~ St. Catharines' Wartime Neighbourhoods

Air Commodore Leonard Birchall

Len Birchall - The Savior of Ceylon

Savior of Ceylon – RCAF

Len Birchall was born in St. Catharines and lived here until he entered the Royal Military College.  Once he graduated from RMC, he entered into the RCAF training at Trenton.

When war broke out, Len flew convoy and anti-submarine patrols with the No. 5 Squadron.  In 1942, he joind 413 Squadron flying patrols over the North Sea and was sent to Ceylon later that year.  Shortly after arriving in Ceylon, while flying a mission, he was shot down but not before he was able to report that the Japanese fleet was headed for Ceylon.  His message arrived in time for the Royal Navy to clear the port, saving the fleet.  Len did not know the message had arrive until his prisoner of war camp was liberated on August 27, 1945.

While a P.O.W., Len helped to reduce the death rate in his camp from 30% to 2% and did what he could to stop Japanese abuses.  As a result, he was regularly beaten.  Len also kept a detailed journal of his experiences in the camp, as well as key information about his captors.  Once he was liberated, he retrieved his journals and was a key witness for the prosecution of Japanese war criminals.

Leonard Birchall rose to the rank of Air Commodore.