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Member Profiles


Harold Edwards

Nickname: Gus
Birthdate: December 24, 1892
Birth Place: Chorley, Lancashire, England
Death Date: February 23, 1952
Year Inducted: 2012
Awards: C.B., Order of St. Stanislaus (Poland), Order of Ste. Anne (Russia), Legion of Merit (USA).

"Harold (Gus) Edwards flew in the First World War and later was one of the first officers in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the Second World War he rose to the rank of Air Marshal and served as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief RCAF Overseas, working for Canadianization of RCAF Squadrons." - Induction citation, 2012

The son of a coal miner, Harold Edwards, C.B. was born in England on December 24, 1892. He had one brother, Benjamin. In the summer of 1903 the Edwards family came to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Harold left school at 14 to work in the coal mines as a "trapper boy," opening the ventilation door for ponies pulling coal wagons from the mine, but continued his education by studying at home.

During the First World War, on December 3, 1915, Harold was accepted in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), sailing for England on February 7, 1916 as a probationary Flight Sub Lieutenant. Arriving at Portsmouth, England, Harold was asked if he was related to American songwriter and vaudeville performer, Gus Edwards. Harold replied jokingly, "I am Gus Edwards", and the name stuck! Harold became Gus for the rest of his life.

With the RNAS he earned his pilot's wings. In operations in France he shot down one aircraft, but later the Sopwith biplane he flew was seriously damaged in an enemy attack and crashed behind enemy lines. His observer/gunner, J.L. Coghlan, suffered fatal injuries and Edwards became a prisoner. He escaped on his third attempt, with two fellow prisoners, but they were all captured and returned to prison camp for the rest of the war.

After the war Gus was a member of the Royal Air Force, which was formed on April 1, 1918 by combining the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps. He served as a repatriation officer, working to return prisoners to England. Returning himself in 1919, Gus held the rank of Captain in the RAE He signed up for the British mission to South Russia and for service there received the Order of St. Stanislaus and the Order of Ste. Anne as well as being Mentioned in Despatches.

In 1920 Gus Edwards returned to Canada and was accepted as a Flight Lieutenant in the newly-formed Canadian Air Force, receiving further flying training at Camp Borden. With the formation of the Royal Canadian Air Force on April 1, 1924, Gus became one of the first officers in the new force of 68 officers and 307 other ranks.

Instrumental in creating the RCAF, he returned to flying in the 1920s and was a leader in pioneering air force missions that included aerial photography, transporting officials to inaccessible regions, blazing new air routes and carrying treaty money to reserves. Flying included forest fire patrols and transporting sick and injured traders, trappers, farmers and indigenous people to places where medical attention was available.

While posted to Ottawa, he met Beatrice Coffey, whom he married on May 21, 1924. In August 1926 Gus and Bea sailed for England, as Gus was posted as RCAF liaison officer at the Air Ministry in London. His promotion to Squadron Leader soon followed. A son, William, was born in 1926. Returning to Canada in January 1929, Gus and Bea settled in Ottawa, where he was a staff officer at RCAF Headquarters. In September, 1934 Gus was posted to Nova Scotia to oversee development of RCAF Station Dartmouth (now 12 Wing Shearwater) and assume command of No. 5 (Flying Boat) Squadron, consisting of five detachments in eastern Canada. The Edwards family, now including daughter Suzanne, born in 1931, returned to Ottawa in the spring of 1938 when Gus, now Wing Commander Edwards, was posted as Senior Staff Officer, Air Personnel and Records, at Air Force Headquarters.

At the start of the Second World War in September 1939, with just over 4,000 members in the RCAF, numbers of the force began to increase rapidly and quick promotion followed. On April 1, 1939 he was promoted to Group Captain; on February 1, 1940 to Air Commodore; on August 5, 1941 to Air Vice Marshal; and June 20, 1942 Gus became Air Marshal Edwards.

With the Second World War came the development of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), a massive undertaking in Canada that saw the building of over 100 airfields across the country and the training of over 131,000 air crew and 80,000 ground crew including 17,000 in the Women's Division. In June, 1941 Gus was in England to attend to matters concerning the BCATP, including personnel requirements and involvement of Canadians in the Plan. In November, he was transferred to London, England as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief RCAF Overseas, a position in command of all RCAF personnel in England and in the Middle and Far East.

