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William Lidstone "Willie" McKnight

Willie McKnight

Canada's 2nd Ace of WW2
(30 May 1940)

RAF   Flying Officer

DFC   &   Bar

Born in Edmonton, 18 November 1918
Educated at University of Alberta
Was a Private in the Militia from 1935-38
Quit Medical School to join the RAF in 1939
Appointed Acting P/O on Probation, RAF, 15 April 1939
He joined the "All-Canadian" No.242 Squadron on 6 November 1939 shortly after its inception in October '39 at Church Fenton.
He was attached to 607 & 615 Sqns for the Battle of France
He was back with No.242 Squadron for the Battle of Britain
He flew as wingman to Douglas Bader, who was very fond of him
Killed in Action along with John Latta, 12 January 1941
Their planes have never been found
McKnight has no known grave. His name is on the Runnymede War Memorial, Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey, England.

See H.A. Halliday's "The Tumbling Sky" &
"No.242 Squadron: The Canadian Years"

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                  August 26, 1940

Dear Mike,
This game is damn good fun when you are fighting bombers as they’re just like picking apples off a tree but fighters are a hell of a different proposition and keep you moving like greased lightening. It’s a funny thing this fighting in the air. Before you actually start or see any of the Hun you’re as nervous and scared as hell but as soon as everything starts you’re too busy to be afraid or worried.
We’ve been up against raids of 300 to 60 or 150-200 to 12 but either we’ve killed all their real good pilots and they’re using new young ones or else they are losing their nerve. They ain’t got the same guts they used to have and except in a few cases try to avoid a real scrap. We’ve only got five of the original twenty-two pilots in the squadron left now and those of us who are left ain’t quite the same blokes as before. It’s peculiar but war seems to make you older and quieter and changes your views a lot in life.
I got over the 700 hour mark just a few days ago and I am still being offered a chance to return home as an instructor but the old reasons still keep me here and I suppose I shall remain here until the end or until the other end. I’ve got so used to the thrill and the, I don’t know how to express it, final feeling of victory that I’d feel lost and bored by a quiet life again.
Well, I really must go before I get sentimental or homesick. Write me soon and until then

Your friend,           Bill

  Willie McKnight leans on his Hurricane

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"McKnight's Hat Trick" by Michael Martchenko
"McKnight's Hat Trick" by Michael Martchenko

On this day, August 30, 1940, following hard fighting, S/L Bader tucked in alongside his wingman, "Willie" McKnight as they returned to base. The exuberant Bader held up two fingers indicating his two victories. The Canadian flashed back three indicating a "Hat Trick". Bader was elated. The squadron that day claimed a total of 12 enemy A/C destroyed without loss to themselves. The tide of the battle was turning.

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McKNIGHT, P/O William Lidstone (41937) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.242 Sqn.
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 14 June 1940

On the 28th May, this officer destroyed a Messerschmitt 109. On the following day, whilst on patrol with his squadron, he shot down three more enemy aircraft. The last one of the three enemy aircraft was destroyed after a long chase over enemy territory. On his return flight he used his remaining ammunition and caused many casualties in a low-flying attack on a railway along which the enemy was bringing up heavy guns. Pilot Officer McKnight has shown exceptional courage and skill as a fighter pilot.

NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/4095 has the original recommendation, apparently drafted by W/C R. Grice, Commanding Officer, RAF Station Biggin Hill, on 2 June 1940. The identity of several of his victims is confused; the victims of 1 June 1940 were more likely Ju.87s rather than Ju.88s.

Pilot Officer McKnight, a Canadian pilot, has shown exceptional skill and courage as a fighter pilot during the operations over France from 28th May to 1st June 1940.

On 28th May 1940, this officer destroyed one Messerschmitt 109 over Ostende.

On May 29th, whilst on patrol with his squadron over France, he shot down two Messerschmitt 109s and a Dornier 17. The Dornier 17 occasioned a long chase into enemy territory but the pilot with great tenacity and determination succeeded in destroying it. On the way back from this, the pilot used up the remainder of his ammunition by carrying out a low flying attack on a railway east of Dunkirk, along which the enemy were bringing up heavy guns, and caused many casualties.

