erling Jorgenson and instructor Harald Kruse, both 25 years old.

May 5­ – RCAF Tiger Moth 4278 crashed on Telegraph Bay Road with the loss of two unnamed airmen.

Nov. 4­ – Stranraer 946 with five officers and crew Vancouver-bound from Penticton never made it. Its wreckage was discovered 10 miles southeast of Squamish in 1947 and a cairn erected at the site.

Dec. 27 – ­Only the serial number, 1049, and the name of the pilot, Sgt. C.B.
Pierce, are listed in the crash file for this RCAF P-40.

Dec. 30 – ­Of the eight men on board this RCAF Stranraer, which crashed a half-mile south of Ucluelet, four died and four survived.



Jan. 4­ – Shark 4 No. 518 out of Alliford Bay collided with another Shark and went down between Finlayson Island and Big Bay, near Port Simpson. Two crewmen died but the gunner bailed out.

June 20­ – Another Shark, this one off Digby Island, with the loss of F/Ss H.E. Phillips and H.W. Baum.

July 6­ – RCAF Hudson 765 crashed on take-off at Whatcom County Airport. This aircraft was salvaged but two the seven airmen on board were killed.

July 7­ – Canso 8671 of RCAF 147 (BR) Squadron on a training flight from Sea Island crashed and burned three miles southeast of Sea Island. Killed were F/O D.J. Sterling, Sgt. H.M. Miners and AC1 E.J. Delaney.

July 12 – ­A Sea Island Kitty Hawk “spun in and burned,” killing trainee pilot, Sgt. C.L. O’Hara.

Aug. 23 – ­A Stranraer flying on patrol out of Coal Harbour was forced to ditch “well out to sea” (no position given). Crewmen Thomas Cox, Lawrence Alfred Bernard Horn, Mervyn Cram, Robert Bruce Stuart, Adolf Willard Anderson, Kenneth Carl Hope, Leslie Oldford and Charles Franklin Beeching survived ditching but were never seen again. An imposing pink marble or granite memorial bearing the RCAF logo stands above the flat headstones in Royal Oak Burial Park’s Section D which contains 58 graves of Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand servicemen who were killed or died while serving their countries during the Second World War at Pat Bay. This, the largest marker, bears a more detailed legend than that given in the Crash Files:

“These brave men were lost on August 23, 1942 in action against a Japanese submarine 49o 47′ N, 130o 30′ W off Vancouver Island. Their bodies were never recovered. May they rest in peace.”

Sept. 6 – ­Sea Island based Bolinbroke 9114 vanished with its crew of three. The wreck was found in 1966, five miles northeast of Ucluelet.

Oct. 2­ – No name is listed for the pilot who died in the wreckage of his P-40 when it crashed and burned in Lynn Valley. He is buried in the Royal Oak Burial Park.

Oct. 4 – ­One of the worst accidents in terms of lives lost is that of RCAF Liberator EW 127 that caught fire in the air and crashed into Sansum Narrows during a night navigation exercise. 11 died.

Oct. 12 – ­RCAF P-40 #1029, pilot’s identity not given, crashed a mile east of Dall Head on Gravina Island.

Nov. 28 – ­There are no listed fatalities for this mid-air collision at Tofino. Harvard 3117, while filming P-40 #722, was struck by the latter and both crashed at the end of the runway.



Jan. 16­ – One airman was killed and one survived the crash of a Sea Island Harvard at Aldergrove.

Feb. 4 – No casualty report is noted on the file for this Pender Island crash of a Boundary Bay Hurricane.

Feb. 14 – ­All six airmen aboard Alliford Bay based Stranraer 935 died while attempting to make a landing in Skidegate Channel.

Mar. 6­ – F/Sgt. R.F. Gainforth bailed out and walked out of the bush when his Hurricane went down near the head of Nitinat Lake. Two machine guns and considerable live ammo were recovered in 1963.

Mar. 28 – ­No details are given in the crash of P-40 #1037.

April 15­ – Boundary Bay based Hurricane 5387 crashed just half a mile east of the airfield, killing trainee pilot Sgt. E.E. Grissom.

April 24 – ­A Bolingbroke flying out of Sea Island plunged into the Fraser River a mile west of Mission. Only one of four bodies was recovered.

May 12­ – Less than a month after Sgt. Grissom crashed his Hurricane a mile east of the Boundary Bay airfield, F/S E.B. Monypenny did the same with his Hurricane during a dawn patrol.

