Corporal Ronald Charles Liversuch R.A.F.
32 MU Ford Sussex
Late in 1982, Ron was invited to Holland to participate with other family members of the World War II airmen who had recently been recovered. He was treated so well by the Dutch citizens and returned home with a huge appreciation of their handling of the ceremonies the interment of the airmen.
It was the end of a forty year long saga that had tormented him and his parents since his brother Ray had gone missing in 1942. Unfortunately his mother and father had passed away years before, never fully knowing what had happened to Ray. But now for Ron, his family had now been completely accounted for.
Ron was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1920. He became the eldest of three brothers and two sisters. The girls passed away passed away shortly after birth; one after two days and other lasted for thirteen days. At the age of nine years old, he was suspected of having Polio and spent four months in a sanitarium. For the whole time, he was made to go barefoot, but it was later determined that he did not have Polio and he was returned home.
At fourteen years old, he received his first pair of long trousers and at fifteen, he got his first job. He worked for a short time at a pharmacy on Clifton Street delivering orders as they were made up. After about a year there, Ron got another job delivering for a fishmonger on Queen Street and then became a junior salesman for a company called the Fifty Shilling Tailors.
He then became a delivery driver for an Ice block company at the head of Bute Street for which he had to buy himself a driver's license. This job doubled his weekly pay. During this time, Ron was a fan of R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant George Hedley Stainforth who won the 1929 and 1931 Schneider Trophys while racing his plane at the blinding speed (at least for that time in history) of over 400 m.p.h.
This became a turning point for Ron. He had now developed a love for aeroplanes. Sometime around 1937 or 1938, he left Cardiff for London, England to swear allegiance to the Royal House and be sworn in as a Member In Training as a Tradesman of the Royal Air Force.
Timing is everything.
Ron at Age 10.
Ron at 15 years old.
Ron in a dapper pose.
The roots of the second world war began on the morning of November 11th, 1918, with the signing of the 'Armistice of Compeigne', named after the location in which it was signed. A small railway car, privately owned by Marshall Ferdinand Foch served as the meeting place where Mathias Erzberger led a small group of German delegates who signed the official papers to end the First World War at 5:10 am.
An ex-Austrian soldier with a silly looking moustache named Adolph Hitler would become a fanatical leader of the National Socialist Party and dream of historical retribution for that German disgrace. They wore brown shirts and trousers and adopted the swastika as their party emblem. Also referred to as the 'double-cross', it was a fitting symbol for the party whose name was abbreviated to 'Nazy Party'.
In England, a branch party known as the Black Shirts who called themselves the British Union of Fascists began protesting. They were not regarded as much more than a minor nuisance and were repeatedly beaten by their opponents with monotonous repetition. Their leader was actually a knighted person by the name of Sir Oswald Mosley.
When Hitler ordered the annexation of Austria back to German rule, he was virtually unopposed by the government of Neville Chamberlain. With this action, he had tweaked the tail of the drowsy British Lion, and that is a touchy thing to do at anytime.
The final straw came with the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. In keeping with agreements to Poland, Britain and France were forced to declare war on Germany.Britain declares war on Germany
It started with the words; "I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street."
At 11:15 am, British Standard Time on Sunday, 3 September 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke to the citizens of the nation and announced that Britain and France had declared war against Germany.
Ironically, Ron heard the announcement from his bed in the quarantine barracks. He was suspected of having a case of the 'German Measles'. He and the 22 other men in the same circumstances found this rather embarrassing.The Beginning of World War II
Ron had enlisted in the peacetime Air Force as an Aircrafthand U/T (Under Training). He was working at the Maintenance Unit in Cheshire in the Flintshire Village of Sandycroft, and had worked his way up to an Aeroplane Mechanic. When the war was in full gear, he yearned for a piece of the action. His base had already come under repeated bombings, attacks and other threats from the German Airforce and he was tired of diving into water-filled trenches and foxholes while the enemy bombs and bullets flew around him. He wanted to shoot back.
Ron had been posted overseas as he was now the rank of LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) and had to report to Blackpool to be kitted up for embarkation before he boarded the "Cilicia". He had signed up for the Airforce, not the Navy and the trip proved quite difficult for him.
