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WWII

These collections contains all materials relating to Canadian from 1939 to 1945. Some individual collections may contain materials beyond this time frame. External links in collection descriptions are to casualty and burial information at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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Gerald Dow enlisted on January 11, 1943 and served overseas with the Essex Scottish Regiment. Dow was taken prisoner at Caen, France on July 20, 1944 and remained a prisoner until his liberation by American troops in April 1945. The collection currently consists of eight letters, three telegrams and three postcards.

Flight Lieutenant Lawrence John Drewry was born in Whonnock, British Columbia, on December 21, 1916.

He enlisted during WWII with the Royal Canadian Air Force, initially training in Brandon, Manitoba, and later at the Royal Air Force Flying College on Darrell’s Island in Bermuda. He spent much of the war serving as a R.C.A.F. officer attached to the R.A.F., Middle East, with the No. 47 & No. 294 Squadrons.

The letters in the collection were written by Drewry to his twin sister Mildred (newly married as Mrs. John Flynn) while she was living first in Ottawa and then back home in Whonock (as it was spelled at that time).

External links:

F/L Drewry (Serv/Reg# J8629) survived the war; his service record is not open to public access at this time.

Reginald Carl Francis Duffy was born in 1920 and enlisted with the RCAF in January, 1941. During the war he flew as a pilot on Wellington bombers and served overseas in Britain, Africa, and Malta. Following the war Duffy returned to Canada and worked as a school teacher and principal in New Brunswick. Duffy died in 1986. The collection consists of his diary which he kept from January to August, 1943.

Louis Dureault was from Wolseley, Saskatchewan. Dureault enlisted in 1943 and served overseas with the South Saskatchewan Regiment, including the D-Day invasion. He was wounded in August, 1944 and remained in various hospitals until he returned home in October, 1945. He died in 2005 at the age of eighty. The collection currently consists of more than seventy letters from 1944 and 1945.

Stanley William Evans was born in Calgary, Alberta in April, 1923.  Evans enlisted in Calgary in September, 1941 and served overseas in Britain and Europe before he was demobilized in October, 1945.  The collection consists of more that forty letters and several other items.

Eric Morgan Finn was born in December 1920, the son of Arthur and Hilda Finn of Toronto,  He enlisted with the RCAF and served in Newfoundland as part of a Liberator crew engaged in anti-submarine activity.  Finn was on his way home for leave on Liberator Harry when it crashed in Quebec on October 20, 1943, killing all twenty four on board.  It remains the worst accident in Canadian military aviation history.  The collection currently consists of one letter written by Finn and two photographs.

Sydney Thomas Fisher was from Victoria, British Columbia.  Fisher joined the RCAF, was attached to 35 Squadron RAF, and was shot down on September 15, 1941, and remained a prisoner of war until the end of the war.  The collection currently consists of his correspondence both before and during his time as a POW, as well as clippings and other miscellaneous items.

John Ernest Fitzgerald, DFM, was born on January 27, 1925, the son of John and Effie Fitzgerald of New Westminster, British Columbia. Fitzgerald served as a Flight Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was killed August 27, 1944 when his Lancaster was shot down. Fitzgerald and all the crew members are buried in Denmark. The collection consists of more than forty letters, twelve photographs, telegrams, and other personal items. See also the excellent Danish site for more information about the crash and crew.

Joseph "Jo" Forman served overseas with the RCAF as a navigator. Forman and his crew were shot down over France on July 25, 1944 during a mission. Forman survived and returned to Canada at the end of the war. The collection currently consists of an extended memoir of his time with the RCAF.

Donald McPherson Fraser was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, on October 3, 1912. His family had emigrated to Canada. He joined the Canadian army in 1939, with the Rocky Mountain Rangers. He spent the first part of the war in the Canadian army, until the British loss at Dunkirk . Donald then became one of the CanLoan officers lent to the British Army by Canada in an effort to refill the British officer ranks. Donald served with the Duke of Wellington regiment and subsequently with the Welsh Borderers; both units part of the 49th Polar Bear Division. He took part in the D-Day invasion and was wounded in the early days of that action, but returned to active service by July 1944, when he won the Military Cross. During his service with the British Army Donald received two battlefield promotions, being discharged with the rank of Major. He married and had four children after the war, spending the rest of his life in British Columbia. He settled in Nanaimo, where he lived until his passing in 1997. This collection consists of one photograph and a number of personal items.

Joseph Mack Freeman was born in March, 1909 in Innisfail, Alberta. Freeman joined the army in 1941 and returned to Canada in August, 1945. He died in Didsbury, Alberta in October, 1953. The collection consists of his scrapbook of photographs, postcards, and clippings from his time in the army.

