THE VICTORIA CROSS

THE VICTORIA CROSS

THE VICTORIA CROSS   The Victoria Cross, founded by Queen Victoria was created in 1854.  The first recipient was in 1857 for bravery in the Crimea War against Russia. Since its inception, only 1358 Victoria Cross medals have been struck.  A single company of jewelers, Hancock of London, has been responsible for the production of every Victoria Cross.  Because of its rarity, the VC (Victoria Cross) is highly prized and the medal has fetched over 400,000 UK pounds at auction. Since 1987, the private collection of UK Lord Ashcroft amassed more than one-tenth of all VC medals issued.  He recently donated his entire collection to London’s Imperial War Museum.  It is reported that Lord Ashcroft paid 1.5 million for the VC of Captain Noel Chavasse, Medical Corps, a medical doctor.  He is only one of three people who were awarded the VC medal twice for bravery on the battlefield. Of the 1358 VC medals issued, only one has been awarded to a woman.  This was Elizabeth Webber Harris.  Her bravery astounded the entire regiment.  She remains the only woman to receive the Victoria Cross.  It was given to her for her work in India.  In 1869 a cholera epidemic broke out.  Hundreds died.  Elizabeth, a nurse, was credited with saving many of the British and Indian soldiers that she was assigned to, risking her own life with this very infectious disease.     A Canadian Story: Andrew Mynarski VC RCAF: Mynarski, born in Winnipeg, was 27 years old when he flew with 419 Squadron, based in England.  On the night of June 12th 1944 he was on a mission...
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE VICTORY BELL

THE ROYAL AIR FORCE VICTORY BELL

The Royal Air Force Victory Bell was created for the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund.  Its purpose was to raise money to help serving and former members of the R.A.F. and families, as well as to assist in the upkeep of the R.A.F. Memorial.  The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in 1919 after WWI; it continues to be a registered charity and receives no government assistance.     Conrad Parlanti was the designer of the Bell.  Conrad Parlanti was born in London in 1903 to his father Ercole Parlanti, who was a prominent bronze artist. Ercole was commissioned to cast his most famous work, the casting of the RAF War Memorial, which is located on the embankment of the River Thames.         The Bells were cast in 1946 from aluminum taken from German aircraft shot down over London during the London “Blitz. The Bells have images of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Some of the first Bells were auctioned by Chesney Allen of the WWII famous entertainers “Flanagan & Allen”.  During the London “Blitz”, Flanagan & Allen, who were radio and vaudeville entertainers, would visit the air raid shelters and the underground railway stations that were used as air raid shelters to entertain the people. The auction took place at the first Battle of Britain dinner held at the Hungarian Restaurant in London, shortly after D-Day. As much as 1200 pounds was paid for the first few Bells that evening. Here at the Comox Air Force Museum, located in Comox B.C., we have had two Victory Bells donated to our vast collection of Air Force memorabilia.     Note of...
“WAR BIRDS” ~ PIGEONS AT WAR

“WAR BIRDS” ~ PIGEONS AT WAR

Seventy years ago a carrier pigeon performed the act of “heroism” that saw it awarded the animal’s equivalent of the the highest award, the Victoria Cross – the Dickin Medal. It was the first of dozens of animals honoured by the veterinary charity P.D.S.A during WW2. On 23 February  1942, a badly damaged RAF bomber ditched into the cold North Sea. The crew were returning from a mission over Norway, but their Beaufort Bomber had been hit several times and crashed into the sea more than 100 miles from home. Struggling in freezing waters – unable to radio an accurate position back to base – the men faced a cold and lonely death. But as the aircraft sank, the crew had managed to salvage their secret weapon – a carrier pigeon.  The blue chequered hen named Winkie, was set free in the hope it could fly home to its base near Dundee in Scotland, and so alert the airbase colleagues to their predicament. During World War 2, carrier pigeons were routinely carried by RAF bombers for this very real danger, though in an era prior to GPS and Satellite Beacons, rescue was far from certain. But Winkie did make it home, after flying 120 miles, and was discovered, exhausted and covered in oil from taking rests at sea. The pigeon did not carry any message, but the RAF were able to determine the probable location of the downed aircraft. A rescue mission was launched and in a short time the crew were located and they were recovered by the Air Sea Rescue Service.     Winkie became the toast of the base. A year later the Dickin Medal...
BATTLE OF BRITAIN ACES ~ F/O OTTO JOHN “PETE” PETERSON

BATTLE OF BRITAIN ACES ~ F/O OTTO JOHN “PETE” PETERSON

  F/O Peterson was born on March 14, 1914 in Eckville, Alberta.  He attended Lloydminster High School, University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Manitoba, prior to joining the RCAF in 1938.  Before going overseas last June he served at an east coast Canadian air station. Peterson was attached to Canada’s No. 1 fighter squadron of the RCAF when it arrived in the United Kingdom on June 20, 1940.     Our Museum has a copy of the combat report written on September 9, 1940.  At the time, he was flying  S.E. of Guilford.  The enemy was flying an ME.109 at a height of 18,000 feet.  Peterson recorded, “I was Green 2 and was the second section in line astern and climbing.  Suddenly the Squadron Leader did a sharp break away to the left, green section followed.  I saw two ME.109s apparently diving on the Squadron Leader.  Green 1 attacked one of them and I immediately swung on the other’s tail and opened fire at about 250 yards closing to about 75 yards.  Suddenly I saw bits flying off the e/a and then it began to smoke flames pouring out the belly, the aircraft just disintegrated.  I immediately began my break away but ran into some loose part of the e/a, breaking my wind screen the pieces of glass and perspex cutting my face and obscuring my vision.  My propeller was also hit by pieces of e/a and broke 8 inches of the end.  I came down from about 15, 000 to 4,000 before even being able to see my instruments.  I still lost height due to my obscured...
BATTLE OF BRITAIN ACES ~ F/LT G.R. MCGREGOR

BATTLE OF BRITAIN ACES ~ F/LT G.R. MCGREGOR

  Gordon McGregor was born in Montreal on September 26, 1901.  Educated at St. Andrews College and McGill University, McGregor was the winner of the 1935, 1936, and 1938 Webster Trophy award, presented to non-professional airmen and awarded for airmanship and navigation. He was commissioned in October 1938, at the time serving with RCAF 115 Squadron.  At the outbreak of war, pilots of his squadron, along with those from No. 1 Squadron, formed No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron.  McGregor was a Flight Commander with this squadron when it arrived in Britain June 20, 1940.   Following a number of successes, he was awarded the DFC (gazetted on October 25, 1940).  He commanded the squadron during November and December of that year, and in January 1941, he was given command of 2 (RCAF) Squadron at Digby (renumbered 402 Squadron March 1st).  In April, McGregor was promoted to lead the Canadian Wing at Digby.  He returned briefly to Canada but was back in London by fall.  He was appointed Director of Air Staff at HQ RCAF London on December 5th and was there until mid-April, 1942, when he once again returned to Canada. McGregor formed and commanded a Wing to give air support to Americans in Alaska.  In January 1943, he was made an OBE (Order of the British Empire).  He took command of Patricia Bay at the beginning of April, where its squadrons served on defence of the west coast of Canada. McGregor returned to England on February 23, 1944, where he spent four months at HQ 83 Group and in summer was given command of 126 (RCAF) Wing.  He still...

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