He spent four days in a state of quite severe mal-de-mer or sea-sickness and thought or maybe even wished he would die. eventually he grew used to the churning of the sea and the endless rocking of the ship and was able to slowly begin eating again. He even had the stomach for some sips from his bottle of Pepsi. His Christmas dinner on the ship included a greasy pork chop, and while he picked at it slowly, it seemed to help him feel a bit better.
Finally, the Cilicia had been picked up by an escort of Canadian destroyers and corvettes as they neared the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. Shortly afterwards, he and the other men on the ship were docking at Halifax Harbour in Canada.
After spending a week in Moncton, Ontario, the postings went up. Ron and five others of the group were going to Moose Jaw. - Moose... Jaw? - Where the hell is Moose Jaw?
They scrambled for a road map and located the mysterious town. It's in the province of Saskatchewan.
"Where the hell is Saskatchewan?"
The train trip took them through Montreal, the Great Lakes, Fort William, Thunder Bay, and into Manitoba through Winnipeg, Brandon, into Saskatchewan and stopping at Regina. The next leg of the journey ended up in Moose Jaw. Ron was not ready for the culture shock of the Canadian Prairie town after a life in the British Isles.
SFTU, RCAF Station Moose Jaw, a freshly installed training facility with about 1,000 other Airforce and civilian personnel at the Royal Air Force Base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for schooling under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Ron was happy about his digs in the newly constructed facility. It boasted five aeroplane hangars, a dining hall, a drill hall and a services institute known as the NAAFI. The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute.
It was one of many SFTU's (Service Flight Training Schools) in Canada. There were others in Moss Bank, Swift Current, Assiniboia, North Battleford, Caren, and several in Calgary, Alberta.
It offered reasonable prices for things like tea, coffee, beer, hot and cold meals, supplies of shoe polish and other servicemens' needs. It also had a dental center and a small but very organized hospital.
It took a while for Ron to get used to the majesty of the Canadian Prairies. This man who had spent his life in the almost constantly cloudy environment of the British Isles was now taking in the expansive blue skies that rarely showed a clous from horizon to horizon. He had also never seen such colors as the golden grain fields and rays of the Saskatchewan evening and morning sun.
Ron was in Moose Jaw when he heard over the radion the famous speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill; "Never was so much owed by so many, to so few". It was 20 August 1940.
Early in July 1942, a telegram came addressed to LAC Ron Liversuch bringing very bad news. It read as follows:
DEAR SON STOP
RAY CALLED HIGHER COMMAND WESTERN EUROPE STOP
LETTER FOLLOWING STOP
Knowing his mother and her cryptic messages under emotion, he knew his brother Ray was missing. There was nothing he could do about it but await further information. It was a full two weeks later that he received a copy of Jessie's official Air Ministry telegram which read:
PRIORITY MRS J LIVERSUCH
REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON SGT RAYMONT JOHN LIVERSUCH IS MISSING AS A RESULT OF AIR OPERATIONS ON THE NIGHT OF 2/3 JULY 1942 STOP.
LETTER FOLLOWING STOP
ANY FURTHER INFORMATION WILL BE IMMEDIATELY FORWARDED TO YOU STOP
A short time later, Ron was working at cleaning an eighteen cylinder engine on a Harvard aircraft when was interrupted in his work by the Officer in Charge of Maintenance. he told Ron to come down from the ladder and asked him his age. Ron told him that he was twenty-two years old and the Officer said that he was pretty young to be an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer). Later that afternoon, Ron checked the roster and confirmed that he was now 'CORPORAL' Ron Liversuch.
Shortly after that, Ron's attention was called to the notice boards to find that had been remustered. He would be going back to England effective 31 December 1942. In fact the orders never came as first mentioned. Ron would spend most of 1943 in Canada awaiting the transfer back to Europe.
In mid-September 1943, Ron found himself back on the trains, this time heading east across Canada. He was missing his new family and soon found his train pulling into Quebec. After a short stay, they continued into the United States through Maine, Vermont, Hew Hampshire, Connecticut and stopped in Massachusetts. After a stay at an American Army base named Camp Myles Standish, they proceeded to New York's Manhattan Docks.