On 31st May, this officer was again on patrol with his squadron and with great skill, whilst protecting the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk area, he shot down two Messerschmitt 110s.

On the afternoon of June 1st, he was again on patrol covering the evacuation of the Dunkirk beaches when his squadron encountered eighteen Junkers 88s about to attack our shipping and he succeeded in shooting down two Junkers 88s and two unconfirmed.

Between the 28th May and 1st June this officer has displayed great skill and courage and has destroyed two Messerschmitt 110s, three Messerschmitt 109s, one Dornier 17 and two Junkers 88s.

On 3 June 1940, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park (Air Officer Commanding, No.11 Group) added the following minute:

This officer, a Canadian, has shown exceptional skill, determination and courage. He has destroyed eight enemy aircraft as well as attacking successfully heavy guns on the railway east of Dunkirk causing many casualties. I strongly recommend him for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The same day (3 June 1940) Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding minuted the document as "Approved".

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242 Squadron members 1940
242 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, Duxford, September 1940 - P/O Denis "Crow" Crowley-Milling, F/O Hugh Tamblyn (KIA 3 April 1941), F/L Stan Turner, Sgt Joseph Ernest Savill, P/O Norman Neil Campbell (KIA 17 October 1940), P/O Willie McKnight (KIA 12 January 1941), S/L Douglas Bader, F/L George Eric Ball (KIFA 1 February 1946), P/O Michael Giles Homer (KIA 27 September 1940), F/O Marvin Kitchener "Ben" Brown (KIA 21 February 1941)

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McKNIGHT, P/O William Lidstone (41937) - Bar to DFC - No.242 Squadron
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 8 October 1940

This officer has destroyed six enemy aircraft during the last thirteen weeks. He has proved himself to be a most efficient section leader, and has consistently given proof that he is a courageous and tenacious fighter.

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RECORD OF MAPLE LEAF FLYERS THROUGH 1940 MOST BRILLIANT
Figure in Every Important Aerial Operation With Distinction
ARE IN TWO DIVISIONS

(By Don Gilbert, Canadian Press Staff Writer) 3 Jan. 1941 – In the battles of France and Britain, and in the historic week of Dunkerque, Canada's airmen carried on the traditions of the Canadian aces of 1914-18. In every major aerial operation of 1940, Canadian pilots, navigators, observers, gunners and bomb aimers were to the forefront, helping first to establish and then to maintain Britain's supremacy over the uncounted squadrons of the German air arm.

Along Two Lines
The hundreds of young men from the Dominion who had crossed to Britain in the years before the war, many at their own expense, to find adventure in the skies had ample scope for their mettle, the Canadian Press story of the year shows. Canada's participation in the air war was along two lines - first, by Canadians in the Royal Air Force, second, by the 1st Fighter Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. In addition, two squadrons of army co-operation aircraft were with the Canadian Corps in Britain.

All Canadians
Of the Canadians in the R.A.F. the most widely known are the pilots of the so-called, All-Canadian Squadron, This group originally was made up entirely of Canadians, but, in weeks of heavy fighting in France and the Low Countries, and in the Dunkerque evacuation, it suffered heavy casualties and the gaps in many cases were filled by Britons. The squadron, however, maintains its Canadian name. Assigned to convoy protection work on its return from the Continent, the squadron early became prominent in the battle of Britain under S/L Douglas Bader, an Englishman, who proved himself an indomitable air fighter despite the handicap of artificial legs, his own having been lost in an air crash before the war.
On August 30, in the space of one hour, 12 Hurricane fighters of the All-Canadian Squadron shot down 13 German bombers and fighters in a great air battle in which the Canadians were outnumbered six planes to one. While in France, the squadron was officially credited with 72 enemy planes and by the time Germans gave up their mass daylight attacks on Britain, it had added well over 100 more.
Among the pilots in the squadron are P/O William McKnight, of Calgary, who bagged 17 Nazi planes and won the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. F/L P. S. Turner, of Toronto, who shot down ten enemy machines at Dunkerque, and P/O N. K. Stansfeld, of Vancouver, who bagged seven.

McNab's Own
The First Squadron of the R.C.A.F. under S/L Ernest McNab, of Regina, got into action with its Canadian-built Hurricanes in the battle of Britain on August 24. After a week of action, McNab alone had bagged 12 enemy aircraft and after a month the squadron was able to celebrate its 50th air victory during a visit to its camp by Air Marshal W. A. Bishop, V.C., Canada’s great air fighter of the last war.
Two days after Air Marshal Bishop's visit the squadron shot down six more. The Canadians were honored by an inspection by His Majesty the King. By November 5 the squadron's bag was up to 75 and the fine work of McNab won him a transfer to the R.A.F. with the rank of Acting Wing Commander, which means it is unlikely he will do much more combat flying.

Stayed With Machine
Canadians with the R.A.F. who distinguished themselves, included P/O Clare Connor, of Toronto, who was awarded the D.F.C. for his work in a flight that brought his 18-year-old gunner, Sgt. John Hannah, of Glasgow, the Victoria Cross. While returning from a raid on Antwerp, fire broke out in the bomb compartment and ammunition began exploding as the flames spread and forced the remainder of the crew to bail out. But Hannah stayed to fight the blaze and eventually put it out, while Connor stuck determinedly at the controls. The gutted plane was landed safely at its home base. Connor was killed November 6 while on active service.
F/L William Campbell, of Revelstoke, B.C., destroyed two Italian submarines when Italy entered the war. Later he was forced down in Greece and Interned. He won his freedom when Italy invaded Greece. F/L Garfield Prior, 26-year-old pilot from Indian Head, Sask., took part in the first raids on Turin, center of Italian war industry.
F/O Everett Badoux, of Stellarton, N.S., sank a German U-boat early in December and got back to his base, although one gasoline tank was empty and another leaking.

Army Co-operation
The 1st Army Co-operation Squadron of the RCAF, under S/L W. D. Van Vliet of Winnipeg, arrived at an R.A.F. station in southern England in February and was joined by the 2nd Squadron in May. R.C.A.F. headquarters in London were established under G/C George Welsh, who later returned to Canada for promotion and was succeeded by Air Commodore L. F. Stevenson.
Some 55 Canadian officers received the Distinguished Flying Cross during the year and about 90 Canadians lost their lives. The first graduates of the Empire air training scheme from Canada, mostly air observers, arrived in Britain late in November. They were soon in action. Within 48 hours of debarkation, P/O Arthur Snell, of Calgary, helped bomb Boulogne. A second contingent, made up of crew men, observers and a small number of pilots, arrived in Britain early in December. And while these young Canadians fought the Empire's air battles, a veteran of the last war, Air Commodore Raymond Collishaw, of Nanaimo, B.C., directed Britain's air victory over the Italians in the western desert of Egypt during the December offensive.

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List Nine Canadians as Casualties in R.A.F.; Include F.O. McKnight
BAGGED 23 PLANES

London, 12 Aug. 1941 (CP) — Flying Officer William L. McKnight, D.F.C.. of Calgary, one of the top-ranking fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force, who was credited with a bag of twenty-three enemy planes, tonight was listed as missing and presumed killed.
His parents were advised he was missing last Jan. 14,"as a result of air operation on Jan. 12 and his inclusion in tonight's casualty list, which contained the names of nine Canadian airmen, indicated that hope he may have been saved or is a prisoner, has been abandoned.
He was a member of the so-called "All-Canadian" Squadron of the R.A.F. under command of S/L Douglas Bader, also reported missing today.
F/O McKnight received the D.F.C. in June 1940, for shooting down four enemy planes in two days.
The Air Ministry's seventy-seventh casualty list contained 488 names.

