Life is funny sometimes

I knew nothing about RCAF 403 Squadron in September 2011, and I knew nothing about Spitfire pilot Walter Neil Dove.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back in 2013, I knew nothing about Pat Murphy and his Spitfire collection of model kits in display at the Vancouver Island Military Museum, located in Nanaimo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pat Murphy is a generous person and he wrote some posts on this blog that pays homage to Spitfire pilots.

Pat Murphy virtually introduced me to Trevor Guthrie when he sent me this e-mail…

Pierre, you’ll find this interesting, I’ve attached a picture of a Canadian singer/song writer Trevor Guthrie. He has been an entertainer for years and was part of a Canadian rock band a few years ago, I understand he now works as a solo act. He is very interested in World War II RCAF History and would visit the Y2-K Spitfire restoration project from time to time. He became good friends with Art Sager and Stocky Edwards in fact even wrote a song about Art and sang it at Arts funeral. I was exchanging emails with Trevor on the weekend and he informed me he will be presenting an award on the Juno’s next Sunday, live from Winnipeg and he will be wearing a T-Shirt that honours Stocky Edwards. I’ve sent you a picture of the T-Shirt he will wear. Trevor is a real nice guy and he loves Spitfire pilots.



I had never heard of Trevor Guthrie before.

Life is funny sometimes isn’t?

Pat had this other e-mail…

This is a picture of Trevor Guthrie and Art Sager taken at the Y2-K Spitfire restoration project in 2007. Trevor attended a few of the RCAF Fighter pilot reunions in Canada and one in Belgium, he was well thought of and as far as I know he stays in touch with several of the surviving pilots.
Art Sager and Trevor Guthrie

P/O Douglas Spencer Aitken – Age 21 – 8 March 1942

Any information about P/O Douglas Aitken?

A reader sent me this comment both in English and in French.

Can you tell me the description of the aircraft piloted by Douglas Spencer Aitken, J-7013 ? It is supposed to be a Spitfire that crashed on 8 March 1942, registred BL-661, in service with the 403 Sq. I doubt of it. Your lights will guide me.

Bonjour Pierre,
Êtes-vous en mesure de me fournir les détails du Spitfire piloté par Douglas Spencer Aitken le 8 mars 1942 avec la 403e escadrille ? Le volume THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD prétend qu’il s’agit du BL-661 alors que ce chasseur était piloté par le W/C Anthony Eyre, de la RAF, aussi abattu lors de cette mission en France.

Information here about the ORBs from 403 in 1942 where Aitken’s name is mentioned.

Sunday, 8 March, 1942

Thick haze fairly low.  At 0915 hours, Red and Yellow Sections went on Convoy patrol.  At 0950 hours White Section was scrambled, landing at Hunsdon at 1100 hours and returning to North Weald at 1345 hours.  At 1503 hours, the Squadron went on a sweep as close escort to five Havocs who were to bomb the Comfines Power Station, North of Lille with Northolt, Hornchurch and 12 Group Wings acting as cover.  We rendezvoused at Bradwell bay at 1536 hours, entering France South of Dunkirk.  Funny to see our Wing suddenly start weaving like bats out of he– when the flak started to come up.  We reached the target okay, though 121 Wing were not with us as they did not make the rendezvous.  Just North of St. Omer on the way home, FW 190s and ME 109s tried to bounce the Havocs. 

During the engagement, we lost a very good little pilot, P/O Aitken, (it was his first show).  Nobody saw what happened to him. 

Also a great loss, our Wing Commander, W/C Eyre, was shot down by a 109 and was seen going down with glycol pouring out.  121 Wing came in by Dunkirk to pick us up on our way home.  They also tangled with 109s and lost one.  We brought the bombers back safely.  During the circus, the following combats took place.  Blue Section – F/L Wood saw two ME109Fs come down out of the sun on the tail of Blue 4.  The leader fired and hit Blue 4 on the port aileron.  F/L Wood attacked and the 2 109s broke away.  He gave the first 109 a burst of cannon and machine gun and then closed  with the second 109, giving a continuous 6 or 7 second burst from 200 yards at quarter astern.  There was an explosion just behind the pilot’s seat.  The e/a poured white, then dark blue smoke and went down in flames.  This was confirmed by Blue 4.  One e/a claimed destroyed.  Blue 3, WO Rainville, got in three different bursts of about 3 to 4 seconds from 150 to 200 yards astern of a ME 109F and saw strikes in the wing root of the e/a and white smoke.  The e/a went into a steep dive and was lost to sight.  This e/a is claimed as damaged.  Yellow 1, P/O Dick was attacked by two ME109Fs as he gave the leader a burst of cannon and machine gun at 300 yards, thirty degrees off head-on position.  The e/a dived below Yellow 1 who saw a large piece of his tail unit break away.  This e/a is claimed as damaged.  At 1740 hours, all a/c, with the exception of W/C Eyre and P/O Aitken returned to base.

Days Score 1 ME109F destroyed and 2 ME 109fs damaged.
Days losses 2 Spitfires, Mk VB.


March 1942 RCAF 403 Squadron are available here.


Ballantyne, Finley, Buckham, Browne, Goldberg Redux

Post 405

Dean sent me this picture he had sent back in March 2012.

I always post what you share with me even if you share if twice.

Original post

More 403 pilots with this picture sent by Dean Black.


Collection Dean Black

James Hamilton “Jimmy” Ballantyne, Hart Finley, Robert Andrew “Bobby” Buckham, F/O J.D. Browne, Florham Park, New Jersey, F/L David Goldberg, Hamilton, Ont.

For more on Jimmy Ballantyne, click here.

For more on Hart Finley, click here.

For more on Bobby Buckham, click here.

For more on J. D. Browne, click here

For more on David Goldberg, click here

Hart Finley

Collection Dean Black

Hart Finley’s 403 Spitfire KH-? Pierre can you help? Redux Update


Peter Lecoq just commented.

 Hi Pierre:

 Hart Finley’s daughter, Heather Burpee, resides in Vancouver; She’ll gladly assist you, she has all of her father’s log books etc.


 Peter Lecoq

Post 404

Still writing…

Dean Black sent me this picture of Hart Finley last week.

H R Findlay

We can see the KH of the call sign above the 20mm cannon, but not the other letter which would be also under the nose of the Spitfire.

