Good Day…

This is how sometimes this blog will evolve…

Good day. My father F/L John R Irwin flew with 443 Squadron during WWII. He passed away 20 years ago of complications from cardio-vascular disease. I’m curious and wonder if there’s some way to determine something I’ve been unable to clarify. That is…who was flying wing to S/L Wally McLeod the day he didn’t return?

Many thanks for any assistance you may be able to offer


Tony Irwin

A comment is how this blog was created back in 2013 when Nicole Morley wrote a comment on another blog I had created in 2011. It was about RCAF 403 Squadron.

Nicole wanted to share a story with me about her granduncle Arthur James Horrell who was with 443 Squadron…

She wanted to know more about how her granduncle died.

Then little by little other people joined in like Tara whose grandfather was Paul Piché seen here on a group picture.

Paul Piché died in the same crash as Arthur Horrell.

Later on Nicole visited Ivor Williams.

Ivor was on the group picture and he identified a few pilots.

There were a few errors but they were later corrected thanks to Nicole and Tara who teamed up.

Which brings me four years later to write about another pilot who was not on that group picture, but on this post written in April 2013

F/O J. R. Irwin was just first a name, then a picture which was shared Art Sager’s son.

This is what Tony Irwin has just shared a few minutes ago…


A picture of his father when he was a recruit.

Tony wanted to know more…

I’m curious and wonder if there’s some way to determine something I’ve been unable to clarify. That is…who was flying wing to S/L Wally McLeod the day he didn’t return?

How Wally McLeod died and who was his wingman?


To read Leslie Birket Foster’s memoirs, click here.

To learn more about F/O J. R. Irwin…?

For your consideration.

An aviation print by Robert Taylor depicting ‘The Canadian Wing’ patrolling the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. As per my dad’s log book he participated in those patrols.


Who remembers Flying Officer Rooney Hodgins?

Someone who commented on this original post.

As an 8 year old lad and my dad with 412 Transport Squadron in Rockcliffe, I sat on the hill overlooking the runways and witnessed the crash of Vampire jet #17037 on June 11, 1948, piloted by F/O Rooney Hodgins approx. 1/2 mile off the east end of the runway in the bush. Now in my mid 70’s, I never forgot that horrible site. Also, I finally flew in a Vampire T-11 in UK in 2012. What a memory.


Who remembers Flying Officer Rooney Hodgins?

Paul-Émile Piché’s  granddaughter sent me this message.

Hi Nicole and Pierre,

This is some brief info that I found on Rooney Alexander Hodgins. Please see below.


Find a Grave

April 3, 1923 Campbell’s Bay, Québec – June 11, 1948 in Ottawa, ON</

Birth: 1922
Death: Jun. 11, 1948

Hodgins – As the result of an accident on Friday, June 11, 1948, Flying Officer Rooney Alexander Hodgins, DFC and Bar, beloved son of Mrs. Moletta Hodgins, of 123 Albert street and of the late Alexander E. Hodgins, in his 26th year.

Virtual War Memorial

Canada Veterans Hall of Valour

Hodgins modified picture

Hodgins was repatriated to Canada in December 1944. He retired from the RCAF in September 1945, but rejoined in May 1946. On June 11, 1948, Flight Lieutenant Hodgins was killed in a flying accident with a Vampire Jet which crashed


The Problems With Vampires: Air Force, Part 38


The first two fatalities involved very experienced pilots. They were Flying Officer Rooney Hodgins, killed June 11, 1948, and Squadron Leader Stanley Broadbent, killed June 18, 1948. Not surprisingly, pilots soon expressed misgivings. Wing Commander R.W. McNair, writing on Aug. 31, 1948, reported: “During recent flights at 25,000 feet for periods up to one and a half hours, I experienced serious deteriorations of vision due to frosting of the inside canopy and windscreen. In fact, during one flight the restriction became so great that I was totally unable to map read or see other aircraft in the formation.”

More than just names…?

This is post 94 on this blog.

It started here

In fact it started in 1952 on page 4, last paragraph.

Flying Officers L. P. E. Piche and A. J. Horrell set out in an Auster to fly to Antwerp. They arrived there safely, took off again and vanished into the blue. Both pilots had been with the squadron since Gander days.


