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Fred McCall

Frederick Robert Gordon McCall was born on 4 December 1896 in Vernon, British Columbia. The McCalls moved to Calgary in 1906 where Fred completed his education. In February 1916, he joined the 175th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force where approximately ten months later, McCall held the rank of sergeant.

Fred McCall expressed an interest in becoming a pilot after his battalion transferred to England, and in March he was commissioned as a lieutenant pilot trainee in the Royal Flying Corps. He continued his flight training for most of 1917. In December of that year, he started flying with Number 13 Squadron carrying out flights over the Western Front. His first role was piloting the large R.E.7 aircraft that were being used for reconnaissance missions.

Although McCall was only carrying out reconnaissance missions when flying the two-seat R.E.8, on 6 January 1918, he found himself engaged with a German Albatros D.V that was determined to shoot him out of the sky. He turned the table and successfully brought the German aircraft down, scoring his first victory. He was awarded a Military Cross when he noticed enemy artillery fire, engaged and downed an enemy aircraft. A few weeks later, he won a bar for his Military Cross for shooting down a German scout while in the process of carrying out a photography mission.

McCall was transferred to Number 41 Squadron and changed from the R.E.8 aircraft he had been flying to an S.E.5a biplane, which was able to fly higher than the Sopwith Camel, and was easier to handle. In May 1918, McCall achieved four additional victories that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross and a promotion to captain.

On 27 June 1918, McCall demonstrated remarkable skill as he claimed two German aircraft and four more the next day. Four additional German aircraft fell victim to McCall on the morning of 30 June, and another in the afternoon. This exceptional run of victories won McCall the Distinguished Service Order.

He was flying with William Claxton on 17 August when they suddenly faced a group of forty to sixty German aircraft. Claxton was forced down onto the enemy side of the lines and became a prisoner. McCall was able to escape.

He was sent to England and then home Canada to rest and recover from an illness. He was there when he received the news of the surrender of Germany and the armistice arrived. McCall completed the war with 35 confirmed victories and two unconfirmed.

Like so many other First World War aces who came back to Canada after the war, McCall turned to civil aviation work that ranged from performing stunts at summer fairs to building his own company, McCall Aero Corporation limited. It was formed in 1920 and was based in Calgary, providing passenger and freight services. Fred McCall

McCall then formed another company called Great Western Airways in Calgary, and was among the first to provide air service over the mountains between Calgary, Banff, Fernie, and Golden. One of his best known achievements during this time was when he transported 200 quarts of highly explosive nitro-glycerine by aircraft from Shelby, Montana to Calgary for oil exploration.

Fred McCall was very active in Calgary promoting flight and flying clubs. His efforts and contributions were honoured when the Calgary airport was named after him in 1939.

 

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