Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 15, 1891
Place of BirthRedhill, Surrey
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinLt George Burton, brother, Birch Ciff PO, Toronto, Ontario
Trade / CallingAviator Cadet/Farmer
Service Details
Regimental NumberCan 74635
BattalionRoyal Air Force (Canada)
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBirch Cliff PO, Toronto, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 27, 1917
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceCanada/United States
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 8, 1966
Age at Death75
Buried AtEuchee Valley Cemetery, Eucheeanna, Walton County Florida, USA

Burton, Edward Cherry

‘The RAF training program in Canada ceased with the armistice and the RAF, Canada was demobilized in late 1918. During the highly successful operation of the program, more that 9000 cadets and nearly 7500 mechanics were enlisted, 3272 aircrew were graduated ‘thousands of Canadians were trained with a long-term impact upon both military and civil aviation in Canada.’ (Into the Blue: Pilot Training in Canada, 1917-18, Canadian War Museum). One such fellow that used his training as an aviator after the war was 2nd Lieutenant Edward Cherry Burton.

Born on 15 April 1891 in Redhill, Surrey, England, Edward was the son of Captain George Burton, master mariner, and Grace Mary Padwick. His father had been born in India to a Lieutenant Colonel of the Madras Native Infantry and his wife while his mother was born in Hayling Island, Hampshire. The couple married on 28 June 1883 in Redhill. Edward had three older siblings, George Charles Nicholls (1884-1969), William Frederick Padwick (1886), and Grace Mary Fletcher (1888-1950). He also had a younger sister, Frederica Agnes Taylor (1894-1970). Likely with father George away at sea, Grace and the children were living with her mother Mary Padwick in Redhill for the 1901 census.

Edward immigrated to Canada in 1909 as an indentured farm worker. By the time of the 1911 census he was boarding with the Everett Hawkins family north of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan in the village of Onion Lake. He eventually obtained his own land grant in the area, Township 53 Range 27 Section 18 Part NW Meridian W3. However all did not go well for Edward and in June of 1916 he shot and killed a neighbour in self-defence. ‘Considerable popular sympathy has been expressed for Burton who claims he acted purely in self-defence, and alleges persecution and threats had been his portion from the dead man for the past twelve months. Burton’s youth and excellent character and his well-known courtesy to all with whom he came in contact during the past seven years in this district are strong factors in the public summing up of the lamentable affair.’ Brandon Weekly Sun, 29 June 1916

Leaving the area and given the ongoing war, Edward tried to enlist but was rejected due to his hammer toes, a deformity that would prevent him from becoming an efficient soldier. Once the requirements of having a pilot’s license was dropped, Edward signed his attestation papers with the Royal Flying Corps on 27 August 1917 in Toronto. His occupation was given as aviator cadet/farmer and his next of kin as his brother Lieutenant GCN Burton of Birch Cliff, Ontario, a neighbourhood of Toronto, also the home address given for Edward.

Edward was first assigned to the 350 acre training camp Mohawk Field near the community of Deseronto, about 220 kilometres east of Toronto where he began the accelerated process of becoming a fighter pilot with 43 Wing Canadian Training Squadron. Instruction in ground school included classes and lectures in the theory of flight, map reading, bomb dropping, aerial photography, and the use of the wireless telegraph. The cadets also attended lectures on mess etiquette and sail making as well as the handling of machine guns and the basics of airplane engines before working in a ground based trainer complete with joystick, rudder pedals, and pilot seat.

Edward was next advanced to flight training at Camp Rathburn, also in the Deseronto area. Almost all Royal Flying Corps training in Canada took place in two seat, 90 horse power airplanes designed by American Glen Curtiss, the Curtiss JN series, aka Jennies. With the instructor in the rear cockpit and Edward in the front, his first instructional flight took only ten minutes in Curtiss JN-4 No 420. After eight lessons totalling only two and a half hours, Edward had his first solo flight in Curtiss JN-4 No 334 on 17 October 1917.

After elementary flying camp the cadets moved on to advanced map reading and put into practice the lectures from ground school. Written examinations required an 80% pass and the recording of 8 words/minute in morse code. Edward next moved on to a course in the art of dog fighting that included aerial gunnery lessons. That fall, along with a number of cadets and staff of Deseronto’s 43 Wing, he arrived in Texas to continue training at Camps Everman and Hicks, logging 106 landings and 67 hours of flying time by the end of 1917. Although he wanted to go overseas, on 15 December 1917 Edward was appointed Flying Officer and would remain in Texas/Canada as an instructor, rank of 2nd Lieutenant (probationary). Although disappointed he became part of an elite group handpicked for one of the most important tasks in military history.

