Robert James "Buck" Buckles

RCAF     F/L

use switches
Fighter Pilots
Air Gunners
Navigators/Radar Operators
Other Aircrew
Gallery Gallery
Misc. Miscellaneous

Bob Buckles
Bob Buckles in the cockpit of a Harvard trainer.
I love this picture. Imagine how he must be feeling !


use switches
Site Map Sitemap
Sources Slang
Acknowledgements Thanks/
About Us About
Links Links

As Buck McNair put it at one of the briefings,
"Don't bother with all that Beurling deflection crap.
Just get right up the guy's jackson and let him have it."

"...That was providential advice. On the bright, sunny morning of December 20, we made a long-range fighter sweep, crossing into Holland at Flushing, flying as far as Eindhoven, then returning in the direction of Brussels. Our squadron was flying low echelon to port, with Cameron leading. I was flying number two to Sheppard in Yellow section, on the left of our squadron formation, with Bob Buckles behind me bringing up the third slot.
Over Brussels, a lone Dornier 217 bomber suddenly appeared to starboard, the crew apparently oblivious to the fact that a wing of 36 Spitfires had just joined them.
"I'm lining him up," came Beurling's voice over the R/T. In other words, the rest of you stand by and I'll show you some deflection shooting. Doug Givens of 411 Squadron had other ideas. Spurred on by McNair's advice, he promptly pulled up sharply onto the Dornier's tail, so close he couldn't miss, and with a short burst of cannon and machine-gun fire sent the enemy bomber spiraling down in flames.
Five minutes later, northeast of Lille, I saw a large black twin engine aircraft flying parallel to us about 200 yards to port. I immediately identified it as a Junkers 88 bomber with an extraordinarily large tail (turned out to be a 188). It was customary after having sighted an enemy plane to call up an alert on the R/T. In this case, "bogie at nine o'clock [at a right angle] straight and level." I didn't bother; it seemed unnecessary - surely everyone in the squadron had seen the 88, as it was so close.
But apparently, I had been the only one to spot it. No one said a word as the enemy aircraft kept serenely cruising along, gradually outpacing us. When it was about 300 yards ahead, it abruptly changed direction, turning to starboard and flying on a course going the other way, directly beside us, closer than 100 yards to our left. The whole scenario was unbelievable. The Ju pilot and Shep must have seen each other at the same moment, suddenly creating one of the clumsiest aerial encounters of the war. They were within a few yards of each other when the Junkers abruptly skidded to starboard and dived. A goddamn good thing it did too, or they would have collided - and me along with them. Shep banked sharply to port and I followed so closely behind that the cartridge cases from his cannon shells were bouncing off my wings. I opened fire at the same time. But our attack was way too late – the bomber had had time to get out of the line of fire. All I could see in my ring sight was the tail of the enemy aircraft, but hell, at least I'd fired a shot in anger at last. Buckles, behind me, was in a better position to take solid aim than either Shep or I, but he was also in the most danger. The enemy rear gunner took dead aim at him.
A sloppy performance all around. It took Lorne Cameron, leading Red section, to rescue it. In his businesslike fashion, he barked over the R/T “Get the hell out of the way. I'm coming down." Cam wasted no time demonstrating his accuracy. Swooping down, he let off a brief burst that blew the Junkers' Perspex windscreen apart and sent the bomber diving to the ground on fire.
Meanwhile, Buckles reported, "My engine's been hit and I've lost it, so I'm bailing out" (Buck says he'd been having blower problems all week and it caused over heating)

Bob Buckles, Norm Maybee & Ken Woodhouse
Pals Bob Buckles, Norm Maybee & Ken Woodhouse

"Merry Christmas, Buck," came his buddy Norm Maybee's cocky reply. A few minutes later he would come to rue that Yuletide greeting.
We were a few miles south of Gravelines when Maybee, the tail man in Red section, and Bill Morrisey, the number four in Blue section, collided. Both bailed out safely. Buckles, Maybee, and Morrisey all became prisoners of war.
So the squadron, by this time cut off from the rest of the wing, made its way home across the Channel three pilots short, but with a victory to add to its list of laurels. Shorthanded but unbowed and proud, we made our traditional "Prince of Wales feathers" salute - a 401 trademark on return from a sortie - the centre section climbing straight ahead and the other two sections fanning out and climbing to the left and right.
Our remaining complement of pilots and the groundcrew were agog when they saw that three aircraft were missing, and were all ears when we landed..."

From the book "Winged Combat" by Art Bishop


Born 16 February 1923.
Named after an uncle who was killed in WW1 (9 April 1917).
Trained at:
No.5 ITS, Belleville (Spring 1942).
No.20 EFTS, Oshawa &
No.1 SFTS, Bordon.
On to England and posted to 401 Squadron.
20 Dec 1943 - Engine caught fire - bailed out - POW
(Germans saw him come down & found him in a ditch).
Shared a room at Stalag Luft 3 with "Trottle" Levesque
(& others) many of whom were involved in the "Great Escape."
Sadly "Buck" passed away 19 July 2016 in Ottawa.


Buck with his Spifire
Bob with Spit YO-F. Note the "F" under the nose


Roots & Wings

A series of stories from different times and places by R.J. Buckles

Stalag Luft III Belaria Sagen


Some birthdays have more meaning and impact than others and hence are long remembered.
For me, number 21 was one that I have not forgotten. I had been flying Spitfires from England throughout 1943 and was beginning to think that I knew what it was all about. Suddenly, On December 20, 1943 that all changed. During an attack on a Junkers 188 my aircraft burst into flames and I was forced to leave it. A surprise indeed!
On a flight the previous day, the engine had given a few coughs which were reported and supposedly rectified. Earlier, on this last flight, it had also made a few strange noises but we were on our way home when the very low Junkers 88 was spotted. My section of four went after it and it turned out to be a Junkers 188 with a 20mm turret in the tail. I got in a long burst that silenced the tail turret and caused heavy black smoke in the starboard engine. At the same time, my own engine began to produce very strange noises, flames and smoke and then an eerie silence. It may have been caused by return fire but I really think I did it myself by over-boosting during the chase and thus aggravating the glycol leak. At any rate, I left YOR at that point and ended up as a POW in Belaria near the Polish border.

On February 16, 1944, my 21st birthday, Donald "Bull" MacRae from Whitney, Ontario gave me a cigar to celebrate. Cigars were hard to find in that place and worth about $50 each. I smoked it all the way down, although it was not easy. I was afraid not to! A most generous gift which I have never forgotten.

Dulag Solitary Confinement - Christmas Menu – 1943

Breakfast 8 AM: One piece of black bread & margarine. Cup of acorn coffee.
Dinner 12 noon: Bowl of potato soup.
Supper 5 PM: One piece of black bread and jam. Cup of acorn coffee.

The Great Escape

That camp was about a mile down the road from ours. The Germans suspected a tunnel was being built but could not find it. About a week before the escape they sent about a dozen suspects from the North camp to our camp at Belaria including Wally Floody and George Harsh.
Most of us did not know that the escape was planned until it happened. Our own tunnel was found but others continued. What a wasted effort.
My old friend Skeets Ogilvie was in the tunnel which came up just past the outer fence but fortunately did not get (all the way) out.

Wally Floody

Wally Floody, the Mining Engineer, was one of the major builders of the escape tunnels. He later was the technical advisor for the film "The Great Escape."

George Harsh

George Harsh was an American who had been convicted of manslaughter and spent several years on a Georgian chain gang. He saved the life of another prisoner and was released and promptly joined the RCAF as an Air Gunner. He later wrote a book about his life called "The Lonesome Road."

"Skeets" Ogilvie

Skeets Ogilvie, one of the last to escape, became a good friend in Ottawa.

Meanwhile we waited. Finally word came.

"The German authorities have announced that the following Allied officers who escaped from North Camp, Stalag Luft III by Breslau on March 24th, 1944, ARE NOW DEAD."

