WESTERN AIRMAN GIVES HIS LIFE IN OLD COUNTRY
Ottawa, 2 Oct. 1940 — (CP) — The Royal Canadian Air force, in its 13th casualty list, today reported three deaths, one of them in a flying battle overseas, and one man missing, believed drowned, in Canada. Today's list brought R.C.A.F. dead and missing, since official casualty lists were issued early in July, to 30.
Native of Eckville
The other casualties listed, their regimental numbers and next of kin:
Wing Cmdr. Grenville Hammerton Shaw, RAF-22174, Mrs. Elizabeth Marian Shaw (wife), 1607 Selkirk Street, Westmount, Que., F/O Donald Sydney Thomson Young, C-1806, Mrs. Edna Clayton Young (wife), 312 Cooper Street, Ottawa.
Severely injured in flying accident:
F/O Charles Cecil Moran, C-1063, Mrs. Frank Moran (mother), R.K. No. 4, Trenton, Ont.
(By D.E. BURRITT) With the Royal Canadian Air Force in Scotland, 3 Jan. 1940 - (CP) – In the solitude of the Scottish hills, members of Canada's No. 1 fighter squadron of the R.C.A.F. are preparing to return to action.
For weeks they have been confined to patrol flying so they might "rest" after their scores of battles in the defense of Britain during those hectic hours which reached their climax in the memorable days of last September and October. Then it was a matter of round after round of fighting almost from dawn to dusk, beating back the German's never-ending attempts to break through to London.
Since they left the London area the Canadians have been out of battle. But they have kept in trim through "sham battles" in which they practice intricate fighting maneuvers and keep in practice the machine guns that brought down nearly four-score German machines, an average of almost seven for every machine lost in action by the Canadians.
It is a brilliant record for a squadron hurled into action almost upon arrival in England last June.
It was the deeply instilled sense of teamwork that made the Canadians so formidable a force in helping turn back the invading air masses.
The group-fighting spirit with which they are imbued was kindled by the fiery teaching of their former squadron leader, Ernest McNab of Regina, now wing commander at an R.A.F. station.
These teachings have been continued through the "lay-off" by Sqdn. Ldr. G.R. McGregor of Montreal, who, like his predecessor, is holder of the D.F.C.
One of the oldest fighting pilots in the Empire, McGregor carries lightly his thirty-nine years and has been all through the squadron's numerous engagements.
He just smiles if you ask the number of planes he has brought down and explains, "We don't work that way." Instead, all victories are credited to the squadron, even to the newest pilots brought up to fill the vacancies caused by the death of three men in battle, Flying Officer R. L. Edwards of Cobourg, Ont.; Flying Officer Ross Smither of London, Ont., and Flying Officer Otto John Peterson of Eckville, Sask., whose widow lives in Halifax.
Members of No.1 Squadron 12 Sept. 1940. Peterson is 2nd from the left. For photo details click here
Canadian Ace Says Mouth Dries Up Like Wool
Under Intense Excitement of Plunging Into Air Battle With Invading Huns
(By Wing Commander Ernest A. McNab, D.F.C. 7 May 1941) - The British people are wonderful to the air force once they are convinced of your identity. The boys of No. 1 Fighter Squadron and the other squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force over there are enjoying themselves immensely amongst the British.
My own squadron was a composite unit formed from the Active Auxiliary Air Force and from the permanent Air Force. At the time it was formed, I was at an east coast aerodrome in Canada with the original No. 1 Fighter Squadron of the R.C.A.F. There were nine pilots in this outfit and we were joined by the No. 115 Squadron of Montreal and a few others from various parts of Canada. We trained and went overseas in June, completely equipped with Hurricane fighters, motor trucks and all the repair shops. We were ready for service in France but we were doomed to disappointment. Any hope of going to France was dashed when we heard on the radio while still two days out from England that France had capitulated.
We were sent to an aerodrome near the Salisbury plains to complete our training and unpack our equipment. We moved a little later to Croydon and then to the northern outskirts of London.
