Outside of Canada, the news of the death of the legendary fighter pilot James Francis “Stoke” Edwards did not resonate. Stoke’s English-language military slang “Gone West” reached almost 101 years of age on Saturday, May 14, 2022.
Born in May 1921 in Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Western Canada, young Edwards enlisted in the Royal Air Force of Canada (RCAF) in 1940. After completing basic training under the Commonwealth Air Training Program, he joined the Operational Transformation Unit in July 1941. The RAF in England is equipped with Hawker Hurricane aircraft.
In January 1942 he was sent to Libya as part of 94 Squadron RAF equipped with hurricanes, then up to 260th equipped with Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighters / bombers. An exceptional feat, to put it mildly, he shot down Messerschmitt Bf 109 during his first combat mission in March 1942. This was not the last downed enemy plane since its destination Desert air force he records 15 confirmed victories. Baptized on desert falcon The media call the young hero of the war rather stocky his comrades-in-arms for his irritability in battle. However, he is a real gentleman who notices his superiors not only for his ability as a fighter pilot, but also for his charismatic dignity among peers.
After 195 missions over the deserts of North Africa, Stokey was transferred to the Italian front, where he was promoted to squadron commander, and now he is a pilot of the Supermarine Spitfire. In February 1944, he shot down four enemy planes in 26 sorties over the Anzio bridgehead south of Rome. His last trip to Italy was almost his last mission. His Spitfire suffered a massive leak of glycol through the mountains. Too low to the ground to try parachuting, Edward lined up on a small clearing near the top. As he was about to land, the engine exploded and the plane caught fire. The pilots who accompanied him flew over the smoldering wreckage and concluded that the commander of their squadron had died. However, miraculously ejected from the plane, Stokey survived. He was also rescued by Gurkhas who witnessed the accident. Still alive, but unconscious, he woke up the next day in a field hospital. A week later, he hitchhiked back to his squadron. Stunned by the appearance of this ghost in a turban in bandages, his colleagues instead prepared to meet the new squadron commander!
Having been ordered to return to England to support the landing in Normandy, he took command 274 Squadron RAF equipped with Spitfire aircraft. In February 1945, at the age of 23, he received the rank of commander 127th The RCAF wing, led by four Canadian Spitfire squadrons. On May 3, 1945, Edward made his 373th and the last combat mission, shooting down a Junkers Ju 88 bomber with the help of other pilots. His list of assassinations includes 19 individual victories (including 18 hunters: 14 Bf 109, 3 Focke-Wulf Fw-190 and Macchi MC.202), a dozen joint victories, a dozen aircraft destroyed on the ground, and much more. lined up more than 200 tanks and military equipment. He is also credited with dozens of additional likely victories.
Returning to Canada after the war, he continued his career in the RCAF, where he was one of the first to fly jets. Initially piloting the DH100 Vampire, in 1951 he formed and commanded the first squadron of Canadair CL-13 Saber fighters in the RCAF. In 1952, Stokey was appointed Commander 2th The Canadian Squadron is based in Grostenkin, France. Three years later, he was called to another front of the Cold War. Returning to Canada to study at Staff College, he was assigned to the US Air Force Air Defense Headquarters for four years. During this stay, he participated in the creation of the Canadian-American team structure, which will become NORAD. Returning to Canada and wanting to save the wings of his pilot, he learned to fly the first all-weather interceptor RCAF, CF-100 Canuck. After a series of posts in Canada, Stokey retired in 1972 after 32 years of military service.
He and his family settled in Comox, Vancouver Island. During his retirement, he wrote several books based on the experience of the war and became a successful artist whose paintings illustrate the history of Canadian aviation. He also set up a trust to promote aviation careers among young people, especially those enrolled in programs offered by RCAF cadets.
Although not the most successful Canadian ace during World War II, this award went to the Falcon of Malta, his celebrity was no less. He has received numerous awards, including the Legion of Honor, and was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013. Perhaps the most pleasant tribute to him is the beautifully restored P-40 Kittyhawk. Vintage wings of Canada in the colors of the plane on which he recorded the largest number of his victories during the war. Always modest, Stokey considered his guardian angel not to have been shot during the war. A military funeral was held today in honor of this hero and gentleman. For my part, I raise my glass at the Bar de l’escadrille to wish him a good flight. May he meet his guardian angel, who has protected him so well all these years!