Bet "Babe" could remember, if he was still alive!
He'd follow the footsteps of others before that war. Some 20,000 others who wanted to do their bit for King and Country. Who'd care that they were still kids..under 18 and forbidden to join the army of the day.
One of these was sent home to recover after being shot in the trenches. He was only 12 years old! Another was I believe 15 when he finally got signed up. He'd no doubt heard in the past that...if at first you don't succeed... and put it to the test. After apparently crossing the country and trying over 200 times the army finally accepted the teen in November of 1915. Just 2 of 20,000 such stories perhaps.
Our country had no standing army before the war, only 3,100 in the militia and another 75,000 in our "citizen army," and desperately needed men. Or should I say... boys.
But wait, maybe we could maybe take the enemy by sea... with our TWO ships! Well maybe we could send in a horse...
He'd apparently done little other than grunt work. Like the grooming of horses and shoveling their you know what before someone got the wiser and sent him back home because of his age.
When only 15, the Great War was declared, and somehow his age was detected and he was sent home. But not giving up, Alan repeatedly tried to get into the army both at Winnipeg and later Toronto and again was refused because of his age.
When finally of age, Babe had better luck with the air force. At Winnipeg he got accepted into the Royal Flying Corps as a pilot in training and sent off to Toronto to "get his wings".
He'd take training along the water front in the western part of the city at an area called Long Branch, which would no doubt have him flying over lake Ontario regularly. After only 3 hours of in-flight training he did his first solo flight. After just 47 hrs of further training, he was awarded his wings.
There "Babe" would get more training and soon flying night patrols with the 57th Squadron as part of the home defense. He'd by then probably replaced his nickname and would be properly referred to as 2nd Lt Alan McLeod.
By late August of 1917, Alan had been shipped off to France and was then flying with the 82nd Squadron. Within the next several months 2nd Lt Alan McLeod had shot down an enemy Fokker and an aerial observation balloon and had been awarded several Mentions in Dispatch for his heroism. (MID's) Each is an actual bravery award.
It would be here that this Canadian, flying with the Royal Flying Corps, would enter the history books forever!
On Wednesday, 27 March 1918 the "Babe" and his observer shot down an German try-plane. Then another came along, and they shot it down Then 7 others gave chase and they shot down another three. But then enemy lead found its mark. His fuel tank became engulfed in flames and he had to ditch the enemy and make a crash landing. Miraculously both he and his observer survived the day. He with five wounds. His mate with 6. And if that wasn't enough, he had to haul his fellow officer out of the flame engulfed plane.
His partner was awarded the Military Cross. And Allan, recommended for the Distinguished Service Order, had the recommendation upgraded to the very Victoria Cross that King George V pinned on his chest at Buckingham Palace on 4 September 1918.
Here's what the London Gazette had to say about the Babe...
Up until 1949 it was still a colony of Britain. But Alan was about 5 months older than Newfoundland's famous Sgt Thomas Ricketts of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who is believed to be the youngest Army VC recipient in the world at about age 17 1/2.
Due to Alan's injuries his father, a doctor by profession, traveled to England to be at his side. Shortly after the investiture he brought the young hero back to Canada. But it could not have been a worse time. The Spanish Influenza was plaguing the country and many parts of the world.
Because of his weakened system it soon attacked him, and sadly within short order, just days before the Armistice that ended the bloody war was signed, this hero passed away at Stonewall were he rests to this day.
The Royal Canadian Air Cadets Squadron #301 carries his name and a bust to this famous Canadian has been erected at his old high school in Stonewall.
And last month Alan received yet another honour.
see you with another update on Sunday...