A Street in Calgary named after him but nobody knows

Clarence Simonsen is paying homage to someone few people know.

Written by Clarence Simonsen 

A Street in Calgary named after him but nobody knows

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Text version

Clarence Simonsen – “Over the past 50 years, I have been lucky enough to interview over one thousand members of WW II air and ground crew, in regards to aircraft nose art.” “Some of these man became close friends of mine and shared their memories for the first time.” “Noel H. Barlow was one such person.”


Noel Barlow in happy days on his farm at Carseland, Alberta, 1994, holds his RCAF pilot photo from No. 356 Squadron R.A.F. 1945. In his right he holds a Shillelagh that was presented to Douglas Bader from No. 502 RAF Squadron that flew in WW II. This was sent to him after the death of Bader in 1982. [A gift from second wife Lady Joan Bader] Right Official RAF [Moose] Badge created in England for the Canadians.

Noel and his wife [Jeanne] would always make you welcome and you would have to stay for lunch or supper, which was followed by a sip of whiskey in the living room and war stories. Most enjoyable way to do research. His full history is covered in my book “RCAF and RAF Nose Art in WW II” and this will only touch on brief history and 242 nose art markings.

Born in Wales, 26 December 1912,he never knew his father who was killed in World War One.  His mother remarried and the Barlow family immigrated to Canada in 1924, later settled into farming at Carseland, Alberta. One day two aircraft flew over the farm and Noel was hooked, saving money, and obtaining his commercial flying license at the Calgary Flying Club in 1936. Like many Canadian youth of that era, he just wanted to be a fighter pilot, and the RAF wanted trained pilots.

The following year he had saved enough for one-way boat passage to U.K. to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot. No such luck, at 24 years he was too old for pilot training by just three months. Noel was not happy with the RAF rules. “Being Welsh, I didn’t have a lot of love for the British in the first place, [ I have never understood that statement, but never ask] and now here I was 6,000 miles from home, with no money.” “I had no choice but to join the RAF ground crew.” [It probably saved my life.]

Noel became a fitter, plus an expert on the operation of the Rolls-Royce engine. As a pilot he was also able to test fly the very aircraft he worked on and made sure they were in top condition. “I was very serious about my work and became more or less an expert.” One day he read a notice posted in RAF Routine Orders – “Canadians wanted for ground crew in new formed No. 242 Squadron.” He applied and was excepted at once. During the Battle of France, Noel and his 242 ground crew had to escape the German advance not once but two times, before and after Dunkirk.  On return to England, what was left of No. 242 was regrouped with a new commanding officer, a legless, Douglas Bader took charge.

In a later American [September 1941] publication Noel describes his first meeting with the new legless C.O. [took place on 28 June 1940].


This Douglas Bader signed photo for Noel Barlow was published in Miami, Oklahoma, September 1941, with the Bader story , the man on the right is Willie McKnight from Calgary, Alberta.  This was the nose art on the Hurricane P3061,  LE-D  flown by Douglas Bader, date October 1940.

The following story “My Ideal”  was penned [September 1941]by RAF Cadet Noel Barlow in training at No. 3 British Flight Training School, Miami, Oklahoma, where Noel took pilot training in summer of 1941. This was copied in 1994, from the original and signed for Clarence Simonsen by Noel Barlow.

Permission was also granted for the use in my nose art book.


Bader took charge of No. 242 Squadron on 28 June 1940, where Noel first Made contact with the C.O.


Note – Bader was promoted and left No. 242 squadron on 18 March 1941, shot down – 9 August 1941

On my first visit in 1994, most of my questions were directed at Noel Barlow in regards to “nose art” markings on the 242 aircraft. In the 1954 book by Paul Brickhill, titled “Reach for the Sky”, Douglas Bader explains how he drew a sketch of the 242 Hitler getting the boot nose art.  A metal template was made by [West] and each original Hurricane received the new squadron emblem. Noel confirmed this statement.

[It should be noted that Sir Douglas Bader and Noel Barlow became life-long friends, and on his five trips to Calgary, Douglas and 1st wife [Thelma] always stayed on the farm with Noel and Jeanne]  The same applied on Barlow trips to England, where both man enjoyed many a drink and merry making.

On the question of who painted the nose art on the Hurricane fighters, Noel replied – “L.A.C. Thomas Elgey a member of the ground crew.

This image was sent to Noel Barlow from Douglas Bader in the 1970’s and shows Mrs. Connie Elgey presenting  Douglas with her late husband’s original water colour painting.

I believe the Tom Elgey art contains the true nose art colours used on the original 242 Douglas Bader designed squadron emblem nose art. Hitler’s hat – Yellow, shirt –red, pants – tan, while the tie over the left shoulder of Hitler is not the image that appeared on the Bader and 242 Hurricane aircraft.

