James Francis Edwards
|James Francis Edwards|
James "Stocky" Edwards takes to the air in a P-40 Kittyhawk bearing the marking found on the one he flew during the Second World War.
|Nickname(s)||"Eddie" during WW2, "Stocky" post war.|
5 June 1921 |
|Service/branch||Royal Canadian Air Force|
|Years of service||1940 – 1972|
|Awards||Member of the Order of Canada
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Distinguished Flying Medal
Mention in Despatches
Canadian Forces Decoration
World War II
Flight Sergeant Edwards was posted to 94 Squadron RAF of 223 Wing in January 1942 flying the P-40 "Kittyhawk". On March 23, he flew his first operational trip, during which he shot down his first enemy aircraft, a Bf-109. In May, he was posted to 260 Squadron, and saw intensive action for the rest of 1942. By September, he had 6 "kills" and was commissioned. A Distinguished Flying Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross were awarded by the start of 1943, by which time Edwards was a Flight Commander. His tour finished in May 1943, total claims made being 17 aircraft shot down and several ground kills. In fact German records show Edwards underclaimed - 22 victories had been confirmed by German records. One of Edward's victims during the North African campaign was famous Luftwaffe experten Otto Schulz (51 victories), who was shot down by the Canadian ace on June 17, 1942. On 3 September 1942 Edwards likely damaged Hans-Joachim Marseille's Bf 109 in combat. Marseille was the highest scoring pilot in North Africa and shot down more Western Allied aircraft then any other German pilot. Three days later he is the pilot believed to have shot down and killed Günter Steinhausen. Though he claimed only a damaged it appears this is another victory for which Edwards did not receive full credit.
In November 1943, he was posted to No. 417 Squadron RCAF, then No. 92 Squadron RAF, flying the Supermarine Spitfire VIII; while serving on the Italian front with 92 Squadron, he added 3 FW-190 and a Bf 109 to his score, all shot down over the Anzio beachhead, three of them on a single day. At the beginning of March 1944, he was posted to the UK, flying operations over Europe with 274 Squadron, a fighter unit equipped, at the end of Edward's tour, with the Hawker Tempest.
After leave in Canada, Edwards returned to the Western Front, flying Spitfire XVIs as 127 RCAF Wing CO in 1945. On May 3, he shared in the destruction of a Ju-88, just a few days before VE. He finished the war with a total of 373 operational sorties without being shot down by the enemy.
According to Shores and Williams's Aces High, his final wartime score was 15 + 3 shared destroyed, with 9 more destroyed on the ground. Brown and Lavigne's Canadian Wing Commander credits him with 19 victories, 2 shared, 6.5 probable, 17 damaged and 12 destroyed on the ground. During an interview, Edwards himself specified that he had 19 confirmed victories during the war. Many who flew with him have said that he only reported those "kills" he was certain of and that his real number of aerial victories was probably much higher than officially reported. 18 of Edwards's 19 victories, according to Brown and Lavigne, were enemy fighters (14 Bf 109s, 3 Focke-Wulf Fw 190s and one Macchi 202).
Edwards stayed in the RCAF until after amalgamation and retired from the Canadian Forces in 1972 as a Lt Col. In that time, he flew Vampires, Sabres and CF-100s both in Canada and overseas. Edwards was a key player in the post war air force as his experience and leadership was used to train new pilots.
In 1983 he and Michel Lavigne published a book about his wartime experiences entitled Kittyhawk pilot: Wing commander J.F. (Stocky) Edwards.
Also in 2009, Edwards was honoured as one of the 100 most influential Canadians in aviation and had his name included with the others on the 2009 CF-18 Centennial of Flight demonstration Hornet.
Vintage Wings Of Canada
As part of their continued effort to honour and commemorate his achievements (along with those of all veterans), Vintage Wings of Canada has decorated their P-40N in the markings flown by "Stocky" in Africa. On September 19, 2009, Vintage Wings took him for a flight over Ottawa in this P-40 giving him a chance to fly it as well. 
Vintage Wings has also published stories on Stocky Edwards including the following:
- Distinguished Flying Medal
- Distinguished Flying Cross (UK) and Bar
- Mentioned in Dispatches
- Canadian Forces Decoration and Two Clasps
- Member of Order of Canada December 10, 2004
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal March 2012
- Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame member. May 2013 
- Ralph, Wayne (2005). Aces, warriors and wingman: the firsthand accounts of Canada's fighter pilots in the Second World War. John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.. ISBN 0-470-83590-7.
- Tate, Robert. Hans-Joachim Marseille: An Illustrated Tribute to the Luftwaffe's "Star of Africa". Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7643-2940-1.
- Heaton, Colin and Lewis, Anne-Marie Lewis. The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace. Zenith Press, London. 2012. ISBN 978-0760343937
- Tate 2008, p. 124.
- Tate 2008, p. 165. (note 20)
- Heaton and Lewis 2012, p. 155.
- The transcript of this interview can be found on the site of Veterans Affairs Canada.
- Airshowstuff Magazine. Sept. 2009. Pages 80-81
- Vintage Wings of Canada, , Dave O'Malley
- Vintage Wings of Canada, , Dave Hadfield
- Canada Aviation Hall of Fame, , Members List
- A biography of Edwards at acesofww2.com
- Century of Flight bio on James F. Edwards
- A detailed biog and informative of the Desert air war in general