The BCATP called for the formation of 25 squadrons of RCAF personnel, a number increased to 35 in June 1942. Air Marshal Edwards was committed to seeing Canada's responsibilities met, but the reality was that most RCAF personnel were serving in RAF squadrons. On orders from Ottawa, he embarked on a program of "Canadianization" whereby Canadians would form distinct RCAF squadrons that would fight as Canadian units under Canadian command.

Despite harsh criticism from some RAF officers, his unimpeachable principles and tenacious perseverance won the battle. RCAF squadrons formed six fighter wings and provided the largest Commonwealth contingent in the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force. Similarly, 15 squadrons in No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group demonstrated that Canadian bomber crews were second to none. By the end of the war, RCAF squadrons overseas constituted the fourth largest Allied air force.

On December 31, 1943 Gus returned to Ottawa and he retired from the RCAF on September 29, 1944. His health continued to decline and Air Marshal Edwards died at Ottawa, Ontario on February 23, 1952. On February 29 at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Gus was buried with full military honours for the first time for someone with the RCAF's highest rank of Air Marshal. On June 15, 2012 Gus was reinterred with military honours in the National Military Cemetery which had been established at Beechwood in 2001.

Gus Edwards was inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame on June 14, 2012 at a ceremony held in Montreal, Quebec.

Suggested reading:
"Gus: From Trapper Boy to Air Marshall" - Susanne Edwards (2007) - ISBN 978-1897113745

At Buckingham Palace on February 3, 1943 A/M Edwards was invested by King George VI as a Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB). For his role in directing the RCAF's contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War, Gus received awards of distinction from the United Kingdom, France, Czechoslovakia, and Commander of the Legion of Merit from the United States.

James Francis Edwards

Nickname: Stocky
Birthdate: June 5, 1921
Birth Place: Nokomis, Saskatchewan
Year Inducted: 2013
Awards: C.M., D.F.C.*, D.F.M., C.D., Knight of the French Legion of Honour

"A top-scoring fighter pilot in the Second World War with the RCAF, "Stocky" Edwards is known for his leadership, and skill as a pilot. Serving nearly 32 years with the air force, post-war he continued accomplishments as a pilot and held several command posts in Canada, the U.S. and Europe." - Induction citation, 2013

Born on a Saskatchewan farm on June 5, 1921, James F. “Stocky” Edwards, C.M, DFC*, DFM, CD, attended school at St. Thomas College in Battleford. Known as Jim or Jimmy, in June 1940, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, graduating as a sergeant pilot in June 1941. Posted to the Middle East in November 1941, he was assigned to No. 94 Royal Air Force Squadron in the western desert, Egypt, flying fighter/bomber Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk aircraft with the Desert Air Force.

Promoted to Flight Sergeant, on his first operational flight in 1942, Jim shot down a Messerschmitt Me 109. Now known as "Eddie", on May 9, he was transferred to No. 260 RAF Squadron. Aircraft of the Desert Air Force relocated frequently to temporary bases as the Allied army retreated from German and Italian armies commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

However, by October 1942, the Axis Forces were defeated and in full retreat. On one day Eddie shot down two Me 109s and on one strafing operation, he destroyed an Me 109 and an Me 110 on the ground. On another day he dropped his bomb between two Junkers Ju 88 aircraft, demolishing both, and destroyed three Me 109s on the ground in a single burst of gunfire.

The Desert Air Force supported the 8th Army under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Eddie was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and assigned as Flight Commander. On April 14, 1943 he shot down three Me 109s. On April 22 he shot down a six-engined Me 523, the last recorded victory for No. 260 Squadron in North Africa. On May 13, Axis troops surrendered; Eddie had flown 195 sorties over African deserts.

After helping to form and instruct at the Middle East Central Gunnery School in El Ballah, Egypt, in December 1943 Eddie was posted to RCAF No. 417 Squadron in Italy, flying Spitfires, then was transferred to No. 92 East India Squadron in Italy. In February 1944 he shot down four enemy aircraft in 26 sorties over the Anzio beachhead, south of Rome.

Edwards was then promoted to Squadron Leader with command of No. 274 RAF Squadron. In April, his squadron was posted to England with two other Spitfire squadrons flying support for Allied bombers, including on D-Day, June 6, 1944, for aircraft in the invasion of Normandy. Through June and July, his squadron escorted bombers over Europe. He completed his second tour and was awarded a Bar to his DEC.

