I have written about Ferry Command several other times here on this blog. There is an important update on the books being written about it, and our area's important role within the operation.
As Ted Beaudoin - the author of an upcoming book on the subject - states below, we owe a LOT to the men and women who were part of this effort 70 years ago. My own mother witnessed the events that happened in Pembina/Emerson, two of the locations involved in this massive and critical operation during a dark time for the world. Our communities were two links in a very large and long chain that meant the difference. Ted does not overstate the importance of what this meant. I urge you to read this synopsis of what his book will be about - it's truly awe-inspiring!
Earth Angels Rising
© By Ted Beaudoin
Book 2 in the Walking on Air trilogy
To begin with, this book offers slam-dunk evidence which now reveals that Canada was the duct-tape-and-super-glue combination used by thousands of civilians to bind a scared and fragmenting world from falling apart between 1937 and 1943.
These civilians did not do all of it alone, of course. To start their world-wide healing process, they had the best of almost official help in the very highest of places on two continents - mostly very secretly, but sometimes in the wide-open - from some of the most powerful of international politicians and some ultra high-powered allied military officers, often involving high-risk smoke-and-mirrors...dog-and-pony show type of antics - make that tactics.
But somehow, in the history books of the world, the enormous contributions of Ferry Command civilians from at least 23 countries have been highly trivialized and in some cases completely overlooked by historians and authors alike since the end of World War II.
This book sets out to correct this oversight - or snub – by telling some of the stories of how these civilians helped our Allied Armed Forces save the world - Who they were, where they came from, what they did, and often how they did it.The headline for the first chapter reveals how, in 1940…
- Six small Canada / USA border towns turned the world right-side up.Telling some of their stories means that today – 70 years after World War II really began - they can be extended the credit and honours due to them – credit and honours which allied nations and their historians have somehow overlooked.
- The few civilians in these towns were soon joined by nearly 3,500 other civilians, from the 21 countries listed on the cover of the book – if not more … and they served with Allied Armed Forces who they rescued, from 23 world-wide bases, also listed on the cover.
- Who could believe today that gravity, a farmer with two horses, a tractor, a national railway’s air services department and a few other civilians in six small border towns sitting on the Canada / USA border could have played the most important role in setting up the first united defensive shots of World War II
The time has come to tell their stories and the stories of the other civilians who came to the rescue of the Allied Armed Forces … to me, they were earth angels rising to the occasion.
• Sweetgrass, Montana and Coutts, Alberta (west side of North America, straddling the Canada/USA border)By 1940, China was reeling from Japanese blows, Germany had taken Finland and France, and had invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg. Denmark and Norway. Europe was Germany’s. Next on the German invasion platter – England, and the merciless bombing of that country. England was going down the tubes rapidly.
• Pembina, North Dakota and Emerson, Manitoba, site of the cover photograph showing farmer Joe Wilson and his sturdy team of horses – Fred and Prince – towing a Lockheed-Vega Hudson bomber across from the USA into Emerson, MB, on Jan. 23, 1940 … and near the east coast (mid-west, also straddling the Canada/USA border)
• Houlton, Maine and a few miles away, nearby Woodstock in New Brunswick (east coast/New England/Maritimes)
Most British gold reserves – some $9 billion in 1940 dollars – had already been transferred to Canada for safekeeping, to pay for, among other things, the $500 million price tag of the nearly 30,000 planes it had ordered from the USA.
Plans were made to move the Royal Air Force headquarters from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s Atlantic Coast.
The Royal Family refused to move to western Canada despite steady internal pressures to do so.
Germany had brought the war right under Canada’s front door with its U-boats sinking 23 vessels from under Canadian waters, most of them unarmed, in a two-and-a-half year free-for-all shooting spree that ended only in 1943.
And during all of this, England simply did not have enough aircraft to stop German bombers from pounding its airfields and cities in 1940. The RAF needed thousands more airplanes, which only the United States of America could manufacture in time. As compassionate as it could be, the USA wasn’t about to support England under the terms of its own Neutrality Acts.
To make matters worse, England, the USA or Canada did not have the manpower to “man” those bomber and fighter aircraft which the USA was willing and quite able to produce in the time needed to help save Britain.
Yet not one of the three countries primarily involved in saving the planet refused to quit. They faced a humongous problem however.
Not enough military pilots!Bring on the civilians to help the armed forces come to strength and stop the enemy.
Not enough military radio operators!
Not enough military navigators!
Not enough military aircraft and air support technicians!
What to do?
The civilians answered the call to help – in droves - as earth angels rising and came to the rescue of the allied nations when their own armed forces could not yet turn the tide in favour of freedom and democracy.
In the nick of time, these efforts alone created Ferry Command, so that the Allied Armed Forces could finally stop our home world from being re-assembled a few years later under the iron fists and dangerously frightening plans of two tyrants.
It is hard to believe today that two tyrants … and two tyrants alone … began to terrorize the whole world in the early1930s.
By 1940, with nothing more than brilliant deceit, incredible deception, astounding politics and very deadly strike forces, they really did menace the well-being of an entire planet whose population was not yet 3,000,000,000.
Thousands of civilians acted out of Canada and Canada alone. Nearly 49,000 civilians came from the United States of America to serve with the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force – all before the USA could become legally involved in the war.
Add this number to another 18,000 civilian employees of two aircraft manufacturing companies in Oakland, California, USA, the Lockheed and Vega companies. The presidents of both companies and the companies themselves joined with their civilian employees to make and donate a Hudson Mark III twin-engine bomber, dutifully naming and christening it the Spirit of Lockheed-Vega Employees. They did this as a gift to help boost the morale of the people of England who has just come out of the Battle of Britain and were being mercilessly pounded by the Luftwaffe during the London Blitz. That particular aircraft never made it to England on Christmas day, Dec., 25th,1940, the way it was planned to do. Why not? Because it crashed on take-off in Newfoundland four days earlier, the night of Dec. 29th … but a Spirit of Lockheed-Vega Employees aicraft, with the same markings as the original, did finally arrive by May, 1941, in Wick, Scotland. What happened to the original and why was a replacement needed? This is but one of the many intriguing and hard-to-believe civilian stories which unfold within these pages.
Then more civilians came from Canada and England, with the remainder coming from about 22 other countries – all to make it possible for the Allied Armed Forces of England, Canada and America to come to full strength by mid-1943 and finally, with their armies, navies and secret armies deep inside enemy territory help stop these two lunatics from controlling the world!
It took the Allied Armed Forces nearly 18 more months to make use of the aircraft and their weapons that the civilians had been putting into place for them since 1938 … put all of this potent air force into action and stop once and for all … Hitler first, by June 1945, and two months later, Hirohito by August 1945.
The evidence of the vital importance of Canada to the success of the Allied Armed Forces … and how it all began with civilians … is revealed bit by bit in the coming pages.
This evidence has been around for a long time. But it has been buried in secrecy and obscurity in most cases. What information was publicly available was strewn helter-skelter, scattered all over hell’s half-acre it seemed, making it difficult if not impossible to put two-and-two together to come to the one and only conclusion: without Canada, the world could be a very different place in 2010.
Ask any Canadian, British or American young man or woman today if he or she is aware of the incredibly important role played … by civilians from 23 or so countries from and through Canada … in World War II, and you’re likely to get a massive shoulder shrug and a puzzled look.
This year - 2010 - marks the 70th anniversary of when Canada launched the spearhead to carry out the world’s most gigantic air armada this planet has ever seen – which quickly became the original Ferry Command.
From the last two months of 1940 to the first three months of 1945, through Canada and out of Canada, nearly 30,000 heavy bombers and fighter aircraft flew over 5 ocean bridges and the 50-mile wide Bering Strait bridge into Russia. These were bridges built mostly by what at first seemed to be a rag-tag motley crew of hand-picked unarmed civilians who at first wore rumpled suits, casual clothes, cowboy boots and jeans.
