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In the following pages you can find out what’s going on and when. You can also contribute to a special legacy fund; discover the history behind a Canadian-built Spitfire or read all about Wing Commander Stocky Edwards.

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The Y2-K Spitfire returned to Comox for a visit…

News and Events

The Spitfire over Nautical Days

This past Monday (06/08/2018), on BC Day, the Y2K Spitfire took to the air for a triumphant series of passes over Goose Spit and the Comox Marina. Much to the delight of the vendors, entertainers, and members of the public enjoying themselves at the Filberg Festival and Nautical Days.

Tickets to Homecoming Gala Almost Sold Out

  Stocky welcomed Dave Hadfield to the valley on Tuesday, July 31st when the Y2K Spitfire landed at 19 Wing in Comox.  You can watch a quick video of the event here. Pilot Dave Hadfield flew the Spitfire said it is a wonderful airplane to fly. “When you talk to the...

Y2K Spitfire Landing in Comox

  The return of the Y2K Spitfire to Comox finalises the many years of work and dedication to preserve and restore this iconic aircraft by volunteers and aviation enthusiasts here and across Canada. During her reconstruction from 2000 to 2012, the Spitfire was always a...

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Gala Event August 8th 2018

This was an opportunity to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime historic event, have dinner and share an evening with friends and aviation enthusiasts, in a military hangar. The Mk IX Spitfire that began construction in Comox was flown in for the occasion and Wing Commander (Ret’d) James (Stocky) Edwards, CC, DFC & Bar, DFM, MiD, CD, was the guest of honour. This event also marked the start of the Stocky Edwards Legacy Trust, a fund intended to assist young Canadians in the pursuit  of their dreams of a career in aviation. 

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James (Stocky) Edwards, CC, DFC & Bar, DFM, MiD, CD, is a distinguished Canadian who was Canada’s highest scoring ace in the Western Desert Campaign in the Second World War. He followed his wartime service with a distinguished career in the RCAF, has been awarded the Order of Canada and the Croix de Guerre and is a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, Stocky has been a strong and active supporter of youth movements, particularly the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program and it is his wish that our young people be encouraged and supported to follow their dreams of a career in aviation, in whatever form that takes. To that end, he endorses the creation of a Legacy Trust Fund that will provide financial support to deserving individuals in pursuit of those goals.

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Timeline

Stocky Edwards’ Timeline adapted from: Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace; HarperCollins Canada.

June 1921 – Stocky is Born

June 5, 1921

James Francis (Stocky) Edwards was born on June 5, 1921, on a farm near Nokomis, Saskatchewan, about 80 miles east of Saskatoon. His grandfather Edwards had been a pioneer homesteader in the area. Jim was the second child in a close-knit farm family.   When Stocky was five and Bernie was seven, an early blast of wintry weather destroyed the Edwards’s wheat crop before it…

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Late 1930s – The Clouds of War

June 20, 1939

In the late 1930s, Stocky and his family, like other Canadians, lived with the growing threat of war. The family listened to news broadcasts on the big radio in the living room, and they discussed them afterwards. There was conflict in many parts of the world: in Asia, where Japan was invading neighbouring countries; in North Africa, where Italy had conquered Ethiopia; and in Europe, where Germany was controlled by a Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler. The Nazis were building up Germany’s military might. They had already taken…

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Sept 9th, 1939 – War Is Declared

September 9, 1939

As the Edwards family remained close to their radio, they heard a message from King George VI: “In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war…. I ask you to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. There may be dark days ahead …but we can only do the right as we see the right and …with God’s help we shall prevail.”  Canada followed up with its own declaration of war on September 10, 1939. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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Summer 1940 – Joining Up

June 22, 1940

As soon as the school year ended in June 1940, Jim set off to join the RCAF.  The nearest RCAF recruiting office was in Saskatoon, 90 miles away along a gravel road. Jim planned to hitchhike to save money, and fortunately he soon got a lift that took him most of the way. He walked the last 10 miles. Jim had enough money with him for supper and an inexpensive hotel room. By the end of the interview and tests, Jim was feeling pretty confident about how well he’d done.   It was too late in the day for Jim to start for home. He had only enough money for supper and one more night in the hotel; he didn’t have anything left for travel or for breakfast. The next morning, with an empty stomach, he started walking home. This time, no one would stop to pick…

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October 1940 – Getting the Call

