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Second World War veteran shares the scoop on servicing Spitfires

October 14th, 2020

Points West Living Moose Jaw resident Al Cameron was just a young teen in July 1940 when the Battle of Britain began. But within three years, he had enlisted in the RCAF and began serving on the airfields of Britain and Italy as an Aircraft Technician 2nd Class. Al was invited by 15 Wing Moose Jaw to participate in CFB Moose Jaw’s September commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and was interviewed about his work on Spitfires during the war.

Honouring the fallen

Al Cameron’s role in the September 20th ceremony was to read the names of the young men from the Moose Jaw area who lost their lives during the Battle of Britain. In an interview conducted by 15 Wing Moose Jaw and posted to their facebook page,

Al talks about how important it is to remember the fallen. “We must never lose contact with the people that by fighting and giving up their lives gave us this world to live in,” Al says. “Without the sacrifice of all the people who were killed in the war, we never would have the quality of life that we have now.”

Hurricane or Spitfire?

As an Airframe Technician during the war, Al was happy to weigh in when asked to compare the merits of two fighter planes, the Hurricane and the Spitfire. “The Spitfire is a ground crew’s dream,” Al says. “The Spitfire was the best aircraft I ever worked on. It was built to be maintained. When you’re taking off and landing 20 trips a day and they’re bombing and strafing and so on, they’d just go and do their thing and come back and gas up, and away they’d go again. To change a tire on a Spitfire you’d get about ten guys and lift up on the wing, change the tire and let it down! From what I did and from the pilots I knew, they much preferred the Spitfire”

Tail riders

Al describes how ground crew members were used to weigh down the tail of the Spitfire to give the propeller clearance for a clean take off. “When they scrambled to go, a ground crew guy would have to jump to sit on the tail, and ride the tail down till they got to the end of the runway, then he rolled off and the airplane would take off.” Al recalls sadly that two ground crew colleagues didn’t get off the tail in time, and both were killed; one falling from the plane in flight and the other upon landing.

An honour to be included

When the war ended, Al stayed with the Air Force and by 1965 he was an officer in charge of the flight line. He ended his career as an Aeronautical Engineer. Al is the only Air force WWII veteran in Moose Jaw. He said it was a very big honour for him to be included in the Battle of Britain event, and has been told that this is just the start for his visits to 15 Wing, which by the way, is located just a stone’s throw from PWL Moose Jaw.

Photo montage: (Clockwise from left) Al Cameron at PWL Moose Jaw; (top right) screen capture from 15 Wing Moose Jaw Facebook page video of interview with Al; and (lower right) Al’s medals.

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