Original 435 Squadron Members Reunited with the Squadron
435 Sqn was stood up on 01 November 1944 in Gujrat, India as the RCAF’s 34th squadron formed overseas, sporting a fleet of Douglas Dakota aircraft. The members of the new squadron flew their first operation mission on 20 December 1944, airlifting supplies for the Fourteenth Army, and conducting missions in support of the Burma Campaign.
In the fall of 2022, 435 Sqn had the unique pleasure of wishing two of its original members, both of whom served with the squadron during the Burma Campaign, happy birthday and present them each with an official 435 Sqn lithograph, the traditional posting gift given to departing members, signed by the squadron members!
After a family member contacted the squadron to extend the invite, 435 Sqn’s CWO Leblanc, Maj Cusack, and Capt Falk joined Mr Warren Smith and his family in Edmonton during his 100th birthday celebration on 27 Sept 22. In an interesting turn, Capt Falk – who was at one time the squadron padre - has a direct familial connection with Mr Smith, being his great nephew. When asked what the experience meant to him, Capt Falk described it as an honour and a privilege, and talked about sharing a moving moment with Mr Smith when thanking him for the positive impact he’s had on Capt Falk and his family. “I have great memories of him. Just a real genuine, open, caring, salt-of-the-earth guy… it was a meaningful time, and great to be a part of that as a former 435 Sqn padre, and to share that with him”. Mr Smith joined the RCAF as a radio technician in August of 1942 when he was 20 years old; so committed to participating in the war effort he was, when he was deemed unfit for service due to failing the flight test, he successfully memorized the letters in order to retake the test and join. Mr Smith was stationed in Burma at the time of the standing up of the squadron, and proved himself a handy tech to have around, fixing and maintaining the movie projector and building radios so the stationed members could listen to the news and watch movies left behind by the American troops. In addition, Mr Smith capitalized on his infrequent days off to supplement his coffers by joining the aircrew as a “kicker” – a person that would “kick” the cargo being dropped from the aircraft out the back, earning $0.50 per trip. Mr Smith captured his experiences in his 2016 book “The Inventive Life of Warren Smith.”
The second original member was Mr Richard Earl, who turned 98 in July 2022. Mr Earl joined the RCAF as a wireless air gunner at the age of 18, and was on the parade square in Gujrat, India when the squadron was officially formed in 1944. At the end of the tour in India, Mr Earl received his commission from WO First Class to Flying Officer, accumulating over 2,000 hours on the Douglas Dakota aircraft throughout his career. When the war ended, Mr Earl returned to his hometown of Winnipeg, and was honourably discharged from the RCAF in 1946. 75 years later, after having no further contact with the military community, Mr Earl met his new neighbor, MWO (retired) Rick Henry, who served with 435 Sqn as a SAR Tech, and discovered that 435 Sqn’s new home was Winnipeg, MB. Mr Earl was then able to join the squadron’s 75th anniversary celebration, and was ecstatic to be reunited with his old unit and military community after such a long absence. 435 Sqn and the 19 Wg Commander were honoured to host Mr Earl and his family, as well as Rick Henry, on 18 October 2022 for a gathering where Mr Earl visited the different sections and conversed with current squadron members, fielding questions and sharing stories about his experiences.
For a squadron with such an established history, it was a rare opportunity to not once, but twice, connect with original “Chinthes,” and hear stories of our humble beginnings in the midst of a World War from those who first embodied the motto “certi provehendi” (Determined to Deliver) that continues to define 435 Sqn today.