October 10, 1940

In October, 1940 while Stocky was driving a team of huge black Percheron horses that were pulling a hay rack. The farmer’s wife hurried out to the fields from the farmhouse, to tell him his father was on the phone. Since his father never would have telephoned unless it was something important, Jim knew right away what the call must be about—his call-up notice had finally come.  He was to travel to the No. 2 Manning Depot in Brandon, Manitoba, to begin his training. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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January 1941 – Taking Flight

January 5, 1941

On a freezing morning in January 1941, three months after he had joined the air force. The plane was a bright yellow Tiger Moth, a single-engine biplane with a fabric-covered steel-and-wood frame and a wooden propeller. It had two enclosed cockpits and dual controls. The student sat in the front cockpit and the instructor…

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Summer 1941 – Bound For England

July 22, 1941

Stocky arrived in Halifax after four days on the train.  He boarded the troop ship “Ausonia” and left Halifax in the middle of July 1941, in a large convoy of ships guarded by corvettes and destroyers.  After a stop in Iceland, the ship reached the British Isles safely in early August, arriving in the harbour at Greenoch, Scotland. The next day, the airmen were loaded on trains heading south to England.   Stocky’s train took him all the way to Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. Hundreds of airmen who had trained in the BCATP were gathered there, waiting for their OTU assignments.   The train took him all the way to Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. Stocky was assigned to No. 55 OTU at Usworth, near Newcastle, where he learned that he would be flying Hurricanes and not Spitfires. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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October 1941 – Belly Landing

October 1, 1941

It was October 1, 1941 and Jim was taking off for his fifth flight of the day when his engine cut out, with no time for anything but a forced landing. He quickly chose a field, barely cleared its fence and brought his Hurricane down in a belly landing. The plane skidded along on the grass for about 75 yards, then came to a stop before it hit the next fence.  Stocky was unhurt and the plane had only slight damage to one panel on its underside, and would soon be flyable again. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards,…

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November 1941 – Africa Bound

November 22, 1941

Once the OTU was complete Stocky was given leave and he travelled to London, where his mother’s sister and her family lived.  Soon he and some of the other pilots were immediately ordered to get injections for cholera and other diseases. Then they were sent to pick up a new uniform, which included a tan-coloured tunic, shorts and knee socks. Obviously they were going somewhere tropical.  The North African Campaign was a desperate struggle, one which the Allies could not afford to lose. At stake was control of the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal. It was November 1941 and Stocky was on board a ship in a convoy, this time heading for Africa. The ship put in at the port of Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Britain had a naval base.  Stocky and some other pilots were put on a Sunderland Flying Boat and flew headed 800 miles…

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Spring 1942 – Slow the German Advance

March 22, 1942

Through the early spring of 1942, Jim’s 94 Squadron and its sister RAF squadron, 260, kept up their efforts to slow the German advance. With each squadron providing one flight of twelve planes, they escorted bombers every second day or so, unless a sandstorm shut them down. Often the Messerschmitt pilots were already in the air, waiting for them, when they arrived at the target. They would swoop down out of the sun, attacking the top-cover Kittyhawks first. Jim was still assigned to close cover, and he found it was frustrating. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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May 1942 – Field Posting

May 9, 1942

May 9th, 1942 – 94 Squadron was ordered out of the desert and sent to a base far behind the lines. Their losses had been heavy, and headquarters felt they needed a breather. However, seven of the most effective pilots, including Jim, were transferred to 260 Squadron. Since this squadron had been carrying out operations with 94, it simply meant walking across the airfield. With 260 Squadron, Stocky would soon see some of the most intense air combat of the Desert War. The month of June 1942 was particularly stressful, as the desert squadrons threw everything they had at the advancing German army on the ground.  By the second week of June, Jim had damaged or destroyed four more enemy fighters. He finally felt that he had mastered the tricky Kittyhawk. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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June 1942 – Dog Fight

June 17, 1942

On June 17th, Jim and other pilots from 260 were set upon by Messerschmitts while they were on a bomber-escort mission. As his own formation split apart under attack, Jim found himself wheeling and diving in a battle for his life. When an Me-109 closed in on him, he made a tighter turn than the…

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Fall 1942 – Hurricane to Kittyhawk