From there, they boarded the RMS Queen Mary which had been reconfigured and fitted out for war. (During this time, it was given the nickname 'Grey Ghost'.) It was no longer the luxury cruise liner that it had been, but was now stripped to the bare bones of accommodations for the enlisted men that it had to carry in cramped conditions. It was a pretty uneventful passage and when they arrived at Gourock Scotland, Ron was given two weeks leave.
He took this opportunity to visit with his parents for the first time in a very long time. During this time, they also had an unexpected visit from Bert who boasted the red beret of the Red Devils and the uniform of the British Airborne SAS division of the 6th Airborne.
At 32 MU (Maintenance Unit) Ford, Sussex, Ron was busy in the Receive and Dispatch section where the new aero-engines were coming in from the Rolls Royce, Merlin, Pratt and Whitney and Packard Inc. plants as well as the Allison engines from the United States.
This unit trained pilots and navigators on cross county flights in daylight and and in darkness exercises. When qualified and were given their wings, they were absorbed into the bomber and fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force in England. Still ranked as a Cadet, Ron enrolled himself in a Flight Engineers training course. Among the places this course took the men, Ron ended up in Liverpool for two weeks.
One day, while touring the Manufacturer's Works at Rootes Securities, they were taken around the production line of Lancaster bombers. Ron saw a woman drilling holes on a rectangle of aluminum. She drilled five holes in a circle and one offset. He asked her what that piece was for and she told him that she wasn't sure; that it was something in the wing.
This was a real hands-on course. Not just books and pictures. There were classes on hydraulics with actual flaps and wheels and demonstrations of turrets, and fast methods of removing safety hatches and an few pointers on the piping hook-ups of the oxygen systems.
At 21:30 hours one night, as they were returning to their billets in Liverpool, the evening skies grew even darker than usual. the drone of aeroplane engines grew louder and louder until one could feel the ground beneath their feet vibrate. The sky was filling with bombers, fighters and gliders overhead in numbers the likes of which Ron and his comrades had never seen all in one formation.
The date was Monday, 5 June 1944. They suddenly guessed it; THIS MUST BE THE INVASION OF EUROPE. It had to be. It was too big to be anything else. They watched the overhead procession for hours, only able to try to imagine what the following days would bring.
It was the beginning of D-Day (later referred to by participants and witnesses as 'Deliverance Day'.)
It then occurred to Ron that one of those gliders was likely carrying his brother Bert.
That night, part of the 6th Airborne Red Devils was set to fly over the Sword Beach area of France and engage near Caen; at a place called Benouville, France.
Bert was likely taking part in the D-Day invasion!
Radio Laundres, an all French language radio station which was operated by the BBC as a counter propaganda tool, broadcast the first stanza of the poem by French poet Paul Verlaine; "Chanson d'automne" which translates to 'Autumn Song'. This was a signal to French citizens and Resistence Fighters that the invasion would take place within twenty-four hours.
For many weeks afterward, the skies were filled with the sounds of war as men and machines scurried to and fro with errands to be done and moves to be made. Ron and the men of the Flight Engineers course were moved back to St. Athan in Wales. There, they resumed the final stages of their instructions, prepared for their final exams before the passing-out.
One day, Ron was interrupted in his work and handed a telegram from his mother in Cardiff.
It read as follows:
DEAR SON STOP
RAY AND BERT STOP
TOGETHER WESTERN EUROPE STOP
JUNE 6TH 44 STOP
Bert had been killed on D-Day in France. Ron's mother had actually been informed that Bert was listed as 'Missing' but everyone knew what that really meant. Ron was granted a 48 hour pass to go home.
Following this leave, Ron returned to base seven hours late and was listed as AWOL (Absent without leave). He explained that the trains were late as a result of the tracks being bombed. He was admonished and docked a day's pay. It was his only brush with discipline in the service. Ever.
The first Monday morning following the D-Day invasion, after the morning parade, Ron was returning to classes. The Officer I.C. Training and called out Ron's rank and name. Ron was told to report to the Engineering Office immediately.
