The pilot behind the plane

I know Georges Nadon is in front of a Spitfire and not behind… Just playing with words this morning.

Dad & Spitfire

I know what type of Spitfire is pictured here and probably know when this picture was taken.

Who was Georges Nadon, the man behind the plane, and how do we find out how brave a man he was since he talked so little about the war?

Dad & Spitfire

I was wondering why he named that plane Henry.

So I asked his children. One wrote me an e-mail and wrote back with an anecdote from his father.

Un moment donné en Europe, un squadron leader venait d’atterrir et mon père atterrissait tout de suite en arrière de lui sauf que le leader ne s’est pas tassé  pour donner assez de place à mon père pour atterrir avec aisance. Ils ont failli avoir une collision. 

Le leader a commencé à engueuler mon père mais mon père s’est défendu en disant que lorsqu’il avait pris son cours de pilotage, une des choses à faire une fois atterri, c’était de faire la place pour le suivant, chose que le leader n’avait pas fait. Selon les pilotes, il parait que le leader était un peu “show off”.

C’est à ce moment là que tous les autres pilotes qui étaient sur place ont pris la part de mon père et le leader s’est viré de bord avec la face rouge sans dire un mot de plus.


At one time in Europe, a squadron leader had just landed his plane, and my father was right behind him. However the squadron leader stayed on the runway leaving not enough space for my father to make an easy landing. I was a close call. 

The leader started to give an earful to my father, but my father argued back telling him he had learned in his training days that once you have landed you clear the way for other pilots to land, what the leader had not done. According to fellow pilots it seems the leader was a bit of a “show off”.

At that precise moment all the other pilots who were there took my father’s side, and the leader turned away, his face red without saying another word.

Veterans seldom talked about the war. I know because I had the privilege of meeting some veterans since 2010.

Getting back to the plane I think the Spitfire behind George is a Spitfire Mk IX, and this picture would have been taken in France by looking at the pierced-steel plank.

I know Georges Nadon was with 403 Squadron in his last tour of operations because I have his logbook. His first tour was with 122 Squadron in England and then 185 Squadron in Malta, before being rapatriated in Canada, and stationed at Bagotville in 1943. He then got married.

His second tour of operations was with 403 Squadron from June 1944 through March 1945.

So why is this so important that I should write about this Spitfire named Henry?

Because George Nadon never talked about the 277 sorties he did in WW II and he probably chose to name his Spitfire for his wife Henriette.

30 thoughts on “The pilot behind the plane

      • Rest assure, your cousin’s name does not appear in the logbook.

        Now, can you tell me more about your cousin Bill Pentland?

      • October 7, 1944 Squadron Leader/ Pilot William Harry Pentland exploded in a dive-bombing run in Germany

        Not with Nadon’s squadron


        Squadron Leader (Pilot) William Harry “Big Bill” Pentland DFC (J3204)
        He received his Wings from #2 Service Flying Training School at Uplands (Ottawa) in early 1940. He was ordered to England and arrived on Christmas Eve, 1940. On June 28, 1941, he was injured in a plane crash (head injuries) and spent a period in recovery. By early 1942, he had been promoted to Flight Lieutenant and was named a Flight Commander in his squadron (402 Squadron). He returned to Canada and served for a time as instructor at #1 Operational Training Unit, Bagotville, Quebec. He was appointed Squadron Leader of 111 Sqn in December, 1943, relieving his good friend since flight training days, David L. Ramsay. He took the newly re-numbered (to 440 Sqn) squadron to Europe. He remained S/L until his death on October 7, 1944. His Typhoon (Number MN 641) exploded just as he released his bombs on a railroad bombing run near Wesel, Germany. He is buried at the War Cemetery at Rheinberg, Germany. The 440 Sqn Operations Record Book, dated Oct 7, 1944, noted his last mission. “There were three missions that day. The first two were successful. “The third and final target proved very costly when our Officer commanding, S/L W.H. Pentland, DFC, was killed. He has only three more trips to complete his second tour of operations and his loss is deeply felt by all who worked with and knew him. The target was to dive-bomb rails at A.0758 – A.1747 in which 8 of our aircraft participated, using 16 X 500 lb 11 second delay bombs. On the bombing run S/L Pentland was seen to dive with his guns blazing and his aircraft was seen to explode after dropping his bombs. F/O Savard who followed behind was caught in the explosion and narrowly escaped spinning in…. All bombs were in target area, rails were cut and near misses scored. Weather was hazy and smoky.” He was from Calgary, Alberta.

