In Remembrance of my Great Uncle Leslie Cyril Gosling
When I was growing up, Remembrance Day always played a special part in my family’s life, we would wake up early, watch the ceremonies on TV together and talk about why November 11 is so important to Canadians. I remember asking my mom when I was really young why we wore poppies in November, she told me it was to pay respect to those who had fought to defend Canada. Yet, I have noticed fewer and fewer people wearing poppies, people more focused on shopping pre-Christmas sales than remembering those who, despite the risks, left their homeland to fight for the rights of Canadians and defend the rights of others.
When I was old enough to understand, my mother and grandmother told me the story of my Great Uncle Cyril and today I wanted to share that story with you.
My Grandmother grew up in a very large family on the grounds of the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital in North Battleford, where her father was the pumphouse engineer. Among her numerous siblings was her younger brother Leslie Cyril Gosling. He was 19-years-old when the Second World War was declared and 20 when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
I remember seeing old photos of my grandmother next to a young uniformed man. The photo, taken early in January 1942, was taken the day before he left for England and the war, the last ever day my Grandmother ever saw him.
Cyril, as he liked to be called, quickly distinguished himself as a talented Spitfire pilot. He worked his way up the ranks, earning a promotion and becoming Flight Lieutenant Leslie Cyril “Goose” Gosling. He is remembered as a dedicated fighter, and after his training ended on June 9, 1942, he was posted to No. 222 Squadron. On August 19, 1942, during the Allied raid on Dieppe he was flying from Britain and was wounded in the morning but was back flying his Spitfire the same day.
Just a few months later he was transferred to the No. 229 Squadron in Malta, sending him into combat over the Middle East, Sicily and North Africa. With this squadron, he did some of his most distinguished flying. He downed 11 enemy planes which he commemorated by marking his flight log with small swastikas and also logging his numerous assists with half a swastika.
On June 16, 1943 after destroying four enemy aircraft and damaging three more, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. This honour is given to those pilots who have shown courage or devotion to the duty they performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.
The most famous day in his flying career was July 12, 1943 when he and his Squadron Leader George Hill of Pictou, NS downed a quartet of German planes, each logging a double kill within 24 hours of flight. These two kills had brought Cyril’s tally up to 11 enemy planes destroyed.
Flight Lieutenant Leslie Cyril Gosling was killed in action a week later on July 19, when he was shot down by enemy fighters ten miles from Mt. Etna while flying in his Spitfire LZ808. His body was never recovered from the wreckage and instead, his guns were buried in the Catania War Cemetery in Sicily.
He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Bar for further acts of valour, courage and devotion to his country. All of his awards and a variety of his other personal effects including his flight logs can be viewed at Battleford’s Fred Light Museum.
Someday I hope to visit his grave in Sicily and pay proper respect to my Great Uncle who sacrificed his life in defense of what he believed to be right.
So today I urge you to spend a few moments in quiet reflection of the sacrifices made by many to make your life of freedom possible. Lest We Forget.