This is the same, [complete] Imperial War Museum image, Noel Barlow used in his article and this clearly shows the correct nose art, with Hitler’s tie in front. The boot point of impact lines should only show four, while the original Tom Elgey water colour shows seven. This original photo was taken in October 1940, with F/L Eric Ball on left and P/O Willie McKnight on right of Bader. The Hurricane is P3061, LE-D flown by Bader and I’m sure the first nose art painted in the squadron. Bader scored six kills in this Hurricane.

Another image with different boot style, Hitler style colours appear same.


This 2010 [Clarence Simonsen] replica scale painting on Lancaster skin, was painted for a volunteer at “Canada’s Bomber Command Museum” Nanton, Alberta.

 I believe it to be the correct colours and image used on the Hurricane of Willie McKnight and Douglas Bader in WW II. It is based on the October 1940 photo taken at Duxford, England, while the colours are based on the Tom Elgey water-colour painting.

 It is possible the black Nazi armband was a very dark red in the original art?

I have viewed the 1956 film classic WW 2 drama, “Reach for the Sky” at least a half dozen times, and for some reason the 242 nose art was not used, other that one Hurricane painted with the nose art for a promo picture. This shows the shape of the hands and tie of Hitler are in the correct position, and the colours appear to be correct. While some of the film is not factual, it is still a classic and pure entertainment for all old and new aviation buffs to watch and learn.  When the film came out Bader realized the producers had omitted his normal bad habits, most of all his use of bad language. For years he would laugh and say – “Most people think I’m that dashing young chap Ken Moore.” The two would meet in 1975.


Film actor Kenneth Moore in front of the Douglas Bader nose art [promo photo] in the 1956 black and white film “Reach for the Sky”. Note – The nose art is far from the original, while shape of the hands on Hitler, tie location, are correct, plus the nose art colours appear to be correct.

IWM photo

Modern Bader nose art painted on Hurricane AE977  in 2000, and not correct. However I do believe there is a good reason for the misinformation on the nose art.

Canadian built Sea Hurricane serial AE977 was rebuilt at Duxford, England, in 2000 and received the markings of Sir Douglas Bader’s Hurricane P3061 LE-D. Hitler has a white hat, pink shirt, white belt, and orange pants, with the incorrect tie over left shoulder. I believe this was all based on a painting that hung in the Bader home until 2000. Bader’s first wife Thelma, died 24 January 1971. Douglas married Joan Murray on 3 January 1973. On 5 September 1982, after attending a dinner honouring “Bomber” Harris, Bader suffered a heart attack in his car on the way home. Noel Barlow told me – “His car was trapped in traffic and the ambulance could not reach him until it was too late. “

In 2000, Lady Joan placed many of her late husband’s WW II items for sale, and one never before seen 242 nose art painting was purchased for over 1,000 pounds.

This was painted by LAC Thompson [unknown artist] and hung in the Bader home until 2000.

I believe Hurricane AE977 was painted using this Bader art image, as the artist believed this was the nose art design used by 242 squadron in WW II. [Not – correct] This Hurricane is owned by Tom Friedkin in Texas, and may always contain the improper nose art of Douglas Bader.

The correct painting of the skeleton fuselage [under pilot position] art should  not be any problem as images are found in the Imperial War Museum and the excellent book by Hugh Halliday, No. 242 – “The Canadian Years”.



This image on the port side has been published hundreds of times but it seems this image was cropped and now the complete photo has been published, causing one model builder in U.K. to question if Willie McKnight’s Hurricane in fact had any nose art of the 242 Boot kicking Hitler.   Answer – “Yes”.

Noel Barlow confirmed all the original aircraft had the nose art image, including McKnight.

No 242 pilot position art on McKnight Hurricane

While we do not know the exact date Willie painted his fuselage pilot position art this photo in fact shows he painted his art first before the nose art and I believe it was early September 1940. [Before Battle of Britain day – 15 September 40.]

Photo of Willie [Imperial War Museum] – September 1940

During the early part of the Battle of Britain, [first week of September]  five Hurricane squadrons join the fray, two Polish, two Czech and No. 1 Squadron RCAF from Canada. These five squadrons were unofficially painting nose and fuselage art on their aircraft. To take charge the R.A.F. officially approved the use of national emblem art, which must be painted on the “pilot position and not to exceed 30 square inches.” That is why so many B of B aircraft sport art on the fuselage side pilot position. Willie just followed the RAF orders and painted his skeleton in the correct position, and my guess is 1-15 September 1940, just before the nose art could be applied.  [his art did exceed the 30 square inches]

This Canadian, 5 July 1941, cover art shows the correct size and location, “pilot position”  for art during Battle of Britain.

Simonsen replica scale painting of Willie McKnight pilot position art.  In ” Reach for the Sky” publication, [1954 Paul Brickhill]  Bader states the sickle contained blood stains.

