The Merlin Engine

The development of what was to become the Merlin was inspired by a prestigious marine aviation competition commonly known as the Schneider Trophy. In 1913, French businessman Jacques Schneider offered a 1000-pound prize to the fastest plane to fly a closed circuit with two loops and two returns over 400 kilometers. The first nation to win three consecutive races would keep the trophy in perpetuity. England had some success in these competitions, winning the 1914 and 1922 events, but was upset in 1923 and 1925 by American entries using Curtiss biplanes and engines. England would return to glory, spurred on by the efforts of a new young British aeronautical engineer, R.J. Mitchell. He was working for Supermarine Aviation Works, a relatively small company until acquired by Vickers in 1928. The United Kingdom took the 1927 Schneider Trophy flying a Mitchell-designed Supermarine S.5 powered by the Napier Lion engine. Keith stated the Wblock engine produced 890 horsepower, and was likely in production longer than any other aero engine, from 1917 right up until the 1930s.  [ More info … ]

The contents of this article were originally presented to the CAHS Toronto Chapter at a meeting on October 22, 2011. All material has been edited and adapted for this website.

Meet the 97-year-old Second World War veteran who’s helping a new video game take off

Bob Middleton, who flew on Lancaster bombers, helped with a new project from MicroProse Canada

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RAF Second Tactical Air Force

The wide-ranging operations of the RAF 2TAF ranged from the routine, to some that were rather hair-raising, to others that were tragic. Many young men had to endure hours of routine punctuated by sudden and unforgettable terror. Friends could be lost in a split second of flash and flame. Others became prisoners of war. More were grounded due to nervous exhaustion, which the RAF rather brutally and also controversially termed “lack of moral fibre”.  [ More info … ]

The contents of this article were originally presented to the CAHS Toronto Chapter at a meeting on December 1, 2018. All material has been edited and adapted for this website.

The B-25 History Project

The B-25 History Project is dedicated to honor and preserve the history of the B-25 and the men and women who built, flew, and maintain them; past, present, and future. In addition to thousands of digital documents, the project maintains both 2D and 3D physical archives containing hundreds of B-25 related artifacts. With well over 100 years of combined research experience, our resources give us a unique and comprehensive understanding of B-25 history. Our goal is to honor that history by utilizing it to inspire younger generations. [ More info … ]

Women’s Division, Royal Canadian Air Force

First In, Last Out, Glad Bryce – The Royal Canadian Air Force was the first service to allow women into its ranks, and women remained in the war effort longer than their counterparts in the army and navy. Glad recounted that when she meets with WDs, they often say, “we were first in, last out,” which became the inspiration for the book’s title. [ Read the whole story … ]

WWII Military Aviation Gallery

German Fighters

The legendary Messerschmitt Me 109 was the definitive German fighter plane that comes to mind for most of us when thinking of WWII.

This rival to the Spitfire and Hurricane in the Battle of Britain served in almost every theatre of war in WWII. First flown in September 1935, the Messerschmitt Me 109 was built in larger numbers than any other fighter in history. Although records are incomplete it is estimated that approximately 35,000 were built with a few thousand extra rebuilt from wrecks. It was designed by Willy Messerschmitt and was Germany’s first successful modern, low wing monoplane fighter and originally known as the Bf 109 after the Bavarian Flying Works (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke) factory that built it. The Bf 109B-1 model was sent to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and was flown by German Legion Condor Volunteers in support of Dictator Franco. The Bf 109 quickly gained air superiority over the Republican Forces (Communist) who were flying Russian- built and supplied I-15 biplanes and I-16 monoplanes. All of these early Bf 109s were powered by the Junkers Jumo 12-cylinder liquid-cooled engine of approximately 700 hp.  [ More info … ]

Air Battles of WWII Malta

The Allison Engine Story

In modern history Malta became a British Protectorate in 1813 and this was later confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Malta then developed as an important naval base for Britain and as headquarters for the Mediterranean fleet. Malta’s geographic position in the “Straits of Sicily” gave Britain control of almost all east-west sea traffic from Gibraltar to the Suez Canal, creating a major military advantage. This British asset was a detriment to Italy’s ambitious nationalistic plan to expand its southern national boundary to North Africa by expansion of its existing colonies in Libya. This massive plan included the annexation of Egyptian lands all the way to Suez. As an obstacle to Italy’s plans, Malta, therefore became a prime target. Italy then asked its Axis partner, Germany, to help in the removal of Malta as a threat to the completion of Italy’s ill advised bold annexation attack on other nations. Germany saw the advantage of the plan as a partner to Italy, since German participation would divert scarce British war resources from the European Theatre. After many centuries of domination and being ruled by others, Malta finally became an independent republic in 1974. [  Read the whole story …  ]

Double Threat - Ellin Bessner

In 1945, the Second World War came to an end. For the Jews of Canada, this war was what the Prime Minister of the day, Mackenzie King, called a “Double Threat”: he said Hitler was not only dangerous to freedom and democracy, but was a threat to the very survival of the Jewish people as a race. In spite of this backdrop, or maybe because of it, more nearly 17,000 Jewish Canadians enlisted in every branch of the service, and in the merchant marine. They fought and died in every major battle including Hong Kong, Dieppe, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Ortona, D-Day, Falaise, the Scheldt, and throughout Northwest Europe, and in the Pacific.

Over 190 received military honours for bravery. Nearly 450 did not come home. You can find Canadian Jewish military graves from WWll, in all corners of the world, including the large cemeteries of Normandy, as well as in Germany, England, and Holland…plus in far-flung places such as Iceland, Ghana, Libya, and Crete.

[More info …]

The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain, July to October 1940, took place 75 years ago last summer and fall. While the struggle is often described as “a damn close run thing!,” that phrase originated with British general Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. As Tim noted, the description is equally appropriate to the Battle of Britain. Tim played a broadcast by Winston Churchill when he rallied Britain after the fall of France: “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British [ More info … ]

Little Norway

Hitler attacked Norway on April 9, 1940. Norway’s armed forces were poorly equipped, partly due to a pacifist attitude common across Europe after World War I. Norway lacked a separate air force. Instead, the army and navy each had an airborne division called an air service. Most of the aircraft were antiques by the standards of the day, such as 45 Fokker C.V biplanes flown by the Army Air Service. One fighter squadron had 10 Gloster Gladiator biplanes. A handful of these aircraft battled German aircraft in dogfights, but they were no match for the Luftwaffe. As a German flotilla approached Oslofjord, the fortress’s guns and torpedoes sank the brand-new German heavy cruiser Blucher. The sinking delayed the capture of Oslo, allowing the king, government members and protectors of the treasury to escape before all of the targeted Norwegian cities were in German hands. [ More info … ]

Exile Air - Andrea Baston

After Germany invaded Norway during World War II, the Royal Norwegian Air Force took refuge in Canada to rebuild. Young Norwegian exiles came to the “Little Norway” training camps in Toronto and Muskoka, keen to learn flight skills and return to battle the Germans overseas.

This is the true story of the Royal Norwegian Air Force training camps located in Canada during World War II. It’s a tale of the courageous young Norwegians who endured dangerous escapes from their homeland to come to “Little Norway” in Toronto and Muskoka, Ontario. There, they learned flight skills and returned overseas to battle Nazi fighter planes and enemy submarines— and excelled. In 1943, one of the Norwegian squadrons was named the top-scoring Allied fighter squadron in all of Britain’s Royal Air Force.

“Exile Air tells a true, inspiring story from Norway’s and Canada’s history, more significant than ever during Canada’s 150th anniversary year. This 240 page book ($28.95) is available at and selected bookstores.