Vernon Crompton
"Woody" Woodward

"Woody" Woodward in North Africa

RAF    W/C   -   DFC  &  Bar


   Woody, as he was known to everyone, was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1916. He joined the Royal Air Force prior to World War II. He had always wanted to fly but couldn't be accepted for pilot training in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the time because he didn't have a University degree. So, like many other Canadians, in 1938 he made his way to England and joined the R.A.F.

   In May 1939, Woody was posted to 33 Squadron in Egypt flying Gladiators. Although Gazetted in May 1941, his many early successes in North Africa between June and December of 1940 resulted in the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. He moved with the squadron, now flying Hurricanes, to Greece in February 1941 and then to Crete in May as a flight commander. After the German invasion of Crete and the fierce fighting that followed, Woody had to evacuate on foot across the island narrowly avoiding capture.

   33 Squadron had effectively been destroyed on Crete but it reformed in June. He remained with the squadron until he was "tour expired" in September 1941 and posted to Rhodesia as a flying instructor. In January 1943 he returned to Egypt to take command of 213 Squadron (Hurricane IIC). He was awarded the Bar to his D.F.C. in August 1943 in recognition of his work in Greece two years earlier. Shortly afterwards he attended the Staff College in Haifa. He was promoted to Wing Commander in June 1944 and in April 1945 he took command of the Middle East Communications Squadron flying Dakotas and other transport aircraft.

   Christopher Shores and Clive Williams record Woody's combat record as "18 and 4 shared destroyed, 2 unconfirmed destroyed, 3 probable's, 11 damaged" in their book Aces High: A Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Forces in WW II. His coolness under fire had earned him the title of "The Imperturbable Woody" and, tied with S/L H.W. McLeod, DSO, DFC*, was Canada's second highest scoring pilot of the war.

   Woody returned to the UK in November 1945 and decided to remain in the R.A.F. upon being granted an extended service Commission as a Squadron Leader. 3 years later he was awarded a Permanent Commission. Woody's peace time career included various administrative and instructional postings but he also served many hours on flying duties. In August 1949 he commanded 19 Squadron flying Hornets. In August 1956, he went to Germany as the commanding officer of 322 Wing flying Hunters. In 1958 he moved to 69 (PR) Squadron as the commanding officer flying Canberra's. 69 Squadron moved from Germany to Malta and later was renumbered as 39 Squadron. In late 1959 he went to the Ministry of Aviation and then he retired from the Royal Air Force in 1963 after having logged over 3300 hours of flying time.

   After moving to Australia, Woody formed a prosperous air charter company. Then, in August 1967, he returned to British Columbia to setup a business which, unfortunately, was not successful. Afterwards, while living in his home town of Victoria, he served in the Corps of Commissionaires until retirement. In his senior years Woody's passion was Jazz music. Vernon "Woody" Woodward passed away on May 26, 2000.

See H.A. Halliday, Woody: A Fighter Pilot's Album, published by Canav Books


Born in Victoria, British Columbia, 22 December 1916
educated there
Enlisted in RAF, June 1938
Appointed Acting Pilot Officer on Probation, 20 August 1938
Confirmed as Pilot Officer, June 1939
Flying Officer, September 1940
Died in Victoria, British Columbia, 26 May 2000.

Lengthy obituary in National Post dated 26 July 2000 which noted that, after his retirement from the Corps of Commissionaires (1990), he was "a familiar figure speeding along the winding lanes of the Saanich Peninsula in his black Jenzen or burgundy Jaguar" but that his license had been suspended in 1995.


First Desert Victory

   When Italy declared war on June 10, 1940, the Royal Air Force only possessed 75 fighters (Gladiators) in the North African theatre. The first Hurricane squadron would not be formed until August. In the meantime, the nearly obsolete Gladiators would prove themselves in the classic art of dog fighting against the similarly equipped Regia Aeronautica.