After eighteen months of combat, Noel Barlow turned down a promotion [he now held the rank of Corporal, February 1941] and a move to the Middle East, as he still wanted to fly. His transfer for RAF pilot training was excepted [thanks to help from his friend Bader] and he was off to the United States, No. 3 British Flying Training School, Miami, Oklahoma.

During my research into the Clayton Knight Committee, I would learn that two powerful Americans turned a blind eye to laws and supported the hiring of American pilots to fly with the RCAF and RAF [Eagle Squadrons] in the first two years of WW II. President Roosevelt and Gen. Hap Arnold supported the Clayton Knight Committee in every way they could. Gen. Arnold even supplied a list of Americans who had been discharged from American Air Force units for fighting, drinking, low flying, or getting a lady in trouble. These were just the type of flyers the RCAF and RAF wanted in time of war. Most of these American aircrew ended up in England fighting against Hitler. In 1940, the British Government ask President Roosevelt if British cadets could be trained in the United States. In May 1941, this was approved by the President [as part of the Lend-Lease] and six British Flying Schools were opened on American soil. Some of these schools operated with half USAAF trainees and half RAF cadets, and they were called the “Arnold Scheme”, named by the President for Gen. Arnold.


No. 3 B.F.T.S. opened at Miami, Oklahoma on 16 June 1941. In July, RAF Cadet LAC Noel Barlow began training to become a pilot, at No. 3 B.F.T.S. It was during his training period [September 1941] that Noel penned the story of Douglas Bader – “My Ideal”. Bader was shot down 9 August 1941, and became a German P.O.W. [another great chapter in his life]

During my research on Noel Barlow and 242 squadron it became clear a part of his WW II career was blank or missing. On my third visit, I had painted a replica of the No. 242 “Hitler getting the Boot” nose art, which I presented to Noel at his farm. During the afternoon I ask Noel about his missing history. There was a short pause and then he said – ” I guess it’s time to tell this, which I’m not proud of, but nobody has ever ask before.” [he also gave me permission to publish]

Noel explained how he was 30 years old, when he arrived at Miami, Oklahoma, which was at the least ten years older that the other trainees. He was the old man, had seen eighteen months of war, up close, from the very beginning in France, then Battle of Britain, and he had been flying planes since 1936. Noel was a veteran, a bit cocky, and during training took a dislike to one British Flying Instructor. “He was not a good pilot and damaged two aircraft on landing accidents, but he thought he knew it all.” “He also treated me like a new cadet, which I didn’t like”

Noel further explained – “We operated under the Arnold Scheme, half Americans and half RAF cadets. The Americans had a Major in charge and the RAF had a Wing Commander named Roxbourgh. We wore American uniforms with only the RAF cap with a white stripe which stood for cadet.” During the last few weeks of my training, the British Flying Instructor [who I hated] was being sent back to England, and they were holding a going away party for him in the Officers Mess. A number of us cadets had been drinking at the mess that night, upon return to our quarters we passed the Officers Mess. Due to a dare and too much to drink, I entered the Officers Mess and challenged the Flying Instructor outside to a fight. W/C Roxbourgh stepped between us and I gave him a slap on the back and presented him with a half bottle of whiskey, I carried under my coat. I then left, nothing was said to me until the end of our course. When we formed up for our class “Wings Parade”, my named was called out and I was marched to the side of the complete class, where I remained until each classmate received his wings. Of course I did not receive my wings [second time] and was informed my RAF career was over. I was discharged and returned to Alberta, totally upset with what I had done, but I was a pilot, and still wanted to fly.”

Noel re-enlisted in the RCAF, [1943] and after eight years, finally received his wings at No. 15 S.F.T.S. at Claresholm, Alberta. In a bit or irony, P/O Barlow was now posted to Abbotsford, B.C. [1945], a British run RAF pilot training school for the American B-24 Liberator bomber, serving in South-East Asia. [The RAF operated 26 training schools in Canada during WW II, where Noel should have been sent for pilot training in the first place].

I met Jeanne M. Barlow four times and she was the most warm, friendly, lady you could ever talk with. She was never afraid to give her point of view or correct Noel on something he said. She was born in Abbotsford B.C., 29 March 1920, and was engaged to be married in early 1945. Her parents had a boarding room for rent and one day a knock came to the front door and Jeanne answered. There stood this handsome RCAF Officer, and his name was Noel Barlow. It was love at first site, and the engagement ring was mailed back to her ex-boyfriend. They were married two weeks later.



After Liberator training Noel was posted to No. 356 RAF Squadron, fighting the Japanese in South-East Asia. No. 356 squadron was a short lived long-range bomber squadron of the Royal Air Force, and approx. 45% of the aircrew were Canadians.  The unit had bombed Japanese bases from Salbani, Bengal, British India, but moved to the Cocos Islands in July 1945, in preparation for the invasion of Malaya.

Noel arrived in late July, but never saw combat as the two Atomic bombs ended WW II. Noel Barlow flew supply-dropping [rice] and transport duties until the squadron was disbanded 15 November 1945. Noel and his new wife then returned to the farm life at Carseland, Alberta, and raised two daughters.

On 10 October 2002, the phone rang in my home [Airdrie] and the lady’s voice said it was Jeanne Barlow. “Noel is slipping away Clarence, will you please come to the Strathmore hospital.” The drive from Airdrie to Strathmore hospital took approx. 40 minutes, in a early, heavy, wet, Alberta snowstorm.  There was my friend Noel in bed, unable to speak, the giant of a man now skinny, and he could only look at me. Jeanne Barlow then produced the nose art with the 242 squadron emblem of “Hitler getting the Boot” which I had painted for Noel in 1996.  She then ask me to sign it again, for her loving husband, which I did. I remained for over an hour, and at one point helped Noel out of his bed to set in a chair, but he could only look at us as we talked. Just before I left, I helped Noel return to his bed, but he would not let go of my hand, then he gave it a small squeeze, our last goodbye. Noel passed away Monday 21 October, age 89 years.

Jeanne Barlow sent me a thank you card, but I never saw her again. She passed away eighteen months later, 26 April 2004. I truly believe she could not live without her pilot/farmer, who she loved so deeply for 57 years.
















Pilot Jack McIntosh – The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Pilot Jack McIntosh

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An homage written by Clarence Simonsen.


Pilot Jack McIntosh–The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Medecine Hat 2

Jack became a friend of mine beginning in the fall 1986, while I was attempting to record the aircraft nose art used by No. 6 RCAF Group during WW II. He invited me to attend the up-coming Moose squadron reunion to be held at Camp Sarcee in July 1987, and I accepted. The reunion was held in a beautiful constructed log building, which was then an active Officer’s Mess for C.F.B. Calgary, on the leased land owned by the Sarcee Indian Reserve. The land had been used for a Canadian militia training base since the summer of 1910, and would remain until 21 June 1997.

While taking with Jack, he gazed out across the vast grass and tree covered ground and stated “This is where my military career all began.”

Full text here…

Pilot Jack McIntosh –The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Jack became a friend of mine beginning in the fall 1986, while I was attempting to record the aircraft nose art used by No. 6 RCAF Group during WW II. He invited me to attend the up-coming Moose squadron reunion to be held at Camp Sarcee in July 1987, and I accepted. The reunion was held in a beautiful constructed log building, which was then an active Officer’s Mess for C.F.B. Calgary, on the leased land owned by the Sarcee Indian Reserve. The land had been used for a Canadian militia training base since the summer of 1910, and would remain until 21 June 1997.

While talking with Jack, he gazed out across the vast grass and tree covered ground and stated “This is where my military career all began.”

Jack was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on 26 June 1922. His father had served in WW I and was wounded twice, he was awarded the Military Medal and Bar. He emigrated from Scotland in 1919, and became a member of the local police force for the next forty years. Out of respect for his father’s WW I achievements, Jack joined the local Militia [South Alberta Regiment] in 1938. After graduation from high school, Jack was hired by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, age 17 years. He had just settled into his new job when war was declared by England, 3 September 1939. Army Militia parades were now held each week with three weeks summer training at Camp Sarcee on the outskirts of Calgary, where Jack learned his Army skills.  By March 1941, Jack was a fully qualified infantry sergeant and decided to join the regular service, but not the Canadian Army for a number of good reasons. On 30 June 1941, he enlisted in the RCAF and was posted to No. 2 Manning Depot at Brandon, Manitoba. Thanks to this Army training, he was promoted to Corporal after one month, which meant no kitchen or guard duty.

He next trained at No. 2 Initial Training School at Regina, Saskatchewan, and pilot training at No. 8 E.F.T.S. at Vancouver, B.C. [two months] then No. 7 S.F.T.S. at Fort Macleod, Alberta, four months on Avro Ansons, then his wings on 15 April 1942, and promotion to Sgt. Pilot. He was posted to No. 419 [Moose] Squadron, Middleton St. George, County Durham, England. His first operation was flown on 13 February 1943, ‘second dicky’ to Sgt. pilot Bill Gray, to bomb Lorient, France.

Jack flew during the 1943 Bomber Command period of time when bomber crews required 200 cumulated hours of combat flying time, which was equal to 30 operations or a full tour. This was normally followed by six months posting to a training unit or staff promotion, then a second tour of 30 or more operations.

The challenges facing the young aircrew often seemed overwhelming, and they were highly vulnerable to physical and mental symptoms of stress. Two common denominators of stress was identified as showing up in the first five operations flown, combined with the matter-of-fact acceptance of sudden death. Jack faced this expression of his feelings toward a violent sudden death after his third operation, when two of his crew were killed in action, one wounded, and his aircraft was shot up, set on fire and he had to make a crash landing at base. The death of his two crew members was particularly hard on Jack as he knew it was inevitable, he would never live to complete his 30 operations or see Canada again.  Jack was well aware of the consequences of being convicted of the Lack of Moral Fibre designation, issued in 1941, and employed against aircrew who could not fly for reasons considered unjustified. These airmen were grounded, stripped of all rank badges in front of all squadron members in a parade square ceremony. The Canadian was then dishonorably discharged and returned to Canada disgraced to all.

This threat became the most powerful incentive that powered Jack to continue his combat operations. While many Canadian RCAF aircrews turned to booze and party drunkenness to battle their stress, Jack was not a drinker and turned to the squadron Padre to express his feelings and challenges. On 1 May 1943, the C.O. Wing Commander Merv Fleming, the squadron padre, and Jack had a long talk about life, death, and real wartime aviation situations.

After the talk, the Commanding Officer informed Jack he would be given a new Halifax Bomber Mk. II “Special” directly from the factory. Jack made a special point of getting a ride over to meet the English female ferry pilot, who delivered his new Halifax bomber. He always recalled how upset the ferry lady pilot became, as she did not wish to meet any operational pilots. She would not look Jack in the eyes, as she knew he would soon be dead. Once again, Jack had to deal with the hard cold facts of the air-war in England.

Jack had been flying the old Halifax Mk. II, which had many structural deficiencies and the Merlin  engines, simply did not have enough power. The new Mark II “Special” had new Merlin XXII engines, with the front nose guns removed, with a smooth nose fairing, mid-upper turret removed, and a new improved speed of 16 MPH. Jack christened his new bomber with his Canadian town of birth, “Medicine Hat” and the Nose painting of Walt Disney’s Goofy picking bombs from a hat. The nose art work was the idea of the ground crew artist, a name forgotten by Jack over the passage of time. The nose art was completed in one day, and first flew on operation number ‘nine’, 21 June 1943. This new aircraft and his nose art became the small inspiration needed, and Jack generally acquired the renewed sense of hope he would actually survive his 30th operation.

Over the next five months Jack completed twenty-three operations in “Medicine Hat”, and they never received another hit or injury to his crew.

Medecine Hat 1

Jack – “The name and nose art made it feel she was ‘our’ aircraft and would always bring us home.”


In the past 50 years of nose art research, I have befriended and interviewed two survivors of the Bomber Command Raid on Peenemunde, 17/18 August 1943. Jack McIntosh and his crew in “Medicine Hat” survived the raid for a unique number of reasons.

The cover of my 2001 book on RAF and RCAF Aircraft Nose Art was dedicated to Jack and his crew.


The raid took place in bright moonlight and at a very low altitude of around 8,000 feet. The first two sections of the raid fooled the Germans into thinking the main target was Berlin, thus when the Canadian Group arriving in the very last [third] wave, they suffered the highest casuality rate in Bomber Command. All German night-fighters had been ordered to Berlin, and when they realized the real raid was at Peenemunde, they had to land and refuel. The Germans attacked the last wave in full-force, with a total of 20 per cent or twelve of sixty-two Canadian crews lost on the raid. No. 6 [RCAF] Group, squadron numbers 419, 428, 434, each lost three aircraft, 426 lost two and No. 426 lost one aircraft with the C.O. Wing Commander Leslie Crooks, DSO, DFC, killed.  In total 243 airmen were killed, 60 were Canadians.

Jack McIntosh and his crew in “Medicine Hat” arrived over the moonlight target where they could see the tremendous fires raging on the ground. They encountered no flak and very few searchlights, dropped their bombs and then set a course for England. Ahead of them Jack observed the main bomber force stream being attacked and shot down in flames, some aircraft blazing from end to end, others spinning wildly out of control, bombers blowing up to his left and right. Jack knew many of his fellow squadron aircrew were feverishly attempting to abandon the stricken bombers, but remained trapped within their spinning aircraft. Nothing could be done and this became intensely demoralizing as in a few minutes Jack flew through the same air space of death, yet no attack ever came.

Bomber Command lost 40 bomber aircraft, 23 Lancasters, 15 Halifaxes, and 2 Stirling bombers.  Jack and his crew were never attacked, and it took him twenty years to understand the reason why.

The Halifax “Medicine Hat’ was a slow veteran, an older bomber with a reduced airspeed. In the 1960s, Jack learned he was the very last bomber to drop his bombs at Peenemunde, and the very last to land back at England. These events and “Medicine Hat” saved his life. He really believed his nose art image gave him ‘good luck’.

Medecine Hat

Simonsen’s replica nose art painting 2002, in Bomber Command Museum at Nanton, Alberta.