May 27­ – The fate of the crew of RCAF Canso 11017 is not recorded after it crashed in Ucluelet Inlet. They likely survived as their aircraft was recovered, repaired and returned to service.

June 5­ – F/S J.A. Leslie survived the crash of his Hurricane in the Fraser while performing “local aerobatics.”

June 12­ – F/Sgt. Scratch died in the crash of his Boundary Bay based Mitchell bomber.

July 21 – ­P/O Gow bailed out and was rescued before his Hurricane went down off the northern tip of Vargas Island, Clayoquot Sound.

July 27­ – Wreck of P/O M.A. Foster’s P-40 was recovered from 90 fathoms off Point Roberts lighthouse.

July 30 – ­Eight airmen died when their Canso struck a mountainside and burned near Bella Bella during a patrol.

Aug. 1­ – No casualty status given for the loss of this Hurricane off Tofino during an operational flight.

Sept. 20 – ­The crash of Bolingbroke 9056 just east of Creston claimed the lives of F/O E.W. Bristol and WO2 J.D. McIntosh.

Oct. 22­ – This is an American entry, the loss of a USN Wildcat fighter plane from Whidby Island which crashed in water east of the Saanich Peninsula.

Oct. 26­ – One of the most heartrending of this litany of disaster: RCAF Ventura 2193 took off from Annette Island, Al., and crashed near Cape Chacon, Prince of Wales Island. Pilot WO2 G.C. Marshal, P/O A.J. Chandler, F/S H. Chambers and F/S V.C. Arnold survived the impact but had to remain with the wreck as all were injured. They died of starvation, their bodies not being recovered until 1950.

Nov. 5­ – A P-40 from Boundary Bay collided with a USN Hellcat during a training flight, east of Discovery Island. Both pilots bailed out but were never found.

Dec. 21 -­ P/O R.F.W. Sedgewick’s Hurricane plunged into the Skeena River after his Hurricane struck a cable of the Kitwanga ferry. A hand-written addendum notes: “Guns charged with ammo …fired on impact, scaring (an) Indian kid out of his wits nearby.”

Dec. 26 – ­Five USN airmen died in the crash of their Ventura at Lawn Point on the Island’s west coast. Their bodies were later recovered.



Jan. 8­ – Bolingbroke 9031 ditched south of Tofino after colliding in mid-air; the second aircraft managed to crash-land.

Feb. 4­ – This Noorduyn Norseman crashed near Port Alice shortly after takeoff, killing three of its five-man crew.

Feb. 7­ – While formation flying out of Tofino, Hurricane 5390 had to ditch in Wickaninnish Bay; F/O F.D. Hague escaped by dinghy.

Feb. 8­ – The three airmen aboard Ventura 2275 survived their ditching in Seymour Narrows.

Feb. 8­ -There’s obviously more to the story as sister Ventura 2274 also ditched in Seymour Narrows that day. Both aircraft were flying out of Sea Island. Again, the three airman were rescued.

Feb. 8 – ­A busy day. Hurricane 5423 ditched off Pachena Point. P/O A.J. Ness managed to escape in his dinghy but was dead when found.

May 21 – ­P/O D.K. Sundercock died in the wreck of his P-40, south of Cloverdale.

May 26­ – The unnamed pilot of a Cornell “rode the A/C (aircraft) down, walked out of the bush (northeast of Cultus Lake) two days later.”

May 29­ – The bodies of the five men aboard Mitchell HD345 are buried at the crash scene on a mountainside in the vicinity of Mount Whymper.

July 14 – ­The bodies of the four-man crew of Mitchell HD319 which, like the 345, crashed during a navigation exercise, were never recovered although a prospector found the wreckage northwest of Johnson Lagoon, Rupert District, in 1960.

July 18­ – Six died but eight survived when their Sea Island based Dakota crashed in bush at the end of the runway at Port Hardy Airport.

Aug. 10­ – Another Mitchell down; this one, shortly after take-off from Boundary Bay on a night bombing exercise, claimed one of six airmen on board.

Aug. 16­ – Three airmen walked away from the crash of their Comox-based Expeditor at Germanson Lake near Fort St. John.

Aug. 18­ – P/O J.T. Wilkie was picked up after he bailed out of his P-40, northeast of Galiano Island.

Aug. 22­ – As was the three-man crew of Dakota FZ596 after they ditched during a navigation exercise.

