Wing Commander George Keefer was flying leader
of 125 Spitfire wing under the command of Johnnie Johnson who had just been transferred from 127 wing and promoted to Group Captain.
In his book 'Wing Leader' Johnnie tells this story about "The bravest
man I've ever known."
(S/L Wally Conrad, who flew with both of them, claimed that was an understatement)
"We found a lot of Huns during the latter half of
April. We destroyed fighters, bombers, transports, Stuka dive bombers,
trainers, and a bunch of seaplanes we'd found floating in a lake. We could
not catch the Jets in the air but we knew they were operating from Lubeck
on the Baltic Coast. We paid special attention to this airfield, shooting
the Jets down when they took off or came in to land. Some of the enemy
leaders showed flashes of their old brilliance but the rank-and-file were
poor. One evening George Keefer led one of the squadrons on a sweep round
the far side of the Elbe and I led a finger-four down sun from him. We
swung toward an airfield neatly camouflaged in the midst of woods. Heavy
flak bracketed us and George led us into the cover of the Low sun. On
the airfield I saw a squadron of Messerschmitts about to take off. Five
minutes later we returned in a fast dive from the sun. The 109's were
still there. Hundreds of light flak guns joined the heavy barrage against
us. My heart sack. Probably we all thought the same thing: the war could
only last a few more days. The pilots of the 109's below had probably
left their cockpits for the engines had stopped. What were the chances
of getting through the flak now that the gunners were roused? I reckoned
they were about 50-50.
George said, "Graycap, I'm going in with my number 2 (F/O Trevarrow).
Cover us will you?"
I wanted to say "Is it worth it?" but only muttered: "Okay
The two spitfires got smaller and smaller as they went down in a fast
dive. Their Gray-Green camouflage merged into the spring greenery below
and for a second or two I lost them. But the gunners on the ground still
saw them, and the whole airfield seemed to sparkle with the flashes from
the guns. We saw the spits again when they streaked over the boundary of
the airfield. We saw George's Cannon shells bouncing on the concrete.
I shouted into my microphone "Up a bit George you're under deflecting!"
Then his shells ripped into the last Messerschmitt in the line. It caught
fire, its ammunition exploded and the Cannon shells slammed into the next
109. In a matter of seconds the whole lot were blazing and a great spiral
of white smoke curled up from the airfield.
"You all right George?"
"Fine Graycap. Am climbing up."
"I've been hit sir but she's flying" replied the wing man.
"Lead him home George and we'll cover you" I instructed.
I twisted my neck for a final look at the airfield. All 11 Messerschmitts
were burning fiercely. It was the best and bravest strafing attack I had
Born in New York City, 11 July 1921
Home in Charlottetown, PEI
Enlisted there 15 October 1940
No.1 ITS (graduated 9 December 1940)
No.11 EFTS (graduated 28 January 1941) &
No.2 SFTS (graduated 10 April 1941).
Got DSO, DFC & Bar at Buckingham Palace 7 Nov '44
Presented with Bar to DSO, 25 February 1947
Retired from RCAF service that same month
Keefer flew more Ops (468) than any other Canadian
fighter pilot except Stan Turner (500). Number 3 was
Duke Arthur with 448.
Joined Canadair becoming Vice President
Resigned in 1968 and bought a plastics factory in Granby
Died in Montreal in January 1985
Gallantry Wins Awards For Canadian Airmen
Ottawa, Jan. 22, 1943 - (CP) - Award of two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Distinguished Flying Medals to members of the R.C.A.F. serving overseas and of two Distinguished Flying Crosses to R.A.F. officers who took their training in Canada was announced today by R.C.A.F. headquarters.
Following are the award-winners with next of kin:
F/L GRENFEL J. CONRAD of Melrose, Ont., Rev. William W. Conrad (father), Post Office Box No. 1, Bedford, Que.
F/L GEORGE CLINTON KEEFER of Charlottetown, Mrs. Grace Hughes (aunt), 167 Euston Street, Charlottetown.
F/L Conrad: "The sound judgment and exceptional efficiency displayed by this officer have contributed greatly to the successes recently achieved by his squadron. On one occasion, while in co-operation with a South African squadron, 15 Junkers strongly escorted by Messerschmitts were intercepted and through the brilliant leadership displayed by Flt. Lt. Conrad his squadron was able to continue the escort while 14 of the enemy were destroyed. He has been personally responsible for the destruction of four enemy aircraft."
