Joe joined the RCAF in 1942, training at No. 15 EFTS at Regina and No. 12 SPTS at Brandon. During his training in England, he flew Wellingtons, Halifaxes, and Lancasters. Joe was flying heavy bombers before he had a license to drive a car.
Joe flew thirty operations on Lancasters with No. 625 Squadron. His closest call was when he narrowly avoided a mid-air collision. Joe recalled, “It happened as we were approaching a turning point. Another aircraft had already turned and passed directly across our path. I pulled back so hard I completely stalled the aircraft.”
Joe participated in two “Operation Manna” flights, dropping food to the starving Dutch. “My crew were first over the drop site. We had flown out over the North Sea and dropped down even lower over the city as we lined up to drop the food alongside a dyke. We all agreed it truly was the ‘Best raid of the War.'”
Postwar Life -Family, Architecture, and Art
One of the lucky ones that returned, Joe married Claire Mireault and has seven children.
Sadly, Claire’s brother Joe was killed in action with Bomber Command.
Joe enjoyed a successful career as an architect before he and Claire opened an art shop in Nanton. He continued to pursue his interests in flying and art after the war.
A Museum Volunteer
As the only ex-Lancaster pilot in town, Joe played a leadership role in the development of the museum as a founding director and served on the board for twenty years. He was in the cockpit when the bomber was towed into the newly constructed museum in 1991 and to oversee the first start-up of the starboard Merlin engines. As well, Joe and Claire framed and mounted hundreds of items for display in the museum.
Joe and some of his crew members were the main “characters” in “Bomber Boys,” a four hour History Channel Television production released 2005. Joe was chosen because he is typical of Bomber Command veterans -soft spoken, self-effacing, and willing to give all the credit to his fellow aircrew and his ground crew.
The Joe English Room
In 2008, the “Joe English Room” was officially opened in the presence of Joe, his family, and his many friends. The decision to name the room in his honour was unanimous, except for Joe who thought it should have been named to honour his crew as well.