Bits and Pieces
In Memory: Joe English
By Jack Dueck, Editor
WW-II veteran Joe English, Lancaster pilot officer of Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron 625, architect, artist, and movie star, quietly “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” on January 10, 2010.
Joe flew the full 30 missions of his tour over war-torn Europe without receiving any damage to his aircraft. But his greatest personal wartime accomplishment was to lead a squadron of Lancasters at tree-top level over enemy-held Holland, dropping food supplies in Operation Manna.
The Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum was filled recently with family and friends to celebrate the life of this extraordinary person and friend to all who were fortunate to know him. We remembered the keen interest that Joe had in virtually everything and everyone. Stories were told and tears were shed. Ron Groeneveld, a Dutch survivor of the war, shared that Joe had made him cry on three occasions: the first, when as a young man he saw the Lancasters drop the desperately needed food supplies over West Holland; the second, when he finally met the pilot of the Lancaster in Nanton, Alberta; and the third on Sunday, January 10, 2010.
Joe flew Lancasters at 18, before he had a driver’s license. He had completed his war missions by the time he was 21. He went on to study architecture and started a successful career designing about 50 buildings, including hospitals, churches, and schools. He then followed further interests in art, becoming a successful painter. He always kept his interest in aviation, and in recent years started building his dream aircraft, a Falco, with a close friend, Peter Uithuisje. Peter says the aircraft will be completed in honor of Joe.
EAA Chapter 1410 High River honored Joe with a lifetime membership in recognition of his ambassadorship when this chapter hosted the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster flight to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006. Everyone who met Joe always came away feeling a little bit better.
If you want a real treat, get a copy of his movie debut, Bomber Boys, produced by a Manitoba film group and about Joe’s wartime experience. The grandsons and nephews of the crew were included in the film. Both the young and the old all traveled together and had a chance to revisit many of the wartime sites.
The memorial crowd, hushed in the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum, remembered Joe English in a special tribute. During the final moments of the service, the unmistakable engine sounds of a Lancaster were heard to fly overhead and then diminish into silence, bidding a fond farewell.
Joe English, we will remember.