September 6, 1942

Through the late summer and early autumn of 1942, the battle raged, and 260 Squadron was on the front lines. On September 6, Jim and his fellow pilots faced their toughest test. They took off to intercept several Stuka bombers and their escort of Messerschmitt fighter planes. Jim was flying top cover, leading a section of four Kittyhawks. After only fifteen minutes of flying, he spotted the German formation, and minutes after that, two Me-109s peeled off from the other German fighter planes and attacked him from above. Jim turned his section to face the attackers, as they had practised. The Messerschmitts climbed quickly back to their own formation without firing. But that was just the beginning. The Messerschmitts now tried attacking in pairs, from both ends at once.  The German pilots attacking them were being lured farther and farther away from their own lines.  The desperate manoeuvring went on for twenty minutes as pairs of Messerschmitts attacked again and again.  Jim’s Section…

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February 1944 – A Crash in Italy

February 18, 1943

In February, 1943 Jim was leading his flight of 12 planes into an attack on a formation of Fokke-Wolf  190s and Messerschmidt 109’s. Then he dove after one Focke-Wolf that was trying to get away and finally hit it with a burst of machine-gun fire just a few hundred feet above the ground.  Almost at the same moment, his Spitfire shook with a violent explosion. Jim’s plane began to buck and shudder. He asked his wingman if he could see what was wrong with his aircraft. The Wingman replied “I can see right through your plane!”  An artillery shell had blow a 12-inch hole in the cockpit. Miraculously Jim was able to nurse his damaged airplane back to his base. Adapted from:  Hehner,…

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February 1943 – Distinguished Flying Cross

February 22, 1943

Stocky was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) in February, 1943.  The citation read, in part, “he has displayed outstanding coolness and courage in the face of the opposition while his cheerful and imperturbable spirit has been an inspiration to squadron.”  In the same month Stocky learned he had also been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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March 1943 – First Combat Mission

March 23, 1943

Word came down from headquarters that 94 Squadron would no longer be a Hurricane squadron. Instead, the pilots would learn to fly new American fighter planes called the Kittyhawk.  Stocky was determined to master the tricky plane. On March 23, 1942, Stocky was finally going on his first operational sortie (combat mission). Once again, the target was the German and Italian airfield at Martuba. Twelve planes each from two fighter squadrons—94 and 260—would escort twelve Boston light bombers from a South African bomber squadron. Stocky would be number two man, flying behind a more experienced pilot. Most fighter pilots, despite their training and bravery, never succeeded in destroying enemy aircraft in the air. To shoot one down on your first operational sortie was a rare feat. Within days, word of the young pilot’s achievement had spread to other squadrons. A senior officer dubbed him “the Hawk of Martuba.” Not…

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September 1943 – Battle of El Alamein

September 15, 1943

After the battle of El Alamein, the axis forces were in retreat.  But it took months of hard fighting before they were driven back through Egypt and Tunisia.  Jim’s squadron was in the campaign right to the end. Jim had flown almost 200 operational sorties and shot down more than fifteen…

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December 1943 – Spitfires At Last

December 10, 1943

In December 1943, after the North African campaign ended, Jim finally had his chance to fly Spitfires.  He joined 417 Squadron, based near Termoli, Italy, on the Adriatic Sea. This was the first time he had served with a Canadian squadron, and now had his chance to fly Spitfires in combat.  After just ten sorties with 417, Stocky was transferred to 92 Squadron of the RAF as a flight commander. The squadron soon moved from the Adriatic coast to the Mediterranean coast, providing air support for the Allied invasion of Anzio, a port 30 miles south of Rome. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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March 1944 – Squadron Leader Edwards

March 10, 1944

In March, Jim was promoted to Squadron Leader and given command of 274 Squadron of the RAF.  Twelve planes from 274 Squadron, with Jim in the lead, took off from Termoli for a staging mission near Rome.  Jim was climbing over the Apennines, the mountain range that runs down the middle of Italy, when his plane developed a Glycol leak.  Without Glycol, the Spitfire quickly overheated and the cockpit filled with choking white smoke. Jim planned to bail out but he realized it was too late to bail.  He spotted a small clearing right on top of the mountain and made a crash landing when the engine blew up. Flying overhead, his stunned squadron mates circled the wreckage, watching flames consume the Spitfire.  They saw no movement on the ground and returned to their base, reporting that their popular Squadron Leader had been lost. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk:…

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March 1944 – Saved by an Angel

March 12, 1944

Stocky awoke to see a beautiful woman in a white veil bending over him.  In a raspy voice he hardly recognized croaked “Am I in Heaven?” The woman smiled and said, “ Don’t worry, you’re with friends.”  Her lips kept moving but he couldn’t hear her and was gone again. The next time he woke up his head felt much clearer. The woman was with him again, and this time he recognized her as a military nurse.  The veil was part of her uniform. By chance someone had seen him come down: the…

