F/O Syd Burrows (left) and F/O Jack Frazer.

Lieutenant-Colonel Syd Burrows joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1951, just as Canada was making a massive contribution (for a country of its size) to the fight against communism.

He was posted to No. 3 Wing at Zweibrucken, Germany, and led a section of four Sabres across the Atlantic in Operation Leap Frog III. During his time at 3 Wing, he flew with the Fireballs aerobatic team. But he was about to experience a most unusual — and dangerous — flight incident.

Burrows took off as part of a four aircraft flight from 434 Squadron in Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, on the morning of September 13, 1954, to simulate an air attack on Zweibrucken.

It was a perfect day, until a hawk crashed into the canopy of Burrows’ Sabre, shattering the Plexiglas. His left eye was totally blinded, but after transmitting mayday to his section mates, he ripped off his helmet and oxygen mask so he could clear his right eye of blood.

Although he could have bailed out, Burrows, by then at the edge of consciousness, landed the plane safely. He permanently lost the sight in his left eye, but regained his flying status and flew multi-engine aircraft such as the Dakota – and adopted the moniker “Cyclops”.

Syd Burrows

He was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC) for his courage and devotion to duty. Burrows jokes that he actually received the AFC for his “feat of recovering an expensive aircraft”.

In 2004, Syd Burrows was awarded a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for his leadership in creating “In the Service of Canada: The Seventh Book of Remembrance”.