Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 29, 1891
Place of BirthPictou, Nova Scotia
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Eliza C. Fullerton (mother), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTelegraph Operator
Service Details
Regimental Number505219
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 6 Wing
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJune 10, 1916
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19680306
Age at Death76
Buried AtBurnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta
PlotLot 27, Block 25, Section T

Fullerton, Elmer Garfield

Flight Second Lieutenant Elmer Garfield Fullerton enlisted in June 1916 and served with the Signal section of the Canadian Engineers before becoming a pilot in 1918. After the war he had a long and successful career with the Royal Canadian Air Force and in 1973 he was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Elmer was one of eight sons born to George William Fullerton and his wife Eliza Carstairs Munro. George and Eliza both grew up in Nova Scotia and they were married in Pictou County in 1883. George was a carpenter and turner and he operated a sash and door factory. Their first six sons were born in Pictou: William (1884), Aubrey (1885), Albert (1887, died in 1915), George Cecil (1888), Louis Elmer (1889, died as an infant) and Elmer Garfield, who was born on 29 October 1891. In the late 1890s Elmer’s family moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), in northwestern Ontario, where the last two sons were born: Stewart John (1899) and Ralph (1901). George was self-employed as a contractor in Rat Portage and he built and owned the Fullerton Block, located at the corner of Matheson and Fort Street (now First Street South).

First World War

Elmer received his early education at Central School in Kenora. By the time he enlisted, at age 24, he was an experienced telegraph operator with the Canadian Pacific Railway. His father had moved to Edmonton to establish a business, the Fullerton Grant Lumber Company, but Eliza and the youngest children were still living in Kenora when the war started. In January 1916 their son Stewart John enlisted underage, joining the local 94th Battalion just before his 17th birthday. That summer Elmer travelled to Ottawa to enlist, signing up on 10 June 1916 with the Signal Training Depot, Canadian Engineers. Two months later he was sent overseas with the 7th Reinforcing Draft, embarking on the SS Scandinavian and landing in England on 19 August. He was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot and he trained with them for five months. In January 1917 he was sent to France and attached to CF Cable Section at the Signal Base. Together with other units the CF Cable Section formed the Canadian Corps Signal Company and Elmer served with them for the next year.

In January 1918 he was allowed to return to England with the view of getting a commission in the Royal Naval Air Service. He successfully passed the tests and on 28 January he was discharged from the Canadian forces and transferred to the RNAS as a cadet pilot. On 1 April the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and Elmer was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the RAF effective 1 April. He was attached to No. 6 Wing, which had been organized in 1915 to patrol the Adriatic Sea and Malta. The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 and Elmer served actively with the RAF until the following summer. In June 1919 he embarked for Canada, leaving from Liverpool on the SS Megantic and arriving in Quebec on 8 July. Four days later he was transferred to the RAF unemployed list.

RCAF Service

After the war Elmer had a long career with the Canadian Air Force, which was formed in 1920 and renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924. He is also recognized as one of the pioneers of northern aviation exploration in Canada. In 1921, during an extended leave of absence from the air force, he was employed by Imperial Oil as a bush pilot for their operations in the Northwest Territories. The following year he was hired by renowned explorer Roald Amundsen to pilot an airplane on an expedition to the North Pole. Elmer bowed out of the expedition when plans were changed after the plane crashed on the way to Seattle.

While he was serving overseas Elmer had apparently met a young nurse named Avis Winnifred Luxford. Avis was born in Barnet, Hertfordshire in 1899 and grew up in a large family, living in Hertfordshire and later in Sussex. Her father, Jacob Luxford, was a retired police sergeant and estate ranger. Avis arrived in Montreal on 21 November 1921 and she married Elmer the same day at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Montreal. By 1923 Elmer was back on active service with the Canadian Air Force. During the 1920s he was stationed in Alberta and British Columbia and at Camp Borden in Ontario. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and in April 1931 he was sent to England to train with the Royal Air Force as a Flight Instructor. He and his wife had three daughters by then and his family lived in England for the two years he was there. During that period he also spent time serving in Egypt. He returned to Canada in March 1933 and in 1934 he was awarded the McKee Trophy for his outstanding work with the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1940, while stationed in Montreal, he was promoted from Squadron Leader to Wing Commander.

In the early years of the Second World War Elmer served as an instructor at the RCAF training school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. He is credited with designing the RCAF tartan which was approved in 1942, making the RCAF the first air force in the world to have its own tartan. In the summer of 1942 a new RCAF training school named Station Centralia was built near Exeter, Ontario. Elmer spent his last four years of service there and in 1945 he was awarded the Air Force Cross. He was highly regarded for his leadership, initiative, devotion to duty, high standards of training and outstanding skill as an aerobatic pilot. He retired in 1946 with the rank of Group Captain.

After retiring Elmer and his wife settled in Calgary, Alberta. He passed away at Colonel Belcher Veterans Hospital on 6 March 1968, at age 76. He was survived by his wife, their three daughters and his brothers Cecil, Stewart and Ralph. He’s buried in the military section of Burnsland Cemetery in Calgary.

In 1973 Elmer was inducted in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

By Becky Johnson

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