During World War II, aircraft of the RCAF were brought down over Europe in large numbers. Whether destroyed by enemy fighters, anti-aircraft guns, mid-air collisions, fuel shortage, mechanical failure, icing, or other causes, the toll in aircrew was enormous.
Some survived by managing to bail out of their doomed aircraft or successfully making a crash landing in occupied territory. As a result, over 2500 RCAF members became prisoners of war (POWs); others were captured while serving with the RAF.
Germans usually addressed the newly captured airmen with the words, “For you the war is over.” However, it was the sworn duty of all captured military personnel to continue to fight the enemy by surviving, communicating information and trying to escape. Every POW recognized he was in a difficult and risky situation.
Relatively unknown are the RCAF prisoners of war from British Columbia and the Yukon; a few of these men include:
- Bell, E.N., Flight Lieutenant, 428 SQN, Grand Forks
- Bumstead, G.A., Flight Lieutenant, 431 SQN, Vancouver
- Burns, K.O., Sergeant, 434 SQN, Vancouver
- Christian, E.J., WO2, Victoria
- Coles, Arthur, Flight Lieutenant, North Vancouver
- Colwell, J.H., Flight Lieutenant, Nanaimo
- Cooper, G.L., Flight Lieutenant, Powell River
- Corbishley, H., WO2, Penticton
- Ferguson, J., Flight Lieutenant, Patricia Bay
- MacKay, F.E., Flying Officer, New Westminster
- Maddin, Dl, Flight Lieutenant, 425 SQN, Vancouver
- Mill, J.B., Pilot Officer, 408 SQN, Watson Lake, Yukon
- Mouat, William Ivan, Flying Officer, Ganges
- Moul, Arthur “Jack”, Flying Officer, 416 SQN, Port Alberni
- Pepper, M.B., Flight Lieutenant, Vernon
It is Colwell’s “Great Escape” story, told in his diary, that is “hidden” behind glass in the POW section of the Museum.
But what of the other “hidden” stories, those that belong to the other POWs on the list? Thanks to the research done by our Collections Chair, Mel, some of those stories will be shared with you during the month of June.