Colin Gowans "Fin" Finlayson

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Lou Luma & Colin Finlayson

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London, March 22, 1944 — (CP Cable) — The feat of four R.C.A.F. flyers who ventured 400 miles into enemy-occupied territory to shoot down three enemy aircraft and damage 17 others on the ground was signalized today by a special communiqué issued by Air Marshal L. S. Breadner, commander-in-chief of the R.C.A.F. overseas.
The quartet, who flew in two Mosquito planes of the City of Edmonton squadron, consisted of F/L D. MacFadyen, of Toronto; F/L J. Luma, of Helena, Mont; F/O C. Finlayson, Victoria, and F/O J. Wright, of Rosthern, Sask.
There have been few previous occasions when such a small force was the basis of a full-fledged communiqué.
The three planes destroyed were shot down over the Haguenau airfield, about 250 miles east of Paris, and the Luxeuil airfield, 200 miles southeast of Paris.
The intruders also damaged at least five gliders on the ground.


Born 9 November 1920 in Killan, Alberta.
Son of Forbes Leopold Finlayson &
Elizabeth Susan Finlayson (nee Gair).
Home in Victoria, BC (bank teller).
Educated in Banff Public School,
Sir James Douglas Public School, Victoria,
Victoria High School &
Queen’s University (banking courses).
Enlisted in Vancouver, 5 July 1941 &
Posted to
No.2 Manning Depot,
No.5 Personnel Holding Unit, 10 October 1941,
No.2 ITS, 4 January 1942
(graduated and promoted LAC, 28 Feb. 1942),
No.2 AOS, 28 February 1942,
No.8 BGS, 6 June 1942 &
1 CNS, 25 July 1942
(graduated and commissioned 5 Sept. 1942).
To No.1 GRS, 11 September 1942.
To "Y” Depot, 24 October 1942.
To RAF overseas, 27 October 1942.
Disembarked in Britain, 5 November 1942.
To No.1 Signal School, 16 December 1942.
Promoted Flying Officer, 5 March 1943.
Attached to No.51 OTU, 28 April 1943.
Posted from No.1 Signal School.
To No.60 OTU, 18 May 1943.
To No.418 Squadron, 7 September 1943.
To No.60 OTU, 18 May 1944.
To No.62 OTU, 25 July 1944.
HQ, Air Defence Great Britain, 10 August 1944.
Returned to No.418 Squadron.
Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 5 September 1944.

KIA, 18 October 1944 with Stan Cotterill
(418 Squadron, Mosquito HR351).
Colin was tour expired and off Ops.
He planned the trip and went along for fun.

Training: Interviewed in Vancouver, 5 July 1941 when he was described as "Intelligent and observant. Ambitious to be observer, he appears to be well qualified for this in view of his academic standing.”

Course at No.2 ITS was 4 January to 25 February 1942. Courses and marks as follows:

Mathematics (121/150)
Armament (44/50)
Signals (150/150)
Anti-Gas (46/50)
Aircraft Recognition (96/100)
Drill (73/100)
Law and Discipline (84/100)
Navigation (169/200)
General Studies (87/100)

Placed 24th in a class of 112 Observers. “Alert, energetic and very clever, although he missed two weeks in the middle of his course; he finished with a good average. Very anxious to become an observer and should do well.”

Course at No.2 AOS was 2 March to 6 June 1942. Flew in Ansons

24.45 as first navigator by day
27.45 as second navigator by day
6 hours 30 minutes as first navigator by night
9 hours 15 minutes as second navigator by night
14 hours 45 minutes bombing

Under “Navigation” described as follows: “His air navigation is good and is able to do a great deal more than the exercise calls for. He is a particularly fast plotter and very accurate.” Under “Armament” is the comment, “Very good bomb aimer. Neat in detailed work.” General remarks – “Has a very active mind. Is very popular with his class and his appearance is good.” Placed 6th in a class of 25.

