Article by Rich Thistle ©
As an aviation artist I realize I am very fortunate. I never have to worry about "artist's block". My idea book is filled to the brim with paintings waiting to be painted. My mission to focus attention on highlights of Canadian aviation history will never be over as long as I can find the energy to continue painting. Filled with great stories of achievement, both in military and civil flying, Canadian aviation offers endless themes to the artist. The only difficulty I have is to prioritize which themes to paint first.
I had no trouble finding four Canadian themes for my VALOUR OVER DANGEROUS SEAS series. Each painting was to focus on the exploits of a World War II Canadian pilot. Each image was to contain a marine connection. This third image in the series depicts the disasterous and abortive raid at Dieppe.
The meteoric flying career of Lloyd Vernon Chadburn of Aurora, Ontario, although cut tragically short, was a career of "firsts"! After trying unsuccessfully to enlist in the RCAF in 1938, he was accepted as an air gunner trainee in 1940 and, subsequently, re- mustered to pilot, graduating a pilot officer in October and posted overseas.
On April 15, 1941, as a Hurricane pilot of No. 402 Squadron, he took part in the first offensive operation carried out over enemy territory by an RCAF unit. At the age of 21, an experienced and highly successful pilot, credited with five destroyed single handed, four shared destroyed, seven probables and eight damaged, he was given command of a fighter squadron, No.416 RCAF, becoming the youngest squadron leader in the RCAF and the first graduate of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to receive such a position. During the Dieppe raid Chadburn attacked and damaged a heavily-armed German E Boat.
He won his first decoration, the DFC, as Squadron Leader of No. 416 Spitfire squadron leading four sorties in support of the abortive Dieppe landing in August, 1942. His squadron's success in the air that day was one high spot in the otherwise disastrous raid for which Canadians paid so high a price.
In June, 1943, Chadburn was promoted to lead the Canadian Wing at Digby, and at twenty-three years of age he was the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF. In August 1943, he received the DSO.
Under Chadburn's leadership, his wing achieved an impressive run of victories escorting the daylight raids of American tactical bombers, and by the end of November, they were the top-scoring wing in RAF Fighter Command. For his brilliant and courageous leadership he became the first member of the RCAF to be awarded a bar to the Distinguished Service Order. A further promotion made him Wing Commander of Fighter Operations of the RCAF Overseas, but he abandoned his desk at every opportunity for the cockpit of a Spitfire and flew into battle where he felt he belonged. He led a wing of Spitfires on D-Day but just one week later the RCAF lost a superb fighter pilot and an exceptionally able leader.
He was killed, not by enemy action, but in a mid-air collision with another Spitfire, over Normandy on June 13, 1944. He would have been 25 on his next birthday. W/C Lloyd Chadburn, DSO and Bar, DFC, a man of many "firsts", had brought great honor to himself, to the RCAF, and to those who served under his inspiring leadership. I have a personal postscript to add to this story. One day in the mid 1990's my wife Jay received a phone call out of the blue. A man's voice on the other end in a very British accent said: "My name is Andrew Cockshott. I'm looking for information about my father, Lloyd Chadburn." He had seen our ad for the collector plate in AIRFORCE magazine, and was calling from his home in England.
Andrew had just recently discovered his parentage. His WAAF mother had met his father, then a Wing Commander, in the Ops Room at Dover Castle a few weeks before the Dieppe Raid. After a relationship of eighteen months, which included marriage plans, Lloyd was killed over Normandy. Andrew, her infant son, was given up to adoption, and for 47 years, he knew nothing of his natural parents. Andrew has now met his natural mother and, through the help of many, discovered much about his father. Jay and I enjoyed having even a small part in his discovery.
My painting DIEPPE DAWN depicts a Mk V flown by Chadburn's 416 Squadron at Dieppe. This aircraft carries the serial number AR516 but it may not have been the one flown by Chadburn himself. The Squadron flew Mk VB aircraft between Mar. 1942 - Mar. 1943 then for a short time they flew the Mk IX until May switching back the Mk VB & VC. I wanted to pay tribute to the aircraft and the Squadron when I chose to do this painting as part of the series so it is not meant to represent Chadburn's personal aircraft.
The image was published as a limited-edition collector plate (Sold Out) and has also been used as the cover for a book published in England in Dec. 2003.
The Digby Diary; A History of RAF Digby in Lincolnshire 1917- 1953
Cover Art: DIEPPE DAWN by Rich Thistle © DIEPPE DAWN
- original painting available in catalog
- limited-edition fine-art print available in catalog