Reflections of Ponoka: They served our nation with honour and character

With the ongoing research and kind assistance of Dave Spink, we are pleased to be able to continue to feature more Reflections stories

The Warren Brothers

The Warren Brothers

With the ongoing research and kind assistance of Dave Spink, we are pleased to be able to continue to feature more Reflections stories that salute the bravery and extreme efforts of our military personnel. These colorful accounts will outline their past service to our nation at home and overseas during the perils of war, as well as their family life and the countless challenges that they accepted upon return to their Ponoka and district homes.

The rambunctious Warren twins

Another set of future pilots were the Warren twins, Bruce and Douglas. Born in Nanton and raised in central Alberta, they would complete most of their schooling in Wetaskiwin and Ponoka, while their father, Earl Warren, was well known here. The congenial twins would both become Spitfire pilots with the #66 squadron based in England during the Second World War.

Their efforts in the squadron were unusual for the twins, with Bruce serving as an A Flight Commander and Douglas was the B Flight Commander. Both men used the nickname of “Duke” and to make it more confusing they were identical twins. Taking orders from the Warren boys was never a problem for the rest of the crew because they all assumed that the man in charge knew what he was doing. Both gentlemen had inquiring minds and little patience with tradition/bond efforts or ways of thought.

Following the war, Bruce Warren continued his career with the Royal Canadian Air force before becoming a test pilot with Avro Canada. He was later killed in the crash of a prototype CF/100 jet fighter, an accident that was thought to be caused by an oxygen system malfunction. The CF/100 aircraft was the only Canadian designed and manufactured aircraft to see operational use.

Douglas Warren also continued his colorful career with the RCAF and after extensive flying time with the Vampire, it was in 1952 that he would become the commanding officer of the F-86 Saber squadron #410. In 1953 Douglas Warren was attached to the United States Air Force and flew Saber jets in Korea, then later became chief flight instructor at the RCAF’s training unit at Chatham, N.B. and then later went on to serve in a similar role in Germany.

Assisting the post-war Luftwaffe in forming their own Saber operational training unit, Doug found himself working side by side with Eric Hartmann, who had been Germany’s greatest fighter ace with more than 350 kills. So just 15 years after assisting and shooting down a German bomber at the raid on Dieppe, Duke found himself teaching Luftwaffe jet fighter pilots the same skills. Later in his career, Doug Warren served for one year as the commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Legion Air Cadet Camp at Mynarsky Park, which was originally the Canadian Forces Base at Penhold, Alta.

During his long and illustrious military career, Warren received the following medals: Distinguished Flying Cross, 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defense Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Dieppe Clasp, War Medal, Korea Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, Special Service Medal, Canadian Peace Keeping Medal, United Nations Korea Medal, 125th Anniversary Medal, Golden Jubilee, Canadian Forces Decoration and two bars, the American Air Medal, and the French Legion of Honor.

Douglas ‘Duke” Warren died Aug. 27, 2011 in Comox, B.C.

Roy Whitten served in two World Wars

As a tiny lad, Roy Whitten came to live in the Eastside district with his parents, Norman and Margaret in 1902. Sadly in 1904, Margaret died from pneumonia, after which Norman and his son went back to Ontario, remarried, and then returned to the Eastside farm in 1910, eventually moving to the south place near Chain Lakes.

Norman, who was a great storyteller, was always Roy’s right-hand man on the farm, especially during threshing time, remained active until his death in 1944. Roy served overseas in the First World War from 1914-18, during which time he met and married Lily Avis. They would return to the Ponoka-area homestead after the war. Farming was hard in those days but Roy was an avid hunter and loved going off with his many district buddies in the fall, always coming back with their limit. He had some fine Clydesdale horses, then purchased a tractor and made a living threshing for the neighbours. Their farm was always frequented by lots of visitors, and as Mr. Congeniality, Roy was blessed with a gift of the gab, loved arguing about politics, and had a great talent for barbering and plow-shear sharpening.

Roy re-joined the Canadian Army in 1939 and would serve overseas, later joined by sons Harley and Gerald, while Lily stayed home on the farm with the other four children until moving back to the original homestead in 1943. Roy returned from the war in 1944 and was stationed at Lethbridge to serve at a Prisoner of War camp.

After making several trips overseas with prisoners before being discharged from the military Roy continued to work at various jobs, remarried after Lily died, and passed away suddenly in Calgary in 1959.