B-52 Mitchell

Search Awards

Search within:
Search Type:
VANEXAN, William Corbett Warrant Officer, No.57 Squadron, R56148 Distinguished Flying Cross RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
Description (click to view)
VANEXAN, WO William Corbett (R56148) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.57 Squadron - Award effective 4 August 1942 as per London Gazette dated 11 August 1942 and AFRO 1371/42 dated 28 August 1942. Born 21 October 1918 in Smith Falls, Ontario; home there (clerk and salesman for local Cockshutt Plow Company); enlisted Montreal 22 June 1940. To No. 2 ITS, 30 June 1940; promoted LAC, 30 August 1940 and posted to No.3 EFTS; to No.1 SFTS , 4 November 1940; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 23 January 1941. To Station Trenton, 24 January 1941. To Embarkation Depot, 21 February 1941. To RAF overseas, 2 March 1941. To No.21 OTU, 10 March 1941. To No.57 Squadron, 2 June 1941. Promoted Flight Sergeant, 1 September 1941. Promoted WO2, 1 March 1942. To Station Feltwell, 11 March 1942. Commissioned 21 June 1942. To No.24 OTU, 21 June 1942 (instructing on Whitleys). Promoted Flying Officer, 21 December 1942. Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 8 June 1943. To No.1666 Conversion Unit, 16 November 1943. To No.425 Squadron, 6 January 1944. Promoted Squadron Leader, 1 May 1944. To No.431 Squadron, 7 June 1944. News clipping in the Ottawa Citizen dated 18 September 1944 credits him with two tours, 61 sorties - and only once was his aircraft damaged (flak - slight injury to one crewman). Repatriated to Canada, 30 September 1944 (apparently arriving 7 October 1944). To No.12 (Communications) Squadron 15 November 1944. To Transport Conversion Squadron, Pennfield Ridge, 17 February 1945. To No.2 Air Command Headquarters, 28 April 1945. Granted Leave Without Pay from 6 May 1945 while employed by TCA. To Release Centre, 12 August 1945. Retired 18 September 1945. Discharged with 1,550 service hours of flying. Joined TCA (later Air Canada) and logged 17,869 hours in 25 years, culminating as a Regional Pilot. Died 10 January 1972. Plaque at Smith Falls Airport commemorates him. Medal sent by registered mail with DSO. 13 February 1948. RCAF PL-31157 and PL-31158 (ex UK-12591 and UK-12592 dated 21 July 1944) show him when appointed Flight Commander. RCAF photo PL-31159 (ex UK-12594 dated 21 July 1944) shows W/C H.R. Dow (centre, Toronto, new CO of Iroquois Squadron) with his Flight Commanders, S/L C.A. “Peter” Bull (Sudbury) and S/L W.C. Vanexen, DFC (Smith Falls, Ontario). RCAF photo PL-31159 (ex UK-12594 dated 21 July 1944) shows W/C H.R. Dow (centre, Toronto, new CO of Iroquois Squadron) with his Flight Commanders, S/L C.A. “Peter” Bull (Sudbury) and S/L W.C. Vanexen, DFC (Smith Falls, Ontario). RCAF photo PL-31172 is captioned as follows: “Virtues of Ontario’s capital city are upheld by F/L R.M. Mickles of Toronto, recently appointed Adjutant of the RCAF Bomber Group’s Iroquois Squadron in an airfield discussion with the Wing Commander, (W/C H.R. Dow, second from right) and the two flight commanders; S/L C.G. Bull (second from left) is a Sudbury man, while S/L W.C. Vanexan, DFC, (extreme right) is from Smith Falls, Ontario.” RCAF photo PL-32028 (ex UK-14183 dated 24 August 1944) shows leaders in No.431 Squadron: left to right they are S/L W.C. Vanexan, DFC (Smith Falls, flight commander), F/O R.D. Lawson, RAF, F/O E. Bruce Hutchinson (Amherstburg, Ontario), W/C Eric Mitchell (Wolfville, Nova Scotia and Ottawa, squadron commanding officer), F/L Frank Guillevin (Outremont), F/L R.M. Mickles (Toronto), F/O Bert Kaplansky (Hamilton). Warrant Officer Vanexan is an extremely capable operational pilot. The majority of his sorties have been against heavily defended targets and have all been pressed home with vigour. He has displayed courage and devotion to duty. NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/9595 has recommendation dated 18 June 1942 when he had flown 33 sorties (188 operational hours). This goes into much more detail both in sortie sheet and text. 11 June 1941 - Boulogne (4.05) 12 June 1941 - Hamm (5.35) 16 June 1941 - Dusseldorf (6.10) 18 June 1941 - Brest (6.15) 21 June 1941 - Dunkirk (3.00) 24 June 1941 - Kiel (6.25) 27 June 1941 - Bremen (6.40) 30 June 1941 - Cologne (5.20) 8 July 1941 - Munster (5.40) 10 July 1941 - Cologne (6.20) 4 November 1941 - Essen (6.20) 7 November 1941 - Berlin (3.40, early return) 23 November 1941 - Dunkirk (4.00) 26 November 1941 - Ostende (5.05) 30 November 1941 - Hamburg (6.30) 25 March 1942 - St.Nazaire (3.55) 28 March 1942 - Paris (4.40) 1 April 1942 - Hanau (6.25, aircraft shot up) 8 April 1942 - Hamburg (6.00) 10 April 1942 - Essen (4.50) 25 April 1942 - Rostock (7.10) 27 April 1942 - Cologne (6.55) 29 April 1942 - Paris (5.30) 2 May 1942 - St.Nazaire (7.30) 4 May 1942 - Stuttgart (7.00) 6 May 1942 - Stuttgart (7.00) 7 May 1942 - Kiel (6.55) 9 May 1942 - GARDENING, Baltic (7.20) 15 May 1942 - GARDENING, Baltic (7.25) 19 May 1942 - Mannheim (6.00) 30 May 1942 - Cologne (4.30) 1 June 1942 - Essen (4.00) 2 June 1942 - Essen (3.50) Since 3rd June 1941, this Warrant Officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force has carried out 188 hours operational flying involving 33 sorties, 19 being as captain of aircraft. He has carried out all his sorties with the utmost skill, courage and devotion to duty. The majority of his attacks have been carried out against the most heavily defended targets and have all been pressed home with the greatest determination at a low height. On the night of 15th/16th May 1942, the aircraft of which he was captain had ben detailed to lay mines in the Baltic area. In order to be sure of dropping the mines in the correct position it was necessary for him to fly over an area of sea which he knew to be defended by several enemy anti-aircraft ships. As a result his aircraft was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire while flying at only 800 feet. The tail portion of the aircraft was hit, the tail gunner being wounded and the elevators badly damaged. Nevertheless, he continued on his course and dropped his mines in the correct position, returning the fire of the enemy anti-aircraft ships, and then brought his aircraft safely home to base without incurring further damage, although he experienced considerable difficulty in controlling it. This is typical of the manner in which he went about all his operational flying, and he has earned the respect and admiration of the ret of the squadron. This document was favourably endorsed by the Officer Commanding, RAF Station Feltwell (date not recorded) and by the Air Officer Commanding, No.3 Group, on 26 June 1942. VANEXAN, S/L William Corbett, DFC (J15603) - Distinguished Service Order - No.431 Squadron - Award effective 24 October 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 2637/44 dated 8 December 1944. This officer has completed a large number of sorties since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and has displayed outstanding determination and zeal. He has attacked his targets fearlessly, yet with cool and calculated methods which have brought him much success. He is a virile leader and has proved a great asset to the squadron. NOTE: DHist file 181.009 D.5526 (RG.24 Vol.20667) has recommendation by the Commanding Officer, No.431 Squadron, dated 20 August 1944 when he had flown 60 sorties (318 hours 50 minutes); had flown 130 hours 50 minutes since previous award. This recommendation with successive remarks by senior officers is also found in Public Record Office Air 2/9160. The latter lists all sorties including first tour sorties from 11 June 1941 (Boulogne) to 2 June 1942 (Essen) - 33 trips in all - second tour began 6 March 1944 (Le Mans) and ran to 15 August 1944. Second tour sorties and submission as follows: 6 March 1944 - Trappes (4.50) 7 March 1944 - Le Mans (4.55) 15 March 1944 - Stuttgart (7.50) 18 March 1944 - Frankfurt (5.20) 9 April 1944 - Villeneuve (5.40) 10 April 1944 - Ghent (4.35) 18 April 1944 - Paris (5.10) 20 April 1944 - Lens (4.10) 1 May 1944 - St. Chilsam (4.35) 8 May 1944 - Haine-St.Pierre (4.05) 9 May 1944 - Calais (3.30) 12 May 1944 - Louvain (4.55) 22 May 1944 - Le Mans (5.50) 31 May 1944 - Au Fevre (4.35) 6 June 1944 - Houlgate (5.15) 9 June 1944 - Le Mans (6.00) 12 June 1944 - Arras (4.50) 14 June 1944 - Cambrai (4.00) 16 June 1944 - Sterkrade (4.50) 1 July 1944 - Biennais (4.15) 5 July 1944 - Biennais (4.30) 17 July 1944 - Caen (4.25) 4 August 1944 - Bois de Cassan (5.05) 7 August 1944 - Caen (4.30) 8 August 1944 - Chantelles (5.00) 12 August 1944 - Neuville (4.00) 15 August 1944 - Soesterburg (4.10) This officer, as captain of aircraft, has now completed 60 sorties against the enemy. Since receiving the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross in July 1942, this gallant airman has continued to press home the attack on every occasion. During his complete second tour of operations, he has fearlessly attacked the strongest enemy targets, including Sterkrade, Frankfurt and Stuttgart and, by his cool, confident and methodical manner, has expertly bombed every target for which he was detailed. At all times showing a complete disregard for his own safety, he has inflicted damaging losses against the enemy. He has been an inspiring example to his comrades and a tower of strength to the squadron. For such outstanding devotion to duty and courageous flying, I strongly recommend that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The undated remarks of G/C R.S. Turnbull, Officer Commanding, Station Croft, read: Squadron Leader Vanexan, as captain and Flight Commander, has shown outstanding skill and devotion to duty. His fearlessness, aggressive spirit in the air and untiring work on the ground has gained him the complete confidence and respect of all those under him. The success of his Flight and the squadron have been the result of this officer’s efforts and leadership. I concur in the recommendation of his Squadron Commander that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Order. On 24 August 1944, Air Commodore R.E. McBurney, Base Commander, No.64 Base, wrote: This officer’s personality and character have been an invaluable asset to the squadron. He was the only second tour captain on the unit, and, as such, wielded a strong influence. His personal contempt of danger and enemy defences, his calm and assured handling of unexpected situations both on the ground and in the air set an example to his juniors which was of inestimable benefit to them. Air Vice-Marshal C.M. McEwen, Air Officer Commanding, No.6 Group, wrote on 27 August 1944: This officer has completed 27 sorties since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. His personal ability and valour, coupled with his strong sense of duty, have been the major factors in his outstanding record of achievement. On operations his leadership and coolness in the most difficult circumstances have gained for him the admiration and respect of his whole squadron, while his efficient and courageous performance has been a credit to the service. I consider Squadron Leader Vanexan is truly deserving of this recognition and have no hesitation in strongly recommending the award of the Distinguished Service Order (Non-Immediate). This was subsequent approved by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command, 17 September 1944. Accidents: On 25 March 1942, at 2306 hours, on operational sorties with No.57 Squadron, Wellington X3658, damage Category “B”. He reported: “On March 25th, 1942, I took off at 1950 hours for operations on St. Nazaire as detailed. I was flying at 9,000 feet in weak mixture and fixed pitch when the [starboard] engine stopped without any warning whatsoever. I jettisoned bombs in sea a few miles short of French coast and proceeded to set course for Exeter. I made a glide approach and landing, touching down just past the third flare on the grass inside runway but could not pull up in time and crashed into a Whirlwind dispersed on the side of the field.” An assessment of the incident noted that he was inexperienced; his choice of landing to right of flare path, “not to obstruct the flare path in the event of a crash landing” was a mistake; swing to starboard was due in part to failed engine. On 9 January 1943, at No.24 OTU, Whitley EB351, with pupil, R112769 Sergeant W.R. Farrell. “Pupil pilot at controls. Aircraft made a slight swing to starboard and instructor delayed taking over to see reaction of pupil under these conditions. Pupil over corrected in checking swing and aircraft swung violently to port. Instructor took