Remembrance Day, 2016
Nov 8, 2008Public
Photo: My generation grew up with this photo of Uncle Donald in our homes. It was taken just before he left for England in February, 1942.
Photo: He was affectionately known as 'Bugs' by his four older siblings who adored their mischievous little brother. Although his mother chose this sailor uniform, it would the air force blues that would capture his heart.
Photo: The Plaunts moved from North Bay to Sudbury in 1925 and a fourth daughter Jean was born.
Photo: The Plaunts spent their summers at Wye, a small village on the CPR, 60 miles NW of Sudbury, along side the Spanish River and a stone throw from Lake Pogamasing. W. B. Plaunt operated a lumber mill here from 1929 to 1940. Donald with his three sisters, Helen, Kae and Marion, and three Plaunt employees.
Photo: With lots of horses for the logging operation, Donald had the opportunity to learn to ride. In his teens, he worked in the saw mill.
Photo: He first attended Central Public where he met Billy Lane who would become one of his closest friends. Later they would join the air force aspiring to be Spitfire pilots.
Photo: His big brother Bill kept him under his wing!
Photo: From a young age Donald demonstrated a great sense of humour in this letter to his sister Helen.
Photo: Donald's other love was the military and at 12, he joined the Copper Cliff Highlanders.
Photo: The six Plaunt children, from the oldest Marion to the youngest, Jean
Photo: He attended Sudbury High School for grade nine and then went to Ridley College in St. Catharines to complete his high school. He played football and hockey, and became the first team goalie. At Ridley he was known as was 'Porky', some thought because of his fondness for food, especially chocolates. Mr. Griffith, the principal, described him as a 'fuzzy bear', because of his thick brush cut. Griffith didn't like brush cuts and told Donald to grow it out. However his hair kept growing, straight up, and all the Brylcream (hair cream) in the world couldn't keep it down. Griffith relented and he was allowed to keep his distinctive style. Porky was known at Ridley for his generosity, enthusiasm and sense of humour. When he went overseas, he gave his goalie pads on to Jim Hinds, a young Sudbury friend.
Photo: Naturally he loved the Ridley Cadet Corps and in his graduating year was second in command and ...
Photo: along with Billy Lane, two other Sudbury friends, Mike Kennedy and Syd Smith, joined the air force with him and were known as "the Four Musketeers".
Photo: His initial training was in Toronto and he was selected for pilot training ...
Photo: and learned to fly on Fleet bi-planes at the Elementary Flying School in Goderich, Ontario.
Photo: At the Brantford Service Flying School he advanced to the twin-engine Anson. Despite a crash landing, he was selected to continue further training in Britain and most importantly ...
Photo: could now proudly wear his 'wings' on his uniform. Most air crew were classified as sergeants, although a select few were appointed officers.
Photo: On his last home leave in February, 1942, he had his picture taken with his sister Kae and his five months old nephew.
Photo: Once in England he trained as a heavy bomber pilot and was posted to a Lancaster squadron. Before he flew his first operation over Europe he had logged over 400 hours of flying.
Photo: A Lancaster bomber had a crew of seven. Donald was the pilot and the captain. His initial crew: (back row) Joe Taylor, gunner; Trevor Williams, flight engineer; DCP, Jean-Louis Viau, bomb-aimer; and in front, Jock Lochrie, rear gunner, and Ralph Franks, wireless operator. The 7th person, John Smith, the navigator, presumably took the photo.
Photo: Donald was very generous and loyal to his crew. He asked his father to send him a box of Laura Secord chocolates every month and the odd carton of cigarettes to share with them, even though he didn't smoke. Although he was in the RAF 97th RAF Squadron, four of the seven crew were Canadians. With Ralph Franks, a Jewish Canadian from Hamilton, Donald exchanged his identity tag whenever they flew together to protect Franks in case they were captured by the SS.
Photo: On his first operation on February 7, 1943, his crew won recognition for accurate bombing; this one over a German submarine base at L'Orient on the French coast and ...
Photo: a second one over Milan, Italy on their third flight.
Photo: Donald visited Billy Lane at his Spitfire squadron base.