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Led Canadians in Glorious Fights, Douglas Bader Now Posted Missing
Legless Hero Is One of Britain's Greatest Air Aces of Present War
IDOLIZED BY MEN

London, 12 August 1941 - (CP) - Missing was the ominous word written tonight beside the illustrious name of Wing Commander Douglas S. Bader, early air stunter who gained most of his fame as the legless leader of the all Canadian squadron of the Royal Air Force, now sheared by death or transfer of most of its Canadian identity.
The brief word that Bader failed to reach home after one of his numerous sweeps over enemy territory was given out by his mother at the village rectory at Sprotbrough, Yorkshire. Confirmation was made by the Air Ministry which at the same time announced a similar fate had befallen F/L E. S. Lock, 21 year-old holder of the DSO and the DFC and Bar, all awarded by the King at the same time.
Lock was called 'Sawn Off Lockie' because he was so short. He was credited with shooting down thirty German planes nine of them in one week last September His plane was shot down in flames over Britain and he spent three months in a hospital with severe leg wounds a broken arm and burns. He underwent fifteen operations left hospital to be decorated at Buckingham Palace and then returned for a sixteenth trip to the operating table.

Both Often Decorated
Both Lock and Bader ranked high on the list of RAF greats. Lock as one of its most brilliant combatants and the 31-year old Bader as an organization leader. Although Bader’s greatest quality was flying leadership, he was credited officially with fifteen enemy planes.
Like Lock, Bader was heavily decorated - the DSO and DFC and Bars to both. Only two other men in the flying service held all these medals.
It was back on June 19, 1940, that Bader, who was British born, took over the all-Canadian squadron, which had been badly battered over Dunkirk, and finally led it through some of the fiercest and numerically unequal battles ever seen in the air.
From these, Bader, who resented being described as legless - he had artificial legs thanks - emerged with the DFC. It was men of his fighting caliber and the Canadians he led into battle against almost overwhelming odds that Prime Minister Churchill had in mind when he spoke of so much being owed by so many to so few. It was due to their work and men like them that the Germans chose to stay on their own side of the Channel during daylight.

Delighted in Raids
That meant the RAF had to go after them. They did - day after day and week after week.
Back even in the sleety days of last winter, Bader took a boyish delight in scampering across the English Channel with a couple of his Canadian colleagues, harassing enemy troops and shooting up enemy fields.
Bader himself counted most of the German pilots yellow and openly said so. He treated the Germans in battle with contempt but his men swore by him.
An illustration of his spirit of team play and consideration for his men occurred one day when he and P/O L. E. Cryderman of Toronto and F/O N. D. Edmond of Calgary - both since listed as missing or killed - ran across a German bomber over the Channel. Bader, the leader, went after the big bomber, poured rounds of gun fire into it - then swerved aside to allow the two youngsters to finish it off.
They shared in the destruction of the plane but only after a narrow, escape from bombs jettisoned by the harassed bomber.

Wanted More Canadians
Bader was extremely proud of his Canadian squadron No 242. He asked for more Canadians to be placed under his command but he was promoted and transferred from the squadron early this year. He was succeeded by Whitney Straight, American born sportsman who was shot down a few days ago just before the announcement was made that he had been awarded the DFC.
For a time, Bader was an instructor but he put forth some persuasive argument and he was transferred as leader of another squadron. He never did go back to No 242 but he left behind, in the officer’s mess and across the airfield, generally a fighting spirit that can never die.

Bill McKnight
Bill McKnight
 
Associated with him as the inspiration for the squadron were men like P/O William L. McKnight of Calgary who held the DFC and Bar and was in line for the DSO when he was reported missing. McKnight at one time was the top ranking fighter pilot in the RAF with at least twenty three German planes to his credit.
On a sortie over France with Bader and others, McKnight, who once brought down three German planes in one day, failed to return. He was strafing enemy troops from a particularly low height when he was last seen.
McKnight had been a protégé of Bader’s and when the young Canadian failed to return Bader forgot his quiet poise and became enraged at the Germans. He wanted to return immediately and “rake the devil out of them" but was forbidden because of heavy weather.
In spite of the order - at least so the story goes - Bader called up several of his squadron leader friends and tried to arrange an unofficial trip through the storm to avenge the loss of the young Calgary flier.
The awards to Bader were not given out for any particular action but for persistent and daring leadership mostly of the all Canadian squadron.
From one of these trips, the squadron returned without loss and a bag of twelve Jerries. As the planes landed in the fast gathering dusk, P/O K. M. (Pat) Sclanders of Saint John N.B. - since killed - nipped into another machine and stood his own on its nose.

