All things in balance…

Comment just added…

Singling out Vintage Wings Website as some sort of place that is stonewalling Clarence’s efforts to bring to light the artists and history surrounding nose art and badges seems weird. I have run stories about nose art, with images and information supplied by Clarence Simonsen. In fact, I thought I was a big supporter.

Here are the stories I have either authored or largely edited for Clarence, plus a story that deals with nose art of the Home War Establishment

Following up on every story Clarence has suggested would be a full time job. We have now over 400 stories and features in our efforts to bring a balanced picture of Canadian and world aviation history. I for one am a HUGE nose art fan… but this area is simply one small, albeit interesting, aspect of our history.

Vintage Wings of Canada is not a government agency, we receive no public funds, and our website is simply the result of one volunteer’s efforts. If we have not been an effective voice for Clarence’s life mission, it is only because we have many voices to speak for. Many.

All things in balance.

Dave O’Malley


The True History of the No. 424 Squadron [Tiger] Badge and Nose Art

This is the finished story that I have written on the 424 Tiger insignia and the two RCAF nose artists who have been forgotten by time and history.

This story also features the new Tiger P-51 image painted by Tom Walton, and which I created working with Tom. This is for the modelers to create the correct image. There is still a lot of confusion over the RCAF postwar P-51 Mustangs and the two different Tiger images.

Tom was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, then served and painted his Lancaster in WWII. Next, he returned home to Hamilton and painted five postwar P-51 Mustangs. He is still forgotten and Hamilton is the home of Canadian Warplane Heritage. They are the first Canadian museum to begin to honor and repaint WWII nose art. I hope they can honor ‘hometown’ veteran Tom Walton.

Clarence Simonsen

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

The original “Hamilton Tigers” motto [Noli me Tangere] ‘Touch Me Not’ and Tiger Head badge represented the City of Hamilton and the very first squadron [No. 19] formed in this city. The badge never flew in the City of Hamilton.

No. 19 [Auxiliary] Squadron RCAF was formed in Hamilton, Ontario, on 15 May 1935, and began flying four Tiger Moth aircraft in May 1937. They were renumbered No. 119 Squadron on 15 November 1939, and called to full duty when war was declared [England] 3 September 1939. They left Hamilton [for Western Air Command] on 4 January 1940 and flew out of Jericho Bay, B.C. from 9 Jan. 1940 to 15 July 1940.

On 21 July 1940 the squadron returned to Eastern Air Command at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. On 23 August 1942, S/L H. Wigle took over command at Sydney, N.S., at which time approval was granted for an official crest. The Hamilton Tigers Football [rugby] club allowed the use of their tiger which was prepared by artist J.D. Heaton-Armstrong, then submitted to the Chester of Herald of the Royal College of Arms, in London, England.

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This image was taken from the Hamilton Tigers [Rugby] Football team insignia and was not created until after 23 August 1942. It was officially approved October 1942 by King George VI. The unit was now based at Sydney, Nova Scotia, flying four aircraft [Lockheed Hudson Mk. III] on anti-submarine reconnaissance over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cape Breton Island. I can find no proof the official badge appeared on any aircraft from this date until disbanded on 15 March 1944.

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Official No. 119 Squadron Canadian badge, which featured
the Hamilton Tigers Football [rugby] club image

The squadron title or nickname became “Hamilton Tigers” with motto – [Touch Me Not] approved by King George VII, October 1942. This first tiger insignia was used in Canada for only eighteen months or until the unit was disbanded at Sydney, Nova Scotia, 15 March 1944. Note- this Tiger face is not the same as the original British design and the B.R. for Bomber Reconnaissance is omitted.

The History of the Second Tiger Insignia [and the forgotten “Erk” who created the badge]

No. 424 Squadron began to form at Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England, 15 October 1942, under No. 4 Group RAF Bomber Command. They had no badge, motto, or connections to the City of Hamilton. Wing Commander H.M. Carscallen, DFC, a Canadian pilot who had been on operations since the beginning of the war, became the first Commanding Officer on 20 October 1942. The next two months marked a period of intensive training, and by the end of December the squadron had on charge one-hundred and twenty-two aircrew with two-hundred and eight-five ground crew. On 1 January 1943, they became part of the newly formed No. 6 [RCAF] Group of Bomber Command. In the next four months they took part in major bombing raids on targets as Cologne, Wilhelmshaven, Oldenburg, Essen, Hamburg, Duisburg, and mine laying [gardening] at the Frisian Islands, Heligoland, and Den Helder. On 3 April 1943, the British Air Minister asks the Canadian government for their approval to deploy three RCAF experienced Wellington squadrons for a two month tour of operations in support of the invasion of Sicily. No. 420, 424, and 425 squadrons were selected to serve under number 331 Wing, Mediterranean Air Command, part of 205 [RAF] Group. On 1 May 43, they were taken off bombing operations and informed they were part of a new formed Canadian Wing going to North Africa. The squadron aircrew departed England for North Africa, [Tunisia] on 16 May 1943, flying new tropicalized Vickers Wellington B. Mk. X bombers. The ground crew were issued tropical gear and departed by boat, arriving in Algiers on 26 May. A young artistic air engine mechanic from Calgary, Alberta, was part of the ground crew, LAC Matthew Cecil Ferguson.

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LAC Mat Ferguson from Calgary, Alberta. [From his loving wife Levina 2001]

The main targets in the Sicilian campaign became the enemy airfields on Sicily and mainland Italy, preventing the Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica from taking off and bombing the landing Allied troops. Canadian operations began on 26/27 June 1943. Beginning in mid-June 1943, Calgary artist Mat Ferguson painted at least nine squadron Wellington bombers with Canadian Nose Art

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One contained the side profile of a tiger on a Maple Leaf with name “The “A” Train”. The name was in reference to a train that was leaving track “A” in a Canadian train station. [More trains would follow from Canada]

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Replica of Ferguson’s nose art on Wellington aircraft North Africa by Clarence Simonsen

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“Marie and Black Bull” painted by Ferguson at Kairouan, Tunisia, North Africa June 1943

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This Wellington nose art was found in the Mat Ferguson photo album and it is based on the same nude image he painted for 424 bomber “Jersey Bounce”. The original art was created by Norman Pett for an RAF night fighter squadron in England, and the nude was the famous “Jane.” I believe this was in fact a Wellington Mk. X that served with No. 425 Alouette Squadron who shared the two dirt landing stripes with No. 424 and No. 420 squadrons in Tunisia.

Group Captain Clarence Rupert Larry Dunlap was in charge of the three RCAF squadrons that arrived in the Tunisia theatre of operations on 21 June 1943. They would operate under RAF No. 331 Wing, however the area was taken by three RAF squadrons and the Canadians were informed they would fly from a mountainous area further south-west on the region between Algerian and Tunisia. Thanks to some cash lost in poker games and a few bottles of rare Scotch whiskey, two new RCAF dirt landing strips were constructed in four days by a Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. RCAF G/Capt. Dunlap then informed the RAF Mediterranean Air Command Headquarters his three squadrons would be located beside the RAF in the Tunisian plains, and the British should find the means to supply his squadrons with fuel, ammunition, and food. The RAF reluctantly agreed and the RCAF went to war in a much safer landing zone, thirty miles from the Mediterranean coastal city of Sousse. The two dirt strips were only ten miles apart, and this would allow Mat Ferguson to paint nose art on other squadron aircraft.

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The same nose art would appear on a No. 425 Halifax at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, England in 1944.

