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Flying Officer (Ret’d) Ralph Wild

Ralph Wild was born in Yorkshire, England on the 27th of September 1918. In 1938, at the age of 20, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of the mandatory six months military service for English youth.

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Ralph Wild

Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mint

Shortly after Mr. Wild joined, Europe was once again at war. Despite the Allies’ best efforts, the United Kingdom found itself isolated against determined Axis forces who were quick to progress in their invasion of Europe. As such, his six-month tour became seven years of service.

Mr. Wild originally trained as an instrument repair technician, part of the group referred to as ground crew, and was assigned to 249 Squadron at RAF Church Fenton, located near Leeds, England. While his real goal was to fly, he was told the Royal Air Force was only recruiting for ground crew pre-war and that he would have to wait for flying opportunities. However, his new training would soon be put to the test.

The Battle of Britain began in July 1940 as the German Air Force (the Luftwaffe) launched mass attacks against Britain’s coastal shipping. These attacks were met by the RAF’s defensive forces across England.

As aircraft were being deployed to defend against German attacks, Mr. Wild’s squadron had moved to Boscombe Down in Wilts to defend Portsmouth and Southampton shipping. They then went on to North Weald, north of London, to switch bases with a squadron which was down to less than a dozen aircraft and pilots.

Ralph Wild

Mr. Wild remembers life on the base as being long and hard. Most days there was little time for anything but getting the fleet of Hawker Hurricanes ready for the next battle. Hurricanes were said to be easier to repair if they had come back with bullet holes, because their fuselage was mostly canvas.

“It wasn’t a problem say if it had bullet holes. It took far longer to service say a Spitfire, because of their all-metal build requiring riveting a patch on over the holes,” he says.

Despite the hard conditions and the long hours, Mr. Wild still says that joining the RAF was the best decision he could have made. The Battle of Britain was the first battle that the enemy lost.

Mr. Wild stated that the ground crew knew that the pilots’ lives were dependent on the ground crew’s ability to keep the aircraft in the best condition possible, and so they did just that.

Though he was very satisfied as a member of the ground crew, Mr. Wild did not stay on the ground too long. When the Battle of Britain ended, he volunteered for overseas service and was posted to Canada in December 1940.  

Mr. Wild served in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) in Carberry, Manitoba for three and a half years. While there, he met his future wife Myrla Ruth Easton, a registered nurse at Grace General Hospital in Winnipeg, while on a weekend leave.

“The Canadians in Winnipeg were absolutely marvellous to the men in the BCATP. They welcomed us into their homes.”

During his time in Canada, Mr. Wild went from serving as a member of the ground crew to training as a navigator. He graduated at the top of his class and became a Commissioned Officer. When his overseas posting in Canada came to an end, he returned to England and did a tour with Bomber Command navigating a Halifax bomber over Germany until the end of the war.

“I was taught to never do anything to anyone that I would not want them to do to me. However, our country was being attacked, we had to stand up to Nazi Germany and defend Britain.”

After the war ended, Mr. Wild completed his education at Liverpool University. In 1947 Ralph Wild and his Canadian wife, Myrla decided to move to Canada where he became an Insurance Claims Manager for almost thirty years.

Eighty years have now passed since the Battle of Britain, and Mr. Wild has had a lot of time to reflect on his experience.

In my youth, Ralph says” I was taught to never do anything to anyone that I would not want them to do to me. However, our country was being attacked, we had to stand up to Nazi Germany and defend Britain.”

As we mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, we honour the bravery and sacrifices of Canadians and Allies that served in Europe. Ralph Wild is this week’s Face of Freedom.

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