Ric Hall’s – Do You Know?

Photograph of RCMP Police Service Dog "Duke" (Source of photo - John Stolarski's photo collection)>




A little piece of Canadian history.   Who was the first Canadian to break the sound barrier?   A former member of the RCMP….Acting Lance Corporal Alexander “Al” John Lilly, Regimental # 11839.   How can that be you ask!




I have had the picture below in my photo library for some time and it was just another picture no name attributed to it.   I have now found out that it is Al Lilly.   Funny how things come together. I was searching out the names of members who have received the Order of Canada and came across the name Alexander Lilly.   He received the Order of Canada long after leaving the RCMP. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada appointed Alexander Lilly, C.M., a member of the Order of Canada in 2005.

Photograph of

Al Lilly’s story is another one of those fasinating ones that not many members of the Force or Canadians have heard about.   How did a a young man from Brownlee, Saskatchewan, born in 1910, go from being a RCMP dog handler in the 1930s to receiving the Order of Canada at the age of ninety-five?

 Taken from Vintage Wings of Canada story by Mary Lee:

Photograph of the book cover for "

Al Lilly’s distinguished career in aviation began while serving with the RCMP, flying bush planes; and later with the RCAF as Chief Flight Instructor for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) preparing young pilots for the Second World War. But before aviation there was another important facet in Al Lilly’s life that led to great contributions in Canada, making his story all the more worthwhile to tell and to commemorate.

Born Alexander John in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, he was a son to Harold Lilly, owner of an automotive and farm equipment dealership that specialized in Ford automobiles. Through his dad’s business, Al came in contact with the RCMP who used the dealership to service their vehicles. It must have been an indelible impression, for Al eventually enlisted in 1932.

It was with the RCMP that Lilly’s early affection for aviation, first ignited as a boy when he had encountered ace pilots of the First World War, could finally be realized as a career path rather than just a passion or a hobby. It wasn’t until 1937 that Lilly requested permission to take flying lessons and petitioned to join the Aviation Section the following year. He was a strong advocate for advancing aviation in policing having seen first-hand the limitations of dog-sled teams and the canoe and recognized that planes could better serve the North.

Although flying during his brief career with the RCMP was the catalyst to greater accomplishments in aviation, Al Lilly’s tenure was best acclaimed for encouraging canine services in policing. As the story goes, Al’s dog, Prince, joined him on a search for a missing trapper and, in the course of the rescue effort, Prince was able to find shelter from the encroaching poor weather for both Al and the found trapper. Al instinctively knew there was value in K-9 skills and shared this insight with the RCMP. By 1935, the police dog-handling services were officially formed and Al was one of the first to be assigned his own dog, a German shepherd named Black Lux. The two formed a fond friendship. It certainly must have been a trustworthy one as Al often brought Black Lux along with him during flying lessons and in the back-seat of his car while courting Genevieve, who later became his wife of close to 70 years.

Photograph of

Photograph of “Black Lux” (left) and “Dale” (right).

Note: The story within the story; “Black Lux” was the son of “Dale”. It can be argued which was the first police dog used by the RCMP. “Dale of Cawsalta: was originally owned by a member of the Alberta Provincial Police. Sergeant John Cawsey, Reg # 11462, becomes the first dog handler in the Force, coming from the Alberta Provincial Police which he joined in 1917. His dog is “Dale of Cawsalta” which comes from “Caws” for Cawsey and “alta” for Alberta. Sergeant Cawsey retired in 1942. His son Lorne Cawsey later became the handler of “Dale”.   In 1939 Dale and his handler searched the box cars at the train station in Unity, Sask, prior to the arrival of the Royal Train carrying King George VI and Queen Elizabeth which was to make a brief stop. About two months later, the eight-year old German shepherd showed signs of rheumatism and a strained heart.   A board of RCMP officers discussed “Dale” just as they would have for a Regular Member.   They found the remarkable dog unfit for further service, and ordered him returned to his original owner Sgt. John Cawsey. In special recognition of his outstanding work, they established a precedent by providing him a small pension to cover the cost of his food. “Dale’s” work was never recognized in the courts, it laid the foundation for other dogs’ work.   In fact the first case in a Canadian court to accept evidence produced by a dog was in February 1940.   The dog involved was “Black Lux”, son of “Dale”.

But who was the first official police dog of the RCMP the son, “Black Lux” or the father, “Dale”? According to the book “Police Dogs in North America” Sergeant Cawsey was struggling with the costs of maintaining “Dale” for police work and wanted the Force to buy him and thereby maintain him and the cost involved or he would remove “Dale” from police work. The proverbial gauntlet was thrown on the ground!   Senior officers in Alberta supported the idea of buying “Dale” and finally Commissioner James MacBrien agreed to pay $200.00 for “Dale”. For years it was thought “Dale” was first and his son second.   In 1980 the RCMP acknowledged the RCMP Police Service Dog Service came into existence May 1935 with the purchase of “Black Lux”. “Dale” was purchased in October of 1935.   “Black Lux” edged out his dad!

More from Mary Lee’s story: “The RCMP transferred Al to Ottawa, which would bring an end to his flying time. But Al had a dream of flying and he realized he had to leave the RCMP. In July 1939 he purchased his discharge and went to Great Britain to fly with Imperial Airways (the precursor of British Overseas Airways Corporation). The RCAF years When the Second World War broke out, Al returned to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, teaching new pilots in the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP). He then flew with Ferry Command, transporting equipment and many types of planes across the Atlantic. He also received a commendation from King George VI for delivering the first six Hudson twin-engine bombers to Britain. By the end of the war, Al was chief test pilot for the command.

Following the war, Al joined Canadair and was instrumental in positioning the aircraft manufacturer as one of the largest producers of aircraft in the world – a distinction that brought recognition to Canada during the Cold War era. There he captained the inaugural flight of the North Star aircraft and the F-86 Sabre, to name a few. And in 1950, he broke the sound barrier for the first time in Canada. During his 30 years with Canadair, he rose to the position of vice president before retiring in 1970. He passed away Nov, 21, 2008 at the age of 98 – just months before witnessing the Vintage Wings’ “Hawk One” F-86 Sabre take to the skies as a cornerstone of the 2009 Canadian Centennial of Flight celebrations.

Photograph of

Photograph of the F-86 Sabre served the RCAF from 1948 to 1958.

Breaking of the sound barrier, like many historical events there always seems to be a bit of controversy.   On 14 October 1947, just under a month after the United States Air Force had been created as a separate service, tests culminated in the first manned supersonic flight, piloted by Air Force Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager in aircraft #46-062, which he had christened Glamorous Glennis after his wife. The rocket-powered aircraft was launched from the bomb bay of a specially modified B-29 and glided to a landing on a runway. XS-1 flight number 50 is the first one where the X-1 recorded supersonic flight, at Mach 1.06 (361 m/s, 1,299 km/h, 807.2 mph) peak speed.

Photograph of Chuck Yeager and the X-1 Glamorous Glennis.

Photograph of Chuck Yeager and the X-1 Glamorous Glennis.

Another story within the story; Several people involved with the development of the F-86, including the chief aerodynamicist for the project and one of its other test pilots, claimed that North American test pilot George Welch unofficially broke the sound barrier in a dive with the XP-86 while on a test flight on October 1, 1947 – two weeks before Chuck Yeager was credited with being the first to break the sound barrier in a Bell X-1. The F-86 officially broke the sound barrier in April 1948.

Photograph of

Photograph of Alexander ‘Al’ John Lilly With Canadair.


Photograph of "A'" John Lilly With Canadair.

Photograph of “A'” John Lilly With Canadair.

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage