P.T. O'Leary & Sid Ford
RAF SQUADRON BAGS ONE PLANE ANOTHER IS HIT
Son of Dr. Theodore Rupert Ford & Margaret Irene
Somewhere in England, Nov 24, 1941 - (CP Cable) - The Royal Air Force's newest striking weapon, the Hurricane bomber, is giving Canadian fighter pilots their biggest thrill of the war.
Swooping sometimes to within ten feet of their targets, the Canadians, under the command of Squadron-Ldr. Vaughan Corbett, of Montreal and Belleville, Ont., have been strafing and bombing factories, power stations, railway communications, barges and bridges in occupied France in the type of attack they have always wanted to make but have never been allowed before.
The squadron has been on the bombing job for a month and has taken over a new station in the south of England, it previously had been a straight fighter squadron, escorting bomber sweeps and not getting much action, although it had a confirmed record of six German aircraft shot down.
The bomb-carrying fighters have more "zip" than the Hurricanes they used previously, said Pilot Officer Brad Walker, of London, Ont.; "They're sweet machines and get you there in a hurry," he added. The Hurricane bombers are equipped with two 250-pound bombs fitted with delayed-action fuses which enable the aircraft to get clear before the explosion. This delay can vary from a few seconds to a relatively long period of time, depending upon whether a single bomber or a whole flight is attacking the target.
Using small smoke bombs, P.O. Fred Kelly, of Toronto, gave a demonstration above his own field of how a Nazi target would be attacked. Traveling close to 250 M.P.H. he swooped down to above the trees bordering the field and "bombed" the target from a 10-foot level, then sped off again as quickly as he had come.
"That's how we'd do it if we were attacking an airfield or a target out in the open," said Walker, who was watching the demonstration with Flt.-Lt. Bob Morrow, of Toronto; P.O. Bill Pentland, Calgary; F.O. Jim Thompson, Listowel, Ont.; P.O. Sid Ford, Liverpool, N.S.; Sgt. Jerry McKay, Rock Island, Que., and Sgt. Ronny Emberg, of Montreal.
The pilot, commenting on the plane's performance, said "low-level, bombing is comparatively safe because the element of surprise gives the attacker the advantage above the ground defences."
"Of course," Walker said, "it you get hit when flying just above the ground, you're pretty sure a goner, because there's no chance to get control of your plane or bail out. But so far, our only real trouble has been with sea gulls.”
Walker explained that several planes have returned to their stations with holes made by gulls, into which they had flown.
The squadron's biggest day was November 8, when 300 aircraft from the fighter command, and Blenheim bombers as well, smashed at occupied France.
Escorted by two Spitfires, the Canadians swept down on factories working, for the Nazis and, with guns blazing, went in at "nought" feet and planted bombs in the middle of the target. As they left, they saw the tower crumble towards the earth and the whole factory burst into flames.
The pilots, following the example of some bomber squadrons, paint their bomb fuselages after each raid. There are not many that have not yet been painted, but if they get good weather they hope to have their fuselages looking like miniature bomb racks before the end of the year.
FORD, F/L Leslie Sydney (J3712) - Distinguished Flying
Cross - No.175 Squadron
Award effective 9 June 1942 as per London Gazette dated 26 June 1942 and
AFRO 1000-1001/42 dated 3 July 1942.
This officer has carried out many operational missions, having been engaged in fighter sweeps and in bombing attacks on land and sea targets. He has participated in two attacks when two mine sweepers and an enemy destroyer were sunk and two destroyers were damaged. He is a keen and zealous flight commander and leader.
(By Alan Randal, Canadian Press Staff writer)
London, Aug. 20, 1942 — (CP Cable) — Canadian airmen protecting their own troops from enemy air assault for the first time gave the Dominion's attack force in the battle of Dieppe the greatest aerial cover ever provided, it was indicated today.
Flying with the R.A.F., Spitfire and Army Co-operation Squadrons of the R.C.A.F. formed a big proportion of the trans-channel shuttle service during the operations yesterday.
Some made two and three trips, pausing only long enough at their home base to refuel and reload with ammunition.
While Canadian losses were not announced — it is known allied losses were 98 planes and the Nazis 91 — the Canadian victory score stood at nine German aircraft destroyed and many probably damaged.
But these were just early figures on the Canadians' part in this amazing triumph over the German air force in French skies — amazing from the Canadian and allied point of view because the losses were so nearly equal, whereas the Germans lost four and five to one in the Battle of Britain.
It is expected that the Canadians' tally will rise as all reports are checked and double-checked. It is likely that planes probably destroyed or damaged will run well beyond a score.
One quarter said, "The early figures probably will not do full justice to the Canadians' accomplishments."
Eager to Attack
At one station, while awaiting their dispersals for the take-off on the third sweep of the day, Canadian pilots only then learned via radio that Canadian troops were taking part in this assault.
Already at fever pitch, they were more than ever eager to sally out again.
In addition to providing an actual umbrella for the assault troops, the Canadian Spitfire squadrons took part in escort work, accompanying United States army air force Flying Fortresses on the raid on Abbeville, which was closely related to the Dieppe attack.
A Canadian army co-operation squadron, in its first big operation, was considered one of the most important units in the attack and kept in the air from the outset of the assault until the troops departed from French soil late in the day.
Action and Heroism
From all squadrons as the weary aerial soldiers forsook their planes for much-needed rest came stories of action and heroism in this, the greatest day of the war for Dominion servicemen.
One Canadian squadron, commanded by Sqdn.-Ldr. Syd L. Ford, of Liverpool, N.S., reported five German aircraft destroyed and three damaged.
Ford himself set the pace. He downed a Focke-Wulf 190 and a Messerschmitt 109 with Spitfire cannon.
P.O. H.J. Murphy, of St. Claire, Me., bagged another. Flt-Lieut. George Hill, of Digby, N.S., shared in the destruction of an F-W 190 with Sgt. M.K. Fletcher, of Terrace, Ill. Each damaged an ME. 109.
The action was so fast and so furious there were times without number when the Canadians were I unable to see the full effect of the damage caused to the enemy.
From All Provinces
A unit headed by Sqdn--Ldr. Keith Hodson, of London, Ont., accompanied the Fortresses and met stiff opposition en route home. Then it went out into a still more desperate fight on the day's second excursion, when it added five probables or damaged.
Canadian from every province shared in the action.
Flt.-Lt. R.W. McNair, D.F.C., of North Battleford, Sask., who recently distinguished himself over Malta, was another Canadian scoring a probable — an FW190. He took part in the early-morning "umbrella" sweep.
"When we went over with other squadrons of Spits, we met just as many Jerries as over the channel, so we waded right in." said McNair. "From occasional looks at the ground we could see a helluva lot of smoke and plenty of flak coming up."
The Spitfires came back with plenty of battle scars and flak and bullet holes in the wings.
The squadron's second sweep provided the first action of the day for young Sgt Gordon Bray, of Toronto, who later served with a convoy escort to troop-carrying vessels returning over the channel.
"They must have gone home for tea," said Bray commenting on the absence of Nazi airmen during the final phase of the great operation.
Ottawa, Oct. 2, 1942 — (CP) — While Canadian
army men were in action in the battle of Dieppe last August, Canadian
flyers and Canadian naval personnel also played a part in the big combined
operations attack. National defence headquarters today announced 178 decorations
to army men who were in the hard-fought battle.
So far nine Canadian airmen have been decorated, though their awards were not directly related to the battle of Dieppe and some of the citations referred to service in other operations as well.
Some 100 officers and men of the Canadian navy, serving with the Royal Navy, were aboard ships engaged in the operation and although no naval decorations for Canadians have yet been announced, there is a possibility there will be some.
Airmen whose citations mentioned service at Dieppe were: Acting Squadron-Ldr. B. Chadburn, of Aurora and Oshawa, Out.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. Norman H. Bretz, of Toronto; Flying Officer T.A. Casey, of Listowel, Ont.; Flying Officer Donald T. Smith, Oakville, Ont.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. Leslie S. Ford, of Liverpool, N.S.; Pilot Officer J.W. Reynolds, Pembroke, Ont.; Acting Squadron-Ldr. John C. Fee, of Calgary, and Acting Flight-Lieut. Frederick E. Green, of Toronto, all of whom received the Distinguished Flying Cross; and Sgt. Clarence G. Scott, of Tisdale, Sask., who received the Distinguished Flying medal.
Other decorations for Canadian airmen as a result of their Dieppe services may yet be announced. Both the Canadian airmen and naval personnel who were at Dieppe were under British command although several all-Canadian air force squadrons took part.
FORD, S/L Leslie Sydney (J3712) - Bar to DFC - No.403
Award effective 16 September 1942 as per London Gazette dated 2 October 1942 and
AFRO 1653/42 dated 16 October 1942.
On August 19th, 1942, this officer led his squadron in support of the combined operations against Dieppe with great skill. Several enemy aircraft were destroyed, two of which were shot down by Squadron Leader Ford. Throughout, his inspiring example instilled great confidence in his fellow pilots.
NOTE: Public Records Office Air 2/8769 has recommendation for a Croix de Guerre dated 20 January 1943 stating about the same as above. Although it went right through to Fighter Command Headquarters, it was not approved at Air Ministry level, either because the deed had already been covered by the Bar to the DFC or because of Ford's death in action. Several other pilots were recommended for the Croix de Guerre following the Dieppe Raid and ended up with Mentions in Despatches (see H.H. Hills, R.C. MacQuoid and M.B. Pepper).
London, April 4, 1943 - (AP) - Tons of explosives dropped
by Canadian airmen blasted the mammoth Krupp armament works Saturday night
as the R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. proceeded methodically with their plan to wipe
out the factories which cover hundreds of acres around Essen and supply
the Axis with much vital equipment.
Forming a part of the large force attacking the great German industrial city were three R.C.A.F. Halifax squadrons as well as scores of Canadians in the R.A.F. who fly in such giants as Lancasters. Of 21 bombers lost, five were from the Canadian bomber group.
Saturday night's action by the R.C.A.F, followed afternoon sweeps over Nazi-held France in which a Canadian Spitfire wing destroyed five German fighters and damaged and probably destroyed others. The action, one of the most successful in weeks for the R.C.A.F. pilots, came when the wing supported fighter-bombers on an attack on Abbeville, on the French coast. One Spitfire was lost.
The Canadian squadrons on the Essen raid were led by Wing Commanders W.D. Ferris of Edmonton, A.C.P. Clayton, Vancouver, and M.M. Flemming, Ottawa. Antiaircraft fire and searchlights were plentiful, but only a few Canadians reported sighting night fighters.
Confident, that further extensive damage was inflicted in the 54th raid on Essen, the Canadian airmen told of one particularly large explosion, concentrated fires extending over a large area and dense columns of smoke.
Sgt. A.S. Sutton of 176 Erskine Ave., Toronto, reported a tremendous blast in the heart of the target area and Sgt. T.W. Dimma of Ottawa added facetiously that "I expect Krupps have a lot of stuff that might go off."
"There were two smaller explosions and then right beside them a big one," Sutton said. "Flame poured up and then mushroomed and stayed there in an orange blaze for at least 10 seconds."
Sgt. B.D. Kirkham of Saltcoats, Sask., reported smoke poured up in such great, thick clouds that the fires were blotted out. Twenty-five miles from the target all he could see was the reflected glow.
Pieces of flak glanced off the shoulders of PO. Arnold Rollings of Allenford, Ont., a veteran Canadian bushpilot who was navigator of a Lancaster. Rollings was unhurt.
A motor of the big aircraft cutout over the target and the English pilot dived 11,000 feet toward the searchlights while gunners poured bullets at the lights. Eight flicked out as the bomber swooped to within 400 yards of the ground.
Sgt. Duncan McMillan of Landis, Sask., was a mighty tired airman when he reached base. The elevator trimmers of his aircraft froze en route to Essen and it was a great physical effort to control the bomber. However, it went on to bomb the target although it was unable to weave as searchlights scoured the sky.
Flt. Sgt. Johnny Carrere of Cochrane, celebrated his commissioning – word of which reached him just before the take-off - by bombing Essen.
Other Canadians on the raid included Sgt. C.E. Willis, Peterborough, Ont., and Ken Emmons, Elgin, Ont., whose wife lives at 244 Rushholme Road, Toronto. Also in the big attack were Flt. Sgt. Harold Huether of Kitchener, PO. Bill Hilton, Brantford, and Ross Webb of Glenavon, Sask.
In Saturday afternoon's impressive sweep by the Canadian fighters, four Canadians and their English wing commander each shot down a Focke-Wulf 190, a Toronto sharpshooter damaged another and two British Columbia youths shared a probable. The five pilots who each added a Nazi plane to his total were Sqdn. Ldr. L. S. Ford, D.F.C. and Bar, of Liverpool, N.S.; Flt. Lt. C. M. Magwood of 414 Dovercourt Road, Toronto; FO. H. D. MacDonald of 30 Craydon Avenue, Toronto; Sqdn. Ldr. S. H. Boulton of Coleman, Alta., and Wing Cmdr. J.E. Johnson, D.F.C. and Bar, an Englishman.
FO. J.A. Rae of Toronto damaged one and Flt. Lt. R. A. Buckham of Vancouver and FO. N. A. Keene of White Rock, B.C., shared a probable. Keene was last in the news when he scored hits on a German fighter over France Feb 16.
Johnson said the wing pounced on about 20 enemy fighters which came up after bombs had been dropped on objectives at Abbeville
Jerries Fell in Pieces
"They were about 3,000 feet below us and I think we took them by surprise," he said. "There were a good many combats at about 24,000 feet."
Magwood's victory was the most spectacular. His victim blew up in the air.
"I started firing at about 150 yards," Magwood said. "The blast lifted my kite with quite a bump."
Ford said his victim turned over when shells and bullets struck, then went into a dive with smoke pouring out. Several other squadron pilots reported seeing it in flames at a low level.
MacDonald roared in with guns blazing and saw a wheel of a FW-190 come down, then the cockpit cover blew off and the Nazi pilot bail out.
Boulton attacked a fighter from underneath and observed strikes that blew off pieces from the enemy aircraft.
"The bullets seemed to go into the body of the plane and then I should think into the cockpit and the engine because he started to give out smoke," Boulton said. "Then the enemy machine tipped forward on its nose and went straight down." Both firing, Keene and Buckham attacked their victim from the rear. "We could see chunks flying from the hood and side of the cockpit and he started to go down with smoke coming out," Keene said.
Rae poured a long burst into an enemy fighter from an angle and observed many hits, but "there was another Hun circling, so I did not stop to see what happened."
Nova Scotia Flyer
15 May 1943 - Railway men, who have been contributing dimes and quarters to a Spitfire fund, got a report at Montreal back from the battlefront on what their two planes have been doing.
They learned that Canadian Pacific I and Canadian Pacific II have accounted for seven enemy planes, have damaged nine others, chalked up two probables, and some of the pilots have won decorations.
Pilots of the two planes at various times have been: F/L G. B. Murray, D.F.C, of Halifax; S/L L. S. Ford, D.F.C. and bar, of Liverpool, N.S.; F/O Ken Marshall, of Milton, Ont; W/C E. E. Morrow, D.F.C, of Toronto; S/L Norman Bretz, D.F.C., of Toronto; S/L D. F. (Bud) Malloy, D.F.C, of Halifax, and S/L Foss Boulton, of Coleman, Alta.
Ottawa, June 11, 1943. - (CP) – Wing Cmdr. Leslie
Sydney Ford of Liverpool, N.S., listed in yesterday's Air Force casualty
list as missing on active service after overseas air operations, is a
23 year-old native of Halifax who won the D.F.C. in June last year and
a bar to it for his stellar work at Dieppe.
A spokesman at R.C.A.F. headquarters said he is probably the first man reported missing who had won the equivalent of two DFCs in this war.
Ford, a graduate of Acadia University, enlisted in the R.C.A.F. at Halifax in June 1940, and trained at Regina, Vancouver and Saskatoon. His father, Dr. T.R. Ford, lives in Liverpool.
Somewhere in England, Aug. 20, 1943 — (CF) — The story of one of the R.C.A.F. fighter squadrons in Britain — which a few months ago decided on the name "Wolf" squadron for itself — is closely linked with the name of Wing-Cmdr Leslie Sydney Ford, D.F.C and bar, of Liverpool, N.S. a brilliant commander who now is missing.
Shot Down Over Sea
Flight -lieut. Basil Dean (former Hamilton Spectator employee) said in an R.C.A.F. overseas press dispatch today that before Ford was shot down while attacking enemy E-boats from low level over the North sea he had left the “Wolf” squadron, but his imprint was so strong upon the formation which he once commanded that his name will be associated with it for the duration of the war.
When the first of a series of Canadian squadrons was formed from R.C.A.F. personnel serving in England, it started with American-built Tomahawk fighters. Soon afterwards it switched to the Spitfire Mark VB - then the finest single-seater aircraft in the world.
The battle of Britain was long over by then, and consequently all the air fighting that this squadron's pilots have done ever since has been carried out in enemy territory. Early this summer the squadron had been credited with 46½ confirmed victories—all over the air fields of occupied Europe.
Shares in Tragedy
The "Wolf" squadron got little chance to knock down Huns until August 19, 1941 — just a year before the attack upon Dieppe, France. That day, four enemy fighters were destroyed. Another three were shot down September 27.
The squadron has had its share of tragedy. One of its commanders, an English squadron leader in the R.A.F., went down over France in the spring of 1942; he now is a prisoner of war. Two flight commanders were lost about the same time, and much rebuilding was needed.
Runs Into Trouble
Then Squadron-Ldr. Alan Christopher Deere, D.F.C. and bar—later to become a wing commander and win the DFC took over. He had destroyed 18 enemy aircraft during the battle of Dunkerque and the battle of Britain, and it looked as though a scintillating chapter in the squadron's history was about to be written.
But one day in the summer of 1942, Deere led his squadron across the English Channel. It ran into a horde of between 40 and 50 Focke-Wulfs, and little could be done except extricate the squadron as well end quickly as possible. Five Spitfires were shot down and the "Wolf" squadron was sent to a quiet area to re-form its battle order.
Ford assumed command August 32, 1942. A week later he led his squadron into the furnace over Dieppe, and in the action his pilots destroyed six enemy aircraft for certain. Ford himself shot down two and many "probables" and damaged aircraft were credited to the guns of his fellow flyers.
Aided By Mountains
Around him Ford had three experienced men—all from Toronto— Charles Magwood, Hugh Godefroy and H. Deane MacDonald. From the time it joined the Canadian fighter wing until the end of June, 1943, the squadron—flying the new Mark IX Spitfire—destroyed 28½ German aircraft.
The Canadian wing as a whole, led by an English member of the R.A.F., Wing-Cmdr. J.E. Johnson, D.S.O., D.F.C., and bar, was performing magnificently. Johnson himself destroyed 18 enemy aircraft. Meantime, Ford had been promoted and transferred to another station. In two days during his leadership of the Wolf squadron the Canadian wing destroyed 18 enemy aircraft. Magwood succeeded Ford, and it was only a short time later that the pilots learned Ford had been shot down and posted as missing.
Godefroy then succeeded Magwood, and the squadron's tradition continued unbroken.
From The Spectator’s London News Bureau, by A.C.
Cummings. Copyright, 1944, by Southam Co. London, March 12, 1944 —
(By Mail) — The "Wolf" squadron of the Royal Canadian
Air Force, which has just been formally adopted by the City of Calgary,
is the top-scoring fighter squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. During
1943 it out-topped all other Spitfire squadrons in Fighter Command with
the exception of one Norwegian unit.
The "Wolves," now commanded by Squadron Leader R.A. Buckham of Vancouver, fly with an R.C.A.F. wing commanded by Wing Commander Hugh Godefroy, D.F.C. and bar, of Toronto, who is himself a former Wolf squadron commander. The squadron was the first of a series of winning units to be formed overseas from graduates of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and began operations in the early summer of 1941. Its first big victory was on August 19, 1941—one year to the day before the Dieppe battle — when its pilots destroyed four enemy aircraft. On September 27, the same year, it destroyed another three.
When the 1942 "sweeping season" opened, the squadron looked forward to a successful summer, but for several months tragedy stalked it. The English squadron commander went down during a sweep, and two flight commanders were lost at about the same time. A fine job of rebuilding the squadron's spirit and fighting abilities was done by a young New Zealand hero of the Battle of Britain, Squadron Leader A.C. Deere, D.F.C. and bar, whose personal score at the time stood at I8 enemy aircraft destroyed.
Deere worked hard training his pilots but, just as he had got them into first-class fighting trim again, another tragedy overtook them. One morning, during a sweep across the Channel, the squadron was attacked by a greatly superior force of Focke-Wulfs which outnumbered them four to one. Five Spitfires were shot down, and although it was learned some time later that the majority of the pilots concerned were alive and prisoners of war, the squadron was moved to a quiet area where it stayed for some time.
In the Dieppe engagements, on August 19, 1942, it came into its own again. By this time, it was led by a brilliant Nova Scotian, Squadron Leader Leslie Sydney Ford, of Liverpool, who had won the D.F.C. for, among other things, sinking an enemy destroyer while flying Hurri-bombers. Ford led his men over Dieppe, and between them they destroyed six enemy aircraft, of which Ford got two — winning a bar to his D.F.C. A few months later the squadron became part of an R.C.A.F. fighter wing, and during 1943, flying under the leadership of Ford and other commanders who succeeded him, destroyed 59 enemy aircraft.
Ford was eventually promoted to wing commander and given command of another Spitfire wing of the R.C.A.F. Shortly afterwards he was shot down and posted missing during a low-level attack on enemy E-boats in the North Sea. But, in the meanwhile, his squadron had continued in the fine tradition which he had set. It was led successively by Squadron Leader Charles Magwood, D.F.C., Squadron Leader H. C. Godefroy, D.F.C., both of Toronto, and Squadron Leader R. A. Buckham, of Vancouver,
In two days in April, 1943, it destroyed eight enemy aircraft — its best two days of the year — and, month by month, continued to pile up its score. Today, proud of the fact that the City of Calgary has adopted it, it is still in the front line.
The idea for the adoption originated with a young Calgary pilot, Flying Officer W.H. Pentland, who is at this moment in hospital recovering from serious injuries received in a crash during an operational flight.
27 Sept 1941, 1/2 Bf.109 damaged (Hurricane Z3349,
On one operation, Ford dropped a bomb from his Hurricane
Wing Commander Ford is buried in the
General Cemetery at Vlieland, Frisian Islands, Friesland, Holland
--- Canadian Aces ---
On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources, newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC) as well as other sources both published and private