In February 1945, at age 23 he was promoted to Wing Commander of RCAF No. 127 Wing, heading four RCAF Spitfire squadrons over Europe. On May 3, 1945, Eddie flew his 373rd and final sortie of the war, shooting down a Ju 88 with other pilots of his Wing. The war was over two days later. His official count in air-to-air combat was 18 aircraft destroyed, l6 damaged and 7 probables, with another 14 destroyed on the ground. Edwards stayed in uniform until his retirement in 1972 as a Lieutenant Colonel with the Canadian Forces. Post-war, a nickname from his days in training, "Stocky" , caught up with him and he has been known by that name ever since.

Following the war, Stocky served as Officer Commanding RCAF Station Centralia, flew and instructed on Vampire jets in Trenton, and was OC St. Hubert. In 1949 at the RCAF Station at Sea Island, Vancouver, with the Search and Rescue Unit he was checked out on Cansos and Lancasters. After serving as OC of a recruiting unit in Vancouver, in 1951 he formed and commanded the first RCAF F-86 Sabre squadron, No. 430 Squadron in North Bay, Ontario.

In 1952 Stocky was posted to France, flying F-86 Sabre jet aircraft. In 1955, he was posted to USAF Air Defence Headquarters at Colorado Springs, then flew CF-100 jets at Cold Lake, Alberta.

He held staff positions in Ottawa, North Bay, and his last posting was CO of RCAF Station Baldy Hughes, near Prince George, British Columbia. In 1972, after nearly 32 years of service, Stocky Edwards retired and settled with his wife, Toni, and their four children in Comox, British Columbia.

Stocky Edwards was inducted as a Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame at ceremonies held on May 30, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario.

Recommended reading:
“Kittyhawk pilot: Wing Commander J.F. (Stocky) Edwards” by J..A. Lavigne (1983) ISBN 0919899102
“The Desert Hawk: The True Story of J.F. “Stocky” Edwards, Canada’s World War  II Flying Ace” by Barbara Hehner (2005) ISBN 0-00-639478-7.


Click on the video above to see an interview with Stocky Edwards broadcast on Global TV, June 5, 2019, prior to coverage about D-Day, June 6. Video courtesy of Global TV.

Awarded both the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his combat success, James Francis Edwards was honoured again by his country in 2004 when he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada.

Robert Parsons Engle

Birthdate: July 12, 1923
Birth Place: Seattle, Washington, USA
Death Date: September 19, 2014
Year Inducted: 2014
Awards: C.M., Pioneer in Aviation Award (Western Canada Aviation Museum)

Following service in the United States Navy and graduation from Yale University, Robert Engle flew his own aircraft to northern Canada, settling in Yellowknife. He flew as a bush pilot, then built his airline, Northwest Territorial Airways, and related businesses that have had lasting effects on transportation in the North - Induction citation, 2014

After attending the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, in 1943 Robert Parsons "Bob" Engle volunteered for active duty in the United States Naval Reserve (USNR) and was commissioned as Ensign, after serving as Petty Officer 1st Class. After the Second World War he left the navy as a Lieutenant in the USNR. He then attended Yale University, graduating in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree.

With training on a Piper J3 Cub, Bob earned a Private Pilot Licence, followed by a Commercial Licence and an instrument rating. In 1956, flying his Cessna 180 on floats, he landed in Yellowknife to explore commercial aviation opportunities in Canada and Alaska. Bob was born in Seattle, Washington on July 12, 1923; his flight to Yellowknife was the beginning of an adventure that would have lasting effects on aviation in northern Canada.

After settling in Yellowknife, Bob had his first job in the north, contracting his de Havilland Beaver to Wardair, flying for a McGill University expedition to the Arctic Archipelago in the summer of 1958. From 1958-60 for Wardair, he flew a single engine Otter and a twin-engine Bristol Freighter. By 1961 Bob had started his own one-pilot, one-airplane company, Northwest Territorial Airways (NWT Air) and continued as senior pilot throughout the airline's development.

Purchase of a de Havilland Otter led to bush charter operations in 1962, and in 1963 a Beech 18 equipped with wheels, skis and floats was acquired. Engle completed his Airline Transport Pilot's Licence at American Fliers in Fort Worth, Texas, where he trained on a Douglas DC-3. The purchase of NWT Air's first DC-3, equipped with skis and wheels, followed in 1967. After selling his bush flying operations, Bob built the first hangar at the Yellowknife airport. NWT Air became the first airline to base heavy transport aircraft at its new facilities. The hangar was large enough to accommodate the Lockheed Hercules that would be added to NWT Air's fleet 10 years later for worldwide and frontier cargo service.

