THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)

David Hornell

Flight Lieutenant David Hornell, born in Mimico, Ontario, in 1910, was awarded the Victoria Cross during his service with Coastal Command. He was one of only two RCAF members to earn the Victoria Cross during the Second World.

How many times have you seen the Hollywood depiction of a wartime pilot who, hopelessly crippled by enemy fire, somehow manages to complete his mission only to have his plane crash? Hornell was a real life example of that kind of heroism.

Hornell was the aircraft captain of a PBY-5A Canso with the RCAF’s 162 Squadron, temporarily attached to Coastal Command and conducting anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic.

On June 24, 1944, he was on a patrol out of Iceland, when he spotted a sub in the distance and turned to attack it. But the U-Boat had already seen Hornell’s aircraft and the sub commander returned some very heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire. Just as he gained speed to attack the submarine, one of Hornell’s guns jammed and two shells hit his aircraft, starting a fire inside the plane and knocking out one engine. Despite the chaos, Hornell still managed to drop his depth charges and send the U-Boat to the bottom of the ocean.

After Hornell crash-landed into the sea, only one of the two inflatable dinghies was found. It was too small for everyone so crew members took turns sitting inside or hanging on to its side while in the water. Two of the crewmen died during their 21-hour ordeal. By the time Hornell and the remaining crew were rescued, Hornell was blind and completely exhausted; he died shortly after being picked up.

David Hornell was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974.

DID YOU KNOW… DAMBUSTERS RAID

The Dambusters Raid took place from May 16 to 17, 1943, breaching the Möhne and Eder dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley (an attack against the Sorpe dam was unsuccessful). Nineteen Lancaster bombers from 617 Squadron, armed with “bouncing bombs”, conducted the raid. Twenty-nine of the 133 crew members were RCAF; Wing Commander Guy Gibson, RAF, was awarded the Victoria Cross for the action and seven RCAF personnel were decorated.

DID YOU KNOW… 20,000 POUNDS OF CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS

One of the RCAF’s more unusual missions occurred on December 24, 1944. 437 Squadron flew DC-3 Dakota aircraft from England to Antwerp and Melsbroek (both in Belgium) to deliver 20,000 pounds of Christmas puddings destined for troops bogged down in the mud along the Dutch-German border.