P/O Henry “Hank” Birkland - Canadian
F/L Edward Gordon Brettell - English
F/L Leslie George “Johnny” Bull - English
S/L Roger Joyce Bushell - English
F/L Michael James Casey - Irish
S/L James Catanach DFC - Australian
P/O Arnold George Christensen (Danish) - RNZAF
P/O Dennis Herbert Cochran - English
S/L Ian Kingston Cross DFC - English
P/O Haldor Espelid - Norwegian
P/O Brian Herbert Evans - Welsh
P/O Nils Fuglesang - Norwegian
Lt. Johannes Gouws - South African
F/L William Jack Grisman - Welsh
P/O Alistair Donald Mackintosh Gunn - Scottish
F/O Albert Horace Hake - Australian
P/O Charles Piers Hall - English
F/L Anthony Ross Henzell Hayter - English
P/O Edgar Spottiswoode Humphreys - English
P/O Gordon Arthur Kidder - Canadian
F/O Reginald Victor “Rusty” Kierath - Australian
F/L Antoni Kiewnarski - Polish
S/L Thomas Gresham Kirby-Green - English
F/O Wlodzimierz Adam Kolanowski - Polish
P/O Stanislaw Z. “Danny” Krol - Polish
F/L Patrick Wilson Langford - Canadian
P/O Thomas Barker Leigh - English
P/O James Leslie Robert “Cookie” Long - English
Lt. Clement Aldwyn Neville McGarr - South African
F/L George Edward McGill - Canadian
F/L Romas “Rene” Marcinkus - Lithuanian
F/O Harold John Milford - English
P/O Jerzy T. Mondschein - Polish
P/O Kazimierz Pawluk - Polish
P/O Henri Albert Picard - Belgian
P/O Porokoru Patapu “Johnny” Pohe (Maori) - NZ
P/O Bernard W. M. Scheidhauer - French
P/O Sotiris “Nick” Skanzikas - Greek
F/L Cyril Douglas Swain - English
Lt. Rupert J. Stevens - South African
F/O John Clifford Stower - Argentinean
P/O Robert Campbell Stewart - English
F/O Denys Oliver Street - English
P/O Pawel “Peter” Tobolski - Polish
F/L Arnost “Wally” Valenta - Czechoslovakian
F/O Gilbert William Walenn - English
F/O James Chrystall Wernham - Canadian
P/O George William Wiley - Canadian
S/L John Edwin Ashley Williams DFC - Australian
P/O John Francis Williams - English

76 "Kriegies" escaped, 50 were captured and shot, 23 were captured and returned to the camp and 3 were still missing.
It had been considered a man's duty to attempt escapes but on Hitler's direct orders that approach was finished ... or so he thought.

Gradually, the camp returned to normal, but nothing was forgotten and tunnels continued.

The Belaria Pennant Senior Softball Champs

Larson - Catcher
Buckles - Pitcher
Higgins - 1stBase
Turkott - 2nd Base
Glover - 3rd Base
Wilson - Short Stop
Harty - Short Field
Waterman - Left Field
Fraser - Centre Field
Hunter - Right Field
Hammon - Pitcher & Fielder

Golfing in the "can"

A golf club also arrived from the Red Cross and Ted West, a former golf Pro from B.C. undertook to teach me the game. We spent hours out by the fence swinging "the Club". He claimed that I would break 100 the first time I played. I didn't but was not too far off. Ted was later killed in a helicopter accident in B.C.