F/L Keefer: "This officer has participated in numerous operational attacks, in the course of which his determination and tenacity have resulted in 12 victories for his squadron, while many enemy aircraft have probably been destroyed or damaged. During an exceptionally long tour of flying duty he has continuously displayed great gallantry and skill in strategy."
KEEFER, F/L George Clinton (J5022) - Distinguished Flying
Cross - No.274 Squadron
Award effective 12 January 1943 as per London Gazette dated 22 January
AFRO 272/43 dated 19 February 1943.
F/L G. C. Keefer |
This officer has participated in numerous operational
attacks in the course of which his determination and tenacity have resulted
in twelve victories for his squadron, while many enemy aircraft have probably
been destroyed or damaged. During an exceptionally long tour of flying
duty he has continually displayed great gallantry and skill in strategy.
NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/9612 has recommendation
for a non-immediate award sent by Group Captain W.J.M. Akerman, Headquarters,
Royal Air Force, Middle East to Air Ministry on 14 December 1942:
This pilot has flown more than 210 operational hours,
covering 179 sorties, since November 1941. His determination in pressing
home attacks and his strategy both as an individual and as a Section Leader
have resulted in a dozen victories for his section, with numerous probables
In addition, he has either led the squadron or his section
on 18 bombing trips since early June 1942, dropping thirty-six 250-pound
bombs with great success. He was relieved from operational flying on 15th
August and he had completed 511 hours flying, having continuously displayed
gallantry during his nine and one-half months service with the squadron.
The caption for this photo reads: "15 October 1943 - Two squadron leaders in the Canadian fighter wing led by Wing Commander R.W. (Buck) McNair, DFC & Bars, of North Battleford, Sask., are shown above with their pet Alsatian pups at an advanced Canadian airfield in England. They are S/L Ian Ormston, DFC, of Montreal, (Left) with "Flight" and S/L George C. Keefer, DFC, of Charlottetown, P.E.I., with "Rommel." The pups are the same age but different litters."
D.S.O. AWARDED BUCK McNAIR, HUGH GODEFROY
Ottawa, April 13, 1944 (CP) — Award of the Distinguished Service Order to two top-ranking R.C.A.F. fighter pilots, Wing Commanders R. W. (Buck) McNair of North Battleford, Sask., and Hugh Godefroy of Toronto — both of whom already have won multiple recognition — was announced tonight by the R.C.A.F., with a series of lesser decorations.
McNair already has won the D.F.C. thrice, while Godefroy has won it twice. McNair becomes the most-decorated flier who has spent his entire operational career in the R.C.A.F. and is topped only by F/L George Beurling of Verdun, Que., who won most of his decorations while a member of the R.A.F.
Also announced was the award of the bar to the D.F.C. to S/L George C. Keefer of Charlottetown and award of D.F.C.s to F/L J.A.H. De Le Paulle of New York; F/L K.R. Linton of Plaster Rock, N.B.; F/O V.I. Gorrill of Creston, B.C.; F/O R.H. Watt of Winnipeg, and F/O J.E. Williams of Grand Rapids, Mich
Night/Day Blows Fall On Dazed Nazi Centres
London, April 23, 1944 - (CP) - ... A Canadian squadron of Spitfire fighter-bombers led by Wing Cmdr. George C. Keefer, Charlottetown, hit an important railroad viaduct near Le Havre twice in the morning. Unable to see the damage because of smoke, the squadron returned in the afternoon, found a gap in the middle of the bridge, and bombed both ends for good measure.
It was the squadron's first bombing mission since the outfit was equipped for bombing duties.
Chadburn in Action
Other Canadian fighter-bombers were active over the weekend. Low-level attacks on enemy objectives were carried out by a squadron led by Wing Cmdr. Lloyd V. Chadburn, Aurora, holder of the D.S.O. and Bar and the D.F.C.
Squadrons of Canadian Spitfires also supported and escorted British and American mediums, ceaselessly hammering the German communications system in Northern France.
No Canadian fighters were lost in these operations
KEEFER, S/L George Clinton (J5022) - Bar to DFC - No.412 Squadron
Award effective 5 April 1944 as per London Gazette dated 14 April 1944
AFRO 1020/44 dated 12 May 1944.
Squadron Leader Keefer has always performed his duties
with unfailing coolness and courage. On many occasions he has escorted
large formations of bomber aircraft over enemy territory, achieving much
success. Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross he has continued
to take part in operations with the greatest keenness and has engaged
the enemy many times.
