Hartland de M. Molson
2001

Fighter pilote

Hartland de Montarville Molson graduated in 1928 at the Royal Military College in Kingston. He then served in the militia until 1933. Soon after, at Hartland’s initative, the Molson and Eaton families founded Dominion Skyways, a company soon to be recognized as one of the best bush operations of the country. Success of the company largely relied on an “all star” personnel gathered by Molson, which featured pilots “Peter” Troup, «Babe» Woollett, Roger Smith, engineers Joe Lucas, Wilfrid Thibault, Phil Larivière and radio technician Syd Walker. The main base was Rouyn in Abitibi (Qc). Hartland Molson remained President until 1938, when the company was bought by Canadian Airways. Dominion Skyways acquired the first Norseman ever built by Noorduyn, CF-AYO. Inaugurating in 1937 a daily schedule between Rouyn and Montréal called “Goldfields Express”, Dominion Skyways became the first regular carrier to use two way radio communications in Canada. With World War II imminent, Molson – already a civilian pilot – joined No.115 RCAF Auxiliary Squadron, which was amalgamated in May 1940 to No.1 (later 401) Fighter Squadron.

In October, after 62 missions piloting a Hurricane, Molson was wounded by a German aircraft but was able to escape by parachute.

At 33, Molson was one the oldest fighter pilots. On June 20, the group arrived in Liverpool. The Battle of Great Britain was raging. On August 17, the squadron became operational, in spite of very little training (the pilots had fired only once at a moving target and, prior to their arrival in UK, the former 115 Squadron pilots had never flown modern fighters). But time was running short. Only two days before, the Luftwaffe had launched more than 2100 aircraft against England. In 10 days, RAF Fighter Command had lost 98 pilots and 60 wounded. In October, after 62 missions piloting a Hurricane, Molson was wounded by a German aircraft but was able to escape by parachute. Back in Canada to recover, Molson engaged in a large conference tour to generate increased war effort. Appointed Commander of No. 118 Squadron, he became Officer in the Eastern Air Command. He also assumed command of RCAF Stations Dartmouth, Moncton, Weyburn and Saint-Hubert. He then moved to RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa, in charge of personnel. After the war, he retired as Group Captain and was awarded the OBE. Appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1955, he was also President and Chairman of the Canadians Hockey Club and has been inducted in 1973 into the… Hockey Hall of Fame!

Honors

1946 : Officer of the Order of the British Empire

1995 : Officer of l’Ordre nationale du Québec

2000 : Officer of the Order of Canada

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