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Spitfire Flying

Heroes Remember

People going straight from Canada, from the air training plan, over usually went through a pre OTU over there what they call AFU, Advanced Flying Unit. We didn't have that because we'd had the OTU back here. All the people that I was with, that I knew we were just waiting which OTU would we draw and we were sent up to the Spitfire operational training unit just north of Dundee up in Scotland. And we had a glorious time at the OTU there, the first introduction to the delicate little Spit. Looked like it couldn't fly or wobble with a narrow under carriage, but again after flying a Harvard and a Hurricane it was a piece of cake to fly, almost too easy. As long as I knew it's tendency, it was nose heavy. You had to be gentle on the brakes especially going down hill because usually if you're in a hurry to get to the end of the runway, they had an airman or two sit in the back to keep the centre of gravity where it should be, behind the main wheels. They only had one or two Canadians there and we were fortunate to have one on our flight. Mitch Johnston who's still around. He's a wonderful guy and oh, of course, we looked up to him. He had finished a tour and was going just spending six months at the operational training unit as an instructor with the little faster air craft and more air tactics than dog fighting and tail chasing, formation flying. Three weeks of intensive gunnery work at the advanced operational training unit which was just a satellite. That all took, I think, about two months, two months and a half. And they, anyhow and there were, there was so many pilots waiting to get on a squadron they kept sending us in little five day courses here and five day courses there and obviously just shuffling us around to wait for a place to send us and we eventually ended up at Red Hill down south, east of London on buzz bomb alley just before D-day.

Mr. Ireland describes impressions of the Spitfire, and his combat training at the Spitfire Operational Training Unit in Dundee, Scotland.

Elgin Gerald Ireland

Elgin Gerald Ireland was born in Shelbourne, Ontario, on January 12, 1921. He was the eldest in a family of seven. Because his father was a farmer, his family survived the depression in relative comfort. Mr. Ireland lived close to an airfield, and was fascinated by the thought of flying. When the family farm was sold, Mr. Ireland felt no obligation to stay home, and in April, 1941, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was groomed as a pilot, and did his elementary training at St. Eugene, flying the Fleet Finch. He moved on to St. Hubert, learned to fly the Harvard aircraft, and then moved on to Trenton where he was a flight instructor for one and a half years. Mr. Ireland reached England as a member of a Hurricane squadron, but soon transferred to 411 Spitfire Squadron. He flew air to ground combat at Falaise Gap and Nijmegen, while at the same time engaging the Luftwaffe in air to air warfare. For his efforts, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Netherlands Flying Cross. After the liberation of Europe, Mr. Ireland volunteered for the Tiger Force, an air group which was to aid in the war against Japan. Mr. Ireland remained in the air force, returning to the Trenton Flying School. He was one Canada’s first pilots to fly the Vampire, F-86 Sabre, and CF-100 jet fighters. After spending four years as Canada’s CF-100 Squadron Commander in France, he returned to 409 Squadron at Comox, British Columbia, where he was promoted to Camp Commander. It was at that point that British Columbia became his family home.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Elgin Gerald Ireland
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Flight Lieutenant

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