McKay was at Nepean High School when the Second World
War broke out, and he signed right up — a kid so green
that he packed his skates to go to war.
In his years in the Royal Canadian Air
Force he landed first in one ocean, and then on
the wrong side of another one.
On Saturday, he became a Chevalier of the
Légion d’Honneur, one of 16 veterans of the war honoured
by France in a ceremony at the National War Museum. Most
are from the Ottawa area.
McKay learned early that landing is
sometimes as big an adventure as flying.
Take the first time, ditching off the
coast of Nova Scotia.
“We were lost over the Atlantic,” he
said. As a new crew on coastal patrol searching for
submarines, “we didn’t know where we were and spent a
long time.” Low on fuel, they spotted land but couldn’t
“We went down into St. Margaret’s Bay,”
near Halifax. “It was either get down or crash. We were
doggone lucky: Fishermen came out and picked us up.”
Russell McKay is photographed after receiving a Legion
of Honour award from the French government during a
ceremony at the Canadian War Museum Saturday, November
8, 2014. McKay completed 38 missions over Europe and was
awarded his Operational Wings.