When the Texas training program ended Edward returned to Canada in April of 1918 and was posted to 43 Wing’s 78 Canadian Training Squadron at Leaside, north of Toronto, rank of 2nd Lieutenant confirmed. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and Edward was transferred to the RAF. While serving in Leaside he became involved in a number of the early airmail flights. Edward’s last flight for the Royal Air Force (Canada) was in a Curtiss JN-4 No 1347 on 23 November 1918. With the end of the war, by the time he left the RAF he had logged 617 landings in 241 hours in 95 Jennies.

Having immigrated to Canada in 1909, Edward’s brother George, a married electrical engineer, signed his Officer’s papers with the 1st Depot Battalion 1st Central Ontario Regiment at Camp Borden on 17 August 1917. He served in France/Belgium during the latter part of the war with the 15th Battalion, returning to Canada in March of 1919. He eventually returned to England where he died in 1969 in the registration district of Teesside South, Yorkshire North Riding.

After the war Edward was unable to find employment as an aviator and took a bookwork job with the Austin and Nicholson Lumber Company in Chapleau, Ontario. However in 1924 the opportunity came up for Edward to become a commercial pilot with the newly formed Ontario Provincial Air Service. Unfortunately, that August while out as a search party near Sioux Lookout, Edward’s plane crashed resulting in the death of two observers/passengers and a severely fractured leg among other injuries to Edward. Recovery was slow and difficult with Edward returning to England in 1927 to seek possible medical attention. Unsuccessful, he returned to Canada that December aboard the Montnairn.

Over the next couple of years Edward flew for the Western Canada Airways, National Air Transport, and latterly as a mail pilot for the Western Canada Airways out of St Hubert, Quebec. In late December of 1929 he boarded a train for Florida, on his way to marry Emma Lucille Tervin. The couple had met aboard the Montnairn back in 1927 and had kept in contact since parting. Born in 1905 in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, Lucille was the daughter of Franklin and Mary (née Baker) Tervin. She had attended Florida State University to become a teacher but found her calling as a newspaper reporter/journalist. Marrying on 3 January 1930, Edward and Lucille gave birth to son Edward Cherry Burton (Ted) the next year in Toronto.

Over the next decade Edward was a pilot for a number of companies in the Yukon, Windsor and Ottawa in Ontario, in northern Quebec, and in Yellowknife among them. In 1940, after returning from a winter in Florida, he applied for enlistment with the Royal Canadian Air Force but was not accepted, considered too old to serve. However a short time later Edward applied to and was accepted by the Ontario government to the Air Service Division of the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. The main drawback with the job was the seasonality of it, being laid off for the winter months. Given the option of winter work in the Lands and Forest hanger at Sault Sainte Marie, he accepted for several seasons while other years he found winter employment as a pilot elsewhere. After WW2 Edward became a full time staff in Sault Sainte Marie, later living in Red Lake and Fort Frances before moving to Kenora in 1955 and retiring the same year. In January of 1957 he reported to a local doctor for a routine medical examination and learned that his pilot’s license would be cancelled, his deteriorating eyesight uncorrectable with glasses.

‘Until his flying certificate lapsed for medical reasons, Edward Cherry Burton held the honor of being Canada’s oldest licensed commercial pilot. He passed away on April 8, 1966 in Winnipeg. Years later, others surpassed his record, but few logged as many adventurous flights in bush airplanes and airmail carriers. Probably no one enjoyed his profession as the young Englishman who arrived in Canada to homestead but went on to fly his beloved north country. In his lifetime, Burton saw aviation grow from a shaky fledgling start through regular trans-Atlantic scheduled flights to the beginning of the space age. He acknowledged, with wonderment, that he was lucky to have experienced the most exciting era in history.’ Wheels, Skis and Floats The Northern Adventures of a Pioneer Pilot

Edward’s wife Lucille excelled in her career as a newspaper reporter and editor. In 1985 she moved to Thunder Bay and passed away on 14 November 1995. At the time of her death she was survived by their son Edward (Ted) and his wife Erica of Thunder Bay and three grandchildren Ted, Michael and Elaine. Their son Ted was called to the bar in 1959 and became Crown Attorney for the District of Kenora in 1961, a position he remained in until 1985 when he became Crown Attorney for the District of Thunder Bay and then Regional Director of the Northwest Region of the Ministry of the Attorney General in 1988. He retired in 1991 following a career distinguished by its impact on northern and aboriginal justice issues. Following in his father’s footsteps, Ted was a licensed pilot.  Edward and Lucille are interred in the Tervin family plot in the Euchee Valley Cemetery near DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

By Judy Stockham

Research notes:
In the late 1940’s Edward wrote a 20000 word manuscript about his many adventures in his life as a pilot. Never published, in 1994 his son Ted and author Robert S Grant collaborated to rewrite and expand the memoirs and published the book Wheels, Skis and Floats The Northern Adventures of a Pioneer Pilot. The story above of Edward’s life was written from this book along with birth, marriage and death records, censuses, newspaper articles, and obituaries, Lucille’s courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library. All photos of Edward are from the family’s files and used with permission.


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