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Canadian Pilots

Standing from left to right: P O Gadbois, W R Wallace, J K Cronyn, C V Bessette (American). Seated from left to right: C McNicoll, A Y Wilks.

Outside the accommodation block of Royal Naval Air Station Windermere at Hill of Oaks in 1916.

Canadian Pilots at Windermere

Tribute is paid to the 14 Canadian Flight Sub-Lieutenants, who having undergone basic training at Royal Naval Air Station (‘RNAS’) Crystal Palace, London, after seaplane training at RNAS Windermere were then transferred to RNAS Calshot. Their gallantry included 2 Distinguished Service Crosses, a Distinguished Flying Cross and 2 Mentions in Despatches. 3 of them gave their lives. Also to the 2 Canadian officers-in-charge.

On 03/05/1916, the first planned flying course at RNAS Windermere included ab-initio pilots:-

  • Paul Oliver Gadbois of Montreal, born on 24/05/1892. First pupil at RNAS Windermere to be awarded a UK Aviator’s Certificate – No. 3067 on 14/06/1916. Seriously injured in an accident at RNAS Calshot on 09/07/1916, but recovered and graduated. Forced landing ferrying a Curtiss Jenny from RNAS Isle of Grain to RNAS Chingford in March 1917
  • William Ross Wallace of 12 Melbourne Avenue, Westmount, Montreal, born on 16/05/1896. UK Certificate No. 3117 on 21/06/1916 at Windermere. Killed in a flying accident at RNAS Calshot on 21/07/1916
  • James Kerr Cronyn, formerly Captain in the Canadian Infantry, of 43 Russell Hill Road, Toronto, born on 08/08/1892. UK Certificate No. 3095 on 15/06/1916 at Windermere.

And also included previously trained pilots:-

  • Marcel Camille Dubuc of 58 Sherbrook Street West, Montreal, born on 03/03/1894. US Certificate No. 377. Posted to RNAS Killingholme, served on HMS Engadine and HMS Campania, ultimately an instructor at RNAS East Fortune
  • Charles McNicoll of Westmount, Montreal, born on 27/01/1896. US Certificate No. 398. Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 22/06/1917 for convoy protection and combatting submarines when at RNAS Dundee. Served on HMS Pegasus. Posted to RNAS Isle of Grain for experimental flying duties, RNAS Felixstowe and again to RNAS Calshot this time in No. 210 Training Depot Station
  • John ‘Jack’ Richard Bibby of 530 Dover Court Road, Toronto, born on 06/04/1891 at Troutbeck, near Windermere. US Certificate No. 403. Posted to RNAS Gibraltar. Killed in a flying accident at Malta on 11/06/1917
  • Arthur York Wilks of 271 Prince Arthur Road West, Montreal, born on 05/09/1893. US Certificate No. 410. Posted to RNAS Killingholme and RNAS Thasos, Greece
  • John Graham Ireland of 941 Dorchester Street West, Montreal, born on 12/05/1896. US Certificate No. 415. Subsequently posted to RNAS Felixstowe, RNAS Dundee and RNAS Dunkirk
  • Hibbert Binney Brenton of Vancouver, born on 25/05/1887. US Certificate No. 423. Posted to RNAS Isle of Grain for test flying duties.

Arrived at Windermere on 18/06/1916: James Edward Potvin of 351 Dominion Avenue, Midland, Ontario, born on 10/08/1893. US Certificate No. 493. Posted to No. 13 (Naval) Squadron at Dunkirk. Mentioned in Despatches twice. Killed 19/06/1917 when forced to set down on the sea.

Arrived at Windermere in 07/1916: Wellington Cameron Ault of 278 Jarvis Street, Toronto, born on 25/07/1896. US Certificate No. 497. Posted to RNAS Dundee and RNAS Otranto, Italy. Injured during July 1917 in a seaplane crash.

Arrived at Windermere on 02/09/1916:-

  • Arthur Westlake Farquhar of 9 Wilton Crescent, Toronto, born on 13/09/1889. US Certificate No. 505. Posted to RNAS Dover
  • Henry George Boswell of 25 Roxborough Street West, Toronto, born on 07/01/1892. US Certificate No. 514. Posted to RNAS Felixstowe and RNAS Cattewater. Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 22/06/1917, for flying a Curtiss H-12 Large America flying boat which sank the first submarine by the Royal Naval Air Service on 20/05/1917
  • Harold Harrison Gonyon of 527 King Street West, Chatham, Ontario, born on 05/05/1896. US Certificate No. 518. On the first list of recipients following institution of the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded on 03/06/1918 for bombing a submarine on 03/04/1918. Served in No. 217 at Dunkirk and No. 233 Squadron at Dover.

The extract below from a flying instructor’s log book on F.B.A. Type A flying boats, lists the surnames of his pupils in the ‘Passenger’ column:

Log Book

The penultimate officer-in-charge of RNAS Windermere from 23/01/1917 was Joseph William Hobbs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, born on 29/01/1891 at Newbury, Berkshire. UK Certificate No. 2006 on 13/10/1915 on a landplane at the Curtiss School, Toronto. Trained at RNAS Yarmouth, posted to RNAS Cattewater, RNAS Newlyn and again to RNAS Cattewater. Transferred to the Royal Air Force, attached to the Naval Service of Canada to assist with establishment of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service and on 15/08/1918 appointed as Air Liaison Officer to US Naval Air Station, North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Injured 22/07/1917 in a seaplane crash.

The final officer-in-charge of RNAS Windermere was Robert Alexander Campbell of Uxbridge, Ontario, born on 24/01/1893. UK Certificate No. 3197 on 27/04/1916 on a landplane at RNAS Eastbourne. Served on HMS Campania. Posted to RNAS Isle of Grain.

– ‘During the First World War, 943 Canadians entered the Royal Naval Air Service. They were engaged on nearly every front throughout the conflict’. – Canadians in the Royal Naval Air Service 1914-1918 by J Allan Snowie.



Birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes