Former RAF and RCAF pilot Ernie Allen turned 100 on January 14, 2022. Photo: Emily Lindahl
Each veteran has their own story. For some, their story can be too painful to share, too traumatic to relive. For other veterans, sharing their stories is a passion. Flight Officer (retired) Ernie Allen, a 100-year old resident at the Wildpine Residence in Stittsville, Ontario holds the story of his time in both the RAF and the RCAF dear, and he is more than happy to share it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Ernie. He came armed with his RAF flight logs which began on July 1, 1941, his first day in the air force. Ernie was ready to share his tale of being a pilot in the RAF for the Second World War, his journey to the US following the war, and the trials he experienced trying to join the RCAF for the Korean War.
Ernie’s enthusiasm was evident as he talked about the various aircrafts he flew during the Second World War; the old Hawker Hart and Audax biplanes which towed the military Hotspur gliders, the Typhoons, the Spitfires, and more. He explained the role each aircraft played in supporting allied troops and keeping the enemy at bay.
He shared how a friend from high school lost his life when the aircraft he was piloting crashed during the bombing of Berlin. With the plane on fire, the crew was instructed to bail out, however the pilot and co-pilot went down. When Ernie was stationed near the Germany border with Denmark, he learned his friend was buried nearby. He visited the local cemetery to pay his respects.
When the war was over, Ernie traveled to the United States on a converted merchant marine ship to prepare a home for his wife. They settled outside of Boston where Ernie worked as a photographer, specializing in school photos and children’s photography.
When the Korean War began, Ernie once again felt the need to serve. He went to enlist at a US Air Force recruitment office, but was told his British citizenship meant he was not eligible. So he traveled to Ottawa and visited the headquarters of the day, a wooden building in the downtown core. When Ernie mentioned that he was a pilot, they directed him to an air force recruitment station at the Chateau Laurier hotel. That meeting led to an appointment for a physical in Montreal. He was in.
Ernie Allen’s first flight as a member of the RCAF took place at Canadian Forces Base Trenton on May 23, 1951. After his training he was stationed at RCAF Station Centralia, a training base near Exeter, Ontario. In its day, it was one of the largest training stations in Canada. This was to be his home until his final flight in February 1958.
Ernie served two countries during two international conflicts, and logged over 2,700 flying hours. He continues to take pride in his contributions. It was an honour to meet him and hear his story.