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The Capture of Sicily was not intended to be the pre-invasion of Italy, but that changed with a new campaign to capture Naples and southern Italy. Bombing support for this invasion meant an extension for the Canadians of 331 Wing, and the planned return to England was delayed from late July until 10 October 43. Throughout the month of September and the first week of October the Wellington bombers pounded the area around Naples and the airfields of Foggia. In early October the Germans were pushed north, the front line was stabilized and the Canadians of 331 Wing prepared to depart for return to cold and wet England. The RCAF Wellington bombers had flown 2,182 sorties and only lost eighteen aircraft in combat, a further eighteen written off in accidents. One of the Wellingtons lost in an accident carried the art work of tiger face with words – The “A” Train.

The old trusty RCAF Wellington aircraft were left for the British RAF as the three squadrons boarded troop ships at Algiers on 27 October 1943. The nose art of The “A” Train was cut from the crashed Wellington bomber by ground crew and taken to England. [This was confirmed by 424 pilot Jack Dundas, who saw it in the Officers Mess at Skipton]. On 6 November 1943, No. 424 Squadron returned to No. 63 RCAF base in England, Skipton-on-Swale, where they received new four engine Handley-Page Halifax Mk. III bombers.

The original aircrew of the North African flown Wellington [The “A” Train] request Mat Ferguson to repaint the same Tiger “A” Train nose art on their new Halifax Mk. III, serial LV951, code QB-A. On 12/13 August 1944, 36 RCAF Halifax bombers and 12 Lancaster bombers attack German ground troops at Draunschweig, in the Falaise Gap. Hamilton born pilot F/O Jack Dundas was hit by flak but returned to base in his Halifax painted by Mat Ferguson, “Bambi.” The crew of F/O G. Campbell are flying QB-A, “The A Train” and they are attacked by a German night fighter and six jump becoming prisoners of war. F/O G. Campbell, Sgt. E. Harvey, F/O W. Barrett, F/O W. Cram, Sgt. L. Maki, and Sgt. R. Austin. Sgt. W. Harris never leaves his burning bomber and is killed in the crash of LV951. “The A Train.” That should have been the end of the Tiger nose art, however it is only the beginning.

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Nose artist Mat Ferguson [far right] sits on the Halifax Mk. III serial LV951 in spring of 1944. The other two ground crew are unknown but I’m sure they were assigned to the bomber which Mat has just painted with nose art of “The A Train.” This is the second nose art to feature the Tiger face profile.

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Mat Ferguson continues to paint nose art such as “Hellzapoppin”

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This image came from the private photo album of Mat Ferguson.

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Mat Ferguson painted nose art from the pages of Esquire magazine such as March 1944.

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Hamilton born pilot Jack Dundas wanted Bambi for his Halifax serial MZ813, nose art and that is what Mat Ferguson painted.

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1995 replica painted on original Halifax skin from NA337, Bomber Command Museum Nanton, Alberta
On 10 March 1944, the City of Hamilton was advised that No. 119 [Hamilton Tigers”] Squadron was being disbanded by the RCAF on 15 March. No. 119 Squadron died that day, but the City of Hamilton Tiger had nine lives.

In May 1944, the City of Hamilton decided to officially adopt No. 424 Squadron and a special committee of prominent citizens was set up. The new fund was called the “Hamilton Tiger Squadron Fund”. Each month supplies of cigarettes, lifesavers, gum, and chocolate bars were sent to the squadron through the Canadian Red Cross.

The Squadron was officially adopted by the City of Hamilton in September 1944 and received the nickname “Tiger” Squadron. In October, Mat Ferguson painted the new squadron badge which was the same art as the nose painting on the “A” Train. This nose art was loved by all squadron members and voted to become the new squadron badge. The Ferguson painting was submitted to the Chester Herald of the Royal College of Arms and for some unknown reason the British rejected the Ferguson badge and created a new badge which is today the official 424 badge. This badge was approved by King George VI in June 1945.

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This is the original Mat Ferguson drawing [from his photo album] submitted to the British Chester Herald

Pilot Jack Dundas [born in Hamilton] recalled when the British design appeared the Canadian 424 squadron members refused to wear it and called it the “Fucking British Dog”. This caused a small munity and the C.O. [W.C. G.A. Roy] had to step in and inform his squadron this was their official badge and that was it.

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This is the official No. 424 Squadron badge [British dog] worn in Trenton by the squadron today.
The upset squadron members ask Mat Ferguson to create a new cloth badge using the original “A” train image. This drawing was mailed to Mrs. Ferguson in Calgary, with instructions to have 100 cloth badges made by Crest Craft in Saskatoon. Mrs. Ferguson divided the new cloth crests into three packages of 33 and mailed them off to her husband [Mat] in England. She kept the 100th badge which is pictured below. This 100th Tiger badge was donated to Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton, on 12 May 2003 by Mrs. Ferguson.

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The most amazing part is the fact the Mat Ferguson rejected badge from the “A” Train nose art, is still worn [unofficially] today by 424 squadron members. As you can see it is by far the most impressive “Tiger Squadron” insignia. Mat Ferguson was murdered in his backyard in Calgary in 1982, so he never knew the lasting power of his little nose art; he created for a RCAF Wellington bomber in far off North African 1943. I was very lucky to meet Mrs. Levina Ferguson just two years [2001] before she passed away from cancer. Thanks to this brave lady, the true story of the 424 Tiger squadron Badge was saved. God Bless her.

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Clarence Simonsen and Mrs. Levina Ferguson – Nanton 12 May 2003

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Mat Ferguson is the only RCAF artist I have located who painted “Canadian” WWII jacket art, just like the Americans. This is very rare and again the unofficial No. 424 Tiger has appeared on the jacket of an unknown RCAF member [far left]. Artist Mat [right] wears another of his creations which possibly flew in Tiger Squadron. I believe this Grim Reaper with yellow bomb also appeared as nose art in No. 424, but photo evidence has never been found.

It was common for RCAF artists to copy WWII nose art and insignia from the United States. Mat Ferguson was “Canada’s Greatest Nose Artist of WWII” and his talent was always in high demand. The skeleton in black cloak, wearing black aviator’s helmet, and holding a yellow aerial bomb was the official emblem of the United States 308th Bombardment Group, 375th Bomb Squadron, flying B-24 bombers from Chengkung, and Hsinching, China, 1942-45. It was officially approved on 11 January 1943, and copied by Mat for use in 424 Squadron in 1944. Replica art painted on original skin from Halifax NA337, in private collection of Mr. Robert Curtin, Calgary, Alberta, 2009.

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During the last three months of WW2 the squadron converted to the British built Mk. B. I and B. III bomber aircraft which were also decorated by nose artist Mat Ferguson. In total 31 British Lancaster aircraft were flown by Tiger Squadron and the 2,000 sortie was flown by QB-V, serial RF128, with nose art by Mat. He also painted the special bomb Tiger “Easter Egg” which was dropped by the Lancaster “V” Victorious Virgin. Struck Off Charge by R.A.F. on 25 March 1948.

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British built Lancaster aircraft used by No. 424 [Tiger] Squadron

QB-A PB899 Missing 15 February 1945.

QB-A RF148 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-B PB897 Struck off charge RAF 16 January 1947.

QB-B RA504 Swung on take-off hit dispersal pen, 27 November 1945.

QB-C NG457 Missing Dessau, 8 March 1945.

QB-D NG456 Struck off charge RAF 24 January 1947.

QB-E NG451 Struck off charge RAF 10 September 1946.

