AlbertaAviationMoments

For the 2011 national conference of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society in Edmonton, Regina CAHS member Dennis Casper laboured long and hard to produce a collection of questions about aviation history in the Wild Rose Province. In case you missed getting all the answers, here they are:

Question 1: What Alberta airfield was the busiest airfield in North America in 1943?

Answer:
“Under the federal government, Blatchford Field (now called the Edmonton City Centre Airport) lengthened and improved runways and increased construction of taxiways. Larger hangars were constructed, and a new administration building was built. Air traffic increased considerably between 1939 and 1945, as the British Commonwealth Air Training Schools, defence activities, and the Northwest Staging Route brought increasing demands on the airport.
“In March and April of 1942, there was an additional demand made on Blatchford Field when the American government pressed ahead with the construction of the Alaska Highway, which added a land-based transportation route north. Air transport of personnel and supplies was a factor in the rapid building of the Alaska Highway, allowing work to take place at several places at the same time. Airfields at Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray also saw significant increases in air traffic during this time.
“Another development that added to the air traffic in Edmonton, Peace River, Embarras, Grande Prairie and Calgary was the construction of the Canol Pipeline, which would run from Norman Wells to Whitehorse. Crude oil from Norman Wells was to be sent to a new refinery at Whitehorse and then moved by additional pipelines to where it could be used on the Northwest Staging Route and the Alaska Highway.
“During a 24-hour period at the Blatchford Field in June 1942, there were 500 landing aircraft reported. One of the busiest days, 29 September 1942, saw over 850 arrivals and departures. In 1943, Blatchford Field held the record at the busiest airfield in North America.
“Before the summer of 1943, the demand had increased so much at the Edmonton airport that a new airfield known as Namao was built 10 kilometres north of Edmonton, and was operated by the Americans until the end of the war.”
Source: Alberta Heritage Website - http://www.abheritage.ca/aviation/history/blatchford_busiest_airport.html

Question 2. Who was officially credited with bringing down the Red Baron?

Answer:
“Nobody will ever know for sure who shot down the Red Baron. Many have claimed to be the one; however only three contenders are “in the running”. Flight Commander Roy Brown had a good chance in the air and two soldiers on the Ground. Nobody was officially credited with bring down the Red Baron”
Source: Website – The Chronicles of W.R. (WOP) May – www.wopman.com/resources/myths.htm

Question 3: How did Wilfrid Reid “Wop” May get his nickname?
Answer: “Wop” got his nickname when a two-year-old cousin could not pronounce “Wilfrid” – she tried and it came out “Woppie”, which was shortened to “Wop” and stuck. The Westland “Wapiti” was not built until 1927 — Wop learned to fly in 1917 on a French-built Caudron G.III”
Source: Website – The Chronicles of W.R. (WOP) May – www.wopman.com/resources/myths.htm

QUESTION 4: When ace Wop May was awarded the DFC in 1918, it was mentioned in dispatches that he’d shot down seven aircraft. How many aircraft was he credited with at the end of hostilities?
Answer:
“Ace Wop May was credited with 13 German aircraft, and there were four other “probables”. The figure of seven was mentioned in dispatches when he was awarded the DFC in 1918.
Source: Website – The Chronicles of W.R. (WOP) May – www.wopman.com/resources/myths.htm

 

QUESTION 5: A CAHS member present at this conference once completed a report entitled “The Politics of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Base Selection  in Western Canada? How many of the 12 Alberta BCATP sites were chosen because the riding for the site had elected a Liberal candidate for Parliament?
Answer:
“In 2000, Carleton University student Rachel Lea Heide completed a paper entitled ‘The Politics of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Base Selection in Western Canada’
“It seems that communities were awarded bases only if their sites met technical criteria and were cost-effective. Officials would not budge on their decisions, even with extensive lobbying efforts. This did not, however, stop various communities from trying. In fact, Heide discovers lobbying occurred to such an extent that she breaks it down into segments.  In what she calls the early lobbying years, Heide describes lobbyists as “altruistic”. The correspondence on file documents community sentiment to be eager to participate in the war effort by hosting an air base.
“As base selection continued, correspondence from communities became more insistent. The people in the lobbying communities wanted to participate in the war effort, but stated this opportunity was inaccessible to them because the government had not presented them with an air base with which to do so. Later still, these communities lobbied on the grounds that they deserved a school simply because of their political affiliations to the Liberal government.
“When this approach didn’t work, lobbyists became even more aggressive, threatening to discontinue support for the government if their communities did not receive an air base. Still, base selection officials did not waver.
“Another reason for Heide’s finding of a lack of partisan politics in base selection is that decisions about base  selection were made by RCAF officers; elected officials merely ‘signed off’ on their recommendations. The site selection reports, final decisions and reasons for awarding or rejecting a site illustrate the effort to meet technical criteria, not political ends.
“In evaluating which constituencies were awarded aerodromes, no political pattern can be found. Liberal ridings were not awarded airbases any more or less than ridings that had elected members of other parties.”
Source: Website - Wings Over Alberta – Homefront – www.abheritage.ca/flyboys/homefront/base_selection_politics.htm

 

Question 6:  What prestigious record did 409 Squadron from Cold Lake set last year?
Answer: ‘409 Tactical Fighter Sqn (The Nighthawks) from 4 Wing Cold Lake Alta, was participating in Exercise Combat Hammer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in October (2010). The exercise evaluates a tactical fighter squadron’s ability to execute air-to-ground operations from initial build-up to final impact against both moving and static targets.”

  “The squadron was evaluated by American and Canadian experts. Once the scores were tallied, all 18 of the laser-guided bombs dropped by 409 TFS had hit their targets.  The 86th FWS recognized the score as a new evaluation record. 409 TFS is the only unit (American or foreign) to achieve 100-per-cent hits against moving targets at a Combat Hammer since the exercise began in the 1980s.”

