Building a Bomber
The Creston Review prided itself on being a local newspaper. It rarely ran headlines for national or international events; even the declaration of war itself was relegated to letters to the editor and the pre-printed inside pages that contained everything from “World Happenings Briefly Told” to serialised novels and advertisements for patent medicines.
Nevertheless, we do see some hints of those bigger events in the local stories that appear. In the summer of 1940, for example, the national headquarters of the Canadian Red Cross announced that, while the regulation Red Cross parcels were still being sent to British and Canadian prisoners of war, no personal parcels intended for a particular serviceman could be forwarded. It was, they said, impossible for either the Canadian or the British Red Cross to ship directly to Europe – though postal communications had been re-established with Switzerland.
This was a direct consequence of the evacuation of Dunkirk in late May and early June, 1940. In a lightning-fast attack, the German army had swept through France and trapped the remains of the British, Belgian, and French armies on the northwest coast, where a hastily assembled flotilla of small boats evacuated the troops to safety.
The evacuation had enormous implications for the military strategies of Britain and her allies. Without even a toehold on the continent, the Allies were forced to take the war into the air and to sea. The Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve would play a major role in protecting desperately needed supplies being shipped from Canada to Britain across the Atlantic; and the Royal Canadian Air Force would take the war directly to Germany through the bombing missions of Bomber Command.
This situation is hinted at in another little local news story: the IODE, in response to “a crying need” for airplanes, began raising funds in mid-June, 1940, to build a Bolingbroke bomber. This was a national campaign, to which the Creston chapter contributed, and was so successful that in just one week the necessary $100,000 was raised, and by the end of a month the plane was built.
Although June 1940 was too early for most of the Creston recruits to be on active service overseas, even the IODE’s bomber campaign had a local connection. Geoffrey Constable had, in 1938, taken a correspondence course in aeronautical engineering from a school in California. He was hired directly from that course by Fairchild Aircraft Limited of Longuiel, Quebec, and, although not in military uniform, worked as plant supervisor in the factory that built the IODE bomber. Fairchild produced nearly 700 Canadian-made Bolinbrokes during the war, which served as patrol bombers in the western Atlantic and as trainers in the Commonwealth Air training Plan.