Training , Training and More Training

It was a long way from recruitment to flying operations over Europe for the air crews of the RCAF. Over time the courses changed in length and subject matter, the same objective was always in mind to have the best trained crews.
All recruits from ground crew, administrative personnel and pilots began at the same training point. A Manning Depot where the civilian was turned into a soldier, all abet in this case an airmen. All the spit and polish, marching and other military traits would be instilled in the new recruits. The marching would be under the eye of a Drill Instructor, for Allan Rokeby and many others at No. 1 Manning Depot in Toronto the man who would put them through their paces would be RCAF Warrant Officer II John Such, a former Royal Army RSM and veteran of the Battle of the Somme during WWI.

Pilot selection

For all aircrew recruits the next stage of training would be an Initial Training School, which among other things subjected the men to physiological testing as part of the evaluations procedures. From these and other academic , physical examinations and how they faired in the Link Trainer would be decided those best suited for pilot training.
For AC2 Rokeby on his final day at ITS No.5 Belleville Ontario standing waiting as the instructors read off the names and trade selected for them, finally hearing.. LAC Rokeby... Pilot, announced he knew would open the doors for No. 13 EFTS and upon successful completion there continue on to No. 17 SFTS.
At any stage of the training there were a high percentage of those who would not complete the course and be reassigned to Navigation or Bombing schools. On June 24th 1943, LAC Rokeby had completed SFTS and received his wings and promotion to Sergeant.


The voyage from Halifax across the hazards of the Atlantic, for many was in small passenger ships converted to troop transports, in Sgt. Rokeby's case on aboard HMT Louis Pasteur. Crossing as part of a convoy, a slower pace then the mighty Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth.
With the dangers of the crossing the Atlantic passed him it was now on to No. 3 Personnel Reception Center at Bournemouth. A short hop over the Channel for Luftwaffe aircraft and a long way from the world the new arrivals had left in Canada. Rationing, Black-outs, and air raids.
Ration cards were handed out and P/O Rokeby would be billeted with other Canadians in any home, hotel or building available. Of course he would have to hand over his Rations card to the head of the house and meals were now, whatever could be found by his hosts.
It must have been a sense of relief to get away from Bournemouth and be flying again, even it was yet another training facility. All RCAF pilots, P/O Rokeby no exception had to complete Advanced Flying Unit training. Although it was still smaller training aircraft such as the Airspeed Oxford. The training was now over the skies of Britain with roving Luftwaffe fighters infiltrating the air around the British countryside. No longer the friendly wide open skies of the Canadian training bases.
More training and crew selection would follow over the months, until eventually the final training step at No. 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit was completed and they awaited posting to a squadron.

419 Squadron

From their final training at No.61 Base, Station Dishforth (#1664 HCU) the crew were posted to 419 squadron.
Navigator F/O C.L. Somers
B/A F/O Alfred J. Arnold
WAG Sgt. Thomas J. Quigg
F/E Sgt. D. Bowe
MU/G Sgt. Charles C. Huff
R/G Sgt. Edward C. Hill

There would be a wait of four days before F/O Rokeby was listed to take his first compulsory stint at 2nd. Pilot training. It would be another ten days before he was again listed on the Battle Order to take his second 2nd.Pilot op.
During these ten days Rokeby and his crew took part in check outs conducted on all new arrivals to the squadron. A dual control Circuit and Landing followed by a Solo C&L. Then he and his crew completed a series of day and night time cross country flights, this gave the new pilots a chance to familiarize themselves with local landmarks, the base's runways and any obstacles in the approaches to the runways. The men of the squadron were often on bombing exercises and on one occasion F/O Arnold scored an amazing hit on the bulls eye with the bomb laying 75 yards off target. The next closet it was 175 yards off. Another important exercise practised by all the squadron's crews was Fighter Affiliation exercises.
Their first operation together as a crew on the night of May27/28th proved to have an added twist in that their Lancaster was fired on by not one but two other Lancasters. It was not the first time a 419 Lancaster had been fired on by another Lancaster, luckily no one was reported as injured. Unlike the attack by friendly fire on "Hecklin Hare". While their second operation brought them up against the perils of nature, in the form of a heavy electrical storm over England.
The next few operations brought them over many targets familiar to the pilots of 419 squadron, Stettin, Dortmund, Kiel Bothop and others. The end of June F/O Rokeby and his crew were over the V1 installations around Bamieres,part of a massive 739 bomber raid. The operations against the rocket bases continued foe many weeks and the night of July 4/5 brought the Rokeby crew in "Piddlin Pete" over Villeneuve St. George. The air was full of enemy night fighters and the squadron records show more Combat Reports filed for the one night then any other night or any other month. The night was a costly one to No. 6 Group(RCAF), loosing nine aircraft, three of them crews from 419 Squadron. KB718 KB723 KB727

