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Warrant Officer Second Class William James Arnold

William James Arnold, Warrant Officer Second Class
59th Squadron
Royal Air Force

William James Arnold served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for two years (from 1941-1943). His sacrifice was one of many which secured the right of freedom for our country. His heroism and bravery was great, and his courageousness will never be forgotten, especially in Rainy River, Ontario.

William James Arnold was born October 3, 1922 to Cunningham Harold Arnold and Ethel Winifred Arnold (nee Sheffield). Arnold had a brother, Thomas Arnold, who also enlisted in the military. It is assumed that he returned safely from the war.

Born and raised in Rainy River, Ontario, Arnold was very athletic and played a variety of sports including hockey, baseball, swimming, rugby, tennis and softball. He had a high school education (University Matriculation) and had plans of going to university to become an engineer. He was also interested in aeronautical studies. Arnold was single and had no children. He enlisted at eighteen in 1941, and two years later his parents were informed, via telegram, that their son was “missing, presumed dead”.

Arnold enlisted for the Air Force in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 20, 1941, where he was assigned the number R-106166. He wanted to become a pilot, which he succeeded in doing despite the fact that he had no flying experience and had only been on one flight, as a passenger, before enlisting. He was also considered best suited as an observer based on the interview conducted when Arnold enlisted.

He was quickly sent for training to Brandon, Manitoba from May 20, 1941 until July 14, 1941. He was then transferred to Regina, Saskatchewan where he trained from July 15, 1941 to September 10, 1941. Next he was moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to train from September 11, 1941 until November 8, 1941. After this, he was relocated to Claresholm, Alberta for training from November 9, 1941 to February 28, 1942. On March 1, 1942 Arnold was sent to the Halifax Training Pool where he worked at the PRC (Personnel Reception Centre). On May 12, 1942 he was moved from PRC to #12 AFU (Advanced Flying Unit). Two months later, on July 13, 1942 Arnold was moved from #12 AFU to 7 PRC. On September 1, 1942 Arnold was transferred from Ra 7 Harrogate, England to 1cO7U (7 PRC to 1(c) O7U).

November 6, 1942 marked an important day for Arnold as this was the end of his training. He was placed with the No. 407 R.C.A.F. Squadron. He only stayed with the 407 for about a month, however, and on December 12, 1942 Arnold was moved from the 407 to the No. 59 R.A.F. Squadron. By March 23, 1943 Arnold, along with other members of the 59th squadron, was missing in action over the Bay of Biscay.
Arnold went on leave once during his military service from November 4, 1941 to February 28, 1942. He applied for leave on November 2, 1941 as well, but it was cancelled for unknown reasons. It is not known where Arnold went during his single leave.

Even though Arnold only served a short term in the Air Force before he was killed, he advanced rapidly. On May 20, 1941 (date of enlistment), Arnold was ranked Airman Class II. By September 10, 1941, Arnold had advanced to Leading Aircraftsmen. February 27, 1942 marked the date Arnold was promoted to Sergeant. Just six months later on August 27, 1942, Arnold was advanced yet again to the rank of Flight Sergeant. One month before his death on February 27, 1943, Arnold was given the rank of Warrant Officer Second Class.

Arnold was also awarded the Pilot’s Flying Badge on February 27, 1942. These are more commonly known as “wings”, signifying the pilot is licensed to fly.

While flying on a routine anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay (the bay which lies between Spain and France), Arnold’s aircraft, Fortress Aircraft #209 went missing. It is presumed that enemy action was involved. The other crewmembers on the plane with Arnold, were also reported missing. These include F/O Weatherhead, F/O Zapfe, Sgt. Copping, F/Sgt. Cojocar, Sgt. Spino, Sgt, Montgomery, one other crew member, whose name is not recorded.

Arnold was officially declared dead two months after the incident. His plane and body were never recovered. Not much is recorded about this incident.

However, it is known that the Bay of Biscay was a “hot spot” for German U-Boats, and it was common for Allied pilots to fly anti- submarine patrol missions. The Bay was also heavily patrolled by Coastal Commands. German submarines frequently sailed through the Bay of Biscay from four of the French ports they controlled.

There are no records of William Arnold ever requiring a visit to the infirmary, aside from routine physical examinations. He was considered healthy.

William James Arnold is marked as having “no known grave”, as his body was never recovered. However, his name is written on the Runnymede Memorial in England.

Runnymede Memorial is at Englefield Green, and is specifically for members of the Air Force. It is a shrine where the names of the dead are inscribed on the stone of the building. His name is located on Panel 179. His name is also written in the Canadian Book of Remembrance on page 132.

William James Arnold gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice to secure the right of freedom for the citizens of Canada. In my opinion, any man or woman willing to do that deserves recognition and respect. From all the research I have conducted, I feel that Mr. Arnold was a respectable, courageous young man who died fighting for what was right. It was a pleasure to review Mr. Arnold’s records, although it was a bit challenging as there was little information recorded about him, his death and his squadron’s missions.

By Deidre Wilson