Squadron 420 “Snowy Owl” (RCAF) of Bomber Command: A Postal history connection

March 14, 2018

As a collector of postal history I search for interesting mailings during World War II. I’m especially interested in both world wars because I have relatives including my father who served.

7c BCATP Airmail-Military-RAFMarsdon-30c rate-1943

Airmail to a Canadian serviceman in England

Recently I obtained an interesting mailing, or cover, as we collectors call them (see scan above). The mail was to a Canadian serving overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as part of the Allied Bomber Command. What I like to do is research the individual service members to see what history lies behind the mail. The cover was postmarked September 6, 1943 from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The serviceman and address on the cover read,
P/O Len B. Greenhalgh (the P/O stands for Pilot Officer)
CAN – J-25735Royal Canadian Air Force
(the Overseas is stroked out by pen and redirected to “RAF Long Marston”)

The sender and address on the reverse is,
Mr & Mrs Greenhalgh (likely his parents)
Ste 410 Pringle Apts 3
Saskatoon, Sask

Postage on the envelope consists of four 7c War Issue airmail stamps plus two 1c War Issue King George VI regular issue stamps. Total postage is 30 cents. The airmail rate from Canada to England at this time was 30 cents per 1/2 ounce so it was properly paid. Mailings from this period are frequently damaged as this one is, but still interesting.

Bomber Command sustained heavy casualties during the war so my first thought was did Pilot Officer Greenhalgh survive. There are several sources for finding those who were killed in the service of Canada and the Commonwealth (I’ve listed them at the bottom). A search showed he wasn’t killed.

Next I did a genealogical search using Ancestry and found several hits on Leonard Greenhalgh, an entry in a high school yearbook, a couple of entries in the Voters List database and finally a newspaper article from the Lethbridge Herald of March 13, 1944 titled “RCAF Makes Up Half of Force Raiding Le Mans”.

From these searches and sources I learned,
– Leonard Greenhalgh went to high school at City Park Collegiate Institute in Saskatoon. The yearbook of 1943 contained an Roll of Honor listing him as a member of the Air Force. It also gave his age of 23 years.
– the newspaper article from March 13, 1944 reported on the bombing of rail yards in France. It quoted Leonard Greenhalgh from the Snowy Owl Squadron saying the raid had gone well and they suffered no losses on this occasion.
– the Voters Lists showed him in Saskatoon in 1949 listed as a custom officer, and in Burnaby in 1962 listed as a business manager.

Using this information and good old Google, I located information on Squadron 420 nicknamed the “Snowy Owl” squadron as being part of No. 5 Group of Bomber Command. I knew he was part of the squadron in 1943 when he would have been 20 years of age. I also found out the squadron was flying Handley Page Halifax III bombers at the time. I even found a website containing logbook entries showing the raid on Le Mans taking place on March 7, 1944. These raids on rail yards were precursors to the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944. The intent being to hinder the Germans sending up reinforcements via rail during or after D-Day.

handley-halifax bomber

Halifax bomber in flight. Photo: RCAF

Squadron 420 (Snowy Owl) was based at Tholthorpe, England about 12 miles northwest of York. They were there from December 12, 1943 until June 1945 when their mission in England ended. Later they returned to Canada and prepared to be part of a Canadian contribution to the war against Japan, but Japan surrendered before they were deployed. Much more can be read about the squadron but I focused on the time Leonard Greenhalgh would have been part of it.

Now I have another connection to the history of the Second World War, another appreciation of the sacrifice those young Canadian men made.

Further Reading
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Books of Remembrance

Canada at War

Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Alberta

Squadron 420 Snowy Owl Blog

RCAF Squadron 420, Snowy Owl

RCAF History – World War II


Prince William as King: Not very soon

November 17, 2010

Kate and William discussing engagement/Photo MSNBC

Everyone is excited about Prince William and his new bride-to-be Kate Middleton. Both are young and vibrant. What a great king he would make for the 21st century. Sorry to dash your hopes, but it will likely be a long time before he is king, and he will be old when he ascends the throne.

Queen Elizabeth II is now 85 and aging well. Her mother lived in excess of 100 years. Health is not a problem. The heir to the throne, her son Charles is 62 and again health is not an issue.

Assume the Queen lives at least another 10 years. Charles will ascend the throne at age 72. Barring anything unexpected he will likely live into his 80s. Assume he will live until 90. Do the math, that’s another 30 years before William becomes king, he will ascend the throne at age 58 years, no more the young man he is now. Some thoughts on this situation,

1. Would Charles consider stepping aside or abdicating to allow his son William to become king at a younger age.

Not likely. Charles is very much a traditionalist. He has trained all his life to be king and wants to be king.

2. Would the Queen consider stepping down if her health fails? Again not likely as she too is a traditionalist. It could happen though. She may defer to relative youth. Still Charles will likely not be king until he is in his late 70s or early 80s.

Bottom line, the English monarchy is an hereditary institution and will continue to be so. The only modern abdication took place when King Edward VIII decided he wanted to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, rather than remain king. This opened the way for his younger brother George to become King George VI and subsequently his daughter Elizabeth to become the present Queen.

Ah but wouldn’t it be something to have a King William who was 28 or 30. It will never happen.

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