For your information

Bruce McNair added this comment after he sent this picture of his father with fellow pilots.

Dad Rod number 6 course


Glad you liked the photo.  Rod was a lanky 6’5″ and Dad a stocky 5’11”.  They were a good team.  In the photo, on the left front is Arthur Bishop, son of Billy.  Arthur is a bit of a legend himself.  You will see his signature on the silver tray a photograph of which I sent you.  I was in touch with Arthur up until he died.  He was a fiesty, undefeated fighter to the end.  On the far right, front, is Chuck Charlesworth, who remained friends with Dad and Rod after the conflict was over.

Four pilots are now positively identified.

443 pilots four identification

Dad Rod number 6 course close up

Rod Smith and Buck McNair

443 pilots Charlesworth's picture

Chuck Charlesworth

And now Arthur Bishop, the son of the legendary Billy Bishop.

Arthur Bishop

Arthur Bishop

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No. 6 Course 58 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit)

John Englested just commented on today’s post and I was quick to react when I read it.

For Bruce McNair:

Thank you for posting these things about your father.

Do you have his logbook(s)? I would be very interested to know which Spitfires he flew to Malta on the 9th and the 18th of May 1942.

John Engelsted

This is one was addressed to me.

I think it is worth mentioning that No. 6 Course was at 58 OTU, May – June 1941.

Dad Rod number 6 course

And I thought it was taken at No. 31 SFTS Kingston.

Honest mistake again…

John is an expert on pilots who flew Spitfires. Not only Spitfires but also Hurricanes. His passion is looking at logbooks and finding information about the missions flown by these pilots.

So when John writes a comment, I always listen and act fast.

Thanks John.

I know why I was all excited yesterday

I know why I was all excited yesterday when Bruce McNair sent me this picture of his father with some new pilots.

I will tell you why I posted an article on the wrong blog. 

It was about the caption.

Dad Rod number 6 course

Front Row…

Look at then name at the end of the row.


I have been searching for that pilot whose picture was missing from Art Sager’s WWII memorabilia that I posted on my blog about RCAF 443 Squadron.

443 pilots Charlesworth

I recently posted this story on RCAF No. 443 about Paul Piché, a pilot who was killed on October 11, 1944. When I saw Charlesworth’s name in Bruce’s picture of his father, I jumped the gun and posted the No. 6 Course picture on that blog instead of this one.

Honest mistake…

Dad Rod number 6 course

Where did Buck McNair got his wings?

I knew where to look.

Robert Wendell McNair was born on May 15, 1919 in Springfield, Nova Scotia. He spent his boyhood in the Annapolis Valley and in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. His family had relocated there during the depression looking for work. He completed high school in North Battleford in 1937 with good marks. He went to work for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Natural Resources as a ground wireless (radio) operator.

Then the war started in September, 1939. He continued work for a while until it became clear that this was not to be a quick war. He enrolled in the RCAF in June 1940 and went through the usual training regimen, attending schools in Toronto (No.1 ITS), Windsor (No.7 EFTS) and Kingston (No.31 SFTS). He graduated as a pilot on March 24, 1941.


That group picture could have been taken at No. 31 S.F.T.S. Kingston, Ontario.

Dad Rod number 6 course

And this has to be Chuck Charlesworth at the end of the first row.

443 pilots Charlesworth identification

443 pilots Charlesworth's picture

Chuck Charlesworth

I know Chuck Charlesworth survived the war because his name is not listed on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and Art Sager would have written a note on this page.

443 pilots Charlesworth picture

I wonder how many pilots from No. 6 Course survived the war.

I know Rod Smith and Buck McNair did.

Dad Rod number 6 course close up

Rod Smith and Buck McNair

For more on Rob Smith, you can read what I posted on him and his brother Jerry.

If you have any comment or want to contact me, just fill out the form, or write a comment in the comment section.

Just a picture

I posted this on the wrong blog. I hope you will forgive me for this.

RCAF No. 443 Squadron


I was too excited and I posted this on the wrong blog!

Proceed with your reading anyway…

Bruce McNair just sent this.