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April 1944 – Back to England

April 5, 1944

As it turned out, Stocky would be in Italy for only a few more days, and he never led 274 Squadron over Italy again.  The whole squadron was ordered back to England. Stocky had now flown 278 sorties in the war, and had shot down more than 20 enemy planes.  It was April 1944, and he was still only 22 years old. After a ten-day leave, Stocky’s squadron, 274, and two other squadrons, 80 and 249, formed a new Spitfire squadron at RAF Station Hornchurch, on the east side of London. During this time, Stocky led 274 Squadron on sweeps over German-occupied France and escorted bombers as they hit bridges and enemy aerodromes .  He was flying a beautiful new plane, the latest Spitfire model. But the RAF pilots saw no enemy aircraft. It was as if the Luftwaffe had disappeared. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story…

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June 6th, 1944 – D-Day

June 5, 1944

On the evening of June 5th, 1944 it was Stocky’s twenty-third birthday.  Stocky and the other pilots were called to a briefing. They were told that the next morning would be D-Day.  Stocky’s squadron was tasked to provide air cover. The Channel was filled, as far as the eye could see, with ships and troop carriers heading from England to Normandy.  He could see troops struggling ashore under fire from the German gun batteries. But during the three flights he made on June 6th, and again on June 7th, he saw no enemy planes.  Still, there was danger from the guns below….

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August 1944 – Tempest Teaser

August 10, 1944

In early August, Stocky’s squadron was re-equipped with Tempest fighter planes, which were faster than Spitfires.  The pilot’s new assignment was to try to intercept V-1s. However, just a few weeks after the squadron got its Tempests, the RCAF ordered Stocky back to Canada for some rest.  He had flown 350 operational sorties in the war, more than he was supposed to without a break. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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Stocking Up and Taking Stock

October 10, 1944

Stocky was asked by the Canadian governments, as a fighter ace, to go on a tour.  He was to make speeches and sell war bonds. Fortunately the tour was in his home province of Saskatchewan.  He had a wonderful reunion with his parents and his two younger brothers. When Stocky’s war tour was finished, the air force sent him to headquarters in Winnipeg.  Next he was sent to the Service Flying Training School in Calgary to get some experience flying twin-engine planes – Ansons and Cranes – but he wondered when the air force would let him get back into the war. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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Spring 1945 – Wing Commander Edwards

March 23, 1945

Stocky had not been forgotten overseas.  The air force was looking for wing commanders for operations in Europe.  Stocky’s leadership qualities were just what the RCAF needed. He was called back to take command of 127 Wing, which was made up of four Canadian squadrons: 443, 421, 416, and 403, which had been the first RCAF squadron formed overseas.  Taking command o this own wing had been Stocky’s dream – and now it had come true. When Stocky returned to Europe to take command in the spring of 1945, American and Commonwealth forces were already pushing into Germany from the west.  Meanwhile, their Russian allies had entered Germany from the East. But the Germans were…

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April 1945 – Flak Attack

April 8, 1945

Although they seldom had opposition in the air, Allied planes were still being shot down and pilots being killed by flak from the ground.  In early April,1945, Stocky’s Spitfire was hit by a flak shell while he was attacking German gunboats in the Kiel Canal – only the second time in the war he had been hit.  Again, he was very lucky. The shell went straight through the left wing, taking out the cannon. He was still able to fly it back to base. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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May 1945 – Last Mission

May 3, 1945

On May 3, 1945, Stocky flew his 373rd and last combat mission of the war.  He was leading 443 Squadron over Kiel, Germany, when they spotted a lone enemy aircraft.  He and other members of his squadron fired at it until it went down. It was a Junkers 88 – just like the first aircraft he had ever seen, bombing his first base in North Africa.  Less that a week later, Germany surrendered and the war in Europe was over. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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February 1946 – Transition

February 18, 1946

Soon after, Stocky became commanding officer of the Centralia base, near London, Ontario.  In February 1946, while at a Valentine’s dance, Stocky met an air force nurse named Alice Antonio, known to her friends as “Toni.”  They dated several times, but Toni was transferred to Trenton, Ontario. It seemed that nothing more would come of this relationship.  At the same time, however, Stocky lost his wing commander rank and was demoted to squadron leader. Stocky wasn’t happy about that, but he knew many men who had advanced quickly in combat were now having their ranks reduces as the peacetime air force became smaller.  Later, his rank was bumped down again, to flight lieutenant on a short-service commission. This was the last straw for a proud young man that had risked his life for his country. Didn’t that count as proving yourself? Stocky went to see his…