QB-F NN777 Ran out of fuel, crash landed Dishforth, 15 March 1945.

QB-G NG277 Struck off charge RAF 16 October 1946.

QB-H NG457 Used code letter “C” lost 8 March 1945.

QB-H PA286 Struck off charge RAF 9 January 1947.

QB-J NG446 Went to 427 Sqn. Struck off charge RAF 7 April 1949.

QB-K ME456 Missing Dortmund 21 February 1945.

QB-K NG459 Struck off charge RAF 29 January 1947.

QB-K PA324 Struck off charge RAF 12 December 1946.

QB-L NG441 Struck off charge RAF 16 July 1946.

QB-L NG484 Struck off charge RAF 20 January 1947. Painted by Mat Ferguson.

QB-M RA504 Used code “B” crashed 27 November 1945.

QB-N NG346 Missing Dessau 8 March 1945.

QB-N NX587 Struck of charge RAF 7 May 1947.

QB-O NG279 Struck off charge RAF 25 March 1948.

QB-P NG347 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-Q NG348 Struck off charge RAF 9 December 1946.

QB-R NG400 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-S RA507 Struck off charge RAF 13 February 1947.

QB-T ME458 Struck off charge RAF 14 November 1946.

QB-U NG280 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-V RF128 Struck off charge RAF 25 March 1948. Painted by Mat, dropped “Easter Egg’

QB-W PA326 Struck off charge RAF 24 March 1947.

QB-W RF150 Flew into hill High Wycombe, 5 April 1945.

QB-X NG281 Struck off charge RAF 24 March 1947.

QB-Y NN780 Struck off charge RAF 3 September 1947.

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This is the most famous Tiger Squadron nose art created by Mat for British Lancaster code “L”.

The squadron had two Lancaster aircraft coded “L” and I believe this is serial NG484 which was struck off charge by RAF on 20 January 1946. The other RCAF Lancaster first served with No. 433 [Porcupine] Squadron as BM-L and then transferred to No. 424 as serial NG441. This photo was found in the Ferguson photo album with no serial number recorded.

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Author painting in Nanton, Alberta

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Hank Porter [right] and Roy Williams who created over 1,200 Walt Disney insignia during WWII.

In 1941, Walt Disney put together a team of five experienced artists to just create insignia designs for WWII units. The team was headed by Hank Porter [left with glasses] and six-foot four inch, 250 lb. Roy Williams. Roy created the very first “Flying Tiger” insignia which was used by General Chennault in China. On 4 July 1942, the original American Volunteer Group, [Flying Tigers] became the new 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force. This new 23rd F.G. insignia of a tiger with wings on a lightning bolt was created by Roy Williams. This Williams Tiger image was copied by Mat Ferguson and used on Lancaster NG484, QB-L, “The “ELL CAT.”

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No. 424 [Tiger] Squadron remained in England after the end of war in Europe, transferred to No. 1 Group R.A.F. on 30 August 1945. Based at Skipton-on-Swale, Yorkshire, they transported 884 British and Canadian troops from Italy back to United Kingdom, making 39 trips. They were disbanded on 15 October 1945 and returned to Canada.

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The unofficial 424 badge created by Mat Ferguson is still in use by 424 Helicopter Squadron today.

The sad fact remains that the true history of the Mat Ferguson creation is still not recorded in the RCAF history books and this proud LAC is still forgotten by the very members that still fly Helicopters and use his unofficial WWII “Tiger” badge. This error must be changed.

Mat Ferguson became the first “Erk” who created No. 424 Squadron nose art history and the first to be forgotten by the passage of time.

A second WW II Sgt. wireless/air gunner was the man who created the postwar Tiger image on five of the P-51 Mustang aircraft fuselages, and again Tom Walton has been forgotten by his squadron and the City of Hamilton where he was born.

Postwar artist Thomas Walton from Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton born Sgt. Thomas Walton served as a wireless/air gunner on a No. 428 [Ghost] squadron Lancaster KB864. In 1945 he was promoted to the RCAF rank of Pilot Officer. Tom was the nose artist who decorated both sides of his bomber with impressive paintings completed on request of his American pilot Latumer and his favorite 1931 Jazz song “Sugar Blues.” Pilot Officer Latumer was known as Capt. “Overshoot” after he had crash landed two Canadian Lancaster bombers, KB766 [3 December 1944] and KB795 [7 April 1945].

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Tom Walton Images

Photo image P/O Tom Walton, England 1945. This image of KB864 was taken after 8 May 1945 and during the preparation for the return to Canada of No. 428 [Ghost] Squadron on 31 May 1945. The Squadron would arrive at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on 8 June 1945.

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The impressive “Vargas” Redhead in the January 1945 issue of Esquire magazine.

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Sgt. Tom Walton painting the nose art of “Sugar’s Blues”

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Tom Walton images

No. 428 [Ghost] Squadron arrive at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 8 June 1945, and the RCAF members crowd around looking at a veteran WWII Lancaster Mk. X. The impressive starboard nose art of a Ghost dropping a bomb was painted by Sgt. Tom Walton. [photo credits Tom Walton]

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Ray Wish image – September 1945

10 September 1945, Pearce, Alberta, and Canada’s veteran WWII bombers arrive for long-term storage. The five man RCAF crew stationed at Pearce must start the four engines on each of 83 Lancaster aircraft once every day. Three pose to have their photo taken in KB864, Sugar’s Blues. LAC Cook in the cockpit, LAC Wyers on left and LAC Raymond Wise in white coveralls and hand on prop. [Photo credit – Ray Wise]

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A number of WWII veteran Lancaster aircraft will forever remain at Pearce, Alberta, including Sugar’s Blues, KB864. This is the last known photo taken in summer of 1955. The once proud bomber is now home to the pigeons of southern Alberta. I had the pleasure to meet the lady in the photo at Nanton, Alberta, 2003.

Tom Walton returned to the postwar world of art, becoming an art director in the City of Hamilton. On 15 April 1946, No. 424 [City of Hamilton] Squadron was formed as an RCAF Auxiliary squadron. From November 1950 until September 1956, the squadron flew the North American Mustang Mk. IV. On each side of the fighter fuselage a large yellow tiger was painted posed on a rock searching for prey. The artist who created this fuselage art is still unknown. North American Mustang Mk. IV [US serial 44-74582] RCAF 9253, taken on strength 6 December 1950, code BA-S, flew until 10 August 1959.

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In 1997, Clarence Simonsen freehand painted the nose art of KB864 on the movie prop Lancaster nose section in the Nanton [Bomber Command Museum of Canada]. In 1998, the original nose artist Tom Walton came to visit Nanton and I enjoyed the afternoon with Tom and his wife Millie. I insisted Tom repaint his original “Sugar’s Blues” but being the perfect gentleman he is, he just said, “Leave her as is, just change the shoes and skirt to the correct color Green.”

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Millie and Tom Walton at Nanton in 1998

Tom and I would became close friends and he shared his full RCAF history with me. When I ask about his postwar career, he surprised me by stating he rejoined the RCAF Auxiliary in Hamilton and he was the artist who painted the Tiger insignia on five of the squadron Mustang aircraft.

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Tom Walton was very kind to autograph this 424 Squadron Mustang print in 1998, however he then surprised me stating – “This was not my work, but the art of another earlier unknown squadron artist.”

