Pilot Officer Ivors Russell Forster
Ivors Russell Forster was born 21st June 1921, in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. His parents were William Clyde Forster, whose trade appears variously as machinist or toolmaker, and Carolyn Ethel Forster (nee Patterson).
The couple married in Lincoln, Ontario in June 1911 and went on to have four children, William, Lawrence, Victoria May, Ivors Russell and Kenneth, who sadly died of kidney disease, aged 14.
Ivors attended Alexandra Public School from 1926-1934, and then St. Catherine’s Collegiate from 1934-1937, followed by Oakwood Collegiate Institute from 1940-1941, achieving good results in Algebra and Geometry. He enjoyed photography, swimming, bowling hiking and roller-skating.
Having achieved his Junior Matriculation in English, French and German, he went to work as a clerk for Mr. Dayling in Toronto, though the type of business he was employed in isn’t specified by the records.
However, Forster didn’t remain a clerk for long. In August 1941, he was interviewed at the RCAF Recruiting Office in Toronto, and made a good impression:
Clean cut lad, strong, aggressive, good education, keen and anxious to fly, will make good aircrew with training.
He attested on 6th October and was sent on leave without pay until 11th November, with orders to report to the RCAF Recruiting Centre, Toronto. Forster’s training began in earnest at No.5 Initial Training School, Belleville, Ontario, at the beginning of February, 1942. From there, he was passed on to No.22 Elementary Flying Training School at Ancienne Lorette, Quebec, at the end of March, 1942. It was during this period that he was reprimanded for his conduct – firstly, on 7th May, he was confined to barracks for three days after he failed to appear for Duty Watch Roll Call and more seriously on 31st May, he received 168 hours detention for “flying so as to cause unnecessary annoyance to any person,” though the nature of the incident isn’t recorded.
Despite these ‘hiccups,’ Forster was passed onto Course No.58 at No.8 Service Flying Training School, Moncton, New Brunswick, and was awarded his pilot’s flying badge on 9th October, 1942. The following day his two weeks of embarkation leave began.
Less than a month after receiving his ‘wings’, Forster arrived in England and found himself at No.3 Personnel Reception Centre, in the seaside town of Bournemouth. However, he was only there for a short time before being sent to No.17(P)AFU, (Pilot Advanced Flying Unit) at RAF Watton, on 17th November.
On 26th November, Forster took off in a Miles Master training aircraft (AZ788) for a map reading exercise on a circular route passing over Thetford, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket, Cambridge, Ely and then back to RAF Watton. All went according to plan until he was passing over Ely and his engine began to fail. He eased back on the throttle and then eased it on again and must have been relieved when the motor ‘caught’ but it wasn’t long before it spluttered again. Although his instruments were in order, Forster decided to land in a field one mile north of Ely. All went well until the engine spluttered agin as he made his final turn across wind and noticed that there was a wire fence with concrete posts running across his chosen landing ground! Opening the throttle, he hopped the fence and flopped down on the other side. His port wingtip caught in a hedge and swung the aircraft round damaging both wings and the propeller. It was later established that the engine problem had been caused by the Air Intake Shutter being in the ‘Cold Air’ position during ideal icing conditions. The mistake was put down to Forster’s inexperience and no disciplinary action was taken.
The last stage of Forster’s training began on 19th January, 1943, when he was sent to No.59 Operational Training Unit, at RAF Milfield. He flew about 50 hours on Hurricanes, including 4 hours of night flying. Although his air gunnery scores were below average, his general flying was judged as “steady and dependable,” and he was considered to be, “very efficient with a keen sense of responsibility.”
On 13th March, 1943, Forster was posted to 421 Squadron RCAF at Kenley, along with Sgts. Dixon, Joyce and Warfield. He made his first non-operational flight in Spitfire BS316, on 24th and spent the rest of the month on formation practice and local flying.
On 11th April, the squadron was sent to Martlesham Heath for an air-gunnery course, and Forster was the top-scorer on the first day, with 81 hits out of 601 rounds fired. His score on the 17th was also worthy of a mention in the Squadron operations record book.
On 27th April, Flying Officer Wilson and Sgts. Warfield and Forster were notified that they were to be temporarily posted overseas for aircraft ferrying duties. Forster left England on the 4th May and arrived in Gibraltar on 17th. On 9th June, he was attached to RAF New Camp, Gibraltar, and then between 19th June and 8th July, it appears that he went to North Africa, though the details are unclear. Forster left Gibraltar on 5th August, arrived back in England the following day and reported for duty with 421 Squadron, along with Sgt. Warfield, on 7th.
22nd October, 1943, was “a big day” for 421 Squadron, according to the operations book.
Wing Commander Hugh Godefroy DFC and Bar, led 17 Spitfire IX’s of 403 and 421 Squadrons for ‘Ramrod’ 280, taking off at 9.42am to fly as second fighter sweep to 72 Marauders bombing Evreux and Fauville aerodromes.
421 Squadron bounced 50 FW190’s north-east of Beauvais. Pilot Officer K. R. Linton destroyed one of the enemy aircraft, his second FW190 in five days. Another was brought down by Flying Officer A.R. MacKenzie (his first victory). Pilot Officer Johnson damaged another, but Flight Sergeant Forster was missing.
The Intelligence and Combat reports from this operation give the only clues to Forster’s fate:
During the combat, W/C [Wing Commander] ordered the Wing to climb and attack the upper gaggle. F/Sgt. Forster did not climb and nothing further was seen or heard of him. A lone Spitfire was seen by Black 3 (Magwood) flying inland seemingly undamaged. There is a possibility that his wireless was U/S [unserviceable].
The 421 Squadron diarist recorded Forster’s loss:
He was a promising pilot and had recently been strongly recommended for appointment to commissioned rank.
Ivors Russell Forster did indeed receive his commission posthumously – he lies at rest in Marissel French National Cemetery, a Pilot Officer.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.