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Sunday, December 13, 2015



I thought I would for a change of pace that I would post on two of my favourite subjects this week, trains and World War One. 100 years ago, there were no automobiles or trucks to speak of, aviation was in it's infancy. The primary method of long distance movement was by ship and rail - usually separately but often in tandem. 
Canadian Troops 1916 Golden, BC
So when we generally think of the war and railways, the moving of troops from across Canada to ocean ports and embarking on troop ships to England usually comes to mind. However Canadian railways were active and involved in many other activities other than moving troops. Our railways provided the manpower for the massive Canadian Railway Troops, over 19,000 strong, as well as the 750 strong Canadian Overseas  Railway Construction Corps. Railways moved munitions, foodstuffs, relief goods, military supplies, horses and mules, postal mail, locomotives and rolling stuff and a variety of other goods to Eastern ports for shipping to Europe. Railways operated during all seasons, in every type of weather. They transported and billeted troops, built and supplied arms and munitions, supplied, lent and sold ships, borrowed money and bonds ($100. million), and provided employment to others when the boys headed overseas.  In the case of disasters like the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917, a railway dispatcher for the Intercolonial Railway, Vince Coleman, stayed behind sending an urgent message to hold an incoming express train from St. John with 300 passengers, from arriving at the Port and thus saving hundreds of lives but taking his own life.The railway quickly mobilized aid, sending a dozen relief trains with fire and medical help from towns in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the day of the disaster, followed two days later by help from other parts of Canada and from the United States, most notably Boston. More than 2,000 lost their lives and many more were badly injured. So in a nutshell, trains were paramount to Canada's part in World War One. The war could not be fought without them.  
Canadian Western Railways
In order to get an idea of the complexity and enormity of the involvement of Canadian railways in the war, in particular moving the over 600,000 men and women of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, we will start at the points of departure for Great Britain. The main gateways to the Atlantic in 1914 were the ports of Montreal, Quebec City, St. John and Halifax. That is not to say no other ports were used especially for troops, but these were the main destinations of the railways. 

Up until mid 1915, the privately -owned Canadian Pacific Railway was the only transcontinental railway, finished in 1883, It operated a single line track east from across the Prairies to Winnipeg thence to Port Arthur maintaining a monopoly in the transport of wheat with high rates, shipping delays and shortage of box cars and the westward movement of immigrants. Operating from Vancouver to Montreal and ultimately St. John, New Brunswick the railway for years could call its own shots. The CP timetable in 1914 listed the fastest transit time for the 3 times weekly premier train Vancouver to Montreal as 85 hours.
However, early in 1916, the Canadian Northern Railway Company, owned by native Canadians William Mackenzie and Donald Mann, commenced operations operating between Vancouver and Montreal later to Quebec City. At the end of 1915 it operated Canada's second transcontinental line with nearly 10,000 miles of track, starting out as a small pioneer railway in Manitoba in 1896. It rapidly acquired regional small lies so that it became a major operator by 1900 and had reached west to the Saskatchewan border. By that time a wave of expansion was sweeping the country, based on new Federal immigration policies followed in turn by a spectacular boom  in the West to which the Canadian Northern Railway contributed a considerable share of business. It encouraged settlers to go further north than ever before by opening up large areas of virgin land on the Great Plains, and gathering with its aforementioned feeder lines, the grain from the great farming districts which developed in the wake of railway construction. So by 1914 and the beginning of World War One it had given life and impetus to hundreds of small communities and shipping points. On its way westward from Edmonton, the Canadian Northern choose the more northerly Yellowknife Pass which was lower in altitude and easier to build than CPR's Kicking Horse Pass west of Calgary. In Ontario lines were built from Toronto via Belleville to Ottawa, and from Toronto via Parry Sound north to Sudbury, while at the same time tracks were laid east from Winnipeg to Port Arthur, Capreol and Ottawa. The fast expansion and its financing however could not be sustained.In 1913 the railway requested additional funding from the Federal Government and was denied due to a recession. A year later funds from the world's markets dried up with the threat of World War One. The flow of emigrants from Europe ceased temporarily, and so did the boom in West Canada. By 1918 the Canadian Northern Railway was bankrupt. It became a major part ot he Canadian National Railways in 1923. Major Western towns served were Winnipeg, Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Prince Albert, Humbolt, North Battleford, Lloydminster, and Edmonton.

