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Russel, Blair Dalzell

    Date of birth:
    December 9th, 1917 (Toronto, Ontario)
    Date of death:
    November 20th, 2007 (Knowlton/Quebec, Canada)
    Nationality:
    Canadian (1931-present, Constitutional Monarchy)

    Biography

    Service number C1319.

    Blair Dalzell Russel was born on 9th December 1917 in Toronto, Canada. Short time later the family moved to Montreal. He followed his education at the Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. He learned his pilot skills at the Montreal Flying Club where from he and his collegues joined the RCAF short after the beginning of the war. Russel was send to England, where he arrived in June 1940 and joined the No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron. After training on the Hawker Hurricane, the squadron became operational in August. By September he already had shot down, damaged of participated in shooting down five enemy planes. By his groundcrew he received his nickname "Deadeye Dick" and received the "Ace of Spades" as drawing on his Hurricane. By then the Squadron was redesignated as No. 401 (RCAF) Squadron. After the Battle for Britain was over, Russel was send back to Canada. After a short period in recruiting, he was reassigned to command a fighter squdron of Kittyhawks. In December 1942 he once again went to England. Here he was given command of No. 411 (RCAF) Squadron, based at Redhill. Some time later he was appointed commanding officer of No. 126 Wing which contained three Canadian Spitfire Squadrons. At the end of 1943 he spend six months in developing tactics at HQ of 83 Group but returned to flying in the spring of 1944. He volunteered to lower his rank to be able to command No. 442 (RCAF) Squadron under the command of Johnnie Johnson’s fighter wing but also to be able to fly with his younger brother who was killed in 1944. On 10th June 1944, Russel and his wingman were the first allied pilots to land in France on a new airstrip at St. Croix-sur-Mer (B6) in Normandy. In July he was again promoted to Wing Commander and took command of No. 126 Wing. Later his wing was based at Volkel, the Netherlands. At the end of January 1945 he was finally grounded without being shot down even once. He was discharged from the RCAF in July 1945.

    After the Second World War Russel worked for Canada Wire and Cable, Canadair Aircraft Company and Sperry Gyroscopes before he and his wife started a linnen store in Montreal. "Dal" Russel died on 20th November 2007.

    Promotions:
    1939: Pilot Officer;
    18th May 1940: Flying Officer;
    1st August 1941: Flight Lieutenant;
    1st January 1942: Squadron Leader;
    8th July 1943: Wing Commander;
    1st May 1944: set back to Squadron Leader;
    15th July 1944: Wing Commander;

    Career:
    15th September 1939: enlisted;
    ?: Training Trenton and Camp Borden;
    28th May 1940 - 26th February 1941: No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron;
    February 1941 – August 1941: No. 118 (RCAF) Squadron, Canada;
    August 1941 – January 1942: Flight Leader No. 118 (RCAF) Squadron, Canada;
    January 1942 – December 1942: Squadron Leader No. 14 (RCAF) Squadron, Canda;
    December 1942 - 1943: Squadron Leader No. 411 Squadron;
    1943: Squadron Leader No. 402 Squadron;
    1943 – April 1943: Squadron Leader No. 416 Squadron;
    April 1943 – July 1943: Squadron Leader No. 411 Squadron;
    July 1943 : Wing commander No. 17 Wing;
    July - October 1943: Wing Commander No. 127 Wing;
    20th october 1943 - 1st May 1944: RCAF Overseas Headquarters;
    1st May - 15th July 1944: Squadron Leader No. 442 Squadron;
    15th July 1944 - 27th January 1945: Wing Commander No. 126 Wing;
    ?: return to Canada;
    3rd July 1945: Honable discharge.

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    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Flying Officer
    Unit:
    No. 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force
    Awarded on:
    October 25th, 1940
    Citation:
    "Flying Officer Russell [sic] has personally destroyed five enemy aircraft and has assisted in the destruction of a sixth. He has shown great keenness to attack the enemy."
    Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Wing Commander
    Unit:
    No. 126 Wing
    Awarded on:
    November 11th, 1943
    Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
    Recommendation dated 2 September 1943 (When he was credited with a total of 91 sorties (169 hours 25 minutes operational time, of which 64 sorties (91 hours) had been flown since previous award):

    "Prior to the middle of April, the Redhill VB squadrons had operated as an appendage of the Kenley IX wing. Squadron Leader Russel as Commanding Officer of 411 was deputed to act as VB Wing Leader by the Station Commander in the middle of April. Since then, Squadron Leader Russel has built up the VB squadrons at Redhill into a most efficient escort wing which, since the middle of April, has carried out 64 sorties as close escort or escort cover, in which over 500 medium bombers and [on] one occasion 30 Fortresses have been taken into and out from targets from Rotterdam to Cherbourg without the loss of a single bomber to enemy fighters. Although, as close escort and as cover, the wing has been bounced several times, the fine formation and discipline for which Wing Commander Russel is largely responsible have discouraged the enemy on most occasions from pressing home his advantage, and the wing has lost only two pilots against two Huns destroyed and three damaged.

    The Air Vice-Marshal commanding the Group added (26 September 1943):

    The wing this officer has ld has been almost solely employed on close escort or cover duties and has carried out these duties with much efficiency and sucess. Although less spectacular than other fighter roles, the Wing has earned high praise for its devotion to its task and its skill, the credit for which is largely due to Wing Commander Russel."
    Second award received as a bar for on the ribbon of his first DFC.
    Award effective 11 November 1943 as per London Gazette dated 16 November 1943 and AFRO 113/44 dated 21 January 1943.
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Wing Commander
    Unit:
    No. 126 Wing, Royal Canadian Air Force
    Awarded on:
    October 3rd, 1944
    Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
    Citation:
    "In recent intensive air operations the squadrons under the command of Wing Commander Russel have completed a large number of sorties. Within a period of three days a very large number of enemy transport vehicles were attacked of which 127 were set on fire and a bigger number were damaged. In addition, four hostile aircraft were destroyed and seventeen tanks and nineteen other armoured vehicles were damaged. By his masterly leadership, sound judgement and fine fighting qualities, Wing Commander Russel played a good part in the success achieved. His example inspired all."
    Award effective 3 October 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and
    AFRO 2637/44 dated 8 December 1944.
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Squadron Leader
    Unit:
    No. 422 (Flying Yachtsman) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force
    Awarded on:
    September 20th, 1947
    Croix de Guerre (1939-1945)
    Citation:
    "This officer has completed three tours of operations during the period from the Battle of Britain to the crossing of the Rhine. His work as a squadron commander and wing leader has been outstanding as evidenced by the tremendous successes his wing achieved during the battle for the liberation of France."
    Received with silver star.
    Award as per Canada Gazette dated 20 September 1947 and
    AFRO 485/47 dated 12 September 1947.
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Wing Commander
    Unit:
    No. 126 Wing, Royal Canadian Air Force
    Awarded on:
    January 23rd, 1948
    Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau (ON.4)
    Recommendation:
    "In operational command of No.126 Wing, Royal Air Force (sic), stationed at the Aerodrome Volkel from September 1944 until February/April 1945, through his exelent work has greatly contributed to the liberation of the Netherlands."
    Awarded as per London Gazette dated 23 January 1948 and
    AFRO 81/48 dated 6 February 1948.
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Flying Officer
    Awarded on:
    January 24th, 1948
    Canada Gazette dated 24 January 1948, and AFRO 81/48 dated 6 February 1948.
    Ceskoslovenský válecný kríž 1939

    Sources

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