Nov. 1­ – Another mid-air collision, this one between a P-40 and a four-engine Consolidated B-24 Liberator claimed the life of the former’s pilot, F/O J.F. Thomson.

Nov. 10­ – One of the worst of the wartime crashes is that of Abbotsford based Liberator KH108 which struck a mountaintop northeast of Nitinat Lake, killing all 10 aboard. Their bodies are buried at the site.

Nov. 14­ – 10 more fatalities in the loss of Canso 11017 during a sea patrol out of Tofino. No details are given as to the cause of the crash.

Dec. 23­ – Two of the four men aboard survived the crash of their Mitchell at Boundary Bay airfield.



Jan. 9­ – Only bits of wreckage and some personal effects were recovered of the 11 persons aboard the Liberator that went down off Bell Island, Rupert District, during a navigation exercise.

Jan. 10 – ­It was two Liberators in two days with the loss of EW210 in the sea off Point Roberts. Three of the seven aboard were rescued.

Feb. 2 – ­All six aboard Norseman 2470 survived the crash landing of their Norseman on ice near the junction of the Fraser and Chilcotin rivers.

Feb. 4­ – This Liberator claimed the lives of all seven of its crew when it struck a mountainside three miles north-northwest of Whonnock.

Feb. 8­ – 12 aboard Canso 11007 survived after a broken fuel line forced it to “pancake” at the end of the Tofino runway.

April 17 – ­All the more remarkable is that not only did the 21 personnel aboard Catalina JX207 survive, but so did much of the plane’s equipment, which was salvaged when it drifted ashore after making a forced landing in the saltchuck in the Queen Charlottes.

June 1 – ­Liberator KK241 struck the west side of Mount Welch, Yale District, at the 7000-foot level; all 11 victims are buried at the wreck site.

June 26­ – The same goes for the three-man crew of the Comox based Dakota F2583 whose wreckage was discovered on Washington’s Sulphur Mountain in September 1953. They appear to be the last wartime casualties to die in B.C. skies, for a total of 191 servicemen and 67 aircraft above and beyond those servicemen and aircraft lost while flying out of Pat Bay.


It has been estimated that at least 1,713 aircrew students and instructors paid the supreme sacrifice in Canadian skies. To put their numbers into historical context, by Mar. 31, 1945, when the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan came to a close, it had produced 131,553 aircrew for the air forces of Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. (72,835 RCAF, 9,606 RAAF, 7,002 RNZAF, and 42,110 RAF which included 2,600 Free French, 900 Czechs, 800 Belgian and Dutch, 577 Norwegians, 448 Poles and 5,296 trainees for the Naval Fleet Air Arm.)

Of these, 10,000 trainees passed through Pat Bay Station, 1940-45, the third largest airbase in Canada and able to train 3,500 students at any one time.

Total complement of Pat Bay peaked around 5,000, which included 321 RCAF airwomen, eight Nursing Sisters and 112 civilians. Among the support staff were the personnel who manned a fleet of crash boats, so necessary as it turned out.

Although Canada is better-known for its naval role, shepherding convoys in the Atlantic that were the lifeline for Great Britain, historian J.L. Granatstein has termed the BCATP to be “the major Canadian military contribution to the Allied War effort” in the Second World War. Of the total cost of $2.2 billion for the program, Canada contributed $1.6 billion and forgave a further $425 million debt owed by Britain at war’s end.

Almost ironically, the building of airfields and flight schools across Canada has been described as an economic godsend to communities still suffering from the effects of the Great Depression.

Royal Oak Burial Park, Section D contains 58 graves of Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand airmen.

Just a name in a logbook?

In memory of Sergeant
Ervin Earl Grissom
who died on April 15, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number:R/137479


Force: Air Force

Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force

Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Grissom, of Lake Charles.

Cemetery: LAKE CHARLES (GRACELAND) CEMETERY; Louisana, United States of America

Grave Reference: Lot 177. Sec. K.

3791 words about Lloyd Telfer, Donald (Don) McLean

That’s the word count of the text I posted on Sunday.

I found it thanks to a note instructor Dove wrote in his logbook...


Walter Neil Dove

He had written this…

Killed in action overseas – details obscure

I thought it was important to search for more information about LAC McLean, a student pilot.

logbook Uplands page 1

I was lucky, if you call this luck, to find more details in my search for Walter Neil Dove’s former student pilots.