On May 1, 1915, Canadian Government Railways was formed by the Canadian Government to operate both the Intercolonial and the National Transcontinental Railway. On June 1, 1915, the National Transcontinental Railway owned by the Canadian Government opened between Moncton, Edmundston, Quebec and Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It connected with the Grand Truck owned Grand Trunk Pacific, running from Winnipeg though Edmonton, Jasper, and Prince George to Prince Rupert, British Columbia on the Pacific Coast. The Government had envisioned a network of grain elevators on  the prairies supplying trains to haul the grain to ocean ports in Quebec City and Halifax for export to world markets not realizing this a would be highly unprofitable and inoperable. The line between Moncton, Quebec City and Winnipeg was built as a "bridge line" to connect the Quebec City and Winnipeg by the shortest route. Therefore the line was built through north Quebec and across Northern Ontario. It maintained running rights on the Intercolonial Railway from Moncton to Halifax and St. John. A railway bridge was to cross the St. Lawrence River connecting Levis and Quebec City.The railway bisected the "clay belt" that extended from Barraute, Quebec to Cochrane Ontario.This soil and climate supported agriculture but the line was too far isolated to be attractive to settlement. However this line was supported by the then growing mining operations in the area. It connected with Southern Ontario with running rights over the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario to North Bay then to the parent Grand Truck into Toronto. Construction standards were extremely high along with the resultant expenses. Main Western Canada towns served were Winnipeg, Melville, Watrous, Saskatoon, Biggar, Regina, Yorkton, Edson and Edmonton.

