The Saviour of Ceylon

Updated 30 July 2021

Wing Commander Birchall was called the Saviour of Ceylon by Canadian newspapers when the story was told. This is rightfully so. However it was his navigator Warrant Officer Granville Charles Onyette who had asked him to continue on with the search to give him time to find the plane’s exact position.

Excerpt from Chapter 2

The last chapter of the “Saviour of Ceylon” saga didn’t occur until Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. Prime Minister Lester Pearson gave a formal dinner and reception for each head of state that came to Canada, and Birchall was invited to attend the dinner for the Ceylonese. At this dinner, Prime Minister Lester Pearson related one of his personal experiences with respect to the Ceylon battle. Pearson spoke of an event that occurred at a dinner at the British Embassy in Washington, either just before or after the end of the war. Someone asked Sir Winston Churchill what he felt to be the most dangerous and most distressing moment in the war. Pearson thought he would refer to the events of June and July 1940 and the imminence of invasion, or to the time when Rommel was heading toward Alexandria and Cairo at full speed or when Singapore fell. However, Churchill thought the most dangerous moment of the war was when he got the news that the Japanese fleet was heading for Ceylon and the naval base there. The capture of Ceylon, the consequent control of the Indian Ocean and the possibility of a German conquest of Egypt would have “closed the ring” and the future would have been black.

Churchill went on to say that disaster was averted by an airman, on reconnaissance, who spotted the Japanese fleet and, though shot down, was able to get a message through to Ceylon. The message allowed the defence forces there to get ready for the approaching assault; otherwise they would have been taken completely by surprise. Churchill believed that the unknown airman, who lay deep in the waters of the Indian Ocean, made one of the most important single contributions to victory. He got quite emotional about it.

Pearson was pleased to tell Churchill that the “unknown airman” was not lying deep in the Indian Ocean but was still an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed down the street from the British Embassy where he was active in the Canadian military mission. Churchill was surprised and delighted to know that the end of the story was a happier one than envisioned.

Screenshot 2021-07-03 10.09.18

Click on the link below.

Canadian Aerospace Power Studies Volume 1

Canadian Bush pilot Ralph MacLaren Christie

Honouring Ralph Maclaren Christie

Preserving the Past II

Research by Clarence Simonsen


With the passing of the Canadian War Exchange Act on 6 December 1940, many ‘non-essential’ goods were banned from being imported into Canada. American comic books were declared non-essential and banned from import, which created new Canadian comic book publishers featuring Canadian heroes. The Canadian comics lacked color and were called Canadian “whites” as only the front and back covers were printed in color. Over twenty million would be printed by 1945, and while all retained a theme based on patriotic Canadian war attitudes, very few were based on true Canadian war heroes in WWII. 

When the United States of America entered WWII on 8 December 1941, many new “True War” comic magazines were created publishing the heroes from around the world. The following RCAF hero comic appeared in True Aviation, Picture Stories No. 6, dated December 1943, “Canadian Bush Pilot.” Most of these American…

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A request

I’m looking for a Canadian whose first name was Anthony. He stayed months or weeks with my family (Glanard) close to Saint André-de-l’Eure (Batigny). He crashed in a field close to the village. He was injured at one arm, and lost his watch. My uncle found it back and gave it back to him. He had repaired it.
I have a picture .

famille Glanard août 1944

None of the people who had helped him forgot this man, but they are all gone now.

If somebody has some information about the crash, it would be nice. I guess he got back to England in September 1944 when Saint-André-de-l’Eure and Evreux were liberated at the end of September 44.

Thanks in advance


VE Day – Muskoka Airport – 8 May Norwegian Veterans Day

VE Day – Muskoka Airport – 8 May Norwegian Veterans Day

David Wold is sharing this today…

image1 (1)

The wreath was safely delivered this morning! See attached photo.
For some reason the ribbon looks quite pale in the photo but it is darker in
person, like last year.

Eleven poppies to symbolize the 11 provinces of Norway.

Let us never forget what Canada did and what those who got their training
there contributed to the liberation of Norway.

My understanding is that there was at least 7 nations that stepped into
Norwegian uniforms to take part in the fighting for liberty.

Thank God and Country ,


In Memoriam – John Leonard Greaves (1964-2017)

Written in 2017

In my search for more information to use on my blog paying homage to VF(N)-101 I had found this Website earlier this week.

It was about the Battle of Midway.

This is the link…

There was something that caught my attention.

A painting and the story behind it. I had to look and read the story.

“The Other Sole Survivors”Torpedo 8 TBF Avenger at Midway – June 4, 1942



All paintings © John Greaves Art (used by permission)

Now the story behind the painting.


The only survivor of a flight of six TBF Avenger torpedo planes struggles to return home to Midway Atoll after attacking the Japanese fleet. Flown by ENS Albert Earnest with radioman Harry Ferrier RM3c and turret gunner Jay Manning Sea1c, the badly damaged TBF has hydraulics shot out causing the tail wheel to drop and the bomb bay doors to open. Without a working compass, Earnest flew east towards the sun and climbed above the cloud deck where he could see the column of smoke rising from Midway in the far distance. Earnest managed to bring back the TBF using only the elevator trim tab for altitude control and successfully landed. Manning died in his turret and Earnest and Ferrier were wounded.

earnest ferrier


Jay Manning


There is another story behind this story.

I wrote John Greaves to get his permission to use his painting on my blog.

