Focus and discipline in the face of adversity

Article by Bob Carswell

The following text is by Bob Carswell; the text originated as a Comment at an earlier post entitled:

Question for Graeme Decarie: Can you explain the Wrong-Way Driving phenomenon in New Brunswick?

Montreal - End of WW II

The End of the War on St. Catherine Street in Montreal, 1945.. This is an archival image, the exact details of which are unknown to me. See text at lower right of photo. You can enlarge the photo by clicking on it.


1935 Whatsit

1935 Whatsit

When you grow up with someone in your life that keeps turning up like Graeme Decarie has done over a lot of years and then in print via SGWU alumni magazine, it is not surprising that we also share certain values in common. I too went to the High School of Montreal for two runs at Grade Eight and one at Grade Nine but I was always too timid to skip class.

Camp Tamaracouta

Later in life I found out that I am not a listener but rather a person who gains knowledge almost entirely through his eyes. Like Graeme, I also spent a few weeks over the summer at Camp Tamaracouta for a number of years so I can easily identify with the story contents. I completed my Queen Scout badge in 1960 and went to Quebec City to be presented with it by the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec.

Flt. Lt. John McKinley Carswell meeting Robert Anthony Carswell for the first time in March 1945

Flt. Lt. John McKinley Carswell meeting Robert Anthony Carswell for the first time in March 1945

Like Graeme, I also have a connect with the Governor General Harold Alexander, The Viscount Alexander of Tunis. A pair of twins who flew 40 operations or more during WW II in bombers over Europe and survived the war went on to do other things in the RCAF after the war. They were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and later added a bar to it (a second DFC).

Allen Sherlock

One of them, Allen Sherlock, became the military attache to the Viscount of Tunis right after the war. It was in 1941 that my father recommended these two sergeant pilots (4 years his senior) for their officer’s commission in the RAF. They were part of the flight he commanded at RAF Wigtown in Scotland (where he met my mother). The twins also attended my parents’ wedding in Croydon, England.

Glamour Watch, RAF Biggin Hill, 1940 - Pat Carswell nee Paddy Leonard front row left

Glamour Watch, RAF Biggin Hill, 1940 – Pat Carswell nee Paddy Leonard front row left

As far as Royalty is concerned I cannot say I have met any however my father went to Lakefield College up near Peterborough, Ontario where the Queen’s son spent two terms. In 1941 a member of the extended Royal Family who my father befriended worked as a corporal running the RAF Hatfield station library. He quietly arranged for a photographer to take Dad’s grad photo as a pilot. Dad then found out that the same individual was the official photographer to the Royal Family.

I also remember as a youngster standing out on Laurentian Blvd in Cartierville and waving a flag at the princess and her husband when she toured the City of Montreal sitting in the back of a convertible back in the early 1950s. I have also stood outside of Buckingham Palace and I have toured the Tower of London.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

John and Pat Carswell engagement photo 1942

John and Pat Carswell engagement photo 1942

That was back in 1970. According to our blood lines we are actually descended from the early Stuart kings, are related by marriage to Lucy Maud Montgomery and to Sir Walter Scott, famous Scottish writer of the early 1800s. The seat of the Errington line from which I am descended is Hexham Castle and it is through them that the family line is supposed to go back to Royalty.

Initially, Scottish kings, they also ruled England for 6 generations until the line ended in the late 1600s. My grandfather and I were born in England and came to Canada.. My father and son were born in Canada and went to England. Since graduating from the London School of Business with an MBA, my son settled in London where he lives and contracts himself out, previously and currently to the British High Commission.

Pat Leonard age 20

Pat Leonard age 20

His grandfather on his mother’s side was an Air Commodore in the RAF and head of eye medicine for the Air Force. A medical doctor with long service around the world, he was an honorary physician to the Queen with numerous other honours to his name.

New Brunswick

I think I am a throwback to the original KERRs which play prominently in our name creation but from which I am also descended on my KERR line that arrived in Montreal in 1822 from Scotland. I am the only left-handed person in the family and this is a natural trait of the KERRs who even built their castle stairways in the reverse to suit their personal needs. Graeme Decarie has a love for New Brunswick and I can understand why having spent a lot of time travelling and camping down east at different times.

