About Erks

What Paul Richey thought about erks? 


Excerpt from his book written in 1941

fighters came across in big formations: sometimes three squadrons of 109s would do a sweep as far as Metz and Nancy. The 110s had made their first appearance at the end of March, in close squadron formation and very high, only engaging when pressed into it by our Hurricanes. It was obvious that the Germans were practising offensive tactics, and it looked as though the bust-up might come soon.

This thought caused us to pay even more attention to our aircraft. Every pilot takes a pride in his own aeroplane, but the knowledge that he may be in action at any moment is naturally an additional incentive. There was now a marked increase of interest in the individual Hurricanes, and long hours were spent by ground crews and pilots in flight testing, altering rigging, adjusting control wires to the preferred tautness, tuning the engine, harmonizing the sights, checking the guns and testing them in the air, and generally getting everything on the top line.

For the benefit of the layman I should mention that the crew of a lighter does not consist solely of the pilot, although he is the only member who flies: the other two members, who are aircraftsmen, are just as vital; they are the fitter and the rigger. The fitter looks after the engine, the rigger the airframe. The pilot depends on these two men for his life. Normally the fitter and rigger take a personal pride in their pilot and would do anything for him. They are inextricably involved in his victories and defeats. Consequently there is a wonderful spirit of teamwork and comradeship between the pilots, who are mostly officers, and the men not only the fitters and riggers, but all the men in the various technical sections right down to the aircraft hands. My own fitter and rigger were two fine chaps, and much later, back in England, I paid a visit to my old squadron specially to thank them for the invaluable work they had done for me during the French campaign.

More on Paul Richey

The pilots of 1 Squadron

The pilots of 1 Squadron

Most of 1 Squadron’s well trained and experienced pilots are seen here shortly before the outbreak of the blitzkrieg on 10 May 1940. The commanding officer, Squadron Leader PH ‘Bull’ Halahan, is in the centre, wearing a sheepskin flying jacket.

On the far left is Pilot Officer Billy Drake. Although one of the only two pilots in this photo not to receive a DFC in June 1940 (having been shot down and wounded on 13 May), he was to end the war as the most successful of all this group of outstanding fighter pilots. He had by then been promoted to Wing Commander, and had claimed some 28 aircraft shot down (three of which were shared and two unconfirmed), plus 15 more destroyed on the ground. He had also been awarded a DSO, DFC and Bar, and a US DFC. He remained in the RAF postwar, becoming a Group Captain.

Next to him is Flying Officer LR Clisby, an aggressive Australian pilot who was the squadron’s first top-scorer, having already claimed at least ten aircraft shot down, and possibly more, by the time he was brought down and killed on 14 May. Behind his left shoulder is his friend, Flying Officer LR Lorimer, who was shot down and killed during the same engagement.

Flight Lieutenant P Prosser Hanks was one of the unit’s two flight commanders. He had claimed seven victories when sent home to become an instructor later in May. He ended the war as a Wing Commander, credited with 13 enemy aircraft shot down. Between him and Halahan is Pilot Officer PWO ‘Boy’ Mould (see below).

Behind ‘Bull’ Halahan’s left shoulder is Jean-François Demozay. A civilian pilot before the war, he had been loaned to the squadron as French interpreter. He fled to England when France fell, and became a fighter pilot, joining 1 Squadron in this role late in 1940. He ended the war as a Wing Commander, credited with 18 victories, but was then killed in an aircraft accident on 19 December 1945.

The senior flight commander, Flight Lieutenant PR ‘Johnnie’ Walker, is next. He claimed eight successes in combat during spring 1940, and ended the war as a Group Captain. Standing in front of Walker and the next two pilots is Flight Lieutenant DM Brown, the squadron medical officer. Behind his left shoulder is Flying Officer JI Kilmartin (see below).

Almost hidden behind Brown and Kilmartin is Flying Officer PHM Richey, later author of Fighter Pilot, one of the classic books of the war. Before he was wounded on 19 May, Paul Richey had claimed ten victories. He later returned to operations in 1941, and also ended the war as a Wing Commander.

Another, almost hidden behind his colleagues, is New Zealander Flying Officer WH Stratton (see below), and the last in the line is Flying Officer CD ‘Pussy’ Palmer, born in the USA of British parentage. He later became a Squadron Leader, but was shot down and killed over the English Channel on 27 October 1942.

