Honouring William Pavely

William Pavely (back row, circled) was a talented gymnast at Glebe Collegiate, graduating in 1940.    Photo Courtesy of www.glebe.ocdsb.ca

He did his best.

By Kevan Pipe

William George Pavely was killed in action 80 years ago this month during the Second World War. He was 20 years old.

Born on May 6, 1922, Pavely lived with his parents just north of the Glebe at 588 Gladstone Avenue. He attended nearby Glashan Elementary School and then Glebe Collegiate, graduating from high school in 1940 after excelling as a boy scout and in sports as an Eastern Ontario junior gymnastics champion.

Commemorative plaque in Taukkyan War Memorial Cemetery in Myanmar
Photo Courtesy of The Maple Leaf Legacy Project www.mapleleaflegacy.ca

On May 16, 1940, just 10 days after his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, finally achieving his desire to serve his country. He had tried to enlist the year before when war broke out in Europe but was refused entry because he was only 17.

He trained in Regina and in Brandon, Manitoba for seven months before completing his final preparations at RCAF Uplands in Ottawa with 411 Squadron in January 1941. Pavely impressed his instructors with his “keenness and intelligence,” and on March 7, Warrant Officer Class II/Pilot William Pavely earned his “Wings,” getting his formal certification as a fighter pilot while still just a teenager at age 19.

Pilot William Pavely flew a Hawker Hurricane on bombing raids.
Photo Courtesy of www.canada.ca

With the war in full swing and England desperately short of fighter pilots, Pavely was immediately shipped overseas to RAF Base Digby in Lincolnshire in the East Midlands on May 2, 1941. Part of the Hornchurch Wing, 411 Squadron conducted operations over western Europe on so-called “Rhubarb” sorties as well as bomber escorts. Rhubarb missions were designed to target German occupying forces by attacking strategic areas and causing as much damage and destruction as possible. These brave pilots often flew in inclement weather to minimize the risk of counter-attack by the German Luftwaffe. Regardless, anti-aircraft fire made these highly dangerous missions, and both the RAF and RCAF paid dearly with loss of both aircraft and pilots.

Pavely flew the most famous fighter plane of the war, the Supermarine Spitfire, out of multiple bases in England and Scotland after being transferred to the Royal Air Force. In April 1942, his RAF 615 Squadron, now equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighter planes, was sent to India. It operated out of RAF Jessore in what was then British India, to combat increased enemy action in the Southeast Asian theatre.

Canada was a major supplier of Hawker Hurricanes during the war, building 1,451 of these fighter planes built and shipping them to Allied forces from the Canadian Car & Foundry plant in Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay). Known for their firepower and durability, the Hurricanes accounted for 60 per cent of all air victories during the infamous Battle of Britain in summer and fall of 1940.

On December 5, 1942, 615 Squadron was transferred to RAF Station Feni in Bengal (now Bangladesh). From this new base, 615 Squadron’s role was to escort Bristol Blenheim light bombers on raids on Japanese installations near Akyab and Magay in Burma (now Myanmar). On December 29, Pavely took off in his Hurricane on one of these bombing runs.

He never returned.

His family in Ottawa were notified that he was listed as “Missing in Action.” Three years later, just after the war ended, the Canadian government finally confirmed that Pavely was now listed as “Killed in Action.” Liberated prisoners-of-war confirmed that his Hurricane crashed on his final mission. Neither his plane nor his body were recovered.

Pavely is remembered in the Taukkyan War Memorial Cemetery in Myanmar, the final resting place for more than 6,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the Burma campaign. The names of more than 27,000 others whose bodies were never found are also listed, and some are honoured with plaques. The inscription on the one remembering Pavely reads: “As a Boy Scout, he promised to do his duty to God and the King. He did his best.”

He is also remembered at Glebe Collegiate and at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.

Finally, at Ottawa’s Pinecrest Cemetery where his parents, George and Hazel, were buried together in 1966, a commemorative RCAF plaque is dedicated to their son. It reads: “RCAF In Loving Memory of W.O. 2 Pilot William George Pavely, 1922, Killed in Action, 1942 615 Sqdn. RAF.” William was their only child.

Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of St. Matthew’s, the Anglican Church in the Glebe. He is writing a series of articles about Glebe residents who perished in war service.

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