C. H. “Punch” Dickins (1899-1995)
C. H. (Clennell Haggerston) “Punch” Dickins played a leading role in Canadian aviation for nearly half a century – as a distinguished pilot during the First World War, as a pioneering bush pilot in the 1920s and 1930s, and as a contributor to the design of the de Havilland Beaver in the 1940s.
Born in 1899 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Dickins was raised in Edmonton, Alberta. He was enrolled at the University of Alberta when he joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1917. A member of the Royal Flying Corps, Dickins piloted many reconnaissance and bomber missions during the First World War. In 1919, Second Lieutenant Dickins received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He continued to serve as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), from the time of its establishment in 1924, until 1927.
Following his RCAF service, Dickins flew for Western Canadian Airways Ltd., pioneering airmail service on the prairies and succeeding at the difficult task of flying mining prospectors on a largely uncharted route from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Baker Lake (located, today, in Nunavut) and continuing to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan. This roughly 6,000-kilometre flight took 12 days to complete, producing invaluable maps of the region.
Dickins helped make Canada a world leader in frontier aviation through feats that included flying great distances in Canada’s North and by demonstrating the feasibility of flight in the coldest weather and under extremely difficult take-off and landing conditions. In recognition of his contributions to aviation, Dickins received the McKee Trophy in 1928 and was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1936.
During the Second World War, Dickins helped to organize Ferry Command, assuming responsibility for several schools associated with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He later joined de Havilland Aircraft of Canada, contributing to the design of the Beaver, a small airplane designed to carry passengers and freight into Canada’s North that became famous worldwide for its short take-off and landing capability.
C.H. “Punch” Dickins was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1968 and was inducted into the Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame six years later. A distinguished Canadian and pioneer of Canada’s aviation industry, he died in 1995.
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