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Name, date and country Message
John Munro, 03.09.09, UK
I was fascinated to see Joe Holmes' name on this board for he flew with 263 squadron when S/Ldr Donaldson was CO.
S/Ldr Donaldson took over the squadron from my late father S/Ldr Jack Munro in March 1941. The Squadron had moved to Exeter from Drem in Scotland after the Battle Of Britain with its Whirlwind fighters. I have a copy of the Squadron ORB from July 1940-March 1941. The time of its stay at Exeter makes interesting reading. Sadly however the squadron lost a number of pilots, two of whom lie in the CWGC plot at Exeter Higher Cemetry. Fl/Lt Smith and P/O Vine were killed over Dartmoor on 29th December 1940. They had been tasked to fly to St Eval and from there to escort an aircraft returning to the UK from the Atlantic. Sadly they collided over Dartmoor in thick fog on the way to St Eval. Both pilots had flown with the Squadron during the Battle of Britain. Four other pilots died during the Squadron stay at Exeter, two in combat with the enemy and two in accidents. The whirlwinds flew a number of sorties called Chameon Patrols looking  for E-boats out of Cherbourg as well as patrols and scrambles over Exmouth, Plymouth and other areas of the South West. Their history is recorded in an excellent book by Victor Bingham titled Whirlwind.
Wayne Ralph, 16.09.09 Memories of the late Group Captain David John “Blackie” Williams, DSO, DFC, CD and Clasp, RCAF and Canadian Forces (retired).

I spent about four years searching for and interviewing face-to-face Second World War fighter pilots who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force, or Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. These were Canadian-born or American-born (with one or two exceptions) young men who had been trained in fighter operations of all kinds, day, night, attack, air superiority, anti-shipping and naval carrier.

Many of my interviews came by recommendation, as in “You must go and see....! He was a great fighter pilot.” One of whom this was often said was Group Captain ( retired Canadian Forces colonel) David John “Blackie” Williams. One of his biggest fans was Group Captain George “Red” Sutherland.

Fortunately, only two months before he died Blackie moved to Canada from Washington State, in the USA, when his wife Helen died in June 2004. George told me where to find him in Richmond, British Columbia, at an elder care facility. I called and made an appointment.

The man I met was struggling to breathe; he was using supplemental oxygen in portable bottles. This did not stop him from smoking cigarettes, every half-hour or so. He also had his liquor bottles by the kitchen sink and his first request was that I pour he and I a shot of scotch.

So, as I have done with other old pilots, some even veterans of the Great War, 1914-1918, I drank scotch straight-up, scotch & gin seemed to be the preferred alcohol for that generation.

I turned on the tape recorder, and got out my notepad. Frail though he was, Blackie was a wonderful story teller. Not all fighter aces, as Blackie was, are good story tellers. Many are so understated and matter-of-fact that it is difficult to shape a compelling story from their narration. Rarely are they boastful, often they are critical of their own performance. This does not accord with our Hollywood notions of the “fighter pilot”

For a few weeks I went between Blackie and Red, two old-time fighter pilots, in their case night fighter pilots, comparing and contrasting. They were fun to interview because they contradicted each other; each claimed the other had the details wrong. (“Now, let me tell you the real story....”) They greatly admired each other. Williams always regretted as his squadron commander at 406(RCAF) that he had not been able to get Sutherland a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his part with Blackie in a night attack in fog against E-boats in the English Channel.

Both stayed in the RCAF post-war and rose to senior rank, attaining Group Captain. Williams was a living legend in the post war RCAF because of his character----larger-than life. Sutherland was much loved and admired as well. Both men died before my book, which included stories told by them, was published in 2005 by John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.

Williams died within a few weeks of our first meeting, and I was asked by one of his children, David, to call Kirk Kirkpatrick, his wartime navigator, to say that he had “flown west”. I had previously spoken on the phone with Kirkpatrick and knew how much he admired Blackie. I had actually put them back in touch with each other after many years of silence, just days before Blackie died. Kirk was broken hearted and could not talk for long on the phone; he had only just spoken to Blackie a day or two before. Williams died on August 21st 2004, aged 85, and I received a call in October of that year from Kirk’s wife to say that her husband had become depressed after Blackie’s death. He had deteriorated quickly and died on October 7th. George Sutherland died within a few months.

You can read more about the exploits of Williams, Kirkpatrick, and many other Canadian fighter pilots of that era. In the UK, the book, Aces, Warriors & Wingmen--Firsthand accounts of Canada’s Fighter Pilots in the Second World War, is available online through several booksellers and also John Wiley & Sons UK. To see photos of Blackie Williams and others, visit Wayne Ralph’s website www.aceswarriorsandwingmen.com

Mark Hillier, 31.01.2103, UK I was very interested to find Noel Borland on the signatures. I have photos of him and his brother Douglas who were both on 266. The signature is Noel Vincent Borland. He was unfortunately killed in action April 1945 but his brother went on to win the DFC and was with the squadron when his brother was hit by flak. Brothers Noel and Douglas Borland


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