Battle of Britain veteran marks 100th birthday

An elderly man wearing a blazer and tie stands with two men in military uniforms. The elderly man and the military man on the left shake hands and hold a framed letter between them. All have many medals on their jackets.
Following the Battle of Britain ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on September 16, 2018, Brigadier-General Sean Boyle (left), deputy commander of 1 Canadian Air Division, and Chief Warrant Officer Serge Laforge (right), 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarters chief warrant officer, presented Flying Officer (retired) Ralph Wild with a letter from the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force offering best wishes for Flying Officer Wild’s 100th birthday and thanking him for his service. PHOTO: Sergeant Daren Kraus, FW2018-0029-02

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By Joanna Calder

Flying Officer (retired) Ralph Wild turned 100 on September 27, 2018. Among those wishing him Happy Birthday was the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger.

Flying Officer Wild is a veteran of the Battle of Britain, the successful defence of Great Britain against planned enemy invasion, which took place during the summer and early autumn of 1940.

Born in Yorkshire, England, he joined the Royal Air Force as an instrument repair technician a few months before the Second World War began. He began his career at 242 “Canadian” Squadron at RAF Church Fenton and, when the Battle Britain began, he was at RAF North Weald, helping to keep aircraft ready to go for their pilots.

“We lived and worked under difficult conditions because our fighter station was bombed regularly by the Germans. Our accommodations were destroyed, and we had to live in tents,” he says in the book Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls who Stole their Hearts, often working 18- to 20-hour days.

“We lost quite a few pilots I knew”, he told the Winnipeg Free Press in September 2016. “It wasn’t called the Battle of Britain then—I think it evolved for that. It turned out to be the Battle of Britain, but we were just in it at the time.

“But I really think it was our finest hour.”

In December 1940, he came to Carberry, Manitoba, to work as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the immense Canadian program to train aircrew for service overseas. For three years, he was in charge of instrument repair for the training aircraft. He met his future wife, Myrla-Ruth Easton, while on leave in Winnipeg and in June 1943 they were married. Myrla and their son followed Mr. Wild back to the England, travelling the dangerous North Atlantic in a convoy.

Later, he applied to become aircrew—his original Air Force career goal. “When I became a navigator in Bomber Command the war in Europe was almost over,” he continued during his interview with the Free Press. “and before I was stationed in Burma, the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki so the war was over.”

In 1950, Mr. Wild and his family returned to Winnipeg, where he has lived ever since. Mrs. Wild passed away on August 1, 2000, leaving three children and several grandchildren.

The letter that the commander of the RCAF sent to Flying Officer Wild was presented to him on Battle of Britain Sunday—September 16, 2018—in Winnipeg.

“I would personally to offer you my congratulations on the occasion of your centenary on 27 September 2018,” Lieutenant-General Meinzinger said in the letter. “I trust that you will be celebrating this momentous occasion in proper style with your family and friends. I would also like to thank you for honouring us with your presence at our Commemoration Ceremony for the Battle of Britain at 17 Wing Winnipeg.

“Our aviators today are carrying on the same noble values and traditions that you upheld during and after your military career,” he continued. “On behalf of the men and women serving today in the RCAF, I thank you for your service.”

RELATED LINKS

Royal Canadian Air Force

Battle of Britain

A Centre for Bomber Command

Video interview with Flying Officer Wild (in English, may not be accessible on DND networks)

Image gallery

  • An elderly man wearing a blazer and tie stands with two men in military uniforms. The elderly man and the military man on the left shake hands and hold a framed letter between them. All have many medals on their jackets.
  • An elderly man wearing a blazer and tie with numerous medals on his blazer, stands at a lectern, speaking into a microphone.
  • An elderly man wearing a civilian blazer with numerous medals on it and a young woman wearing a military uniform. The woman holds a wreath with poppies on it and a purple ribbon upon which is written “Battle of Britain”.
  • Two elderly men wearing blazers with numerous medals on their blazers lean over a table, looking at a piece of paper.
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