"His inspiring leadership as an instructor and fighter pilot in World War Two, his unusual skills as a test pilot, and his corporate business leadership have all been of outstanding benefit to Canadian aviation.”
Russell Bannock obtained his private pilot's license in 1938 and his commercial pilot's license the following year. When war was declared he enlisted immediately and was posted to Vancouver B.C. for more training. He was awarded his air force wings in 1940 and became a flight instructor for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) at No.3 Central Flying School in Arnprior Ont., where he became chief instructor in 1943.
In early 1944 he was posted to Shropshire, England as a Squadron Leader with the No. 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron. The German V-1 rocket campaign had begun and he was tasked with intercepting them. Flying the de Havilland Mosquito he shot down his first V-1 rocket in June 1944. Over the next few weeks he shot down a total of 19 V-1 rockets, all at night. The Mayor of London called him the "Saviour of London" for his success in attacking the German rockets. Russell and his navigator were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their efforts.
Bannock was also involved in flying intruder missions over German occupied Europe. Many of these involved circling German airfields at night waiting to shoot down German night fighters as they landed or took off. By August 1944, Russell had finished his first tour of 35 missions, and signed up for a second tour. In Oct 1944, he was promoted to Wing Commander of No.418 Squadron. By the end of the war, in addition to the 19 V-1 rockets he had destroyed, Russell also shot down 11 German aircraft and damaged 15 train locomotives and vehicles.
After the war he became a test pilot for de Havilland where he test flew the Beaver prototype - the first aircraft designed for short take-off and landings (STOL). In 1975, he became president and chief executive officer of de Havilland Aircraft Co. where he was successful in promoting the Beaver aircraft to the United States military.
Born: 1 Nov, 1919, Edmonton, AB
Died: 4 Jan, 2020, Toronto, ON, Age 100
Awards: DSO, DFC