I read all 3791 words. If you did not, I can understand. I hope you will understand why I am writing so much about these unsung heroes and why I want to give you more time to read it.

I will be back next Monday with something new.

Source of the following text

Like another Honour Roll airman, Lloyd Telfer, Donald (Don) McLean was a native of the Prairie Province of Saskatchewan. He was born in the university town of Saskatoon on 16 February 1920 to Allan G. McLean and Donalda (Weir) Mclean, and was followed by two brothers, Grant and Gordon. Their father worked as a salesman for a wholesale grocery firm, and later moved his family to Yorkton when his employer transferred him. Their newly adopted city, which lay in southeastern Saskatchewan, had been founded in 1882 by Ontario settlers brought in by the York County Colonization Society, which ultimately gave the place its name.

Initially the McLean newcomers lived in rented accommodations before moving to a purchased house at 41 Haultain Avenue. As a result, according to Margaret (Hamilton) Yaholnitsky, a friend from childhood, Don received his primary education at two schools, Simpson and Victoria. In September, 1926 he started in Grade 1 at the former, there being no kindergarten classes in the local school system. After completing Grade 7 at Simpson in 1933, he then transferred to his second school for the Grade 8 instruction. Though unidentified in the archival records, it was in all likelihood the Victoria School keenly recalled by his friend and classmate. In 1934, with his primary school education completed, Don moved on to Yorkton Collegiate Institute (YCI), one of the many secondary schools established across the country to meet the demands of a growing adolescent population. Unfortunately no student year books then existed at YCI so one can only speculate about the nature of Don’s extracurricular activities. He was apparently fond of hockey and may well have gone out and played for the school’s team.

The McLeans were staunch Baptists and soon became active members of First Baptist Church, which had opened its doors on Smith Street East at the turn of the century. The church, to quote a centennial history, “was born in the hearts of the settlers, who felt the need and the desire to meet together and worship”, first in a tent and then in a rented hall before moving into their full fledged church quarters in 1900. Don and his siblings were duly caught up in the social and religious activities of the Baptist Young People’s Union (BYPU). It supported missionary work and leadership programs, brought out its own modest newspaper, and helped to raise funds for First Baptist. On the lighter side, the young people’s group organized popular socials around such recreational pursuits as tobogganing and well attended camp fire meetings and wiener roasts at nearby York Lake.

After graduating from YCI in 1938, Don spent a year out from school and likely took a job or jobs in the community. That brief interlude ended, however, in September, 1939 when he returned to the books and to his birthplace, Saskatoon. There he enrolled in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture, an institution ideally suited to the needs and requirements of Canada’s primary breadbasket. Part way through his second term at the College, Don learned that his family had ventured into politics, at least so far as his father was concerned. W.L. Mackenzie’ King’s Liberal government in Ottawa had decided to call an election in March, 1940, while the so-called Phoney War still characterized the limited action on the Western Front. King feared that a large scale springtime military campaign overseas, which many predicted correctly, would spur the Conservative opposition to demand a union or coalition government to meet the crisis. This was the last thing the Prime Minister wanted and he duly issued the election call.

In the subsequent campaign leading up to voting day in late March, 1940, Don’s father was prevailed upon to run as a Liberal in the Yorkkton riding. He stepped in for the retired and majestically named George Washington McPhee, who had long held the seat for the Grits. In his campaign, Allan McLean called upon the stenographic services of Margaret Hamilton, his son’s old schoolmate, who had recently completed a business course in Winnipeg. She later recalled that though her employer was a “fine man and a worthy candidate”, he lacked the speaking skills needed to make the necessary impact on the Yorkton area electorate. Thus, though the King government was safely returned, Allan McLean was defeated in his one and only bid for public office. He lost out not to a Tory but to George Hugh Castledon, who had campaigned for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a left wing party organized four years before, in the depths of the Depression.

Meanwhile Don was already beginning to contemplate, as his brother, Grant, would, a future beyond Saskatchewan. He made a decision at the end of the College year in Saskatoon to go East and enroll, perhaps at his parents’ urging, at McMaster University in Hamilton, a choice doubtless dictated in part by its strong Baptist credentials. Another factor was his parents’ impending departure for comparatively nearby Ottawa, where Allan McLean had been offered a position in the federal public service, one that probably came his way because of his highly visible Liberal connections, not to mention his loyal albeit unsuccessful exertions during the recent general election.

