Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 20, 1896
Place of BirthToronto, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of Kinmother, Elizabeth Spradbrow of 172 Huron St., Toronto, Ontario
Trade / Callingaviator cadet
Service Details
Regimental Number152762
ForceAir Force
BranchSoldier Biographies
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment742 Huron St., Toronto, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentOctober 29, 1917
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 22, 1959
Age at Death62
Buried AtMount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario

Spradbrow, George Ralph

George Ralph Spradbrow began his flying career in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1 and moved progressively through bush flying and general aviation to become one of the first pilots of corporate flying in Canada.

George was born on 20 November 1896 in Toronto, Ontario.  His parents were Charles Spradbrow and Elizabeth Locke. Siblings included: Charles William (1894-1913), Ada Emily (1895-1993), Violet Sarah (b. 1901), Margaret (b. 1903), and Stephen John (b. 1908). George grew up in Toronto where his father worked as a coachman.

George enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps on 29 October 1917 and was mobilized on 20 November 1917.  He received his first instruction on the JN-4 at Camp Everman, Texas on 25 January 1918. George served with the 79th and 87th Canadian Training Squadrons of the RFC and moved to England in October of 1918.  By then he had been transferred over to the Royal Air Force. His arrival coincided with the end of the war, but he continued with the British occupation forces in Germany and did his last flight on 07 August 1919 before returning to Canada.

In his search for employment after the war, George spent a year as an agent for ‘Ohio’ vacuum cleaners in Toronto, some time with Western Electric Company in Chicago and then, in 1924, as parts manager for Western Canada with the Ford Motor Company in Winnipeg.

The year 1927 found him at Camp Borden, Ontario, taking a refresher course on Avro 540’s which led to his appointment at C/O at High River, Alberta on 04 June of that year. George moved to Grand Prairie in 1928 and began seaplane instruction in 1929. By 1931 he was back at Camp Borden taking aerobatic training, bombing practice and instrumental flying. He continued at Borden as an instructor until February 1932 when he left the Air Force for civil flying.

For the next three years he flew locally in the Toronto area for National Air Transport. Then in August 1935 George began flying for Wings Ltd. in the Kenora area as a bush pilot. This is when he joined the Kenora Legion giving his address as ‘Kenricia Hotel’.

In 1936 George joined the Dominion Skyways Ltd. operating from Rouyn, Quebec and for two years flew to mining operations in Ontario and Quebec. In 1938 George was hired by John David Eaton (of the department store fame) as his private pilot. He supervised the purchase of the company plane (a Beechcraft Staggerwing) and piloted it on business flights across Canada and the U.S.

George joined de Havilland Aircraft Co. in November 1939. He became chief test pilot for the company that was building Tiger Moth training aircraft for the RCAF and remained with that organization throughout the war years. In 1943 George left to liaison with de Havilland England and came close to death as the result of a perforated ulcer. He survived the emergency operation and returned to Toronto for an even busier period as Service Liaison Officer in charge of the growing Mosquito deliveries.

With the end of the war, George rejoined Eatons and headed up the group of pilots flying their fleet of four aircraft.

In the spring of 1959 George met his death in a tragic and simple accident for one who had spent so many hours in the air.  He died as the result of a traffic mishap in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 22 March 1959 while holidaying with his wife, Gertrude. A broken rib had punctured his lung and he died in the cabin of a Lockheed Constellation as preparations were being made to fly him to hospital in Kingston. He was 63 years old at the time of his death and had been an active pilot for 43 years. George Ralph Spradbrow was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

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