When he did, he was taken into the office of the Squadron Leader who asked him to take a seat. Ron was offered a cigarette and a casual conversation followed. This was very unusual treatment from the brass and Ron did not know what to expect. They discussed Ron's wife and two children. Then, referring to a manila folder, the Squadron Leader asked about Ron's brothers and the fact that they had both been listed as missing in action.
Ron then asked of the Squadron Leader if there was any news about his brothers and the Leader said he was afraid not and addressed Ron as 'Corporal'. This was odd to Ron as he was still a Cadet. When Ron asked why he was there, the Squadron Leader told him that he was also the Family Liaison Officer. He said that Ron was being taken off Air-Crew training and being reinstated to his former NCO rank and status. With two brothers now missing from the family, Ron was now deemed unacceptable for Air Crew duties.
Ron was soon reposted to Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent. He was put in charge of 600 men for a few weeks before being reposted to Station Ford in Sussex as NCO in charge of the Propeller Repair Section. A few weeks further and he was given two weeks leave before being reposted to Number #2 PDC (Personnel dispersal Center) in Blackpool. There, they were kitted up for someplace hot according to the tropical uniforms issued to them.
One very dark night, the trucks arrived and they were transported to the train station where they boarded heading for 'who knows where' and rode for hours. During the trip, they had the opportunity to break open their Milton Mobray pork pies which they enjoyed immensely. After arriving at and being driven from Liverpool Station, they ended up at the docks, boarded a troop ship and put out to sea.
As morning broke and then the day went on, they could see the cruisers, corvettes, destroyers, battleships and frigates of the British Navy. They passed the Rock of Gibraltar and into the Alboran Sea, eventually nearing Tunis and heading into the Mediterranean Sea and along the coast of Africa. Their eventual destination was to be the ancient city of Alexandria where they picked their way through the numerous ships sunken at anchor and boats that had been the previous targets of German Stuka planes in the shallow waters, leaving their upper decks or masts poking above the surface.
Next came a boxcar ride on the Egyptian State Railway for a long journey along the Gaza Strip toward Haifa where they would bed down for the night before the ferry ride to the island of Cyprus. Ron finished his journey at the RAF Base where he was the NCO I/C (Non-Comissioned Officer In Charge) of the Propeller Maintenance Section. Here they looked after the Beaufighters, a type of plane designed for operations over the Mediterranean, attacking enemy submarines and defending convoys enroute to Malta. Their spitfires defended the regions from air attacks quite efficiently.
While war continued to rage in other parts of the globe, in Cyprus, the months dragged on with little to entertain the men. There were very few battles left to be fought in this region and in this particular branch of the service, so the Airforce offered other ways for the men to keep busy and out of mischief.
Ron joined the Moral Leadership Course without actually questioning what moral leadership was all about. The next thing he knew, he was on his way to the mainland to learn about the various religions in the area. This led to two weeks of a very interesting tour of the holy land and many of the sights described in the bible.
While finishing up the last few days of their General Service Training Course in Amman, Ron and his men heard the news that Hitler had taken the cowardly way out and committed suicide, thus ending 'his imitation of Charlie Chaplin'. It was 30 April, 1945. A short time later they received news of the fall of the Third Reich.
The men were all sent from Amman and returned to their respective Units. Ron sailed back on a leaky tub from Haifa to Cyprus. While on this vessel, he began to notice that more and more, people were addressing him by him first name rather than his rank. Nobody seemed to really give a damn about rank or military formalities, because the war was over. Probably.
He arrived at the train station in Nicosia and was informed by a very excited friend that he was the new father of a baby girl. Ron was of course proud and pleased, but could not understand how the man knew it before he himself knew. In fact, he entire unit seemed to know. He was called into the office of the Unit Warrant Officer who offered his congratulations as well as that of the Commanding Officer. He was then handed the telegram sent from his wife Daisy.
When Ron finally arrived back at his own barracks where he had been billeted out with thirty other men, he opened the door and looked in with amazement. He was now alone. Everyone else had been posted to other locations and some back to England.