This P-51 was flown by Warplane Heritage as CF-BAU, RCAF #9567. which was destroyed by fire after a forced landing in 1984. This fuselage art had been based on the early Tiger badge which contained cat stripes that were painted in solid lines like rings. This art appeared on both sides of the Mustang fuselage and appeared on at least six of the aircraft in July 1951.

In the summer of 1953, Tom was ask by a squadron pilot [F/O Murray E. Linkert] to paint the same style insignia on five of the remaining P-51 Mustang fighters. Tom first created a scale stencil of the first Tiger insignia and using the pin pricked outline applied blue powder to the fuselage of the Mustang. He then free handed the new tiger image with black paint and completed the painting in three to four hours. Tom painted outside in the summer evenings, and his insignia only appeared on the port [left] side of the five fighters. Tom lived twelve miles from the Mount Hope airport and painted two nights each week, receiving $10 per aircraft, cost of paint. While the original July 1951 striped Tiger art featured a downed fighter plane under the paw of the tiger, a P-51 fighter circled near the face of the tiger. Tom changed these two aircraft to a WWII German Messerschmitt Bf109.

While Tom took no images of his Tiger insignia, he did have copies of his art work from an old newspaper article, which also pointed out his painting of two WW II German fighters aircraft.

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The style of the original P-51 Tiger insignia by unknown artist in July 1951.

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It is still not confirmed if the early art was painted on both sides of the fuselage.

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This is the Tom Walton 424 Tiger insignia painted on Mustang serial 92577, PV577, for friend and pilot F/O Murray E. Linkert.

The writing is by Tom Walton showing he painted the German Bf109 fighter twice, for his WWII wireless/air gunner Lancaster operations.

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Mustang serial 9577 was taken on strength 7 June 1947, ex-U.S. serial 44-74311A. This Tiger insignia was painted by Tom in August 1953, and the aircraft flew until taken off charge by RCAF on 27 December 1957. This was the P-51 of C.O. and flight Instructor F/O M. E. Linkert, he was not the pilot who crashed.

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Three newspaper clippings from artist Tom Walton

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Unpublished painting by Clarence Simonsen

These colors have been confirmed by original artist Thomas Walton. Rock – Dark Blue, German aircraft are both Bf109’s and both are dark green in overall color. Luftwaffe cross was painted on both aircraft. Tiger was yellow, orange and white with blood coming from mouth.

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Tom Walton also painted the Tiger on Mustang serial 9252, PV252.
Taken on charge 6 December 1947, U.S. serial 44-74543. Flew until 17 December 1959.

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In 1965, Tom Walton was transferred to a new studio opened in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he became Mid-West Art Director. Photo from Tom taken at Saskatoon in 1977. At age 93 years, he remains a close friend and the only living WWII RCAF nose artist.

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Not original Tom Walton replica but close [author collection Calgary, Alberta, 1996]

North American Mustang Mk. IV flown by 424 [Tiger] Squadron

9247 6 December 1950 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-73849 Code BA-R

9252 6 December 1947 to 17 December 1959 U.S. 44-74543 BA-252
Painted by Tom Walton

9253 6 December 1950 to 10 August 1959 U.S. 44-74582 Code “T” & “S”
Stripe tiger art

9254 6 December 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74325 BA-254

9255 6 December 1950 to 1 November 1960 U.S. 44-74603 BA-U & “N”
Stripe tiger art

9259 10 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74878

9264 10 January 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74860 BA-264 & PV-264

9275 11 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S 44-74009 BA-275

9276 11 January 1951 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-74404

9277 11 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74472

9557 7 June 1947 to 20 September 1960 U.S. 44-63843 BA-Z

9567 7 June 1947 to 20 September 1960 U.S. 44-73140 BA-U

9577 7 June 1947 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-74311 PV-577
Painted by Tom Walton

9583 12 October 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74327

9584 13 October 1950 to 12 November 1952 U.S. 44-74341
Stripe tiger art

9585 12 October 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74360 BA-585

9587 8 November 1950 to 6 April 1953 U.S. 44-74421
Crashed “A”

9588 8 November 1950 to 14 May 1959 U.S. 44-74430

9589 8 November 1950 to 14 July 1952 U.S. 44-74438 BA-W
Crashed June 52 – killing pilot F/O D.K. Russell Stripe tiger art.

9590 8 November 1950 to 1 November 1960 U.S. 44-74451

This is dedicated to WWII nose artists Mathew Ferguson and Thomas Walton. Today Warplane Heritage at Hamilton, Ontario, are repainting the nose art of WWII and I hope these two men will be remembered.

The Disney “Flying Nightmares” of the R.C.A.F.

From Clarence Simonsen…

Again this is important for the art, and the pun on the name selection
During WWII, 28 USO performers were killed all over the world. They provided shows for the troops in the most dangerous and cold places, which also included Bob Hope.
These three American girls had entertained the Canadians and were returning to Annette Island when their Norseman crashed. The pilot’s body washed up on shore but I believe the crew members [and girls] were never found.

The Disney “Flying Nightmares” of the R.C.A.F.

When Canada declared war in September 1939, the RCAF’s Home War Establishment operated under an Eastern [formed 15 November 1938] and Western Air Command [formed 1 March 1938], with seven under strength squadrons flying a variety of obsolete aircraft. Due to the German U-boat threat, top priority was first given to Eastern Air Command to re-equip with modern aircraft. On 30 September 1940, the first class of the new British Commonwealth Air Training Plan pilots received their wings at Camp Borden, Ontario. Of the 203 RCAF Canadian pilots who graduated, only 12 were posted to England. The majority of 165 were posted to the BCATP in Canada as instructors or staff pilots, while 18 pilots were posted to Home War Establishment in Eastern Air Command.

When Japan suddenly attacked the United States on 7 December 1941, RCAF priorities were now reversed and Western Air Command experienced a very rapid growth from June 1941 until April of 1942. By June 1942, 17,464 Canadian aircrew had been trained in the BCATP and 900 had been posted to Home War Establishment squadrons, mostly in Western Air Command. In November 1943, the H.W.E. reached its peak strength with 37 squadrons, 19 in Eastern Air Command and 18 in Western Air Command. Only six of these squadrons received an “official” RCAF badge, motto, and authority from King George VI. Eight of Canada’s RCAF H.W.E. squadrons turned to Walt Disney for their “unofficial” unit insignia during WW II, while another four insignia were related to the H.W.E.

On 10 January 1942, an new RCAF unit was formed at Patricia Bay, British Columbia, by amalgamating a Coastal Artillery Co-Operative Flight and a Communications Unit Flight, which became No. 122 [Composite] Squadron. Flying a collection of old aircraft, Blackburn Shark Mk. II, [RCAF #506] and Mk.III [serial RCAF #519, #522, #523, #545, #549] Noorduyn Norseman [RCAF #2470, #2480, #2481, and #3539] Grumman Goose [RCAF #798, #917, #924, #942,] and Westland Lysander [RCAF #416, #446, #483, and #485], they performed a wide range of menial tasks, which earned them the unofficial title of – “Flying Joe Boys.” Not overly impressed with their nickname, one of the squadron members wrote to Walt Disney insignia design team in Burbank, California, and requested a new RCAF unit insignia. When the new crest arrived it was titled “The Flying Nightmares” featuring a bug-eyed horse-headed aircraft roaring out of a dark blue night sky, astride this aircraft was a knight-in-armour with a lance of lightning pointed to strike the enemy below. The Disney design team headed by Hank Porter had misinterpreted the duties of No. 122 Squadron and believed they were an RCAF night-fighter squadron. At the time, no one could realize how perfect the new insignia and name would become to this home defence unit.