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June 1946 – Vampires

June 23, 1946

In June 1946, Stocky married a nurse named Norma Alice Thatcher.  The newlyweds were planning a move to Toronto so that Stocky could attend Staff College.  However, just before the move he broke his leg in two places, sliding into third base in an air force baseball game.  When Stocky finished the course, he learned to his shock and disgust that he was to be posted to the RCAF station at Trenton, to tow drogues at a gunnery school.  Again he protested strongly. This time, a decision by the Canadian government came to his rescue. The RCAF was to buy 100 Vampire jets, and they would need fighter pilots to fly them and instruct other pilots.  Stocky’s skills were once more in demand. He became one of Canada’s first jet pilots in 1947. Soon he was the commanding officer of a base in St Hubert, Quebec (near Montreal). There he was able to train pilots in auxiliary squadrons 438 and 401 on Vampire jets. Adapted from:…

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June 1946 – Family Life

June 30, 1946

The Edwards had a daughter, Dorothy, born while they were in Toronto.  Another daughter, Jeanne, was born in Montreal. But when Jeanne was four months old, Stocky’s wife caught polio – a dreaded disease in the days before the vaccine – and died.  Nothing that had happened to Stocky during the war could compare to the grief and shock he felt now. His wife’s sister came to help…

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September 1952 – NATO

September 2, 1952

In 1949, the United States, Canada and ten nations in Europe signed an agreement to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The nations pledged to cooperate to defend themselves. As part of its obligations to NATO, Canada was to provide fighter squadrons that would be based in Europe.  Stocky commanded Number 2 Fighter Wing, which was made…

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March 2004 – Rideau Hall

March 15, 2004

In March 2004, Stocky received a phone call from Rideau Hall, the Ottawa residence of the Governor General, asking him if he would accept the Order of Canada.  This is the highest civilian honour that a Canadian can receive. It recognizes a lifetime of outstanding service to the nation. Stocky, of course, said yes. Adapted from:  Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.

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Phase 1: Beginnings (1999-2008)

June 11, 2018

Phase 1:  Beginnings (1999-2008)

Few aircraft hold such a place of love and respect in a nation’s aviation history that they can be called “iconic”. For members of the British Commonwealth, the iconic fighter aircraft of World War Two was the Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire was physically beautiful, with graceful lines and elliptical wings, while at the same time it was deadly efficient in air combat. Many of the pilots who flew it, including Wing Commander Stocky Edwards of Comox, BC, say it was a dream machine to fly – it responded beautifully to light control input and could turn circles around enemy aircraft. Spitfire Mark IX Serial Number…

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Phase 2: Partnership with VWC in Comox (2008-2014)

June 11, 2018

Phase 2: Partnership with VWC in Comox (2008-2014)

Restoration proceeded slowly but surely, despite heroic volunteer efforts to raise funds and awareness. The pace was dictated by funds and by 2007, when the original plans had said the aircraft would be flying, only the fuselage and tail of Y2K were completed. Volunteer enthusiasm was being tested and it was becoming increasingly clear that considerable funds were going to be needed to finish this project: now anticipated  to be over $2 million, a number twice the original estimate and several orders of magnitude beyond any CAFM fund raising campaign. The wings alone could cost upwards of $1.5 Million. Additionally, concerns were being raised about operating the finished aircraft, since personnel, facilities and resources to fly, hangar and display her were non-existent. It is worth noting that these concerns had been voiced as far back as 2002, but people had soldiered on, hoping for a breakthrough.  In 2008, a formal analysis was conducted by a team of experts, convened by the Wing Commander. The team looked at all available options…

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Phase 3: VWOC in Gatineau (2014-2017)

June 11, 2018

Phase 3: VWOC in Gatineau (2014-2017)

The original VWOC plan was to ship the completed wings to Comox, using available hangar space in the GRA for the installation of the wings on the fuselage.  In 2011 the Spitfire workshop was renovated, increasing the workspace to install the wings. However, in order to get the aircraft out of the workshop the wings would have to be removed, this is difficult and time consuming.  The problems with using a 19 Wing hangar were threefold: it would take up valuable hangar space, all VWOC staff would need ongoing GRA access, and the aircraft would not be accessible to the public. Read the full story here

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Note: Stocky Edwards’ Timeline adapted from: Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace; HarperCollins Canada.