Earlier I had written an account of W/C MacKay’s RCAF service during a very courageous career during World War 2. Now I have received interesting information of his determination to “Join the Fight” written as a record by his own hand in 1998.
John MacKay ~ Born in Manitoba February 1920Graduated from Victoria High School in Edmonton, Alberta in 1938, and started out on a tour of Canada and the USA.
“When Canada declared war against Germany, I was in Colorado, USA. I returned immediately to Canada with the intention of enlisting in the Air Force. Unfortunately, the Air Force was not accepting applicants in Alberta. I traveled east and realized that it would be impossible to get into the Canadian Air Force for some time- applications were not being accepted in Ontario either. I gained employment at Creighton Mines in Ontario as a hard rock miner. Continued attempts to enlist were not successful. I changed my employment to be nearer a recruiting office and worked in a Bronze Propeller Foundry in Owen Sound, Ontario.
Note: Both of the above jobs were classified as “essential” in the war effort.
In 1941 an opportunity arose to ship aboard a Merchant Marine vessel bound for the U.K. I signed on as a Fireman aboard the Empress of Asia berthed in Vancouver. BC.
On arrival in the U.K, after transiting the Panama Canal and the Atlantic (unescorted) I attempted to join the R.A.F, unfortunately for me documentation was required which I did not have. My contract for the trip to the UK expired and I returned to Canada via a troop/passenger ship. While enroute, the German battleship Bismark was at large in the Atlantic and was successfully attacked by the RAF.
On arrival in Canada the RCAF were still not accepting recruits. In the Toronto area where the Norwegian Air Force had a flying training school, known as “Little Norway” I applied to join them but only recruits of Norwegian ancestry were being accepted.
I was finally accepted by the RCAF and started Pilot training on February 2nd 1942 at 21 EFTS, Chatham, New Brunswick. I graduated as a pilot on July 3rd 1942 at No 9 EFTS, Summerside, PEI.
A posting overseas was not to be, and I became a flying instructor. My tour of duty was at No 6 SFTS Dunville. On July 15th 1943 my posting overseas was approved. I started a slow trek towards the UK again—this time as a pilot in the RCAF.
My departure for the UK was aboard the S.S. Strathnaver, an American troop ship. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the way across the Atlantic our ship could not keep up with the convoy due to engine trouble and were diverted to Newfoundland. After repairs and delays we set course for the UK again but damaged the hull on leaving the harbour. The ship again had to return to St John’s and all Canadians on board were left in Canada.
In October 1943 I was again posted overseas—this time aboard the Cunard ship Queen Mary—now used as a troop ship. A slow process followed in the UK, with operational training completed just as “D” Day arrived. I was assigned to RCAF 401 Squadron, 126 Fighter Wing. At Beny Sur Mer in France. My first combat flight was on 9th August 1944.
My last combat flight with 401 Squadron was on 27 April 1945. I had completed 280 Hours flying Spitfires as a combat pilot and was awarded a DFC and Bar. With the end of the European War the RCAF wanted volunteers for the Pacific War. I volunteered and was sent back to the continent to await further instructions.
During my “holding” period I was transferred to RCAF Squadron 412 and in a flying accident I suffered a lumbar vertebra compression fracture. This lowered my flying status and I was medically repatriated to Canada where I commenced a series of ground tours of duty at North West Air Command, and the Winter Experimental Establishment (WEE) in Edmonton Alberta. This latter posting enabled me to fly at times which included duty trips to (WEE) at Fort Churchill in Manitoba.
In April of 1947 I was appointed Officer Commanding the Winter Experimental Establishment in Watson Lake, Yukon.
In September 1947 I returned to full flying duties with a posting to Central Flying School for Flying Instructor training. On completion of the course in October 1947, I was posted to the Northwest Air Command Communications Flight at Edmonton, and later in April 1948 was again posted this time to Flying School at Centralia, Ontario.
In October of 1948 I was posted to 9403 Reserve Squadron at Calgary Alberta as an aircrew training officer.
In January 1950 I was posted to the RAF Flying College at Manby, England. The course provided complete coverage of the application of aircraft in time of war. In the final phase, members participated in long range liaison flights to other countries. My choice was for a flight around the world by way of Africa, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii USA and back to Manby, UK.
On completion of the course I was appointed Jet Squadron Commander at the College. On March 1952 I returned to Canada and assumed command of #416 Fighter Squadron which was just converting to the F86 Sabre Jet. In September 1952 #416 Squadron proceeded to Europe for NATO duties via Goose Bay, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, and to #2Fighter Wing at Gros Tenquin in France.
There were many technical problems to be solved at #2 Fighter Wing and I was temporally reassigned to a squadron in Canada prior to my duties in Korea.
After a short period of concentrated flying with #414 Fighter Squadron at Bagotville, Quebec. I was seconded to #39 USAF Squadron of their 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in Korea. My first combat flight in Korea was on 1 st April 1953, and my last flight was on 27th July 1953. I had completed 74.45 hours flying F86 with the squadron. For active service I was awarded the US Air Medal.
On my return to Canada, 4th August 1953, I assumed temporary command of #444 Fighter Squadron in Ottawa, Ontario. We departed for Europe via “Leap Frog”, another Atlantic crossing via Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and on to Baden Soellingen in Germany, the Canadian #4 Fighter Wing in NATO.
I rejoined #416 Fighter Squadron on 22nd September 1953. However, once again I was called upon to participate in a move of aircraft from Canada to Europe. With “Random Four” from May 7th to 26th 1954, our group traversed the Atlantic to #2 Fighter Wing in France.
In October 1954 was appointed O.C. Flying at #1 Pilot Weapons School at MacDonald Manitoba, Canada. The course given was in Air Weapons Application and Air Gunnery for both Canadian and NATO pilots.
In December of 1955 I took another flying instructors course and joined RCAF Central Flying School which developed Ground and Air Training programs for RCAF establishments.
In 1959 I attended the RCAF Staff College and on completion I was posted to a flying course at Chatham N.B. to bring me up to date on the latest fighter tactics. I then proceeded to #3 Fighter Wingin NATO to assume command of #419 Fighter Squadron.
In 1960 I was posted to #4 Fighter Wing as Chief Operations Officer.
In August 1962 I was posted to #2 Fighter Wing as Chief Operations Officer.
In July 1963 I was transferred to RAF Fighter Command in charge of Exercise Plans, responsible for the annual testing program for RAF Fighter Command. The exercises were developed with full recognition that a First Strike against the UK would be by ballistic missiles.
In July of 1965 I returned to Canada with a posting to Canadian Forces Headquarters ( CFHQ ) as a staff officer. After four different staff positions I retired from the Air Force on 15 February 1969.
During my flying career with the RCAF I had flown most of the British and Canadian training aircraft(Tiger Moth, Fleet Finch, Harvard, Anson, Cornel, Percival Proctor, Miles Master, and the T33.) and of the operational aircraft Hurricane, Spitfire, Typhoon, Tempest, RN Firefly, Seafire, Mustang, Vampire, Meteor, Lancaster, F86, and at the RAF Fighter Command a check out on the Supersonic Lightning. My two combat aircraft were the Spitfire and the F86.
After leaving the RCAF I enrolled at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver B.C. as an undergraduate. I left with a Masters Degree in Economics and Commerce.
After my graduation I worked for the Federal Government in the North.
Now retired fully, I am currently a resident of Costa Rica .”
Dated August 10 1998.
**Note. The original copies of this document are held by the Comox Air Museum. Comox. BC.
** Prepared and submitted by Norm Danton. Comox Airforce Museum Volunteer.