Posts Tagged With: World War II

Thanks for remembering…

This is a conversation I would imagine having with my Dad, Flight Lieutenant William James Duff,  at this time of the year:  Remembrance Day.

Dad (Bill):  Stacey, I want you to thank Ryan, the young man who gave you the model Catalina Flying Boat for me.

Stacey:  I already did Dad.  It was so amazing that her took the time and effort to not only find, but purchase, and bring that model airplane to my school.  Was it the right model?

Dad:  Yes.  Although, of course the model is much smaller than the life- version.  It was a big aircraft and could fly for miles without refueling.  That’s one of the reasons it was so favored overseas because of the distance it could travel.

Stacey:  What’s it like now, Dad?  Do you mark this day in Heaven?

Dad:  Well, it’s a little different here, Stace.

Stacey:  I guess if I asked you in what way, you wouldn’t be able to tell me?

Dad:  Not exactly.  All I can tell is that there is no pain, no more tears, no more mourning for the friends I lost.

Stacey:  I always remember growing up that Remembrance Day was the one time EVER I saw you cry.  I really didn’t understand it at the time.

Dad:  How could you?  No one can really imagine what it was like.  You had to be there.  It wasn’t all bad, though, Stacey.  We had the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places and meet some really good people.  The guys I was with in India  – we became very close.  The war brought a lot of people together in some very unlikely circumstances.  I always felt so fortunate that I was able to learn how to fly a plane.  I was in love with the idea of flying ever since I was a kid and a plane crashed in a field in New Lowell.  I think it was there that my interest in flying – not crashing (grin) – peaked.

Stacey:  It’s strange, Dad, that you are able to take good from such a terrible time.

Dad:  What are you going to do, Stacey?  You need to see the positive in everything.  No sense in complaining about things.  This is a very sad time for me and for so many families – don’t get me wrong.  But we all did what we felt we had to do and we all felt that we were doing something that was “right” and “good”.  I don’t know whether or not it was the right thing – even to this day.

Stacey:  You mean there are still no answers, Dad.

Dad:  Oh, there are answers, but we can still hold differences of opinions… we just don’t need war to solve the difference here, Stacey.

Stacey:  Good to talk to you again, Dad.  I’m not going to lay a wreath tomorrow – but I am going to the George Duff Memorial for you and Grandpa.   Anything you want me to say or do?

Dad:  No.  Just being there is enough.  And, Stacey, thanks for remembering.

Stacey:  I love you, Dad.

Dad:  Love you to, Stace.


Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Leonard Birchall

Thanks to Dad – I know of Leonard Birchall – one of our famous Canadians who most young Canadians know nothing about.  But those who know burst with pride and admiration.  Birchall was honoured in 2009 as one of the 100 most influential Canadians in aviation and had his name emblazoned directly behind the starboard roundel on the fuselage with the others on the 2009 CF – 18 Centennial of Flight demonstration Hornet. (Lee, Mary. “Centennial Heritage Flight – Precision and Flight Safety.”, 2009 Issue 2. Retrieved: 14 August 2010.)   But those who knew him bust with pride and admiration.

This photo was taken at the graduation ceremony for one of my “Duff” cousins at Royal Military College in Kingston.  Dad, as I recall, got a terrible sunburn on that day – but he was bursting with pride over Kent’s graduation. It was a very happy day.

I spoke about Birchall in a earlier post in Dad’s voice:  Catalina Flying Boat.


Please have a peek at one of Canada’s “historical figures and moments”.  Birchall is also known as the Saviour of Ceylon.

Categories: Duff History, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Air


When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked.  Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind.  Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said.   Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters.  Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans!  (–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)

“Oh, my goodness, Dad.  This is funny!”  I replied.  I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel.  After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged.  Enjoy!

Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)

Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II!   Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.

We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines.  The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier.  But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance.  Although there had never been sightings in the Straits,  Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal.  I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting.  Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs.  (Funny how some of my best friends today are German.  Was sure is a strange thing!)

The Straits were well known for lobster.  Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate!  During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them.  Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.

Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water.  This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft.  This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the  lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.

Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate.  When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft.  Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings.  This wasn’t really too much of a problem.  The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.

The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection.  The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft.  I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water.  No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.

Finally, the story emerged.  The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”.  I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Jealousy (Jalousie)


I have been looking for this song since my Dad told me the story of him singing it with Helen O’Connell on stage!  (I can only imagine how much rum must have been involved in that task).  Dad had a fantastic singing voice and my Mom would always brag to me about his voice.  She had a fantastic voice too, but, while she was the opera buff, Dad was more blues and jazz.

Finally, this morning while re-reading some of Dad’s posts, I came across this story he told me about “Jealousy (Jalousie).  I continued my search for the song and discovered that it was not a song made famous by Helen O’Connell, rather one that was popular and she chose to sing it.  It seems Frankie Laine was the artist who made the song popular in 1951. Correct me, please, if I am wrong.   I was so excited to find it as it just gives me such great context for my Dad – the person.

I am re-posting this story with great excitement.  Here is the link if you wish to check it out:

Frankie Lane (

Caterina Valente’s version (

Here’s the original story, as told to me in my Dad’s words”

“I have always  loved music.  During the war, music played a very important role to connect us to home and to lift our spirits.  I had a couple hundred records.  In those days the records were “78”s.

One of my favorite artists while I posted in Madras, India was  Ziggy Ellman.  Ziggy played the trumpet. I listened to Ziggy so much and I was such a big fan that my  navigator nick-named my Ziggy.  To listen to my records, though, I had to wind it up… there was no electricity.

I went often into Madras to buy records.  Buying a record then, however, was very different from today.  The way we did it then when you went into the place someone gave you a catelogue.  You’d look through the catelogue for something you’d like played.  A little boy came over and you pointed to the one you’d like to hear.  He had a ladder like the one you see in big libraries.  We’d point out the one – he’d get on the ladder, find the record, and play it for you.  If you liked what you heard, you bought it – if not it would go back into the library of records.He knew where every record was.

One day when I was looking to purchase a record, there was a woman who was in the store at the same time as me.  She was with her daughter.  There was a song playing at the time.  The song was called Jealousy and it was sung by Helen O’Connell.   The lady wanted to know the name of the song – I told her it was Jello- See.  I said it the wrong way just to tease her.  She told the boy she was looking for the song, Jello-See and tried to get him to play it.  There was quite a lengthy exchange while the two of them tried to figure out what she wanted.  The boy had never heard of the Jello song.   Finally he played it on the hi-fi and the lady bought the record.

I sold all my records and gramaphone before I came home – I didn’t need them as  we could just go and see the performer in Canada – we didn’t need the recorded version.

I remember the time when I went to see Helen O’Connell in Collingwood.  .  I motioned her over and told her I heard her record in India – she invited me to get up and sing with her.  So I did.  The song I sang was… you bet…  “Jealousy”.”

Categories: Dad's WWII Diary, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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