This is what Pat had asked:

I have the details on two Spitfires he flew. On April 23, 1945 the Mk XVI he was flying had the serial TD141, I’m missing the KH-? letter. On June 30, 1944 the Mk IX’s serial was ML415 but again no KH-? letter.

If I had the letters I’m missing I could build his model and add it to our museum collection.

Pat Murphy
Vancouver Island Military Museum
Nanaimo B.C.

To know more about this pilot… Click here.

For ORBs from 1944, click here.

Flight Lieutenant Hart Finley

Now you know how this information is important!

Pat is the one who built these…

If anyone knows the call sign, please write a comment, or fill out this form.

Post No. 403


A comment  amending this  list….

I should point out that Flt/Sgt Bradley Edward ARGUE was lost with 403 Squadron on April 25,1942, over France. This is the second time I have brought this to your attention so that I could amend your list.

Sorry to be such a bother but I thoroughly enjoy your entries even though my father was connected to 408 Squadron after the war and I am doing wartime research on that squadron.

Thank you

Stu Tait

Post 403

RCAF 403 Squadron list of casualties
sent by Dean Black.


Flt/Sgt Bradley Edward ARGUE was lost with 403 Squadron on April 25,1942 – POW  

F/L        Edward Grant Aitchison       Age 26    31 March 1945

P/O        Douglas Spencer Aitken      Age 21     08 March 1942

F/O        James Hamilton Ballantine  Age 26    08 March 1944

P/O        Harry Vern Boyle                Age 21     17 August 1944

P/O        George Rawson Brown       Age 19      31 May 1943

F/O        Wallace Victor John Burdis Age 22      17 April 1945

F/O        Harold Chauncey Byrd         Age 22      19 March 1945

P/O        John Nicholson Cawsey        Age 21       12 February 1942

F/O        Stuart McIntyre Connacher Age 25      16 February 1943

F/O        Charles Gordon Cumming    Age 21      13 March 1943

F/O        Richard Wright Denison       Age 25     18 March 1944

Sgt          Joseph Leo Deschamps       Age 23      04 April 1943

WO2      Ronald Dunbar                     Age 19      13 March 1943

F/L          Henry Percy Duval, MiD     Age 30      27 April 1942

F/O        John Walter Benson Earle   Age 22      05 August 1944

F/O        Dudley Jack Edwards           Age 20       25 February 1943

F/O        John Charles Elliott             Age 21       20 June 1943

S/L          Norman Ralph Fowlow,  DFC Age 22    19 May 1944

P/O        John Edwin Gardiner             Age 23       19 August 1942

Sgt          Lesa German                        Age 21       30 July 1941

S/L          Frank Edward Grant            Age 28       04 September 1943

FS           Frederick Alexander Higgins Age 23     08 November 1941

P/O        Gordon Francis Joseph Hoben  Age 21       11 July 1942

F/L          John Hodgson                         Age 22       02 June 1944

F/O        William Thompson Lane           Age 21       15 May 1943

F/O        James Leon Lanfranchi             Age 26       28 June 1944

F/L          Lynn Bertram Madden            Age 22        15 May 1943

F/L          Stanley Wilbur Matthews        Age 24    16 November 1943

F/L          Donald Joseph McKenna         Age 30   08 September 1941

P/O        Frank Hooper McWilliams       Age 21       20 June 1943

P/O        Norman Monchier                    Age 19       19 August 1942

FS           Arthur Joseph Monserez        Age 19       17 January 1942

P/O        William Forsythe Munn           Age 27       25 April 1942

FS           John Norman                         Age 26     22 September 1942

F/L          Miall Bourchier O’Kelly         Age 21      16 July 1944

F/L          Patrick Terrance O’Leary      Age 22      27 February 1943

F/L          Clifford George Pennock      Age 22      25 March 1944

WO1      William Charles Powers         Age 23      20 July 1944

F/O        MacKenzie Reeves                 Age 25      28 March 1945

FS           Kenneth Ellwood Root          Age 24      24 September 1942

P/O        Lewis Cameron Rowe            Age 21     13 November 1943

F/O        Donald John Shapter             Age 24    14 July 1944

P/O        Graham Milton Shouldice     Age 21    17 August 1943

F/O        Robert Harry Smith              Age 21     19 May 1944

F/O        Stanley William Smith           Age 27     29 May 1944

WO1      Milton Eldon Soules              Age 22      28 August 1944

F/L          Herbert John Southwood    Age 25      24 October 1943

FS           William George Uttley         Age 21      13 May 1943

P/O        Leclare Allerthon Walker, MiD(3) Age 24    19 August 1942

P/O        Claude Weaver, DFC, DFM & Bar  Age 19    28 January 1944

F/O        Harold Andrew Westhaver      Age 21      15 December 1943

P/O        William Zoochkan                   Age 22      25 April 1942

This could be a most fitting time for a final post on this blog that I started back in September 2010 when I met Greg Bell.

I did not know back then there was a 403 Squadron and even less someone whose name was Walter Neil Dove.

In a sense, this blog was written by him, this young recruit who became a Spitfire pilot and then came back with his war memories his grandson has been sharing with all of us.

Greg's grandfather

Written in 2011

Post No. 402

I wrote this in 2011 which is related to this picture that was just sent…


This is my 49th article since September.

I know that this is a lot of articles about RCAF No. 403 Squadron, but Greg sent me a lot of pictures and information about the 403.

I just did not want to keep it just for myself.

That’s not the mission Greg and I had agreed upon…

Hank Byrd’s name appears in Walter Neil Dove’s logbook.

Hank Byrd disappeared after leaving formation…

I don’t think Greg has a picture of Hank Byrd in his photo album, but I know he is going to double-check to make sure.

He knows what this blog can do to reunite people. 

Tony also knows.

His daughter is the one who sent him here on this blog and he wrote me.

I am glad he did.

As for Hank Byrd, this is what we have on Canadian Virtual War Memorial to pay homage to this Spitfire pilot.

In memory of 


who died on March 19, 1945

Military Service:

Service Number: J/89351
Force: Air Force
Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force
Division: 403 Sqdn.
Burial Information:




Grave Reference: Row B. Grave 22.


