Mike Alexander Laffin  
 

 Mike Alexander Laffin was born on 12th January 1918 in New Waterford, Nova
Scotia, the fourth of six children: Mary, Richard, Donald, (Mike), Douglas and John.  Three of the boys - Donald, Mike and Doug - served overseas
.

During his high school years he enjoyed all sports; tennis, basketball, hockey, bowling, badminton, he also participated in sulky racing at age 15, spending his time at "outlaw tracks" in the New Waterford area. He graduated in 1936 from Mount Carmal High School.

Upon graduation, Mike found employment at the local Dominion Coal Company, eventually in charge of a Colliery warehouse. He enjoyed working with youth, and in the community. Prior to the war he was elected to the board of director’s at the local hospital.

In 1941 Mike enlisted with the RCAF, he promptly left for #1 Manning Depot in Toronto, over the next 2 years he went through the required training to become a pilot.

Mike during the late 1930's.

   
In October 1942 he boarded the ocean liner "Queen Elizabeth II" in Halifax NS. his destination was Bournemouth England. Due to the speed of the ship no convoy was necessary, playing poker dominated the weeklong voyage.

Arriving in Scotland Mike traveled via train to RAF Bournemouth, located on the southern coast of England. Many pilots, including Mike, dreamed of taking to the air in fighter aircraft, but slowly they all realized the demand was for bomber pilots. The death toll was high for bomber crews, as they were not expected to survive more then a few operational flights. Being conscientious, Mike was

Guard duty at Picton, 1941.

reluctant to train as a skipper on a bomber as he

Mike during pilot training.

did not want to the run the risk of putting the bomber crew in peril. Over the course of a year many pilots from his class would concede their "ferry flight" duties to enroll in flight training for Bomber Command.

In late October 1943 Mike made the decision to pilot the bomber aircraft, he was promptly assigned to #82 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) in Ossington, Yorkshire. He would be the last to join a seven-man crew, and for the next 3 months they would train on the 2 engine Wellington bomber. Mike would learn over the next six months that a number of his classmates from flight school had perished.

In late February 1944 the Laffin crew moved to a 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit (H.C.U.) station for heavy bomber familiarization, Mike would now be piloting the Halifax MK II in preparation for sorties over the Third Reich.

On the 21st of March 1944, Mike and his crew were officially assigned to the 434 "Bluenose" squadron, named after the famous Canadian racing Schooner. Initially Mike flew on the 23rd, and 25th of March as "2nd Dickey" with an experienced pilot and crew on sorties to Laon, and Aulnoye France.

On the 26/27th March, the Laffin crew would fly their first operational sortie striking rail yards at Courtrai, Belgium.

On the 16th of June 1944, ten sorties shy of their required 30 "OP’s" which entitled them for leave back to Canada, Mike and his crew were on the return route from "Happy Valley" Germany, they were shot down over the Netherlands. Mike parachuted safely but two nights later he would be turned in by a small group of Dutch citizens whom were fearful of the Nazi’s.

Spending the next 7 months in Luft 7 (Bankau, Poland) POW camp, learning to speak German Mike became group leader in his bunkhouse, thus an interpreter for his fellow POW’s. This duty would earn him 2 extra potatoes at mealtime to feed his 6’2" frame.

On the 17th January 1945 with the Russians closing in from the eastern front, the Nazi’s evacuated POW’s from numerous camps in Poland. Arriving in Germany they marched south and west around Berlin, passing by the famous "Stalag Luft III" where the "Great Escape" had taken place. This would become known as one of the infamous "Death March’s" of WW II. In early February the prisoners arrived at Luckenwalde POW camp.

Death March from Bankau Poland, to Luckenwalde, Germany 1945

Near the end of April, the Germans deserted the POW’s in the middle of the night, as Russians were within a few Km’s of the camp. Soviet tanks arrived by driving over the fences, thus taking custody of allied prisoners.

Victory in Europe was declared in early May and the Soviets released all the POW’s, Mike would cross the River Elbe to waiting allied forces.

Arriving in Canada Mike would eventually settle in New Waterford, where he would start up a dentistry practice. His interest in community work did not fade, wanting to improve the quality of life for people in New Waterford area he would enter a life of politics. Mike was elected as a Member of the Nova Scotia Legislature Assembly (MLA) with the Progressive Conservative Party, the majority of the people were happy with his tenure in office and he would serve them for 18 years until he retired in 1992.

Sports did not elude Mike either; He took up professional Sulky racing, becoming an owner/trainer/driver for many years, along with the other sporting activities he enjoyed.

Mike and Pimk E.M.

At present Mike is living in New Waterford with his wife Doris, they have two daughters. At 86 years he is still young at heart, playing golf, following community events. He receives requests to be a guest speaker at social functions involving veterans, politicians, and the Remembrance Day ceremonies in November.