Fred McCall went overseas with the army in 1916 but was instead transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and sent for pilot training.
After a mere hour and a half of solo flying, he was sent to France to fly reconnaissance aircraft over the front lines. Fred managed to shoot down five enemy aircraft while doing artillery spotting and was awarded the Military Cross.
It was decided that Fred should fly better aircraft so he was transferred to a fighter squadron where he managed to shoot down thirty-two more enemy aircraft, including five in one day.
He was duly promoted to Captain and awarded the DSO, DFC and had a bar added to his Military Cross. Fred McCall was rated as Canada’s fifth ranking air ace. After the war, Fred became a prominent aviation pioneer in the Calgary area.
The First World War
Freddie McCall was born in Vernon, British Columbia in 1895. His parents moved to Calgary when he was a young boy. He joined the army in 1916 as a private in the infantry. He was posted overseas as a sergeant and was later commissioned. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and took pilot training.
After an hour and a half of solo training he was sent to France to fly RE8 reconnaissance airplanes. He managed to shoot down five enemy aircraft while doing artillery spotting and reconnaissance work and was awarded the Military Cross. Fred then transferred to a fighter squadron to fly the SE5a fighter airplane.
While Fred was with this squadron, he shot down thirty two more enemy aircraft. He was promoted to Captain and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bar to his Military Cross and was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s dispatches to the King.
After less than ten months of combat duty, he had shot down 37 enemy aircraft; five in one day and two observations balloons. Fred was rated as Canada's fifth ranking air ace. He was invalided home on sick leave in 1918 and was at home when the war ended.
Post War Barnstorming
After the war ended Fred took up civil aviation. At war’s end, surplus Curtiss Jenny training planes were available at prices less than the cost of building them. Pilots returning home from the First World War bought up these surplus airplanes and pioneered barnstorming and the development of civil aviation. Freddie flew in Southern Alberta and pioneered aviation in the Calgary area.
He barnstormed in and around Calgary, started airlines including Great West Airlines and Emil Sick’s Purple Label Airline and inaugurated air routes in Southern Alberta which included Calgary, Nanton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fernie, and Banff. With all the pilots around, it was easy to organize the Calgary Flying Club and Fred served as its first president.
He also registered as its first flying instructor. As the Calgary Flying Club had became so popular, Freddie chaired a committee with aviation interests that encouraged the organization of flying clubs across Canada.
Fred was an adventurous aviator having flown nitro-glycerine from Great Falls, Montana to Calgary for shooting oil wells in Turner Valley, using Emil Sick’s Stinson Detroiter airplane. He and Charlie Stalnaker, a famous well-shooter, made two trips with a plane load of nitro and dynamite each time – "Enough to blow up the City of Calgary", according to one newspaper account.
Freddie was the first to land an airplane in Banff – landing the Stinson Detroiter, with a number of passengers, on the frozen Bow River in January 1929. On another occasion Fred landed a Curtiss Jenny on the carousel at the Calgary Exhibition, when the engine failed shortly after take-off from the infield. He was carrying the two young sons of the Exhibition manager as passengers, and fortunately no one was hurt as a result of the accident.
He barnstormed around rural Alberta, giving stunt flying demonstrations and taking passengers for rides. Part of the fun was flying wing walkers and racing motor cars at the Calgary Exhibitions. Things were tough financially in the thirty’s and in 1934 Freddie had to give up flying to go to more stable and less adventurous work.
Second World War
This didn’t last long as he returned to the excitement of flying when he signed up for the Air Force in 1940. Fred then served as Squadron Leader from 1940 to 1945 in Ottawa, Edmonton and Saskatoon during the Second World War.
Not long after the war, Fred died of a heart attack in January 1949, at the age of 53 and was laid to rest in the Field of Honour in Union Cemetery, Calgary. Fred was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1978 for his accomplishments as a wartime pilot and pioneer aviator in Alberta.