Gendringen is a village on the Dutch-German border 30 kilometres east-south-east of Arnhem and 15 kilometres south-east of Doetinchem. The GENDRINGEN ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY is behind the church of St. Martinus, which stands in the centre of Gendringen. The British plot is near the eastern boundary wall.

No picture…

Nothing to remember him with.

People visiting the cemetery in the Netherlands would know nothing about this pilot or his squadron.

403 Squadron saw a lot of action in March 1945.

That month was no Piece of Cake…

Greg had these entries in his grandfather’s logbook.

Mar  15 George Boudreau forced down behind Ger. Lines…

Mar 19  Hank Byrd disappeared after leaving formation…

Mar 25 Was  shot at by unidentified A/C…

Mar 25  F/L  Gillis shot down by flak landed among our paratroopers…


403 Squadron was based at B90 Petit Brogel in March.

That’s in Belgium.


On March 25, 1945 Greg’s grandfather flew four missions and he damaged two Met (Mechanical Transport).

58 Mets!

That’s a lot…

Walter Neil Dove  was even shot at by an unidentified aircraft…

Fortunately he was not shot down by a Mustang!

Piece of Cake?

Have you seen this series on television?

Probably not.

March 1945 was no Piece of Cake for 403 Squadron.

Instructors at No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands – 1942

Post 400

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Instructors No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands

P/O Rose from Toronto

Walter Neil Dove

F/L Sprague, Ottawa

F/O Teters, California

S/P Baker, Hamilton


F/L Pook, Ottawa

WO Couse, St. Catherines

Instructors of G. Flight

No  S.F.T.S. Uplands, Ontario

Instructors No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands back

What became of those instructors during the war?

I know what became of Walter Neil Dove.

Everything is in the blogs that pays homage to the squadrons he was with: RCAF 128 (F) Squadron (37 posts) and RCAF No. 403 Squadron (399 posts).

View original post

Pilot Officer (Retired) Stephen Butte, DFC, P.Eng., hcol Redux

Post written in 2011!

I wrote this post one month after meeting Greg Bell who had so much to share about his grandfather Walter Neil Dove.

Next post will be post no. 400. Read what I wrote back in 2011 about the pilot with his eyes closed on this picture.

Dad sitting first left

Collection Georges Nadon via André Nadon

Stephen Butte is most probably in Greg’s photo album which belonged to his grandfather.

I have not seen Pilot Officer Butte yet in the pictures Greg sent me.

I found this one on the Internet.

Pilot Officer (Retired) Stephen Butte, DFC, P.Eng., hcol

An Honourable Journey
Steve Butte, DFC, BSc, PEng
by Dean Black

A legendary life has come to an end. Steve Butte passed away on Remembrance Day, 2010, near Perth, Australia. The name might not be familiar, but Steve is a Canadian veteran worth knowing.

The year 1944 ended relatively quietly for Pilot Officer Butte. Like many fighter pilots, Steve preferred being alert while at the controls. A Spitfire was hard enough to handle sober; a fuzzy head at altitude was the same as a foot in the grave. Anticipating an early morning launch, Butte steered clear of any big New Year’s Eve celebrations, choosing instead to down a couple of glasses of kummel before getting some shut-eye. Of course, he had no inkling of what was in store for him the following day.

Steve Butte had joined the ranks of 403 (Wolf) Sqn at Tangmere in southern England on Saturday, June 10th 1944. He and another pilot, Ron Forsyth, reported to the squadron in good spirits. They were joined by Ken “Red” Harvey who joked he was going to enjoy working in 403, because all the squadron’s Spitfires sported his initials (KH)!

Steve Butte was born in Waugh, Alta in November 1923. He graduated from high school in Michel, BC, in 1941 and then tried to join the RCAF. “The recruiting officer told me to come back after I turned 18,” he recalled. “When the time was right, I signed up and then underwent initial training in Belleville, Ont, elementary flying training at St Eugene, Ont and service flying at Camp Borden, Ont.” With initial training behind him he sailed for England in March of 1943 to undergo operational and gunnery training.
On June 16th, 10 days after D-Day, 403 Sqn deployed to airfield B2 in Bazenville, Normandy. His first assignment saw him flying as No. 2 to F/L Andy MacKenzie. Andy quickly befriended Steve and years later would often claim he felt as “safe as a church” with Steve on his wing.
Things were quiet for some time. To keep busy, Steve Butte recalls conducting something for which Spitfires were not ideally equipped – armed reconnaissance. “The aircraft were susceptible to damage to the air cleaner while low-flying,” he said. One day in July 1944 while on patrol, Steve’s flight discovered what appeared to be German fuel bowsers – big tanker trucks – hiding in the woods. “I think I’ve spotted something big down there,” he called to his wingmen soon after catching a reflection. He ordered the others to follow him down. The flight circled around and, like Steve, dove in at the bushes where Steve had been directing his cannon fire. Together, the Spitfires wiped out a number of the huge bowsers – leaving a towering plume of smoke and flame blasting to great heights as the Spitfires dashed away at tree-top level.

Back in the bar his fellow pilots mused about how Panzer tanks near Caen had probably been waiting for that fuel because they couldn’t travel during the day due to the danger of air attack.

Steve Butte recalls that towards the end of the war he was somewhat alarmed the day he encountered a number of German Me-262 jet fighters – one of Hitler’s new secret weapons. But he also remembered how they could be terrifying to those on the ground. “They would fly at 30,000 feet so no one knew they were up there,” he explained. “All of a sudden one would hear a “poof” meaning that you had about seven seconds to find cover because the 262 had just dropped an anti-personnel mine which would scatter up to 69 softball-sized bomblets at 1,000 feet which, upon hitting the ground would explode.” One day the squadron padre was sitting in the latrine when he heard the “poof.” The padre considered his options, but only for a millisecond. He quickly jumped into the pit and lived to tell his unsavoury story.

One cloudy day, Butte was up on a reconnaissance flight over Aachen, Germany and encountered three Me-262s. His flight of 403 Sqn Spitfires was being led by the commanding officer, S/L Jim Collier. They were underneath the 262s that were in a right-hand turn. Steve and Jim engaged the enemy aircraft. Afterwards, Collier claimed the kill, explaining that the enemy pilot had bailed out and the aircraft crashed. However, Steve’s gun-camera clearly showed that he was still firing at the 262 before and while the pilot was trying to exit the aircraft. As many as four more kills were shared this way, because it was so difficult to prove who should receive full credit.