These last two railways generally followed more northerly routes than the CPR. (by 1923 these latter two railways united with Eastern Canada's Grand Trunk Railway to form the government-owned Canadian National Railways). Other influential Canadian railways in 1914 were: the Grand Truck operating from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois via central Canada; the Northern Railway operating Toronto to North Bay; the Great Western Railway operating between Niagara Falls (by the bridge to Niagara Falls, New York), Hamilton, Toronto, Sarnia and Windsor (tunnel to Detroit, Michigan); the Intercolonial Railway operating Halifax, Nova Scotia to Montreal, Quebec; the Grand Trunk Pacific running from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Prince Rupert, British Columbia and the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (later Ontario Northland Railway) from North Bay to Cochrane, Ontario. Most of the foregoing names were made redundant by 1923 with the founding of Canadian National Railway. In 1914 there were 90 railway companies in Canada. The three transcontinental railways controlled more than 80 percent of the total mileage of 34,915 of track. Canada had reached a zenith plateau where only five other countries - the United States, Russia, Germany, India and France possessed a greater mileage, and relative to population none came anywhere near to her.
Clifford Sifton was Prime Minister Laurier's Minister of the Interior and Indian Affairs from 1896 to 1905. He is known for his insights into the Federal Government's potential role to stimulate the economy and he dabbled in railway policy as well resulting in the developing railways to be given monetary grants and thousands of acres along their roadbeds to encourage settlement. He put systems in place to encourage British, American, and Eastern European immigration... primarily for the purpose of populating the Canadian interior. Naturally, the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments helped stimulate all of this activity by supporting railway construction. The routes of the various railways, the cities, towns and communities they serviced and the East coast ports that they serviced determined in a great part how railways moved people and materials to the waiting steamships. It certainly was possible to transfer from railway to railway but that would have been discouraged and unlikely in most cases after 1916. Ultimately more than one railway would have served the port cities however the established railway would have the built the main line and less used branch lines of competing railways would be avoided. For instance, the Intercolonial Railway was the prime operator into the port of Halifax (the line remains to this day a main line of CN. They also had a branch leading to St. John, New Brunswick). Therefore all troops and freight destined for a steamship departing from Halifax arrived on the Intercolonial Railway despite the fact it might have originated on another railway such as Canadian Pacific.The Port of Montreal was serviced by several railways most notably CPR and Grand Trunk. Quebec City was pretty much the port for Allan Line steamships and thus served by several railways. Levis, on the south side of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City was an Intercolonial stop. St. John, New Brunswick was used during the winter months by the CPR who ran their east coast line from Montreal through northern Maine (infamous by the 2013 Megantic wreck and fire). As mentioned, Halifax was service by the Intercolonial. After the United States entered World War One in 1917, the port of Portland, Maine was used and serviced by the Grand Truck Railway operating through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Montreal. As the largest railway in 1914 in terms of both mileage, rolling stock, motive power and manpower the Canadian Pacific Railway deserves a paragraph or two on its own. The CPR acquired several smaller railways via long-term leases in 1912. On January 3, 1912, the CPR acquired the Dominion Atlantic Railway, a railway that ran in western Nova Scotia. This acquisition gave the CPR a connection to Halifax, a significant port on the Atlantic Ocean. The Dominion Atlantic connected to the CPR at Saint John with its own car ferry service across the Bay of Fundy. DAR steamships also provided connections for passengers and cargo between Yarmouth,Boston and New York. On July 1, 1912, the CPR acquired the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, a railway on Vancouver Island that also connected to the CPR by car ferry. The CPR also acquired the Quebec Central Railway on December 14, 1912.
"The volume of business greatly expanded the sleeping and dining car department by 1913. In that year 4000 men were employed in that department alone. The number of sleeping cars and dining cars were such that if coupled together, it would have a train 14 miles long. The railway was capable of transporting an army 30,000 men from Vancouver to Halifax, with each person having a berth and supply 90,000 meals a day for the 5 1/2 day journey across the continent. It also gives us an idea of what the railways are capable of, given the equipment, if ever an army had to be moved". Canadian Pacific Railway, Patrick C. Dorin, 1974
As Canada's largest railway and transportation conglomerate, all of CPR's ships, shops, hotels, telegraphs, and most of all, its people, were put at the disposal of the Canadian Government. Aiding the war effort meant transporting and billeting troops; building and supplying arms and munitions; arming, lending and selling ships. Fifty-two CPR ships were pressed into service during World War I, carrying more than a million troops and passengers and four million tons of cargo. Twenty seven survived and returned to CPR. Twelve sank, mostly torpedoed by U-boats; two sank by marine accident; 10 were sold to the British Admiralty; and the Maharajah of Gwalior turned the Empress of India into a hospital ship. But CPR’s most important
contribution was its men and women, at home and abroad. 11,340 CPR employees enlisted. A catastrophic 10 percent (1,116) were killed, and nearly 20 percent (2,105) were wounded. Two CPR employees received the coveted Victoria Cross and 385 others were decorated for valor and distinguished service.
CPR also helped the war effort with money and jobs. CPR made loans and guarantees to the Allies to the
tune of $100 million. CPR also took on 6,000 extra people, giving them jobs during the war. And when the
