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A Thousand Shall Fall: The True Story of a Canadian Bomber Pilot in World War Two

Updated: Jan 4

By Martin Zeilig

 

John Peden, Image Credit: Martin Zeilig

Murray Peden was a wonderful father, who raised his children with “a strong ethical sense”, says his son, John Peden.


Not surprising.


Murray Peden was a Canadian air force officer, lawyer and author of the memoir, A Thousand Shall Fall: The True Story of A Canadian Bomber Pilot in World World Two (Stoddart 490 pg. $29.99). He was also the author of the bestselling book, Fall of an Arrow, plus articles that appeared in aviation magazines and newspapers in Canada, England and the United States.




“The best book any Canadian has written about his experiences, and one of the best books about the war that has been written anywhere,” said a review in The Canadian Historical Review.


“The book is dedicated to Tommy Penkuri, Rod Dunphy, Freddie Taylor, Francis Plate and to… the army of young aircrew who died in combat in the skies over Europe,” Murray Peden writes.


“Over 50,000 aircrew were killed serving in RAF Bomber Command, thousands of that number being fellow Canadians. I remember them all, with pride, respect and enduring affection.”


During an interview with The Voxair in early December, 2023, John Peden, a retired lawyer, noted that his dad grew up in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.


“My father’s father worked for the railroad,” he said.


“My father was a very bright kid and did well scholastically, and played coronet in the Portage City band and eventually became their solo coronet player. He came to Winnipeg on his eighteenth birthday. He wanted to demonstrate his patriotism by signing up for the military. He joined the RCAF. Like many kids of his generation, flying was still relatively new and he wanted to become a pilot.”


He observed that his father wanted to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes, high performance fighter aircraft; but the Battle of Britain was over and “the Royal Air Force was strengthening its bomber offensive” against Germany.


“He started his elementary flying in Tiger Moths in High River, Alberta,” Mr. Peden continued.



“He then did his service flying in Dauphin, Manitoba. Once you had completed that training, you were shipped overseas.”


He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a bomber pilot from 1941 to 1945 and completed the majority of his tour of duty with No. 214 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command. Murray Peden flew 30 missions, which was a complete tour of operations in Bomber Command.


“You’d then have a break in operations afterwards, usually being an instructor,” John Peden explained.


“Then, after a break of six months you’d do a second tour, which consisted of twenty operations by and large.”


His father flew four-engined Short Stirling bombers for the first half of his tour.


“But, Stirlings were haunted by short wingspans,” John Peden said.


“So, its altitude performance was curtailed, which made it an easier prey for enemy counter fire. Also, Lancaster bombers were dropping bombs above you in the bomber stream.

“His squadron was transferred into the newly formed 100 Group, which did radar countermeasures, where he flew B-17 Fortresses.”


 His goal in writing the book was to be as informative and truthful as he could be about learning to fly and being a pilot during the war, John Peden said.


“He wanted to write a book that was as accurate as possible so that readers would get a true picture of what it was like during the war,” he continued.


“I’m a much better person for having been the son of my father.”


Honour to his memory.

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