On the New Year’s morning of 1945 mentioned earlier, Steve Butte’s wing commander, W/C James Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson was having breakfast with G/C William “Iron Bill” MacBrien when approximately 40 enemy aircraft attacked their airfield at Evere, Belgium. Steve and his wingman had been scheduled for a patrol and weather-check. Minutes earlier, fellow flyers Dick Reeves and “Mac” Reeves (no relation) had launched for a similar patrol. That section reported the runway usable, so Steve Butte and Keith Lindsay started their aircraft. Just as they got airborne a few minutes before 9:00 am, the enemy force attacked. Steve tried to shake-loose his auxiliary fuel tank” to no avail. It was just as well since he later recalled being directly over the entranceway to the Officers’ Mess. Johnson and MacBrien were standing at the entranceway to see what all the commotion was about.

Before he could raise his landing gear, Butte had managed to shoot one of the attackers down. He continued to spray the formation of enemy aircraft, while he raised his landing gear, downing two more before running out of ammunition. Jim Collier recognized Steve for his courage by writing a recommendation for a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on Jan 20th. By Jan 29th word had come back confirming the award.

It was a painting of the action that New Year’s morning 1945 that brought the memory back to Steve Butte. That day, war-artist Don Anderson, was enjoying the post-New Year’s Eve celebration walking down Sabina Street near Evere. “The Americans are flying funny today,” Anderson quipped. Then he realized they weren’t Americans at all. The black Maltese crosses painted on the aircraft convinced him that something was not right. He hurried back to the airfield, only minutes away, but by then the action was all but over. He estimates about 40 enemy fighters had attacked. He witnessed a section of Spitfires returning to the airfield, and began to sketch the scene. The pilots, he assumed, had seen the smoke from the attack, and were returning to join the donnybrook. The lead aircraft turned out to be flown by Steve Butte. “Steve,” Don Anderson recounted, “downed two of the enemy and some of the wreckage littered the very street I had been walking down moments earlier.”

On March 10th 1945 Steve Butte’s tour of operations ended. Upon repatriation to Canada he applied to the University of BC, to take up civil engineering, graduating in 1952. He married the former Marie Smith from Truro, NS. Lieutenant Smith had served as a Canadian Army nursing sister at Bramshot Military Hospital in London. After the war she worked in Vancouver and was personally chosen by Dr Ross Robertson, a pioneer in pediatrics who helped develop successful medical procedures for “blue babies.” Sadly, Marie passed away in 1974.

Steve Butte’s first engineering assignment was to the Kemano Powerhouse Project in British Columbia. Alcan, the aluminum corporate giant, was building a huge smelter for which they needed power, and the Nichako-Kitimat Project was initiated, of which Kemano was a part. The end result was the availability of two million, two hundred and forty-thousand horsepower of hydro-electricity for the production of aluminum.

Steve Butte worked for nine-years in the power phase of this project before transferring to the smelter phase. During the process he contributed to the building of a city for 14,000 people in Kitimat. He built an 80-kilometer transmission line using some of the largest conductors in the world. Thereafter he was employed with Alcan as a field engineer for nine years. He was the resident civil engineer on the Mica Dam project from 1961 to 1966. In the same capacity, he also worked on the Aishihik Project in the Yukon. This project called for another dam and underground powerhouse.

Steve Butte finally retired from engineering in 1974, the year his wife died. Relishing the backwoods lifestyle, he kept himself busy by mining for gold in the Hixon area of BC and raising donkeys and llamas. His tiny log cabin, 12-km east of Hixon, was protected by stray dogs which friends from the village would leave him, to help fend off the bears.

In 2000 Steve decided to settle with his daughter Marlene, in Bedford, NS. The work he had done with the local Legion in branches near Revelstoke and Dawson Creek back in BC encouraged him to reacquaint himself with similar groups in Halifax. He soon became affiliated with the Air Crew Association on the East Coast where he learned of the upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations scheduled for July 2001 at 403 (Helicopter) Operational Training Sqn, CFB Gagetown, NB.

As the incumbent commanding officer of 403 Sqn, I was “over the moon” when I learned that two Spitfire veterans had chosen to join us for the celebrations – Steve Butte and Aurel “Amigo” Roy. Steve showed tremendous interest in the squadron and both he and Aurel were well-received by squadron personnel. We realized that a tremendous opportunity had presented itself; our honorary colonel, James Stewart, DFC was ready to step down after having served three years in that capacity. This left the door open for us to seek someone who had served with 403 Sqn during the war. Art Eggleton, minister of national defence, and Col Marcel Duval, the commander of 1 Wing, approved our nomination and Steve was invested during a very respectable ceremony in April 2002 followed by a formal mess dinner held at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in nearby Fredericton. Capping off the night, squadron personnel were invited to meet Steve Butte while he autographed print reproductions of Don Anderson’s wartime watercolour depicting the scene at Evere minutes after the 1945 Operation Bodenplatte raid when Steve earned his DFC. Steve was not aware the painting existed, but had no difficulty recognizing that he could be the only possible pilot flying the lead Spitfire depicted in the painting.

In May 2002, Air Command granted me permission to travel to the Spitfire Museum at RAF Manston near Ramsgate, England along with our new honorary colonel. Local authorities had been planning a tree-planting ceremony honouring 403 Sqn personnel who had perished during the war. Honorary Colonel Steve Butte’s presence was the icing on the cake. The museum’s curator invited Steve to climb into their 403 Sqn Spitfire – KH-Z – TB752 where he spent almost an hour in the cockpit, leading me to fear we might not ever get him out. It was the first time in over 55 years he had been inside one of the iconic fighters.

On our last night before leaving England Steve asked if I could take him to Trafalgar Square in London. It became clear to me shortly after our arrival that he was reaching back to a time that for him carried great personal meaning. His wartime service, while brief, defined him in his earliest days. He had lost his father when he was only five-years-old, then his wife. Between these tragedies Steve’s service in the RCAF, culminating in his receipt of a DFC, underscored the courageous man he had obviously become. It is difficult for those of us who have not been through similar circumstances to understand how profound the impact of wartime service was on men and women of that generation.

