About

Robert Wendell McNair was born on May 15, 1919 in Springfield, Nova Scotia. He spent his boyhood in the Annapolis Valley and in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. His family had relocated there during the depression looking for work. He completed high school in North Battleford in 1937 with good marks. He went to work for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Natural Resources as a ground wireless (radio) operator.

Then the war started in September, 1939. He continued work for a while until it became clear that this was not to be a quick war. He enrolled in the RCAF in June 1940 and went through the usual training regimen, attending schools in Toronto (No.1 ITS), Windsor (No.7 EFTS) and Kingston (No.31 SFTS). He graduated as a pilot on March 24, 1941.

He was shipped overseas without any trouble and went through fighter training at an Operational Training Unit handling Hurricane Mk Is and Spitfire IIs left over from the Battle of Britain. Upon graduation in June, 1941 he was posted to the newly formed 411 RCAF “Grizzly” Squadron flying the Spitfire Mk IIa with eight wing-mounted 0.303 machine guns. They would soon upgrade to the Mk V with two 20 mm cannons and four machine guns. There were a number of serious problems with discipline to iron out in the squadron. The CO S/L Paul Pitcher had his hands full as the workup to operational status was a litany of mishaps, with the first crash occurring on July 3rd, followed by ground collisions, heavy landings, raising undercarriages too soon, landing with the wheels up, trying to take off with the brakes on and even crashing into the totem pole at the end of the runway. In one hushed up incident, Pilot Officer Ash took up PO McNair in the squadron’s open cockpit, two-seater Tiger Moth trainer. He performed some unpremeditated aerobatics and lost McNair while flying inverted, who drifted earthwards by parachute. The post-incident investigation discovered that Buck had fallen out after “accidentally loosening his harness pin”.

They eventually got up to day-operational status despite continuing problems in the air. This meant that they could fly on combat operations. Two squadron formations were attempted, but after each one there was a lot of harsh criticism and “bitter recriminations” such that another such mis-adventure would just about destroy the squadron. The one bright spot in the squadron turned out to be Robert “Buck” McNair.

Source of this text.

4 thoughts on “About”

  1. Best of luck with your new site.

    • Pierre Lagacé said:

      You’re the first person to post a comment on my new blog.

      I had to edit your original comment…

      I received your address from Pierre Lagace and will follow your site as I do his. Any friend of Pierre…

      Sorry for the confusion.

      Your loyal friend Pierre

  2. I love that bit about the passenger suddenly and unexpectedly getting out and having to walk home …

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