When the Canadian Army or Navy wanted to improve their aim, it was No. 122 squadron who flew around with a 5,000 foot drogue cable pulling a target streaming from the end. Add to this heavy ack-ack batteries blasting away with bullets and tracers which sometimes ripped very close to the aircraft. The squadron soon began to enjoy the new Disney insignia and some spectacular events just added to the character of ‘their’ name. One day in 1943, 4,000 feet of steel drogue cable snapped and fell out of the sky over the city of Victoria, B.C. No civil injuries were reported but city power and traffic was stalled for two hours. This was followed by a mock attack on Army ground troops, where F/L John Luke from Victoria, succeeded in bombing three Brigadier Generals with flour bombs. The high ranking spectators were not impressed, but they were in fact legitimate targets, and Luke became a squadron hero. No photo evidence can be found to prove the insignia made it on the side of any aircraft, but the famed original Disney art hung in the squadron flight room wall until May 1945.


While the squadron earned their ‘unofficial’ name they also did much to prepare the West Coast troops against invasion, rehearsals of beach landings, smoke screens, and by 1944 air-to-sea rescue work. From March 1944 until June 1945, they flew three modern Lockheed-Vega Ventura Mk. III aircraft serial #2178, #2252, and #2272.

The Squadron lost three aircraft with six killed, five injured. On 18 June 1942, Blackburn Shark Mk. II, #506 had one float hit a submerged mud bank on landing. The aircraft cart wheeled and landed without floats or wings. The pilot F/O R.T. Heaslip received minor injuries.

On 27 July 1942, Grumman Goose Mk. II, RCAF #1016, had a Cat. “A” landing accident at Pat Bay.

The most serious accident occurred on 26 March 1943, when Norseman IV, #2481, departed Ketchikan, Alaska, to return three American U.S.O. concert ladies to Annette Island, Alaska. The No. 122 squadron pilot S/L Fred Burpee Currie encountered a sudden snow squall white-out and attempted to land at Warburton Island, six miles North-West of Annette. Forced down by the heavy snow, the aircraft crashed into the sea, with all crew and passengers killed. F/L I.M. Dowling, F/L E.B. Stapleford, LAC E.K. McMichael, USO – Miss Maxine March, Miss Adelaide J. Kaiser and Miss Christian Street.

The Disney Flying Nightmares 1

Unidentified USO performer doing her dance at U. S. Army Base Annette Island, Alaska 1943


 The Disney Flying Nightmares 2



This WWII Walt Disney Insignia created for No. 122 Squadron of the R.C.A.F. is painted on original aircraft skin from Canadian built Noorduyn Norseman Mk. IV, RCAF serial #494. Construction completed on 9 September 1942, the aircraft was assigned to No. 3 Training Command [Montreal, Quebec]. On 8 January it was transferred to No. 1 Operational Training Unit at Bagotville, Quebec, in service until 8 November 1994, placed into storage at Eastern Air Command, Montreal. On 18 October 1945, she was flown to RCAF Station Mount Pleasant, Prince Edward Island, for long term storage. On 1 August 1946, the Norseman was placed for sale by War Assests, purchased by Associated Airways in Edmonton, Alberta for one Canadian dollar. Re-sold to McDonald Aviation Company [Edmonton] and obtained its Certificate of Airworthiness on 8 August 1947. Leased to Charter Airways Ltd. based at Yellowknife, N.W.T., her postwar career was short. While attempting to land in a cross-wind at Allen Lake on the Cameron River, her wing struck the water and she crashed 25 August 1947. For the next 46 years the Norseman remained in the shoreline of the lake, and was stripped of most parts. Recovered in 1993, the aircraft was restored by the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton, and placed on display 18 April 1998. The original WWII skin was thrown into the garbage, but due to the history was recovered by pilot Tony Jarvis and mailed to nose artist Clarence Simonsen in 1989. In 2013, the soft skin was taken to Mexico [the artist winter home] and repainted with the Walt Disney Insignia. Dedicated to the crew and USO girls killed in RCAF Norseman Mk. IV, serial 2481, on 26 March 1943.

No. 419 Squadron painting on original WW II Bomber skin

A bottle of Coke and the Americans also were part of the BCATP, and in fact for the first two years of the war, [1940-41] 25% of the BCATP were Americans.

This was painted to honor them.
No 419 Squadron painting on original WW II Bomber skin


This painting is 30″ by 18″ painted on one original skin panel from Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. VII, serial NA337. It was painted in 2008 by “Mr. Nose Art” Clarence Simonsen of Airdrie, Alberta. Today it is in a private collection in Calgary, Alberta.

Halifax NA337 was built 3 March 1945, near Liverpool, England, delivered to No. 644 Squadron RAF, at Tarrant Rushton near Dorset, England. First operation was 24 March 45, the airborne assault across the Rhine River into Germany, it pulled a “Hamilcar” glider. On 24 April 45, it is hit by German anti-aircraft fire at Minnesund bridge and at 2 am the pilot ditches in the ice covered Lake Mjosa, north of Oslo, Norway. On 15 August 1995, the tail section is recovered followed by the main section and engines on 3 September. In December the sections of the Halifax arrive at Trenton for restoration. This original skin section was removed by Karl Kjarsgaard in 2003, and given to the artist. In September 2005, the Halifax restoration is complete.

The inspiration for the painting came from the Coca-Cola ad featured on the rear page of the 22 January 1940 issue of LIFE magazine. It was titled “Take off refreshed” and shows an American pilot drinking a bottle of coke. The world was at war but the United States was not involved. Did the Coca-Cola company understand Americans were coming to Canada to join the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan?

American interest in the BCATP in Canada was visibly displayed in the number of young Americans who joined the RCAF in 1940. 242 Americans were serving at bombing and gunnery schools and instructors at service flying training schools in December 1940.

Recruiting of Americans was entrusted to the semi-secret organization known as the Clayton Knight Committee. On 8 December 1941, the United States declared war and recruiting of Americans for the RCAF was officially terminated. On this date 6,129 Americans were members of the RCAF, roughly ten per cent of the RCAF aircrew intake. The Clayton Knight Committee dealt with 49,000 Americans who wished to join the RCAF and 8,864 served in the RCAF in World War Two. When the United States declared war, all Americans in the RCAF were given the opportunity to return home. For whatever reason, 5,067 Americans completed their service in the RCAF, a foreign Air Force with lower rates of pay.

The aircraft in this painting is a Halifax Mk. II, which was flown by No. 419 squadron from November 1942 until April 1944. This painting honours the eight Americans killed on active operations of No. 419 [Moose] Squadron of the RCAF in WW II. All were killed while flying in the RCAF Halifax Mk. II.


  1. F/O Burke R.W.                                Olympia, Washington.     KIA    5 Sept. 1943          Halifax aircraft serial JD410
  2. F/O Danninger H.A.                     San Bernadino, CA.             KIA    6 Sept. 1943          Halifax serial DJ210
  3. F/Sgt. Goure R.R.                           Longview, Washington.    KIA  28 April 1943       Halifax serial JB923
  4. F/O Mayes W.B.                              Maywood,    Illinois.             KIA  29 June 1943       Halifax JD215
  5. F/Sgt. Peterkin F.W.                    Bryn      Mawr, Penn.              KIA 22 Oct. 1943          Halifax serial JD382
  6. F/O Ruto E.B.                                   Kansas City, Missouri         KIA  14 May 1943          Halifax serial DT672
  7. F/O Studer J.A.                              Excelsior, Minnesota.         KIA    6 Aug. 1943          Halifax serial DJ210
  8. F/Sgt. Wilson R.P.                        New York, N.Y.                         KIA  18 Feb. 1943.          Halifax serial DT639



No. 111 Fighter Squadron R.C.A.F.