Steve Butte and I wandered around Trafalgar Square for a while before he admitted he wanted to take a piece of it home. I managed to kick loose a small corner of the sidewalk, and it quickly disappeared into his pocket. I have often wondered if that small piece of concrete might have been worth more to him than any of the gold he might have found near Hixon, BC.

Before I relinquished command of 403 Sqn, I asked Steve if he would consider a posthumous honour for his former wing commander, Johnnie Johnson. I explained to Steve that Johnnie had been wing commander (flying) to the squadron in the days leading up to the Dieppe Raid of 1942. So impressed with Johnson were the Canadians that their commanding officer, S/L Syd Ford marched unannounced into Johnson’s office one day and tossed a couple of “Canada” flashes onto his desk. “The boys want you to wear these,” Ford explained. Johnson was visibly moved by the unusual vote of confidence. Despite the fact he was an RAF officer, he would not take the flashes down for the next two years. This story was enough for Steve to agree to my request seeking a posthumous appointment of Air Vice-Marshal James Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson, CB, CBE, DSO, DFC as honorary group captain of 403 Sqn. Steve presented the idea to Paul Burden, DFC, James Stewart, DFC, and retired Col Ralph Annis, CD – his predecessors – and they supported the idea. During the formal ceremony the squadron’s boardroom at CFB Gagetown was also named after Johnnie Johnson. Final approval for these honours came from Johnson’s two sons, Chris and Michael, who responded to our letter which had been written on the anniversary of their father’s 2001 passing.

When I reflect on these events I realize I have been blessed with a rare privilege. Meeting a veteran is itself a unique opportunity; winning their trust such that they share their stories is something special indeed. But I have struggled to understand the message underpinning Steve’s life. I finally understood what that message was, when Steve explained that not all fighter pilots were the same. Without exception, he explained, one could not help but be proud of those who mounted their aircraft each and every sortie. However, when the time came, a very small number would find some way to avoid a fight. Steve emphasized this point by saying, in this respect Johnnie Johnson was the greatest of leaders. Like Andy MacKenzie and others, Johnson would “get into it” without hesitation. Steve Butte learned from these mentors; he jumped in with both feet each and every time. It was this element of courage that defined some, placing them head-and-shoulders above the few who could not for whatever reason muster the strength. Perhaps the words of Mark K. Wells, author of Courage and Air Warfare, said it best: “…the correct blend of practical leadership characteristics demonstrated what was universally known as ‘guts.’ At the operational and tactical level of air combat, courage – and tenacity – often outweighed pure intellectual abilities”.

I now realize that “guts” defined Steve Butte; this was especially the case on the morning of Jan 1st 1945. His only regret was not being more judicious with his ammunition. “I think I just pressed the triggers and never let go,” he admitted. The main point is he didn’t run; he fired and kicked the hell out of his rudder to take out as many enemy aircraft as possible.

After the war the enormity of Steve Butte’s engineering projects speaks to a special kind of courage and tenacity. He literally moved earth and sky bringing power to British Columbia, fulfilling his wide-ranging duties with the same kind of determination that brought him great credit during the war. He truly is a remarkable Canadian, well worth getting to know.

At his most generous request I traveled to Perth, Australia, in early December 2009, to meet up with Steve once again. We spent a week together, before I had to return to Canada. His daughter revealed to me that Steve was not well, and wanted to reach out to those who, according to Steve “made a difference in his life”. Steve left behind a wonderful woman – Rona. To Steve, we extend thanks from today’s air force for setting a great example for all Canadians.

Click here for more information about this pilot.

If the link should become broken…


By Mr. Stephen Butte, DFC, B.A. Sc., P.Eng, and Honorary Colonel of 403 (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron CFB Gagetown

This is a transcript of an address given by Mr. Stephen Butte, DFC, B.A. Sc., P.Eng as a guest speaker at a Remembrance Day ceremony and dinner held at Halifax Royal Canadian Legion Scotia Branch 25 by the Nova Scotia Aircrew Association on November 6, 2001.

Stephen Butte in RCAF Uniform

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the end of World War II, I have had little contact with previous wartime acquaintances and have always worked as a Civil Engineer on construction. Summertime was always the busy season and not the time to attend reunions and to make visits back to Europe, hence I literally disappeared from the reminiscing scene. My work took me to isolated areas of BC and the Yukon, usually starting from a wilderness setting to a completed project and/or industry, and when completed it was time to move on to another wilderness setting in pivotal resident engineering positions.

Some of my projects were: Alcan`s Nechako Kitimat and Kemano Hydro Electric Development: BC Hydro`s Mica Dam and associated works: [Mica Dam is the eleventh highest earthfill dam in the world]: Aishihik power development in Yukon: Denison Mines [Quintette] Northeast Coal development at Tumbler Ridge: BC Hydro’s Site C investigations on the Peace River for further hydro-electric development, and studies relating to development of possible power projects on the McGregor, Stikine, Atlin, Taya and Taku rivers in North West British Columbia and Yukon .

I moved to Nova Scotia in July of 2000, and had my first involvement in ex air force activities when I joined the Nova Scotia Air Crew Association and met the members who were primarily ex bomber crews, some of whom had been prisoners of war under the German regime. They graciously accepted me as a member although I was a bit of a rarity in these parts, a surviving Spitfire pilot; and my story unfolds as follows:

Nova Scotia Air Crew Association

Some of the Nova Scotia Air Crew Association, consisting of Pilots, Navigators, Air Gunners, some of whom were Prisoners of War in WWII.

Aircrews in the RCAF evolved from extensive training under the British Commonwealth air-training plan that took place in Canada. In 1942 the academic pre-requisite to becoming a navigator or pilot was a University entrance certificate. I acquired this in May 1941 but had to wait until November when I reached the age of 18 to be eligible for enlistment. In January 1942, I enlisted in Calgary and then started the training plan program of manning pool, initial training school, elementary and service flying schools, which ended with the awarding of wings in March 1943. A fast trip to the United Kingdom via the Queen Elizabeth (I) from the Cunard Terminal in Halifax was made in 1943 along with about 18,000 other members of the forces. At Advanced Flying Unit in the United Kingdom, Miles Masters were flown as the transition aircraft between Harvards and Spitfires, which were the aircraft flown at Operational Training Unit, also in the UK.