   On June 14, 1940, Woody claimed "One C.A. 310 confirmed destroyed (Flames) over Fort Cappuzzo. One C.R. 32 probable." in his logbook. Hugh Halliday, in his book Woody: A Fighter Pilot's Album, describes the morning as follows:

   "No. 33 was flying patrols from dawn of the fourteenth onwards. Four pilots - F/Os E.H. Dean and R.A. Couchman, P/Os Woodward and A.R. Costello - were off from Sidi Barrani at 0735 hours, returning at 0925. The ORB described the trip tersely: 'Successful low flying attack carried out on a Ghibli bomber on ground at Sidi Aziez.' The disabled machine was later captured by advancing British troops.

   Thirty-five minutes after landing, barely enough time for a coffee while the Gladiators were refueled and rearmed, Dean and Woodward were off again. A few minutes later Sgt Craig followed. The squadron ORB described what happened: 'One Caproni 310 shot down by Pilot Officer V.C. Woodward and Sergeant Craig, both over Capuzzo.'

   This combat, resulting in the RAF's first aerial victories in North Africa, has since been the subject of varying accounts. Christopher Shores, in Fighters Over the Desert, states that the Gladiators intercepted several twin-engine Ca.310 reconnaissance bombers under CR.32 fighter escort and mentions three victories -- a CR.32 shot down by Dean, a Ca.310 downed by Woodward, plus a CR.32 probably destroyed by Woody.

Another writer, J.D.R. Rawlings, reports in Air Pictorial, September 1970 that the Gladiators met a single Ca.310 and three CR.32s over Fort Capuzzo, repeats that Dean shot down a CR.32, and confirms that Woodward and Craig shared a Caproni; Rawlings does not mention Woodward's probable CR.32. Woody himself lists the 'probable' in a victory tally jotted down in his second logbook; he recalls meeting the Capronis at the same altitude as the Gladiators, and that as he attacked one he aimed for the engines. When a motor began smoking, the Italian crew crash-landed among British tanks near Fort Capuzzo. During the battle a single bullet had missed his head by inches -- the hole was visible through one wing."

   Although the accounts above vary in detail, in later research, Shores and Williams help confirm Woody's original claim in their 1994 edition of Aces High with the following notes: "Ca310 of 159ª Squadriglia, 12 Gruppoº, crash-landed; Serg Azzarane in CR32 of 8 Gruppoº CT shot down and killed".

Woody Woodward
Woody Woodward         


WOODWARD, F/L Vernon Crompton (41092) - Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 9 May 1941 &
Specifically listed in AFRO 1292/41 dated 7 November 1941 as a
Canadian in the RAF who had been decorated as of that date.

Air Ministry Bulletin 3827 refers; no citation in London Gazette other than "for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations". Public Records Office Air 2/9532 has recommendation sent on 18 April 1941 from RAFHQ Middle East to Air Ministry; rank stated as Flying Officer;

Recommended for his outstanding courage and devotion to duty on each of his frequent engagements with the enemy. He attacks the enemy with such determination and vigour that he invariably concludes the engagement with a confirmed victory. His fighting spirit and keenness has an excellent effect on all pilots in the squadron, and to date he has destroyed eleven enemy aircraft and probably one other.

This was further refined for Air Ministry Honours and Awards Committee:

This officer has displayed outstanding courage in his many engagements against the enemy. His attacks are pressed home with such determination and vigour that he invariably concludes with a confirmed victory. He has destroyed at least eleven enemy aircraft, and his fighting spirit and keenness have set a splendid example.


WOODWARD, S/L Vernon Crompton (41092) - Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 6 August 1943 &
AFRO 1949/43 dated 24 September 1943 which also described him as a
"Canadian in the RAF." Air Ministry Bulletin 11042 refers:

Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross in April 1941, this officer has destroyed nine enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to twenty. Squadron Leader Woodward has a fine record of achievement, displaying at all times outstanding courage and devotion to duty.


Thanks to Rick Rutherford for the article on Woody !

these pages I use info from the Air force Association of Canada's web site
in Hugh Halliday's excellent Honors & Awards section
newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC)
as well as other sources both published and private


--- Canadian Aces ---