fighting was over and the troops came home, CPR found jobs for the ex-soldiers. 7,573 CPR enlistees came back to jobs with the company. And CPR gave jobs to an additional 13,112 who made it back from overseas fighting. At the time, CPR was the strongest and most viable railway in Canada. So it set up and formed the major part of the Canadian Overseas Railway Reconstruction Corps – a group of skilled railroaders and engineers who went overseas during and after World War I to rebuild Europe’s railway
92nd (48th Highlanders) Battalion, Toronto, May 1916
infrastructure. As part of the contract for building the railway to the Pacific coast in British Columbia, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was granted 25,000,000 acres, to be selected from the odd-numbered sections (excluding the school lands) in a belt of land 24 miles on each side of the main line. Unlike the American scheme whereby railway companies had to accept all alternate sections on each side of the main line irrespective of the quality of the land, the contract with the CPR specified that the land must be “fairly fit for settlement.” If there was insufficient land (as there was when the CPR abandoned the original designated line from Winnipeg to Jasper House) within the 48-mile belt to meet this criterion the CPR could and did patent land in the fertile belt outside the mainline corridor.This same stipulation was granted to branch lines and later to those known as “colonization” railways. The even-numbered sections were to be set aside as free homesteads. Part of the deficiency was made up by the CPR accepting a large block of land comprising all the odd- and even-numbered sections, including school lands, other than the Hudson’s Bay Company lands between Medicine Hat and Calgary, which came to be known as the Irrigation Block. By exchange with and purchase by the CPR the HBC relinquished its claims in this area. Eventually, beside the grants to the HBC and other groups, over 31 million acres of land were taken up by the various railways, mostly from the future provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.The land grant system had become thoroughly discredited in the United States by the time the Canadian government adopted it. The last of the statutory land grants to railways in Canada were made in 1894. The last of the railway lands were not patented until the early part of the 20th century. In the Dominion Lands Act of 1908 the land grant system was ended. This distribution of the Canadian west lands was greatly responsible for the arrival of over 4 million settlers between 1900 and 1914, all arriving by train, with the majority from England, Scotland and Ireland. Many of these settlers were to return to the United Kingdom as attested members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and taking trains eastward.
CPR crack express Smith Falls 1914
 On  December 19, 1916 a Canadian Government  order in council gives authority for the shipment of rails and fastenings from Canadian railways to France for war service.  Under this and and a subsequent order, some 800 miles were taken up from sidings and divisional yards of the eastern division of the National Transcontinental Railway (98.2 miles from between Moncton and Diamond Jct.; 11.8 miles east of Levis; 206.6 miles from between Quebec and Winnipeg) and a further 300 miles from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, partly from the portion of line running through the Yellowhead Pass which closely paralleled the Canadian Northern Railway, after they amalgamated in 1916.
The Corps of Canadian Railway Troops were part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War One.Initially known as the Canadian Railway Troops, they were re-designated as the "Corps of ..." on 23 April 1918.
The initial 500 men came from the Canadian Pacific Railway but overall had 13000 members. The main units were:
·         Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps
·         1st Construction Battalion
·         2nd CRT Battalion - formed from 127th York Rangers
·         3rd CRT Battalion - 239th Battalion
·         4th CRT Battalion - Depot unit
·         5th CRT Battalion - Depot unit
·         6th CRT Battalion - 228th Battalion
·         7th CRT Battalion - 257th Battalion
·         8th CRT Battalion - 218th and 211th Battalions
·         9th CRT Battalion - 1st Pioneer
·         10th CRT Battalion - 256th Battalion
·         11th CRT Battalion - 3rd Labour Battalion
·         12th CRT Battalion - 2nd Labour Battalion
·         13th CRT Battalion - Depot unit
Fortunately serious mishaps involving Railways and Canadian troops were few and far between but there were a few. The Niagara Fall and Victoria Park Railway was one of the most colourful transportation companies in Canada. Operating from 1893 until 1932, it's electric cars met Lake Ontario excursion steamers at Queenston, ascended the Niagara Escapement loaded with tourists and troops distributing them at the Brock Monument to Niagara Falls and camps at Niagara on the Lake. On July 7, 1915 a car overloaded with about 200 tourists descended the 200 foot drop much too fast in the rain, losing its brakes rounding a curve ending up on its side split by a tree. The first rescuers on the scene were soldiers from the nearby 19th (Lincoln and Welland) Regiment and 98th Battalion. Soon they were followed by doctors from Camp Niagara. Eight people were killed, 95 hurt. The steamer Chippewa, docked at Queenston was transformed into a hospital ship returning the dead and injured to Toronto.
A Canadian Pacific fast express Chicago-Montreal train crashed into the rear of  a freight train on December 28, 1916 at St Polycarpe Juction outside of Ottawa. Five were killed and another five seriously. It is believed that this train was carrying troops. It blocked CP's main line for days at a crucial time in the war.
On December 31, 1918, a National Transcontinental train derailed at Glyndyne, Quebec. The train included three colonist cars of troops that had debarked from the SS Carmania in Halifax a day earlier. No details can be found on the mishap. Corporal William Stagg and Corporal George Smith were two of the homecoming several troops that lost their lives.
December 20, 1919 was the date of a severe train wreck that occurred two miles west of Onawa, Maine on Canadian Pacific's St. John-Montreal line. Although this train carried immigrant from the SS Empress of France landing St. John a day earlier, it was reported to be carrying a number of Canadian troops. Although two soldiers and a nurse are listed on the Veterans Affairs Canada Memorial, we cannot confirm that they were involved in the wreck. Certainly there would have been CEF injuries. A total of 21 were killed, 50 injured in this head on crash.