Missing from this group are three other notable officers and three leading NCO pilots. The third representative of the Commonwealth was Flying Officer MH ‘Hilly’ Brown from Canada, who was on leave when the photograph was taken. He had claimed some 17 victories when the squadron left France in June, having overtaken Clisby as the top-scorer for the unit in 1940. Becoming Commanding Officer soon after the return to England, he also flew during the Battle of Britain. He became a Wing Commander in 1941, but was shot down and killed over Sicily on 12 November 1941.

Flying Officer GPH Matthews joined the squadron in August 1939. He claimed five victories during May-June 1940, ending the war as a Squadron Leader, with 11 victories credited to him.

Pilot Officer PV Boot had arrived only in March 1940 as a reinforcement, having just retrained as a fighter pilot. The 1 Squadron ethos and example obviously enveloped him rapidly, for by 5 June he had claimed five aircraft shot down. He later took part in the Battle of Britain before becoming an instructor, and was awarded a DFC.

The squadron’s outstanding NCO pilot was Flight Sergeant FJ Soper, who claimed 13 victories over France during 1940. He was later commissioned and by 1941 had been given command of his own squadron. He failed to return from a sortie to intercept an intruding German bomber off the Suffolk coast on 5 October 1941.

Flight Sergeant AV ‘Darky’ Clowes had claimed seven successes by 18 June 1940. He too was commissioned later in the year, subsequently becoming a Squadron Commander. A third notable NCO was Flight Sergeant FG Berry, who shot down the bomber that had just bombed the troopshipLancastrian in St Nazaire harbour on 17 June 1940. He was killed shortly afterwards, on 1 September, during the Battle of Britain.

Paul Richey

Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON – Redux

A great research and article from Mark

Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON

Al Johnson

JOHNSTON, Dr. Albert (Al) Charles West MD.CM., FRCS

December 7, 1923 – July 28, 2013

With great sadness, we announce that Al passed away peacefully at age 89 on July 28, 2013 in Port Moody, B.C. He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years Peggy (nee Mouat), his children Kathleen, James (Barbara), William (Diane) and Thomas (Deanne), his grandchildren Alexander, Robert, James and Daniel, and his brother Jack and sister Maureen Bailey, and predeceased by his brothers Herbert, Walter and Victor.

Born in Armstrong, B.C., Al grew up in Nanaimo, B.C. where he attended elementary school thru grade 13.

He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and served as a Leading Aircraftman for the RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron in England, Holland, Belgium and Germany thru 1946.

He returned to Canada and graduated from University of British Columbia, B.Sc (Zoology) with honors in 1949, McGill University medical school in 1953, and from Ophthalmology training at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in 1958.

Al and Peggy opened medical practices in Vancouver in 1959 in an office they shared together until their retirement in 1989. During his years of practice, Al was associated with UBC/VGH Department of Ophthalmology as Clinical Professor devoting time to clinical teaching, developing the Neuro Ophthalmology program at UBC and to serving as an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians.

Al loved the outdoors and he and Peggy actively spent time on Saltspring Island, on their boat in B.C. and travelling in other parts of the world. Following retirement, Al and Peggy moved to Saltspring where they built their retirement home and they greatly enjoyed retirement with their extended family.

Thanks go out to his doctors and the staff at Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody, B.C. where he spent the final stage of life and special thanks go to Dr. Tony Wilson, Dr. Saul Isserow and to Dr. Christine Todorovic.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 961 North End Road, Saltspring Island, B.C. and a gathering of friends to celebrate Al’s life will also be held in Vancouver from 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday, September 15, 2013 at Royal Vancouver Yacht Club at 3811 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, B.C.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Walter George Johnston research fund (UBC faculty of medicine) #P128, or the Saltspring Island Foundation named fund would be welcome.

Published in The Times Colonist from August 17 to August 18, 2013

Dr. Albert Johnston was a very talented and remarkable human being.

The ERK wearing the glasses is very prominent in a lot of my dad’s war pictures.  

George White

I’m no expert, but I think Dr. Albert Johnston may be in some of these pictures. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you readers could identify more of these airmen.

 George White 1

George White 3 George White 2-1 George White 2

Mark White – October 2013

What do you think?

