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Thread: Decorated RCAF Spitfire Pilot, 88, dies in Ontario Accident

  1. #1
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    Default Decorated RCAF Spitfire Pilot, 88, dies in Ontario Accident

    Decorated pilot killed in car crash

    By Nancy Boutin (Tillsonburg, Ontario)
    Staff Writer
    A car crash in the Township of South-West Oxford has claimed the life of decorated Second World War pilot Charley Fox.
    According to an OPP press release, at 12:24 p.m. Oct. 18, a 1989 Pontiac Trans AM was traveling west on the Ostrander Road approaching the intersection at Cranberry Line north of Tillsonburg. At that time a 2006 Saab that was traveling south of the Cranberry Line, pulled into the intersection and the two vehicles collided. The intersection is controlled by stop signs for traffic traveling north and south on Cranberry Line.
    Emergency personal from the Oxford OPP, South-West Oxford Fire Department, Brownsville Station, Oxford County EMS, South-West Oxford Township, Oxford County Road Departments and air ambulance attended. However Fox, the driver of the Saab, died at the scene.
    The 29-year-old driver of the Pontiac was treated at Tillsonburg hospital and released.
    Fox, who lived in London, was a flight lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He flew three times on D-Day, and is credited with damaging or destroying some 153 vehicles during the conflict.
    The most notable of Fox’s attacks took place on July 17, 1944, when, according to Wikipedia, his spitfire strafed a vehicle carrying German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, a.k.a. ‘the Desert Fox.’ Rommel sustained serious injuries in the crash that ensued, and later, after being implicated in an assassination plot against Hitler, later died at his own hand.
    Fox, meanwhile, had an illustrious career. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and, in 2004, was named honorary colonel of the 412 squadron in Ottawa.
    Fox was 88 at the time of his death.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2007
    Prague, Czech Republic
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    What a sad fate for such a great man.

    Rest in peace.

    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945

  3. #3
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    Niagara, Ontario
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    Quote Originally Posted by CZ_RAF View Post
    What a sad fate for such a great man.

    Rest in peace.

    It is sad, his commentaries at the Hamilton, Russell and Geneseo airshows were every bit as legendary as his service during the war. Here is a bit more detail into that....

    War hero always willing to talk

    The tragic death Saturday of Canadian war hero Charley Fox - who escaped death several times during a remarkable military career - has left family and friends reeling and wondering who will take on the huge role Fox filled as educator of youth and spokesperson for veterans.

    Fox, 88, a Second World War Spitfire pilot, was killed in a car crash in Oxford County, shortly after attending a Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association meeting near Tillsonburg.

    Fox is well-known in Dunnville and Niagara. He spent many hours volunteering his time with the annual Dunnville air force reunion committee as well as local legions.

    With Remembrance Day less than a month away, the popular Fox's schedule was packed full of activities.

    "He'd want us to continue to remember our veterans. Somebody else (must) pick the torch up and continue those things he started because it was so important to him," said Fox's daughter Sue Beckett of Thamesford. His family said his activities put 70,000 kilometres on his vehicle each year.

    Fox's son, Jim, said Fox, a London resident, stopped in at his grandson's hockey game in Kitchener last Thursday even though he had business to take care of.

    "He had a to-do list for the day and I'm sure there were 17 things on it." Said Beckett: "He had all of these other things to do ... but he always had time for us, too."

    Fox travelled to Ottawa at least once a month for veterans' business and there was talk of taking him to the 2009 Grey Cup festivities in honour of the 100th anniversary of the first controlled power flight in Canada and the British Empire.

    He also planned to travel with students overseas on memorial pilgrimages next year.

    Joan Sullivan, president of the Air Force Association of Canada (AFAC), 427 London Wing, said Fox had told her Friday about some of his upcoming engagements, including one this Saturday at the AFAC national convention in Ottawa.

    "He was willing to talk. A lot of veterans won't talk about their experiences," said Sullivan, who had known Fox for more than 50 years.

    Continued After Advertisement Below


    In an August interview with Sun Media's Dunnville Chronicle Fox explained, "Most of the boys who came home would never talk about the war. They felt guilty they came home and their buddies didn't. I was the same way. But now I think maybe I came home so I can tell people about it so that's what I'm doing now."

    Teacher Robin Barker-James, who owns a farm near Tillsonburg where Fox took part in war simulation events and who travelled with him to Normandy in 2004 for D-Day anniversary events, said Fox drove his car around the farm like it was a fighter jet.

    "I don't think you could take that out of someone who spent so many hours of their young life in one of those machines," he said.

