McEwen, Clifford Mackay (1896– 1967)

Air Vice-Marshal Clifford McEwen was born at Griswold, Manitoba on July 2, 1896, and raised in Moose Jaw. After receiving his education at the University of Saskatchewan, he enlisted in the 196th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916. Becoming an officer shortly after arriving in England, McEwen was assigned to Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, where he learned to fly. As a member of No. 28 Squadron, RFC, in Italy during 1918, he was credited with shooting down 22 enemy aircraft, making him an “Ace.” For his wartime service, McEwen was awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar, and the Italian Bronze Medal for Valour. During the interwar years, McEwen was a flying instructor; in 1930 he attended the Royal Air Force Staff College at Cranwell, Lincolnshire. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was a Group Captain stationed at Trenton, Ontario. In 1941, McEwen was promoted to Air Commodore and given command of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s No. 1 Group at St. John’s, Newfoundland, which was then waging a vital war against German U-boats in the North Atlantic. Promoted to Air Vice-Marshal, he was appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 6 (Bomber) Group in Yorkshire, England on February 28, 1944. This was a critical point in the strategic air offensive against Germany, and McEwen quickly established a rigorous training program, resulting in increased combat efficiency and reduced casualty rates. When the European war ended, he was designated commander of the Canadian bomber group to be sent to the Pacific Theatre to fight against the Japanese, but with the collapse of Japan in August 1945 the plan was scrapped. McEwen retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1946 and became a private consultant to aircraft manufacturers. For two years he was a director of Trans-Canada Air Lines, the predecessor of Air Canada. McEwen died on August 6, 1967, aged 71; he is buried in Fund’s Field of Honour, Pointe Claire, Quebec. On June 17, 2003, 15 Wing Moose Jaw was renamed Air Vice-Marshal C.M. McEwen Airfield, the first Canadian Forces airfield to be named in honour of a Canadian military aviation legend.

Jeff R. Noel