Wednesday, April 6, 2022


March 2022 After much thinking about all the information in this blog, and the sometimes transitory nature of the internet, I decided it might be a good idea to put all the blog posts in a book. Well, I am amazed at what it looks like and feels like! It's a real book. It has a cover, it has an introduction, it has an epilogue, it is in colour with all those photos, log book entries and diary pages.
I sent copies to my siblings and their children, cousins and those friends who helped me along the way finding out all the details of this story. This means that should the internet monster swallow up this blog, there is physical evidence that my thoughts existed. These are powerful thoughts, I must say. Onwards!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

More from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

January 8, 2020 - Just when I thought nothing could surprise me, the following email arrived on December 28, 2019.

Dear Anne,
I hope you are doing well! I am writing to you about your father’s escape kit (which came in the badly decaying box). When I was processing the collection, I sent it to our conservation lab to determine whether it could be saved and whether or not we could keep it. Our conservator removed all of the individual items from the box (as the box was beyond saving), but has let me know that it is a ‘hard no’ – we cannot keep it because it contains both food and matches. I am very disappointed by this news, as you can imagine. We are having the pieces of the kit photographed, and that photograph will be included in our collection.
I mentioned to our conservator that the war museum uses epoxy in their ration kits, which results in everything being incased in a hard and completely clear resin, which can be handled and viewed without it rotting or degrading further. I saw this first-hand when I took a course there this summer.  Unfortunately, this is not an option for us, but she suggested that perhaps the War Museum might be interested, as they would have the ability to preserve it. This item is quite a rare one from what I can see – interestingly the Imperial War Museum in London does have one and it’s from someone who was also a Spitfire pilot in your father’s regiment (the 222 ‘Natal’).
I checked the Canadian War Museum collections list and they do not have a kit like this. I checked the website for the museum and they have a form for donation that would need to be filled out (they do not accept inquiries without this form). I can fill out the form, but it would require your signature. Please let me know if this is something you are interested in.
I am attaching a quick photograph that I snapped of the material out of the box. Interestingly, there are Benzedrine tablets (an amphetamine) with a strict warning that one could only take a tablet every six hours but that it would keep you awake and alert for those six hours!  
If you decide not to try with the war museum or if they turn us down, please let me know what you would like me to do with it (dispose of it or send it back to you).
All the best and I apologize to be coming to you with this bad news,
Danielle Van Wagner
Special Collections Librarian
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
University of Toronto
And then Danielle sent the following -
Dear Anne,

Thank you for your email and your kind words and I am happy to report that I have good news! I contacted the war museum for further details on their donation process and found that they are not accepting donations until mid-2020 (this is a fairly common practice for institutions with a large back log of donations as it allows them to catch up). However, I then thought of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, which is also a very good institution (and they have a Spitfire on display). I contacted them and received a very enthusiastic response that they are very happy to take it! I think this a great solution as the Warplane museum is more specifically about the air force and pilots and it will have a better chance of being displayed and used. I hope this is an acceptable outcome for you too.

I’ll be in touch later with any specific donation paperwork.

All the best,
And so that's where the Escape Kit is now. My brothers are arranging to go and see it soon.

Here is a photo of the contents laid out at the Fisher Library before it was sent off.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The End of Yet Another Chapter

May 24, 2019 - I have become concerned about what will happen to all the bits and pieces, which you will have read about on this blog, after I have gone. It has become quite a collection - telling a really good story of my parents. It becomes quite a responsibility for another family member to take it on.

Just when I think the final chapter has been written on this piece of work, something else happens. Fortunately, it is usually something really positive.

"My cousin Janet (Ade) Dewan who lives in Toronto, Canada is an avid supporter and contributor to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto -   Last October, she approached PJ Carefoote (head of the Fisher's Special Collections) to ask if he'd be receptive to having my material.  Because Janet has been connected with the Fisher for 30 years,  PJ knows her well and said Yes, so Janet wrote to me. I canvassed my siblings and Janet negotiated with PJ  - with emails and phone calls ongoing to clarify details both before and after after your decision to donate.

It was later in November that Danielle Van Wagner became involved.  To make material accessible to the public, a finding aid is created for a collection.  Danielle was already working on the finding aid for Janet's ongoing Tripe family donations and doing a terrific job, so she was the obvious choice to work on my parents' collection.

