a future for stayner's past



Roger (JR) Watson |RCAF

world war II Pilots of stayner

Submitted by Jack McFarlane Probably no other town of the same size has produced as many Second World War pilots as Stayner. I will attempt to list them, but as I left Stayner in 1936 and have only returned for visits, my list may not be complete. If I have omitted names, please forgive me.

Cec Bell, Bob Birkett, Gel Birkett, Walter Clemence, Ken Glenn, Stan Groves, Russ Mathers, Jack McFarlane, Walter Scott, Nelson Seeler, Ellis Taylor and Roger Watson. With the exception of Russ Mathers and Walter Scott, all the rest survived the war.

I was always amazed how often we kept running into one another. When I was first learning to fly, I ran into Nelson Seeler (my first cousin) at Goderich where he was a flying instructor and I was a student pilot. A couple of years later, my job was testing aircraft for a Manitenance Unit at Summerside, P.E.I. and one of my duties was to proceed to an aircraft factory about once a week to pick up a new plane to replace one of our old ones which were well past their retirement age. On each of these trips I required an extra pilot to fly back the plane we used to go there. I called the Control Tower and asked for a spare pilot. No one was more surprised than I when Gel Birkett walked into my office with his parachute under his arm. We had an enjoyable day together. I think it was Gel who told me that his brother Bob and Stan Groves, both from Stayner, were pilot and co-pilot on the same aircraft somewhere in B.C. On the very next trip, who do you think they sent me, but Cec Bell. Cec was the one who took my place at the Toronto Dominion Bank when I left Stayner. As this station had hundreds of pilots, none of us knew the others were there. As surprises usually come in threes, I kept looking for the third one from Stayner. Of course it never happened.

Some time later, I was home on leave from the West Indes, visiting my father and mother, (12th line of Sunnidale). My father told me ,“I think your old friend Roger Watson is flying Harvards over at Edenvale.” As I had never flown a Harvard, the next day found Roger and I high over Wasaga Beach. I had not done any aerobatics for a long time as I had been flying heavy aircraft where aerobatics are not possible. Roger figured I needed a refresher course and I was inclined to agree with him. We spent about two hours burning up the sky over Georgian Bay. When it came to rolls, loops, and spins, Roger was a professional, while I would always remain an amateur when it came to aerobatics. After we landed, I said in fun to Roger, “How much fuel do you figure we used in our two hours of having fun?” Roger’s answer was “about $100. I used to like to try to pull Roger’s leg and vice-versa, so I said “I guess we owe the Government $100.” Roger suggested we leave it till after the war.

After the war, Roger and I met many times and on one occasion, the subject of the $100 came up. Roger’s answer was, “Since you came back from overseas all in one piece, I’d say that $100 was a good investment.” We both seemed to realize then how fortunate we both had been, so nothing more was said.

(This story first appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of our newsletter)