During the time period Jack served in Bomber Command, the RCAF survival rate was 41 men per every 100 airmen who joined. When Jack completed his 30 operations he was sent to teach the new airmen at a Heavy Conversion Unit. During this period of time, Bomber Command reached a peak fatality rate, only 24 aircrew of the original 100 who enlisted survived these operations. Fifty-one would be killed on operations and nine killed on non-operational training accidents.

The Halifax B. Mk. II Special named “Medicine Hat” was flown by many other crews, and carried the code letters VR-O and VR-D, with serial JD114. The Halifax set a record for most operations flown by any other bomber in No. 419 Squadron, competing 50. On 19 February 1944, “Medicine Hat” took off but never returned to base. She was shot down on her 51st operation, with all crew killed.

Jack had begun a career with the Imperial Bank of Commerce just before the outbreak of World War Two. He returned to Calgary and married his childhood sweetheart, Jan, then enjoyed a long and successful post-war career with the CIBC.

I enjoyed a number of visits to the McIntosh home, and during one of these he explained, at one point in his banking career; he was in charge of bank loans. Jack was often called in by his senior banking officer and question over his easy loans and not following bank policy. Jack said “I was a pretty good judge of a man’s character, and not much for bank policy. “ “My loans were always repaid in full.”

On my fifth visit, Jack turned to me and stated – “When I joined the RCAF I was a virgin, and on my 21 birthday in England, my crew [which were all older] took me out and attempted to get me laid.” “I came home a virgin and married Jan.”

I last saw my friend Jack McIntosh at a nose art lecture I gave at the Aero Space Museum of Calgary in 2002. He sat with his dear wife Jan, just like a man in church, he had no idea who I was or what my lecture was about. Jack had Alzheimer’s disease, a sad ending for a brave man. We shook hands and that was it, but he will never ever be forgotten. In those last few years of his life, the painful memories of his wartime experiences were all gone, and Jack soon joined his comrades in the sky.


Petty Officer George Grivel: A splendid man… – Redux

I received that comment from Joanne on Remembrance Day…


Hello, George Grivel, ( the splendid fellow) was my uncle. I have some pictures of him but I’m sorry my scanner is on the fritz. When they speak of my uncle’s commanding voice I had to smile . He had an extremely deep voice which I’m sure sang beautifully but I never heard him sing. We didn’t see a lot of my uncle growing up as the navy was his life. He died in 1996 I believe. I would have to check that date. I was at his funeral. I’m sure he was smiling when the minister passed out in the middle of the funeral and had to be bodily packed out. The funeral was cut short and we all made our way to the cemetery. It was pouring down rain so everyone was slipping and sliding up the hillside to his grave site. I’m sure he smiled even more at our mud speckled clothing.


I just wanted to learn more about George.

This must be the same person William Abbruzzese was refering to in his message he sent me.

Hi Pierre,

Enjoyed the info on Charles and the Athabaskan very much. My Uncle Lcdr George Grivel  RCN (ret) sent me a copy of the book Haida years back and told me the torpedo electrician mentioned as saving another of the survivors was in fact Charles.

Please do approve the comment


This is the source of this excerpt.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” The loss of HMCS Ottawa, September 1942

Late in the evening of 13 September 1942, while escorting Convoy ON 127, the destroyer Ottawa was sunk by U-91. Lieutenant L.B. Jenson, RCN, was on the bridge when the first torpedo hit:

An amazing geranium-colour flash forward was followed by a great pillar of water which went straight up! All of us took shelter under the overhang at the front of the bridge as the water and all sorts of solid objects tumbled down from the sky. When the downpour stopped, I went back to the compass and we stopped engines. The ship lay still in the water, rocking gently. The forecastle with anchors and cables together with A Gun had vanished, and the forward canopy with B Gun drooped down towards the water. This was visible because the interior lights were all on and shining out all over the ocean. We obviously were a lovely target so the engines were ordered slow astern. …… Mr. Jones left the bridge and hurried at once to the quarterdeck, where he set all the depth charges to “safe” so that if the ship sank survivors would not be blown up by our own charges.

I asked the captain if I could do a quick inspection and report back. He agreed and I went down the ladders to the starboard passage into the mess-decks. The forward mess-decks, upper and lower, were gone, and the ocean splashed outside the great open hole, illuminated by the mess-deck lights and a calcium flare from a lifebuoy burning in the tossing waters. In the after upper mess-deck a group of about 20 men were clustered by a hammock netting. A number were terribly wounded. Men with grotesquely twisted limbs were lying there; it was like a scene from hell. ……

Back on the bridge I found the captain and the first lieutenant engaged in firing a rocket, a signal that we had been torpedoed. At almost that very moment a second torpedo hit us, this time in number 2 boiler room, a huge flash then water deluging downwards on us. It was obvious that the ship was doomed.

