Of the thirty Canadian airmen who participated on the famous Dambuster Raid, May 16-17, 1943, two were from Moose Jaw – a remarkable contribution for Moose Jaw, a small city of 20,500 at the time. The loss rate for Canadians was 50%.
The two Moose Jaw “boys” participated in the Raid. They were Sergeant Pilot Ken Brown of 106 Hochelaga Street East and Pilot Officer Robert Alexander “Turk” Urquhart of 1034 Connaught Avenue.
Ken Brown was born in 1921. “Turk” Urquhart was born in 1919. Both attended Central Collegiate but probably didn’t know each other.
Ken Brown worked CPR after high school and joined the RCAF and continued to work until he was called up. Ken’s Dad was the Bookkeeper at the Park Hotel and Ken’s brother Murray Brown was the sports editor at the Times-Herald. Ken Brown had a full and colourful life and career after the war and died in British Columbia in 2003.
Robert Urquhart’s life was quite different. After high school Pilot Officer Urquhart, D.F.C., worked in Eiler’s Jewelry Store on Main Street north in 1938 and then in 1939 he moved to Vancouver looking for better opportunities. The Great Depression was in full swing. He went to work in the “food industry.”
He joined the RCAF in Vancouver and was called up on January 19, 1941. He went to the Brandon Manning Depot and then went on his observer-navigator training.
Pilot Officer Urquhart was a brilliant navigator. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross on May 15, 1943, and died on May 17, 1943. Here is the DFC citation for our Pilot Officer Robert Urquhart:
“Since joining this squadron, Flying Officer Urquhart has flown on many operations. At all times his navigation has been of the highest order and the successes he achieved are due in no small measure to his skill. This officer took part in the daylight raids on Le Creusot and Milan and at other times on many heavily defended German targets. On one occasion during a low level raid on a target in North West Germany he was wounded by anti-aircraft fire but continued to navigate with accuracy. By his skill and determination Flying Officer Urquhart has set a high standard among his fellow navigators.”
Robert Alexander Urquhart participation in the Dambusters remained unknown or at best, obscure for many years. His personal Logbook ended up the shelf of an obscure book store in Vancouver until found by a former Moose Jaw resident and military collector. His DFC was sent to his mother in 1949 and no one knows where it is today.
“Turk” Urquhart’s died, like the 18,000 or so other Canadian airmen, young and in a foreign land.
His place in Moose Jaw history was forgotten. He was the ‘forgotten’ Moose Jaw Dambuster – well, he was forgotten until now. Today he earns his place in Moose Jaw history through the support of the Western Development Museum; the MLA, the Mayor; the R.C.A.F.; and the help of researchers in Moose Jaw, Vancouver and Sussex England. We now claim Flying Officer Urquhart as another Moose Jaw hero.
Robert Alexander Urquhart’s name is being added to the giant mural at the back of the CIBC in downtown Moose Jaw.
posted by Richard Dowson