“Today, as I read Alis the Aviator with my cousin, Laura, and her 8-year-old nephew, Kyle, the three of us learned more about the different aircraft seen in the skies. We took turns reading about each plane. I told them that when I first started writing about WWII RCAF aviators, I had never heard of a Tiger Moth or a Mosquito. I thought they were flying insects!
As we read through the book, memories of men who I had the honour and privilege of interviewing came to mind. I told Laura and Kyle about them. George Hogg, Mosquito pilot. Bob O’Connor, Mosquito navigator. Hugh McGregor, Lancaster mid-upper gunner. Bob Petersen, Lancaster rear gunner. Cliff Black, Lancaster pilot. Larry Robinson, Lancaster rear gunner. And of course, Gordon Jones, Tiger Moth pilot instructor.
I met other World War II veterans because of Gordon and his Tiger Moth: Rae Churchill, Albemarle and Whitley pilot. Bob Spooner, Tiger Moth instructor then Typhoon pilot.
After reading the book and putting it aside to start the paper airplane craft I brought along with me from Danielle’s book launch at Owl’s Nest Bookstore here in Calgary, I asked Kyle what his favourite plane was from the book. He said it was the Lancaster. He told me that he and his family during their summer trip across the country visited the National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario. He was able to sit in a Hercules. I suggested he visit The Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary and the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, Alberta to see more planes featured in Alis the Aviator.
My cousin, a teacher (like I used to be), commented to me afterwards how wonderful the book was for school and she was going to recommend it to many of her colleagues who teach Grade 6 Science. Always looking for connections, she thought about reports on each type of aircraft — and then of course, creating paper airplanes.
Alis the Aviator brought back fond memories for me — not just of the Tiger Moth and Gordon Jones, but also of the many men, most no longer with us now, who trusted me with sharing of their wartime stories and experiences.
Anne Gafiuk is a Calgary-based researcher, writer, and personal historian. Check out her work at www.whatsinastory.ca and www.thetyphoonproject.org