And so on with the story.

Over this past January, Danielle came to visit her mother and was able to drop in here to have a look at the collection. She was so positive and encouraging.

The UPS truck arrived on March 29, 2019 and took three boxes off to Toronto where they were received and the contents were being catalogued.

And the icing on the cake was a Spring Open House held at the Fisher Library and Danielle was able to put together a display of some of our items - see photos below.

My own thoughts on this part of the tale are mixed. From the time, all those years ago when I received Mom’s diaries from her and then when Dad’s Flight Logs were given to me by my brother for safe keeping, I have followed the story along. It has become my story too, of course.

It is the story of many Canadian families in the late 1930s and 1940s. While the details may vary, the times were such that one did one’s duty to King and country. And one did that especially if your parents were from England and they felt threatened even though England was an ocean away.

And so with the all the help and proddings and from my four cousins - David and John Hall, Dad's sister Margaret's sons; and Janet (Ade) Dewan and Barbara (Ade) Tangney, Dad's sister Marian's daughters along with all the other people in Canada and in Europe, this collection has found a perpetual home. All the folks above made this possible and I can't thank them enough.

It is very clear that my Dad wanted to fly. He must have loved going up in the Lazair Ultralight when he was in his 60s even if it wasn’t a Spitfire.

Of course, I have regrets too. The obvious one is that when one is a child/teenager/young adult, one is very self-absorbed, I find. I certainly was. I didn’t ask the questions and I should have. But I doubt that I am alone in this. A person does get wiser as one ages.

I hope I’ve done my parents proud with this project. It’s certainly been a labour of love and a wonderful adventure meeting my friends across the pond and here in my own country.

Here are some photos of the exhibition at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto in March of this year.

Danielle Van Wagner and my cousin Janet Dewan.

Two of Elizabeth (Rannie) Tripe's diaries. The bottom one is open to D-Day and the scribblings are mine, I was 3 nearly 4!

Dad's Flight Book open to his last entry for WWII.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Search Continues

April 24, 2019

A new friend has turned up some wonderful newspaper clippings from The Ottawa Journal about my Dad which I can share. These may have been submitted to the newspaper by my grandparents.

Here we go, starting with 1939.

Next we go to 1940, The Ottawa Journal -
And 1941, The Ottawa Journal -
And 1943, The Ottawa Journal -

And 1944, The Ottawa Journal -

And finally 1945, The Ottawa Journal -

There is still more to tell about this latest information but here are a couple of observations:

1. Don't you just love the tea? It's what they did back then.

2. I find the reference in the January 12, 1945 article to the people in India's Punjab very interesting. The "sponsoring" of an RAF squadron seems rather quaint these days but that's what happened.

3. I would love to hear that radio interview done in Belgium which was aired on the Ottawa radio station CKCO. I wonder how the station got the recording? How was it recorded?

More as we move along. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mapping a wartime journey

March 15, 2019

I have been doing an inventory of all the material I have dealing with Dad's WWII time. In doing so, I thought it might be interesting to do a map of all the bases he was stationed at from 1939 to 1945. Here is the result - .

Sunday, November 25, 2018

2018 Addition

November 25, 2018

I think it would be a good idea to add 2 more blog addresses to this one. The first one is about my daughter Holly and my trip to Luxembourg to see old friends. Here is the URL for that blog -

And the second trip was to As and to Luxembourg with my sister Louise on the occasion of the launch of a book written by our friends Karel and Willem about WWII. Here is the URL for that blog -


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

After All This Time

June 7, 2016 - A small package of documents arrived this week, sent by my sister Louise, to my great delight. I am putting a couple of them here along with a couple of comments.

First - these two photos were carried in my Dad's wallet for many years. One is of me in Chester at Deva Terrace and the other is of Mom. I'm not sure where it was taken but it's a beauty. I do remember he still my picture in his wallet in the late 50s as I saw it there once by accident. I believe these photos went to war with him.

And then there is a letter Dad wrote in answer to author Martin Middlebrook. Middlebrook was doing research for his book The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission published in 1983.

Middlebrook quoted Dad in the book and used some of this letter verbatim - pages 184, 186.

So even as the years roll on, more bits and pieces of our family's history continue to arrive on my desk. I am grateful for it all.