TRURO - A Second World War flying ace who lived in Truro was finally given the recognition he deserves Sunday in a special ceremony honouring his memory.
Hamilton Charles Deryk Upton, whose exploits in the Battle of Britain were relatively unknown in the Hubtown until last year, had a plaque unveiled in his honour at a ceremony held at the 77 Arrowhead Air Cadets Squadron headquarters in Truro. A room in the building was also named after him and a plaque with his accomplishments hung on the wall. Upton died in 1965 of a brain aneurysm, likely related to head trauma from the battle.
"Forty-seven years later you're astonished," Upton's son Deryk said following the ceremony. "I didn't ever feel there was any lack of recognition for him, but others did and I'm grateful they have that sense. My brother and I, and our sister Debra, certainly have a huge appreciation, no question."
The ceremony was originally scheduled to be held at Upton's gravesite in Truro Cemetery where a new headstone has been erected recognizing his accomplishments, replacing a simple one featuring only his name. Heavy rains, however, moved the event to the cadet building.
Along with Upton's son Deryk, another son Jamie was also in attendance as well as about 30 others including several of Upton's former co-workers from CKCL radio, members of the air cadets, Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Air Force Association.
Upton, a native of England and member of the Royal Air Force during the war, was one of the highest scoring pilots of the Battle of Britain, which ran from July 10 to Oct. 31, 1940. He is credited with shooting down 12 Nazi aircraft, making him one of just 20 double aces in the allied forces in the battle. Transferring to the Royal Canadian Air Force later in the war, he was this country's only double ace.
Upton also came close to his own demise during the battle, having been shot down twice.
"It's a huge accomplishment and the fact he survived was amazing," said retired United States Army chaplain Bill Chrystal, whose research brought Upton's accomplishments to light. "That was the most intense period of air combat throughout the Second World War; that four months over England."
Stationed in the south of England, Upton's squadron intercepted nearly every Nazi raid on the country as Hitler attempted to complete his domination of Western Europe. Allied pilots would sometimes fly multiple missions on any given day against hundreds of Nazi aircraft. The allied victory was Germany's first setback of the war and is credited as its turning point.
Upton's accomplishments were unknown to his son until after Upton died. Deryk was just nine at the time.
"It's not something he discussed along with probably every other serviceman there ever was," Deryk said.
Valley resident Mike Chitty, who attended the ceremony, said it's important to honour someone like Upton.
"I think it's great for the new generation to see the contributions some of their forefathers have made to allow them to live the way they live," he said.
Upton lived with blackouts and headaches after the war and an operation on his tailbone - an injury incurred in battle - left him with a destroyed sphincter muscle. In much the same way, his son dealt with the effects of the loss of his father for many years and he was somewhat hesitant to open those wounds for Sunday's ceremony.
But he went "out of respect for him, for my family, for the hard work Mr. Chrystal has done and to see Truro again."
Deryk said although he feels a great sense of pride in what his father did in the war, he's always felt that way about him.
"I've had a sense of pride in him since the first day I knew him," he said. "He was a great father, although we didn't have a long time together."