Having presumably been granted a conditional admission at McMaster, Don arrived in Hamilton in late August, 1940, after a lengthy train ride from the prairies. He found himself room and board in the attractive residential district known as Westdale and then proceeded to nearby McMaster, where he made his presence known and was invited to fill out the official admissions form. The flat, spacious, and then tree-shy campus may have reminded him of his native Saskatchewan as he set about getting his bearings and completing his admissions paperwork. One of the referees he listed – the kind that would be welcomed by the administration – was Rev. Donald Carlson, who had been his pastor at Yorkton’s First Baptist Church. After his application was accepted, he registered in the popular Political Economy Option (Course 9) and stated his dutiful goal of becoming, as his father had, part of the “Public Service”. He may already have considered the possibility that this could include service in the armed forces, already being assembled to put teeth into Canada’s declaration of war against Nazi Germany the year before.

After Don registered, his faculty advisor had this to say about him, citing characteristics and attributes that some other educators may have spotted earlier: “He has to get set for study – Takes copious notes – Student is a serious boy, well organized for effective study and confines extracurricular [activities] to Political Economy Club and military training for exercise”. Given freshman McLean’s apparent gravitas, he was probably pleased that the traditionally uproarious initiation proceedings “were cut to a minimum because there was a serious [wartime] year ahead”.

Over the course of the session Don’s commitment to his studies and his organizational skills paid off, netting him a first in the economics class and above average grades in the rest, a happy result he may have owed in part to his restricted extracurricular ventures. Yet for his purposes membership in the Political Economy Club may not have been all that extracurricular. Its program of visiting lecturers and its tours of local business enterprises he may have seen pragmatically as helpful supplements to the instruction he received in class. He may also have been as pragmatic about his campus military service, clearly regarding it as a substitute form of “exercise” for the athletic regimen he declined on say, the hockey rink. All the same, he had no choice in the matter. Service in the McMaster Contingent of the Canadian Officers Training Corps (COTC) had been made compulsory following the disastrous turn the war had taken in the wake of the enemy’s successful Blitzkrieg in Western Europe. In any case, Don’s name understandably appears nowhere in the student weekly, the Silhouette, whose pages were almost entirely devoted to the extracurricular. Reminiscent of classmate Hank Novak [HR], he also went missing in the student yearbook, the Marmor, neglecting to show up for group photographs of the Political Economy Club and the COTC, which appeared in its 1940-41 issue. He may well have had other priorities that kept him out of camera range.

Although Don could have proceeded to the second year of Course 9, he made up his mind in the summer of 1941 to leave higher education behind – at least for the time being – and enlist for active service, a decision also taken by fellow student Novak. By this date Don’s parents had long since uprooted themselves from Yorkton and settled in the nation’s capital, where Don joined them after the close of the McMaster session. Not long afterwards, on 15 September 1941, he enlisted at the RCAF recruiting station in Ottawa. He probably did not realize it at once but that day was momentous in another sense. It marked the first anniversary of RAF Fighter Command’s narrow victory over the Luftwaffe and the forestalling of a German invasion of England, a spectre that had haunted that country and her Empire-Commonwealth all through the harrowing summer of 1940.

In the meantime Don had made his own momentous decision. A month after joining up and then enjoying an official leave, he was ordered to 1 Manning Depot (MD) in Toronto, the first stop for many an Air Force novice. At about the time these events were unfolding, Grant, Don’s younger brother, who was excused form military service on medical grounds, joined the ranks of the National Film Board (NFB), where his photographic and executive skills were put to good use in the preparation of the NFB’s well received documentaries. For his part, Gordon, the youngest of the McLean brothers, later enlisted as a gunner in a field regiment and, like Don, served overseas.

Meanwhile the aspiring aviator in the family was being subjected at 1 MD to a variety of medical and physical tests and swiftly introduced to what was called airmanship. This was achieved through an ironically infantry-like regimen, made up principally of drilling, musketry exercises, route marching, and lectures from the training staff. Much of this was carried out in the cavernous “Cow Palace” of the Canadian National Exhibition, whose facilities had been pressed into service on behalf of King and Country, the common patriotic wording of the day. On 10 November 1941, having satisfied his superiors that he had achieved the necessary airmanship while still firmly rooted on the ground, Don was instructed to proceed to his next posting, 31 Bombing and Gunnery School (BGS), located at Picton on the scenic Bay of Quinte.