More than just names…?

I had never heard of those two pilots before Nicole Morley wrote a comment on my blog paying homage to another RCAF fighter squadron, No. 403.

Nicole had written a simple comment posted in March 2013.


My name is Nicole Morley and my Great Uncle Arthur James Horrell was in the 443 squadron. I don’t know if my Great Uncle ever knew William Irvine Gould but I imagine he probably did. I’m doing some research on my Uncle and was wondering if there was anyone who had pictures or information about the 443 squadron or anything related to my Uncle. You can reach me at my e-mail address.


It was about this article.

I had replied that she had the wrong squadron, but that I could help her by creating a new blog about 443 squadron.

This blog had evolved a lot since 2013.

Flying Officer Piché

Names are now more than just names…

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A special request

Dear Pierre,

In the war 443 Squadron was part of 127 Wing.  Our story begins after VE- Europe in the British occupation Zone in North Germany. A few miles from Hamburg in the small village Uetersen not far from base 174 lived a German girl named Anne Marie who is my friend’s grandmother. This base was RAF controlled until 1955. The 2nd of July 1945, the HQ of 126 Wing arrived to this base and not long after came the first Canadian Squadron 421 together with servicing Echelon (8-23 Jul 1945). From 4th of July the 126 Wing had 5 Squadrons for the Canadian Post-war actions.

No 411 Sqn (4 Jul 1945-19 Mar 1946).

No 412 Sqn (4 Jul 1945-19 Mar 1946).

No 416 Sqn (4 Jul 1945-19 Mar 1946).

No 443 Sqn (4 Jul 1945-19 Mar 1946).

No 421 Sqn (8 Jul-23 Jul 1945).

No 6416 (RCAF) Servicing Echelon (4 Jul 1945-15 Mar 1946).

No 6443 (RCAF) Servicing Echelon (5 Jul 1945-15 Mar 1946).

No 6412 (RCAF) Servicing Echelon (5 Jun 1945-15 Mar 1946).

No 6421 (RCAF) Servicing Echelon (8-23 Jul 1945).

HQ  No 126 Wing (4 Jul 1945-19 Mar 1946).

The only thing we know about Alexander is that he was a Canadian soldier and they met in this area. She got pregnant and gave birth to a little girl Kerstien but unfortunately she has to put her for adoption because she was not able to take care of her by herself. Kerstien was born in May 1946 and Alexander was already home by then.  For answering your question we think he was either pilot or ground personnel  because these are the only Canadian we found out about in this area at the time for Post-war. That’s why a name list is so important over this 5 Squadrons and ground personnel. There are very few documents on Canadians who served at base 174 Uetersen.

So please if you hear or read anything about relatives to someone who stayed in base 174 Uetersen in post-war period don’t hesitate to give them my mail address.

We are very thankful for your offer to post our request so we hope we can come back when we have a more complete story to publish.

We have a very good  contact with one of your follower who already posted part of our story on your fantastic blog and helping us a lot to come further in our search for this unknown grandfather Alexander. (Request 1174 Alexander).

Best Regards

Sandra Sjöberg/Mikael Nilsson


Don Walz Visiting France – Redux

Editor’s note

Michael, Don Walz’s son, just wrote me a personal message about an article on his father.

Don Walz

Thank you for publishing these pictures. I am the son that was with Donald in 2000 (the coloured photographs) The woman in question in the first two photographs is Arlette Hollier-Larousse from Louvigny near Caen. She was our host. In photograph #4 the other gentleman is Thierry Hollier- Larousse, Arlette’s husband.
The mayor of Sassy in the photographs is André Barbot, I do not recall his wife’s name. I do hope this helps clarify for you

Very best regards

Michael Walz

Here are some pictures sent by Samuel Magdelaine who found out about this blog paying homage to 443 Squadron. His grandfather had helped Donald Walz escaping from the Germans when he was shot down.

I will continue with  the translation of the last post in the coming weeks so people in France can read this amazing story about Donald Walz.



Donald Waltz with his son Michael and Arlette Hollier-Larousse


Donald Walz with Arlette Hollier-Larousse and André Barbot, the mayor of Sassy in 1984


Donald Walz with his son Michael, André Barbot, the mayor of Sassy and the mayor’s wife at the scene of the crash.