One morning, Ron checked in at the orderly room and found a message waiting for him. He was being posted to a huge base just outside Cairo. RAF Heliopolis 168 Maintenance Unit. He was put in charge of the Aeronautical Investigations Division (AID) on October 1945. This only lasted three months though, as Ron was soon handed his posting home on a very rare 'Compassionate Posting'. It was 20 October, 1945. Before He knew it, he was seated in the bombay of an American Liberator Bomber which took him into Peterborough.
A train trip later, he was in Cardiff reunited with his parents, son Ron Jr., new daughter Pat and of course his wife Daisy. Officially, he was on extended leave, but on 6 January, 1946, he was instructed to present himself for DISCHARGE from the RAF. After eight and a half years, he was now a civilian.
On 18 January, 1946, Ron was posted home and surprised to find that it is a result of the very rare 'Compassionate Posting'. He was soon on his way to Air Bookings Cairo to await an aircraft to England. He waited for a few days, living in a sand floored tent before a space could be made available for him.
Finally, one day, his name was called and he was on a truck with a mixed assortment of men to the airfield where they saw the huge American Liberator Bomber waiting for them. He spent the flight sitting almost directly over the bomb doors.
The route took them from Cairo, over Cyrenaica Tripolitania, Tunis and out over the Mediterranean Sea. It angled ninety degrees starboard and north over Sicily and Italy, circled and landed at the Italian Force Aerodrome at Bari. They weren't home yet.
After being informed that they would be leaving again in the morning, Ron and a few others decided to make the most of it. They went into the town of Bari and had a few beers.
At 0700 the next morning, they were awakened for a hearty breakfast and assembled for the final leg to England. Ron looked around at his traveling companions now. There were Indian Majors, several other allied officers and an Australian Colonel. Again, they sat in the bombay.
Still in their desert khakis and shorts, Ron and they others saw that the skies were now overcast and the fuselage was getting colder. They circles over English territory and landed effortlessly in Peterborough.
They were led to a hut where they could dress more appropriately. The next morning after breakfast, they went to the orderly hut where they were given their leave passes and railway warrants. They then caught busses from the airfield to the railway station in Peterborough where they separated off on their leaves.
The next morning, Ron woke up, stretched out on six chairs of the waiting room of the Cardiff General Station. It was 5:20 am. Ron caught a 'Glam Taxi' (short name for a taxi from the 'Glamorgan Company') home to his parents' house and knocked lightly on the front door. His mother opened the door and gave him a big hug and kiss. She told him that his father Albert had just gone to work as he entered. She also told him to be quiet as his wife Daisy and the kids were still asleep.
It was almost an hour before he heard his daughter cry. Jessie went upstairs and a few moments later, Daisy, Ron Jr. Pat and baby joyce came down the stairs. He hadn't seen them in over a year.
Eventually, Ron's leave was up. He kitted up again and returned to the RAF Transport Officer at the Cardiff Railway Station and requested his 'Return to Unit' orders. When he produced his pass, the officer mulled it over. He then referred to the Air Ministry in London. Instructions were then returned in the form of a telegram.
LEAVE EXTENDED SEVEN DAYS STOP
FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS TO FOLLOW STOP
This went on for thirteen weeks. He was on an extended leave. Finally he was instructed to present himself for discharge from the RAF. After eight and a half years, Ron was once again, a civilian.
V J Day celebration parade in Cyprus just before going for a church service in the hangar. September, 1945.
After World War II, Ron and Daisy returned to Canada with their son Ron Jr. and their daughters, Pat and Joyce.
They made their home in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for a few years and then moved to Calgary, Alberta where they continued to live for the rest of their lives. They raised a family of eight kids.
In the 1950's, Ron became a civilian instructor for the Royal Canadian Air Force Cadets. He later enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve with the 403 Squadron in Calgary, Alberta. He worked on Mustang fighter aircraft and later in the decade, he was offered a commission. Eighteen months later, he was promoted to Pilot Officer.
He eventually resigned his commission and became a crane inspector at the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Ron in Canada, late 1940's.
Ron in the 403 Squadron.
Ron in the 403 Squadron.
Ron's favorite activities were oil painting and gardening. Among other things, he created a version of the Flying Cloud sailing ship that he was particularly proud of and the Cutty Sark. Many summers, he would grow tomatoes and would savour them with dinner or for a snack.
In the late seventies, Ron retired from his job at the Canadian Pacific Railway and in the early eighties, he developed cancer and underwent an operation that allowed him to live a few years longer. Not a large man to begin with, he lost a lot of weight and became dangerously underweight especially for a man of his age. Daisy tried hard and often to get him to eat and gain weight but he claimed again and again that he could not bring himself to eat very much.
In late January of 1989, Daisy passed away in Calgary, leaving Ron alone in the house where they had lived since 1956. He had already been talking about leaving the large house with it's lawn-care and regular maintenance issues that were now becoming more and more difficult for him to perform on his own. After Daisy's passing, he finally sold the house and moved into a townhouse.
He was visited regularly by his sons, daughters and their families, but something was definitely missing. Amongst all the help and companionship from his family and friends, he was still lonely.
Ron at home in his easy chair.
Ron enjoying retirement.
Ron carrying the colors during a Royal Canadian Legion Remembrance Day Procession.
Ron once again took matters into his own hands and made a trip back to Cardiff, Wales. There, he reconnected with a very old friend from his youth named Morfydd. (A traditional Welsh name pronounced 'Morvith'.) As a young boy, Ron had been friends with Morfydd's brother and they both considered her just a dumb little sister. Yet, as girls do, Morfydd grew into an attractive teenager and even caught Ron's eye for a short time before other girlfriends came into his life and went.
Morfydd had lived in Cardiff all her years and had never married. She was very popular in her career and community, and had lived peacefully in her little row house in Cardiff. When Ron came back into her life, she invited him to stay in Wales for a while longer than he had originally planned and he accepted.
After a very short time he talked her into coming to Canada to meet his family. She came at first for just a visit but once in Canada, she was greeted by Ron's very large family and was reluctantly accepted by them. To Ron's children, Daisy was the only mother they had ever known or wanted to know, but it was not long before Morfydd began to win their hearts with her natural shyness, wit and quick smile.
Ron and Morfydd married during a blistering hot day in Saturday, 14 July 1990 in Calgary. With Ron's help, she transferred her possessions to Canada and let her nephew and only living relative have her house in Cardiff. She was settling nicely into life in North America with her new husband and family when she was given her first taste of a full force Canadian winter.
That year the snow was especially abundant and the temperatures uncommonly low, Even by Canadian standards. After a couple of weeks hiding in her townhouse from the blowing winds, swirling snow and growing snow banks, she confided in Ron that this weather had actually frightened her.
Ron made her the offer that they could both move back to Cardiff and she accepted. Ron too was excited by the prospect of living out his days in the land of his birth. With that, they began plans immediately. Ron gave notice to his landlords, dispersed all but his very closest possessions, booked a shipping container for the rest, and plane tickets for him and Morfydd.
His surprised and sad children and even some grand-children all converged on the Calgary International Airport to bid them a final farewell and watch the blue and white KLM Airlines 747 taxi to the runway and lift Ron and Morfydd out of their lives.
Then an elderly Ron experienced the cold and damp of a winter back in the British Isles. Not a problem in his youth, but now with his age and health concerns, this was a big problem.
After a short time in Cardiff living with Morfydd's nephew in the row house that was now his, Ron and Morfydd decided that it may be best for them to move back to Canada again. Ron booked a shipping container for their possessions and two plane tickets back to Canada.
To keep their duties light they opted to move into a mobile home. Even then, Ron's sons and daughters helped them greatly with the yard, light construction and housekeeping chores for the rest of their lives.
Ron passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, 6 August 1998. He was the second last of his generation to die and he and Daisy leave behind a legacy of eight children, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren.
Now without her Ron (whom she jokingly referred to as her 'Boy Toy'), Morfydd was living alone in a new country. When asked by the family if she preferred to move back to Wales, she said 'No.'; that she would rather stay in Canada with 'her children'. The family took care of her until she passed away on the afternoon of Wednesday, 31 July 2002.