RCAF Shoots Down 26 Enemy Planes
in Normandy Between Dawn and Dusk
By P/O H. R. McDONALD, A Canadian Airfield in France, June 29, 1944 - (CP) - Canadian fighter planes, in one of the most brilliant
achievements in the history of the R.C.A.F., shot down 26 out of a total
of 34 enemy aircraft destroyed over the Normandy front between dawn and
In addition, R.C.A.F. pilots chalked up a number of enemy planes probab1y
shot down and a number bf others which were damaged.
Four pilots scored double kills. They were Wing Cmdr. J. E. (Johnny) Johnson,
English–born commander of a Canadian fighter wing operating from
an R.C.A.F. base in Normandy, and Flt, Lts. H.C. Trainor,
Charlottetown; W. T. Klersy, 14 Harcroft Rd.,
Toronto, and R. K. Hayward. St. John's, Nfld.
Destroys Two, Damages Third
Hayward destroyed two FW-190's and damaged a third, which gave him the
highest R.C.A.F. individual score of the day.
Earlier reports indicated the Canadian airmen had downed 18 enemy planes
in yesterday's daylight operations.
The complete figures were reached by intelligence officers today after
a period of aerial operations which exceeded in intensity anything since
the Allied Normandy beachhead was opened June 6.
Besides the toll of enemy planes, which included all fighter types, R.C.A.F.
pilots also strafed transport on the roads.
Final claims on two aircraft are being sifted
Among the R.C.A.F. Spitfire pilots contributing to the total with one
Hun each were: Flt. Lts. Irving Kennedy, Cumberland,
Ont.; G. R. Patterson, Kelowna, B.C.; J. McElroy, Kamloops, B.C.; Henry Zary,
New York; R. M. Stayner, Saskatoon; A. F. Halcrow,
Penticton, B.C.; G. W. Johnson, 102 Beechwood
Ave., Hamilton, Ont.; D. E. Noonan, 146 Willingdon
Ave., Kingston, Ont.; J. B. Rainville, Montreal;
and Flying Officers W. J. Banks, Leaside, Ont.
and G. H. Farquharson, Corbyville, Ont.
Wing Cmdr. Johnson's score of two brought his total of enemy planes downed
to 32, equaling the mark set by Group Capt. A. G. (Sailor) Malan, a South
African, now on ground duty.
Among the R.C.A.F. fliers scoring probables were FO. A. C. Brandon, Timmins,
Ont.; FO. J. B. O'Sullivan, Vancouver; and PO. J. M. Flood, Hearst, Ont.
Nine Others Damaged
At least nine others wire damaged by fliers of the R.C.A.F.
Of the wings comprising Group Capt, W. (Bill) MacBrien's R.C.A.F. sector,
the one led by 22-year-old Wing Cmdr, George Keefer, D.F.C. and Bar, Charlottetown,
was high ,scorer of the day with 13 confirmed victories. Johnson's wing
was second with seven, in a close race with a unit led by Wing Cmdr. R.
A. Buckham, Vancouver.
The margin for Keefer's wing was established in two dusk operations in
which seven enemy planes were destroyed and two damaged. In the first
action Hayward sighted more than 25 Nazi fighters and led his formation
in pursuit. He damaged one.
Later the same Spitfires became embroiled with a dozen FW-190's, and Hayward
got two of them. The first fell out of control, and the second burst into
flames and crashed after Hayward had followed it down to tree-top height.
"The Huns were like bees,” said WO. Murray Havers, 1 Lloyd
St., Hamilton. Ont. "They seemed confused and acted as though they
did not know what they were doing."
The Canadian airmen said the Germans did not put up much of a fight despite
their numerical advantage.
Other Canadians credited with kills during the day were FO. G. R. Stephen,
Montreal; FO. Larry Robillard, Ottawa; FO.
W. A. Gilbert, Dartmouth, N.S.; FO. Don Goodwin, Maynooth, Ont.; and FO.
Tommy Wheler, 10 Beauford Rd., Toronto.
ALL-CANUCK FIGHTER WINGS IN BATTLE FOR BEST SCORES
Competition So Intense Airmen Beg For Another Crack at Enemy
London, July 12, 1944 — (CP Cable) — Competition
among all-Canadian fighter wings operating from Normandy in support of
the Allied invasion reached such a pitch by today that pilots are plaguing
operations officers to have one more show "laid on" so they
can top the score of German planes downed by rival wings.