Dad Rod number 6 course

With this personal message…

Hi Pierre,

I won’t tax you with mon francais fracturé here, so relax!  As you have been chatting about Rod and my Dad on your blog , I thought you might be i interested in this photo.  This was taken on graduation, Course Number 6.  They now knew how to fly!  The names are set out and I have blown up the relevant part, showing Rod on the left and Dad on the right.  It was all ahead of them- war, madness, scrambles, ramrods,  heart-ache and ultimately, victory.  Most didn’t make it to 1945.  Dad lived until 1971, Rod until 2002.



Just a picture?

Think again.

Dad Rod number 6 course close up

Click here to get redirected to my 403 blog.

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The Legendary Smith Brothers, Spitfire Pilots Redux

Bruce McNair pays homage to the Smith Brothers with this comment he just wrote. I would hate to see it go unnoticed in the comment section…

My Dad and Rod went flight school together and served together overseas.
They were great friends.

After my Dad passed away in 1971, I moved to Vancouver.  Rod and I became good friends.  We often fished together and took a few trips up into Northern B.C. to catch the elusive monster Spring Salmon.  We did catch quite a few but never the 50 pounder we were after.

Rivers Inlet was still a peaceful haven in those days (’70’s).  His engineering degree combined with his  law degree and his photographic, analytical brain, made him an amazingly informed and capable man.  His general knowledge was astoundingly deep.   As a lawyer he did a huge amount of unsung pro- bono work. He was the quintessential gentleman.  He often talked about Jerry.

Rod’s other brother, Don, was quite a character and the three of us often found ourselves telling fish stories over J.W. Black Label and Martinis, anchored offshore somewhere, on the goodship “Glennifer”, an old but dignified 42 footer out of the West Vancouver Yatch Club.

It was Rod who inspired me to apply to law school and become a lawyer.  I have never regretted that decision.

Now the post I wrote


Article wrote by Pat Murphy

The Regina born Smith brothers had a number of things in common, with just one year separating them, both enjoyed sports of all kinds, growing up in Regina meant a good deal of that sport activity would be winter sports.

Jerry Smith RCAF

Rod Smith

Jerry, the oldest, born in 1921 and Rod the youngest, born in 1922. Both were active in school projects that were based on creative engineering as their Father was an engineer, both did well in school and both loved aviation and staying informed with events that were changing the world. With world events turning more chaotic each passing month in the mid 1930s, It was with keen interest both boys followed the rise of Nazi Germany and the advances made by the Luftwaffe.

Rod Smith RCAF

 Jerry Smith

In 1936, Rod had pictures of the new British Spitfire fighter hanging in his room and he well knew the struggle to design and build such a fine aircraft, Rod and Jerry both understood the engineering challenges it took to achieve such things and both were convinced that the Merlin powered Spitfire was the equal to any German aircraft.


Spitfire prototype

Rod and Jerry read every newspaper that was available, their father would share news he had heard on the radio with both boys, they read British aviation magazines, they discussed world events with their Father and Mother and the teenagers knew that if war broke out it would be almost certain that when they completed the educational levels necessary to join the RCAF, both of them would enlist. Both craved the excitement of flying fighters and both had dreams of flying the Spitfire. When an aircraft flew over the house both boys would tear outside to get a better view.

Rod was the first to enlist at the end of September 1940, at age 18. Jerry would follow a few weeks later at age 19, at the time of enlistment both had no inkling they would fly Spitfires in the same RAF Squadron, but as fate would have it they did.

The Smith Brothers would train at different Canadian bases, both would receive their Wings and both Smith brothers would be commissioned in the RCAF. Both would be shipped to England at different times and both would be posted to Spitfire fighter Squadrons, Rod to 412 Squadron RCAF and Jerry, like many Canadians was posted to an RAF Squadron, (60% of all Canadians were posted to RAF Squadrons).

Both Rod and Jerry had their share of close aerial combats, both became experienced fighter pilots and both brothers gained considerable experience in attacking Luftwaffe aircraft. With the situation in Malta growing more dire each day the RAF started sending additional fighter pilots to shore up the tired and exhausted personnel that were in Malta, the Germans needed Malta to maintain its army in North Africa and the British were not about to give it up, at least not without a fight. Jerry was posted to Malta and in early May 1942 he boarded the USS Wasp, a huge American aircraft carrier.

