Our greatest privilege is having veterans and their families visit us. Recently, we were delighted to host Spitfire veteran Robert ‘Buck’ Buckles and his family, for a tour of the VWoC collection. Robert was obviously delighted to once again find himself with the airplanes of his youth. These including the Tiger Moth (which he flew at No. 20 E.F.T.S. Oshawa), the Harvard (on which he earned his pilot wings at No. 1 S.F.T.S. Borden) and – most importantly – the Spitfire that he flew operationally with 401 Squadron. Robert graciously posed for photos with VWoC Spitfire pilot John Aitken and was happy to chat with us about his unique experience with this legendary fighter. The enormous pride of Robert’s extended family – who also joined him for the visit – was very obvious.
All in the family
Robert’s story is an interesting one, and we’re delighted that his son Steve – also a pilot – was able to shed some light. VWC members will be familiar with some of the other pilots that flew alongside Robert Buckles, including William Arthur Bishop (son of First World War ace, Billy Bishop) and our own Bill MacRae. In fact, Robert Buckles had borrowed Bill MacRae’s flying boots – on the fateful flight that resulted in him becoming a prisoner of war.
401 Squadron - oh the stories that would have been told around that camp fire
Stalag Luft III (Stammlager Luft, or POW Camp for Airmen #3) – where Robert was a ‘guest’ of the Germans - was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp. It was located in the German Province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan (Żagań – which is now in Poland). This legendary camp is best known because of two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling. These escapes were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and in the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams - from which these films were adapted.
We’re very much hoping that this veteran Spitfire pilot will join us again. And we’re hopeful that his family will share more details of Robert’s RCAF career in an article for our website.