I flew with Ginger Lacey!


Long retired COPA Ontario director Larry Loretto of London caught my deliberate mistake last month and reminded me that RAF Battle of Britain Ace Ginger Lacey was actually flying a Hurricane during the B of B. True. And it’s nice to know somebody reads my stuff!

Many years ago I bought his book, Ginger Lacey, Fighter Pilot, it’s a blinkin’ good read, and I found out that not only was he a Yorkshire lad like me, but he was the bloke who shot down the Heinkel that had the nerve to bomb Buck House… Right downtown London! “Not done Old Chap!”

Now, time to time, I used to go over ‘ome to visit my folks and other nostalgic stuff, and in 1982 or so, went seeking my old flying club near Bridlington. The old site was now a bleak plowed field, by the Speeton Village turn-off, with sad foundation remains of the cosy clubhouse cum shed. Sigh. So I asked around.

Anyway, I found the old club at a new field nearby in Grindale, and went in to ask about a sight-seeing ride down the coast to Skegness, where I’d heard the CFI was my original instructor, B of B pilot Chipps Larsen.


The tea drinking pilots there-in laughed and opined I was naive about this flying game, and probably couldn’t afford it. When I insisted, they pointed out a grisly old guy drinking from a big mug, and said go talk to him. So I did.

Irritated I said, “Excuse me, my name’s Tony Swain, I’m an ex RAF pilot, visiting from Canada, and fly an old Harvard for fun. What’s it take to get an airplane ride around here?”

“Well, my name’s Ginger, learned to fly in Fighter Command, so let’s get going!” says he.

“Not the Ginger Lacey who wrote the book, and lived here-abouts?” says I.

“The very same!” says he. “The world’s best fighter pilot! You’ve read my book?” We had a great time and sort of tippy-toe zoomed around my various folk’s places in the club’s C-150. Ginger said the “Struts don’t go far enough out the wings!”


This Ginger Lacey is responsible for my flying life. But for Squadron Leader Lacey, I would probably have spent my two year UK National Service as a regular soldier, sailor, or airman. Fortunately, when I turned 18 and reported to the military in May 1952, though I didn’t know it, he was the duty RAF recruiting officer, which we realized when he visited Vancouver 32 years later, and we flew in Bessy!

Way back then, when I mentioned I’d a few hours dual on Austers at the East Yorkshire Flying Club, he exclaimed... “Just the sort of chap we need!” and I was in! Amazing.

Years later, in 1984, the Western Warbird guys, Legions, & others, collected enough to pay the way over for he and his wife Sheila, for a B of B re-union in Winnipeg and Vancouver, plus motel and a rental car for a couple of weeks. We even got to fly lots of roller coaster stuff in Bessy. Brilliant. After landing he was teary eyed. “Forgot what a powerful plane could do!” he said.

He was delighted with Delta, was checked out and flew the RAA’s Turbi and Pober Pixie, and was fascinated with George Noble’s husky Kinner powered Pietenpol. Before going home to the UK, he insisted on signing my softback copy of his book, thanking us all for a wonderful time.

We met again only once, on a visit to Yorkshire, at yet another relocated Club airfield. When told we were there, he came bounding over, and enthusiastically introduced us to all and sundry. It was a great privilege. Ginger died in 1989.


I was astounded a few weeks ago to read in an Aviation Press, that Goodyear intend to build a Replica Blimp! Maybe they’ll sell kits! Now there’s a job for a double garage! Just imagine a simple test pump up? Would certainly get the neighbours attention. Would it zoom around if there was a small leak like a balloon does when you let go the neck! Wow. It’s apparently going to coast zillions.


COPA Flight 5 cum Boundary Bay Flying Club held a really successful flying day for kids. Nine aircraft and 106 pre-registered kids made for a full and exciting day for kids and parents alike. We are so lucky to have such enthusiastic volunteers.

Another five kids turned up on spec, and were quickly registered and flown, even five parents got to go. Thanks to Henry Ilg, Harry Pride, Gary Peare, Sean Walker, Jean & Bruce, Prior, et all for their efforts. Lowell Brekon held the preflight briefings in the RAAC Clubhouse. My Mary, Ginny Ivanicki, and Shanora Walker made sandwiches for the pilots. And thanks to the many others I’m unable to list here.


Bruce copied me the following from a couple who visited Delta a couple of years ago.

Greetings from the UK. My wife Diane and I are sorry to hear about Donn Hubble. We met Donn in 2007 when Tony Swain took us to the Canadian Museum of Flight during our first visit to Vancouver. Prior to that we had been at Delta Air Park, where we had a beautiful Canadian breakfast on Mothers’ Day.

Donn asked Tony if his friends would like to fly and he took me, then Diane, on a 20-minute flight back to Delta to touch down and take off again. That was such a memorable part of our holiday.

In 2009 Tony collected us for another visit to Delta. We found Donn to thank him again for our experience in 2007, and then joined him and others in the briefing for the formation flight over Golden Ears Bridge on its opening day. Within a few minutes after the meeting we were buckled into Big Al’s Cessna 180 and then flying over the bridge. What a fantastic experience!

Three planes landed at Chilliwack and we all enjoyed pies: Big Al, Donn and Gary Peare with me and Diane. We felt very special that day and we love to reminisce about our flights.

It would be great to meet you all again during our third visit to Vancouver, between 22nd July and 20th August this year. At no time were we allowed to make a contribution to expenses and we learned how incredibly generous the Canadians are. Please accept our best wishes with our grateful thanks. Mike and Diane Wilson, Bridlington, England.

What a wonderful letter! It shows how generous flying folk are. Mike is a Historical writer about his home town, Bridington, at www.freespiritwriters.me.uk


Except that our virtual COPA Flight X enjoyed a hearty roast beef at The Billy last month. Sorry, no more till fall. Tim the Cole will be in touch.

Delta regulars were delighted at the last Pancake Breakfast when the Flying Granley Family arrived for bacon, egg, and coffee, whatever. Bud and son Ross do a fabulous duo acro display in a couple of Yaks. Bud astounds the crowd with his snap roll on take-off in his Harvard SNJ. You can hear the wings ‘swish’ around as the gear comes up. Really awesome.

Hope we saw you at Langley’s COPA National gathering in June! And that’s all for this month!

Tony Swain & The Mary…copaguy@vcn.bc.ca