Course at No.8 BGS was 8 June to 18 July 1942. Battles and Ansons

18 hours day bombing
8.30 night bombing
14.40 day gunnery

He dropped 55 bombs high level and 23 bombs low level. “Average ability as bomb aimer. Weak in low level work” and under “Gunnery” was the following: “Lacks aggressiveness to make a good air gunner. Showed improvement throughout.” Placed 11th in a class of 25.

Course at No.1 ANS was 3 August to 5 September 1942 in Ansons

7.00 as first navigator by day
6.35 as second navigator by day
10.05 as first navigator by night
10.25 as second navigator by night

Placed first in a class of 25. Air work described as follows: “In the air works hard and fast; maintains accuracy; uses all navigation methods continuously; above average air navigator.” Ground assessment: “Does exceptional work; neat; fast; accurate; self confident. Very reliable.”

Advanced course at No.1 GRS, 14 September to 10 October 1942 involved Anson aircraft on navigation exercises, 15 hours 50 minutes, all by day. Courses and marks were

DR Navigation (138/200)
Reconnaissance (145/200)
Coding (79/100)
Ship Recognition (150/200)
Visual Signals (Pass)

“A keen worker but with less aptitude for classroom work than for work in the air. Should prove a good officer on operations.”

Course at No.1 Signals School was 28 December 1942 to 17 April 1943. This involved flying in a de Havilland Dominie (six hours 45 minutes, of which three hours 22 minutes were on W/T sets in air) and Percival Proctor (seven hours 20 minutes, all on W/T sets in air). Extensive tests in Morse and VS work. Ground results graded in

Technical Theory (89/150)
Signals Organisation (99/150)
Out-Station Procedure (81/150)
Set Manipulation (184/250)
D/F Loop manipulation (88/150)
Daily Inspections and Fault Finding (95/150)
Air tests in Air Operating (235/300)
Frequency Changing (270/300)
D/F Loop Manipulation (140/200)
D/F Procedure (81/100) &
Log Keeping (79/100)


RCAF Officers Awarded DFC’s For Gallantry

London, 27 April 1944 — (BUP) — Three officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in flying operations against the enemy.
They are: Acting S/L Harold S. Lisson, Toronto; F/O Colin G. Finlayson, Victoria, B.C.; F/O Arthur B. Franklyn, Prince Rupert, B.C.
Lisson is a night-fighter pilot with two German planes to his credit, while Finlayson, an observer, assisted in the destruction of five. Franklin gave distinguished service as a navigator.
All three officers served in the ranks before being commissioned.


FINLAYSON, F/O Colin Gowans (J13956) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.418 Squadron
Award effective 28 April 1944 as per London Gazette of that date &
AFRO 1186/44 dated 2 June 1944

This officer is an observer of high merit and his fine work throughout the many sorties in which he has taken part has earned great praise. In the course of his tour many airfields and much enemy transport has been successfully attacked. In addition to these successes, Flying Officer Finlayson has assisted in the destruction of three enemy aircraft at night and two by day. He has displayed great skill, courage and resolution.

NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/9220 has recommendation by W/C Bennell dated 3 March 1944 when he had flown 20 sorties (60 operational hours).

Flying Officer Finlayson has now completed 20 operational sorties as a navigator with this squadron, seven of which have been in support of Bomber Command and one Day Ranger. He has shown the greatest determination and skill in locating enemy aerodromes under all weather conditions and there is no doubt that Flying Officer Finlayson has played a vital part in the successes achieved by the two pilots with whom he has flown.

On many occasions when acting as navigator to Lieutenant Luma (USAAF) he has participated in the bombing of airfields and the destruction of trains and road transport. On the night of 12th February 1944, he directed his pilot to Bordeaux where success was achieved in the destruction of a Heinkel 177. On the night of 24th February 1944, whilst navigating for Flight Lieutenant Scherf he shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88 and an unidentified twin-engined enemy aircraft at Ambach near Numberg deep in Germany. Navigating to a target of this type demands extreme skill and Flying Officer Finlayson has shown that he has all and more than is needed.

