Memorial Cross of Sgt. F.E. Wellington RCAF
Memorial Cross of Sgt. F.E. Wellington RCAF - Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal 1939-1945; and Memorial Cross, GRVI (SGT. F.E. WELLINGTON R-66100). Naming is officially engraved on the MC, while the medals are un-named. Mounted to a suspension with swing bar pinback, original ribbons, extremely fine.Footnote: Frederick Edgar Wellington was born on January 8, 1918 in Toronto, Ontario, the second son of Frederick William Wellington and Muriel B. Wellington (nee Koyl), his brother William being his senior. Their father was a prosperous businessman, a partner in the firm, Stone and Wellington, which had been founded in late Victorian times and flourished as one of Canada's largest export-import nursery businesses. He spent many of his adolescent summers in Fonthill, Ontario, before his family moved there. Throughout his brief life, Wellington was propelled by a "joie de vivre" that never seemed to fail him and endeared him to virtually every one who came within his ever widening circle. He displayed it to the full at Ridley College, an Anglican private school in St. Catharines, where he was enrolled in 1929. He soon struck up a close friendship with roommate Bill Hilton, both of whom went out and easily qualified for the school's football team, which competed against those of other private institutions. He graduated Ridley in 1937. Welllington then embarked on an ambitious engineering education at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where he also played football. As a freshman, he could not try out for the varsity squad, McGill's so called “Big Red Team”, but clearly he did qualify for the Frosh Team, which played at the intermediate level against colleges and other educational institutions in the Montreal area. He actively contributed to a team that was enjoying an unusually successful season. The team was undefeated and in early November in what the McGill Daily called “a blaze of glory” the team captured the intermediate title when it defeated its archrival, Loyola College. After one year, with a career in engineering now an after thought due to his low marks, he changed to McMaster University in Hamilton in the Fall of 1938, taking economics and again playing football, this time for the Maroons, predecessors of the Marauders. The McMaster Marmor yearbook captured his spirit, the cut-line under his football photo stating "he could hit a belt-buckle at twenty yards and when he was on the field he played with the reckless abandon of carefree, innocent youth”. This spirit also seemed to characterize his response to the academic challenge at McMaster. As a result, he ended the first session with unsatisfactory standings, an outcome that led to his withdrawal from the University. A few months later, he was said to have enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). However, he may have tried to enlist early on but was turned back simply because the then understaffed RCAF was not yet in a position to handle a full-fledged recruitment program. Like other would-be recruits, he settled for a respectable second best, when he joined the highly recommended Hamilton Aero Club (HAC) and made arrangements to book a flight instruction course. The HAC was deemed to be one of the best such organizations in the country. It was a member of the Canadian Flying Clubs Association (CFCA), which functioned under the aegis of the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, which was clearly impressed with the role aviation had played in the Great War. It set about cultivating programs that could conceivably create a cadre of trained flyers for possible national emergencies. After passing the necessary tests, he was duly licensed as a private and commercial pilot, as well as being passed as a flying instructor. Wellington's RCAF service record, on the other hand, states that his formal enlistment did not take place until July 19, 1940, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, some ten months after Canada followed Britain's lead and entered the war, enlisting as an Aircraftman 2nd Class. He was posted to Trenton, Ontario, one of the major training centres, as a Leading Aircraftman, where he instructed would be airmen in how to fly an RCAF trainer. Four weeks later, he was cleared as a full-fledged flight instructor and promoted to Sergeant on August 17, 1940. He left Trenton on September 7th and was posted to the St. Catharines Flying Club as a Flight Instructor. The Club had been selected as the venue for an Elementary Flying Training School (No. 9) under the burgeoning British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). With so few instructors readily available, the RCAF high command deemed it essential to build up the pool of qualified personnel needed to make the BCATP work and achieve its ambitious goals. There was little chance that a valued instructor would see overseas service. Wellington and the other instructors took up their teaching assignment in earnest. Instruction was carried out principally on the de Havilland Tiger Moth, a two-seater biplane which had made its well received debut in 1931 and become the primary trainer at RAF stations and later, at most BCATP stations. He accrued a total of some 500 flying hours. On the afternoon of November 23, 1940, flying out of No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School in St. Catharines, R-66100 Sergeant (Pilot) Frederick E. Wellington, along with fellow instructor and former Ridley classmate Flight Sergeant Donald Fieldon Whitaker were in a two-seater biplane trainer, carrying out a weather check. Not a Tiger Moth, as they were accustomed to, but a recently acquired Fleet Finch (II 4554). The November sky was overcast, affording the Finch a ceiling of barely 600 feet. Minutes after take-off, while flying over nearby Grantham Township, the aircraft suddenly ran into trouble. In what an accident investigation report, filed five days later, described as “dangerous and unauthorized” low level flying, at 100 to 150 feet, Wellington at one point put the Finch into a “steep climbing turn” close to the ground, a risky maneouver in the best of times. On this occasion it caused the trainer's engine to stall. The resulting and precipitate nosedive to earth inflicted fatal multiple injuries on Wellington and Whitaker, both of whom also suffered third degree burns in the impact explosion of the aircraft's gasoline tanks, the smoke from which could be seen for miles around. They crashed in a grain field, one half mile south of the airfield at St. Catharines. These were the first casualties at No. 9 EFTS and were witnessed by most of the station's shocked personnel. In his college football days, Wellington had “played with a reckless abandon”, and was reputedly inclined to do the same in the air, emulating the escapades of the storied Great War aces. He may have been among those many male adolescents, whose prewar imagination had been fired up by the thrilling re-creation of aerial combat in Hollywood productions. Certainly some adventuresome student flyers came close to engaging in the same tactics at No. 9 EFTS. They perceived the thought of the Tiger Moth as a German aircraft and the Fleet Finch as a Royal Flying Corps machine, engaging them in a mock reprise of a Billy Bishop-Manfred von Richtofen “dogfight”. According to an unofficial account, Wellington was said to have followed suit on that fateful day. The story goes, that in the course of a staged air battle with another trainer, he failed to recover from a steep climb (the one mentioned in the official accident report), which he supposedly made to avoid a tall elm tree at the corner of the airfield. He died at the age of 22 and is buried in Fonthill Cemetery, Grave Reference: Section H, Plot 63, Grave 4. Three days after the disaster at No. 9 EFTS, a grieving Wellington family and a host of friends gathered for the memorial service at his grave site in the Fonthill Cemetery. Thankfully his older brother, William, survived his own wartime service overseas as an officer with the Royal Regiment of Canada and returned from the war to manage the family firm. Meanwhile, saddened members of the Hamilton Aero Club who had always enjoyed his lively company, vividly remembered the welcome visit he had paid them on November 19th, a scant few days before the fatal accident.