Robert Stanford Tuck

I knew Tuck in 1944 in Stalag Luft 3. In fact, he saved my hide on one occasion. It was shortly after the big escape when 75 got out and 56 were shot. The "Goons" were pretty jumpy and had just found another tunnel under the old theatre building which was out of bounds. I was playing catch with Larson when the ball rolled under the building and I crawled under to retrieve it.
A guard in a tower spotted me and went berserk.
I was clearly "for it" when Tuck intervened by roaring at the guard in his excellent German. It took several minutes but Tuck eventually calmed him down and I disappeared.
Tuck was a tall, debonair RAF type, always well dressed with a polka-dot neckpiece. During the Battle of Britain he was the "darling" of Mayfair society and the top RAF fighter pilot. My next recollection of him was during our march to Lukenwalde during the winter of '44. We stopped for the night at a large farm complex with one small heated building in the centre of the compound. There were a couple of Polish women working on the farm and Tuck engaged a very large peasant woman in a most serious conversation. He had her backed up against the wall and was pouring out all of his pent-up charm. I wondered at the time if the poor girl had any idea what a "gallant" she had captured. The next time I saw him, he was walking at the Queen's elbow at a Buckingham Palace garden party, immaculately dressed and as handsome as they come.


Photo Album

ITS Belleville
No.5 ITS Belleville, Spring 1942. Buck is standing 3rd row, 3rd from the left

Tiger Moth trainer Harvard
Spitfires of 401 sqn. Spitfires of 401 sqn.
Two shots of some 401 Spits doing their thing

Hennifer Goatly - 401 Mascot until he started eating Spits. Buck found her a good home.
Transpot plane
Post-war transport (Convair 580) flown by Buck

Government House Ottawa, 13th July, 1961

Dear Flight Lieutenant Buckle[s],

As you know the Governor-General and Madame Vanier were most grateful to you for your services during their tour to the North. Although they did not see a great deal of you, they realized that you were always standing by. They very much enjoyed their flights in the Dakota 1000 and they have asked me to send you the enclosed with their warmest thanks and good wishes.
Yours sincerely,

Esmond Butler, Secretary to the Governor-General.

Flight Lieutenant R. J. Buckle[s], 412 Squadron R.C.A.F., Uplands, Ottawa.


401 squadron
401 Sq. at Staplehurst, 1943

You can see a larger version of this photo here

Buck's thoughts on the men in this pic


1) Don Kelly: His father represented an American company from New York and retained a smashing flat in London during the war. Bill (Buck calls him Bill here, not sure if they actually did or if his memory is a little off, but at 90, if he's wrong, we'll forgive him) used to invite friends to stay with him when in London and a fine time was had by all. He did have a few problems with the aircraft however. On one occasion he flew my aircraft when I was on leave in London and scraped the drop tank off on a tree. It was repaired but I never felt that it was right. Eventually, Bill was posted from the Squadron to a job pulling drogues, a terrible disappointment. He did not show up for the morning briefing and I was sent to the barracks to find him. I found him in his room. He had put his 38 Smith & Wesson in his mouth and fired it. Such a waste it now seems.

2) Jack Sheppard (DFC): A Flight Commander and a fine fellow. When I arrived at the Squadron I was under suspicion because I had taken a prop off while flying in close formation just before leaving the Operational Training Unit. My assessment read, "needs formation practice” but that was really my best quality! I flew a bit with the CO, Jeep Neal, and he was quite satisfied. That wasn't good enough I felt, so a couple of days later when we were up chasing around dog fighting I latched onto Sheppard's tail and would not let him go. He did run through a lot of maneuvers to no avail as it was really my best skill. At the end he made a very low pass over the field and I broke it off. My need for formation practice was not mentioned again. The last word I heard from him was when I was at 500 feet with an engine on fire, I said "I’m bailing out." He said, "Don't bail out - head South."