So in a nutshell, Canadian Railways were paramount in World War One. They supplied troops, technology, transportation, and employment. It would have been a very different war without our railways and their expertise.

Thursday, November 12, 2015



“No point in standing here and shivering.” Jack Irvine broke the silence. Shouldering our parachutes, we moved towards the squat waist of the Halifax. I took a quick look at the crew as they clambered into the aircraft. There was Jack, the skipper, moving easily despite his bulk. Then there was the other Canadian, Jack Nixon, the veteran navigator. The mid upper gunner, engineer, wireless operator and bomber aimer were all seasoned hands. But I felt sorry for the tail gunner. He was nineteen, and on his first operation. There’s nothing quite like a first operation to put the fear of death into you.

Halifax III from Bomber Command
Our story began several weeks ago around the Thanksgiving dining table when talk once again drifted around to family military participation. Brother in law, Bruce Searle, casually mentioned that he had an uncle in the Royal Air Force that had survived two bomber crashes. He went on to explain that his uncle, Arthur, survived both and had been taken prisoner by Russians and that his aircraft had struck another aircraft and was involved in special operations. I mentioned that I hadn’t heard that story previously and was quite intrigued about it. I believe I also stated that this was the type of story books are written about. So not sooner had sister, Sally and Bruce departed for home, then I begun researching any possible matches for this story. Fortunately there are a number of “bomber command” websites that assisted greatly. As usual once one significant fact is found, it leads to others being located. Soon I had found not only the aircraft involved put pieced together the entire mission and its story. Although we don’t know a great deal about Arthur, we have been able to positively identify him as the Tail gunner in Halifax III NR180 an aircraft flying in 192 Squadron on March 5/6. 192 Squadron operated specially modified Vickers Wellingtons and de Havilland Mosquitos with the task to identify German radar patterns and wavelengths. It also carried out similar missions over the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean.[1] In April 1943 the squadron moved to RAF Feltwell. At the end of 1943, the squadron moved again to RAF Foulsham to operate with 100 (Bomber Support) Group. During this period, the Squadron operated Halifax Mk. III heavy bombers and Mk.XVI Mosquito medium bombers. During bomber raids the aircraft would provide countermeasures to German radars and carried special and highly secret equipment.