USS Wasp


Called “Operation Bowery” the mission was to deliver Spitfires to Malta to aid in the defense of this strategic little Island.

 Malta Spitfire on Wasp

Sixty four, MK Vc Spitfires were loaded onto the American Carrier. Spitfires were being shipped to Malta by Carrier as it was impossible to safely fly from the British bases or from Gibraltar. The plan was to get as close to Malta as possible then launch the Spitfires and they would then fly to Malta and in some cases land during a bombing attack, at the time Malta was the most bombed place on the planet. The Spitfires were not equipped with arrestor hooks so landing back on the carrier in case of trouble was out of the question. On May 9th once, the USS Wasp was 580 miles West of Malta the Spitfires were launched. All got off with no problem. Jerry’s Spitfire coded X-3 serial number BR126 launched with no problem, Jerry soon realized he had fuel feed problems and it would be impossible for him to reach Malta. In spite of being told not to attempt a deck landing once airborne he decided to give it a go after he got the authorization to do so by the ship’s commander.

None of the pilots had any training landing on the deck of the shifting deck on an aircraft carrier…

The Spitfire was a fast fighter plane, not designed to land on an aircraft carrier and had no landing hook so I suppose a landing with a Spitfire was not even contemplated, but I can’t be sure of that.

 Smith Brothers

Jerry’s Spitfire coded X-3 serial number BR126 launched with no problem

After all the Spitfires were clear of the deck Jerry lined up on the carrier and made an attempt at landing. None of the pilots delivering Spitfires to Malta had any training landing on the shifting deck of an aircraft carrier, a task difficult for even the trained, experienced naval pilots.

Spitfire taking off from USS Wasp on 9 May 1942 during operation Bovery. Barely visible is the 90-gallon slipper tank under the aircraft’s belly. As the Wasp’s deck was longer than that of HMS Eagle, no provisional flaps were needed for take-off. [US Navy] Source

His first attempt failed but he successfully landed on his second attempt stopping just a few feet from running off the end of the massive American carrier, had it not been for several US sailors running up onto the deck and holding Jerry’s Spitfire back he would have gone over the deck into the Mediterranean.

To celebrate Jerry’s miracle landing the US sailors presented Jerry with set of US Navy flight wings, Jerry proudly wore the wings on his uniform along side his RCAF wings. Jerry was returned to Gibraltar by the Wasp and later boarded the HMS Eagle to attempt the Malta trip once again, this time Jerry made it. Upon arrival he was posted to 126 Squadron RAF and was flying combat operations against the Luftwaffe the next day. Jerry’s landing on the carrier deck was not considered possible and it was the only Spitfire that accomplished this amazing feat.

Rod Smith had kept in touch with Jerry in England but had no idea Jerry had been posted to Malta, Wartime communications were mostly by post with the occasional phone call and Rod had no idea that Jerry had gone to Malta or had successfully landed his disabled Spitfire on the deck of the USS Wasp.

Rod boarded HMS Eagle in early July and on the 15th he  took off from the carrier about 600 miles from Malta.

HMS Eagle


Rod’s flight to Malta was uneventful and when he landed in Malta and while being driven to his quarters he was shocked and pleasantly surprised to find his brother Jerry walking the road with a parachute slung over his arm, after their cheerful greeting Rod discovered he would be assigned to the same RAF Squadron and both would team up and fly operations together, something both brothers never thought possible.

They flew many times together, both would fly a variety of serviceable Spitfires, few pilots in Malta could claim a personal Spitfire as serviceable aircraft were few and far between. Rod often flew a Mk Vb coded MK-P serial BR471.  Both brothers were aggressive and confident; the brothers shared in the damage to a Junkers 88 Bomber. About one month after the Smith brothers teamed up, Jerry was seen chasing after a Luftwaffe bomber towards Sicily over the Mediterranean ocean, he did not return to the base and he was never seen again.

Jerrold Alpine Smith

Jerry Smith

Click on the image

On that particular sortie Rod stayed behind to replace some flying gear and while he was on the way back to his Spitfire Jerry was dispatched to intercept some German bombers. Rod always regretted leaving his side.

 Malta Spitfire4

Mk Vb coded MK-P serial BR471

The Squadron flew several hours of search operations and Rod flew out over the ocean after nightfall as he knew Jerry carried a flash light on his mae west. He hoped he would locate the light and direct a search and rescue boat to Jerry’s location but his search was unsuccessful and Jerry was listed as missing.

Rod survived his Malta experience and no doubt he missed his brother. In 1943 Rod was posted to 401 Squadron at Biggin Hill. In March 1944 Rod became a Flight Commander with 412 Squadron. He would participate in the D-Day landings see service in Normandy then Belgium and later promoted to Squadron Leader of 401 Squadron RCAF. In December 1944, Rod was tour expired and returned to Canada to join the Auxiliary Squadron retiring in 1946. Rod is credited with 15 aerial victories and also shared in the destruction of a Luftwaffe jet fighter. He was highly decorated and an excellent Spitfire pilot.

Wing Commander, Rod Smith survived the War and his older brother Jerry did not, this unfortunate circumstance would affect many Canadian families but few families would have brothers reunited. The Smith brother would be the exception and it would happen in October 2005.

Rod Smith was 80 years old when he died; he was facing some health concerns and told those that were closest to him that he never wanted to be a burden on anyone. Rod had remained a bachelor all his life, he took his own life in 2002, he was a successful lawyer, a yachtsman and very active in fighter pilot reunions, he started to write his memoirs after he retired but never completed them, his family turned his unfinished manuscript, journal, log books and brother Jerry’s logs and notes over to Christopher Shores, a world renowned historian who completed the book for Rod. “The Spitfire Smiths” a unique story of brothers in arms is an excellent book ands well worth the read.

In summer of 2005 a group of aviation enthusiasts from the Malta Aviation Museum and others spearheaded a movement to have a Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane visit Malta to help bring attention to the plight of the citizens who sacrificed so much during the war and to honour the many men that died fighting to protect Malta and to keep shipping lines open. The event would be called Merlins over Malta, the defenders return The two famous fighters would fly to Malta this time over peaceful Europe in stages. The routes were planned, support crews were in place and both famous fighters departed England only stopping for re-fueling and for dodgy weather. The citizens of Malta were informed of the arrival time of the two fighters.

Every building along the Grand Habour in the capitol city of Valletta was crowded with Maltese citizens awaiting the arrival of two well preserved classic aircraft that had played such an emotional connection to the history of Malta, during the difficult years of World War two. Almost on queue, the two fighters roared over the harbour and the crowds went wild as wartime memories flooded back to the senior Maltese citizens and absolutely thrilled those younger generations that had only heard about the Spitfire and Hurricane from their parents.

By chance, Rod’s younger sister Wendy Noble was in Malta to honour one of Rods last wished, to have his ashes spread on the waters of the Mediterranean so he could be once again with Brother Jerry. The crew from the Spitfire flight was in the same hotel. A meeting was arranged and pilot Charles Brown after hearing the Smith brother’s story agreed to fly the ashes over the same spot that Jerry was last observed and then spread Rods ashes. The following day the Mk V Spitfire painted like so many of the Spitfires that saved Malta took off and flew west of Malta towards Sicily, once over the same area, Brown tipped the Spitfire over on one wing, slide the canopy back and poured the ashes from the cockpit into the blue Mediterranean ocean, after a lapse of 60 years Rod had his last flight in a Spitfire and the Smith brothers were once again together.

The Vancouver Island Military Museum, located in Nanaimo British Columbia on Vancouver Island is proud to display models and photographs of the Smith Brothers Spitfires, the models are placed side by side as are the picture


A note on  the colour and markings of Malta Spitfires for modelers.

Over the year much has been written and speculated by historians and modelers over the actual colours of Malta Spitfires, with little evidence to support most theories so far presented, it is left up to modelers to interpret the sketchy details that were left by Squadron records and from the fading memories of Spitfire veterans that fought with the Spitfire over the tiny Island of Malta. Very few colour photographs were taken or preserved so to date nothing definitive is available for those of us that are interested in such things that was until very recently.

