Over the past 30 past years, I have had the honour to meet and get to know a number of men who served in the Second World War – Herb Deavy and Eric Smith from Navan, “Bus” Kennedy from Cumberland Village and Frank Cauley and Syd Davie from Orléans.
Herb Deavy joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941. He wanted to be a pilot but his diminutive stature kept him on the ground where he served as a member of a ground crew at an air base in England. After the war, he started an oil and gas business in Navan and was an integral part of the community. He died in 2007 at the age of 84.
Eric Smith joined the RCAF within weeks of Deavy, but unlike his fellow Navanite, he managed to meet the height requirement for pilots by an inch and would go on to fly more than 50 highly dangerous, low-level missions over Europe.
Smith continued to serve after the Second World War and later accepted a secondment to the U.S. Air Force to fly Sabre jets in the Korean War. He would become one of a select group of men who would fly more than 50 missions in both conflicts. He served with the RCAF until his retirement in 1968 and eventually returned to Navan with his wife Dinah. He died in 2019 at the age of 98.
Irving Farmer “Bus” Kennedy joined the RCAF in 1940. He flew more than 320 missions as a Spitfire pilot over North Africa, Italy and France until he was shot down near Paris in July 1944. He managed to make his way back to England with the help of the French underground. When he returned, he went to see his younger brother Carleton”Tot” Kennedy at the airbase where he was training. When Bus arrived he found out that Tot had been killed just days before while on a training mission. As a result, he was allowed to return home. For his exploits, Bus was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, he studied medicine and eventually established a practice in his hometown where he served as the village doctor for 37 years. He died in 2011 at the age of 88.
Frank Cauley joined the RCAF in 1940. He was assigned to bomber command as a navigator and would fly more than 30 missions over Germany. In his later years, he served as a trustee on the Carleton Board of Education for nine years and was twice elected to Gloucester city council. He died in 2019 at the age of 97.
Syd Davie was born in the U.K. and was one of the first members of the British special forces. He fought at Dieppe, Normandy and was a part of Operation Market Garden. After the war, he immigrated to Canada and eventually settled down in Orléans with his wife Miza. He died in 2020 at the age of 96.
These men were all part of what is commonly referred to as our greatest generation. They all generously shared their stories with me and for that I am eternally grateful.