June 1940 - School’s Out, Duty Calls

Heroes Remember

June 1940 - School’s Out, Duty Calls

Within a few days I walked to Saskatoon to join up. That was the nearest one, a hundred miles away. It was easier for me to hike down there. And I had enough money to stay overnight at a hotel and go back the next day. So I signed up, and I met a fighter ace of the First War. And someone said to me, well if you do as well as this fellow did, I forget this man’s name, he said, you will be doing alright. Anyway, I passed the thing with flying colours and I went to the hotel and the next morning I walked home. And I had started walking in the morning, I think on the way down I got a ride part way, someone had picked me up. But on the way back, and this is all gravel roads in those days, cars are going by, I hiked it for about 60 miles, and I came to this little town and it was around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. I went into the restaurant, and I thought, well I was pretty hungry and I told the restaurant owner my plight. And he said, where are you going, and I told him Battleford, and I had been down to join up, and he says, I bet you are hungry eh. So he gave me a good meal, and then he gave me the two dollars and a half to get on the bus to go home. And I never forgot that, but I thought that was wonderful. Of course I paid him back, it was sometime later with a letter and everything, but that’s about how it went.

Mr. Edwards tells his incredible enlistment story, one that proves that his devotion to duty started even before he signed up.

James Francis Edwards

Mr. Edwards was born on a farm near Lockwood, Saskatchewan on June 5th 1921. His father, a First World War Veteran, kept horses until the depression forced him to move the family to Battleford where he became an insurance salesman. His mother had been a nurse during the First World War. In June 1940, Mr. Edwards enlisted in the Air Force. He was sent to the Brandon, Manitoba to do his Initial Training, then to Edmonton, Alberta for Flying School. After completing Flying School, Mr. Edwards was sent to overseas. He was assigned to 55 Operational Training Unit in Osworth, England where he flew Hurricanes. From there he was posted to Africa to take part in the Desert Campaign. Among many battles and operations, he took part in the El Alamein Battle (Egypt) and the Tunisian Campaign. In Egypt, he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. After a period in Cairo running a gunnery school, he was called back to combat in Italy. There he fought in the Battle of Ortona and Anzio and he was given his own squadron, the RAF 274. He was shot down on his first flight as squadron commander. Surviving, he and his crew were sent back to England to take part in D-Day. He would also fight in Holland and Germany. In total, Mr. Edwards served two tours of duty, flying over 360 missions. He had more than 19 confirmed kills. After the war was over he returned to Canada and continued service with the air force retiring as a wing commander.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Francis Edwards
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War

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