William Reginald Fair was born in Port Hope Ontario, the son of Reginald Joseph and Amy Lila Fair, of Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. He was the oldest of 7 children 2 boys and 5 girls named James, Dorothy, Audrey, Evelyn, Marilyn and Donna. He was a member of the Sea Cadets in Oshawa and learned to play the bugle during his time there. He also played the piano by ear and would play the piano and sing with his mother.
Bill attended St. Gregory’s elementary school from 1928-1935. He then went to Oshawa Collegiate from 1935 to 1938. He had an interest in swimming , skiing and loved to read about aircraft. When he left school he worked for Read's Shoe Repair from 1938-1941 then at General Motors as a machinist from 1941-1942.
Bill left that job to sign up for the RCAF and went to Hamilton, Ontario to enlist and was selected for training as a pilot. From there he was posted to Toronto, then Montreal and then to Belleville for initial training. His elementary flying training took place at Pendleton Air Force Base in Oregon in the United States. He came back to Uplands air base in Ottawa and did his advanced flying training at No. 2 Service Flying Training School on the Harvard, before being posted to Halifax for the journey overseas.
Bill was engaged to a girl in the States named Phyllis by the time he left Canada in May 1943. On arrival in England he did the Spitfire conversion course and was posted to 92 Squadron in Italy.
The family received the news that he had been killed on Boxing Day 1944. A week later the family received this letter from Bill’s squadron commander, Johnny Gasson:
Major J.E. Gasson, No. 92 Squadron, to R.J. Fair, 25 Dec 1944:
“On 22nd December, Bill took off with five other aircraft on a very necessary and vital operation. The operation was successfully carried out despite very accurate enemy ground fire.
At about 11.25 hours, just as we were about to leave the target area, Bill called over the RT, and reported that he thought his aircraft had been hit. I instructed him to make directly for base, and ordered W/O. Long to fly with him. A few moment later, W/O. Long, who was flying alongside, saw Bill prepare to bail out. The aircraft went down in a spiral dive before he was able to get clear, and crashed. His end was instantaneous and there could have been no suffering whatsoever.
Bill was buried the same day by a Canadian Engineering Co., and the next day we visited the grave and erected a cross. Later the grave will be moved to a military cemetery where a permanent memorial will be placed to mark his resting place.”
Then a second letter arrived from the AOC:
Air Vice Marshall J.A. Sully to Mr. R.J. Fair, 28 Dec 1944:
“... your son lost his life at 11:25 A.M. on December 22nd, 1944. The aircraft, of which he was the sole occupant, is believed to have been damaged by enemy anti aircraft fire and it fell to the ground approximately four miles south of Russi, Italy, when returning from bombing operations. Your son was buried by members of the Allied Army in Russi ....”
There was a plan to name a street in Oshawa, after Bill, however for some reason it never came to pass. His sister is going to keep on with that project and hopefully one day it will happen. Bill’s brother Jim was with the grenadier guards and went through some difficult times during the war. He did come home but suffered for many years with the memories.
Bill is remembered as a happy and fun loving person. Who loved his family and was especially close to his mother and grandmother. He is missed by many and admired by all of his family for his sacrifice. He died on December 22, 1944 and is buried in Forli Military Cemetery in Italy.
He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star Medal, the Italy Star, the Defence Medal, the Canadian Service Medal with clasp , and the War Medal 1939-1945. His mother received the Silver Cross Medal in honour of his service and sacrifice.
Air Ministry Kingsway to RCAF HQS Ottawa (RO4), 24 Dec 1944, message:
Library and Archives Canada RG 24, vol. 27,481
J25400 Fair, William Reginald [Personnel file]
(A) Spitfire VIII
(B) 92 Sqn BNAF
(C) Crashed aprox. 1125 hours day Dec/22nd aprox. four miles south of Russi Italy bombing and strafing mission
(D) Can/J25400 F/O WR Fair (pilot) killed ....
(E) Buried by Army in Russi
Believed hit by flak aircraft spun on returning to base”
Major J. E. Gasson, to B.P.S.O., R.A.F., B.N.A.F., “F.B. Casualty to Spitfire VIII. JF.513
on 22nd Dec. 1944. - J.25400 F/O W.R. Fair (RCAF) Killed,” 26 Dec 1944:
“On 22nd December 1944, F/O W.R. Fair J.25400 (R.C.A.F.) In Spitfire Mk. VIII JF.513 was detailed to take part in a mission to bomb a tower in Cottignola at map reference M.366345. Six aircraft took off at 10.40 hours from Bellaria L.G. and at 11.00 hours were over the target area. At approximately 11.20 hours the target was attacked and as F/O Fair pulled out of his bombing dive he reported that he had heard something in his aircraft snap. Moderate very accurate light flak had been reported. F/O Fair was instructed to return to base and W/O Long to accompany him. Some minutes later W/O Long reported that F/O Fair seemed to be flying straight and level at 2,000 feet and maintaining height. He must have throttled back and W/O Long saw that the hood was open and F/O Fair was endeavouring to abandon his aircraft. A map dropped out and then the port wing dropped and the aircraft went into a spiral dive and finally crashed and blew up.
Later the same day it was confirmed that F/O Fair failed to get out of his aircraft and was buried at Map reference M.43822663 by a Canadian Engineering Company.”
Forli War Cemetery, Italy. Grave 11, C, 23
Letter from the King
Name: William Reginald Fair
Born: 28 Feb 1922
Joined 92: April 1944
Died: 22 Dec 1944