3) Bill Klersy (DSO, DFC & Bar): A great guy! Went through the whole war, and became a squadron leader. Near the end of the war he was leading the Squadron to some point in Germany when his engine failed and he crashed and was killed. He was a great guy and initiated many escapades. When we went to Biggin Hill from 126 Airfield at Staplehurst the Officers Mess had been taken over by RAF Regiment Officers who were charged with guarding the airport. We had been living in tents in preparation for airport life on the Continent and it was very cold and uncomfortable. The RAF Regiment officers were 1st War types who were too old for most duties but did love the Mess and had taken it over. Jeep Neal, our CO was met by the Station Adjutant and informed that there was no room in the Mess and that we would need to use the former Airmen's quarters. Jeep called him to attention and said — "I will give you one hour to find quarters in the Mess for my Officers''!!! The RAF types found room in a hurry and we moved in. The other two Squadrons accepted the Airmen’s quarters.
The RAF Regiment officers remained in the Mess and really took it over. When we returned to the Mess after whatever operations the day had seen, all armchairs would be occupied and all newspapers would be in use. A favorite response was "Where were you in the Battle of Britain?" Our only response could be - "in Canada." FINALLY — We returned to the Mess and found it fully occupied and our group completely ignored. All of the newspapers were in use. Around the room, all newspapers were quietly ignited as the readers continued to read. Suddenly, the papers burst into flames. THEN — a chorus went up "Where were you in the Battle of Britain, you old Bastard!" The Mess gradually became a more agreeable place but the odd emphasis was required — such as the need to paint the Butt of a particularly obnoxious Mess manager with red paint and place it directly above the bar.

4) Bob Hayward (DSO, DFC): From St. John's - a fine fellow indeed. He stayed with the Squadron for some time and had a fine record.

5) Billy Bishop, the second: What a handicap — to have a father as famous as Billy Bishop! He was a fine fellow but his flying skills were a bit limited. Nevertheless, he was popular indeed. On one occasion we were flying toward France above a solid layer of cloud. Suddenly Bishop nosed over and went straight down into the cloud deck. We closed up and continued toward France, all wondering. On returning to Biggin Hill we were pleased to see Bishop there. He had leaned forward to adjust his compass, when the whole seat rocked forward and drove his face into the instrument panel, forcing him down into the cloud. He managed to recover but could not rejoin. A miracle indeed. The oxygen tank had been replaced behind the seat but the seat had not been locked in place! Jeep Neal took over, and nailed the maintenance staff with a vengeance! Bill wrote several books about Squadron life.

6) RJB (That's Buck).

7) LAC Pudge: A Clerk from the Orderly Room.

8) Jeep Neal (DFC) 401 Squadron CO: From Quebec City, a well-liked and effective person. On one of my early Sweeps in a Spit V, before crossing the coast, another Spit pulled up beside me and lowered his gear. I checked that my wheels were up but again he lowered his gear. I checked the wing stubs which stand up when a wheel is not up. No radio contact was permitted so I understood that I should return for a landing, which I did. Unfortunately, the aircraft I was flying did not have wheel stubs installed to show gear position and they were trying to say - a wheel is down. Neal said that "I had my finger up to the elbow - and Hooked Over." On another occasion, Jeep was leading the Squadron back to base along the South coast when we ran into very bad weather and could not get inland as anticipated. Fuel was very low. One said, "I've got 10 gallons." Another said, "I've less than that and am heading towards shore." Jeep said, "If anyone leaves formation I will shoot your ass off.” Nobody left. Shortly afterwards Jeep got a radar steer and we turned toward shore and landed at Tangmere. I never saw the ground but hung onto Jeep like a leach until almost on the ground. All got in and in the morning a note on the board called our flight "Practice Navigation Exercise." Jeep was not amused!
I never saw him again until a Squadron reunion in Ottawa. He had Alzheimer’s and did not recognize me.


1) Kent [?] (May be the first name of F/O Evans)
2) Al Stevens
3) Bill Tew - all fine lads but I cannot remember much about them.

4) Al Studholme: A very fine fellow who recently died. He lived in Toronto and I stayed at his home on one occasion with Doreen. During a sweep in 1944 he was involved in a major engagement with a bunch of 109's and became separated from the Squadron. Later, he saw them well above him and climbed towards them. TOO LATE - they weren't Spits but 109's! They saw him about the same time and turned on him with a vengeance. He was shot down and became a POW in another camp to mine.