Update to this research…

Bonjour Pierre

Interesting article by Clarence. If I may, i would like to weigh in and add a little more.
As noted in the 440 Sqdn History Book, The ThunderBird Totem accompanied 111Sqdn to Alaska, and Pilot Sgt. Clifford Hicks formerly with No.14 Sqdn, was appointed the ” Official Custodian ” of the Totem. On Bill Eull’s wonderful 111(F) Sqdn site, there are some images of the Totem at various locals in Alaska / Aleutians. The colour image showing S/L A.D, Nesbitt DFC with the Totem is very
rare. Colour film from Kodak at that time was a big deal, and likely expensive. The image of Kittyhawk AL194 ‘V‘ being fished out the drink. That took place at Ft. Greely, Kodiak, Isl. on 19/April/43. My Dad, relayed to me the story of that event, and helped to repair AL194. The next image showing ”Lopes Hope“. This Kittyhawk was one of the original (7) Kittyhawks that was on the relocation flight to Umnak, Isl 13/July/42. Two Kittys ran into bad luck on the first leg of the flight. Kittyhawk AK989 I.D. ? was lost due to total failure of the electrical system and engine fire. The pilot bailed out, and was later returned to Elmendorf, AFB. The wreckage, I believe was never recovered. She should still be resting on the mainland on the westerly tip of Lake Illiamna, 75 mi. east of Nak Nek.
”Lopes Hope” She was coded LZ*T AK875. This Kitty was crash landed at Nak Nek. Having seen the post crash photo, I suspect that the main gear collapsed ? Damage was described as being significant. AK875 ‘T’ remained at Nak Nek until sometime in Jan. of ’43. She was retrieved and brought back to Chiniak Pt. Kodiak, Isl, In April (early) she was ” towed ” to Ft. Greely, just aways up the road, and repaired over a period of 2 weeks or so, and flew on the 24/April/43. She was given the name BITSA. My Dad, told me that it ment Built In Time to Save Alaska. and that ”we all laughed like Hell about that” I was chatting with Bill several months ago, and he mentioned that the museum curators were not aware of the true history of this Kittyhawk. The granddaughter of the pilot who flew AK875, contacted the museum, and is to be repainted in her original uniform of RCAF 111(F) Sqdn proper. Well, at least one A/C will be returned to her correct livery ! Clarence I am sure will be pleased to hear of this.

Cheers, Arrow

More research from Clarence Simonsen

Hello Pierre,

This is not Disney art, but very important to our native Indian culture and the part they played on the West Coast during WWII?
They fully understood the danger of Japanese invasion and created their ‘heritage’ Thunderbird Totem’ as good luck for the new formed No. 111 Sqn. 
This nose art was important to the RCAF pilots moral, which giving help to the Americans, and then “Tote” Bonny enters the most famous comic strip of that era. Each day in the newspaper, the Canadian youth and parents are enjoying the the adventures of Terry and the Pirates, all based on fact!
Hope you enjoy as much as I did researching this.

No. 111 Fighter Squadron R.C.A.F.

In October 1941, Curtiss-Wright P-40E-1 aircraft were supplied to Commonwealth air forces and were identified as Kittyhawk Mk. IA fighters. Today sixteen of these aircraft survive in North America in flying and static displays, and each one flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force during WW II. Over half of these fighters were assigned to No. 111 squadron of the RCAF, which was part of Home War Establishment Western Air Command. The Smithsonian P-40E served with No. 111 squadron of the RCAF and today is painted as an aircraft of 75th Fighter Squadron, 23 Fighter Group, 14th U.S. Army Air Force.

Addition to the original text

The Home War Establishment was formed in 1938 to patrol and protect Canada’s two seaboards. Top priority was first given to the Eastern Command due to the threat of German surface and U-boat raiders, while Western Command flew a variety of obsolescent aircraft. When Japan entered World War Two in December 1941, the Canadian west coast lay defenseless, then Japan invaded islands in the Aleutian chain and Western Air Command was threatened. Priorities were now reversed with reinforcements and new Curtiss Kittyhawks began arriving on 3 November 1941.

In February 1942, due to serious losses suffered by the United States in the Pacific and the lack of reinforcement troops for Alaska, an agreement was signed with Canada, under which RCAF squadrons would assist in defense of Alaskan bases. In May 1942, two RCAF squadrons, No. 115 [B.R.] and No. 118 [F], known as “Y” Wing, flew with the Americans based on Annette Island, where they were deployed until November 1943. In June 1942, “X” Wing was formed with H.Q. at Anchorage, Alaska, where No. 8 [B.R.] squadron arrived on 5 June.. Note – No. 8 bomber/recon. Squadron was replaced by No. 14 fighter Squadron on 3 March 1943. The fourth and last RCAF squadron, No. 111 [F] was based at Kodiak, Alaska, flying with the Americans in the worst weather conditions in the world. My painting is based on the fact and fictional history of No. 111 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.


The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, and the new land came under U.S. Army control for the next ten years. During this time military out-posts and Forts were constructed on the main land and island chain. In 1884 a civilian government was formed and by 1910 all military activity was hauled. In 1922, the U.S. Government signed the Washington Conference Treaty with Japan and other nations, which limited armaments, but most important the U.S. agreed not to fortify the Alaskan Island chain. In 1935, General “Billy” Mitchell addressed a Congressional hearing and stated – “Alaska is the keystone of the Pacific arch, Japan is the dangerous enemy in the Pacific. They will come right here to Alaska”. The U.S. Congress was in no mood to listen until 25 April 1939, when they passed a bill to build two Navy air stations at Sitka and Kodiak. The new Alaska Defense Force was established in July 1940, under command of Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., who wrote to the Walt Disney design team to create a new insignia.

Addition to the original text

The Disney insignia featured a seal on the Bering Sea ice, balancing a white “D” on his nose, with a background of northern lights. This Disney insignia is found in my painting.

By mid-1941, Gen. Buckner was still fighting a battle to build Alaska strength for the large territory he had to defend. When the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, military strength in Alaska was 20,000 Army troops, 2,200 Air Force and 550 naval personnel.


No. 111 [F] Squadron RCAF

The roots of the fighter squadron began on 5 October 1932, when they were formed as No. 11 Army Co-operation [Auxiliary] squadron of the RCAF at Vancouver City airport. It was renumbered No. 111 Coastal Artillery Co-operation squadron on 15 November 1937, and activated when Canada went to war on 10 September 1939. On 14 May 1940, the squadron moved to Sea Island, flying four obsolete Westland Lysander Mk. II aircraft. They were converted to a fighter squadron on 14 June and flew obsolete Blackburn Shark Mk. II and Fairy Battle Mk. I’s. The squadron was disbanded on 1 February 1941. In the summer of 1941, RCAF first-line fighter protection of the Canadian coastlines was non-existent. When No. 1 [F] Squadron moved to England with its Hurricane Mk. I’s in early June 1940, Canada’s fighter defense consisted of six obsolescent Grumman Goblin biplanes with No. 118 Squadron at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Finally, on 16 October 1941, the Canadian Government diverted 72 Curtiss [P-40E-1] Kittyhawk Mk.I aircraft from their RAF production contract to RCAF units. No. 118 [F] Squadron received the first Kittyhawk aircraft and next in line became the re-formed No. 111 [F] Squadron RCAF.