Cunard White Star Liner Queen Elizabeth (1)<br /><br /><br /><br />
on War Service March 1943

Spitfires are a single engine aircraft with no provision for dual instruction in the air. They were considerably more powerful than any aircraft heretofore flown by any of the students and novice pilots were usually miles from base before they got the undercarriage raised.


The undercarriages of early Spits did not have motorized hydraulic systems and had to be pumped up using a hand lever. This resulted in a comical performance when the aircraft responded to simultaneous motions of the left arm on the control column and the right arm on the undercarriage lever, giving a departing aircraft a porpoising flight path.

At the time of my induction, we were waiting for D-Day to happen and we spent almost a whole year traversing the United Kingdom getting further training ad nauseam in bombing, gunnery and aerial combat. Finally in June 1944, I was assigned to 403 Squadron, City of Calgary, at Tangmere, and when our airfield B2 at Crepon on the beachhead after D-Day was readied, we moved there and proceeded to support our ground forces by attacking anything that the enemy was attempting to move to the front to support the defending German forces.

We had substantial mastery of the air and the Germans complained that we attacked trucks, tanks, motorcycles, even personnel and they said that trying to smuggle anything to their lines was like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. During the early stages of the invasion, the navy stood offshore and lobbed shells at the enemy lines and over the top of our airfields, so we accessed our airfields by flying low across the east end of the beachhead where numerous swamps had fewer anti-aircraft guns and no navy shells. The Luftwaffe appeared only infrequently but when they did, they arrived in large numbers and half a dozen Spits often had to deal with thirty or forty Messerschmitt 109`s and/or Focke Wulf 190`s. Even at these odds, some of our pilots managed to accrue handy scores against them.

Steve Butte and Andy Mackenzie, Trenton, Ontario, 2002

One such pilot was Andy Mackenzie with whom I formed a fighting team. Andy was our Number One and it was his job to shoot down the enemy aircraft when encountered, and it was my job as Number Two, the wingman, to ensure that nobody sneaked up behind us and shot us down. As a team we shot down over four enemy aircraft, but unlike hockey where they give assists, in combat only the guy that does the shooting gets the plaudits, and the Number Two is just an also ran. In one encounter with enemy fighters, I informed Andy that we were being attacked from the rear and he should discontinue his attack on an aircraft. Instead of heeding my warning, he continued to blast away at the aircraft and while delivering a couple of extra bursts at his quarry, a German aircraft that was on my tail was doing the same to me.

Andy did not get his quarry but cannon and machine gun bullets struck my aircraft, destroying my flap and brake systems, and a section of my left wing was blown off when the ammunition in my 20 mm cannon magazine exploded. From the pursuing German fighter, I received a hit in the tail section of my aircraft and a high explosive cannon shell exploded behind the armour plating at my back, and shrapnel fragments penetrated my leather helmet and caused a little bleeding. The ammunition in fighter aircraft was usually loaded into flexible belts with one armour piercing shell followed by a high explosive shell and so on along the belt, or any other sequence, depending on the intended targets if they could be anticipated before flight. Armour piercing shells produce holes, whereas high explosive shells produce shrapnel and fires if there is anything combustible around. Fortunately for me, the hit I received was from an explosive shell and not an armour piercing one, which could have penetrated the armour plating, located behind the pilot’s seat in a Spitfire. Throughout all of this action, the trusty Rolls Royce Merlin engine purred on, and I landed at my base without flaps or brakes.

Andy completed his tour shortly thereafter and I became my own Number One. Andy Mackenzie has the dubious honour of having been shot down twice, once by friendly American flak on the beachhead, and once by a friendly American aircraft over Korea where he spent two years as a prisoner of war. Andy is often seen on TV at the Remembrance Day services on Parliament Hill and other auspicious occasions. Look for him this time. He usually wears a wedge headwear and is accompanied by a silver haired lady who I presume is his wife.

Our daily routine of armed reconnaissances continued when weather permitted. These were armed intrusions into enemy territory to attack anything and everything that might have had military value to the enemy, including tanks, trains, trucks, roads, bridges, even dispatch riders on motorcycles, and other personnel. Before the Allied invasion on 6th June 1944, pressure was applied by the Russians for the Allies to harass the Germans on the western front to remove some of the pressure that the Germans were applying to them on the eastern front. The Allies obliged by sending armed fighter patrols to France, Belgium, and Holland as far as the ranges of these aircraft could be extended, and since these intrusions, then known as rodeos, ramrods, rhubarbs and circuses originated in England, two water crossings were involved in a successful mission.

Even a minor engine problem or a hit from enemy fire often prevented a safe return to base, and many of our experienced pilots were lost in these raids. The cost therefore was very high and in the final analysis, these raids were of questionable value, except to appease the Russians. When we were established in France after D-Day, the two flights over water were eliminated, but our jobs remained the same. We sometimes carried bombs and I recall one such mission, which lasted a total time of ten minutes. Our bombs were dropped onto a patch of forest where Tiger tanks were sheltered and our target was identified by our artillery using coloured smoke. This operation was performed in collaboration with Typhoon aircraft, which were armed with rockets as well as cannons.

Highlights of our operations occurred in 1944 at Grave, Holland near Nijmegen, when the Messerschmitt 262 jets arrived on the scene. From an altitude of about 20,000 feet, they dropped canisters of fragmentation bombs which were programmed to explode at about 1,000 feet above ground level, emitting a loud “poof”, and at the same time some 69 baseball sized bombs were thrown in all directions which in seven seconds struck the ground, and spewed fragments of hot metal against aircraft, facilities and personnel.

One of the most satisfying of our armed reconnaissances was one that I triggered by detecting a large fuel convoy disguised by camouflage in a patch of forest. The convoy was substantially destroyed by our Squadron (403) and must have been missed sorely by Rommel and his Panzers further up the line at Caen, where a stalemate in the fighting against the British and Canadians had developed. The Battle of the Falaise Gap resulted in the substantial destruction of Rommel`s armour in Normandy. Rommel himself was wounded by a flight of marauding Spits while driving in his staff car on July 17th . While still recovering from his wounds, he was implicated in the bomb plot against Hitler and was coerced by Hitler to poison himself instead of facing a trial. I flew on the 16th and 18th, but not on the 17th.

