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The Donald (Doc) M. Payne Story

This is a brief overview of the remarkable aviation career of a former Commanding Officer of 427 Squadron. The story begins in Leamington, Ontario where Donald M. Payne was born on April 11, 1925. There are many noteworthy events, the first being at Camp Borden in September 1943 when Doc received his wings. He was soon on his way overseas where he moved quickly through the usual training units. Doc was posted to No. 2 Squadron RAF, first flying Spits and then rocket-firing Typhoons. This was an exciting and hairy business in support of the ground forces in North West Europe. When Doc completed his tour on Tiffies he had barely reached the ripe old age of 19. Rather than return to Canada as he could have, he wangled a posting to train on twins. From this point he flew Oxfords and Wellingtons leading to conversion to Lancaster's and a posting to 428 Squadron in 6 Group.

The former Typhoon pilot was now a full fledged Bomber Captain who completed his first dozen operations successfully. It was on Friday the 13th in the month of April 1945 that his luck ran out. While target marking over Kiel, Doc's Lanc was clobbered and on the way home was hit again by ack ack over Heligoland. Heavily damaged, they headed for Sweden but didn't make it. The aircraft started coming apart and Doc ditched in the North Sea under difficult circumstances. All but one of the seven man crew managed to scramble into the dinghy. There were exposed to the elements for an incredible 12 days and finally drifted ashore at the mouth of the Elbe. Six emaciated airmen were rescued by a German naval vessel and taken ashore. They were in grim shape and extensive medical treatment and convalescence followed in Germany, Belgian and British hospitals. In recognition of outstanding skill, resolution and devotion to duty, F/L D. M. Payne was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Back in Canada Payne spent seven weeks with a nutritionist who was trying to learn from their 12 day ordeal in the North Sea. In early 1946 he rejoined the RCAF as an LAC and in due course had his commission restored. He helped re-open St. Hubert and was later posted to Lachine where he joined 426 squadron. By now it was 1951 and the Korean War was on. The Thunderbird squadron was selected to be part of the Korean airlift. Doc Payne flew North Stars for more than a year on the long run across the North Pacific. On one occasion he managed to nurse his heavily laden North Star to a safe landing after losing an engine hundreds of miles from base. For this he was awarded the Air Force Cross

In the next few years there was work in aircrew selection, staff appointments and pilot training where he was checked out to fly Sabres. In 1959 he was posted to Zweibrucken, Germany and was appointed Commanding Officer of 427 squadron where he served for more than a year. He was the last CO of a squadron with the rank of Squadron Leader. He left 427 in June 1960 and for the next four years served in operations at Air Division headquarters. It was an exciting time in the Air Division when the Squadron's took on a new role flying the CF–104 and while at Metz he was also checked out on the Starfighter. Doc left Europe in June 1964.

Back in Canada Doc served at Air Force bases in Winnipeg, Comox and Edmonton in a variety of capacities. During this period he learned to fly helicopters. While in Edmonton he made 93 parachute jumps. He reasoned that as the CO of a Squadron supporting the airborne, you should know how it feels to be one of them. Doc retired from the Air Force in 1974 after 32 years of service. In the post service period he operated a helicopter business for more than 10 years. Taking a leaf from Stan Miller's book, in year 2000 he is still flying Daks and DC-6Bs. He resides on Vancouver Island and makes sure that he finds time to attend the SPAADS reunions since he has especially fond memories of the Saber era.

This story by Vern White first appeared in ROAR, Volume 1 Number 9, December 2000.)