The Airmen's Stories - F/O E F J Charles
The son of an RFC pilot, Edward Francis John Charles was born in Coventry, England on 6th February 1919. He was taken to Canada as a child and lived in Lashburn, Saskatchewan. In June 1937 he joined a territorial unit, the 16th/22nd Saskatchewan Horse.
Charles joined the RCAF as an Officer Cadet on 3rd January 1938 and transferred to the RAF in May 1939. On 20th December he was posted to 81 (Communications) Squadron. When it was disbanded on 15th June 1940, Charles joined 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron.
In August Charles volunteered for Fighter Command and on the 21st he was posted to 7 OTU Hawarden to convert to Spitfires, after which he joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 3rd September.
On 24th October 1940 Charles baled out of Spitfire P9558 when the engine malfunctioned. The resultant clouds of black smoke gave him the mistaken impression that the aircraft was on fire.
Charles claimed no victories until 7th April 1941 when he shot down a Me110 East of Manston.
In sweeps over France between 17th June and the end of September 1941, Charles destroyed five Me109's, probably six others and shared in the probable destruction of two more.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 15th July 1941) and posted away from 54 Squadron in early October to CFS for an instructors course, after which he instructed at 9 FTS, 9(P) AFU and 5(P) AFU.
In December 1942 Charles went on a refresher course to 52 OTU and in January 1943 he joined 64 Squadron. On 12th March he damaged a Fw190. He moved to 611 Squadron on 27th March 1943 as a Flight Commander and on 22nd April he was given command of the squadron.
On 4th May he damaged a Fw190 and on the 7th he damaged a Me109. On the 14th he destroyed a Fw190 and the next day two more. Commandant Mouchotte of 341 Squadron shot down a Fw190 simultaneously with Charles' second one. Thus the two pilots shared the honour of shooting down Biggin Hill's 1000th victim and the prize, each getting £90 (photo below shows Mouchotte beneath the spinner with Charles on his right, holding a cigarette).
Charles claimed a Fw190 destroyed on 17th May and another on 23rd June. On this day his own aircraft was damaged and, after gliding down from 10,000 to 1000 feet, he baled out into the sea and was picked up by an ASR launch. On 5th July Charles damaged a Fw190 and on the 25th he shot down another and damaged a Me109.
On 9th August 1943 Charles was promoted to lead the Middle Wallop Wing. He claimed a Fw190 on 31st August before being posted to Portreath on 16th September to command the Wing there.
On the 24th he claimed his final victory, a Me110.
Charles was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 16th July 1943), the US Silver Star (gazetted 20th July 1943) and the DSO (gazetted 29th October 1943).
He went on to staff duties at HQ 10 Group and in April 1944 he transferred to the RCAF. After a lecture tour of Canada, Charles served on the staff of HQ Allied Expeditionary Air Forces.
After the war he was repatriated to Canada and stayed in the RCAF. He had a mental breakdown in 1949 and was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, almost certainly caused by wartime stress. He appeared to have recovered but after suffering a relapse was pronounced incurable.
He was released from the RCAF in 1951 and spent the rest of his life in the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver. Charles died there on 5th November 1986.