Messerschmitt 262 Jet Fighter

A humourous anecdote worth telling was the day the interdenominational padre was sitting on the throne of an outhouse privy and one of the “poofs” occurred. With only seven seconds to make a big decision, he chose to go down the hole rather than face his destruction by the anti-personnel bombs.

The ground crews, personnel who maintained, refuelled and re-armed the aircraft, dug trenches near the aircraft so they could duck into them when the “poofs” occurred. Our losses from these bombs and from aircraft taxiing into trenches were becoming excessive so we were relocated to Brussels Evere in mid October 1944. [There were several airfields at Brussels and the one at Evere was discussed in detail in books regarding the German attack on Allied Airfields and also the history of their famous fighter group JG 26]. Another reason we had to leave the airstrip at Grave, Holland [a grass covered field] because heavy rains flooded it and it was not possible to differentiate between a pool of water on the surface and a trench three or four feet deep, and aircraft often taxied into the latter.

Mudhole at Grave, Holland, Sept. 1944

On Christmas Day 1944 during the German’s Ardennes Offensive – the famous Battle of the Bulge, we intercepted three of the enemy Messerschmitt Me 262 jet bombers from KG 51 on their way to bomb our airfields and destroyed one. This was another ‘also ran’ performance on my part, and although the film from my Cine Camera record showed strikes against the aircraft and the Luftwaffe pilot Hans Meyer bailing out, others took credit for the kill. [Cine Cameras recorded the action whenever our guns were fired. Hans Meyer died next day from wounds incurred in this event].

During the autumn of 1944, the Germans, in great secrecy, mustered every available fighter aircraft in an attempt to inflict heavy losses upon the Allies by attacking many of the Airfields in Holland, Belgium and France. The attack was planned for New Year’s Day, 1945, when the Allied Pilots were supposedly hung-over from their New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Code named Operation Bodenplatte (the German word for Base Plate); the New Year’s Day attack achieved almost complete surprise at most of the 23 Allied airfields they attacked, and with total surprise at our airfield at Evere. Both sides lost many aircraft and while the Allies replaced their losses swiftly, the Germans could not replace theirs, and especially the experienced pilots lost.

At about 9:20 AM on New Year’s morning 1945, at the ripe old age of 21 years, plus two months, minus six days, I was taking off on a dawn patrol into a total “overcast of aluminum” comprised of hordes of enemy Me 109’s and FW 190’s. Since we were 20 minutes from enemy territory, disbelief in what was before me was erased when I saw the unmistakable black crosses on the wings and fuselages and swastikas on the tails of the aircraft ahead of me, and I saw my cannon strikes on some of them. There was no time to reflect or try to keep score against such tremendous odds. Avoiding collisions and dodging debris from some of my victims kept me fully occupied. I do not know how many of them I might have winged when I fired into this large mass of planes — estimated about 60 aircraft over a small aerodrome going in all directions with guns blazing — and I still wonder how many might have succumbed on the long way back to their bases.

According to the enemy versions of the attack, the attacking pilots had not seen me and my Number Two taking-off. They were concentrating on trying to destroy other Spits that were taxiing to the runway for take off, or those that were parked in neat rows at the various squadron dispersals. We were negligent in not anticipating an attack of this sort and magnitude, and the aircraft on the ground suffered severe losses. In the melee, my extra fuel tank refused to jettison and it probably impeded the performance of my aircraft, but on the plus side it’s refusal to jettison probably saved the lives of our Group Captain, “Iron Bill” MacBrien, and our Wing Commander, Johnny Johnson, who were just leaving the Officer’s Mess after breakfast. The mess was on the flight path of my aircraft and by not being hit by my fuel tank, they were able to record events as they transpired. Our Squadron Leader, Jim Collier, also observed the action from the ground and he reported that I had started shooting before my undercarriage had been retracted, usually the first operation after take-off.

I ran out of ammunition after I shot down three of them, but was then attacked by two Focke Wulf 190 Doras — long nosed versions of the 190`s – with inline as opposed to radial engines — who were bound and determined to get themselves a Spitfire that day. But by some fancy footwork on my part, I was able to evade them. At one stage, I was within 20 or 30 feet of one of the 190’s and contemplated breaking off his tail with my wing but decided against it when I remembered that a second aircraft was back there somewhere. More fancy footwork on my part, and when the two of them were ahead of me, I made my escape. The attack was all over in 10 minutes, but present day historians are still actively researching the records and memories of the still surviving German pilots who were there. Like us, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc have taken their toll, and there are not many left after almost 60 years. Other members of the 403 squadron, returning from patrol, got into the fringes of the battle, and three of us got 6 of the attackers.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 Fw 190-D

For my performance on New Year’s Day, 1945, I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and my citation is recorded in the Air Ministry Archives in London, and may also be seen on the Internet under RCAF Personnel, Honours and Awards, 1939 to 1949. My citation reads as follows:

One morning early in January 1945, Flying Officer Butte was detailed to fly the leading aircraft of a section on a sortie over the battle zone. Just as the formation became airborne a large force of enemy fighters attacked the airfield. Flying Officer Butte immediately engaged one of the enemy aircraft shooting it down. A second and yet a third attacker fell to his guns before his ammunition was expended. He was himself then attacked by two fighters but outmanoeuvred them. In this engagement against a vastly superior number of enemy aircraft Flying Officer Butte displayed great skill, bravery and tenacity.”

Investiture by Governor General Massey,<br /><br /><br /><br />
Vancouver, Canada 1946
Distinguished Flying Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada.

Brussels Evere was a marshalling point from which German aircrews that were shot down or otherwise captured were kept in custody pending being transported to other locations in the western world to serve their incarceration. During my times off while serving at this base, I used to visit with these personnel and shared goodies with them (cigarettes, chocolates or whatever I had), and most of them asked the same questions: “Why are we fighting you people? We should be fighting together against the Russians!”

Brogel, Holland in March 1945 Stephen Butte at Petit Brogel, Holland, March<br /><br /><br /><br />

Spitfire pilots have their moments of glory to be sure, but much credit for winning the war must be handed to the crews of bomber command who endured hours of anguish en route to and from German cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Regensberg [home of the Messerschmitts], Schweinfurt [ball bearings], Peenemunde [home of the rockets, missiles and wonder weapons], Ploesti [oil fields], Vemork near Oslo [heavy water for nuclear research], and many others, and delayed if not halted the research on and development of numerous ‘wonder’ weapons.

