Record of Service:  Flying Officer Matthew Earnest Reid MacFarlane


Age: 23
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia 
Occupation: Architecture Student, University of Manitoba
Marital Status: Single
Dependants: None
Hobbies\Interests: Football, Tennis, Soccer and Lacrosse
RCAF Trade: Bomb Aimer

Flying Officer Matthew Macfarlane

Notes: Was replacement Bomb Aimer for F/O R.B. White

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale of the crew of Halifax MZ589 is that of Matthew MacFarlane. A Bomb Aimer for a rookie or "sprog" crew (A.C. Pitzek), MacFarlane was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost him his life.  Whether he volunteered to fill in for Bomb Aimer R.B White or was ordered to is likely to remain unknown but in a moment's decision his life was traded for that of Flying Officer White's  who was ill with pneumonia.  To make matters worse, MacFarlane's crew completed their tour of operations in 1945 and subsequently survived the war, it is likely the same would have been true for MacFarlane had he not flown on the Hamburg operation.


Date of Enlistment: July 8, 1942

Place of Enlistment:  RCAF Recruiting Centre Vancouver, British Columbia                  

Notes about enlistment application:

Matthew MacFarlane was a natural to be selected for Pilot training as he had militia training with the COTC while he attended school at the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba where he studied architecture. 

His enlistment forms also indicate that he was the youngest of 5 children.

Basic Training:

Notes about basic training:

Training involved drill, military protocol, exhaustive physical training and basic soldiering.

Following completion of basic training, Matthew MacFarlane  was sent to # 5 bombing and Gunnery School at Dafoe, Saskatchewan for 6 weeks for an indeterminate activity. This may have been to wait for a class to begin at Initial Training School, frequently when this happened trainees would be sent to various bases to perform guard duty until a spot opened up.


#7 Initial Training School Saskatoon,Saskatchewan

The Link Trainer.

Notes about ITS training:

The purpose of Initial Training School was to determine the students aptitude for becoming either a pilot, navigator or bomb aimer or if the candidate should be sent to yet another trade. Most students were there with the intention of becoming pilots, those that struggled in the Link trainer, one of the earliest aircraft simulators, were sent to other trades. However, not all Navigators were pilot wash outs, it was well known that if you showed too much skill in mathematics that you risked being selected as a Navigator or Bomb Aimer. Areas of study at the school included navigation, flight techniques, mechanical engineering, mathematics, telegraphy, and aircraft identification.


Elementary Flight Training 

Notes about Elementary Flight Training:

Elementary flight training was where students were first place in the cockpit and instructed how to fly on the De Havilland Tiger Moth. There was little time given to students to become comfortable in the cockpit, students were required to solo after only 6-10 hours of instruction. Those that could not  failed the course and were remustered into other trades. 

Matthew MacFarlane compiled a total of 26 hours of dual instruction and 13.5 hours of solo flight which was further than many students got. All of his instructors made note of him being bright and well mannered but struggling  with airmanship and performing co-ordinated turns. His ground school marks were recorded as being excellent, it appears that he struggled with mastering control of the aircraft in the limited amount of training time that was given to students, under normal circumstances he would have likely succeeded.

After being Stuck if strength from Prince Albert, Matthew MacFarlane spent two weeks  at #2 Manning Depot in Brandon, Manitoba awaiting his next posting.


Bombing and Gunnery Training

Notes about Bombing and Gunnery Training:

Training included air to air and air to ground firing exercises with Vickers machine guns, day and night bombing exercises as well as wireless transmissions. Equipment care an maintenance was also covered.

Air Observer Training

The Avro Anson, a twin engine training aircraft.

Notes about Air Observer training:

Air Observers were trained to perform a multitude of duties. Early in the war they performed the role of both Navigator and Bomb Aimer. As Bomber Command  became equipped with larger four engine aircraft the bomb aimer became a specialized trade. It was decided to still provide some navigation and signals training so the bomb aimer could fulfill those roles if necessary. 

What was taught in ground school would then be applied in the air, cross country flights would provide the observer-in-training with the task of verifying the targets and placing the bomb load accurately. Training was conducted during the day, night and during all types of weather activity in preparation for the real life conditions that would be encountered overseas, the aircraft used was the Avro Anson.

Classroom subjects included, photography, meteorology, instruments, navigation, bombing theory and signals



Notes about Embarkation:

Just about every Canadian airmen that embarked overseas went through RAF Station Bournemouth, it was a huge processing centre where incoming troops reported and were kept until they were allotted postings where they would continue their training. Bournemouth was something of a coastal resort town but troops quickly became bored waiting there for their next assignments. The often took the opportunity to show mundane films on personal hygiene and venereal diseases.

It is also interesting to note, that Matthew MacFarlane and Norman Bailey embarked from Halifax on the same date and arrived in England on the same date. It is possible that they were on the same ship.


Overseas Training

Advanced Flight Training:

Notes about AFU:

The purpose of Advanced Observer Flying Units was to primarily train Wireless Operators and Navigators to work with one another in the air. The Wireless Operator would obtain radio navigation information from beacons and then pass that information along to the Navigator who would use it to plot or confirm their course while in flight. The aircraft used for training was again the Avro Anson. 

It should be pointed out that P/O W. Gerald Sorel and Norman Bailey were also on strength at #9 AFU while Matthew MacFarlane was there.

Operational Training Unit

Notes about 24 OTU:

The Operational Training Unit is where airmen of separate trades converged to be formed into crews. Generally speaking, the crews were gathered in a common area and instructed to form up amongst themselves, it was felt that giving the crews the opportunity to do so would help them function better as a unit. Sometimes crews were formed because of common interests other times simply because someone asked them to join the crew. In any event, the concept worked well and most crews became very close knit.

 This likely also would have been where Matthew MacFarlane formed up with Pilot A.C. Pitzek and others to form his crew.

The training  at Honeybourne was conducted on the twin engine Whitley bomber, training included circuits, cross country navigation, bombing, gunnery, night flying, formation flying and defensive manoeuvres. Also the crew would fly what were known as leaflet raids, these were trips to safer areas of occupied territories such as France where propaganda leaflets would be dropped. 

61 Base  1664 Heavy Conversion Unit

Notes about 1664 HCU:

1664 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) was where the crew learned to operate four engine bombers that they would fly with their operational squadrons.  The activities at the HCU were similar to those at the OTU only with larger more powerful aircraft. The crew would also learn survival and escape and evade tactics.  Aircraft used at the HCU were older discarded Halifaxes such as the MkII.

It should be noted that training at OTU's and HCU's was in itself quite hazardous. There were a multitude of accidents, ranging from mid air collisions to crashes on take off. The aircraft used by training units had survived operational tours and were deemed to rickety to use operationally. 

431 Iroquois Squadron RCAF Station Croft, Yorkshire


The 431 Iroquois Squadron badge

The 1939 -1945 Star

The France and Germany Star

The Defence Medal

The General Service medal.

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