over immediately but aircraft was out of hand and to keep in on runway had to swing violently to starboard, cutting throttles and using brake in endeavour to straighten aircraft on runway and bring it to a stop. The aircraft started to skid because of frosty surface of runway and was doing a ground loop on to the aerodrome when it skidded on the frozen crust of the aerodrome and starboard wheel dropped through.” Considered to be an “honest error of judgement” on his part for not taking control earlier - an occupational hazard of instructing. On 19 March 1944, No.425 Squadron, Haliafx LW391, he had returned from operations and was parked on perimeter track as instructed. Engines running and lights on. An aircraft of No.420 Squadron, whose pilot either failed to see LW391 or was unable to stop, taxied into the rear of Vanexan’s aircraft. Complete new tail needed. His crew included R80649 FS J.V. Irvive (second pilot, later DFC), J16831 F/O E. Hutchinson (navigator, later DFC), 133298 Sergeant J.N. McDonald (RAF, WOP), R128484 Sergeant J.N. Gourlay (bomb aimer), R186828 Sergeant J. St. Goddard (rear gunner), R205254 Sergeant C. Anderson (mid-upper gunner) and 1832948 Sergeant G.L. Thomas (RAF, flight engineer); no injuries. General Overseas Flying: On repatriation, 9 September 1944, he stated he had flown the following overseas: Wellington (376.15), Whitley (450.40), Halifax (220.05), Anson (140.30) and Oxford (39.10). Total flying overseas was 1,226 hours 40 minutes (324.45 on operations - 61 sorties). Operational Wing: Statements are to effect that with No.57 Squadron he flew 33 sorties (188 operational hours). Application for first Bar to Operational Wing dated 25 September 1944 noted he had flown 28 sorties (140 hours), 7 January to 5 September 1944 with Nos.425 and 431 Squadrons. Training: Interviewed in Montreal, 25 April 1940 by F/O J.V. Sorsoleil who wrote, “Fair type, industrious, polite, keen, reliable, observant. Anxious to serve. Recommended for pilot.” Course at No.2 ITS was 1-27 July 1940. Marked in Mathematics (87/100), Armament, practical and oral (76/100), Drill (80/100), Law and Discipline (88/100). No Link tests. Placed 70th in a class of 216. “Good type - clean cut - seems keen.” (W/C John Burden, 8 August 1940) Course at No.3 EFTS was 2 September to 21 October 1940. Flew Finch II (26.45 dual, 26.55 solo). “Inclined to be careless. Requires general practice to smooth out.” Ground courses in Airmanship (127/200), Airframes (161/200), Aero Engines (122/200), Signals, practical (50/50), Theory of Flight (60/100), Air Navigation (179/200), Armament (160/200). Placed tenth in a class of 23. Course at No.1 SFTS was 15 November 1940 to 24 January 1941. Flew Yale and Harvard 31.45 day dual, 31.55 day solo, 2.35 night dual, 4.15 night solo) and logged 11.40 in Link. “An average pilot who has made good progress. Very smooth on controls and good on instrument flying.” (F/L J.N. Pristley). Ground courses in Airmanship (108/200), Armament, written (62/100), Armament, oral (70/100), Air Navigation (116/200), Signals (40/50). Placed 31st in a class of 47. “Conscientious and willing. Has good appearance and should make an excellent NCO.” Transport Conversion course (which ceased 13 April 1945) included advanced grounnd courses in Navigation, Engines and Signals. Flew 56 hours 55 minutes (43.50 on instruments) and logged 17 hours in Link (three on instrument flying, 14 on radio procedures). Placed 16th in a class of 22. “A senior officer of outstanding ability in all respects. A distinct loss to the service.” (G/C W.W.S. Ross.) Selected Assessments: “This officer has worked hard at this unit, He is a very keen and conscientious officer instructor who sets a good example to members of his flight. He is a very good disciplinarian and will be an asset to any unit to which he is attached.” (W/C T. Gunn, No.24 OTU, 11 November 1943, at which time he had flown 1,149 hours, 279 in previous six months). “An excellent operational captain who has worked hard through his tours. Has organized his flight well and has given valuable assistance to all who worked under him.” (G/C R.S. Turnbull, 6 September 1944, at which time he had flown 1,370 hours, 178 in previous six months.)