Ed Gallagher was from Australia, born in 1916. He was a Wireless Airgunner who spent his war years (1941-1943) flying out of Mt. Batten (Plymouth, England) and Pembroke Dock (Wales) on Sunderlands. These two letters, part of a collection of 106 letters, describe his impressions of Canada as an Australian on his way to war in 1941 and in 1943 waiting to return to Australia. He was at the time writing to Molly Thomson, who he married in 1943 on his return to Australia.

The collection consists of two letters from Europe to Canada written in 1945, two photographs, and four miscellaneous documents.

Ferruccio Joseph (Fritz) Giacomelli was born in Hamilton, Ontario in November, 1920. He trained in Canada as an Air Observer before going to England in April, 1942, flying with the 149 Squadron and later the 419 Squadron. Giacomelli returned to Canada at the end of the war, and died in 1981. The collection currently consists of four letters and several photographs.

Gordon Lloyd Gibson enlisted with the RCAF in 1942 at the age of twenty two.  In 1944 he was flying with RAF 268 Squadron and flew thirty seven tactical missions between May and August 1944. Gibson returned to Canada at the end of the war.  The collection currently consists of one letter which describes the D-Day invasion from the perspective of a pilot.

James Gibson was from Irving's Landing, British Columbia. He served as a Pilot Officer with the 425 Squadron RCAF. He died July 29, 1944 and is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in The United Kingdom. The collection consists of one airgraph home to his father, one group photograph, a birth certificate and several condolence messages regarding Gibson's death.

Albert Norman Gould was born on July 19, 1923, the son of Albert and Dorothy Gould of Toronto, Ontario. He enlisted with the RCAF in early 1943. Following his training in Canada, Pilot Officer Gould was posted overseas in 1944. Gould was flying with the 101st Squadron when he and his crew were shot down over Speck, Germany on November 4, 1944. He and his crew are buried at the Rheinberg War Cemetery in Germany. The collection currently consists of thirty-seven letters.

Flight Sergeant John (Jack) Balfour Gray Jr. was born in Trail, British Columbia, on January 21, 1921, the son of John Balfour Gray Sr. and Wilhelmina (née McAllister) Gray. Jack had two older siblings: sister Phyllis Wilma and brother Robert Hampton. The family soon moved to Nelson, B.C., where Jack’s father established a business as a jeweller and watchmaker.

Jack enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.C.A.F.) in Vancouver, B.C., on June 28, 1940. Following training as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, he served in England with the R.C.A.F. 144 (R.A.F.) Squadron, Bomber Command. On February 27, 1942, while returning from night operations over Germany, Jack was killed along with his three fellow crew members when their Handley Page Hampden bomber crashed at Warmsworth, near Doncaster, in Yorkshire, England. He was buried at the Doncaster (Rose Hill) Cemetery.

The letters in the collection are written by Jack to his mother and father in Nelson, B.C., and to his sister Phyllis (m. Gautschi). Among those most frequently mentioned in the letters are his brother Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, VC, DFC, who during this time was training as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Hampton was killed on August 9, 1945, just days before the end of the war. Also frequently mentioned is Jack’s closest friend, R.C.A.F. Flight Sergeant Henry (Harry) F.C. Humphries.

In a number of his letters Jack writes about the film Target for Tonight, the Academy Award winning documentary film about an R.A.F. bomber crew conducting a bombing raid over Germany. Jack’s squadron participated in the production of the film, with Jack (and his friend Harry) appearing several times in the scenes where the aircrews are being briefed. More information is available in CLIP’s Special Items Collection Target for Tonight.

External links:
F/S John Balfour Gray’s Service Record (Serv/Reg# R58225) can be viewed/downloaded in pdf format through Library and Archives Canada.
Burial information is available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
A memorial page honouring Gray can be visited online at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Lieut. Robert Hampton Gray's Service Record (Serv/Reg# V13438) is available online through Library and Archives Canada.
F/S Henry F.C. Humphries (Serv/Reg# R54094) survived the war; his Service Record is not open for public access at this time.

The film Target for Tonight, hosted by the Imperial War Museums website; the film has been divided into six separate media files of between six to eleven minutes each in length.