George White 3-1

George White 2-2

George White 1-1

George White 2-1-1


Erks and the necktie story

I first  heard the word “erks” from George  Stewart’s mouth when  he phoned me in 2011. I  never thought  a Mosquito  pilot  would  have ever phoned  me.

I asked John last  Saturday  if he knew George Stewart.

He did not.

I  am sure  George  doesn’t  know  who is J. B. Le May also because I am  pretty  sure George doesn’t  read this blog, not even  my blog about  23 Squadron,  a night intruder  squadron  in the R.A.F., the squadron  he flew with in WWII.

It doesn’t  really matter because  I  just write  so people will  find  my blogs  about  their  father, grandfather, uncle, granduncle… just like Andrew Tood did a few years ago.

All this writing  about  people  I  knew  nothing  about  led me to meet virtually,  or in person,  wonderful  caring human  beings.

I  could  write  a book about  all these meetings, but I  am too busy writing  my blogs.

This  being  said, John B. told  me so many anecdotes  when  I  met  him that I  have enough  material  to fill a book. Luckily  he wrote  most everything  in his ebook.

Take  the  time  to  read it.


Now what about the necktie  story  I  told John  B.?


If you happen to stumble on this blog… Redux

Editor’s notes

Written in 2011 when I just started to write about a RCAF Squadron I knew nothing about before I met Greg Bell. This redux post is for you John. This is post number 530.


If you happen to stumble on this blog, then you are missing a lot…

A lot…

A lot about the history of RCAF No. 403  Squadron from December 1944 through May 1945.

This is my 44th article since September.

This mission all started with a few pictures of unknown pilots from a photo album of an little known Canadian Spitfire pilot with the RCAF.

Walter Neil Dove most probably never talked that much about the war.

His grandson had his photo allbum and his logbook.

Just one pilot was well known to me in this group picture taken in March 1945.

Johnnie Johnson.

I knew who he was.

He was the RAF top ace with 38 enemy aircraft destroyed. 

The caption from this picture scanned last week is most interesting.

Greg’s grandfather wrote it… in 1945!

That’s History!

Greg and I are on a special mission to share that part of History.

Greg is scanning and I am writing.

Greg is scanning like hell and I am writing likewise.

Nothing compare though to the hell some pilots went through during WW II…

Like Sandy Borland shot down by T-Bolt.

Sandy Borland

Sandy Borland incident

Here are some more pictures Greg scanned last week.

I said to him these would jump start our blog about his grandfather’s  photo album and logbook and increase its visibility…




I wish I could build this model kit for you John.


Exclusive Pictures From Alaska Circa 1942 – Redux

Editor’s note…

Have you noticed something on one of these old pictures?

I just did!


More pictures from Lorne Weston’s collection with this message…

Hello again Pierre

Here are more Alaska pictures for you, all but one un-dated, with Dad’s notes, where possible.

Crack up
crack up
Kitty Hawk (sic) crash landing Alaska
Kitty Hawk cash landing Alaska
Bolingbrook (sic) landing Alaska
Bolingbrooke Landing in Alaska
seaplane base Alaska
Seaplane Base in Alaska
Alaskan Airfield
Alaskan Airfield
(sign reads); 1 MILE
                  FATHER NESBITTS
                  BOYS TOWN
(back of picture); WING COM. NESBITT
                         SQAD. LEADER ASHMAN
                         PILOT OFFICER BULTON
                         AUG 1942 ALASKA
airborne on dawn patrol Alaska
airborne on dawn patrol Alaska
Kitty Hawk (sic) landing Alaska
Kitty Hawk (sic) landing Alaska
Back in the 1960s Dad told me that the “dawn patrol” picture, and others like it which I have, were taken from the Observer’s seat of a U.S.A.A.C. PB-Y Catalina, but I don’t know if they were taken at Ketchican, or Kodiak.
No caption…
 Kittyhawk with pilot


Alaska Kittyhawk 2

Setting the record straight… 
Alaska Kittyhawk 3

John Le May’s collection – Never seen before documents

Documents taken from the CD John LeMay sent me.

Editor’s notes

Production of this CD is the result of a collaboration
The hard work….scanning…cataloguing…photography…caption editing etc.., -: John B. Le May –


The fun stuff….HTML and multimedia programming: – Marcel Lemay –


Some material on this CD may be copyrighted and is not to be distributed commercially