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Captain Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May

Lieutenant Wilfrid Reid "Wop" MayWilfrid Reid "Wop" May was born in Carberry, Manitoba on 20 April 1896. His family moved to Edmonton in 1902, stopping off to visit friends and family along the way. At one such stop, Mary Lumsden, at age two, was asked to say hello to her cousin Wilfrid. All she said was "Woppie." Thereafter, this was shortened to "Wop," and the nickname remained with him for the rest of his life.

Wop May joined the 202 Edmonton Sportsman’s Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 8 February 1916. His training in Calgary was quickly completed, and he became a sergeant instructing machine gunning and later range firing.

His battalion went overseas in 1917, and May and his friend Ray Ross signed up with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). His introductory flight at Northolt Aerodrome in London, England was in a Bristol "Fighter." Once he had landed, another airplane, a R.E.8, landed on top of him, destroying both aircraft. Miraculously, everyone in the two planes walked away from the crash.

May entered initial training at the Royal Flying Corps School of Instruction in Acton in October 1917, where he flew a Caudron G. III. He was permitted to complete his first solo flight after only three hours and twenty-nine minutes of instruction on 17 November 1917.

May was then transferred to 94 Squadron at Hendon where he received advanced training that included signalling, aerial photography, bomb dropping, ground gunnery, fighting in flight, and formation flying. He graduated on 28 February 1918 with the rank of flight lieutenant, and was transferred to a fighter squadron in France.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) came into being on 1 April 1918. May was transferred into the 209 Squadron of the RAF on 9 April. His flight commander was Roy Brown, a friend from Victoria High School in Edmonton. Famously, later that month, on a routine patrol with the RAF, May narrowly survived a dramatic encounter with the Red Baron.

During his service, Wop May was given credit for shooting down 13 aircraft, with four others not credited because they appeared to recover from being sent out of control. May received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and went on to play a very important role in the development of civil aviation in western Canada after the war.


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