To Soar With Eagles - A Tribute to The Pilots of the RCAF

Flying Officer George Dennis Aitken
Dilip Sarkar Archive

George Dennis  Aitken AFC was born in Edmonton, Alberta. He tried to get a job in a bank after graduating from school, but he was told he would be wanted in the Forces, so he applied to be a pilot and joined the RCAF in December 1940. Having trained in Canada and southern England, he joined his first squadron, 416, flying Spitfires, at Peterhead, Scotland in August 1941. He became a rare member of both the Goldfish Club (for baling out and landing in the ‘drink’) and the Caterpillar Club (for ‘hitting the silk’ and landing on solid ground).

George survived the War and spent his retirement as a historian documenting his wartime experiences. He died in 2012, aged 91. More about him here.

This poem is his daughter’s  tribute to George and his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

To Soar With Eagles – A Tribute to The Pilots of the RCAF by Dorothy Lowrie

To soar with eagles was George’s determination
Born in 1920, golden age of aviation.
But the war to end all was but a dream
His wings would be tested, fighting Hitler’s scheme.

Barely 20 years, he joined no hesitation
After prairie training, RCAF 416 his destination.
First Spitfire mission over Skara Brae
A winter flight, when he learned to pray.

The Spitfire, the plane that owned his fate
Tales of a crash landing, no wheel gear, mate!
A mascot elephant toy given wings in a rogue flight
Hero to the cheering chorus girls, was George’s delight!

Then to the boys of RCAF 403, George’s dedication would be
Many a Wolf Squadron friend lost to land or to sea.
No chance to grieve, the commanders used
The power of vengeance to keep spirits fueled.

In 1942, on the second of June
He flew as Blue 4 in a mission of doom.
Into the English Channel he abandoned his kite
Parachute, dingy, and rescue by torpedo boat sight.

A lifetime of anniversaries he would remember well
The day he struggled to survive in English swells.
His log book record, an artistic debrief
And in his account of that mission, he defended his chief.

For war, like life, seeks to find the fall guy
His commander in the position to explain the reasons why.
Six pilots lost in one disastrous sweep
With five taken prisoner, landing in France’s Nazi keep.

George was sent to Yorkshire as 403 was reborn
For Wolf Squadron would continue but in a new form.
Some friends sent to Middle East or Italian skies
But Georgie, “The Kid” over the White Cliffs continued to fly.

By 1944, he’d logged Dieppe and 47 other fighting forays
Close to the end, wars cruelty filled George’s days.
Returning one night they had to stop his grieving desire
To take off again to avenge yet another friend lost to the sky’s hell fire.

Assigned as an officer of training to Canada he returned
Teaching fresh young men to fly was now his concern.
And though his 403 Spitfire remained his burning desire
With Hitler’s defeat, George’s “Lady Luck” Spit IX did retire.

For 15 years more he served Canada’s reserve air force
Leaving wife and young daughters to train cadets in Whitehorse.
His life a government career, family and many he did befriend
As he wrote and spoke to ensure RCAF memories did not end.

Not a man to count kills, no ACE is his name
And he is but one of many heroes not listed in the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
But George wore his AFC and earned medals with Canadian pride you could tell
His testimony of survival a caterpillar and goldfish pin under his lapel.

So, in honour of George and the RCAF, please stand with me and salute
A 100th Anniversary of courage you cannot refute.
To those who have lived, and died, and who continue to fly
Men and women, who in defence of this great country, take to the sky.

©2024DorothyLowrie
(no reproduction without permission of the author at dorothy@hlainc.ca)

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