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Thread: Flying home to Canada in May 1945

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    Default Flying home to Canada in May 1945

    I was recently given copies of some photos of Air Marshall Harris waving farewell to 6 Group as they left Middleton St. George in May 1945. The RCAF history explains that the squadrons were flying home their Canadian-built Lancaster Xs, to Nova Scotia via St. Mawgan, the Azores, and Gander, Nfld.

    But what about those, like my father, who were still in the training pipeline and flying old Halifaxes that were ready for the scrap heap. What was the system for getting them home? I remember my Dad telling me it was the only time he got to fly in a Lanc, and I have seen his photos of a Lanc called "Ropey" in Halifax, on is way back to Malton, Ontario.

    Who operated the transport service for returning air crew and was there more than one route. Is there an ORB for it?
    David

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    Hi David;

    I think flying home was the exception rather than the rule for Canadians in Europe at that time. My father came home in early 1946 by boat (he was Army), just over 5 years after he left Canada. He always said that after the war he moved from camp to camp on the continent and then in the UK, usually waiting for transport before the next move.

    There were a number of trans-atlantic flying services at the time, but the total number of passengers carried would have been very small. RCAF 168(T) Squadron operated Liberators, Fortresses and Dakotas on scheduled crossings till well into 1946, but these were for mail, high priority freight, and VIPs. In addition to the Tiger Force Lancasters, a number of Dakotas came to Canada on one way trips. A few seats would have been available on them. It sounds to me like your father was lucky enough to snag a seat on one these Lancs. Several of the squadrons that flew back to Canada converted to Lancasters (from Halifaxes) after VE day.

    TCA was operating scheduled crossings using Lancaster conversions at the time as well, but seats were expensive and booked well in advance. The USAAF also had scheduled services that passed through Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, mostly with C-54s. It might have been possible to catch a ride on either of these, but I suspect that would have required some "pull".

    Does anyone know if RAF operated scheduled trans-atlantic services post war? 45 Group maybe?
    Last edited by Bill Walker; 21st January 2013 at 18:54.

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    Thanks Bill, you have reminded me of something I noticed in his service file that I hadn't remembered - he did volunteer for the Tiger force, since his crew never made it into operational flying. So maybe that's how he snagged a lift on one of the Canadian Lancs going home.
    David

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    The movement of Lancasters from Britain to Canada was directly related to Tiger Force training and operational plans. These put Lancasters (not Halufaxes) front and centre. Nevertheless, the crews that were coming home that June included many men who had flown Halifax missions as recently as April 1945; priority was given to those who had volunteered for Pacific service.

    In preparation for RCAF operations in the Pacific as part of a Commonwealth Tiger Force, 664 Wing was formed at Greenwood, N.S. The war’s end led to disbandment of the wing, even before its flying training had begun. Air Vice-Marshal C.R. Slemon, the designated commander of the RCAF component, reported to Greenwood, thanked the men for having volunteered, and wished them well in peacetime, all in a single day. Most of the Lancasters were placed in storage, pending final disposition.
    Last edited by HughAHalliday; 21st January 2013 at 23:03.

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    Thanks Hugh. I note that your comments are mostly about men who had already flown operations. My father was on his second stint through HCU (crew injuries stopped them the first time around) when the war ended. In his papers, it says he volunteered for the Pacific. Do you know if that would have been enough to put him in a Lanc headed for Halifax?

    What files, aside from his service file, would you suggest I consult to try and track this more closely?
    David

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    I am informed by one person that his uncle - a second pilot in No.407 Squadron (Wellingtons) - was able to get onto a homeward bound Lancaster, although he had no four-engine experience. "Crucible of War" has a lot about RCAF "Tiger Force" preparations, and one aspect was that they were NOT flooded with applications for Pacific service. Hence, they would welcome those who did volunteer.

    The Americans had offered Britain space on Okinawa for "Tiger Force", but the RAF would have to build its own airfields. The RAF looked to Canada to provide 2,500 airfield engineers (of a total of 15,000 needed). By mid-June the RCAF had canvassed 6,600 such men and garnered only 335 volunteers. The aircrew situation was not much better. Although hundreds of men were willing to take part in “Phase II” operations, thousands with previous overseas service were anxious to be demobilized, having “done their bit”. The RCAF interviewed 103,402 men and women and only 21.5 percent stepped forward for Tiger Force. Indeed, the only group that volunteered in disproportionate numbers were members of the Womens Division.

    As to further information, squadron diaries aside, one might find more on this in RCAF home-station diaries, notably Yarmouth. You might also check the archival references from "Crucible of War."

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    Thanks again Hugh, that's wonderful.

    Dad used to tell us a story about his frustration with the "Carry On" antics of his crew and how he was going to apply for a transfer to an operational crew. His skipper forcibly disabused him of that notion and urged him to "stick with your crew". He did, which is why he was going through HCU training again.

    But it now appears that he still tried to "get into the war" and volunteered for Tiger Force. If there were that few volunteers, I can see how they might have given them a flight home to keep them interested.
    David

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