Source: Air force Revue Magazine – Vol 34/No 3 – Page 7

 

Question 7: Which of the following is true re: RCAF Flight Lieutenant Richard J. Audet of Lethbridge Alberta ?
Answer:
all are true.
“ In less than 5 minutes , Audet had destroyed five German aircraft. With his wingmen’s confirmation, he had become an ace on his first aerial combat sortie -- an astonishing feat.”
“On January 14, 1945, Dick was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross: ‘In a most spirited action, Flying Officer Audet [his promotion had not reached everyone] achieved outstanding success by destroying five enemy aircraft. This feat is a splendid tribute to his brilliant, shooting, great gallantry, and tenacity.’
“In 27 days, December 29 to January 24, he had destroyed 10 ½ enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat and one more on the ground. No RCAF or RAF pilot has ever equaled this feat.”
“On March 9, the
London Gazette announced Audet’s award of a bar for his Distinguished Flying Cross: ‘This officer is an outstanding fighter. Since his first engagement, towards the end of December 1944, he has completed numerous sorties, during which he has destroyed a further six enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to 11. Flight Lieutenant Audet has also most effectively attacked locomotives and mechanical vehicles. His skill and daring have won the highest praise.’
“In December 1944, Flight Lieutenant Richard J. “Dick” Audet had been overseas for two years. Although Dick was flying with a front-line Spitfire squadron, he had yet to fire his guns at an enemy target.”
Source: Canada’s World War II Aces – Heroic Pilots  & Gunners of the Wartime Skies – Larry Gray – 1- Page 16, 2 – Page 17, 3-Page 18, 4 –Page 19, 5 – Page 8.
             
Question 8: What was the top secret Second World War project codenamed “Habbakuk” that was carried out in 1943 at Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park?

Answer: 
No. 5. Operation Habbakuk was charged with building a prototype aircraft carrier out of ice and sawdust. The theory was that “ice ships’ might be cheaper and more durable than standard ships and wouldn’t attract magnetic mines.
In 1943, 15 men spent two months building a 1-to-50 scale-model prototype.  It was considered seaworthy, but full-size versions were never built because of the cost and because the war ended. With spring thaw, the ship melted and the wooden forms and refrigeration equipment sank. The lake is now popular with scuba divers, with roadside and submerged commemorative markers.
Source
: http://www.candacool.com/COOLFACTS/ALBERTA/JasperIceAircraftCarrier.html


Question 9 : Which of the following First World War Canadian aviation heroes were from Alberta?
Answer: 
The personnel identified in answers 1 to 4 were all from Alberta. The person identified in answer 5 was from Sheenboro, P.Q.
Alfred Williams Carter: “In  1921, ‘Nick’ Carter, who as an RNAS and RAF scout pilot, had destroyed 14 German planes and shared in the destruction of two more to win the DSC, flew out of Sioux Lookout, Ont., to initiate the first recorded geological reconnaissance from the air. A native of Calgary, Alta., Carter transferred from the CEF in 1916 and flew with No. 3 Naval Wing as well as with Nos. 3 and 10 (later 210 Squadron, RAF) Naval Squadrons on Sopwith Pup triplanes.”
Stanley Winter Caws: “A veteran of the Boer War, Stan Caws emigrated to Edmonton, Alta., from his birthplace on the Isle of Wight.”
“Graduating as a pilot in May (1915)”, he joined 10 Squadron at Choques, France, flying  two –seater  BE2cs.”
“On September 21 (1915), during a reconnaissance flight over Laiman, Cawsa and his observer were attacked by a gaggle of German fighters. In a fight that lasted fifteen minutes, they kept their assailants at bay under they had expended all their ammunition. Then, completely defenceless, Caws was killed instantly by machine-gun fire; his observer, though wounded in the leg, managed to glide the machine down behind enemy lines, where he was taken prisoner.”
Henry Cope Evans: “By the time Henry Evans, a British-born rancher from MacLeod, Alta., transferred from the CEF to the RFC in the fall of 1915, first as an observer, then as a pilot, he was 37 years old and had already fought with the Canadian artillery in the Boer War.”
“On July 20,”(1916), he scored his first victory. By the end of the summer, he had destroyed four German planes, commonplace later in the war but at   this time, often against odds of ten to one, highly significant. He had been recommended for the DSO when he was killed in a dogfight against three enemy scouts of a new type on September 3 (1916).
Harold Spencer Kerby: “Harold Kerby, who left Calgary, Alta., in 1915 to join the RNAS, became the first Canadian to serve in the Gallipoli campaign and later to shoot down two of the giant German Gotha bombers. Assigned to 3 Naval Squadron, he flew artillery-spotting sorties for the Royal Navy using Voisin two-seaters.”
Source: True Canadian Heroes In The Air -  Arthur Bishop – Answers: 1 – Page 23, 2 – Page 24, 3 – Page 36, 4 – Page 53.

Question 10: What were the two pioneering Alberta aviation companies that proposed to join forces in the summer of 1929 in order to submit a joint bid to the post office for its much-ballyhooed prairie airmail service?

Answer: Nos. 3 and 5. According to the June 10, 1929, issue of the Regina Morning Leader, Great Western Airways, based in Calgary, proposed to join forces with Commercial Airways, which at that time had offices in both Edmonton and Regina, to bid on the route.

   Plans were made to acquire a total of 10 new aircraft should the bid be successful. Alas, it went instead to Winnipeg-based Western Canada Airways, which successfully flew the route for several years until the post office abruptly killed the airmail contract in order to save money.

 

 

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