He arrived at the station on Armistice Day, as it was then styled to commemorate the end of the war that was supposed to have ended all wars. He promptly embarked not on practice flying, however, as he had doubtless hoped, but rather on another ground exercise, guard duty. This was routinely assigned when there was a buildup of recruits in the pipeline to the next air training station. Therefore for the better part of six weeks Don marked time, dutifully patrolling the station’s perimeter and observing the practice bombing runs and aerial gunnery drills that were its stock in trade and a herald of things to come. Then on 21st December he received the welcome news — almost a Christmas present — that signaled the end of his guard duty chores at 31 BGS. Clearly the pressure on the pipeline had eased, enabling him to decamp at last to his first genuine training experience at 5 Initial Training School (ITS) in nearby Belleville.

As he well knew by this time, it would determine what air crew trade he would qualify for: pilot, ordinarily the most coveted, followed by navigator, bomb aimer, and wireless operator/air gunner. If Don was typical he likely yearned for a commanding place behind an aircraft’s controls. After his arrival at Belleville on 22 December, he was ushered into a series of lectures and tests and underwent a number of physical, mental, and psychological examinations, all part of the trade screening process. If Don had indeed banked on being picked for pilot training then his wishes were granted some two months after he arrived at 5 ITS. Thankfully for him, his normal stature and build helped his cause, along with his other attributes. Apparently one unlucky Belleville candidate, acceptable in every other respect, was rejected on the grounds that his legs were too short to reach the pedal controls of an aircraft.

On 28th February Don, a recently promoted Leading Aircraftsman (LAC), bade 5 ITS goodbye and departed for 13 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at St. Eugene in eastern Ontario. (Obviously the station numbering in this case indicated that the Air Force was superstition-free.) Don reached St Eugene the next day, March 1st, acutely aware perhaps of the “washout” rate of would be pilots. He instinctively knew that he would have to have all his wits about him when he ventured into the air, either with an instructor or eventually on his own. The instruction would have started almost immediately on the Fleet Finch, a two-seater biplane that supplemented the operations of the better known trainer, the de Haviland Tiger Moth. Some four hundred Finches were in service at BCATP stations by the time Don started his training on the machine. As a concession to the harsh Canadian winter, the Finch that Don would eventually come to fly was equipped with a sliding canopy over the tandem seating.

Don spent over two months at St. Eugene, a time mercifully punctuated by at least one leave. In the end, he passed all the required tests on the Finch and on 9th May given the go-ahead to take on more specialized training at No. 2 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at Uplands outside Ottawa. Geographically his Air Force training career had come full circle and he was back where he had enlisted some eight months earlier and, as well, given an opportunity to see more of his family. At Uplands, where he arrived on 10th May, Don was introduced to the advanced and demanding low wing monoplane trainer, the North American Harvard, whose distinctive aerial snarl was known to all who lived in the vicinity of BCATP stations equipped with the machine. For a period of four months Don called 2 SFTS home, all the while checking out on the Harvard.

In all likelihood he also learned about a genuinely theatrical event that had enlivened the station some months before, when it had become the scene of a Hollywood film production. Inspired in large part by a Canadian writer attached to Warner Brothers Studios, a script was prepared for a film portraying the work of the BCATP in Canada. Eventually the Hollywood moguls, who were openly in favour of aid to Britain, cast some leading movie stars for the project. Part of the film was shot at Uplands and when completed, it duly appeared in movie houses under the title, “Captains of the Clouds”. Even if he had not been before, Don was now dramatically made aware of the vital importance of the training program that had become an integral part of his existence. Ottawa in turn was delighted that the Canadian public, for whom movie-going had become a virtual way of life, was being vividly shown that fielding conventional armies – the stuff of the Great War — was now not the only way to fight and win a global conflict. The widely screened film and government-backed publicity programs brought the BCATP and the role played by Don and other aspiring airmen on to centre stage.

Meanwhile, as the summer of 1942 was drawing to a close, Don satisfactorily completed his training on the Harvard. On 28 August, at a ceremony at Uplands attended by his family he was awarded his wings (or pilot badge to use the official term), promoted sergeant, and then almost immediately, on the strength of his standings, appointed Pilot Officer. Officiating at the ceremony was Air Marshall Robert Leckie, who ironically had been less than enthusiastic about all the varied public relations schemes for raising the visibility of the BCATP.

