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
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:
Thanks to Rick Rutherford for the article on Woody
On 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 ---