21 August 1942 – Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston?


Comment by Steve Nickerson

Hi Pierre. Wondering if you were able to identify the last four pilots in the August 1942 403 at Catterick photo. I believe the pilot behind F/O Olmsted and next to Marshall in the second row is Mitch Johnston.

That pilot has a bar on his sleeve which means it would be plausible since he was a Sergeant on August 11 1942…

From the squadron’s ORBs

Tuesday, 11 July, 1942

Weather 6/10ths cloud with the wind at 10 to 15 mph from the NW. At 1200 hours, a scramble was done by Blue Section, P/O Gardiner and F/O Wiejski, over the base and returning in 20 minutes without contact being made. General flying was done by ‘A’ Flight – aerobatics, cine gun, tail chase and formation. Good news for the Squadron, for today commissions were granted to six NCO pilots: F/S G.D. Aitken, F/S H.S. Anderson, Sgt H.J. Murphy, F/S C.R. Olmsted, Sgt M. Johnston and Sgt Monchier, all effective 20 June, 1942. This action will strengthen the Squadron immeasurably and prove a real factor in building up morale. Word was received that the AOC of the Group has recommended that court-martial action be taken against P/O J.E. Gardiner after a review of the Summary of Evidence.

And then a Pilot Officer on August 16…

Sunday, 16 August, 1942

The Squadron took off at 0845 hours for Manston, landing at North Weald owing to bad weather and arriving at Manston at 1400 hours. The second ground party left by train, owing to bad weather at Catterick. The weather was fine at Manston but two a/c overshot on landing (AA736 and AA979). P/O H.S. Anderson broke a shoulder blade and was taken to hospital while P/O M. Johnston was uninjured.


Original photo

BB1 - HR



Colorised by Doug Banks

New version

Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston

Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston?


Remembering Frank Holt Horner

About a ground crew…

RCAF 416 Squadron

Frank Horner 1

Frank Holt Horner’s story will be told later on this blog. His granddaughter Julie has shared his story with me and I have permission to share it on this blog.

Frank Horner was not a pilot with 416 Squadron, but this does not mean he was out of harm’s way as you will find out later.

Frank Horner Spitfire Mk IX

Frank Horner Spitfire

He was a ground crew servicing the 416 Spitfires. Exclusive photos of Frank Horner and other ground crew will be featured next time.

All this to preserve the past for unsung heroes.

Frank Horner friends

View original post

Reflecting on Charles Robertson Olmsted

I did not know until 15 days ago who was Charles Robertson Olmsted on a group photo taken on August 21, 1942, two days after the Dieppe raid.

21 August 1942

Then his nephew Ross found this blog and wrote me where his uncle was on the group photo…

Ross sent me another email last night. I told Ross I had to share what he wrote with my readers.

You are very patient to have read through that. Thank you.

I am sure many thousands of young men died because of mistakes and ineptitude during the war. And I can even bring myself to understand why senior officers could rationalize covering up the facts so as not to undermine morale and turn citizens against the war. It is human nature, and human nature is far from perfect.

Young men such as Charles (whose dream was to act on the stage, and to be with his bride) were suddenly swept up in the terrible whirlwind of Hitler’s war and transformed into fighter pilots. And other young men, who perhaps only wanted to be left alone to work on their farms and chase girls on a Saturday night, were rushed through courses to become aircraft mechanics and maintenance crew. Mistakes were certain to happen.

On the same microfilm reel as the one on which I found that accident report, there were dozens of similar reports on air accidents that took place during that same period on RCAF bases across Canada. There seemed to be one a week.

If there was ever a just war, the war against the Nazis certainly qualifies. Charles may have died as a result of negligence and human error, but he was proud to serve his country and he did so with honour.

My generation is just so damn lucky to have been spared what they went through.

Thank you again, Pierre.


So what did I read?

To be continued…

Remembering Charles Olmsted – Update

Thanks to his nephew Ross, Charles Robertson Olmsted will never be forgotten.

Pierre, the pilot seated in the front row on the right is my mother’s brother, Charles Olmsted of Ottawa. He died on May 1, 1944, while serving as an instructor in Bagotville, Quebec.


This search for who was who on this picture started a few years ago.

I only knew Wing Commander Sydney Ford. Last week Charles Robertson Olmsted was added.

This is now the latest version of the colorised photo done by Doug Banks last year. I have added one name.

New version

Four pilots are still waiting for identification. I have a few hints, but I want to check them first.

The pilots are seen here again with all the staff and the ground crew. The date could be also August 21, 1942, two days after the Dieppe raid where three pilots were killed: Walker, Gardiner, and Monchier.
BB2 - HR

What really happened to F/O Harold Chauncy Byrd?

The Spitfire of Landfort

On March 19, 1945 between 14.00 and 14.30 a Spitfire comes down at Landfort, north of Megchelen. The Spitfire Mk XVI with serial number SM-208 belonged to 403 squadron RCAF and was that day at 13.30 hours with 11 more aircraft that took off from the base Petit Brogel in Belgium for a “sweep” (sweeping) in the area of Rheine and Osnabrück. The pilot F/O BYRD reports at the base that he has engine problems and flies back to the base. At the height of Dwardefeld, just north of Landfort, he is hit by 2 cm Flak. The Spitfire crashes at Landfort and the 28 year old F/O Harold Chauncey Byrd is killed. He is buried in a field grave by his aircraft and on October 14, 1947 reburied at the RK cemetery in Gendringen.

What really happened to F/O Harold Chauncy Byrd?

Hello Pierre,

We have more and sad information about the dead of F/O Harold Chauncy Byrd.
Recently interview resulted in new info.

Everything was broken in Megchelen

Gert Mecking (1930) lived in 1945 on a farm on the Hogestraat at Landfort. During an interview his neighbour Leo Duenk (1933) joined the conversation. His parent’s house was on the Beuningstraat, to the west of Megchelen.

Gert Mecking : “I was there when that Spitfire came down in the forest on the 19th of March. We were sawing wood with some other men when suddenly that plane came down through the treetops.

When the plane came to the ground, the wings were already off. The pilot was still alive and was taken out of the plane and put against a tree. The Germans were there immediately and were swearing: Schweinhund! They toke off his uniform. We were all severely asked to go away. I heard them ranting and I am sure that they killed him!!! Firstly, that pilot is buried at Landfort.


Courtesy Lynn Garrison

Here are two pages from 403 Squadron reports covering the Dieppe Raid.


Lynn Garrison

Lynn Garrison added this group photo taken 1941.

More on Lynn Garrison here…


Lynn Garrison (born April 1, 1937) is a Canadian pilot and political adviser. He was a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot in the 403 City of Calgary Squadron, before holding jobs as a commercial pilotfilm producerdirector and mercenary. Later he became a political adviser in Haiti, and is now an author. With regard to flying, Garrison is known for his oft-repeated comment, “If it has fuel and noise, I can fly it.”0

Now and then…

Now and then, I come across old images that have been filed away and forgotten. Two such images are attached.

You can use these two from No. 403 [Wolf} Squadron City of Calgary. They came from Lynn Garrison and were the early March 1941 Curtiss Tomahawk fighters.


Clarence Simonsen and I are passionnate about aviation. He is sharing these photos…