Victoria Cross recipients
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry “in the face of the enemy”. It has precedence over every other military award in the Commonwealth. A Canadian version of the VC is virtually identical to the original British award. It was created in 1993, with the basic change of the English “For valour” being translated to the Latin Pro Valore. The following are brief excerpts from the citations of Canadian airmen who have been awarded the VC.
Then-Captain Bishop was flying alone when he sighted a German aerodrome with seven aircraft on the ground, some with their engines running. First he attacked from 50 feet above, hitting a mechanic. One aircraft took flight, but Bishop, now at an altitude of 60 feet, destroyed it from above. A second aircraft got off the ground but Bishop fired 30 rounds into it at a range of 150 yards and sent it into a tree. Two more aircraft came after Bishop: the first he destroyed at 1,000 feet with the rest of his first drum of ammunition and the second he downed with a second drum of ammunition. He then flew home, avoiding pursuing enemy aircraft.
Flying over the Forêt de Mormal in France, then-Lieutenant-Colonel Barker attacked and destroyed a German Fokker biplane. Another Fokker retaliated, shooting Barker in the right thigh but Barker destroyed it too. He was then pursued by a large formation of German Fokkers with another shooting him in the left thigh. Barker again managed to drive down two enemy aircraft but lost consciousness and control of his aircraft. He awoke to find another large formation of German aircraft pursuing him but Barker attacked again and shot down another aircraft. His left elbow was shattered in the process and he passed out from the pain. When he regained consciousness for the second time, he shot down one more German aircraft. Barker broke up a third formation of German planes before he crash-landed behind his own lines.
Second Lieutenant McLeod was attacked at 5,000 feet by eight German aircraft. While he flew the aircraft, his observer, Lieutenant Alex Hammond, shot down three of them. In the process, McLeod was wounded five times and a bullet hit the gas tank and set the aircraft on fire. McLeod climbed out of the cockpit and piloted the aircraft from the left side of the fuselage and allowed the observer to continue firing. When the plane crashed in “no-man’s land”, Hammond had been wounded six times. Nonetheless, despite his own wounds and having a bomb dropped in his vicinity, McLeod dragged Hammond away from the burning aircraft before collapsing from exhaustion and blood loss.
Pilot Officer Mynarski was a gunner on a Lancaster when his aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters over Cambrai, France. As the aircraft descended in flames, Mynarski went to the escape hatch, where he saw the rear gunner trapped in his turret. Mynarski crawled through the flames to reach the gunner, setting his parachute and clothing on fire. He was unable to release the gunner because both the hydraulic and manual release levers were broken. When all his efforts failed, Mynarski went back to the escape hatch, saluted the trapped gunner and jumped, but died as a result of his burns. The rear gunner miraculously escaped death and lived to tell of Mynarski’s heroism.
Flight Lieutenant Hornell was the aircraft captain of a twin-engine amphibian aircraft with 162 Squadron conducting anti-submarine warfare in the north Atlantic. Sighting a sub, Hornell turned to attack but the U-Boat returned with sustained and accurate anti-aircraft fire. One of Hornell’s guns jammed and his aircraft was hit twice, starting a fire. Hornell still managed to drop his depth charges on the submarine and sank it. After Hornell crash-landed into the sea, the crew found the inflatable dinghy was too small for everyone so they took turns sitting inside or hanging on to its side while in the water. Two of the crew members died during their 21-hour ordeal. By the time Hornell and the remaining crew were rescued, Hornell was blinded and completely exhausted; he died shortly after being picked up.
S/L Bazalgette was a member of the Royal Air Force, but was born in Calgary, Alberta.
Squadron Leader Bazalgette was on a mission to Trossy St. Maximi, France, with his Pathfinder squadron. Nearing his target, heavy anti-aircraft fire knocked out two of his Lancaster’s engines and started fires inside the plane. Despite the damage to his aircraft Bazalgette hit his target. While he battled smoke and flames, Bazalgette ordered his crew to bail out but he remained at the controls and successfully landed the aircraft. Tragically, the plane exploded and Bazalgette was killed, along with two injured aircrew who were unable to jump to safety.
Lt (N) Gray was a naval pilot and a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve who flew with the British Fleet Air Arm. As the RCAF now incorporates naval air, both the Royal Canadian Navy and the RCAF honour “Hammy” Gray as one of their own.
Lieutenant Gray flew off the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable to lead an attack on Japanese shipping in Onagawa Wan (Bay) in the Island of Honshu, Japan. At Onagawa Bay, Gray and the other pilots dived to attack a number of Japanese ships but they were met by enemy fire from nearby army batteries and warships. Gray continued the attack against an enemy destroyer. Despite the furious barrage and taking several hits, Gray reached the destroyer and dropped his bombs but only after his plane had caught fire. Gray scored a direct hit, sinking the destroyer, but died in his burning aircraft.
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