5) Norm Maybee: One of my closest friends. He was an excellent pilot but seemed to attract problems. Before joining 401, he flew Hurricanes with Bostons on Night Fighter work. The idea was that the Hurricane would formate on the Boston, which would be vectored onto the enemy and thus allow the Hurricane to shoot it down. A most cumbersome endeavour and dangerous indeed! Maybee and I considered ourselves the best in the business but had little opportunity to show it. Originally, we were both Sgt. Pilots until I was commissioned and forced to move to the Officer's Mess. Initially, I chose to stay with the NCOs but was told by Neal - "get out of that NCO tent!”
Norm followed me in a loop one day until, at the top, I chose to do a roll off the top. He was so close that he lost sight of me and had to break off. Effective but stupid I called it.
When I was shot down Maybee and Morrissey went rushing back to England to tell my friend Winnie about the incident. During a cross-over Morrissey cut off Maybee's tail and they both ended in the bag. Justice indeed. I never saw them until after the war.
He called from a police station once. He had found a cutlass somewhere and went into a pub and smashed the blade into the bar and roared "the bar is Open." The police released him in my custody and off we went, probably to another bar.

6) Bill McRae: Notice his boots - Full Wellingtons! I borrowed those boots on the day I was shot down and fine boots they were. I had forgotten about borrowing them until at a Sqdn. Reunion many years later someone said to me "McRae is looking for you." His first words were, "Where are my Boots?" He was right, and I did remember. I sent him a small pair of Eskimo mukluks and he seemed satisfied.

7) WC Keith Hodson (OBE, DSO, DFC & BAR, DFC [US], CdeG w/ Gold Star [Fr.]) Wing Leader of 126 Airfield: A wonderful person. I flew with him several times and really liked him. After the war, he was flying a T-bird to Colorado Springs when he had an engine failure. He bailed out and was caught on the aircraft and killed. A major loss to the RCAF as there were not many like him.

8) Tex Saunders (Sanders): A good fellow although I cannot remember much more about him.

The fire was always going – using 100 octane mixed with water works well !


Victories Include

20 Dec. 1943 one Ju188 damaged

0 / 0 / 1


Bob Buckles
Post war RCAF Officer

Unit Instrument Check Pilot

"'Unit Instrument Check Pilot' was a course I took when I first rejoined the Air Force. At the commencement of the course, the instructors threw a party for all the students. Then at the end of the course they stated that students had to pay $4.50 for unit instrument check pilot crests. I said I didn't want a crest. Later I was asked to take two student pilots from Winnipeg on a five day trip to the United States to depart 2-3 days before completion of the course. I asked to be released from the course but they wouldn't because I hadn't finished the course until I purchased the UICP crest."

His Assessment

26 March 1964 - "F/L Buckles could have done much better during the ground school portion of the UICP course. His comments, when given, were most enlightening to other course members and staff, but unfortunately these comments came too infrequently because of a tendency to doze off and dream of World War I exploits. He evidently learned little about the criteria for instrument approach procedures because an assigned project, a VOR approach procedure for Winnipeg airport, could not be flown by a swallow, let alone an airoplane. The content of an assigned project, should the RCAF Make Further Purchases of ILS Ground Equipment, was more suitable for a night club comedy skit than the UICP classroom. I must admit that I haven't laughed as much since my mother caught her tits in the wringer.
F/L Buckles is more suited as a tractor driver than as a pilot, but even then he could be dangerous.  He has no knowledge of instrument procedures or regulations but doubt that this is a requirement in his future employment. Not withstanding these reasons, he could carry out the duties of a UICP; but he does not have the one thing essential for a UICP - a crest. For this reason, he does not qualify as a UICP."


Buck & his lovely wife Elinor
Buck & Elinor at their home in Ottawa in July of 2013. Elinor's 1st husband had been a Navigator on bombers during WW2. She has her private pilot's licence and won the "Outstanding Lady Student of 1972" award from Orillia Air Services. Both fantastic people and a real pleasure to meet.




Thanks to "Buck" & Elinor Buckles for the photos & infos !

top     home

All content should be considered the property of the contributers and/or The Canadian Fighter Pilot & Air Gunner Museum - unless otherwise noted