Pat Leonard at home 15 Fitzjames Avenue, Croydon

Pat Leonard at home 15 Fitzjames Avenue, Croydon

Unfortunately, I am banned from driving in NB anymore because I got caught in a speed trap doing 140 in a 120 zone and promptly lost the ticket. When they notified me of it and banned me from driving for life in NB I consciously chose not to pay it and finally fifteen years later I got a request from the RCMP to pay up…..too late….too much and probably too bad. Unless the laws change, that will stay the way it is. At least I got my daughter settled in to Acadia University and made it home before I was banned from driving in NB….so never fear, Graeme, I won’t be coming for a visit.

List of captions from Bob Carswell, for the photos that he has sent

1) My father meeting me for the first time in March 1945 in Montreal. I was 4 months old.

Sherlock Twins

Sherlock Twins

2) My parents engagement photo for the Montreal newspapers shot by the RCAF in 1942

3) My mother as a raw recruit at age 20 headed for RAF Biggin Hill where she lived through the entire battle of Britain in 1940 surviving a direct 500-lb bomb hit on the Ops Building.

4) Paddy Leonard at home in Croydon.

5) Pat Leonard at age 15 with her stepmother in the family car, a 1935 Whatsit as I call it. Seven were custom built for a Maharajah in India but only five were shipped. My grandfather had to have it.

6) The “Glamour Watch as they came to be known locally at RAF Biggin Hill. Published in the book “Ghosts of Biggin Hill” published in England.

7) The End of the war on St. Catherine Street in Montreal 1945.

8) The Sherlock twins on a visit home with their mother.

[End of text from Bob Carswell]

Comment

Having the list is very helpful, Bob. It makes it so much easier, than otherwise would be the case, for me to post the photos along with the captions.

In most cases if you click on the photo you can enlarge it

4 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I have posted it, Bob. My apologies for letting that one slip by. Next time I’ll do a picture count.

    Do you have a source reference for the Montreal-at-end-of-Second-World-War photo? I note it’s an archival photo but it would be good to have more complete data. If you have sources for other photos, as well, can you please let me know. As a rule, I always want to ensure that all photos that I post have as complete information as possible, with regard to sources.

    Reply
  2. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Jaan,
    Sorry to take so long on this one. You asked me for the start of how my parents met.

    My father had been posted to RAF Wigtown in Scotland as a flight commander of 8 airplanes and crews. Being the first pilot there, some that followed were older but later arrivals so he did well right from the start. My mother was the very first WAAF officer to arrive at RAF Wigtown after a difficult year at RAF Biggin Hill outside of London where she survived a direct bomb hit on the Ops building. So, being sent to officers’ school happened to many of the girls who were at Biggin Hill as they needed a lot of new officers to deal with the thousands of young women wanting to serve all over England.

    Arriving as the new Cypher Officer at Wigtown, she was the first female officer, in fact, the first member of the WAAF on the base and every young guy there was starved for female connections. When she arrived at the station, the commanding officer was away so the staunch old station adjutant did not know what to do with her. He decided the best place for her to wait for the commanding officer was in the officers’ mess.

    However, to get there it was a case of walking through the Corporals’ Mess, the Sergeants’ Mess and then they would reach the Officer’s Mess. As they entered the first section, the room full of young corporal went silent, the same happened in the Sergeants’ Mess and finally a third time when they entered the Officers’ Mess.

    Then it hit the Station Adjutant, it would not be safe to leave her along with all the male officers in the place. The only solution was to take her into the small drink dispensing room where only a couple of people could be at one time. It was about September 1941 and it was in that room that my father was sitting having a conversation with the bartender that day when she entered. It was love at first sight. The rest is history.

    Reply
    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Hi Bob,

      I’m really pleased that you’ve written this account. We were at the Birds & Beans coffee shop on Lake Shore Blvd. West quite some time ago, in the pre-COVID-19 days, when you told me this story.

      Usually when we would meet at the coffee shop, I would have one or two digital recorders with me, so that I would be able to record what you had to say. Or else I would use my iPhone to do some recording.

      When you told me, at Birds & Beans, about how your parents first met, I wasn’t recording because that was a day when I had decided to take a break from recording. However, later I thought that story was so interesting for which reason I asked for the story to be retold.

      It’s now been retold and we owe you many thanks!

      Reply

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