Historians tell us that as late as March 1945, [remember that V-E Day was May 8,1945], Germany had so many potentially destructive weapons being manufactured or planned, we now realize the value of the work the bombers did. The operational concepts of some of these new weapons were validated at least two years earlier. Among these weapons was a long-range Junkers Ju 390 bomber that actually penetrated to within twenty miles of New York City in 1943. The capability of delivering lethal ordnance, [military weapons], to distant targets against which there were no known cures or antidotes was clearly demonstrated. In the case of the V-2 and later multi-stage rockets, they travelled in excess of the speed of sound, reached 60 miles above the earth in their flight and gave no advance warning of their arrival. Towards the end of January 1945, Russian forces over-ran some worked out coal mines in Silesia and discovered secret factories where Tabun nerve gas and its derivatives Soman and Sarin, [the gas that was used in the Tokyo subway a few years ago], were being prepared and stockpiles of 100,000 bombs and one million artillery shells loaded with these gases were found. The Allies were appalled by this discovery, since there was no cure or antidote if exposed to these gases. One can conjecture about the ultimate disposition of these weapons, even to this day. The toxin Ricin, whose notoriety almost 60 years after the war is a threat to the world without vaccines or antidotes, is a derivative of these substances. Development of these weapons was one of the best kept secrets of the war.

Many of the furloughs enjoyed by the Allied Forces in the United Kingdom were spent in London, where most of the available amenities could be found, subject to rationing. I recall standing at Piccadilly Circus numerous times and observing American Bombers returning from their daylight raids, [Americans bombed during daytime, British bombed during night time] many of whom were barely above the rooftops. Many were struggling on fewer than four engines to remain airborne and were missing parts of wings, tails and had otherwise perforated fuselages. Unseen to observers was the carnage that must have existed within these aircraft from the wounded, dead and dying. Many of these aircraft must have been oozing with blood. The boys rarely talk about such things but they occurred also when Bomber Harris’s RAF and RCAF crews returned from their night raids to their bases scattered mostly in the rural midlands of the United Kingdom.

It was customary in the UK to listen to BBC radio each morning to be told that last night our Mosquito aircraft bombed Berlin and all of the aircraft returned safely. [Mosquitoes were very fast and usually were able to elude pursuing enemy fighters]. Towards the end of the war, none of the Mossies were returning, having become victims of the faster Messerschmitt 262 jets each armed with R4M rockets, four 30mm cannons and the EZ 42 automatic gyroscopic gunsights. Also a new aircraft type, the Heinkel He 219 night fighter, took a heavy toll of Mossies before its use was discontinued for obscure reasons. Hitler’s intervention against the development of the Messerschmitt Me 262 as a superb fighter helped the Allies` cause immeasurably. In September, 1944, when Germany had only about forty 262’s operational and when six of them destroyed fifteen American four engined bombers in 15 minutes, Generals Spaatz and Eisenhower reported that such losses could become unbearable in the near future. For each heavy Allied bomber aircraft lost there were 10 crew in American B17 Flying Fortresses and B 24 Liberators, and 7 in Lancasters and Halifaxes respectively. On March 31st, 1944, headlines four inches high announced that 95 of our aircraft were missing after a raid on Nuremberg the night before. The actual figure was about 120 lost when aircraft damaged beyond repair are included.

It was necessary to destroy the German war effort in 1945 against the protestations of the bleeding hearts of the day that contended that Dresden and other German cities should not have been firebombed when Germany was supposedly down and out. What happened on the 11th of September this year could have happened 56 years ago. The Germans had the capability to do it and during the last year of the war were probably desperate enough to try it. One can only ponder the consequences of a September 11th type of attack or worse during World War II against America, Britain and other countries whose soldiers were engaged in the fighting in Europe, while their countries, homes, and families were being devastated by deadly weapons of mass destruction which could have been delivered by aircraft, submarine or missile.

The Germans were masters at concealment, and by dispersing and moving their armament production facilities into abandoned mines, forest factories and new underground facilities, they were able in September 1944 to achieve their maximum fighter plane production of the war when 1800 units were built. Shortage of fuel and heavy operational losses of aircrew prevented the building of any significant reserves. Indeed, they were so short of fuel that they utilized cattle to tow some of their jet aircraft from the dispersal area to the take-off point to save fuel that would have been consumed in taxiing. Since the underground works were not vulnerable to bombing, it was necessary to destroy the cities where the workers lived to curtail production.

Why did we do what we did during the war? This is the question often asked by those who were not there. The emaciated faces and bodies of those at Belsen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the experiences of those at various prisoner of war camps or stalags tell the whole story.

Another group that deserves much credit for their contribution to the war effort was the merchant navy who were mauled by the subs and practically ignored by King and country for their efforts.

And for the ladies, tonight’s the night. Give that Bomber boy an extra special hug; he deserves it. And for the rest of us who made it back and as the twilight of our own years approaches, let us give our fallen comrades the remembrance they deserve.

A post war serial on television used the lines:

“There are 12 million stories in the Naked City”.

This has been one of them.

Thank you.

Stephen Butte's Business Card

North Weald

These are three pictures shared by Dean Black. They were taken at North Weald where 403 Squadron was once stationed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He had this message…

Hi Pierre,

Here are three photographs I took with Steve Butte in April 2002. We visited the North Weald airfield. There is a small museum there, as you can see in the photograph, as well as a prominent memorial to the fallen aircrew who served while operating from North Weald.

Dean on the left is with Steve Butte a Spitfire pilot with 403 Squadron.


Collection Dean Black

Steve Butte is seen here on this picture with his eyes closed. Top row, third from the left.

Dad sitting first left

Collection Georges Nadon via André Nadon

Georges Nadon is in the first row extreme left. It’s Nadon’s second tour of operations. He would end the war with 277 sorties.

This is Steve Butte again.


Collection Dean Black

This third picture is most interesting.


Collection Dean Black

Most interesting when you compare it with this one.

Pierre Lecoq's Spitfire

North Weald