Donald Walz again with the mayor of Sassy and Thierry Hollier- Larousse, Arlette’s husband.


Donald Walz listening to the mayor of Sassy in 1984 talking on the microphone. Next to him, on his right is the person who was mayor in 1944. The man holding a present is Samuel’s grandfather. Samuel is the little boy with his arms crossed on the extreme left.


Donald Walz with flowers in his hands. Next to him on his left is Samuel’s grandfather. Sassy’s mayor in 1984 in on the left of the picture.


Donald Walz with Samuel’s grandfather presenting him with a gift. His father told him that his grandfather was very moved.

To contact me, please use this form or write a comment.


I never paid much attention to W.A.C. Gilbert’s name before.



Until Jean commented yesterday, and some more today.


Thank you for making such a quick correction! If anyone who frequents this forum has any memories of my father, Lon (but they called him Chirp, too) Gilbert, I would be very interested in hearing any tidbits about him. I know he was a great Spitfire pilot and the historical account on the site credits him with at least two kills and one shared kill.


Jean MacFarlane

More about Chirp…

Taken from this Website:

On July 23, No. 126 Squadron exchanged duties with No. 127 Squadron and the squadron returned to Dartmouth. Aircraft strength increased to fifteen Hurricane XIIs and four Harvards. Personnel strength averaged 120, of which 23 were pilots. It was now a full-sized squadron and was averaging about 500 flying hours a month.

While at Dartmouth, P/O M. W. Brown, Sgt Frombolo, F/O P. C. Holden, F/S H. L. Eakes and P/O Humphries departed on postings, leaving only D. M. Walz of the original thirteen pilots. F/O F. W. Ward also left the squadron in the Fall of 1943. Newcomers were F/L W. V. Shenk, P/Os T. G. Munro, P. E. Piché and F/S P. E. Ferguson (July), F/O A. Hunter and P/O A. G. McKay (September), P/Os L. Perez-Gomez, W. A. C. Gilbert and L. H. Wilson (November). The squadron adjutant, F/O J. G. B. Lawrence, re- mustered to aircrew and left in November.   F/O C. E. Scarlett took over his duties temporarily.


On the morning of December 23, 1943, the advance party of No. 129 Squadron arrived to take over No. 127’s duties at Dartmouth and a happy band of officers and airmen boarded a train to take them home on embarkation leave. So ended No. 127 Squadron’s tour in Canada. The squadron’s flying personnel now included: S/L H. W. McLeod, F/Ls D. M. Walz and M. V. Shenk, P/Os E. H. Fairfield, A. J. Horrell, A. Hunter, G. F. Ockenden and C. E. Scarlett, P/Os W. A. Aziz, S. Bregman, L. B. Foster, W. A. C. Gilbert, T. G. Munro, L. Perez-Gomez, L. P. E. Piché, W. I. Williams and L. H. Wilson, W02 D. F. Bridges, F/Ss P. G. Bockman, P. E. Ferguson and G. E. Urquhart, and Sgt H. W. Summerfeldt.



Prelude To Invasion April – June 1944

Two months after arriving at Digby, 443 Squadron pilots S/L McCleod, F/Ls Prest, Walz, MacLennan, and Stovel, F/Os Perez-Gomez, Scarlett, Fairfield, Gilbert, Hunter and Stephen, and P/O Bockman left Westhampnett to provide top cover for a formation of Bostons bombing a target at Dieppe. D-Day preparations continued in earnest between April 13 and June 5 with more than 487 sorties being flown.



Bomber escorts for Bostons and Mitchells over the Crecy area, St Omer, and as far as Coblenz, Germany, fully occupied the squadron, which moved to Funtington, Sussex on the 22nd. On the morning of the 25th, W/C Johnson led No. 441 and 443 Squadrons on a sweep around Paris. They encountered six FockeWulfs and destroyed them, two kills by “Johnny”, one by F/L Hugh Russel and F/L Walz and two by No. 441 Squadron. Only three of 443 pilots returned directly to base; four ended up in Exeter, and “. . . two crashed near Warmwell when their fuel ran out.” Later that evening, the squadron flew close escort to Marauders over Cherbourg.