This officer has also participated in one Day Ranger with Flight Lieutenant Scherf and on this particular sortie great success was achieved. Navigating at tree top height is difficult at all times but to penetrate 250 miles into occupied territory and to be able to direct a pilot exactly on to the dispersal area of an aerodrome is above all a job for the super-skilled navigator only. Flying Officer Finlayson achieved this object and his pilot was able to destroy two Junkers 52s and share in the destruction of a Bi-Heinkel and two Gotha 242 gliders.

Flying Officer Finlayson has been astute to pass on to the other observers less experienced than himself, the information gained during his 20 trips and in so doing is largely responsible for the high standard of efficiency attained by other observers on this squadron. The way he has discharged his duties, both as a squadron member and as a part of an operational crew, has set an example which will be hard to surpass.

A further note was added on 7 March 1944 by a Wing Commander (Station Commander but name illegible):

An excellent navigator with an outstanding operational record. Since above remarks were written this officer, with Lieutenant Luma (USAAF) destroyed a Focke Wulf 190 near Toulouse and they had to return nearly 600 miles on one engine. I strongly recommend the award of a Distinguished Flying Cross.


Australian Spends Day Off Bagging 5 Huns, Damaging 2

With a Canadian Fighter Wing Somewhere in Britain, May 16, 1944 (CP) — S/L Charlie Scherf, who officially is on ground duty, made another "last trip" with the City of Edmonton Mosquito Squadron today, destroying five Nazi planes and damaging two on a foray deep into Germany's Baltic seaboard.
The young Australian flier who completed his tour of duly with this R.C.A.F. squadron two months ago has been going on operations every time he gets a day off and promising each trip will be his last. Around the squadron they call him "Last-Trip" Scherf. With F/L Colin Finlayson, Victoria, B.C., as his observer, Scherf flew to the neighborhood of Kubitzer Bay and Stettin late in the day to bag a Focke-Wolf 190, a Heinkel 177, a Junkers 86 and two, unidentified planes. Scherf also damaged an He-111 and a Dornier 118 flying boat.
The enemy planes were downed and damaged in 15 minutes of the most furious action of Scherf's flying career. The five kills raised the squadron's score to 54 planes destroyed in the air, and maintained it's reputation for setting the hottest pace of any squadron of the Air Defense of Great Britain, of which the City of Edmonton fliers form a part. The squadron altogether has destroyed 118 enemy planes, including those caught on the ground.
Scherf and Finlayson returned to base with their Mosquito damaged by flak and with 15 holes in the wing, which Scherf said were caused by running into a flock of birds on the homeward flight.
"We caught an He-111 in the air over the Baltic first and put him down," said the Australian. "A little later we ran into a whole collection of German aircraft and destroyed four in five minutes. It was incredible...''
The last time Scherf took a flying holiday, he shared in the destruction of two planes in the air and the burning of nine on the ground with F/O J. Caine of Edmonton. On another previous trip, he destroyed two enemy planes and left three burning. On both these trips, F/O W. Stewart, 386 Broadview Ave., Toronto, was Scherf's navigator.


Finlayson & Luma
Colin & Lou Luma check out damage to their Mossie's tail


16 RCAF Men Given Awards

Ottawa, Aug. 14, 1944 - (CP) - Air Force Headquarters announced tonight the award of 16 decorations to members of the RCAF overseas. Five officers received a bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross and 11 others the DFC. The awards:

W/C W.F. Newson, Victoria
W/C J. B. Millward, Sherbrooke
F/L T.W. Pierce, Bracebridge
F/L J. F. Lewis, London, Ont.
F/O C.G. Finlayson, Victoria

F/L P. Buttar, Rosetown, Sask.
F/L J.R. Dow, Winnipeg
F/L F.T. Judah, Edmonton
F/L H.A. Hewitt, Lac Vert, Sask.
F/L J.O. Richard, Alder Point, N.S.
F/L R.N. Douglass, Edmonton
F/L J.K. Hamilton, Edmonton
F/L C.M. Carter, Lewisville, N.B.
F/L D.G. Hall, St. Thomas
F/L C.M. Jasper, Spokane, Washington
F/L O.A. Martin, Ottawa

Award of the DFC to Dow, Judah, Hewitt, Richard, Douglass, Hamilton, Carter and Hall was covered by a joint citation saying they had completed in various capacities many successful operations against the enemy in which they had displayed "high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty."
F/L Martin was cited for participating in many sorties both by day and night, and for assisting, as observer, in destroying four enemy aircraft. F/O Finlayson, also an observer, was cited for taking part in a large number of sorties, many of them of a difficult and dangerous nature, and for assisting in the destruction of five enemy aircraft during a sortie far into enemy territory in May.


