Charles W. “Charley” Fox

When the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) lost Honourary Colonel (HCol) Charley Fox in October 2008, we lost more than a decorated Spitfire pilot veteran and an 88-year-old war hero — we lost one of our most beloved and capable spokespersons.

Fox was an inspiration to all who heard his anecdotes and experienced his love of life. He had an impressive war record. Fox flew three sorties with 412 Fighter Squadron on D-Day, June 6, 1944, trained pilots with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and destroyed or damaged 153 enemy vehicles.

On July 17, 1944, he strafed a vehicle in which Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, “The Desert Fox”, who was commanding German operations in Normandy at the time, was travelling. Rommel was wounded and was unable to return to active duty. Fox’s action may have changed the course of the war.

After six years of post-war service with the RCAF Auxiliary, Fox retired from military life, only to return as the honorary colonel of 412 Transport Squadron, located in Ottawa. He was also one of the busiest and most popular Air Force speakers available. During the last decade and a half of his life, Fox shared his experiences with a new generation, speaking of aerial combat to high school students and others, and founding the Torchbearers to promote the experiences of prisoners of war.

Just a few months before he died, Fox received his Canadian Forces Decoration from the Chief of the Air Staff, Lieutenant-General Angus Watt. Charley Fox’s total RCAF service — including those as an honorary colonel — was only 14 years, but his contribution to Canada was too large to tabulate.

Charles W. “Charley” Fox