She started to settle in the water and the captain called out to “abandon ship!” Men were trapped in the Asdic compartment in the bottom of the ship and called up the voice pipe. I cannot bear to think of it. Others were trapped in the seamen’s wash place, where a sliding steel door had jammed shut. If one thinks of war as a policy, also think for a moment what I heard that night and cannot bring myself to describe. …… Strong men become little children crying for their mothers, not like John Wayne the motion picture hero.

Able Seaman C.R. Skillen was at his action station at one of the destroyer’s anti-aircraft guns when he was ordered forward to assist the wounded. As he recalls, he never got there:

As I stepped onto the first rung of the ladder to the upper deck, the second torpedo hit us amidships and split Ottawa in two. It hit directly below me, and when I came to, I was lying on the upper deck, aft of the stern-most funnel, with my legs, somehow pinned by the guard rail. I struggle to free myself, but to no avail, As I lay there, I knew that the bow of the ship had already sunk and that it was only a matter of time before the stern would follow suit. That is when the thought entered my mind that I was going to die.

However, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I said a little prayer to my Maker, asking him to forgive me, and then I gave it another try. My leg came free and I rolled myself into position and slipped into the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Lieutenant Jenson, also in the ocean hanging onto a spar, watched his ship sink and then,

Oil started spreading out from where the ship had been. It was all over my face, my head and hands. The smell filled the air and the taste was in my mouth. Gradually it lessened and the waves were now fresh and clean. Three or four Carley floats bobbed around hundreds of yards away. They were crowded with men, some of whom were sitting inside the floats, and the floats kept turning over. Each time there would be fewer men on the float.

Now to my astonishment the ships of the convoy passed through us – the huge ships’ sides (how could they be so big?) and small people at the top calling down to us. One voice told us they dare not stop and I hoped they wouldn’t because we would still be in the water when they were fished (torpedoed). ……

The night was getting darker, the waves were steeper, the breeze stronger and it seemed to be raining. The men on one of the rafts [floats] were singing. I recognized the

cheerfully commanding voice of the gunner’s mate, Petty Officer George Grivel, a splendid man. The songs were “Pack up Your Troubles,” “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “There’s a Long Long Trail Awinding to the Land of My Dreams.” These were the hit songs of the First World War, sung by our fathers and uncles as they had faced death in the hideous mud and trenches of the Western Front.

Seaman Skillen, badly wounded, jumped off the sinking destroyer and remembered that,

When I surfaced, I could hear my shipmates yelling and moaning in the distance. I made my way towards the noise, but all the while I watched the stern of Ottawa slowly disappear beneath the surface. I was pretty certain that there would not be an explosion from the depth charges, since these had been rendered safe. Soon I came across a carley float, and this would be my lifeline for the next five hours. Although the seas became rougher as time passed and more and more of my shipmates succumbed, one by one, to the cold, slipping silently away, I clung to that float, knowing that one wrong move would spell the end. I wanted to sleep so bad, with the sea lulling me into a false sense of warmth, but I knew that if I shut my eyes, I would suffer the same fate as my shipmates. Therefore I hung on with grim determination.

The sea tossed the carley float about like an old inner tube. I think that there had been originally twenty-two of us clinging to it, but there was only about six of us left, when suddenly out of the dark loomed the outline of a ship. I soon recognized it as one of the escort group and they had found us!

The rescue vessel was the British corvette HMS Celandine, and when Lieutenant Jenson was identified as an officer, he was directed to the wardroom where he encountered a shipmate from Ottawa:,

Immediately I entered, Barriault, our leading steward, came over and said, as if nothing unusual had happened, “Good evening, sir. Would you like a cup of tea?”

So I replied, “Good evening, Barriault. That would be very nice, thank you,” and had a cup of delicious, wonderful hot tea.

Of the Ottawa’s crew of 213 officers and men, 69 survived

In Peril on the Sea — HMCS Ottawa Sinks, September 1942

HMCS Ottawa

On 13 September 1942 the River Class destroyer, HMCS Ottawa, was torpedoed by U-91 while escorting Convoy ON-127. She was hit twice and many of her crew perished before the ship sank while those who abandoned ship had to wait many hours before they were rescued. Of a total complement of 213 men, only 71 survived. One of the findings of the subsequent board of inquiry was that if Ottawa had been equipped with the more modern Type 271 radar, she probably would have located her attacker before the U-boat fired. Unfortunately, it would not be until nearly a year after her demise that the RCN would begin to receive such equipment. (Drawing by L.B. Jenson who served as an officer on HMCS Ottawa)



Joanne send me this a few minutes ago…

uncle1 uncle

I had to post them.


If you want to write to me, use this contact form…

Clarence and I

Clarence wrote me a wonderful message…
Clarence and I have a lot in common.
It seems we share many things in common?

