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A Book, a Bike and a Bomber

Photos and Story by John Chalmers, CAHS Membership Secretary

Members of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society pay tribute to family and friends who served in the Second World War in many ways – books, audiovisual productions, visits to overseas graves, and so on. Ken Horne of Edmonton has taken a highly original approach in honouring his uncle, James Chandler Horne, who was born March 3, 1924 in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, and raised on the family farm near Rocky Mountain House in west central Alberta.

Book coverKen Horne knew his uncle By Name Alone, the title of the book he has published about the man he calls Uncle Jimmy. At 16 years of age, in 1940, Jimmy and a 15-year old friend, Harold Ayre, rode their single-speed bicycles from home to Red Deer, Calgary, Banff, Jasper, Edmonton and back. It was a 1,600 kilometre trip that took three weeks and included the now-famous and scenic Banff-Jasper Highway that had just opened, a 290-km stretch of gravel road.

In addition to the book, entitled By Name Alone, a replica bicycle is the second part of Ken Horne’s tribute to Uncle Jimmy. Ken acquired the components needed to assemble a CCM “Motorbike” closely resembling the one ridden by his uncle. Applying his many skills, Ken has also built a simple desk of solid poplar wood, beautifully constructed. To someone who doesn’t know, the painted desktop covered with plate glass might seem to be an abstract design.

Ken and bike

In fact, the desktop is symbolic in its significance. It carries part of an air force roundel and parts of the S in the call letters of Uncle Jimmy’s Lancaster bomber, S for Sugar. As a final component in the tribute, Ken produced four informative posters included with all items in a display at the Fine Arts Building Gallery at the University of Alberta in a 50th Anniversary exhibit of works by U of A technical staff.

The desk, with its glass surface reflecting the four posters on display, is not only a functional item of well-constructed furniture. The design of its top commemorates a Lancaster flown by Uncle Jimmy Horne, who flew with Royal Air Force’s 619 Squadron.

Desk bike and poster

The posters prepared for exhibit with the bike, the book and the desk provide information about those elements of the display, as well as a brief note about Uncle Jimmy.

Jimmy4Jimmy Horne signed up for for the Royal Canadian Air Force on December 31, 1941, three months shy of his 18th birthday. Trained as an observer (later to be known as navigator), WO2 Horne flew with the Royal Air Force, but never came home. He was lost at age 20 on his twentieth operational flight when S for Sugar was shot down over Germany on April 27, 1944. Only one crew member was able to parachute to safety and survive.

I feel a certain kinship with Ken Horne. Like him, I lost an RCAF navigator uncle whom I knew by name alone. My father, like Ken’s uncle, trained at No. 3 Manning Depot, No. 4 Initial Training School and No. 2 Air Observer School, all in Edmonton. Like Ken, I have a circa 1940 single speed CCM-type bicycle, my first bike, which I was given as a kid. I restored it some 30 years ago, and haven’t ridden it since!

Ken and I resolve to take our big old bikes on a joint ride together next summer, perhaps a ride around the U of A campus or on trails in Edmonton’s river valley, a trip down Memory Lane to recapture moments of our youth.

Jimmy and crew

Shown with their RAF Lancaster, GP-W, at RAF Winthorpe on December 22, 1943 are left to right: mid-upper gunner Sgt Tommy Graham (RAF); rear gunner Sgt Jack Watson (RAF); WO2 Jimmy Horne (RCAF), wearing his observer’s “O” wing; pilot F/Sgt Robert Whinfield (RAF); wireless operator Sgt Don Chick (RAF); bomb aimer F/Sgt George Langridge (RCAF); and flight engineer Sgt Harry Goldberg (RAF). Four months later on Lancaster S for Sugar, Horne was lost with Watson, Whinfield, Chick, Langridge and Goldberg. By then, Graham was serving with another crew, replaced with F/Sgt Reginald Wickham (RAF). F/Sgt Francis Young (RNZAF) was the only survivor of Sugar’s crew. He was flying as “Second Dickie” pilot on an orientation flight with a veteran crew on his first operational trip and became a Prisoner of War. The crew's bomber, S for Sugar, Lancaster LL904, was a brand-new aircraft, lost on its first operational flight.

Book display

For more information about the project, or By Name Alone, author/craftsman Ken Horne, who works as a Technician/Demonstrator with Industrial Design at the University of Alberta, can be reached by telephone in Edmonton at 780-886-8134 or by email at