“Lots of Hurricanes"
Later Sclanders, appearing in the mess, apologized for apparently spoiling the day’s show.
Bader stopped sipping his cocoa looked at the boy's bruised eye and slapped him on the back saying, “Hell, they’ve got lots of Hurricanes. We’ll get another one tomorrow but I doubt if that eye will clean up for a week or so."
The names of many young Canadians have since been added to the squadron’s roll of honor and in the officer’s mess there is to be seen only one of the original Canadian members - F/L R. D. Grassick, London, Ont., who has won one of the squadron’s eleven DFCs. Today most of the fliers are British.
Bader lost his legs in a flying accident before the war when he was regarded as one of the best stunt pilots in Britain. After many attempts, he persuaded the RAF he could manipulate a plane with his artificial legs as well as most men without his handicap. His record showed he was right.

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Three B.C. Airmen High on List
Canadian Fighter Aces Make Enviable Records

Written for the Canadian Press By F/L BASIL DEAN, RCAF, LONDON, 14 Aug. 1943 — Seventeen Canadian fighter aces of the present war have accounted for more than 220 enemy aircraft in the various theatres of war.
They flew in operations ranging from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain to the Sicilian campaign. Between them they have won at least 34 decorations for gallantry.
Early in the war a young Canadian fought his way into "Ace" category. He was Willie McKnight, a pilot in the RAF from Calgary, who flew in the famed "All-Canadian" squadron led by W/C Douglas Bader, DSO, who was then a squadron leader.

Over Dunkirk and in the Battle of Britain, McKnight destroyed 16½ enemy aircraft and won the DFC and Bar. He was reported missing in 1941 following one of the early RAF sweeps over France.

With him in those early days flew another Canadian, S/L Stanley Turner, DFC and Bar, of Toronto, who is also in the RAF. Turner, now leader of the City of Windsor Spitfire Squadron in Sicily, was a flight commander in the "All-Canadian" squadron when Bader commanded it. He now has a total "bag" of 14 enemy aircraft destroyed.

STILL FLYING
During 1941 a third Canadian in the RAF, S/L E.F.J. Charles, DFC and Bar, of Lashburn, Sask., was achieving a big reputation. At the most recent count, Charles has destroyed 15 enemy aircraft, of which six were knocked down in 1941. He is still flying on operations and leading an RAF Spitfire squadron from a British base.
Fighting over Malta during 1942 gave great opportunities to fighter pilots and it is known now that over 25 per cent of all fighter pilots on the island during its great bombing ordeal were Canadians.

Leader of them all, of course, is F/O George Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM and Bar, of Verdun, Que. He has 29 destroyed.

 
Stocky Edwards
F/L Eric Ball (RAF), S/L Bader & F/O McKnight admire their squadron motif

S/L R. C. (Moose) Fumerton, DFC and Bar, of Fort Coulonge, Que., a night fighter, destroyed 13 enemy aircraft, all during darkness.

TOTAL EXCEEDS 20
W/C Mark Brown, DFC and Bar, of Glenboro, Man., who was killed in action in Africa early last year, had destroyed 18 enemy aircraft when he gained the Bar to his DFC. Subsequently he destroyed several more and his total is known to be more than 20.
S/L R.W. (Buck) McNair, DFC and Bar, of North Battleford, Sask., commander of the RCAF Red Indian Spitfire squadron in Britain, has a score of 12 destroyed. He got eight of these over Malta last year, the remaining four on sweeps over northern France since he returned to operations after a rest in Canada.
Most successful RCAF Spitfire pilot over Malta was F/L Henry Wallace McLeod, DFC and Bar, of Regina, with a score of 13 destroyed at the time he left the island.
F/L F.E. Jones, DFC, of Cloverdale, B.C. destroyed seven over the island, left Malta at the same time as his good friend McLeod.

In Malta F/L L. Gosling, DFC and Bar, of Battleford, Sask., began piling up a score towards the end of the campaign and his total at the time of his second award stood at 10. He now is missing.

VICTORIAN GETS 20
S/L V.C. Woodward of Victoria, B.C., who joined the RAF in 1938, has destroyed 20 enemy aircraft and now holds the DFC and Bar. He commands an RAF fighter squadron in the Mediterranean theatre.
George Hill of Pictou, N.S., fighting in Sicily at the head of an RAF fighter squadron, has a count of 13 destroyed.

