A Reader’s Comment About George Aitken

I don’t know if Pat Murphy told Dorothy about my blog.

Hi, I am George Aitken’s youngest daughter, Dorothy. It was so wonderful to see the ‘never seen before’ picture of my Dad. I have been doing my best to try to preserve his memory. I would certainly like to thank Robert Brookes’s son for providing you with the picture. I am so very, very thankful that this site is remembering my Dad. He was a hero in many ways and I miss him every day.

Collection Robert Brookes

Collection Robert Brookes

Collection Robert Brookes

Collection Robert Brookes

Colorised by Doug Banks

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When and Where

LeClare Allerthorn Walker should be on this group photo.

But he is not. LeClare Allerthorn Walker was shot down on August 19, 1942.

Collection Robert Brookes

LeClare Allerthorn Walker’s biography is on this blog for you to read.

20 pilots pose for posterity after August 19, 1942. 8 have been identified. I knew some of them but Doug Banks found some more.

One of them looked familiar…

Collection Fred Turner

George Aitken (1921-2012)

This tribute was written in 2012.

I was paying homage to another No. 403 Squadron pilot. George Aitken was with 403 during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. I had gotten his obituary from Dean Black.

 

AITKEN, George Dennis

With heavy hearts, the family of George D. Aitken, AFC, announce his passing on January 11, 2012 at the age of 91.

Survived by his best friend and loving wife of 62 years, Daphne; his three daughters: Deborah Sprenger (Wolfgang), Heather Rawsthorne (Mike) and Dorothy Lowrie; his sister-in-law, Marjorie Aitken and many nieces and nephews.

George was predeceased by his parents, a brother and a number of life-long friends and family members. A Spitfire pilot during WWII and an Air Force Cross recipient, George spent his retirement years working as an historian, documenting facts pertaining to his experiences during the war. It was his belief that if we do not learn from history, we will be forced to relive it one day.


More on George Aitken…

Pilot Dedicates Golden Years to History of RCAF

BY EDMONTON JOURNAL NOVEMBER 1, 2005

 

The bullet from the Nazi fighter tore through the canopy of George Aitken’s Spitfire, missing him by inches. “My engine and wing were riddled with fire,” he says. “Pieces of my aircraft broke off and I began to lose height.”

The bullet from the Nazi fighter tore through the canopy of George Aitken’s Spitfire, missing him by inches.”My engine and wing were riddled with fire,” he says. “Pieces of my aircraft broke off and I began to lose height.” Aitken was flying over Nazi-occupied France with his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron on June 2, 1942, when it was attacked by a much superior number of German fighters. “I had gone to the aid of a pal who was being attacked when I suddenly found myself being fired on by two enemy fighters,” says Aitken. “My friend went down and the Nazis backed off their attack on me, probably because they were low on fuel.”I could see the white cliffs of Dover and safety ahead. But I fell to about 1,000 feet in altitude from 6,000 feet and I realized I wasn’t going to make it.”The attack on Aitken’s squadron set a record for losses by a single RCAF offensive patrol. One pilot was killed and five became prisoners of war after ditching their damaged Spitfires.”I dived out and my parachute opened immediately,” says Aitken. “I landed feet-first in the Channel, climbed into my dinghy and a motor torpedo boat picked me about 20 minutes later.”

 

Aitken, 85, who flies an RCAF flag at his home, has turned historian and is now collecting details about the RCAF during the Second World War. “My friend Wayne Ralph, who has written a book on wartime experiences of Canadian pilots, says our war is as distant to the present generation as the Battle of Agincourt,” says Aitken. “But even if we are forgotten, we will be discovered again. I want historical writers to have reliable facts.”

Edmonton-born Aitken tried to get a job in a bank on graduating from school. But he was told he would be wanted by the Forces. He applied to become a pilot and joined the RCAF in December 1940. He trained in Canada and southern England before joining the 416 Spitfire squadron at a new airfield at Peterhead in northeast Scotland in August 1941.