FINLAYSON, P/O Colin Gowans, DFC (J13956) - Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross - No.418 Squadron
Award effective 15 August 1944 as per London Gazette of that date &
AFRO 2052/44 dated 22 September 1944.

This officer continues to display the highest qualities of skill, bravery and devotion to duty. As observer he has taken part in a large number of sorties, many of them of a difficult and dangerous nature. On one occasion in May 1943 [1944 ?] he took part in a sortie far into enemy territory during which he assisted in the destruction of five enemy aircraft. He has proved himself to be a most valuable member of the squadron.


Air Force Casualties

Ottawa, Nov. 28, 1944 — The Department of National Defense for Air today issued Casualty List No. 1052 of the Royal Canadian Air Force showing next of kin of those named from Ontario as follows (in part):

Missing After Air Operations
COTTERILL, Stanley Herbert Ross, DFC, F/L, Mrs. Gordon Cotterill (mother), 3 Claxton Blvd., Toronto.
FINLAYSON, Colin Gowans, DFC and Bar, F/O Victoria, B.C.

Reported Prisoner of War (Germany)
HILL, George Urquhart, DFC and 2 Bars, S/L Napadogan, N.B.

F/L Stanley Herbert Ross Cotterill, DFC, 24, is reported missing on a special mission over enemy territory on Oct. 18, according to official word received by his mother, Mrs. Gordon Cotterill of 3 Claxton Blvd. His name appeared in an air force casualty list issued at Ottawa yesterday along with that of F/O Colin Cowans Finlayson, DFC and Bar, of Victoria, B.C., who was his navigator on the mission.


Air Force Casualties

Ottawa, Sept. 10, 1945 — The Department of National Defense for Air today issued casualty lists Nos. 1,266, 1,267 and 1,268, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, showing next-of-kin of those named from Ontario (in part):

Previously Missing, Now Officially Presumed Dead
COTTERILL, Stanley Herbert Ross, DFC, F/L Mrs. Gordon Cotterill (mother), 3 Claxton Blvd., Toronto.

Previously Missing, Now Officially Presumed Dead
FINLAYSON, Colin Gowans, DFC and Bar, F/L, Victoria.


Involved With The Following Victories :

12/13 Feb. 1944
24/25 Feb. 1944
26 Feb. 1944

  6 March 1944
21 March 1944

16 May 1944
one He177
two Ju88s
one Go242
1/2 He111z
two Ju52s
one FW190
one Ju52/3m
one Ju34
one Do217
one He111
two Go242s
two Me109s
one He111
one FW190
one He177
one Hs123
one Ju86p
one He111
one Do18
destroyed &
destroyed OTG
destroyed OTG,
destroyed OTG,
damaged OTG &
damaged OTG
destroyed OTG &
damaged OTW




12.5 / 0 / 0   plus

5 / 0 / 5   On The Ground or Water


Circumstances of Death: Mosquito HR351 was airborne at 1000 hours from Ieisi Airfield, Italy, for a Day Ranger to eastern Austria (Vienna area). The crew was F/L S.H.R. Cotterill (J4874 pilot) and F/O C.G. Finlayson (J13956 observer). They were accompanied by another Mosquito piloted by Stuart May & navigated by Jack Ritch. Both Mossies failed to return (May & Rich would eventually return after much trouble). Postwar investigations revealed HR351 crashed in the vicinity of Burguge (near Lanisce), Yugoslavia.

UPDATE: It looks like Radovan Zivanovic & two friends located the crash site a few years ago on Planik Hill about 20 km west of Rijeka, near the villages of Lanisce and Brest in Croatia.

Check it out




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