But little did I know…

GREAVES, John Leonard

John Greaves died unexpectedly and peacefully at home on Monday, January 9, 2017 in Airdrie, AB at the age of 52 years. John is lovingly remembered by his wife Janet, and their 2 daughters; Emma and Katy of Airdrie, his parents; Len and Eleanor, brother; Stewart of Abbotsford, B.C., Janet’s sister; Sandra (Sam) Hamilton and family of Saskatoon, SK. John was born in Calgary, AB on September 1, 1964. John and his family moved to B.C. prior to John and his brother starting school, eventually settling in Abbotsford where John attended Abby Jr and Sr High School. John attended Fraser Valley College where he pursued his passion in Art, then went on to further study in graphic arts and business at BCIT. A Memorial Service will be held at Aridrie Alliance church, 1604 Summerfield Blvd, Airdrie, AB., on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 1:30, with a reception to follow. Sandy Isfeld and Nathan Kliewer will be officiating, please join us in Celebrating John’s Life In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John’s memory to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 240, 2323 – 32 Ave. NE, Calgary, AB, T2E 6Z3.

Messages of condolence may be left for the family at

The source is here


John Greaves’ artwork is being used on this blog by special permission of his wife Janet…

I give you permission to use his paintings in the two blogs you mentioned, with credit given to my beloved John, who had a passion for history and art.
Janet Greaves

In Memoriam of John Leonard Greaves (1964-2017) All paintings © John Greaves Art (used by permission)

Tom Cheek at Midway x




















Childers 20130628


Brooks lg 01022014

Website dedicated to RCAF 420 Squadron

Website dedicated to RCAF 420 Squadron

RCAF 420 Snowy Owl

Updated 23 April, 2021

I have to start somewhere to pay homage to Wing Commander William Gerald Phelan.

UNK PL-41602 UK-18125 22/12/44 420 SQN The leaders of the City of London’s Snowy Owl Squadron left to right are: F/L F.S. McCarthy, Windsor, Ontario, 722 Dougall Avenue, Flight Commander; W/C W.G. Phelan, DFC, Distinguished Flying Cross, Toronto, Ontario, 9 Glenayr Road, Squadron Commander; and S/L B.G. Motherwell, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2539 West 33rd Avenue, Flight Commander.

The SS Samaria arrived in Liverpool on November 6, 1943. The squadron disembarked and was transported to Dalton airbase. From Dalton it was moved to Tholthorpe, 12 miles northwest of York, on December 12, 1943. At Tholthorpe the squadron converted to the Handley Page Halifax Mark III. The squadron remained at Tholthorpe until the end of the war. McIntosh was replaced as CO by G. A. McKenna on April 6, 1944. McKenna, in turn, was replaced…

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de Havilland Mosquitoes in BOAC Service.

Aviation Trails is preserving the past with his research on the use of the de Havilland Mosquito in WWII.

Aviation Trails

Very few countries around the world managed to avoid the influence of the Second World War as it ravaged and rampaged its way across the globe. One such nation that did manage to keep its borders secure though was Sweden, a place that became known as a safe haven for downed airmen or those trying to escape the clutches of the Nazi tyranny that would engulf vast swathes of the European continent. Surrounded by conflict and declared neutral, Sweden was to all intents and purposes cut off from the rest of the world.

However, Sweden was a country reliant on imports and exports, a reliance that led to extensive negotiations between herself and both the axis and allied powers who effectively blockaded her supply routes. Through these negotiations she achieved an  agreement to the rights of passage for ‘safe-conduct traffic’, an agreement that allowed the passage through hostile waters of…

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It was not meant to be… The sequel

Eddy wanted me to have this book…

Martin Baltimore

Eddy Dubois in the cockpit of a Martin Baltimore

Everyone who went to war to serve his country is a hero in my book even if I never wrote a book in my life.

I wrote what follows in 2011…

Eddy was a hero, just like his brother Larry who died on… December 18, 1944

Eddy is on the left on his way to Bermuda. This is the original picture Eddy sent before I made some minor modifications to it.

Eddy had written this caption…

Me on way to Bermuda from Elizabeth City, North Carolina in a Catalina flying boat in the bubble at rear

Eddy died on December 24, 2010 and rejoigned his brother Larry. He shared lots of pictures he had of his wartime service in the Ferry Command which I knew very little about.

I never got around to ask him permission to share these pictures with my readers but I know he would have given it. These pictures are precious mementos. Click on each to zoom in.

Eddy was stationed in Bermuda in 1942 and 1943.

Darrell’s Island Bermuda our base


Eddy had this caption…

Darrell’s Island

This was our base.
Flying over I took a picture of it and the Pan AM, BOAC BASE, from the Coronado flying boat which was piloted by Wing Commander Mo Ware, OBE. DFC. on a test flight. Only 1 PBM at anchor and one on the ramp. We were flying in CORONADO JX470 (which was a 4 motor flying boat, our first one) (Received on Apr. 4th, 1943). This was a training and test flight. They were new to us. They had to have 40 hours test flight and inspections done in Bermuda and it was used for local training for a while as well. It departed for Halifax (Dartmouth) on April 16th, 1943) and from there to Gander Lake, Iceland and Scotland or Gibraltar. These were used for transport of goods and passenger were unarmed.
Eddy had this picture also…

PBM Mariner

Eddy had this to say about that picture…

One of many that was ferried to Prestwick Scotland during 1943.

He also added this…

One like this sank off this island, one airman drowned (failed to inflate life jacket). I rescued him too late.

I had posted more of Eddy’s pictures since these kind of pictures are very rare. There are only a few like this one that can be could found on the Internet…

Photograph from Wing Commander Mo Ware, Commanding Officer of RAF forces in Bermuda during the War

To learn more about Bermuda during the war, click here


Eddy wanted me to have this book. His widow gave it to me when I went his funeral.

To be continued…