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The Airmen's Stories - F/O B D Russel  



Blair Dalzel Russel was born in Toronto, Canada on 9th December 1917 and educated at Selwyn House, Montreal and Trinity College School, Port Hope, Ontario.

He worked for the Dominion Steel and Coal Co in Toronto and while there learned to fly at the Montreal Flying Club in 1938.

He enlisted in the RCAF at the outbreak of war and was commissioned into 115 (Auxiliary) Squadron in mid-September 1939. Russel continued flying training in November at Trenton, moving on to Camp Borden, on Harvards.




115 Squadron was augmented by some regular pilots from No. 1 peacetime squadron and became No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron. It sailed for the UK on 11th June 1940, arriving on the 20th.

The squadron trained at Middle Wallop for six weeks and its Hurricanes were modified to UK standards. Russel was detached to RAF Uxbridge on 10th July for a short course on R/T procedure.

The squadron then moved to Croydon and flew each day to Northolt for instruction with 111 Squadron, under the supervision of the AFDU. No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron was declared operational on 17th August 1940.

Russel shared in the destruction of a Do17 on 26th August, damaged another on the 31st, probably destroyed a Me110 and damaged a Ju88 on 4th September, got a probable He111 on the 15th, shared Do17s on the 21st and 25th and destroyed a Me109 and a Me110, shared another Me110 and damaged a Do17 on the 27th.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th October 1940), one of the first two to be awarded to the RCAF in the war. Russel was repatriated to Canada on 15th February 1941 and joined 118 (RCAF) Squadron at Rockliffe on 26th March. He was promoted and took command of 14 (RCAF) Squadron, also at Rockliffe, on 1st January 1942.

He was posted away on 27th November 1942 and reported to HQ RCAF, London on 21st December. Russel went to 402 (RCAF) Squadron at Kenley as a supernumerary, moving later to 416 (RCAF) Squadron. On 16th April 1943 he took command of 411 (RCAF) Squadron at Redhill.

Russel was promoted on 9th July 1943, to lead 126 (Canadian) Wing at Redhill. He completed his tour on 15th October, was posted to HQ 83 Group, as Wing Commander Tactics, and awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 16th November 1943).

He dropped a rank to take command of 442 Squadron at Westhampnett on 28th April 1944. He was sent to land on the first Allied airfield in Normandy on 10th June, at St Croix-sur-Mer, the first Spitfire pilot to land in France after D-Day.



Russel shared in destroying a Fw190 on the 22nd. He was re-promoted on 8th July and again took command of 126 Wing, damaging a Me109 on 10th August. He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 3rd October 1944).

Russel led the Wing until his third tour ended on 26th January 1945. In all he had flown 256 operational sorties. Russel was also awarded the Croix de Guerre (French) with Silver Star, the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords and the Czechoslovak War Cross.

He flew home to Canada on 12th March and left the RCAF on 3rd July. He worked for Canada Wire and Cable, Canadair Aircraft Company and Sperry Gyroscopes before he and his wife bought a linen store in Montreal.

Russel died on 20th November 2007.



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