In First Fight
It fell to my lot to be the first one of our bunch to get into the fighting. As squadron leader I went up on August 15 with a neighboring R.A.F. squadron. We headed for the south coast and ran into a large formation of Messerschmitt 109's over Kent.
There is nothing to compare with the excitement of plunging into an air battle like that. Your mouth dries up like cotton wool. Flying Officer Dal Russel, of Montreal, who was in my squadron, was chewing gum when he went into his first scramble. He had to pick bits of gum from the roof of his mouth afterwards.
We swept into the 109's this day and the guns started spitting. You lose all sense of space and time in a fight like that. It is hide and seek in the clouds, a sharp clash with a German, and then more hunting.
Suddenly the commanding officer and I were alone. We didn't know where the others and the 109's had gone. We were directed from the ground to hurry over to a point over the Thames estuary, where we soon spotted two Dornier 215 bombers headed for the sea.
The C.O. attacked one from the left side and I wheeled and jumped on the other from the right. I fired at mine and he turned south, losing height. I turned and had another crack at him. I must have got the rear gunner, for he stopped firing and the right-hand engine started to smoke.
I drew off but followed him because they sometimes fake a mortal hit. Sure enough, he flattened out at 1,000 feet and scooted for home. I attacked a third time and fired a two-second burst from my eight guns. His other engine stopped and he turned over and dropped into the marshes, landing with the wheels up.
I found out later that the pilot was badly wounded and the three other members of the crew were dead. Meanwhile the C.O. had disabled his bomber before his Hurricane ran out of ammunition.
That night Croydon was bombed and we moved to the north of the city. Next day was the first show our squadron went on as a unit. We went on our first patrol shortly after 4 a.m. and did three more patrols before we knocked off at 8 o'clock that night, but we didn't meet a Hun. Much of our work had been flying protective patrols while other squadrons were down on the ground refueling and rearming.
Two days later we ran into our first fight and it was a big one. We came up over London and met more than 60 German bombers over the estuary. It was certainly an awful and awe-inspiring sight to see those ugly black bombers in rank after rank, stepped up in layers with the lowest layer foremost.
We flew right into them with all guns blazing and broke up their formation. I think our score was four destroyed for certain and three or four most certainly damaged and perhaps destroyed.
We were outnumbered five to one, and had some losses ourselves. Flying Officer Leslie Edwards, of Toronto, was fatally wounded and Flight-Lieut. Jean Paul Desloges, of Ottawa, and I were shot down. We were not wounded and landed safely. Our aircraft were soon back in service again.
Flight-Lieut. Hartland Molson, of Montreal, was in a bad spot for a minute on that day. Edwards, Desloges and I were in the first section of three planes and naturally bore the brunt of the enemy's fire in that first moment of collision. Molson flew along behind us and the first thing he knew he was right in the very middle of those 60 German bombers. There were bombers below him and bombers in front, behind and on either side. They were as much surprised as he was and hadn't the wit to fire at him. He shot up out of the top of that formation as fast as the Hurricane would take him.
Speaking of formations, Squadron Leader Gordie McGregor, of Montreal, had his own troubles one day. Sometimes 109's look very much like Hurricanes. Gordie was leading his Hurricanes and saw what looked like two more of them loafing along higher up. He waggled his wings to signal them to join the formation and promptly put them out of mind. A second or so later large pieces of his wings disappeared and bullets cut a little track across his fuselage. The "stragglers" were 109's and had swung in on his tail. He played a regular Annie Laurie on his rudder bars before he managed to shake them off. When he got back he found a cannon shell had just about taken one wing off. Large pieces of aeroplane flying about the sky can be very dangerous to others as well.
One misstep of mine almost cost me dearly. I was concentrating on a 109, trying to shoot it down, and forgot to look behind me, with the result that another got on my tail. Little "Pete" Peterson, an Alberta boy, saw it in a flash and hightailed to my assistance. I didn't know anything about it until later, but Pete came in too fast and was within 50 feet of the 109 when he let go with his eight guns.
The German aircraft simply disintegrated in front of him and he flew right through the wreckage. His Hurricane was a wreck. Pieces of the 109 smashed it. The heavy windscreen in front of his face was smashed and so was the cockpit cover. It was a wonder his aeroplane stayed in the sky, but he limped home somehow and made a landing.
By Will Power
He crawled from the cockpit with his face a red mask. His eyes were streaming with water. The medical officer grabbed his hands so that he could not rub his eyes. The medical officer said later, he had taken a couple of teaspoonfuls of glass fragments from Pete's eyes. It must have required extraordinary will power for him to keep from rubbing his eyes during his painful flight home from an altitude of more than 20,000 feet. Peterson was fatally wounded a couple of weeks after he had returned to flying duty.
A little later we ran into a large number of 109's a little higher than 20,000 feet. Their formation broke up under the impact and the squadron pursued them individually. I tried to rally the squadron around me again but could only collect Dal Russel, the Montrealer, and Flying Officer Norris from Saskatoon. We climbed back towards London.
Russel said over the wireless: "Bombers above." There were twin-engined fighters, about 30 of the Messerschmitt 110's, in a defensive circle above the bombers. We climbed and got the sun at our backs before we attacked. Then we formed in line astern, or follow the leader, and dove down to attack.
We cut into the inside of the circle, only in the opposite direction, and had a shot at each one as it passed. The three of us got in some good shooting.
I fired at the second or third in the circle and he broke away and dove for home with me after him. His rear gunner stopped firing and a minute later his left engine caught fire. I ran out of ammunition and another Hurricane came in close. The 110 suddenly rolled over and dove into the ground from 1,000 feet. Russel and another chap got another Hun, and the others scurried for home, closely pursued by Hurricanes and Spitfires which had come up to help us.
Halifax, 8 June 1940
Dear Mum & Dad,
I received your letter a couple of days ago but put off writing until I found out how things are. Here it is.
We leave sometime very soon and should be going to England but of course we don’t know. No one received any leave but we have had a lot of time off. And we sure have been trying to get as much fun as possible in what time we’ve had. Things are all fixed – Helen is going to stay with her folks and I’m leaving the car with her so that she can have a little enjoyment this summer.
Of course we don’t like to leave everything here but someone has to win this darn war. I only hope we get lots of training & get some real fast planes when we do get going.
Things look a little better over there now – but it’s still bad. We only hope that everything will turn out well in the long run. I’ll be thinking of you plenty & will keep looking forward to the day we can come back. I’m sure things will go along very well & I’ll do my darndest to look after myself. Glad to hear everything is fine over there. Say hello to Harold & Kaye for me.
My new address
C900 Flying Officer O.J. Peterson
c/o Base Post Office
I’ll write when I get on the boat & mail it as soon as I get over to the other side. Lots of love & so on to all of you.
P.S. I hope I get to see Pete & his wife. Helen will write soon.
England, 7 July
Dear Mum & Dad, Brother & Sis,
My gosh what an awful long introduction, but I guess it includes everybody.
How are you all?
I guess things out there are much the same as usual. I imagine that you hardly know there’s a war on. But over here things are much different – you realize that there’s something doing somewhere. Of course I cant tell you what’s happening here – but the papers print quit a lot of although not all of it by a long shot. I’ve seen plenty of bombs fall lately but most of them were at a good distance from where I was.
We are settling down to a period of training – in fact, I’m now at Uxbridge on a wireless & tactics course. It is very interesting but only lasts four days – then I go back to our squadron. We were at one station two weeks and then on Friday we had to move to Croydon near London. Then on Saturday I had to come to Uxbridge on this course. So, you can see that I’m getting all over the country without much time to become acquainted with any one spot.
England certainly is a beautiful country. It reminds me a lot of parts of Ontario. Very, very beautiful.