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-001

No. 111 was re-formed at Rockcliffe, [Ottawa] Ontario, 1 November 1941, where they received their first new Kittyhawk IA fighters on 3 November. Training began under a veteran Squadron Leader A.D. Nesbitt, DFC. S/L Nesbitt DFC joined the RCAF on 15 September 1939, obtained his wings at Camp Borden, 11 April 1940, and was posted to No. 1 RCAF Fighter Squadron. Nesbitt was one of the fighter pilots based at Calgary, Alberta, where they received new modern Hawker Hurricane Mk. I’s. He proceeded overseas with the squadron and joined the Battle of Britain in August of 1940. On 4 September he shot down a Bf110 and a Bf109 on 15 September, during this battle his Hurricane P3080 was shot down and he bailed out wounded. He returned to action on 9 October 1940, where his Hurricane was damaged by a Bf109, but he landed safely. On 1 March 1941, the RAF gave Canadians the new 400 block numbers. No. 1 RCAF Squadron became No. 401 RCAF squadron, and he took command of his original squadron. Nesbitt returned to Ottawa, on 18 September 1941, and took command of the reformed No. 111 Squadron on 1 November 1941.

Today it is clear to see during the first two years of World War Two the Canadian Government directed its full attention to the war in the Atlantic and England, giving little thought to the defense of the West Coast. The huge area North-West of Edmonton, Alberta, was total wilderness; open in the summer by boat and some civilian and bush pilot air routes. In August 1940, this would all change with the creation of the Canadian-American Permanent Joint Board on Defense. It was during these meetings the Canadian Government authorized the American building of airfields at Grande Prairie, Alberta, Prince George, Smithers, Fort St. John, and Fort Nelson, British Columbia, and Watson Lake, Whitehorse, in the Yukon. By December 1941 these airfields had been established for daylight use.

The sudden crippling attack by Japan on the United States naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 quickly changed the war defenses in Canada and Alaska. No. 111 [F] Squadron was ordered to Sea Island [Vancouver] on 14 December 41 and again moved to Patricia Bay [Victoria] on 18 February 42. The unit completed training in their new Kittyhawk Mk. I aircraft and became operational on 12 March 1942. On 17 March a special ceremony took place on base when the West Coast Saanich Indians adopted the squadron as “Thunderbird” and presented S/L Nesbitt with a 20” wooden carved Thunderbird Totem. From this date on the squadron took the motto “Thunderbird’ and painted two forms of the totem as nose art on the port side of many [below] Kittyhawk aircraft.

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-002

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-003

On 8 June 1942, 12 Kittyhawk aircraft of No. 111 RCAF Squadron landed at Anchorage, Alaska, flying under U.S. Alaska Command, RCAF “X” Wing. This marked the first time any RCAF units served under American operational command. On 15 June, Nesbitt was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of RCAF Station Annette Island. No. 111 flew their first operation on 1 July from Elmendorf Field, to intercept an unidentified aircraft. The Canadians had arrived without long-range fuel tanks, which was required for the long flights of the widely spaced islands in the Aleutian chain. On 13 July long-range tanks arrived and the squadron [12 Kittyhawks, 21 pilots plus 60 RCAF ground crew] was assigned to Umnak Island, the most forward American base in the Aleutians. A few of these aircraft carried the Thunderbird nose art into battle with the American Forces in Alaska, another RCAF first. The little wooden Thunderbird Totem remained with W/C Nesbitt at RCAF Station Annette Island for squadron good luck. The Canadians formed “F” flight of the 11th Pursuit Squadron, commanded by Major John S. Chennault, the son of the famous Major Gen. Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers. In a few days the famous American motion picture producer Col D.F. Zanuck arrived to shoot color scenes of the war in Alaska. No. 111 RCAF Squadron took part in some of the unrehearsed flying scenes, another Canadian first. You can view this film on-line today.

On 25 September 1942, four Kittyhawk Mk. I’s from No. 111 took off from Umnak Island with 37 American aircraft [12 P39’s, 20 P-40’s and 9 B-24’s] for an attack on the Japanese base at Kiska. This was the squadron’s first offensive operation [mission], the Canadians strafed ground targets and S/L Boomer destroyed a “Rufe” Japanese seaplane. For these actions the U.S. Air Medal was presented to S/L Boomer, F/O J.O. Gohl, H.O. Gooding, and R. Lynch.

The RCAF awarded Boomer with a D.F.C. as his was the only victory scored on an enemy aircraft by a Home War Establishment Squadron. After two tours of operations against the Japanese forces on Kiska Island, No. 111 Squadron returned to Pat Bay, B.C. on 15 August 1943. On 20 January 1944, they departed for Ayrshire, Scotland where they were renumbered No. 440 [F/B] Squadron flying Hawker Typhoon Mk. IV. The location of the Thunderbird Totem is unknown today but I believe it was retained by W/C Nesbitt.

Over 500 RCAF personnel served in the Aleutian theatre, 11 received the United States Air Force Medal, one the OBE, one the DFC and four AFC. Eight Canadians lie buried in the U.S. cemetery in Kiska, four have no known grave and their names are inscribed on the Commonwealth Air Memorial on Green Island in Ottawa. Today this Canadian part of coming to the help of the United States during the second world war, has been forgotten by history and historians.

My painting records No. 111 Squadron Kittyhawk Mk. I, RAF serial AL194, [RCAF #1087] of “F” flight, over their base at Umnak Island. The large white squadron code letters were ordered painted over by the Americans but the under-line white bar remains. The aircraft code letter “V” and under-line bar remains with RAF serial AL194. The white fuselage stripe was used by all Allied aircraft in Alaska.

The outer red roundel ring has been painted over with blue paint as ordered by American command, not to confuse with the Japanese meatball. This gave off a reddish purple effect to the outer roundel. This fighter also carried a large Thunderbird painting as squadron nose art.

Terry and the Pirates

In 1934, American cartoonist Milton Caniff, was approached by the New York Times newspaper and ask to create an action adventure comic strip. This was the beginning of “Terry and the Pirates”, a strip where characters were believable and the artist was not afraid to take a stand on the issue of the day or month. Four years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Caniff depicted his characters fighting the Japanese. In 1942, Caniff created Col. Flip Corkin who was based on real life Col. Philip G. Cochran, an Army Air Force commander in North Africa and the Orient. Caniff frequently drew actual servicemen he met while on tour of the war front, making some functional characters in Terry and the Pirates. This caught the eye of R.C.A.F. Sgt. Jerry Bricker of No. 4 Training Command at Calgary, Alberta.

Before the war Bricker was running his own printing and advertising business, which he left to join the R.C.A.F. in April 1940. In the Air Force his trade was equipment assistant, but he was soon involved in the RCAF Camp Newspapers. In Edmonton Manning Depot he became editor of “The Airman”, published “The Aircraftsman” at St. Thomas, Ontario, and founded “Reconnaissance” at No. 4 SFTS at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. While working on the camp newspaper in Calgary, Sgt. Bricker noticed Milton Caniff had featured all the allied country heroes in Terry and the Pirates, but by 1942 not one single Canadian had appeared. Canada and its 11 million inhabitants had been at war since 10 September 1939, but this had been totally ignored by Caniff in Terry and the Pirates. Sgt. Bricker wrote to Caniff in New York City, and for the next two months the artist and publisher perfected a typical Canadian fighter pilot who could fight the Japanese. Bricker had followed the career of No. 111 RCAF [F] Squadron S/L Nesbitt, DFC, and the new comic character was based on this proud RCAF Canadian fighter pilot. On 30 October 1943, tall, handsome, Canadian [Scottish background] F/L “Tote” Bonny flew RCAF Spitfire #228 into the strip of “Terry and the Pirates”. Bonny appeared in over 50 comic strips and for good luck he carried a Thunderbird totem, just like the one presented to No. 111 Squadron by the Saanich Indians of British Columbia.