Brian Cauchi of Malta, a master modeler of very high regard has spent the last 20 or so years communicating with former RAF, RCAF and Luftwaffe pilots, he has assembled some of the most detailed accounts of the colour and markings ever gathered and the information he has uncovered is now available in a book he has written. His research method and his sources are impeccable and his work is considered by many to be the best publication of its type ever published.

Malta Spitfire Book2

“Malta Spitfires V’s 1942 their colours and Markings” will soon be available to the general public. The forward to the book is written by a former RCAF Malta veteran. Lt. Colonel (retired) Robert Middlemiss, DFC,CD, SSM.

Middlemiss flew with 249 Squadron RAF in Malta and he was wounded during a dog fight, he parachuted into the ocean and was rescued. His wounds were severe enough that he had to be flown back to England to recover. He was then assigned to an OTU (Operational Training Unit). to assist with the training of young pilots. 249 Squadron RAF was the highest scoring Squadron during the Malta campaign.  Middlemiss was then transferred to 403 Squadron at Kenly, England under the Command of the famous Wing Commander, Jonnie Johnson.

Brian Cauchi has given me a peek at some chapters of his book and I have  seen a sample of the  colour profiles that feature the markings and colours of some Malta Spitfires, in my opinion this book will be the final word on the subject and answer many questions that many veteran modelers and historians have pondered these many years. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book and get started modeling more Malta Spitfires for the museum collection.


Pat Murphy

Nanaimo B.C.


Always feel free to comment on contact me using this form.








Sense of humour

I take this blog about RCAF 403 Squadron very seriously even though sometimes I will joke around with some of my readers.

Pilots would also joke around. Having a sense of humour (spelled humor if you live in the U.S.) was a way pilots were coping with fear.

Fear was always present.

Mac Reeves

Click on the image

I am currently writing the story of another pilot.

Jean-Baptiste Normand Roy

He is missing since May 17, 1943.

His story is on my other blog which is a spin-off of this one. You can read the first post here about this French-Canadian pilot.

You could also read the blog from the start and see how that blog about RCAF 128 (F) Squadron evolved.

Of course you don’t have to, but then you would be missing a lot.

I hope you don’t mind my sense of humour.

Buck McNair’s Sykes-Fairbairn “Commando” style dagger

Bruce sent me these pictures along with this message he had written in French.

I was wondering this morning who the hell was writing me about a Sykes-Fairbairn “Commando” style dagger.

Salut Pierre.

Je vous souhaite un bon semaine en préparant votre blog. C’est très intéressant et je suis content l’avoir trouvé.  J’attache quelques fotos d’un SF dagger/ poignard, porté  par mon père quant it etait dans le ciel en faisant ses affaires.

Ses amis d’escadron lui ont donné.   Je tentais prendre beaucoup de fois les fotos sans éclat mais sans succes.    Karsh, je suis pas, sans aucun doute.

Cet dagger est fabriqué dans le deuxième style, conçu par le maître soi-même.  On peu voir, au milieu des flueris  sur le lame, son nom “Buck McNair”.  C’est pas bons fotos mais s ‘agit question des réflections obstinés.

Peut-être vous pourriez améliorer les fotos un peu pour que vous les utiliser dans votre blog.  Si vous ne pourriez pas les ajuster  adéquatement, j’essayerai encore un fois.

SVP, soyez patient avec mon francais fracturé.  On parle  pas beaucoup de francais dans les montagnes à l’est de Chiang Mai.


Now I know why Bruce is an early bird. He wrote from mountains east of Chiang Mai.

Where the hell is Chiang Mai? I will have to Google this something.

Before I have one of those senior moments, here are Bruce’s pictures of his father’s dagger that was given to him by his fellow pilots, and that he took with him in the air.


Sykes-Fairbairn “Commando” style dagger



Sykes-Fairbairn “Commando” style dagger



Sykes-Fairbairn “Commando” style dagger

Bruce, I love your French!


Comment from a reader…


These photos I received from Canada. It’s  a unit belonging to 75 MTLRU RAF at Hamburg Rahlstedt. Some photos show Station Schleswig in northern Germany.  Hopefully on the photos, someone may recognize some old pals.

Best regards 

Heinz  Johannsen


via Heinz Johannsen


via Heinz Johannsen

More background information later on.

Heinz had left this message on this Website.