A summary of the operations of one Normandy-based fighter wing during
four weeks of the invasion period shows that 170 Nazi aircraft have been
shot out of the skies. This summary covers the period up to Monday, since
when poor weather in the bridgehead area has reduced tactical flights
to a minimum.
Since D-day W/C J. E. (Johnny) Johnson,
who holds the D.S.O. and two bars, the D.F.C. and bar, and the American
D.F.C., has skyrocketed to new fame as Britain's leading ace with a score
of 35 German aircraft downed. Johnson, native of Nottingham, England,
now heads a Canadian fighter wing.
Downs 35th Victim
He downed his 35th enemy victim June 30 to top the record of 33 set up
by G/C A.G. (Sailor) Malan, from South Africa, who now is on ground duty.
At the same time Johnson's wing went on to win a bet made with the late
W/C Lloyd V. Chadburn, of Aurora, Ont., holder
of the D.S.O. and bar and the D.F.C., six weeks before D-day.
The two wing-commanders wagered that their respective wings would outscore
the other during the month after the invasion was launched. After Chadburn
lost his life over France in the early days of the invasion, the wager
was taken over by S/L Walter Conrad, D.F.C. of
Richmond, Ont., of the Red Indian Squadron.
Until Johnson's wing scored seven victories in one operation July 5 Chadburn's
wing, now led by W/C R.A. Buckham, D.F.C., of
Vancouver, was only two behind. The latest available accounting showed
Johnson's wing is in the lead 47 to 40.
Others in Race
Meanwhile however, another Canadian-led wing under W/C George Keefer,
of Charlottetown, although not included in the wager, is just as interested
in finishing at the top and in the last reckoning was tied with Johnson's
wing with 47 enemy planes destroyed.
Furthermore, Keefer's pilots claimed 23 enemy aircraft damaged against
11 by Johnson's wing. F/L Charlie Trainor of Charlottetown, who until
June 28 was scoreless, entered the ace class by being credited with 7½
victories in the subsequent seven days. This was half a point more than
Johnson achieved during the first month of the invasion.
Other Canadian airmen who have achieved notable scores during that period
are: F/L Doug Lidsay, Arnprior, Ont., four; S/L H.W. (Wally) McLeod,
D.F.C. and bar, Regina, four; F/L W.T. (Bill) Klersy, Toronto, four; F/L
Paul Johnson, Bethel, Conn., four.
These scores brought Lindsay's total kills to six, McLeod's to 19, Klersy's
to five and Johnson's to five also. McLeod became Canada's leading operational
pilot with his score of 19.
The Normandy-based Empire fighter plane group to which these Canadian
wings are attached is commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Henry Broadhurst,
of the R.A.F. Total of 12,000 sorties were flown by British and Canadian
members of Air Vice-Marshal Broadhurst's group during the four weeks following
An all-Canadian Typhoon wing in the sector, commanded by Wing-Cmdr. Paul
Davoud, D.S.O., D.F.C., of Kingston, Ont., has
achieved a high degree of precision in dive-bombing since assigned to
this role in Normandy.
More than 8,000 rockets have been projected by R.A.F. Typhoons from close
range at enemy targets within the battle area.
Airmen With Invasion Honors Among 200 From Overseas
Ottawa, Aug. 13, 1944 - (CP) - More than 200 Canadian airmen, many of them with decorations earned in action over the Normandy bridgehead climbed today from a repatriation train here to renew acquaintance with a homeland many of them had not seen for as long as three years. Among the repatriates was F/O W.A. Bishop, son of Air Marshal W.A. (Billy) Bishop, Director of recruiting for the R.C.A.F., who was met by his father. Another was W/C G.C. Keefer, D.F.C. and Bar, of Charlottetown, back after two completed tours of operations.
Others returning included W/C J.W. Reid, Kingston, and F/L J.L. McCauly, D.F.C., Toronto; S/Ls. R.A. Buckham of Mission City, B.C., and Howard Cleveland, D.F.C., of Vancouver, who both ran up impressive scores of enemy aircraft destroyed.
Buckham has a record of six and one-half planes destroyed, two "probables" and two damaged. Cleveland claimed nine destroyed and one damaged in a single tour of operations.
The returning fliers, all happy to be back, plowed hungrily into the ice cream and soft drink offerings of Canadian Legion representatives who met them at the station.