In 1968 the airline began service to the central Arctic coast at Coppermine and to other communities with the DC-3. Service increased again with larger aircraft in1971 with purchase of two Douglas DC-6A aircraft. "The DC-6 was my favorite aircraft," says Bob. "It was stable for a VFR circling approach and short field airstrips common in the North, and had an extended range over the DC-3, and apressurized cabin." The DC-6s introduced scheduled services from Yellowknife to the Edmonton Municipal Airport.

Two years later, the first turboprop Lockheed Electra aircraft was acquired as Electras began to replace the DC-6s, and by 1976 Engle's operation was contracted to provide charter service for Dome Petroleum from Calgary and Edmonton to transport crew and cargo to the Beaufort Sea. In 1980 the airline inaugurated trans-Territorial scheduled  passenger and cargo service with Electras from Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet and Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit), complementing the scheduled network. Scheduled overnight priority cargo service with the Electra was introduced across Canada serving Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto. Bob Engle saw his company grow in size and service with larger multi-engine aircraft, eventually including Boeing 737 jet aircraft. He was among the first to adapt and utilize large multi-engine aircraft in the North. During all this time, the company remained based in Yellowknife and focused on northern Canada. Don Yamkowy, former chair of the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce, has stated that Bob Engle is an aviation pioneer "...who dedicated his life to northern aviation, with his constant desire for excellence in air transportation in Northern Canada."

David Ramsay, the Northwest Territories Minister of Justice, Industry, Tourism and Investment, has praise for Engle's contributions in the North, as a leader and innovator. "Just one example of his pioneering approach was his introduction of the Lockheed L-382G Hercules aircraft into Northern Canadian flight operations. Mr. Engle launched cost-effective and affordable air cargo operations into isolated locations and changed the resupply of the north."

Expansion of aviation services in northern Canada did not come easily. It took Bob Engle 12 years to persuade the Air Transport Commission to allow his airline to fly regularly from Yellowknife to Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit and Winnipeg. It took another five years to obtain the right to fly on a schedule basis to Edmonton from Yellowknife.

However, Bob Engle's transport operations were not confined to air only. He founded Air Northwest for ground handling; Northwest International Aircraft Leasing; and Northwest International Airways, for business jet charters in western Canada. As well, he co-founded Northwest Transport Ltd. to provide highway transport and intermodal truck and air cargo service from Edmonton throughout the Arctic in support of Hercules charter flights.

Bob was the first pilot of NWT Air and continued as its owner until the airline was sold to Air Canada in 1988. The Electras were replaced with Boeing 737-200 combination cargo/passenger aircraft certified for gravel strip operation. NWT Air then became the first scheduled service of Air Canada in the North, as an Air Canada connector. In 1990, Bob resigned as Chairman of the Board and CEO. In 1998, Air Canada sold the airline to First Air, operated by Bradley Air Services Ltd., which continues to serve most of the routes pioneered by Engle.

Bob Engle's involvement in the economy and development of the north went well beyond his business interests. He was the founding president and chairman of the Northern Air Transport Association, and was an honourary Life Member. He served as director for the N.W.T. in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding director and Honourary Life Member of the Yellowknife Rotary Club. In 1985 he was named Transportation Person of the Year for Northern Alberta and the North.

In 1990, Robert Engle was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada. Other recognition for his contributions in aviation followed. Honoured again in 2000, Bob received the Pioneer in Aviation Award from the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg. In 2003 he was appointed Honourary Colonel to 440 Transport Squadron of the RCAF. In 2007, the City of Yellowknife designated a new industrial subdivision adjacent to the airport as Engle Business District, recognizing his 50 years of contribution to the community.

Bob Engle was inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame at a Ceremony on May 30, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta. He died on September 19, 2014 at Vancouver, B.C.

Seven years after first touching down in Yellowknife, Bob became a Canadian citizen in 1963 in Yellowknife at the court of Justice John Sissons, the first judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. Years later, as an honourary citizenship judge himself. Bob welcomed new Canadian Citizens, including employees of NWT Air. Bob and his wife Roxy, after living in Yellowknife for 50 years, relocated to West Vancouver, British Columbia - the Engle family includes Bob's three children James, Emma and Alex. Bob died suddenly on September 19, 2014 at their home.