How did these unarmed civilians do all this – flying daily over enemy territory with barely de-bugged unarmed heavy bombers through dangerous and unknown skies … and safely delivering 9,516 bombers – all without us knowing about it today?
Some of their stories unfold in these pages.
Intense, in-depth research revealed that there are only 11 books in the world, and less than 10 television movies and documentaries which touch upon, in one way or another, Ferry Command. And thanks to these, we do know quite a lot about the aviation … the military … the commercial aspects … and the very hot political stories of what happened … and how … what the civilians began … became the Royal Air Force No. 45 Group - Ferry Command.
The very existence of Ferry Command quickly spawned other ferry services by American air forces, all of which piggy-backed the pioneering efforts put out by the international civilians who between 1939 and 1943 “paved” the way in the air … making it possible for these other ferry services to deliver a grand total of nearly 20,000 more bombers and fighter aircraft – most of them to Russia.
Of these books, four were written by one remarkable pilot and exemplary writer, Don McVicar – Ferry Command Pilot, The Crimson Route, North Atlantic Cat and South Atlantic Safari and two are mine … the first of these is Walking on Air and the second is Pilot of Fortune … both are biographies of pilot extraordinaire Sheldon Luck … three chapters in each of my two books – the second is an expanded re-written version of my first book - are dedicated exclusively to his experiences in Ferry Command.
The other excellent books go into much greater detail about on Ferry Command.
They include Canadian historian Carl Christie’s stunning Ocean Bridge … Ferry Command’s Commander “Taffy” Powell’s Ferryman … the Montreal Star’s Shalto Watt’s I’ll Take the High Road … along with two others who make passing references to the organization … William Stephenson’s Intrepid, and Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm.
And, last but not least, there is the only official history about Ferry Command, published in 1945. This was written out of Bermuda by a successful and noted British civilian then employed by the Air Ministry of England. It is Atlantic Bridge – by Sir John Pudney … whose name does not appear anywhere in its 85 pages. It is reputed that only 500 copies of this book only were ever printed. This entire book and its rare photographs are part of the few appendixes in this book.
NOTE: Again, it is thanks to a modern-day civilian - an American in Springfield. Illinois – that I “found” and bought a nearly new, intact version of this long-outdated book which few historians today even know ever existed and still exists.
Other than these, that’s about it for books about Ferry Command. One would think that such an enormous air armada, under shrouds of now-secret-now-not-so-secret scenarios … the greatest military story in the history of mankind, and how civilians alone made it all possible, would merit the attention of world historians, and the thanks of their governments whose collective butts they helped save while risking their lives daily in the process.
Not so it seems. Until this book, that is.
With the singular exception of McVicar’s and my books, all the other books dealing with Ferry Command really trivialize the efforts made by the civilians in setting things up for England and the United States … and they make only technical or passing references to these very civilians who made it all possible
At first I knew it could be difficult to learn more about these civilians, because only 20 or so of the original 5,000 are still living today.
Nowhere in any of these few books is the necessary and enlarged story of just how the civilians of more than 21 countries did in fact come to the world’s rescue. Such a book could not be found in the world’s history libraries, and was certainly missing from our schools and colleges and universities.
After reviewing all of my research over the last few years, and fresh material from new-found friends and the three chapters from my first book, I then asked for, and received, much help from Canadian, American and British library archives, military, commercial and civilian, and from North American and United Kingdom newspapers and newspaper libraries, as well as from many other sources too numerous to mention in this synopsis.
I soon realized that I had compiled enough information to write a more complete book about the civilians of Ferry Command.
Armed with this new information and the Internet to supplement what I was missing, I found out exactly what I needed to pay proper tribute to these civilians, so that they and their families and their countries can all stand very tall and proud for their service to humanity.
To repeat what I wrote at the start of this synopsis, I see these civilians as earth angels rising to the occasion.
This book is my tribute to them, and it is obviously a tribute to them from all those who have supported and helped me put this book together.
I don't know about you, Dear Readers, but I am SO there with buying and reading this book! What an amazing story awaits to be fully told...