RCAF Nose Art of the "Allan Cup"



RCAF Nose Art of the "Allan Cup"


Gerry Philbin's talents in hockey whilst serving in the RCAF are described. He then transferred to the UK to fly Halifaxes. During an operation they were shot down and only he and Sergeant Millard survived. He was captured but escaped with the help of an American and the French. They met up with American soldiers and were airlifted back to the UK.

Temporal Coverage



Three printed sheets


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[underlined] RCAF Nose Art of the “Allan Cup” [/underlined]
In November 1939, RCAF service hockey teams began to compete on the ice at a number of wartime Canadian bases. In the following six years, almost every RCAF unit in Canada and U.K. boasted its own band of hockey talent. The Ottawa R.C.A.F. Flyers entered the senior city league in October 1939, and at once began to attract considerable attention with their scoring punch and general hockey skills. This was no surprise as Ottawa had various RCAF units to draw talent from and the best hockey talent was posted to our nation’s capital. In two years the Ottawa RCAF Flyers became the number one high-calibre Air Force team in wartime senior hockey. Five of these mainstay players came from the original Trenton Flyers of 1938; Louis Le Compte, Eric McNeeley, Roy Hawkey, Hank Blade, and defence star Gerald (Gerry) Philbin.
Gerald Bernard Philbin was born at Montreal, Quebec, in 1909, raised in the city of Valleyfield, situated on the south bank of the island in the St. Lawrence River, 30 miles west of Montréal. He was educated in English and French, plus excelled playing hockey in his school years. In 1938 and 39 Gerry played for the Trenton Flyers hockey team, which influenced his decision to join the RCAF on 21 July 1940. Trained at No., 1 ITS and graduated 9 December 1940. No. 11 EFTS graduated 28 Jan. 1941, then received his wings at No. 2 SFTS, Uplands, 28 March 1941. Gerry was posted to C.T.S. Rockcliffe, which allowed him to play fulltime with the Ottawa RCAF Flyers team, but in fact he had played on and off with the team since the fall of 1940.
The Ottawa senior hockey league teams played 16 regular games in the 1941-42 seasons. The Ottawa RCAF Flyers won 11, lost 4 and tied 1 game, ending with 23 points and a second place finish. They won the semi-final playoff games, 3 games to none, over Hamilton Majors, won the Ontario East final playoffs, 3 games to none, over Quebec Aces, and then faced the Port Arthur Bear-Cats in the final for the Canadian National Senior Ice Hockey Championship Allan Cup.
Game [symbol] 1 – RCAF 7 – Bear-Cats 4
Game [symbol] 2 – RCAF 8 – Bear-Cats 7 (won in over-time)
Game [symbol] 3 – Bear-Cats 3 – RCAF 1
Game [symbol] 4 – Bear-Cats 4 – RCAF 3
Game [symbol] 5 – RCAF 7 – Bear-Cats 1
They won the Allen Cup in five games and now 90 percent of the team was broken up as members moved on to wartime duties in the RCAF.
Gerry Philbin was promoted to Flying Officer and posted to operations in England. F/O Philbin formed a sprog crew made up of five other Canadians and one British. The new crew were assigned to No. 431 (Iroquois) squadron stationed at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, where they flew their first operation on 8 October 1943, in Halifax Mk. V, “O”.
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On the 18 November the crew were assigned to fly Halifax “U” (LL152) which became their bomber. Shortly after completing an attack on Berlin, 21-22 November 43, the starboard engine failed and on the return trip they were damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Despite this Philbin returned his crew safely to base and for his actions, was recommender [sic] for a D.F.C. No. 431 squadron are ordered to move to [symbol] 64 Base at Croft, Yorkshire, on 10 December 1943. The 23 Dec. 1943, issue of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported F/O Gerry Philbin always wore his 1942 “Allen Cup” hockey jersey on operations for good luck.
On 15/16 March 1944, after attacking Amiens, France, the Philbin crew had a hung up 500 lb. bomb, and upon landing the bomb dropped and exploded. Two of the original crew, Canadian gunners P/O Lloyd Barker, P/O Irvine Klein, were killed, the remainder of the crew and pilot Philbin escaped with minor injuries. Pilot Philbin is promoted to F/L and his crew receive a new Halifax SE-U, serial LK991, and went on to complete 21 operations with No. 431 squadron, 13 of which were flown in the two Halifax aircraft coded “U”.