I’ve got to get out now and will finish this after dinner.
I imagine you’ve either received a letter from Pam & Pete or will receive one soon telling you that I was up to see them. I had four days leave a week ago. I spent one day and & night in London & the rest of the time I was visiting Pam & Pete. At that time Pete was up near Oxford. On the way up I stopped off at Pam’s place & had dinner & then went on up with Pam on the train. I spent Sat. Sunday & Mon. up there & had a wonderful time. I had the use of Pete’s Army car & driver all the time I was there so I really got around a lot. Oxford is one of the nicest cities I’ve ever been in.
Pete is looking very well indeed. He weighs over 190 lbs. but is feeling fine. Of course he was in camp but Pam took a room near the camp & Pete saw here quite a bit every night for a few hours. During the day I was with her quite a bit. She certainly is a nice girl - very friendly & lots of fun. She not bad looking but wears no makeup except for powder. If Helen made her up she’d really look nice. Of course she is good looking even as she is. She certainly is in love with Pete & I certainly don’t blame him for being in love with her. Her parents are very nice too.
I came back to my Sqdn. On Tues. morning & Pete’s branch had to move that morning too so Pam had to pack up again & I went most of the way home with her. She moved all over but she’s always near Pete even if she has to get up & move every other day. Yes sir he really got a nice wife.
I’m finished my course today (Mon) & am going back to the Sqdn. Tonight or tomorrow morning early. I’m invited out to a small party at a Sqdn. Leader’s home in Uxbridge. I may miss the last train & if I do, I’ll have to catch a train at about 5:30 in the morning.
Well, I guess I’d better get some supper & get cleaned up for tonight.
All my love,
P.S. I sure miss Helen a lot. I’d give anything to get back to Canada.
Sunday, 11 August
Dear Mum & Dad & Brother & Sis,
How are you all? I’ll just bet it’s nice to be out there now. In fact I’d give an awful lot to be there now myself. But one should never kick at the way things break.
I received your letter on Friday. It sure takes a long time for a letter to arrive – between three and four weeks – all depending on how long it has to wait for a convoy. I imagine a few ships are being sunk now & then too. So it’s very probable that some mail may be lost, but here’s hoping this doesn’t go astray because I’m sending some pictures in it.
Last Sunday Pam’s folks, Pete & Pam drove down here & took me for a drive. We visited some of their friends & had a very enjoyable evening. Pete had a 48. I still haven’t had any leave except the first four days shore leave. In fact we’ve been working like slaves for the last 10 days – from 7 a.m. till 7 or 8 p.m. every day – on a course at another station – we fly over in the morning and fly back at night.
In fact we’re moving to this other station this week sometime.
Helen wants to come over alright but I said nothing doing till things are settled and gosh only knows when that will be. Things are certainly picking up over here a lot lately. I’ve been pretty close to some big doings but so far have had nothing to worry about.
We will be getting a lot of advanced training & don’t expect to go operational for a month approximately. So we will be very busy for the next month & after that, things will start popping in earnest. We will do our best & I’ll certainly do my best to look after myself – but there’s nothing to worry about because worry does no good. I’ve got a lot to look forward to in future years with Helen, so I intend to be one of those who comes back – my chances are very good – in fact a lot better than most, so here’s hoping.
So Hazel has three now, how many boys? I’ll bet she’s plenty fat now hey what?
Say hello to them & to the Hansons when you see them again. In fact, say hello to everybody for me.
Pete & Pam are both fine & dandy – they sure are in love & she’s certainly crazy about him – she’s a very nice girl and her folks are darn nice too. I’ve had two parcels & some cigs from Helen already. She sent me chocolates, nuts, jars of jam, gum, razor blades, etc. darn good and very thoughtful of her. She’s still in love with me I think. I sure miss her a lot – this damn war sure is making a lot of people miserable.
Well it’s time I get to bed so goodnight folks – all my love
Your loving son,
P.S. Write soon.