F/O Rokeby brought his crew home safely, if not shaken from the loss of so many friends and fellow airmen. There was nothing anyone could do but go through the routine of debriefings and then waiting out for the word on the lost crews. It would be some time in coming but eventually it would be found that seventeen out of the twenty one crewmen lost had made it. Ten were captured and seven became evaders. The five others were listed as missing at first, then as details came back it was learned that the five had been killed.

A New Aircraft- KB745 "Vickie"

July 9th would be the first of many operations the Rokeby crew and VR-V, "Vickie" flew on sorties. But the night of July 18th VR-V was not serviceable and VR-R "Ropey" would be their aircraft for the planned operation. It turned out to be a tricky flight, while crossing the Channel "Ropey" lost it's starboard outer engine. It was up to the pilot to decide what to do, flying was possible on three engines, although with a full bomb load and fuel the aircraft would be greatly slowed down and therefore a straggling target for night fighters. On they went to complete the operation successfully, after dropping the bomb load VR-R was able to gain speed and the crew actually landed back at base along with most of the other squadron's aircraft.
Although he would again be at the controls of VR-R twice more, for over fifteen operations it would be "Vickie" that brought them all home. The skies over their targets were continually noted as having more accurate and heavier flak and fighters were reported in his log book on many of the operations; Vickie was their ticket home.

August 10th -Combat Report

It was a different kind of attack, the majority of Combat Reports show the enemy aircraft coming in from astern. In this case it was a head on attack, the Ju88 coming up on the bow from underneath being spotted by the Flight Engineer Sgt. Bowe. Rokeby immediately performed a climbing turn to starboard followed by a steep dive in the same direction. Sgt. Hill in the rear turret was unable to bring his guns to bear on the attacker. The Ju88 was lost in the night and Navigator F/O Somers gave the headings to his pilot as they resumed their original course.

Tour Completed

On October 6th F/O Rokeby had completed 34 operations. He and his crew had survived the odds and completed not only 30 sorties but an additional 2 operations. His crew had gained promotions and gongs for their times with 419 Squadron. And with the official screening from the squadron and most likely the unofficial screening held at The Oaks Pub the crews went there separate ways.
Pilot F/L Allan Rokeby - "R" Depot and repatriation
Navigator F/O C.L. Somers
B/A F/O Alfred J. Arnold DFC -Instructor Duties No.1659 CU
WAG Sgt. Thomas J. Quigg DFM
F/E Sgt. D. Bowe Posted to ACAC
MU/G F/Sgt. Charles C. Huff DFM
R/G F/Sgt. Edward C. Hill DFM posted to No.1666 CU Instructional Duties

Post 419 Squadron

After two weeks at "R" Depot at Warrington, F/L Rokeby was once again on a troop ship, this time the HMT Aquitania, landing at Quebec City and to repatriation at Rockcliffe in Ottawa. It would not be the end of his RCAF career or his acquaintance with HMT Aquitania. By the end of March of 1945 he was back in Britain this time as part of instructional training at No.1664 Dishforth and then Rufforth H.U.
By mid-August he was again on a homeward voyage to Canada, headed for training for Tiger Force, a week after he arrived back in Canada the war in the Pacific was over and 419 Squadron was disbanded shortly after.
Rokeby eventually reenlisted and from 1951 to 1964 he served at a number of bases across Canada, including with 411 Squadron at Downsview (Toronto) where he flew Harvards, Chipmunks and Vampire jet fighters.
Diagnosed with Leukemia he continued his career with the RCAF until 1964.

Aircraft Flown

In addition to the aircraft such as the Tiger Moth, Cessna Crane, Fleet Cornell flown during his early training F/L Rokeby piloted a long list of other single and multiple engine aircraft.
Airspeed Oxford, Armstrong Whitley V, Halifax V, Lancaster V, Mitchell, Harvard, Mustang, Fleet Finch, Beech Expeditor, Dakota, Chipmunk, Avro Anson and jets including the Vampire, Silverstar and Avro CF-100 Canuck.