No. 425 (Alouette) squadron was formed on 25 June 1942, and designated “French-Canadian” squadron. Bomber Command combed other squadrons for French speaking air and ground crews to fill its ranks. On 13 June 1944, French speaking pilot Gerry Philbin and his crew were posted from No. 431 squadron to No. 425 squadron based at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, where they had flown with their original squadron. Pilot Philbin is now promoted to Squadron Leader in the RCAF, providing experience to the French speaking squadron.
S/L Philbin received a new No. 425 squadron Halifax Mk. VII, serial LL594, with code letter “U”. On this aircraft he had the squadron artist paint the nose art of the [underlined] 1942 Allen Cup [/underlined] and the logo used on the Ottawa hockey sweaters. The Philbin crew flew their first operation with No. 425 squadron on 16 June 1944, a date the French-Canadian squadron began attacks on the German V-1 rocket sites in France. In the next four weeks the squadron would attack 21 rocket sites in France, but the Philbin crew will not take part.
On 5 August 1944, at 11 am, Halifax LL594 and the Philbin crew become airborne from Tholthorpe for the last time. It is their 26th operation; the fifth flown in No. 425 squadron and the target is the V-1 site at St. Leu d’ Esserent, France. Over the target the Halifax with the Allan Cup on the nose takes a direct hit from flak and explodes. Six of the crew die at once, pilot Philbin and RAF Sgt. Milliard are blown into space and parachute to earth where they are taken prisoner. Sgt. Milliard is interned in camp Luft. 7, POW [symbol] 608.
Gerry Philbin lands among exploding bombs from his own squadron, but has two broken ribs and fractured both feet. He is virtually pulled into a foxhole by a German soldier who saves his life, and then taken prisoner. Gerry is transported to a German army hospital and the next day driven to Beaujon (Luftwaffe) hospital in Clichy, north of Paris.
On 11 August 1944, the American 8th Air Force launched 956 B-24 and B-17 bombers in visual attacks on German railway, fuel dumps, and troop concentrations in the French, Brest peninsula. Three B-24’s and two B-17’s were lost with seven crew killed and 28 missing in action.
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One of the B-17’s in the 100th B.G., with nose art “Royal Flush”, crashed in a suburb of north Paris, four crew are killed and six taken prisoner by German SS troops.
The six Americans are transported to the same hospital as Canadian S/L Gerry Philbin. The SS Colonel in charge of the hospital informs all prisoners they will be transported to Germany that evening. American Chuck Nekvasil and Gerry Philbin speak perfect French, and ask the French staff in the hospital to help them escape. The prisoners are locked in the seventh floor of the hospital with one German guard. At 7 pm trucks and ambulances arrive to transport the POW’s to Germany. Soon after, the French FFI attack the hospital and during the gun battle one of the Americans obtains a knife and slashed the throat of the lone German guard, Willie. The German door keys are obtained and the group took off making nine miles in the first 24 hours. They took cover by day and travelled by night until 3 September, when a German fighter dropped fire bombs on the building they were hiding in. Eight of the prisoners, including the six Americans and Gerry Philbin, took off running for about six miles, when two motorcycles came tearing down the road towards them. The soldiers wore the uniform of the French 2nd Armored [sic] Division. It was all over, and they were next taken to a field hospital near Orleans, France. On 6 September 1944, the group was airlifted by an American C-47 to Exeter, England, and another hospital.
For S/L Gerry Philbin the war is over, he now has a desk job, and effective 1 September 44 awarded the D.F.C. The award was presented by Governor General of Canada on 27 June 1945.
[black and white photograph of Squadron Leader Gerry Philbin and two other airmen around a desk, Philbin is sitting behind the desk, with the two airmen on his right hand side]
[inserted] Copenhagen [/inserted]
[inserted] Hubert and Jerry [sic] Philbin 1946 [/inserted]
S/L Gerry Philbin in Copenhagen, (far right) 1946


“RCAF Nose Art of the "Allan Cup",” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/24542.

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