After a short embarkation leave spent with family and friends in Ottawa, Don was dispatched on 11th September to 1 Y Depot in Halifax, the marshalling point for an overseas departure. His days in Canada were coming to a close, but, as it turned out, not immediately. Apparently, as in the case of fellow McMaster airman, Hank Novak, a shortage of shipping, a recurring problem at the time, put off Don’s departure for nearly two months. Finally, in late October the necessary troopship materialized and he sailed out of Halifax in a convoy bound for Britain and the war. After a comparatively lengthy ten-day and presumably uneventful passage, he disembarked at an undisclosed port in the UK on 4 November 1942, and like most safely landed servicemen cabled the comforting news to his family.

Although his service record makes no mention of it, he must have been routinely transferred, once he had collected his belongings, to a Personnel Reception Centre (PRC) because there is virtually no other way to explain the 13-day gap between his arrival in the country and his first formal posting to a station. If in fact he did proceed to say, No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre in Bournemouth, as most newcomers did, he would have been medically checked out, briefed on his responsibilities and forthcoming duties, taken in lectures given by experienced aircrew, issued his battle dress and flying gear, and, finally, assigned his next posting. Wherever Don may have been in that unexplained interval, one thing is certain. He was indeed given a posting. On 17th November he found himself at a Pilots Advanced Flying Unit ([P]AFU), where an overseas airman’s training was reinforced and expanded by specialized instruction based on actual battle tactics and experience.

The (P)AFU in question – No. 14 – was based in the sylvan rural setting of RAF Ossington, named for the nearby Nottinghamshire village. Pleasantly described as “standing embowered amidst a wealth of trees”, it was a far cry from the scenes a prairie boy like Don would have known. The station, before being transferred to RAF Flying Training Command in January 1942, had served as a secondary bomber base equipped with two hangars and the conventional three runways, one long and two short. All this 14 AFU inherited and used for its own purposes.

Upon his arrival, Don was greeted by an architectural gem, the like of which he had never laud eyes on before, that is, outside of books. Ossington Hall, very much a part of the station scene, was, according to a local account, “one of the most picturesque of the stately homes that adorn the county”. Once the ancestral abode of a John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington, it had been converted by the demands of war into offices as well as living quarters for some of station’s personnel, including perhaps Don himself. Before long he was probably told of the ancient spirits that supposedly haunted the place and challenged the airmen’s less than patrician intrusion.

In any case, for the better part of three months – punctuated by a Christmas celebration, Don’s first and last overseas — he was put through the paces on 14 AFU’s primary trainer, the Airspeed Oxford, a low wing twin-engined aircraft that often stood in for the other staple trainer, the Avro Anson. It was Don’s first taste of piloting a twin-engined machine, his experience hitherto restricted to the Finch and the Harvard. Like Barney Rawson [HR] he may have found the Airspeed Oxford a fine aircraft to fly but “a bastard to land”. Clearly his destiny in any event was with Bomber Command, which by early 1943 had already launched a series of heavy multi-formation raids against Nazi Germany’s cities and industrial plant.

After successfully completing his advanced flying stint at RAF Ossington, Don spent part of his 23rd birthday, 16 February 1943, journeying mostly through another scenic stretch of rural England to his new posting at 29 Operational Training Unit (O T U), based at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland in the East Midlands. Some two weeks after his arrival there he received what amounted to a belated birthday present, his promotion to Flying Officer. His new service home, built in 1940 for Training Command, had since been taken over by 5 Group, Bomber Command, which was equipped with the heavy, multi-engined Avro Lancasters deployed in the expanded bombing campaign against the enemy. Don was well aware that he was getting ever closer to front line combat. For the time being, however, he would be engaged in pre-operational exercises on twin-engined Vickers Wellington bombers retired from active operations and more or less put out to pasture in a training role. Once Don passed muster at 29 O T U he would ordinarily be sent to a Heavy Conversion Unit and tested on the four-engined “heavies”, the last stop on the road to actual operational flights. That, however, never happened.

At 21:45 on 25 April 1943 Don took off on a night cross-country exercise in Wellington X3816, accompanied by his four-man RAF crew: Sergeants V.A. Rice (presumably the navigator), G. Dunn, J.G.P. Adams, and J. Riley. The aircraft had been aloft barely fifteen minutes when it ran into trouble, possibly from a stall or some other lethally disabling malfunction. As a result, the Wellington faltered, then plummeted to earth and burst into flames on impact, lighting up the night sky. The crash occurred near Stocking Farm, close by Belgrave in the northeastern suburbs of Leicester. There were no survivors. Don and his crew perished from multiple injuries and what an accident report starkly called “incineration”. The cause of the disaster was not definitively determined.