Thursday, 29 August
Dear Mum, Dad, Brother & Sis
How are you all? I guess just the same as ever hey what? Of course things out there never change. But they certainly are happening out here.
Our squadron has been operational about two weeks now, but I haven’t seen much action yet. In fact, two days after we went operational I took sick some sort of stomach flu & was I ever sick from Sunday till Thurs., in fact I didn’t care whether I died or not. Then on Thurs. the Doc sent me on sick leave & I’ve been on sick leave till today. The first few days I didn’t enjoy my leave much. I felt too rotten. I visited Pete & Pam & spent two days with Mr. & Mrs. Peters then I went up to Oxford & visited some friends there & had a very quiet time but thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, I hated coming back this morning but back I came. So from now on it’s work & plenty of it.
I get 24 hrs. off every third day – not bad hey but you really work for two days so you need a day to rest up. It’s not bad actually I guess, as long as you can keep alive which is one thing we all hope to be able to do – but if your time has come its come so why worry.
But actually I’d give a good deal to be back in Canada again. It’s pretty darn lonely over here without Helen. All we can do is wait for letters & then write letters. I’m getting tired of writing – it’s too monotonous, but I guess I’ll just keep writing letters every other day or so – it kills a lot of time & makes you feel a lot better after you’ve written a letter or so. I get a lot of letters from Helen & I write a lot.
By the way I’ve just sent you $150.00. It should get to you about the same time that this letter does. So please let me know as soon as you get it. It’s out of my own saving here & is for you Mum & Dad to do whatever you wish – it’s yours & I hope I can send some more over in the future. I’m not spending so very much & I’m sure that I’ll save quite a bit. I also sent Helen $150.00 to put into our joint account which she doesn’t touch till I get back.
Pam & Pete are together quite a bit & are enjoying themselves – they’ve got a little car but want to buy another one better, in fact they want to borrow £20 from me but I’d already sent off all my spare cash over to you & Helen so they’re out of luck. I’ll send you some snaps in my next letter. How about sending me some snaps?
Well there’s the "at readiness" signal so I’ve got to run. Bye for now.
All my love & kisses,
Your loving son,
Thursday, September 26
Dear Mum & Dad, brother & Sis
Hello everybody, how are you all? I hope that all of you are still alive. If a letter doesn’t arrive soon I’ll soon think that you are. But of course the mail service is god awful. It takes anywhere from three to four weeks for a letter from Helen. But I’m still waiting for a letter from you folks.
Things over here are really humming as you must know from all the papers. London certainly doesn’t look like it did a month ago. In fact, quite a few places look a lot different than they used to. This darn night bombing is ruining London and keeping a lot of people sleepless. But I must admit that I sleep through most of it. In fact quite a few bombs dropped very close to here last night but very little damage was done.
We are working very hard – actually we are on the station and on call from before daybreak till dusk every day so we are really hoping that the weather will get bad very soon. I hope so for the weather has been wonderful for everything except war – clear & warm.
We have now been on operations for about 6 weeks – my sickness kept me out for 2 weeks. Did I tell you about it? Just as we went operational I caught stomach flu or something. The Doc thinks it was food poisoning that grounded me for two weeks – so I’ve only been operational for 4 weeks. But I’m top man in Germans. I’ve got 6½ to my credit. The CO has maybe the same but no more – he doesn’t say exactly & I cant find out just how many he has. But at any rate he & I are way ahead of the rest. The next nearest has 3½.
I’ve got 1 Junkers 88, 3 Messerschmitt 109s, 1 Messerschmitt 110 and 2½ Dornier 215s. Not a bad bag. I hope things keep as rosy for me.
One of the 109s which I shot blew up in front of me & part of his cannon hit my bulletproof windscreen & shattered it. My eyes were filled with glass but I had enough sense not to touch them. I couldn’t see a thing, but straightened out level flight at 1500 feet – the flight started at 20,000. I then flew home about 40 miles with hardly any sight. I landed safely & the Doc picked out ¼ teaspoon of glass from my eye but there wasn’t a scratch on either eye.
