Life is funny sometimes

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

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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.

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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.