Dead at 98: The decorated rescue pilot and Bomber Command veteran who brought safety to Canadian air travel

Lifeless at 98: The embellished rescue pilot and Bomber Command veteran who introduced security to Canadian air journey

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Carswell’s loss of life not solely marks the passing of one among Canada’s final WWII bomber pilots, however caps off a life that will characteristic many extra daring feats of aviation

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By all statistical measures, Andrew Carswell’s life mustn’t have ended peacefully in his sleep at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Veterans Centre final Sunday. Quite, it ought to have ended violently in a farmer’s area exterior Zerbst, Germany 78 years in the past.

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On January 17, 1943, the 19-year-old Carswell was piloting a four-engine Lancaster bomber on a raid to Berlin when it was crippled by anti-aircraft fireplace roughly 150 km west of Berlin. Carswell not solely managed to bail out of the burning, spinning plane, however survived POW camps, loss of life marches and even pleasant fireplace from British fighters.

When his column of ravenous prisoners was liberated by advancing British troops, Carswell would bear in mind solely a sleepless night time the place he vowed “to get pleasure from each minute of my new discovered freedom.” As he would conclude in a biography penned many years later, “and I did.”

Carswell’s loss of life on July 25 on the age of 98 not solely marks the passing of one among Canada’s final Second World Battle bomber pilots, however caps off a life that will characteristic many extra daring feats of Canadian aviation – and would have the retired RCAF officer doing a lot to form the present state of Canadian passenger aviation.

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“There was no sensation of falling,” Carswell would write later of his escape from the tumbling Lancaster. “I gave the impression to be floating immobile in house as I heard the high-pitched scream of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines quickly fading away into the chilly blackness of the night time.”

Clip from a February, 1943 Ottawa Citizen noting Carswell’s capture by the Germans.
Clip from a February, 1943 Ottawa Citizen noting Carswell’s seize by the Germans.

Given the season and the altitude, the air across the floating Carswell was roughly -30 diploma Celsius. “Right here I used to be, a nineteen-year-old boy, not lengthy out of highschool, hundreds of ft up within the air, swinging from a parachute not removed from Berlin, floating down into the center of enemy territory,” he stated.

Carswell had enlisted within the RCAF on his 18th birthday, and on the time of his remaining bomber mission he was one of many few individuals in an Allied uniform in a position to strike immediately on the coronary heart of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless it additionally meant he was one of many least prone to return residence.

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An unimaginable 44 per cent of Bomber Command crew members wouldn’t survive the battle – the best fatality fee of some other Commonwealth service.

Carswell in his later years, peering from the cockpit of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
Carswell in his later years, peering from the cockpit of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster on the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Picture by Courtesy of Carswell household

Carswell would have identified the sight of bunks left empty from fellow aviators who by no means returned from missions, nevertheless it wouldn’t be till after the battle that he would absolutely recognize the hazards he had been anticipated to imagine as a Lancaster pilot. “I suppose I may need joined the Navy had I identified,” he informed the Toronto Star in a 2011 interview.

Carswell’s autobiography Over the Wire would element his battle as a POW within the Stalag VIII-B camp in what’s now Poland. The Canadian was concerned in two daring escape makes an attempt, each of which had Carswell absconding from work particulars exterior the camp. Geared up with cast papers and civilian gown, each makes an attempt acquired miles into Nazi Germany earlier than being foiled – one by a railway employee and the opposite by a Stettin police officer.

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However Carswell’s most famous feats as an airman would come after his 1945 liberation. Re-enlisting within the RCAF as a pilot in 1949, he was quickly posted to the Vancouver space the place he would fly PBY Canso flying boats in search and rescue operations on the West Coast.

It was one such mission in 1956 that will have Queen Elizabeth pinning him with the Air Drive Cross. Carswell had been responding to a report of a fishing boat foundering close to B.C.’s Galiano Island.

Carswell being decorated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.
Carswell being embellished by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. Picture by Courtesy of Carswell household

He arrived on the scene simply in time to see the boat sink beneath the waves, tossing its two crew members into the frigid waters. Whereas prior patrol plane had refused to land because of the tough circumstances, Carswell was in a position to pull off a touchdown, permitting the 2 males to be pulled to security.

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“One other 10 minutes or so and the tip of the story may need been a lot totally different,” one of many survivors would later inform reporters. The PBY Canso had a leak that was filling the fuselage with seawater all through the rescue, and amid the sounds of warning sirens Carswell was solely narrowly in a position to take off once more because of the added weight.

The identical 12 months because the Galiano rescue, Carswell’s Canso would additionally rescue 5 crew members of a authorities survey vessel who had turn into marooned on a distant Sunshine Coast island in the midst of a blizzard. “Thank God for the RCAF,” was the crew’s summation of their rescue to the Vancouver Solar.

Carswell in a portrait printed in the Vancouver Sun after his February, 1956 rescue of five sailors stranded on B.C.’s Aristazabal Island.
Carswell in a portrait printed within the Vancouver Solar after his February, 1956 rescue of 5 sailors stranded on B.C.’s Aristazabal Island. Picture by File

For somebody whose aviation profession had been outlined by shut calls, it’s notable that one among Carswell’s most lasting contributions was within the realm of air security. In 1977, as a federal transport ministry investigator, Carswell went incognito on an 1,800 mile tour of Northern Ontario by air constitution, revealing industrial aviation practices that had been negligent to the purpose of recklessness.

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“The timid strategy to enforcement which Transport Canada is perceived to have adopted is an ineffectual deterrent that has nurtured unsatisfactory aviation security requirements,” was the understated conclusion of Carswell and fellow investigator William Slaughter following a journey that had included inexperienced pilots flying with out correct devices in planes with doubtful upkeep data and falsified log books.

Leaked to the press, the report would encourage the Royal Fee on Air Security, ultimately resulting in the inauguration of the Transportation Security Board.

Carswell is survived by his spouse of 74 years, Dot, 100. The couple met at a dance in Toronto after the battle, married in 1947 and had 5 youngsters.

Andy Carswell, left, is joined by his son John at a flypast by a restored Canso from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum after the cornerstone dedication of the Andy Carswell Building for homeless veterans in September 2019.
Andy Carswell, left, is joined by his son John at a flypast by a restored Canso from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum after the cornerstone dedication of the Andy Carswell Constructing for homeless veterans in September 2019. Picture by Jean Levac/Postmedia

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