“The threat of a Nazi invasion was still very much on the minds of authorities,” says Aitken, 19 at the time. “Airmen were trained in the intricacies of bayonet fighting while officers practised with Tommy guns.” Despite constant patrolling, few contacts with the enemy were reported. Just as well, perhaps. “Our Spitfires had been flown during the Battle of Britain by the likes of Polish, French, South African and Australian pilots,” says Aitken. “The planes were a bit greasy. The Spitfire was one of the fastest and most effective single-seat fighters of its day.”

On August 19, 1942, Aitken, flying out of southern England, did two missions over the ill-fated raid on Dieppe. The Dieppe attack was planned as “a reconnaissance in force” to test the defences of Hitler’s continental fortress and the capability of the Allies to launch large-scale amphibious assaults. “The raid was a disaster,” says Aitken. “It lasted only nine hours, but among nearly 5,000 Canadian soldiers involved, more than 900 were killed and 1,874 taken prisoner.” The Allies lost 106 aircraft and 81 airmen, the RCAF losing 13 machines and 10 men. “Two of our 403 squadron pilots collided on the way out and are buried at Dieppe,” says Aitken. “Another of our pilots was also lost that day. “We flew back over ships lost there and the equipment caught on the rocky shorelines. The Nazis had picked it off easily.”

Aitken’s squadron later accompanied American Flying Fortress bombers on raids over France and Germany. “An extra tank was put on our Spitfires to give us an extra 20 minutes in the air,” says the former pilot. “We’d return to base, refuel and then go back to meet the bombers as they returned.” Aitken was one of many pilots who stayed with the bombers too long. It made him a rare member of both the Goldfish Club (for landing in “the drink”) and the Caterpillar Club for “hitting the silk” (ground).

“When I knew my gas was going to run out, I made for Littlestone aerodrome, near Dover,” says Aitken. “But not only wasn’t it operational, it had steel barriers on the runway to prevent landings. “Dikes had also been built on the edge of the runway for the same reason.” But he had to land. After switching off all fuel tanks and jettisoning his spare, he flew over one dike, used his wing elevators to clear another and hopped over a third. “The fourth dike was zooming towards me, I had lost numerous pieces from under the fuselage and the prop was no longer in one piece,” says Aitken. “I came to a stop with the engine teetering over the last dike.” A sergeant appeared and Aitken asked him if other Spitfires had landed there. “Not the way you did,” the officer replied with a wry smile.”

Aitken says philosophically that war should be forgotten. But pilots he flew with gave their lives to overthrow a tyranny that could have swept the world. “We should not forget them,” he says.

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

 
 
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Collection Robert Brookes
George Aitken
Collection Robert Brookes
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Model of George Aitken’s Spitfire Mk IXc built by Pat Murphy

Sergeant Robert Brookes’ Collection – George Aitken

George Aitken is standing probably on a wing of a Spitfire Mk Vb in 1942 or 1943. This photo is part of more than 30 photos from Sergeant George Brookes’ collection shared by his son.

Never been seen before!

 

To be continued…

George Aitken flew KH-L – Pat Murphy’s Tribute to George

Dean Black had started a little quiz a few years back on this… I called it the KH game. It was a way to find all the letters of the alphabet with the KH code.

Pat Murphy had stumbled on my blog and had written a comment on an Easter Sunday. With that comment the throttle on this blog opened wide.

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I am used to be startled on this blog and on my others blogs I am writing about WWII.

How I started writing about WWII is quite interesting.

It started with the story of a Canadian destroyer sunk on April 29, 1944. I had never heard of it before even though I thought I was quite knowledgeable about WWII when I started getting interested in WWII in 1958 as a young boy coming from school. The blog Lest We Forget and its French version Souvenirs de guerre led me to meet Georges Stewart virtually and then later in person.

paul-beaudet-and-george-stewart

While staying at a B&B in Hamilton I met a young man whose grandfather was a Spitfire pilot.

me-and-my-spitfire

Walter Neil Dove

This is how this blog about RCAF 403 Squadron started in September 2011. A few years later a new chapter opened up with Pat sharing what he knew about Spitfires and the pilots who flew them.

And Pat knew a lot!

And he sent me lots of stuff since that Easter Sunday.

I did not know who Pat Murphy was before he wrote a comment.

Pierre, I very much enjoy your 403 Squadron information, do you have an email address so that I can provide some information to you. I have searched your website for your contact info/ email and can’t seem to find it. I have a Canadian Spitfire display in a museum here on Vancouver Island complete with some 403 Squadron Spitfires that you might find interesting. Recently I’ve included a Spitfire flown by Doug Lindsay of 403 Squadron to the display. I met Doug at his home in Red Deer Alberta a few ago when I was having him sign some limited edition aviation prints for the Y2-K Spitfire restoration project. Doug provided me with the details for his model Spitfire when I called him a few weeks ago. The display also features a model of George Aitkens Spitfire, George provided me with his details as well.

Pat Murphy Vancouver Island Military Museum Nanaimo B.C.

When you don’t know someone they in fact don’t exist.

Just like George Stewart and his navigator Paul Beaudet who flew 50 operations together.

paul-beaudet-and-george-stewart-1

Just like George Aitken and his Spitfire.

Flying Officer George Aitken 403 Sqn RCAF

Just like this museum in Nanaimo.

DSCN3509

Or this pilot’s Spitfire…

DSCN3503

George Aitken is not a little known Spitfire pilot anymore.

GEORGE aITKEN

He is not only a post on this blog that I wrote in March 2012.

George is much much more than that…

UNCLE GEORGE

Much more…

AIRFORCE MAGAZINE11

And what about that model airplane of KH-L?

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Pat had written this…

Pierre,

I forgot to mention the details behind the reason George Aitken had roundels on his wheel covers. He was visiting an American bomber base at one time and he noticed that some of the bombers had a large star painted on the wheel covers of the bombers, George thought it looked good and when he returned to his own base he mentioned it to his ground crew. The next few days were very rainy and all operations had been cancelled. When opps went back on he noticed that his ground crew had painted the roundel on the wheel covers of his Spitfire, I believe it was the only RCAF Spitfire to wear such markings. When George saw the markings applied to his model he was most pleased.

George Aitken (1921-2012)

A comment about this post on George Aitken…

Stephen Nickerson commented on George Aitken (1921-2012)

I had the honour of speaking with Mr. Aitken on the telephone in June 2005 with regards to Syd Ford and the 403. A true gentleman, he was most kind in answering my questions. I’m sure bringing up subjects like that fateful day on the 2nd of June 1942 brought back terrible memories.

His job most often seemed to be that of tail end Charlie. That was the toughest job and the most thankless job because it was the tail end Charlies who were the eyes and protect for the squadron’s rear. It was men like Mr. Aitken, Mr. Wozniak and ( Willie Lane who saved Ford from being shot down on March 13th, 1943) that received little or no credit from the press for the invaluable efforts they made in protecting their leaders’ on each mission. These were the pilots who were coming back from long missions usually landing on just gas fumes in their tanks.

Medals were not for the tail end Charlies because medals went to those who scored victories over enemy aircraft. Without the protection of the wingmen and tail end Charlie’s, however, the leaders of the squadron would not have lived long enough to score these victories. Wingmen like Mr. Aitken were the unsung heroes.
On this Remembrance Day during that two minutes of silence, my thoughts will be of such fine men like Mr. George D. Aitken.

Flying Officer George Aitken 403 Sqn RCAF

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

Paying homage to another No.403 Squadron pilot.

He was with 403 during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. 

I just got this obituary from Dean Black.

AITKEN, George Dennis


With heavy hearts, the family of George D. Aitken, AFC, announce his passing on January 11, 2012 at the age of 91.

Survived by his best friend and loving wife of 62 years, Daphne; his three daughters: Deborah Sprenger (Wolfgang), Heather Rawsthorne (Mike) and Dorothy Lowrie; his sister-in-law, Marjorie Aitken and many nieces and nephews.

George was predeceased by his parents, a brother and a number of life-long friends and family members.
A Spitfire pilot during WWII and an Air Force Cross recipient, George spent his retirement years working as an historian, documenting facts pertaining to his experiences during the war. It was his belief that if we do not learn from history, we will be forced to relive it one day.

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