Over a good many years, at every Easter time, Margaret Yaholnitsy made a point of bringing flowers to First Baptist Church, where she herself worshipped, to honour the memory her lost friend and schoolmate. Don’s parents, as reported in the Yorkton Enterprise, presented to the church an inscribed silver communion service, which is still in use, as part of their commemoration of their son’s wartime sacrifice. The dedicatory ceremony unfolded on Sunday, 21 October 1956 and was attended by the entire family, including Don’s siblings, Grant and Gordon. Thankfully for everyone concerned the latter had survived unscathed his wartime service with the Canadian artillery. By this time Allan McLean had retired from the public service in Ottawa and returned with his wife to the familiar surroundings of Saskatchewan, taking up residence in Regina, the provincial capital.

Donald Rae McLean is buried in the Church Cemetery at Burton-on-the-Wolds, Leicestershire, England.

C.M. Johnston


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Cheryl Avery, Lori Barsi, Richard Blood, Lorna Johnston, Russell Johnston, Edward Magas, Lynel Martinuk, Therese Prince, Melissa Richer, Steven Rosluk, Randall Schuster, Leonard Smith, Sheila Turcon, Alan Wells, and Margaret Yaholnitsky, all made important and varied contributions to this biography. Lynel Martinuk supplied the Yorkton school records noted below, Therese Prince, Yorkton’s City Historian, provided key information, photographs, and leads, and Rev. Steve Rosluk of First Baptist Church, Yorkton, furnished a history of the church and the productive lead to Mrs. Margaret Yaholnitsky. Richard Blood of Leicester, England supplied a picture of the McLean grave marker and other cemetery images.

SOURCES: National Archives of Canada / Wartime Personnel Records: Service Record of Flying Officer Donald Rae McLean (includes Hospital or Sick List Record Card, Official RCAF Casualty Notification, and Province of Ontario Death Certificate); Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Commemorative Information on F/O Donald R. McLean; W.R. Chorley, RAF Bomber Command Losses in the Second World War, 1939-1945, Vol. 7: Operational Training Units, 1940-1947 (Hinckley UK: Midland Publishing, 2002), 215; Spencer Dunmore, Wings for Victory: The Remarkable Story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995 ed.), 262-4, 266-71, 272-3, 335-6; Les Allison and Harry Hayward, They Shall Grow Not Old: A Book of Remembrance (Brandon: Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, 1996), 503; J.W. Pickersgill. The Mackenzie King Record, I: 1939-1944 (Chicago and Toronto: University of Chicago Press and University of Toronto Press, 1960 reprint), 60-73.

Board of Education Archives, Good Spirit School Division (Yorkton ): Attendance Records of Donald R. McLean / Simpson School, Yorkton Collegiate Institute; Canadian Baptist Archives / McMaster Divinity College: McMaster University Student File 7517, Donald R. McLean (contains, among other items, admissions application and faculty advisor’s report), Biographical File, Donald R. McLean, Records of First Baptist Church Yokton: BYPU Files, newspaper clipping: Yorkton Enterprise, 25 Oct. 1956, First Baptist Church 100th Anniversary History Book, 1900-2000 (Yorkton: Cy-BAR Christian Services, 2000), 9; McMaster University Library / Special Collections: Marmor (no Donald R. McLean entries), Silhouette (no Donald R. McLean entries though relevant background information is supplied in the issues of 1 and 24 October 1940).





http://airfieldarchaeology.fotopic.met/c919173.html (RAF Ossington)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_North_ Luffenham

LAC McLean killed in action overseas… details obscure?

No more

At 21:45 on 25 April 1943 Don took off on a night cross-country exercise in Wellington X3816, accompanied by his four-man RAF crew: Sergeants V.A. Rice (presumably the navigator), G. Dunn, J.G.P. Adams, and J. Riley. The aircraft had been aloft barely fifteen minutes when it ran into trouble, possibly from a stall or some other lethally disabling malfunction. As a result, the Wellington faltered, then plummeted to earth and burst into flames on impact, lighting up the night sky. The crash occurred near Stocking Farm, close by Belgrave in the northeastern suburbs of Leicester. There were no survivors. Don and his crew perished from multiple injuries and what an accident report starkly called “incineration”. The cause of the disaster was not definitively determined.


Source of the image