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McLeod, Henry Wallace (1917–44)

Henry Wallace (“Wally”) McLeod, the top-scoring fighter pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, was born in Regina on December 17, 1917. He enlisted in the wartime RCAF in September 1940, and trained as a pilot at Prince Albert and Camp Borden, Ontario before being posted to Britain in the spring of 1941. Going on active operations on July 30, 1941, he served with several RAF and RCAF Spitfire squadrons. In May 1942, he was posted to the island of Malta, which sat astride German and Italian supply routes to their armies in North Africa. He claimed his first victory on June 8, 1942. His score climbed rapidly and he received a Distinguished Flying Cross in September, then a bar to his DFC—in effect, a second medal—in October of that year. Having destroyed twelve enemy aircraft and damaging several others, he returned to Britain late in that year. Malta had survived, contributing to the defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa. The cost to McLeod was high: in four months in Malta, he lost 25 pounds and had constant nightmares about crashing. Returned to Canada, he eventually took over the RCAF’s No. 127 (Fighter) Squadron at Bagotville. In February 1944, he took this unit (renumbered No. 443 Squadron, RCAF) back to Britain in preparation for the Allied invasion of Europe, and led it into battle. Awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his courage and leadership during this period, he was reported missing after combat with German fighters over western Germany on September 27, 1944. He is buried in a cemetery at Rheinberg, northwest of Duisberg. McLeod’s logbook claimed twenty aerial victories and four “probables.” RCAF records credit him with 19 kills, one probable, and 9.5 damaged, the difference reflecting the scantiness of records in Malta. Although no member of the RCAF scored more “kills” than McLeod, his record was overshadowed by that of George “Buzz” Buerling, a Canadian who enlisted in Britain’s RAF, transferring to the RCAF in 1944. September 2002 saw the naming of a major building at 15 Wing, the military air training base south of Moose Jaw, for Henry Wallace McLeod. A street in Regina’s industrial district is jointly named for him and for broadcaster Jim McLeod (no relation).

Will Chabun

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