[Editor’s notes:
Collection reviewed/updated June-July 2022. Transcriptions proofed and corrections made where applicable, and content descriptions reviewed/expanded. Some new materials  have been added; no materials have been removed but duplicate postings, if present, will have been corrected.
Additional materials for the John (Jack) Gray Collection, along with those of other members of the Gray family, have been recently received and are anticipated to be made available online in the late fall of 2022.
On given name/surname use: “Jack” has been used rather than the surname/given name in order to clearly distinguish between other similarly named family members, both here and in related Gray family Collections. (”Jack” was the name most widely, and often exclusively, used by friends and family.)]

Able Seaman John Teaton Gray was born in Central Kingsclear, New Brunswick, on November 25, 1924, to parents Robert Michael and Florence Grace (née Pincombe) Gray.

Gray enlisted with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve on October 28, 1942. The letters in the collection were written while he was stationed at the shore establishments of H.M.C.S. Brunswicker, H.M.C.S. Cornwallis, and H.M.C.S. Stadacona; and while serving aboard H.M.S. Caldwell and H.M.C.S. Huron. Gray was demobilized on September 20, 1945.

Most of the letters in the collection were written by Gray to members of his family back home on the family farm near Fredericton, New Brunswick. But also included is a letter written to Florence Grace Gray from her brother Private Phillip H. Pincombe (Ser# G50737), serving with 25th Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland.

External links:
Gray’s Service Record (Serv/Reg# V50367), as with most records of WWII veterans not killed in service, is not publicly available at this time.

Lieutenant Robert Hampton (Hammie/Hammy) Gray, VC, DSC, was born in Trail, British Columbia, on November 2, 1917, to parents John Balfour Gray Sr. and Wilhelmina (née McAllister) Gray. Hampton had one older sister, Phyllis Wilma, and one younger brother, John (Jack) Balfour Jr. The young family soon moved to Nelson, B.C., where Hampton’s father established a business as a jeweller and watchmaker. After completing high school in Nelson in 1936, Hampton initially enrolled at the University of Alberta, later transferring to the University of British Columbia.

With Canada now at war, Gray enlisted on July 18, 1940, at HMCS Tecumseh in Calgary with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR). After an initial training period in England, Gray was assigned to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm for training as a fighter pilot.

While serving aboard the HMS Formidable Gray was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for “determination and address in air attacks on targets in Japan” following the sinking of a Japanese destroyer on July 28, 1945. (The London Gazette, August 21, 1945). He was killed on August 9, 1945, while leading an air raid on the naval base at Onagawa Bay, Japan. Gray was posthumously awarded the Commonwealth’s highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross (VC), “for great valor in leading an attack on a Japanese destroyer in Onagawa” (The London Gazette, Nov. 13, 1945).

The letters in the Hampton Gray Collection begin shortly after his 1940 enlistment and continue through the war to the summer of 1945. Almost all were written by Hampton to his parents in Nelson, B.C., or to his sister Phyllis in Calgary, Alberta. Many of the letters mention Hampton’s brother Jack who was serving in England with the Royal Canadian Air Force. More information on Jack Gray, including over thirty of Jack’s wartime letters, can be found in the John (Jack) Balfour Gray Collection.

External links:
Lt. Gray’s Service Record (Reg/Ser# V13438) is available online through Library and Archives Canada.
Burial information is available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
A memorial page honouring Gray can be visited online at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

The awarding to Gray of the Distinguished Service Cross was published in The London Gazette on August 21, 1945 (# 37232, p. 7221); the awarding of the Victoria Cross was published on November 13, 1945 (# 37346, p. 5529).

Among the many memorials and tributes made to Lt. Gray’s service:
Gray is one of fourteen Canadians honoured at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario; is among those commemorated on the Halifax Memorial, Point Pleasant, Halifax, Nova Scotia; and is a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

On March 12, 1946, the Geographic Board of Canada designated “Grays Peak” within the Kokanee Mountain Range, British Columbia, in remembrance of both RCNVR Lt. Robert Hampton Gray and his brother RCAF Flight Sergeant John Balfour Gray.

His mother, Mrs. Wilhelmina Gray, was appointed as the 1969 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother, participating in the 1969 Remembrance Day wreath laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on behalf of all mothers of children who have been lost while in military service.

[Editor’s note: Additional materials for the Robert Hampton Gray Collection, along with other members of the Gray family, have been recently received and are anticipated to be made available online in the late fall of 2022.]

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Latest Readings from World War Two collections

Rick Mercer

Reads a 10/25/1943 Letter by Styles, Jack Morris from World War Two collections. View full Letter

The Right Honourable David Johnston

Reads a 05/28/1944 Letter by Senton, Claude from World War Two collections. View full Letter

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Reads a Memoir by Selfe, C.A. (Tony) from World War Two collections. View full Memoir