Next generation renews air links across ocean

Julie Hemmings

A TRANSATLANTIC visitor has been learning about the links between her home nation and the Vale of York in the Second World War.

Christine Pierce is the daughter-in-law of one of the earliest Canadian supporters of the Yorkshire Air Museum (YAM) and visited the attraction, at Elvington, near York, on a trip from her home in Toronto.

Her 84-year-old father-in-law, Wilbur “Wib” Pierce – a pilot with 433 “Porcupine” Squadron, of North Yorkshire-based 6 Group Bomber Command – flew on more than 30 missions from Skipton-on-Swale and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The 15 Canadian squadrons flew Halifax, Wellington and Lancaster bombers from Burn, Croft, Dalton, Dishforth, East Moor, Leeming, Linton-on-Ouse, Middleton St George, Skipton-on-Swale, Tholthorpe, Topcliffe and Wombleton airfields in the Vale of York.

The Royal Canadian Air Force launched 40,802 missions and lost 4,272 personnel and 814 aircraft. Many of those who died in Britain are buried at Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate.

Mr Pierce was among the very first to make a donation to YAM’s fledgling Canadian supporters’ group in the late 1980s, which is run by another Canadian, veteran air gunner Doug Sample.

Mrs Pierce was given a tour of the museum’s Halifax bomber by volunteer Phil Kemp, who has been involved in the rebuilding of the aircraft, to offer an insight into the experience of the young pilots and remarked on the courage required to undertake such hazardous missions, night after night.

Volunteer Stan Williams then escorted Mrs Pierce around the rest of the museum, where she saw the newly-refurbished uniform display room, which now features a section with uniforms worn by Allied forces from France, Canada, Australia, Poland and the US.

Other uniforms from the Royal Air Force trace its formation out of the Royal Flying Corps in 1918 through to the present day. Women’s military service also is marked, with the uniform worn by Lettice Curtis of the Air Transport Auxiliary, along with a Princess Mary’s Royal Nursing Service and WAAF uniforms.

Mrs Pierce ended her visit with a stop at the memorial garden.