Arthur Searle's crash at RAF Foulsham
The  Handley Page Mk. III Halifax was a four, rotary Bristol engine heavy bomber model operated by the British Royal Air Force during the later years of World War II. The Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing. It was a contemporary of the Avro LancasterDefensive firepower was provided by a four gun Boulton Paul Type E turret in the year with four Browning .303 inch machine guns, a single Vickers K gun in the nose and a four gun Paul Type A upper turret, each carrying four .303 inch machine guns.

Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, MZ817 'DT-O', of No. 192 Squadron RAF after crash-landing while taking off from Foulsham, Norfolk, on a radar surveillance sortie in the evening of 9 December 1944. 22 mission symbols are visible by the "Pete the Penguin" insignia on the nose.
Halifax tail gunner
Halifax NR180 was participating March 5/6 in the last night of Operation Thunderclap, a bombing mission on the Eastern German industrial city of Chemnitz. This was an operation which the Air Ministry had, for several months, been considering a series of particularly heavy area raids on German cities with a view to causing such confusion and consternation that the hard-stretched German war machine and civil administration would break down and the war would end. The general name given to this plan was Operation Thunderclap, but it had been decided not to implement it until the military situation in Germany was critical. That moment appeared to be at hand. Russian forces had made a rapid advance across Poland in the second half of January and crossed the eastern frontier of Germany. The Germans were thus fighting hard inside their own territory on two fronts, with the situation in the East being particularly critical. It was considered that Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz - all just behind the German lines on the Eastern Front now - would be suitable targets as they were all vital communications and supply centres for the Eastern Front. There was the intention of preventing the Germans from moving reinforcements from the West to face the successful Russian advance. The Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber Command at the end of January. On 4 February, at the Yalta Conference, the Russians asked for attacks of this kind to take place, but their involvement in the process only came after the plans had been issued. So, Bomber Command was specifically requested by the Air Ministry, with Churchill's encouragement, to carry out heavy raids on Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. The Americans were also asked to help and agreed to do so. The campaign should have begun with an American raid on Dresden on 13 February but bad weather over Europe prevented any American operations. It thus fell to Bomber Command to carry out the first massive raid February 13 on Dresden annihilated the city and its population.
Halifax III tail gun

So on the night of March 5/6 mission on Chemnitz; 760 aircraft - 498 Lancasters, 256 Halifaxes, 6 Mosquitos - to continue Operation Thunderclap. The operation started badly when 9 aircraft of No 6 Group crashed near their bases soon after taking off in icy conditions. No 426 Squadron, at Linton-on-Ouse, lost 3 out of their 14 Halifaxes taking part in the raid in this way, with only 1 man surviving. 1 of the Halifaxes crashed in York, killing some civilians. 22 further aircraft were lost in the main operation - 14 Lancasters and 8 Halifaxes.

We actually found on a RAF Forum on-line a report on the operations by the pilot, Flight Lieutenant N. (Jack) Irvine upon his return to England. His report is very comprehensive and follows here:
“5/6 March 1945

192 Sqdn Halifax NR180 - crash-landed near Kentei (Kety?), SW of Krakow, Poland.
This Halifax was involved in a mid-air collision with 434 Sqdn Lancaster KB842 over the target - Chemnitz - while being attacked by a Ju88 night fighter. Suffering from severe damage, the pilot headed east towards Russian lines where a crash-landing was made. The 434 Sqdn Lancaster made a crash-landing in the UK and was subsequently struck-off-charge as uneconomical to repair. F/L Irvine, the pilot of the Halifax, reported upon return to the UK in Apr 45:

"Take off from base (Foulsham Norfork) climb to height and the trip to target was uneventful.
We were briefed to be over the target at 21.47 hours and actually arrived at 21.49 hours. The target (Chemnitz) was well ablaze by this time and made a bright patch on the under cast. Own bombs were dropped as ordered and at the moment the tail gunner spotted a Ju88 on the port quarter. There was no flak. A few seconds later the tail gunner gave me a corkscrew to port. This I did, on instruments. At the bottom of the dive to port, and just after the start of the climb to starboard I instinctively looked up to the belly and tail of what I think was another Halifax directly above me and about thirty feet away. There was no time to avoid a collision and the nose of my aircraft struck the tail turret of the other aircraft. The impact took about five feet of the nose of my aircraft completely off. The other aircraft did not appear to be seriously damaged. The Ju88 had followed us into the corkscrew and at this point opened fire, scoring hits on the port wing. As the aircraft was vibrating very badly I gave the order to put on parachutes. This order I later countermanded when I found the aircraft would still fly fairly well, although it was very port wing heavy. The Ju88 again attacked but this time we lost it for good by a corkscrew to starboard, given by the mid-upper gunner. We proceeded south of the target to our first turning point. It was there that I decided to make for the Russian lines. This decision was made for two reasons, first, that I had lost all of the instruments on my flying panel, and second, that I would never be able to stand the intense cold of the four or five hours trip to England. My feet and hands were already quite numb.
It was impossible to stand in the nose of the aircraft so I ordered all the crew except the two gunners to the rest position, in order to keep warm as possible.
I flew east for four and a half until we figured we were well behind the lines of the Russian front, at the same time I descended to try and lessen the cold. By this time both my legs were numb from the hips down. My left hand was also completely numb. My right hand I kept warmed by sitting on it.
At this point we ran into a snow storm and had to turn back to the west. Soon afterwards I spotted the lights of a small town which I began to circle. I then told the crew to bale out. It was then that both escape hatches were found to be jammed. Two of the crew used the aircraft's axes to chop open the fuselage door. This operation took about twenty minutes.
When the door was finally opened I gave the order to bale out. This was done quickly and efficiently.
I knew I could not jump because of the condition of my legs and hands so I had to attempt a crash landing. It was still quite dark, but luckily I spotted a road with vehicles headlamps moving along it. I descended over this to about fifty feet with landing light on. By use of the light I found what seemed to be a descent field. I circled it twice then dropped the flaps, which I had had the engineer de-isolate before he jumped, and came in for a belly landing. In doing so the aircraft took the chimney off a house and cut down two telephone poles which I didn't see.
The landing was okay but I was knocked out by the impact. When I came to the aircraft was sitting in a field and had not caught fire. It took me some time to get the straps undone and as I couldn't stand up I fell from my sat and crawled on my hands and knees to the nose of the aircraft and out through the hole. At this point I fainted. When I came to I crawled to the road about a hundred yards away. Here I was stopped by a Russian sentry; who took me before some officer, to whom I satisfactorily established my identity.
I did try to destroy the navigational aids and special equipment in the aircraft, but could do nothing because of my hands and legs, which were useless.
The Russians would not let me return to the aircraft at any time. The next morning I was driven to the neighbouring town of Myslenice Poland. The aircraft is at Kentei (Kety?)Poland, south west of Kracow, and I was never allowed to return to it.
The crew which jumped are as follows:-
F/Lt   John E. (Jack) Nixon RCAF - Navigator - Missing
F/O   D. E. Banks RCAF - Returning to England
W/O   J. A.  Martin RCAF - " "
F/Sgt  Arthur C. Searle RCAF - " "
Sgt   L. A. Howard RAF - " "
F/Sgt   W. J. McCullough RCAF - Shot by a Russian Sentry, in a Polish hospital
W.O. 1    R. F. (Scotty) Young RAF - Missing
F/Lt   N. (Jack) Irvine RCAF – Pilot - Returning to England
N. Irvine F/Lt.
Pilot RCAF"

So the aircraft that Halifax NR180 collided with was “a Canadian Lancaster piloted by P/O J. Kitchen RCAF and crew from 434 Squadron, flying Lancaster KB-842 coded WL-L, were hit by a Halifax that had just been shot down, the rear turret was severely damaged. The JU-88 which had shot down the Halifax now turned its attention to their Lancaster. Both gunners fired and hits were seen on the JU-88 which fell away. The Lancaster was seriously damaged; the starboard elevator, wing, starboard inner nacelle, fuel tanks, tire and hydraulics were hit. 
Sgt C. Corbett RAF
F/Sgt F. Reid RCAF
F/O G. Fiori RCAF
P/O J. Rebman RCAF
F/Sgt G. Heisler RCAF
F/Sgt R. Higgs RCAF
They crash landed at Carnaby with no injuries to the crew. “
Here is their operation record:
Airborne 1635 5Mar45 from Croft. Yorkshire. Bombed from 16,500 feet at 2154 and was almost immediately involved in a mid-air collision with a Halifax that was in the process of being shot down by a Ju88. The night-fighter crew then turned their attention to the Lancaster, causing much damage to the hydraulic system and starboard wing. Accurate return fire, however, succeeded in driving away the enemy fighter, possibly damaged, and P/O Kitchen succeeded in getting his badly mauled aircraft back to Carnaby in Yorkshire where it was written off in the ensuing emergency landing. No injuries. P/O J.Kitchen RCAF. As usual with Canadian Record-keeping. No surviving crew names, with the exception of the Captain, were recorded. "

So that is pretty much the story of Halifax NR180. We don’t know precisely what classified instruments or equipment it was carrying or what special operations it was employed in save for the bombs it carried and dropped.
After the war, Arthur Searle married Anita Emily Usher, moved to North York and had sons Mark, Jeff and Peter. He found employment with the Toronto Fire Department rising to the position of District Fire Chief. While fighting a lumberyard fire in 1977 Arthur suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 52. This courageous man is  buried in York Cemetery, Bruce recalled that Arthur may have been involved in another crash prior to the night of 5/6 March. Confirming my suspicions, there was a book written by one of the crew focused mainly on the Russian escapades of Warrant Officer 1 R.F. (Scotty) Young and F/Lt. John E. Nixon, the aircraft navigator. The book, written by Young is titled Descent Into Danger. It was originally published Allan Wingate Ltd., London, 1954. It can be found in both hardcover and pocketbook editions. However, other than the two principals, it does not mention the other crew members by name. There is a great U Tube video showing the capture of Chemnitz, POW’s, Germans and the damage from the bombing. Follow this link:  Nor does it give credit to Flight Sergeant Arthur C. Searle,  the young nineteen –year old tail gunner who occupied the most dangerous and difficult position in the aircraft.

