The Torch Bearer

Charley Fox saw combat action in his Spitfire in the Second World War from early 1944 until VE Day.

In the fall of 1945, a train carrying wartime troops from the campaign to liberate Europe, delivered a 25-year-old air force veteran to the platform in Guelph, Ont.

Flush with victory over the Luftwaffe, Charley Fox came home with one of the most distinguished air combat records of the Second World War – 222 operational missions, two full tours and two Distinguished Flying Crosses as well as the credit for taking Germany’s most celebrated officer out of the war. He returned to his wife Helen (whom he’d married in 1942), his two-year-old son Jim, and the job he expected his Walker Store employers would hold for him.

What he didn’t expect at the department store was a visit from the mother of one of his childhood chums, Andy Howden, killed in the air war overseas. The distraught woman grabbed Fox by the shoulders and shook him right there in the store.

“Why my Andy?” she cried, “and not you!”

“Mrs. Howden, I don’t know why not me,” he replied trying to console the woman.