No 75 Motor Transport Light Repair Unit

Flt Lt. E.G. Keep is looking for Members of 75 MTLRU 1945/46  Please contact me I have a number of photos of this unit stationed in Hamburg Northern Germany 1945.  Heinz Johannsen  


To contact me, please use this form or write a comment.

Buck McNair’s Medals

Bruce sent me these pictures with this message early this morning.

Greetings from the East.  I attach here another photo you may be interested in.  My Dad was awarded a number of decorations.  I had them mounted in a rather nice mahogany display box by the old venerated company Spink, of London, whose offices are a museum of memories.  The downside to having them in a box is that photos become difficult because of the reflections, again.  I have managed to do the first one by using darkish background behind me to reduce reflections and by cropping out the display box itself.  The second I’ve left as is, with bad reflections.  The third shot is a legend to explain the decorations.  I also attach a brief legend to the various decorations.  I hope that you find these of interest.  Please feel free to crop, adjust, square,  bob and weave to improve the quality, as you see fit.

Bruce is an early bird. So am I.

And I am always quick to react when someone shares something with my readers.

photo 7

photo 6

photo 8

More Spitfires! Redux

I had never hear about Buck McNair.

Never knew he had a son for that matter.

Never knew his son had these…

Bruce McNair did not know there was someone who had been writing a blog about a RCAF Fighter Squadron and allowed other people to write stories about those who served in the RCAF.

Mark White has been contributing a lot on this blog with his stories about his father who was an “erk”.

I did not know that word in September 2011 when I first met Walter Neil Dove’s grandson. In fact I did not know who was Walter Neil Dove nor did I know anything about 403 Squadron even if I know a lot about WWII.

403 Squadron Plaque (3)

Life is funny sometimes.

I met Walter Neil Dove’s grandson when I stayed at his father’s B&B in 2011.

I was in Hamilton paying a visit to George Stewart.


George was in the same squadron has Eugene Gagnon, a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot, who died in a plane crash in 1947.

Eugène Gagnon

So in fact all this is due to Eugene Gagnon to whom I am not even related except for the fact that I have this passion for airplanes.

This is the post Pat wrote on this blog. I never met him, but I know he’s a very nice man. Pat in a way is the one who led me to Bruce McNair.

Start reading…

Pat is writing a story for us on this blog.

He is going over it right now so it will be just right.

Pierre, I’ve cranked out about 1600 words tonight to tell the wonderful story of the Smith brothers. I have picture and details about a recent book that has been written about the mystery of the Malta Spitfires and I think you and your readers will enjoy what I have put together. It will take me till Tuesday night to get it ship shape then I will send it to you, Hope that is ok with you. I know it’s not a 403 Squadron story but you might want to share it with you readers.

I’ve sent you a picture of the Smith brothers, save it, That’s Rod on the right, Jerry on the left

While we are waiting for his story about the Smith brothers, here is another  picture of George Aitken’s Spitfire on display at the museum.


KH-L George Aitken with his wheel roundels.

Pat also sent me these with a message.

Pierre, some more Spitfire models including George Aitkens

AU-M is Buck McNair 421 Squadron

AN-A is Bert Houle 417 Squadron

JEFF  is Jeff Northcott as Wing Commander of 126 Wing

2I-D Art Sager 443 Squadron

HC-G Hugh Godefroy 127 Wing Commander

KH-L George Aitken with his wheel roundels.

I have other pictures but want to write something special tonight about the Smith Brothers. It is a compelling story of two brothers that met in Malta and flew together, one survived the War and one did not. They were united once again by a Spitfire and I need some time to obtain the details for you. I have built models of both brothers Spitfires and they are side by side in my display. Jerry Smith was killed in Malta and his brother Rod Smith went on to fly Spitfires in Normandy after surviving Malta and lived in Vancouver, the story of how they were united in remarkable but I need time to get it right.

I love what you sent me today, you do good work.

Pat Murphy


2I-D Art Sager 443 Squadron


JEFF  is Jeff Northcott as Wing Commander of 126 Wing


AN-A is Bert Houle 417 Squadron


AU-M is Buck McNair 421 Squadron


HC-G Hugh Godefroy 127 Wing Commander