This was one of the only times fact and fiction come together to form new RCAF WW II history.

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-004

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-005


RCAF 111 fighter squadron-006

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-007The new Scottish-Canadian F/L “Tote” Bonny flew his RCAF Spitfire serial #228 into the comic strip of “Terry and the Pirates” on 30 October 1943. He also carried a little Saanich Indian Thunderbird Totem, thus earning the nickname – Tote.

This montage of No. 111 squadron history is painted on original skin fabric taken from Noorduyn Norseman Mk. IV, RCAF serial #494. The skin size is 46” by 18’. Total panel size is 48” by 24”. Norseman 494 was delivered to the RCAF on 9 September 1942, assigned to No. 3 Training Command, [Montreal] transferred No. 10 Training Unit, Chatham, N.B., 8 Jan. 1943. Transferred 18 October 1945, No. 6 REMS Mt. Pleasant, P.E.I. 1 August 1946, placed ready for disposal. Sold – McDonald Aviation Co., Edmonton, Alberta, and 14 May 1947, registered as CF-EIH. On 25 August 1947, landing at Allen Lake, N.W.T., it hit strong downdraft and crashed into water. The remains were recovered by Alberta Aviation Museum in 1993, and today it is restored to original colors as CF-EIH.

Original Norseman aircraft skin was saved from the garbage by Tony Jarvis and mailed to Clarence Simonsen during restoration in 1998.

RCAF 111 fighter squadron-008


This painting is in the private collection of Dr. Stéphane Guevremont, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. history teacher at University of Mount Royal and University of Calgary.


 RCAF 111 fighter squadron-009

Sgt./Pilot Clifford Hicks, London, Ontario, No. 111 Sqn. with Totem in Alaska

I just want to share this so you will understand all this excitement…

How all this came about?

A simple comment Clarence, a complete stranger, sent me just a few days ago…


I just came upon your wonderful site, and can’t believe my eyes. I have been involved in the collection, research, and painting of Aviation nose art for the past fifty years. If you go to the Bomber Command Museum at Nanton, Alberta, just look for the art section – then – Clarence Simonsen nose art collection.
No. 128 squadron took the name “Dragon” during their creation, but the nose art image was designed by the Walt Disney team and I will send you the complete history, if you wish? I have been looking for years to find any photo of the fox on the nose of their Hurricane aircraft. Bingo – you have preserved RCAF history.

Give me a few days and I will send a full history, with images.

Please give me you e-mail. Great photos.

Clarence Simonsen

Mr. Nose Art

Blogger’s note

The source is here

Mr. Nose Art
by Michelle Greysen 


Randolf Hearst printed the first known American comic strip in his November 1902 New York Journal, in 1938 the Superman comic book arrived on the scene, and the rest as they say is history.

For Clarence Simonsen, an only farm kid in the small rural farming village of Acme, Alberta in the late 40’s and 50’s, the highlight of his week was Saturday. Following the morning farm chores, armed with allowance in hand he would head six miles into town for his hard earned comic book.

His drawing ability and re-known artist status of today, came from both an obvious natural talent coupled with his self-education in his formidable years as he poured over the pages of his war comics of the day. Doodling on anything and everything, Clarence trudged his way though his young school years dreading the daily forty minute school bus ride and hating even more the farm talk among his peers all the while he sketched in his head day after day rushing in the door to put it all on paper.

When he was 16 he was allowed to purchase his first playboy magazine and he jokes that it changed his life but not in the way most teenage boys could imagine. For Simonsen the September 1960 issue featuring the ‘paint a playmate’ and the art of Vargas was a life altering experience as he learned that these were indeed the very same images of those plastered on the world war two aircraft of his comic book education.

At graduation Simonsen attributes his life-altering decisions and his career that led to his nose art, to his teacher in Acme, Mr. Ralph McCall. Wanting to be a policeman and the devastating realization that he could not join a force until aged 21, it was Mr. McCall that encouraged Clarence and his buddy to ‘see the world’, to join the army and become military police.

Still today, Simonsen attributes his life’s work back to McCall and his gift as a teacher to influence Simonsen’s art and his entire life. As Simonsen today visits school children to share his nose art passion he always thinks of his Mr. McCall and shares with the eager children that it was a teacher who changed his life. Shortly before McCall’s passing the two, teacher and student, were able to meet once again and Simonsen shared with McCall how significant he had been to his successful future. Simonsen says with earnest “McCall touched his life. McCall touched nose art.”

Back in 1965 as a United Nations military policeman, Simonsen found himself turning twenty-one on the island of Cyprus in a world far beyond farm life in rural Alberta. He began to see the power of art and cartooning in the military as he doodled his spare time away often getting asked for his work to hang in lockers or on mess walls.

His art led to him drawing large wall murals in barracks and the mess halls creating life size images such as those of hockey night in Canada, the Calgary Stampede, and Canadian football. These images sparked many a conversation among the men and women from all over the world cut off from everyday life who would often for their entertainment, come to watch this Canadian who could paint.

For this farm boy on the other side of the world life suddenly went beyond tractors and pigs and grew to an appreciation of his talent as an artist and a self-realization that military visual storytelling was a cultural art that had tied weary soldiers to their lives back home and had carried many soldiers through the isolation and horrors of war time.

For Simonsen the reality of the military past and the heartfelt losses of World War Two became very vivid along with the grasping of the psychological affects back in the day when some nights 3000 or more men did not come back to the mess hall for dinner. It was his drive to understand the devastation and personal loss amid the ability of these front-line war-time soldiers to head out the next day on the next bomber knowing it could be them not back at dinner, that led to his inspiring knowledge of how nose art played an important role in the connection to both home and to that very aircraft and the crew that made each day a harsh reality.

Simonsen’s connection to military art was first hand and his young comic-book love of nose art and Varga girls brought it full circle. Back home a year later as a young Toronto Policeman he joined the local legion, started his research on nose art, and launched what was to become a 40-year and counting lifestyle.

Over the years Simonsen has battled his own fight back in Canada as he struggles to earn the recognition for these many lives lost along with the lost art form that brought them a comfort and a purpose in the mayhem. His urgency to record the history seems as strong today as when he started the project realizing these stories and the people who lived to tell them are fast passing.

Now a renowned recreation artist, a world historian on the subject, and an author of two books on nose art, Simonsen shows no sign of slowing down. He has painted over 500 recreated works in tribute all on original skin of salvaged significant bombers. Each piece is heavily researched, many passed on in respect to their significant squadrons or players, and all including his signature silhouette of the bomber and a squadron insignia.


© Michelle Greysen
originally published in Canadian Aviator Magazine Sept/Oct 2005



Over the years Simonsen has battled his own fight back in Canada as he struggles to earn the recognition for these many lives lost along with the lost art form that brought them a comfort and a purpose in the mayhem. His urgency to record the history seems as strong today as when he started the project realizing these stories and the people who lived to tell them are fast passing.

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