Lately, I discovered this article and thought I’d share it with you:
“It’s springtime in the Glebe, May 14thto be exact. The sun shines with a new intensity. The breeze billows through the screen window of my office, wafting paper across my desk. It was a particularly tough winter but the pain of it is soothed by a fine evening. Tonight is one of those evenings in which it is very good to be alive.
My office is on the second floor of a small building at the corner of Third Avenue and Bank Street in an area of Ottawa known as the Glebe. Bank is what you would call the high street in England, the main street in North America. It draws down from the north near the Parliament Buildings and continues on uninterrupted until almost the St. Lawrence River, 60 miles to the south.
I suspect that Bank in the Glebe is much the same as it was 75 years ago in May of 1943 – save for the nature of the businesses, the highfalutin quality of our new-age restaurants and their fancy outdoor terraces and the style of the automobiles. Today, pricey Glebe housing means that the people of the Glebe are uniformly in a higher income tax bracket, but in ’43, the Glebe had three distinct layers – the wealthy, the middle class, and the working class. I have lived in the Glebe now for 46 years, all of that time in former working-class neighbourhoods. It has been a very happy and welcoming community. A very close-knit one.
Over the past decade, researching and publishing stories about Canada’s aviation heritage, I have come across a few that have intersected with the small community I know so well and love so much. It’s not that I have gone looking for stories of men in my neighbourhood, they just arrive at my doorstep so to speak. These young men are just a fraction of the men and women from the Glebe who served during the war, yet in the small sampling of six airmen that I know of, one was a Battle of Britain fighter pilot and Great Escaper, one was at the Siege of Malta, and one was a Dambuster. It is a testament to the pivotal nature and the emotional power of these four events, that major motion pictures were made of them – Malta Story (1953),The Dam Busters (1955), The Great Escape (1963) and Battle of Britain (1969).
Directly across from my home on Adelaide Street (about three blocks from my office) lived a young man named James Wilson, a Bristol Beaufighter pilot. He disappeared with his navigator on an anti-shipping operation in November of 1942. He has no known grave. A few doors down Adelaide, at number 21, lived Wilson’s cousin, a young man named Harold Healey. He too died on Bomber Command operations with 207 Squadron, RAF on April 9, 1943. Still further down the street, a 21-year old Warrant Officer and Spitfire pilot by the name of Ken Dale was lost in late 1944 on operations with 249 Squadron – the same squadron that included such fighter pilot luminaries as Flight Lieutenant George ‘Screwball’ Beurling, Wing Commander Percy ‘Laddie’ Lucas, and Squadron leader Robert ‘Buck’ McNair.
Five blocks north of my office, just to the east of Bank Street on Patterson Avenue, is the former home of Flying Officer ‘Skeets’ Ogilvie, a Battle of Britain hero and the last man to escape from the tunnel known as Harry in the Great Escape. Four blocks beyond that, on Queen Elizabeth Drive stands the home of a bright young man by the name of David Francis Gaston Rouleau, a Spitfire pilot who flew from the deck of HMS Eagle in an attempt to make it to Malta. After a 400-mile flight, Rouleau was attacked…” read the rest of the story
PRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM VINTAGE WINGS CANADA