The Flying Officer

Matthew Kennedy was a police clerk in Edinburgh, Scotland when he volunteered with the RAF, and then trained as a pilot.

On October 28, 1944, he reported to no. 76 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in Palestine where members of the air crew trades had assembled in a drill area and the order was given to crew up.

The first person to join Kennedy’s crew was Jim Mitchell, wireless operator. “He was Scottish, I was glad to meet him,” said Kennedy. They met another Scot, flight engineer Dave Bremmer, who had been an apprentice at Leith docks in Kennedy’s hometown.

The boys got talking to bomb-aimer Maurice Harmes, the most colorful character to join the crew. Kennedy said, “Maury was a real ladies man, with slicked-back hair and sporting an Errol Flynn moustache.”

Harmes asked if air gunners Stan and Charlie Mansfield could join them. The first thing that Kennedy noticed about the Mansfields, other than the fact that they were identical twins, was that they were of ideal stature for air gunners.

The last one to join them at the OTU was navigator Cyril King, from Luton, outside of London. “King was a quiet, bookish type, and a real gentleman,” said Kennedy. Ron Tarrant was added to the crew later as a waist gunner.

“In spite of the haphazard way crewing was done, we ended up with a happy, efficient crew who got along well with each other,” said Kennedy.

L-R: Maurice Harmes, Stan Mansfield, Cyril King, Ron Tarrant, Matt Kennedy, Dave Bremner, Jim Mitchell, Charlie Mansfield

As a 20 year-old RAF Sergeant, Matt piloted B-24 Liberators on many bombing operations from Foggia Main in Southern Italy. And on the night of April 25, 1945 Kennedy’s crew participated in what turned out to be the last RAF bombing op of the war, over a rail marshaling yard near Salzburg, Germany.

After the war Matt flew the Hudson VI, converted from bomber to transport, on Search & Rescue missions out of Nairobi, Kenya. At the rank of Warrant Officer, Kennedy was released from RAF service on August 7, 1946, and said his goodbyes.

After arriving home he rejoined the Edinburgh City Police, which is where he met his wife Sheila, who was also a police officer. Matt ultimately reached the position of Acting Sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Matt Kennedy in 2009 with DH.82C Tiger Moth in background. Van Hansen photo

He got to fly again in 1955 when he was commissioned as a Flying Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve after immigrating to Canada. Matt served as a flight instructor until the Diefenbaker government cancelled his flying program around the same time as the CF-105 Avro Arrow.

Matt and Sheila had settled in the Bronte East neighbourhood of Oakville, ON and raised five children. Matt worked as a manager at the Ford Motor Company, for 35 years until his retirement.

He also volunteered for many years in various roles including Commander, Search Master, and Quartermaster at the Town of Oakville Water-Air Rescue Force, a unit of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The Kennedy’s were married for 63 years, when Sheila passed away on September 10, 2016.

Matt was born on Christmas Day, and he passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2017 at the age of 93.

With excerpts from “In Until the End—A Bomber Pilot’s Story” by Van Hansen, published in Canadian Aviator magazine, Nov/ Dec 2011

Next Episode is The Santa Claus

About the Author

Van Hansen

While Van is not allowed to sing, he is allowed to write songs and stories. Mostly stories. Published in magazines such as Canadian Aviator, Canadian Geographic, Costco Connection, Photography Monthly, and The Walrus, Van now shares with you the Profiles and everyday adventures of the People in Your Neighbourhood™, Community Spotlights, plus News & Reviews in the NEW Hansen House Blog! Van is a Certified Executor Advisor, and a Real Estate Broker with the full-service boutique brokerage Apex Results Realty Inc. in Burlington, ON.

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  1. Love stories like these that can live on in history, as a result of you blogging it. Amazing people like this created freedom for all of us. Nice work! Great read…

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