Flight Officer Martin Stewart Little, RCAF
Martin Stewart Little was born in Meaford, Ontario, on December 15, 1920. In 1942 he enlisted in the RCAF in Montreal, where he was working as a bank clerk. Comments on his attestation papers describe him as an “All Around Athlete”. He was 5’ 10 1/2” and weighed 158 pounds. Training records in 1943 comment that he was “A fair average pupil who should develop well with practice. Needs encouragement”.
On March 24, 1944, F.O. Little and his crew of six took off in their Handley Page Halifax bomber from RAF Topcliffe, where they were stationed with the 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit, a training unit for heavy four engine bombers. Since they were not part of an operational squadron, their mission, with 146 other older bombers, was a diversionary one heading west of Paris in support of a much larger bombing mission over Berlin. The first leg of the mission went off without incident, but their troubles began on the way home, when a strong northerly wind blew them roughly 100 miles off course to the east and into the London Defence Zone. Apparently they failed to identify themselves and came under heavy Anti-Aircraft fire in the area of Slough, Buckinghamshire, where they were damaged heavily. A letter from his tail gunner, Rick Lowan, to Stewart’s parents picks up the story from here:
To “Lou”, as we knew him, the crew and myself owe our lives to-day. If it had not been for his presence of mind and ability to control an aircraft that was in reality unflyable we would not be here now. Like a true captain he saw that his crew had bailed out in time and because of his unselfishness and determination stayed at the controls and guided his ship over a populated area. In doing so he was too low to jump and as a result he gave up his life… Disregarding his own safety for that of others he did not die in vain.
‘Nicky” Cowan was the last person to see Flight Officer Little alive: “I was the last to leave the derelict and just before jumping I signalled Lou to follow. He just replied with those big brown eyes that told me to bail out and this I did immediately”.
F.O. Little managed to keep his aircraft airborne as it passed over a “populated area”, which was in the area of Little Chalfont. Once clear of the town, F.O. Little and his plane crashed into a field to the east of Little Chalfont, at a place called Lodge Farm, approximately 15 miles northeast of where they were hit by A.A. fire. F.O. Little died on impact. He was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey at 2:30 P.M. on March 29, 1944. He was 24.