James "Stocky" Edwards

Wing Commander James Francis “Stocky” Edwards was one of the RCAF flyers who squared off against Axis pilots and helped knock the enemy out of the air. He was only 19 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in October 1940. By the end of the war he had 20 confirmed kills (with Probable kills, his score passed 30) and had risen to the rank of wing commander.

He shot down most of these planes in the North Africa campaign. Edwards flew a P-4 0 Kittyhawk against the Messerschmitt (Me) 109; the Me-109 was faster and better armed than the P-40, but that never got the better of Edwards.

“I would have liked to trade aircraft on most days of the week,” he said. “The Me-109 had a superior rate of climb and speed so you couldn’t make a mistake. If you didn’t get him the first time you’d be in real trouble.”

Edwards was also a vital leader in training his squadron’s newer pilots in using the Kittyhawk to best advantage.

Then came the Italian campaign. Edwards traded his Kittyhawk for a Supermarine Spitfire VIII and served with the RCAF’s 417 Squadron and the Royal Air Force's (RAF) 92 Squadron. His success continued; on one day he destroyed three Focke Wulf 190s and another Me-109 as the Luftwaffe was attempting to stop the U.S. Army from establishing a beachhead at Anzio, in southern Italy.

In total, he flew 373 operational sorties during the war and was never shot down. In 2013, Edwards was living in Comox, British Columbia, Canada’s oldest living ace. Stocky Edwards was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013.