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Articles about the restoration of the Roseland Spitfire:
My Uncle and the Roseland Spitfire
My uncle, Arnold Roseland, had joined the RCAF in 1940. In 1942, he was posted to Vancouver to defend the West Coast from a feared invasion by the Japanese. In 1943, after the Americans intercepted a coded Japanese message revealing their intent to attack Midway and Dutch Harbour in the Aleutians, the Americans pleaded for RCAF support in the Aleutians. There was a great fear that if the Japanese gained control of the Aleutian Islands they could attack the West Coast of North America from there. When the Americans revealed the reason for their concern, the Canadians did send several squadrons to the Aleutians and the RCAF alternated flights with the US Army Airforce in the battles there.
It was a terrible place to fly- very dense fog, rough seas, strong winds etc. The joint forces routed the Japanese from the Aleutians in the late summer of 1943. Arnold led many flights against the Japanese and was awarded the American Air Medal.
In January 1943, his Squadron (442F) was posted to Great Britain to train in Spitfires for the forthcoming invasion of Europe. The squadron, 442(F), was the first one to be stationed in Normandy following the invasion. On July 13, 1944 Arnold lost his life in a battle with German Messerschmitts over the village of St. Martin de Mailloc in France.
Monument in France
In 1999, I received a letter from the National Archives of Canada, accompanied by a letter from the Mayor of St. Martin de Mailloc, France. The Archives had my name on file re the research I had done on my uncle. The letter from France was an invitation for the family to attend a ceremony to dedicate a monument in memory of my uncle. He had saved their village and lives of villagers by steering his crashing Spitfire away from the homes and people below who were watching the dogfight above. In 1994, the village of St. Martin de Mailloc had erected a monument in 50 year commemoration of the invasion of Normandy, and for my uncle's heroic act. The story of how the village had been saved by my uncle had become legendary.
Unfortunately, I had made firm commitments to travel elsewhere and it was too late to attend the French ceremony. However, one of his sons and two grandsons did attend.
The Roseland Spitfire
The Comox Aviation Museum acquired the remains of a Spitfire in 1999, which they commenced restoring, and called it the "Y2K." It happened that Y2K was the call number of one of the Supermarine Spitfires from 442(F) Squadron, and Roseland had frequently flown the Y2K in battles over France.
The Spitfire is now having the restoration completed by Vintage Wings of Canada, and it will be ready to fly within the next two years. The restored Spitfire will be known as the "F/L Arnold Roseland Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX."
Within the next two years the "F/L Arnold Roseland Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX" will be flown at airshows and events across Canada, like the Abbotsford Airshow.
I told my uncle's story in my book "From Sailing Ships to Spitfires", Published in 2006 by Borealis Press in Ottawa.
In 1998, while I was visiting with Ralph Cameron in Okotoks, he took me to the cemetery where Grandpa, Hildur, Gudrun and Grandma were buried. The gravesite was marked with small wooden crosses, hand-painted white long ago, with their names painted in black, scarcely legible. I thought they deserved better, so I contacted my cousins and made arrangements to have a new tombstone erected for them. One morning, late in May 1999, I was sitting at the dining-room table preparing to write a cheque for the proposed new headstone. At that precise moment, the mail arrived with a letter from the National Archives of Canada. The National Archives had my name on file in respect to my research concerning Uncle Arnold, and they had received a letter from the mayor of a village in France in respect to my uncle. They were forwarding this letter to me.
Along with a letter from the Archives was a letter written in French, and a photograph of a monument. Although the monument's inscription was in French, I could see that the dedication included the name of my Uncle Arnold, "F/L A.W. Roseland, R.C.A.F. Fighter Squadron 442," and the date that he died, July 13, 1944. The photo of his monument sat beside the mock-up of the headstone for the other four members in his family who had been buried at Okotoks. That it arrived at the precise moment I was arranging for the headstone for the others seemed like a voice calling out from the past. I had the feeling that Arnold wanted to be remembered, too.
Arnold was remembered. The mayor of the village of St. Martin de Mailloc, in Normandy, had watched the dogfight in which my uncle’s Spitfire was attacked by several German Messerschmitts. The mayor, as a young man, had watched my uncle's plane crash in the village. Members of the German army came quickly and took Arnold's identification away, but left behind a cigarette lighter inscribed with his name. The mayor, Pierre Behier, never forgot that day or that name. Years later, when the village wished to erect a monument in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day, the mayor recommended that they create a monument to my uncle as their thank-you to all Canadians who fought for the liberation of France. Because of privacy laws, they had been unable to contact a relative for a dedication on the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day, so they hoped to make the dedication on the fifty-fifth anniversary of Arnold's death.
I contacted Arnold's two sons with this information, and they got in touch with the mayor. Subsequently, one son and two of Arnold’s grandsons attended the dedication ceremony at St. Martin de Mailloc on July 13, 1999. Although Arnold's two sons had never known their father, his memory was very important to them. Audrey had married again and her boys grew up in a secure, happy home.
The war had changed the world and the country forever, but after the war, people got on with their lives with a whole new set of problems. Although most put memories of the war behind them, or tried to, the impact on individuals and on the country was huge. Reflecting on the days of the Second World War and learning more details of my family history has given me a different perspective on my childhood memories.
The experiences of the Roseland family were not unique. Their story takes the reader on a ride through history viewed from the perspective of the working class, where hard work, talent and resourcefulness do not always pay economic dividends. Our immigrant ancestors who built the North America society we know today confronted problems similar to those encountered by this family. Through their words we get a more intimate glimpse of the economic, social and political world in North America during the first half of the twentieth century. From Sailing Ships to Spitfires would appear to fulfil the desire of travelers I met on my bus tour in Norway who stated, "I would love to learn more about history, but I don't want to read a history book. I want to read a story."