Bob Richardson
(416) 434-7784

Tuesday, November 10, 2015



Those of us that worship at St. Stephens Anglican Church, Hornby, ON blindly find our pew seats and dispurse at the end of service through the main aisle, without giving much else a thought. However on the rear wall in the corner are two war memorial lists from the First and Second World Wars. The World War One Memorial holds the names of thirteen men that presumably served in the Great War. My intention was to write short profiles on some of the men if I could positively identify them. They seem to be local born folks, residents or employees from the area. I have been able to  positively identify all but two. However the first man listed has actually proved the most interesting so far.
CSM Leslie Bradley, 4th Battalion
St. Stephen's Anglican Church, Hornby est. 1836
This man is described in his Military Medal citation as “courageous and brave”. He was also awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre for valour on the battlefield. He served continously from August 1914 to March 1919, fighting in some of the fiercest battles of the war like Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens and Cambrai. In the process he received gunshot wounds 3 times, lost a thumb and was awarded both the Military Medal and aforementioned Croix de Guerre. More importantly he is buried within our beautiful St. Stephens Cemetery (with his wife Jean) without any notification  or any sign of his heroics or contributions to the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Leslie Bradley was born March 15, 1889 in the small hamlet of Linton, King Township (between Schomberg and Nobleton, Hwy. 27) as the 4th child of farmer John Bradley and Elizabeth Bryan’s ten children. Sometime between the 1891 and 1901 Canadian Censuses, the family moved to a farm in Trafalgar, Lot 12, Concession 7. In the 1911 Census Leslie is shown as a 22 year-old farm labourer still on his father’s farm and one of 8 children at home. There is no sign of the impending heroics or leadership skills to come in a few years. Leslie belonged to not only the St. Stephen’s congregation but also the No. 165 Hornby Orange Lodge and the 20th Halton Battalion Lorne Rifles militia regiment (“H “ Coy. Hornby). The 36th Peel Battalion and the 20th Halton Rifles provided 16 officers and 404 other ranks to the 4th Battalion of the 1st Canadian Division, CEF. 4th (Central Ontario) Battalion, CEF was organized at Valcartier under Camp Order 241 of 2 September 1914 and was composed of recruits from Military District 2  The battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel W.S. Buell who was replaced within days by Lieutenant-Colonel R.H. Labatt. Leslie Bradley was one of the 404 men to travel to Valcartier attesting to the 4th Battalion on September 22, 1914 giving his occupation as a carpenter, address as R.R. 3, Georgetown and shaving a year off his age.
The battalion embarked at Quebec on 23 September 1914 aboard SS TYROLIA, disembarking in England on 14 October 1914. Its strength was 44 officers and 1121 other ranks. The battalion disembarked in France on 11 February 1915, becoming part of the 1st Division, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade. It was later reinforced by the 3rd Canadian Reserve Battalion.  It was involved in the following battles: Ypres (1915) Passchendaele (1917); Gravenstafel; St. Julien; Festubert (1915);Mount Sorrel; Somme (1916); Pozières; Flers-Courcelette; Ancre Heights; Arras (1917); Vimy (1917); Arleux; Scarpe(1918); Hill 70; Passchendaele; Amiens; Drocourt-Quéant; Hindenburg Line; Canal du Nord; Pursuit to Mons.
The following are excerpts from Leslie Bradley’s war service record, beginning with his arrival St. Nazaire, France on February 11, 1915:
·         Participated in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915 – first use of German gas
·         Participated in the Battles of Givenchy and Festubert, May & June 1915
·         Promoted to rank of Corporal, June 22, 1915
·         Promoted to rank of Lance Sergeant, August 1, 1915
·         Granted seven days leave. November 2, 1915
·         Attached to 1st Cdn Div. Training School, January 22, 1916
·         Admitted 3rd Cdn General Hospital, Boulogne, gun shot wound right leg & arm, March 10, 1916 – Battle of Mount Sorrel
·         Discharged hospitals, August 2, 1916
·         Taken on strength 36th Reserve Battalion, West Sandling, October 8, 1916
·         Transferred to 4th Battalion, In the Field, October 27, 1916
·         Admitted No. 39 General Hospital, LeHavre, December 3, 1916, VDS
·         Rejoined 4th Battalion, In the Field, March 13, 1917
·         Promoted to rank of Sergeant, May 4, 1917
·         Admitted #6 Casualty Clearing Station, concussion, blown up by a shell, neurosis, November 6, 1917 – Battle of Passchendaele
·         Awarded Military Medal for bravery and devotion , December 23, 1917 for actions at the Battle of Passchedaele
·         Rejoined 4th Battalion, In the Field, November 19, 1917
·         Granted 14 days leave, December 16, 1917
·         Promoted to rank Company Sergeant-Major  and Warrant Officer Class II, December 20, 1917
·         Awarded the Belgium Croix de Guerre for bravery on the battlefield, July 12, 1918
·         Admitted No. 32 Stationary Hospital, GSW hand & thumb amputated, September 27, 1918 – Battle of Canal du Nord
·         Returned to Canada, S.S. Empress of Britain, Liverpool to Halifax, February 17, 1919  
·         Discharged Toronto as “Medically Unfit” March 28, 1919
From the Milton Champion January 1916
A letter was received and printed from Sgt. Leslie Bradley who complained that the regimental goat nearly got his package from home: from Gunner Emory Bradley, at the Grange Hospital, Kent who reported that his foot was healing.
Leslie Bradley's gravestone in St.Stephen's Ceme
On return to civilian life, it appears that Leslie returned to farming. He is shown as the sole occupant of a farm on R.R.#3 Georgetown, Township of Esquesing in the 1921 Canada Census. On April 16, 1924, 35 year old Leslie Bradley married a 20 year-old clerk from Hagersville, Jean Elizabeth Wilson, in Hamilton. His brother Emery was his witness. Leslie Bradley took over the general store in Postville, Township of Trafalgar, in 1925. He also took over as postmaster. The Trafalgar Post office was at the rear of the store. Irene Saunders tells us in the 2011 Summer Newsletter of the Trafalgar Township Historical Society, that her Uncle Leslie's pay was not as much as the former postmaster because he lacked experience. The store was the second house west of Trafalgar Road on Dundas Road, then known as the 7th Line. In the late 1940's, the highway department insisted the store sign was too big so it had to be replaced. Some other information from the Bradley family: The previous owner's name was Carpenter. Leslie Bradley almost lost the store in the depression and the Carpenters tried to get it back, but he was able to borrow money from the McClary sisters to pay the mortgage and keep the store. The building on the left was not separate from the store. There was a veranda on the front of the house with a lattice for privacy. You may also note the trellis for Mr. Bradley's climbing roses. The left store window was on the hardware side; probably cans of paint. The right side was for groceries; the picture shows the ends of the shelving of canned goods. You may also note the post on the right store front is out of line, not straight up and down like the other ones. The story goes that in earlier times farmers would tie their horse to that post - and it was the horses that pulled it out of line. Leslie and Jean went on to have children Lorne, Donald, Laura and Edgar.
Belgium Croix de Guerre
Postville/ Post's Corners - Located at Trafalgar and Dundas, it was a Hamlet called Post's Corners from at least 1815 - 1851 and called Postville by 1857. It was the location of the local store, school, Steam saw Mill, Inn, Drill shed for the local militia and Post Office. It was also a stage stop between York and Dundas. It was called Post's Corners because Ephraim Post owned the sw corner and the north-east corner. It is not clear when they first owned this land but sometime between 1807 and 1816.The Inn was on the s.w. corner and the store and post office a bit farther west on the n.w. corner. The store was owned by Squire James Appelbe and around 1840 the post office was also moved into the store. (Having previously being located east of Post's Corners and Alexander Proudfoot being the postmaster.) Just below the south east corner there was a steam saw mill. In the late 1960's the Inn was torn down and the general store taken down to make way for a service station. The Post's home on the north-east corner of Dundas & Trafalgar was torn down in 1965.

Leslie Bradley's store near Trafalgar Road
So apparently, from the time the Bradley’s settled in Trafalgar about the turn of the 19th Century until Leslie’s death on July 2, 1979 (and perhaps longer) the family were regular constituents of our St. Stephens Anglican Church in Hornby. We should note at this point that Leslie’s younger brother, Emery, is also mentioned on the St. Stephens WWI Memorial Roll as well. Emery, born in 1895, tried to enlist in the 20th Battalion November 1914 but was refused as under aged. However he did enlist 1915 in Toronto’s 9th Battery, # 83222 Canadian Field Artillery and served in England and France through the war. After crushing his ankle under a horse in November 1916 in Belgium, it appears he served the remaining of the war as an artillery instructor in both England and France, being discharged 1919 in Toronto. He died March 12, 1981 in London, ON.

Bob Richardson
(416) 434-7784