    Barker-James said that 12 years ago Fox told his students at Glendale high school an amazing story that riveted them. "Two of his fellow air crew had been killed in an airplane crash. Since he was the duty officer, he went to verify their identities. They were soaked in gasoline. The smell was overpowering."

    Three times after that, Fox was in near-fatal car accidents and he smelled gasoline and slowed the car down.

    "Did he smell it (Saturday)?" Barker-James wondered. "He had a lot of unexplained incidents involving those who had died and those who are still living. Charley believed there was a much bigger dimension to life than what we give credit for."

    His family said Fox spent his life wondering why he survived numerous dates with death. He was searching for a way to make sense out of what happened and to find a way to contribute through the life he felt was saved and to honour his fallen comrades, son Jim Fox said.

    He was in the process of telling his story and those of other veterans in a book titled Why Not Me?, which the family hopes to finish.

    "It did give him a purpose in life and he was searching for that," his son said.

    He was also eagerly looking forward to the 65th anniversary of the end of the war as he saw the occasion as the perfect opportunity for governments of the allied forces to make long-overdue amends for what he labelled grave injustices.

    Fox had taken it upon himself to obtain official recognition for the Polish forces who have never been recognized for their valiant and unmatched efforts in the War.

    Recently, he told the Chronicle, "It just blows my mind, the more I learn and the more I get into studying what the Poles did during the war. And the more I believe the Canadian government should be the first to officially recognize their efforts."

    The Allies were afraid to upset Stalin and start a new war, said Fox, so they agreed to his demands to give Poland back to Russia and so, in the Yalta agreement of February 1945, Churchill and Roosevelt failed the Poles terribly when they allowed Stalin to draw the Iron Curtain across Europe.

    "I am amazed at what they went through, and are still going through. Poland is recognized by NATO and the European Union but no country has recognized them as yet, " he lamented. He had become very passionate and outspoken in his belief that the Allies must somehow atone for this grave injustice.

    In addition to gaining recognition for the Poles, Fox was working on several other projects, including: recognizing Canadian Prisoners of War from the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts; twinning Canadian Cities with cities in Holland; and recognizing the 50 Aircrew executed on direct orders of Hitler after The Great Escape, later immortalized in the movie of that title.

    Fox was the Master of Ceremonies at a reunion celebrating the 63rd anniversary of the No. 6 RCAF flying school in Dunnville on Sept. 17 and spoke of the latter project.

    He noted that among the 50 POWs executed were six Canadians, including Flight Lieutenant Pat Langford of Dunnville. In the early years of the Second World War, Fox was a flight instructor in Dunnville and he went on to become a decorated pilot for his substantial efforts during the war.

    From Dunnville, he joined an Operational Training Unit at Bagotville, Quebec.

    In August 1943, he went overseas and checked out on Spitfires. In January 1944, he began his tour with 412 Squadron. On June 18, 1944, the squadron moved to B4 airstrip in Normandy at Beny-Sur-Mer.

    An official commendation for a bar added to his Distinguished Flying Cross stated: "This officer has led his section against a variety of targets, often in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. He has personally destroyed or damaged 22 locomotives and 34 enemy vehicles, bringing his total to 153 vehicles destroyed or damaged. In addition, he has destroyed at least a further three enemy aircraft and damaged two others. In December 1944, Flight Lieutenant Fox led his squadron on an attack against enemy airfields in the Munster area and personally destroyed another enemy aircraft, bringing his total to four. Through his quick and accurate reporting, a further four enemy aircraft were destroyed. Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, this officer has display outstanding skill, coolness and determination."

    Fox ended his tour in January 1945 at Heesch in Holland. He then became Operations Officer in the Intelligence Section of 126 Wing. Fox was a member of the flight of four who flew the last operational sortie of the war for 126 Wing, landing at 8 a. m. on May 5, 1945.

    Fox is also one of those credited with ending the career of Field Marshall Rommel when he strafed his staff car and Rommel was injured enough to put him out of commission for the duration of the war.

    The life of Charley Fox has been lionized in a book by author Steve Pitt, entitled, Day of the Flying Fox - The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.

    Barker-James said Fox dealt with death a long time ago and wasn't afraid.

    "He wanted to die, as he would put it, 'With his boots on.' In other words, doing things to promote the remembrance of what happened.

    "He was dying with his boots on. He had just come from the Harvard society. He was in his car, a machine," said Barker-James, who added that the crash scene was directly on the Harvard flight path.

    "There's an eerie appropriateness about this." Fox is also survived by another daughter, Adrienne Black, who lives in New Jersey, nine grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

    His wife Helen died in 1993. The Betzner funeral home in Thamesford is in charge of arrangements.

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