Sunday , 5 February 2023
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Warplane Heritage honours WWII navigator

Today was a special day for Bob Middleton, a veteran of RCAF 431 Sqn. He was joined by family and friends at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum as he was surprised with being named an Honorary  Snowbird.

 Bob was a navigator on Lancasters and Halifaxes.  At age 19, He signed up for the RCAF in June 1942 hoping to become a pilot. He was all of 19 years old. In February 1943 he arrived at #10 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), Pendleton, for the eight-week course to learn to fly. He soloed in a Tiger Month biplane, But when he got to the next flying school where they were trained on Harvards, he washed out due to some vision issues. So he then enrolled in navigation school.

Newly-minted Navigator Bob Middleton

In October 1933 Bob was on the RMS Mauretania bound for England and arrived in Liverpool on 3 November 1943.  His first combat mission was on Sunday, 17 September 1944, where they took a Halifax on a 3-½-hour round trip to Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France, in the daylight. They dropped a 12,000-pound bomb load. Soon they were flying in beautiful, brand new Canadian-built Lancaster Mk. X bombers.

In all, Bob guided his bombers through 33  missions. One of the flights on Tuesday, 2 January 1945 was a nine-hour round trip to Nuremberg at night. Sometime over the target that night Bob’s oxygen was disconnected and  he says he quite groggy and rude. The aircraft ended up lost for a while. After they hooked up his oxygen again Bob got the plane back on course and they made it home safely.On Tuesday, 27 February 1945 Bob and his crewmates finished their final mission — a 7-½-hour daylight trip to Mainz, Germany.

A Handley-Page Halifax Bomber

On 15 April 1945, Bob and his mates were on our way home on the U.S. Navy troopship USS Mount Vernon, along with 3,500 soldiers on board the troopship. When Bob finally made his way back to Toronto, he was greeted at Union Station by his fiancée Patricia. They married and settled down in a home in Scarborough where Bob Lives today.

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