W/C James E. Walker, DFC and two Bars, of Edmonton, is the only member of the RCAF to be awarded the DFC three times. He led an RAF Spitfire squadron in the North African campaign and accounted for 10½ enemy aircraft destroyed.

Also in the North African campaign was F/L J.F. Edwards, DFC, DFM, of Battleford, Sask., whose record at the time of his DFC award stood at eight enemy aircraft destroyed. He now has eight enemy aircraft destroyed.

RECORD IN BRITAIN
Top scorers of the RCAF wing in Britain are two members of the Wolf squadron — S/L Hugh Godefroy, DFC, of Toronto, the squadron commander, who has six to his credit, and F/L H. D. MacDonald, DFC, also of Toronto, who has destroyed eight.

Probably the most brilliant fighter pilot who ever flew with the RCAF in Britain was F/L Don Morrison, DFC, DFM, of Vancouver, who now is a prisoner of war. Morrison was awarded the DFM in July this year, several months after he had been shot down over France and suffered loss of a leg. The citation recorded the fact he had destroyed 15 enemy aircraft.
Morrison's score of 15 destroyed puts him at the head of the list of RCAF fighter pilots. The only Canadians ahead of him did their scoring with the RAF.

F/L Jones 'Spitfire Man'
F/L Jones, 26, visited his parents in Abbotsford last January following participation in air battles at Malta when he flew with Beurling. At that time, he told of watching 10 RCAF Spitfires tear into 80 enemy planes and "when the smoke cleared away, our 10 Spitfires were still riding high." Jones' reputation in the ranks is reflected in their nick-name for him, "Spitfire man of Malta." He joined the RCAF in 1940 and received the DFC in October 1942. His brother, Thomas J., is overseas with the RCE.

S/L Woodward, 26, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Woodward, 1587 Fairfield Street, Victoria. Born and educated in Victoria, he joined the RAF in 1938 and was a leading fighter pilot in the Western Desert campaign. He led a fighter squadron over Greece and Crete, and is now back on operations after a year as instructor in Rhodesia. He was awarded the DFC in April 1941, and the Bar was added to it this month.

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Airmen Who Met Huns During Battle of Britain Paved Way For Offensive
Some of Canada's First Aces of This War Still Are in Action - Pilots Now Seek Out Enemy Over His Own Territory

(Written for the Canadian Press by F/L Basil Dean, R.C.A.F.)
Fighter Command, Somewhere in England, Sept. 8, 1943 — (CP) — There are still some of the few left, some of those hard-fighting combat pilots of Battle of Britain days, but mostly it is a new brood of pilots who fly from the air bases hereabouts in Britain's Fighter Command. Three years ago, when the first few of Canada's aerial aces were fighting their way to fame, the battles were over British soil. Now, with greater numbers of Canadians than ever before in Fighter Command, the pilots are going out to seek the enemy over his own territory. This air fighting of today is offensive, not defensive, as during the Battle of Britain, but it was the fighting then that made the current offensive possible.

Some Still Flying
Some of the Canadians who fought with honor and glory in those grim days three years ago are still flying. W/C D. B. Russel, D.F.C., of Montreal, who now leads an R.C.A.F. Spitfire wing in Britain, was then P/O Dal Russel and a member of Canada's No. 1 Fighter Squadron, which arrived in England in June, 1940 — just in time to get trained for the fierce tests of August and September of that year.
Russel's old commanding officer, Ernie McNab, now is Group Capt. Ernest McNab, D.F.C., of Regina, commander of an R.C.A.F. fighter station.
In Sicily, S/L Stanley Turner, D.F.C. and Bar, of Toronto, led the R.C.A.F.'s City of Windsor fighter squadron through the island campaign. In 1940, he was a flight commander in the R.A.F.’s famed "all-Canadian" squadron led by Wing-Cmdr. Douglas Bader, D.S.O., D.F.C., which destroyed 63 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain and shared three with other squadrons.
The squadron was composed mainly of Canadians who had joined the R.A.F. before the war, and fought nobly during the Battle of France and over Dunkerque.