In the group were S/L G.W. Conrad, Richmond, and F/L A.J. Van Rassell, Timmins
15 CANADIANS NAMED IN LIST FOR AIR HONORS
Ottawa, Oct. 19, 1944 - (CP) - Air Force headquarters announced tonight 15 awards to members of the RCAF serving overseas, including one Distinguished Service Order, 11 Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Distinguished Flying Medals and one British Empire Medal, Ontario winners of the DSO and DFM are named in the following list of recipients:
W/C G. C. Keefer, DFC and Bar, Charlottetown.
S/L G. D. Robertson, 3 Lamport Ave., Toronto.
S/L J. D. Somerville, Parry Sound.
F/L G. Johnson, 102 Beechwood Ave., Hamilton.
F/L G. E. Mott, Sarnia.
F/O B. W. Prange, Kitchener.
P/O S. A. Simmons, Copper Cliff.
P/O H. W. Robinson, Fenelon Falls.
BEM (MILITARY DIVISION)
P/O E. S. Neill, 347 Campbell Ave., Windsor.
W/C Keefer received the DSO for outstanding work on operations since receiving his Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross. Under his leadership 40 aircraft have been destroyed, eight of which he accounted for personally.
P/O Neill received the British Empire Medal for "exceptional coolness and courage" while rescuing his comrades after their aircraft had crashed on landing and burst into flames. On the same occasion he rescued two women and two children trapped in a nearby house set on fire by the crash.
KEEFER, W/C George Clinton, DFC (J5022) - DSO - No.126 Wing
Award effective 20 October 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and
AFRO 2637/44 dated 8 December 1944.
This officer has completed many sorties since being awarded
a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross and his record is outstanding.
Within the past few months he has led large formations of aircraft on
air operations during which forty enemy aircraft have been destroyed.
The successes obtained reflect the greatest credit on the skill, gallantry
and resolution of Wing Commander Keefer. This officer has been responsible
for the destruction of eight hostile aircraft.
KEEFER, W/C George Clinton, DSO, DFC (J5022) - Bar to
DSO - No.125 Wing
Award effective 10 July 1945 as per London Gazette of 24 July 1945 and
AFRO 1619/45 dated 19 October 1945.
Since his appointment as Wing Commander of Operations,
Wing Commander Keefer has led and trained his wing to a high pitch of
keenness and efficiency. Under his leadership the wing has destroyed 191
enemy aircraft and damaged many more. In addition a great variety of enemy
ground targets have been successfully attacked. During this period Wing
Commander Keefer has destroyed four enemy aircraft in the air bringing
his total victories to twelve aircraft destroyed. He has also destroyed
at least sixty enemy transport vehicles. In April 1945, he completed a
daring attack on eleven Messerschmitt 190s [sic] assembled on an airfield
at Parchim. Despite intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire the attack
was pressed home and all the enemy aircraft were destroyed. This officer
has completed three tours of operational duty and has proved himself to
be a leader of the highest order and a cool and fearless pilot.
KEEFER, W/C George Clinton, DSO, DFC (J5022) - Netherlands
Award effective 18 October 1947 as per Canada Gazette of that date and
AFRO 576/47 dated 31 October 1947.
"In recognition of valuable services rendered during
the recent war". Public Records Office Air 2/9140 has recommendation
as cleared by Air Ministry Honours and Awards Committee.
Wing Commander Keefer took over the duties of Wing Commander
(Operations) of No.125 Wing in November 1944, while they were in winter
quarters at Eindhoven. During this phase of active operations, under extremely
adverse weather conditions, Wing Commander Keefer's indomitable courage
and brilliant leadership maintained the morale of his Wing at the highest
level. This officer showed exceptional keenness to engage the enemy, and
his steadfast determination was worthy of the highest praise. In the subsequent
battles through Holland to the German border, this officer's exceptional
qualities remained well to the fore. He displayed outstanding devotion
KEEFER, F/L George Clinton, DSO, DFC (J5022) - Croix de Guerre with Gold
AFRO 485/47 dated 12 September 1947.
Victories Include :
| 7 Dec 1941
8 Dec 1941
21 Dec !941
25 May 1942
8 June 1942
12 June 1942
16 June 1942
17 June 1942
10 July 1942
17 July 1942
12 June 1943
1 Dec 1943
7 June 1944
25 June 1944
27 June 1944
2 Mar 1945
19 Mar 1945
16 Apr 1945
18 Apr 1945
20 Apr 1945
25 Apr 1945
12 / 2 / 9
+ 5 On The ground (although by Johnnie Johnson's telling, it would be 11)