I never wish to cause problems, I only seek the facts, which is my passion. Many Canadians write aviation history, others lecture aviation history, and many paint aviation history. When people laughed and told me I could do none of these, I was determined to prove them wrong.

This all began in September 1958, we had a new constructed school, and a new system with a ‘home’ room and home room teacher. I knew his name, [Ralph McCall] but had little background info. on him and could care less. I was the loner, shy farm kid, withdrawn, low-self-esteem, and hated to go to the front of the class, plus I had become the class clown, after I failed grade three.  I was always drawing airplanes, never did my homework, and only liked two school subjects – History and Art. As per normal, I picked my desk at the very back of the school class, and then I looked at Ralph. He was slim, very short, wore glasses, had a reclining hair line, which was combed in a wave. This guy was a real push-over, I would have no problems from him.

Just a few days into our school term, I was daydreaming and suddenly a piece of chalk bounced off my head and there stood Ralph. The class laughed but Ralph didn’t. He instructed me to move my desk from the back of the class, to the very front right beside his desk. That scared the hell out of me, and then he informed me to report to the principle’s office at noon. This of course was for the strap, which I received at least four or five times a year.

As the noon bell rang, I headed for the teachers lunch room, which led to the Principal’s office. I had to walk by all of the teachers, who were busy eating their lunch, and I knew what they were all thinking. Ralph opened the door to the principal’s office and instructed me to take a seat. At once, I noticed the strap was not on the desk, that was odd? Then Ralph began to talk to me in a normal tone of voice, no yelling or telling me how stupid I was. He informed me, I would lead the class in everything, questions, and I would remain at the front, where he could keep an eye on me. [That was the thing I hated the most] He them explained to me he was the boss and he demanded three rules in class each and every day or I would be kicked out.

1. – No cheating, or blaming others for your mistakes. Just tell the truth, be honest. If I came to him and told the truth he would do his best to help me.

2. Treat all people like you want to be treated, which included all your teachers.

3. This became the hardest to understand for many years, as he said “Simonsen, you can be the best in my class, but each day you must come to school and do your best, and each evening you must study and complete your homework. I will ask you the first questions each morning and if you know the correct answer, the other students will never laugh at you.” By the end of the year you will be one of my best students. [Wow, nobody had ever told me that, and from that day on my attitude changed and my marks improved] To my surprise, Ralph said “That’s All, see you in class.” No strap, this guy is OK.

In June 1960, just after exams, Ralph gave all his students a self published 41 page book on the history of the Acme, Alberta, district and the 270 people living in the village.


For the first time in my life, I began to learn about all the very people I saw and spoke to week after week. I learned they had played hockey and won a title, had a hobby of collecting stamps, raised prize winning dogs, and most had served in the military during WWII, including Ralph McCall. This little book became my treasure, which I still have today. I was so impressed Ralph had opened up a new world to me and he informed me anyone can write a book, but first you must do your ‘homework.’ He took the time to teach me, first interview the living people, then, read old newspapers, and last research history books in the school library. Ralph was my school history teacher, and that was the best subject.

Ralph was always there to help and he instructed me in ways my father never could. I owe so much to this man, who served his country in WWII, then devoted his life to his occupation, which he loved, his students and even his students activities away from school. On 29 June 1962, I joined the Canadian Army, on advise from Ralph and that was the last I saw of him until 31 years later.

Cyprus 65

Thanks to the advice of Ralph, my life had taken off in many directions, which included co-author of my very first book. On 25 March 1993, I knocked on the door of Ralph McCall and he answered. At first he could not remember me , then in the next two hours I sat and told him what he had done to change my life forever. I presented him with a copy of my “nose Art” book and then I produced his little book “The Acme Story” 1910-1960, and I ask him to autograph it for me.


With tears in our eyes, I thanked him for all he had done, and we parted for the last time. Cancer claimed Ralph at 2:30 am 7 January 1995. They named a school in Airdrie, Alberta, after him. God Bless.

That’s why I have this passion for our Military Forces, and keeping the true history alive.  It’s what Ralph taught me.

Clarence Simonsen – [self-taught] historian , author, artist.

11 November 2014

A Man

Robert Charles Medforth was never forgotten by his friends.

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

A message from Robert Charles Medforth’s niece…

You may be interested in a poem that I came into possession from my mother’s things. It was written to Joyce Medforth, Bob’s (Robert Medforth) widow, they had only been married for a short time before he went overseas. According to the writing on the poem, it was written by his buddies at the airbase in Belgium.


A Man

There are men who fly the trackless skies
Who rove the seven seas.
They win all fame and glory
While floating through the breeze

There’s men that hold the font lines fast
And for their country dying,
There’s unsung lads not far behind
Who keep the aircraft flying.

We too have come to fight for home
For Victory – Freedom – Peace
We do not look for glories, fame
But work that wars may cease.

Yes, Joyce, he gave his life for you

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