Most Efficient
Its achievements during the Battle of Britain, indeed, brought from the air officer commanding of the group in which it was serving at the time a message which said that its efficiency as a squadron was "equal, if not superior, to any squadron in the R.A.F." The British chief of air staff signaled: "You are well on top of the enemy and obviously the fine Canadian traditions of the last war are safe in your hands."
Greatest pilot of the "all-Canadian" squadron — apart from the legless commander, Bader (who was not Canadian) — was P/O W. L. McKnight, D.F.C. and bar, of Calgary, who was reported missing some months after the Battle of Britain ended. McKnight destroyed 16½ enemy aircraft, and was the first (2nd -ed) Canadian ace of the war.
The "all-Canadian" squadron's first Battle of Britain engagement was August 30, when Bader, now a prisoner of war, led a formation of 14 Hurricanes against a "vast number" of German aircraft, two swarms of 70 to 100 each. Detaching one section to investigate a third formation of aircraft some distance away, Bader led the rest of his pilots to the attack. As a result, 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed; not one of the Hurricanes had so much a scratch.
Similar engagements followed. On September 7, Bader and his Canadians destroyed 10 enemy aircraft without losing a pilot, although seven of the squadron's Hurricanes were damaged. On September 19, when the wing in which the squadron was flying destroyed a total of 18 enemy aircraft, the "all-Canadians" were credited with 11 of these for the loss of one pilot killed.
And then, in the greatest day's fighting of all on September 15, the squadron destroyed 12 enemy aircraft. This was the day on which Bader described the fighting as "the finest shamble I've ever been in."
"The sky," he added, "was full of Hurricanes and. Spitfires, queuing up and pushing each other out of the way to get at the Dorniers. I was seldom able to hold my sights on a target for long for fear of colliding with other Spitfires and Hurricanes anxious to get in a burst."
Among the Canadians P/O J. B. Latta, D.F.C., Victoria, B.C., had knocked down five enemy planes; F/L Turner had five; so had P/O N. K. Stansfeld, D.F.C., Vancouver. P/O H. N. Tamblyn, D.F.C., North Battleford, Sask., and P/O N. Hart had four each. Altogether Canadian pilots in the squadron had destroyed 45 of the total of 65 credited to the squadron; Bader had scored 11.
Canada's own No. 1 fighter squadron, which although its personnel have completely changed; is still flying in Britain with fighter command, had scored a total of 31 victories during the battle under McNab's leadership. McNab himself had scored the first victory to be credited to a member of the squadron when, in order to gain combat experience, he flew as a supernumerary officer with an R.A.F. squadron before No. 1 fighter was ready for front-line duties.
In the squadron's first engagement as a unit, on August 24, it destroyed three Dorniers for the loss of one pilot. By the end of its first week in action it had destroyed eight enemy aircraft for the loss of one pilot killed. The score continued to mount until September 27, when the Canadian squadron destroyed seven enemy aircraft out of about 70 engaged during the day; one pilot of the squadron was killed. In the day's first fight, Russel had destroyed an ME 109 and an ME 110 and had shared with a Polish pilot the destruction of a third enemy fighter.
McNab, F/L G. R. McGregor and Russel were each awarded the D.F.C., having destroyed between them, 11½ of the squadron's total. McNab and McGregor now are both group captains; Russel is a wing commander.
In other squadrons of the R.A.F., Canadians had also distinguished themselves. One of the flight commanders in the R.A.F. squadron was a Canadian, F/L R. A. Barton, Kamloops, B.C., who later became squadron commander of his unit. He was awarded the D.F.C. for his "outstanding leadership" on September 27, a day on which the squadron destroyed 21 enemy aircraft for the loss of two pilots killed. The total bag during September was 48, a total exceeded only by the famous No. 303 Polish squadron, in which another Canadian, F/L (now Wing-Cmdr.) John Kent, Winnipeg, was at that time a flight commander.