My face was plenty cut though. But I was back flying in two days. That’s all so far. Here’s pouching wood. I received Harold & Kaye’s letter from Pete & Pam – glad to hear that he has a teacherage & I really envy him – I wish Helen and I were as lucky.
All my love,
"Pete" was killed in action the very next day
| 1 Sept 1940
4 Sept 1940
9 Sept 1940
18 Sept 1940
25 Sept 1940
2.5 / 1 / 2
In his last letter (above) he says his score is 6.5 but then lists 7.5. Above list shows 5.5
 "In the early afternoon, when 160 aircraft crossed the coast over Dover and struck inland towards Biggin Hill and Kenley, 11 fighter squadrons were ordered up to engage them. McGregor and nine other pilots of No. I were scrambled and intercepted a force of over 20 bombers, protected by a strong fighter screen, approaching Biggin Hill at 18,000 ft. In a head-on attack the Canadians broke up the formation. McGregor destroyed one bomber and probably destroyed another and Peterson, Christmas and Kerwin each damaged one of the bandits. The scattered remains of the Hun formation turned tail and ran for the coast." RCAF Overseas 1
 "The events of September 4th could not have been arranged better had they been deliberately staged. For on this day a party of Canadian journalists visited the squadron and had impressed on them the very vital part being taken by the “Fighting First” in the defence of Britain. The events of the whole day moved like clockwork, for scarcely had the newspapermen arrived than 11 aircraft of the squadron were scrambled to intercept a raid of from 12 to 15 Me. 110 Jaguars over East Grinstead. The actions of the invaders were ample proof that they had learned a lesson in the earlier stages of the Battle of Britain, for immediately the Hurricanes were observed the Nazis formed a defensive circle.
By this maneuver, in direct contravention of the rule that “offence is the best defence”, the Huns lost the first round of the battle. It allowed the Canadian leader, McGregor, more freedom of action and he took his formation into the sun 3,000 ft. above the bandits, from which point of vantage he ordered individual attacks on the circling Nazis. The results were none other than might be expected. Two enemy aircraft were shot down, a third was probably destroyed and six others were damaged. The victors in this engagement were Nesbitt and Smither, each of whom accounted for one in flames. Russel was credited with one probably destroyed, Molson with two damaged and McGregor, Peterson and Smither with one each damaged, while Russel was also credited with damaging a Ju. 88. The encouraging note in this scramble was that a brilliant victory was won by the Canadians without the loss of either aircraft or personnel. And thanks to the co-operation of the enemy, the Canadian newspapermen had an excellent story to cable home to their papers!" RCAF Overseas 1
 "Before arriving at its objective, McNab’s formation ran into the fighter escort of another raid and a battle royal ensued. In the encounter, which soon developed into a screaming dogfight, one Me.109 was destroyed by Peterson, two were damaged by F/O P. W. Lochnan and one by McNab. So successful was Peterson’s attack and at such close quarters was it fought that his propeller was damaged and his windscreen broken by fragments of the Me. 109, which had blown to bits under his fire. Fragments of glass and perspex cut his face and so obscured his vision that he lost 11,000 ft. before he could see his instruments and when he regained control he was only 1,500 ft. up. Naturally, he returned to his base with all possible speed–and fortunately without serious injury." RCAF Overseas 1
 "In one engagement Peterson was credited with one Me. 109 destroyed and one probably destroyed, after having climbed to 27,000 ft. in an effort to meet the G.A.F. on its own level." RCAF Overseas 1
 "On the 25th, after the customary wing formation, Peterson and Russel were dispatched to intercept a single enemy aircraft, a Do. 215. They drove it into the sea–the Observer Corps confirmed their claim." RCAF Overseas 1
Thanks go out to Perry & Vonda for the photos & infos !
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