F/Ls Prest, Russel and Walz, F/Os Gilbert and Scarlett, and P/O Hodgins practiced dive-bombing on a flying-bomb site south of Dieppe on the 26th; more bombs were dropped on railway bridges south of Cherbourg. Then, on May 3 and 4, the final full-scale dress rehearsal prior to invasion occurred.



In the early evening of June 4, S/L McLeod led a formation of eleven aircraft on the squadron’s last pre-invasion operation. The task was to knock out an enemy radar post on the coast ten miles west of Fecamp, and as was to be expected, the ground defences put up an intense, although futile, barrage. Four direct bomb hits were seen, in addition to other near misses within damaging distance.

By this time, the squadron knew that the long expected invasion was only hours away. The invasion markings (broad black and white bands) were painted on the Spitfires. No. 443 Squadron now had twenty-eight pilots on strength. S/L H. W. McLeod, F/Ls A. Hunter, W. A. Prest, W. V. Shenk and D. M. Walz, F/Os W. A. Aziz, E. H. Fairfield, P. E. H. Ferguson, L. B. Foster, W. A. C. Gilbert, A. J. Horrell, R. A. Hodgins, T. G. Munro, G. F. Ockenden, L. Perez-Gomez, L. P. E. Piché, C. E. Scarlett, and W. I. Williams, and F/S G. E. Urquhart had all been with the squadron since the beginning of its overseas tour in February. F/Ls I. R. MacLennan, H. Russel and E. B. Stovel and F/Os R. B. Henderson, J. R. Irwin and G. R. Stephen, had joined in March and April. More recent additions were F/L G. W. A. Troke, DFC (on April 28) F/O W. J. Bentley (on May 16) and S/L J. D. Hall (on May 26).



On June 24, the squadron began armed reconnaissance (A/R) along roads behind the lines in search of enemy motor transport. Scrambles to intercept enemy raiders provided more instances of dust clogging aircraft guns.

While on an A/R mission, intense and accurate flak forced abandonment of that task. Ground control reported enemy aircraft in the vicinity and vectored No. 443 to intercept. F/O G. R. Stephen followed a group of eight or ten FockeWulfs and was able to close within 300 yards for a kill. Blue section meanwhile was in hot pursuit as F/O W. A. C. Gilbert, F/L G. W. A. Troke and F/O R. A. Hodgins combined for a kill. F/L W. V. Shenk was also inflicting damage to a FockeWulf when his gun failed thereby robbing him of a sure kill.



Reorganization broke up 144 Wing in July. No. 443 joined 127 Wing with Nos. 403, 416 and 421, and moved from St Croix to Crepon on the afternoon of July 14.

During its time with 144 Wing, S/L McLeod’s squadron destroyed thirteen enemy aircraft (McLeod 6, Walz 2, Hodgins, Gilbert, Stephen, Russel one each and Russel and Ockenden sharing one) and damaged five, (Prest 3, Shenk 2). In ground attacks, the squadron destroyed two locomotives and 42 vehicles, and damaged 15 mechanized enemy transport (MET) “smokers”, two engines, a barge, a signal house and 42 mechanized vehicles.



After uneventful patrols on the morning of September 27, W/C Johnson destroyed his 38th (highest total in RAF) enemy aircraft in a melee over Rees on the banks of the Rhine. F/O Rooney Hodgins forced another Messerschmitt away from his commander and got another destroyed for himself. F/L H. P. Fuller gave the “tail-end Charlie” of the German formation bursts of cannon and machine-gun fire to do it in. F/L E. B. Stovel, F/O Gilbert and F/L Walz also tallied one each.



Squadron flying for 1944 terminated after missions on the fifteenth and eighteenth of December in the Aachen to Trier area of the Siegfried Line. Here Von Rundstedt launched the famous “Battle of the Bulge”, but weather and cloud prevented 443 from being effective, and premature removal of radio transmitter crystals in anticipation of Air Gunnery Practice in England, resulted in missions on the eighteenth being complete fiascos.

December departures from the squadron included F/Os G. F. Ockenden and W. A. C. Gilbert, both who had joined the squadron in Canada, and F/O A. M. F. Thomas.