        Photo Identification Confidence Level: 1 Confirmed
        Face Photo from website Aces of; see link for a thorough examination of his career; the picture on the left of then-Pilot Officers Ramsay and Pentland (on right), all decked out in their brand new flying suits, was taken at Elementary Flying Training School #3, London, Ontario on August 23, 1940. It and the first signature are from the Collection of S/L David L. Ramsay courtesy of his daughter and son-in-law Christie Anne and Bo Jensen. The second signature was extracted from an assessment report he wrote about one of his flying officers.

      • Sorry it was his brother Bob who was in Squadron 403, Bill was S/L for 111 and 440. Bob Pentland was badly injured in December 1943 and then in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Incidentally, with regard to the picture of the Pilot Officers Bill Pentland and Ramsay, and despite it being Photo ID Confidence Level 1, I actually think Bill is the gentleman on the left, a) he was quite a tall man (as are most of the men on that side of my family) and b) the man on the left looks very similar to other relatives, such as his 1st and 2nd cousins.

        Calgary Herald 13th February 1954
        Former Top Athlete ‘Bob’ Pentland Dies

        Calgary – CP –

        Robert Temple (Bob) Pentland, 34, a top athlete before his Spitfire crashed over England in the Second World War, died in Col Belcher Military Hospital Friday.

        Since the crash, Pentland has been confined to a electric wheelchair. Before going overseas in 1940, Bob together with his brother Bill, killed over Germany in 1944, formed an outstanding brother team in sports.

        Active in badminton, tennis, hockey and rugby, Bob Pentland won his first championship at 15 when he captured the Calgary men’s badminton title. He was Alberta champion in 1935 and 1936 and the following two years he was a finalist in all three open events in the Canadian championships.

        He held the Calgary and Alberta tennis doubles championships in 1938. In hockey he played with the New York Rovers of the eastern league and with Edmonton Athletic Club juniors.

        In Rugby he was a teammate of Tony Golab with the RCAF Hurricanes when they lost the Grey Cup semi-finals in 1941.
        Born at Lake Saskatoon, Alberta, he was educated in Calgary.

      • Have you contacted the person who has this Website?
        I know I would like someone to write me so I could make a correction.

        Thanks for all this information.
        I would like to use it on this blog as an homage to your cousins Bob and Bill.

      • I will post something on the blog and then write to the person who has the Website with the wrong identification information.
        I have contacted him before.
        Nice person.

  1. About your cousin…
    He returned to Canada and served for a time as instructor at #1 Operational Training Unit, Bagotville, Quebec.

    Nadon was at the same place, but not the same time period I think…
    Nadon was also an instructor when I look at his logbook. I will cover this period in my other blog dedicated to Georges Nadon.

  2. My mother, Marie Lesuik, married Bob Pentland in 1945…I have been curious about him…thank you for remembering him…

    • Monday, 20 December, 1943

      Today was sunny with very little cloud. The Wing went on two sweeps today. F/O Pentland damaged one FW 190 on the first operation and 421 Squadron destroyed four FW 190s, one ME 109 and damaged one FW 190 and three ME 109s. S/L Lambert of 421 Squadron is posted as missing. On the second sweep no enemy aircraft were seen. P/O Weaver and F/L Goldberg took off on a rhubarb at 1600 hours. They shot up a number of newly constructed buildings and damaged twelve military vehicles. Both pilots returned safely although F/L Goldberg was forced to land at West Malling due to a number of flak holes in his starboard wing. There were four non-operational sorties today on aircraft tests and local flying. F/O E.L. Gimbel was posted to 421 Squadron today as a Flight Commander. P/O A.V. Hargraves was posted to 587 Squadron Weston Zoyland wef today. F/O Pentland crash-landed on the edge of the aerodrome today after the second sweep. He was admitted to the hospital in a very serious condition, and action has been taken to have him posted non-effective sick to 127 Airfield HQ wef 20-12-43.

    • Mary Ann. Bob Pentland was a very good friend of my father Bill Uren. They played tennis and badminton together and won several city and provincial champtionships before the war. They were both wonderful athletes. I knew Bob and Marie very well as a child. They lived close by in Calgary.

  3. I just heard quite a lot about Bob from my mum. My grandmother was head of the physio-therapy department at St. Anne De Bellevue where he was after his crash. He had been a good friend of my Uncle Hart. I would just like to pass along my regards to his family. It was special to hear about his service.

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