On January 2nd, 2019, I watched an episode of the BBC program, THE ANTIQUE ROADSHOW; one segment was a story of another unsung Canadian hero of World War II, CHUCK-CHUCK the panda.
Who was he and why should he be remembered?
WILLIAM GORDON RADCLIFFE was born in New Westminster, BC, Canada, on 24 September 1919. His family were recent emigrants to Canada. In March 1939, at the age of19 years, and suspect that war was on its way, he traveled to England with his friend Howard Godfrey and volunteered to join the Royal Airforce as ground crew mechanics.
In 1942, the RAF decided to institute a new position of flight engineer in its heavy bomber squadrons. Many
ground crews saw this as their chance to fly, and amongst these was the Canadian, Bill Radcliffe. He and others
were sent to #4 Training School in St Athan in Wales, and he qualified as a flight engineer in July 1942. He was posted to 97 Squadron and flew his first operation on 10 September 1942.
Remarkably, Chuck- Chuck flew on every mission, tucked into Bill’s right flying boot. The story of Chuck-Chuck started in Canada when Bill was packing to leave for England. Chuck- Chuck was given to him as a good luck mascot. He not only became his mascot, but he eventually became the mascot of the entire crew. He was even painted on the nose of the Lancaster that they flew. Bill’s crew were to stay together for two years. Altogether, Canadian Bill Radcliffe DFC would fly over 60 missions in Lancaster bombers all over Germany.
Bill also took part in the very famous Dambuster’s raid using the “bouncing bomb “.
After being taken off operations, he became a training instructor for the rest of the war. Bill had married his wife Joyce, and they had 3 children. In 1945 they returned to Canada. Once settled back in Canada, Bill became a Customs and Excise Officer in his beloved Burnaby, British Columbia.
Bill Radcliffe died on July 5th, 1952 when his car went out of control and went into the Fraser River where he drowned.
He was cremated and his ashes were scattered by his friends and colleagues in the RCAF Reserve over Burnaby Mountain in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Following his death, Joyce, the 3 children, and Chuck- Chuck the toy panda returned to England.