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Beurling Ranks Fourth Among European Aces

By FRED BACKHOUSE, London, July 15, 1945 - (CP) - Group Captain J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, English-born, former leader of a crack Canadian Spitfire wing, has been officially recognized as "ace of aces" among Allied fighter pilots who fought over Europe.
Final scoring records, compiled by The Canadian Press from figures supplied by the RAF, RCAF, and United States 8th and 9th Air Forces, put this peace-time accountant from the Leicestershire town of Loughborough at the top of the list with 38 German planes destroyed.
G/C Johnson, who so closely identified himself with his otherwise all-Canadian squadron that he wore "Canada" on his shoulder, has often given much of the credit for his success to the Canadians who flew with him. "It's all a combination play," he said. Many of his men themselves became "aces."
Of the first 16 places supplied by the air forces, fourth is held by a Canadian — F/L George (Buzz) Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM and Bar, of Verdun, Que. — and 11 by RAF pilots. For the record, only those with more than 24 "kills" were offered by the three services as their top men. Official final scores are:

G/C J. E. Johnson (RAF), 38
G/C A. G. Malan (RAF), 29.5
F/L G. Beurling (RCAF), 30
S/L B. Finucane (RAF), 29
W/C J. R. D. "Bob" Braham (RAF), 29
W/C C. Caldwell (RAF), 28½
W/C Stanford Tuck (RAF), 28
An anonymous Polish sergeant [Czech pilot Josef Frantisek -jf] (RAF), 28
Lt/Col F. S. Gabreski (U.S. 8th), 28
S/L J. H. Lacey (RAF), 28
Capt. Robert Johnson (U.S. 8th), 27
Maj. G. E. Preddy (U.S. 8th), 27
W/C F. R. Carey (RAF), 26
F/L E. S. Lock (RAF), 26
Lt/Col J. C. Meyer (U.S. 8th), 24½
F/L Mungo-Park (RAF), 12

[I have modified the arrangement & scores to be more accurate –jf]
RCAF fighter pilots in the European war with scores of 15 or more German planes destroyed number six according to overseas headquarters in London. In addition, there were two equally high-scoring Canadians in the RAF, both of whom were killed in that service before they could transfer to the RCAF. After Beurling they are:

SL H. W. McLeod, DSO, DFC and Bar, of Regina, 21
S/L V. C. Woodward, DFC and bar, 19
F/O W. L. McKnight, DFC and Bar, of Calgary, 16½
W/C Mark H. Brown, DFC and Bar, of Glenboro, Man., 16.45
W/C J. F. Edwards, DFC and bar, DFM, MiD, 16.1
W/C R. W. McNair, DSO, DFC and two bars, of North Battleford, 16
W/C E. F. J. Charles, DSO, DFC and Bar, Silver Star (U.S.), 15½
F/L Don C. Laubman, DFC and Bar, of Edmonton, 15

The late Wing-Cmdr. Brown is officially credited by the RAF with "at least 16" aircraft destroyed. His score may well have been higher, but uncertainty exists because the records of No. 1 Squadron, RAF, of which he was then commanding officer, were destroyed during the retreat at the time of the collapse of France.

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Victories Include :

19 May 1940
28 May 1940
29 May  1940


31 May 1940

  1 June 1940

14 June 1940
30 Aug 1940

  9 Sept 1940
18 Sept 1940

  5 Nov 1940

one Me109
one Me109
one Me109
one Do17
one Me109
two Me110s
one Me109
two Ju88s
two Ju88s
two Me109s
two Me110s
one He111
two Me110s
one Do17
1/2 Ju88
1/2 Me109
destroyed
destroyed
destroyed
destroyed &
probable [1]
&
destroyed
destroyed &
probable [1]
destroyed
&
destroyed
destroyed
&
destroyed [2]
destroyed

18 / 3 / 0

  bones

[1] Considered "unconfirmed destroyed" at the time but would have been considered a "probable" after Sept. 1940

[2] Shared with F/O L.A. Haines of 19 Sqn. Fw Gerhard Scheidt of 1/JG26 baled out. Plane crashed near Birchington

Score & note [2] from Aces High 2nd Ed.

McKnight is often credited with being the first Candian Ace of WW2 but that honor belongs to Hilly Brown who made ace on May 14th

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Related Sites :

 

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Thanks go out to

On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.

All content on this site is probably the property of acesofww2.com unless otherwise noted.