EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, November 4, 2011

Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded to Chapleau RCAF members included one recipient having drink of scotch with King George VI during World War II

There were 4018 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force who received the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II, and Chapleau is included among those who received the DFC for acts of valour or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.
For Willard Bolduc, the son of Joseph Telesfore, who died while on active service with Canadian Forces in World War I, and Barbara (McWatch) Bolduc, it meant receiving his DFC from King George VI at a field investiture In England, and even enjoying a drink of Scotch with His Majesty.
In a letter to his mother, Willard Bolduc, wrote that the King and Queen Elizabeth came for his investiture, which "should make folks sit up and take notice". On the same day he was promoted from pilot officer to flying officer.
He told his mother, according to a newspaper report at the time, that now she may now address "my mail to F.O. Bolduc, D.F.C" adding "I never knew I would ever have any letters after my name - it makes you feel sort of important."
Flying Officer Bolduc explained that he did not go to Buckingham Palace because they had a field investiture where the King and Queen came to their station.
"We had a full parade and I had to march out by myself in front of everyone and the King shook hands with me and pinned on the medal."
Aftrewards, their Majesties joined them for a chicken dinner.
"Before dinner we all had a drink of Scotch in the anteroom with (the King), so now I can say I had a drink of Scotch with the King of England!"
At the end of his letter, Willard admitted to his mother, "But believe me, I was really scared stiff. I could hardly talk and my knees were knocking and everything else. I guess you can say your crazy son is really getting around, eh Mom?"
The department of veterans affairs web site says: Flying Officer Willard John Bolduc. an Ojibwa from Chapleau, Ontario earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his performance as an air gunner during a series of bombing attacks in 1943."
Baisel Benjamin Collings, the son of Clarence and Olive (Shillington) Collings, enlisted in the RCAF in August 1941, rose to rank of Warrant Officer One, and his citation for the DFC noted that he had completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty."
It says that he completed two tours of operations, adding that "Warrant Officer Collings has at all times displayed outstanding ability and a strong sense of duty, and he holds a fine record of achievement on the squadron.

"His untiring devotion to duty in moments of danger has been largely responsible for the successful completion of his crew's many sorties, and by his example of cheerful courage, has maintained a very high standard of morale among, not only his crew members, but the squadron in general."
Donald Boyd Freeborn. the son of Earle and Agnes (McAdam) Freeborn first enlisted as a boy apprentice in the Royal Air Force, was accepted but stayed home as the eldest of eight children when his father died in 1937 one month before Donald was to set sail for England.
He enlisted in the RCAF in October 1941 rising to the rank of Flying Officer.
On one occasion his Lancaster bomber was shot down behind enemy lines in Holland. Writing in Chapleau Trails, edited and published by Dr. Bill Pellow, his sister Beth noted that "Don and his navigator survived the crash and were hidden in the basement of a Dutch family until they could be spirited back to allied territory." Although reported "missing in action", he was returned to flying Lancaster bombers.
Another incident recorded about his service overseas was that "One night in October 1944 this officer captained an aircraft detailed to attack Stuttgart. On the bombing run the aircraft was subjected to anti-aircraft fire. Flying Officer Freeborn was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the thigh. The wound was serious. Nevertheless this pilot withheld the fact from his crew and pressed home his attack. Not until the bombs had been released did he call for assistance. It became necessary to apply a tourniquet to his leg, an operation which Flying Officer Freeborn himself superintended. In spite of much physical suffering this resolute pilot flew the aircraft to this country. He displayed courage, fortitude and devotion to duty of a high order."
Donald Freeborn was awarded the DFC with Bar.
He is a member of a Chapleau family long dedicated to community service with his grandfather J.D. McAdam and father Earle both serving as reeve, while his brother Earle served as reeve/mayor and brother Elmer as a councillor.
Lloyd George McDonald. commonly called by his nickname 'Sparrow" was born in Chapleau in 1918, graduated from Chapleau High School in 1937, then attended the University of Toronto, and enlisted in the RCAF in 1941.
He was posted to Number 426 Squadron and the information on the DFC award reads: "This officer has completed a large number of sorties against enemy targets, including Berlin and Brunswick. At all times he has displayed the highest degree of navigational skill and has been in no small way responsible for the successful completion of many operations. On one occasion his aircraft was severely damaged by an enemy fighter but, working under extreme difficulties, Flying Officer McDonald successfully navigated his aircraft back to an emergency base in this country where a safe landing was made. His navigational skill, coolness and determination have been of the highest order."
After the war Sparrow McDonald returned to work for the Canadian Press where he had started while attending university and worked in Washington and New York for years. He also covered the United Nations and the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. Later he headed to Winnipeg Bureau then was chief of Ontario service, then features and night editor.
Willard Bolduc, Baisel Collings, Donald Freeborn, and Lloyd McDonald were among the estimated 350 Chapleau men and women who served in Canada's armed forces in World War II, an incredible number, given the size of the community, all of whom are now referred to as the Greatest Generation. And indeed they are as I reflect on them and the lives they all lived, ordinary men and women from a small community in Northern Ontario who left their homes and families to do the exceptional. Some returned, others did not. Thank you to all of them. Lest we forget!
My sincere thanks to Doug Greig, Dr. Bill Pellow and the Bolduc, Collings and Freeborn families who contributed to Chapleau Trails, and to "Sparrow McDonald, gone now, but a journalist who I was so privileged to interview at the Chapleau High School 60th anniversary reunion in 1982. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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