A Man for Others: Pilot Officer Selby Roger Henderson ’36, D.F.C.

Ilia Mehr Bakhsh ’23

Born in 1918, Pilot Officer Selby Roger Henderson was a St. Paul’s graduate of the class of ’36 and a pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Newspaper Clipping

At eighteen years old, Henderson took flying lessons in Edmonton. He was then transferred to Peterborough, Ontario, to further advance his pilot training.

He took a three-month-long probationary course in Sywell, a village in England, and finally received his flying license in 1937. When he enlisted as one of only ten Canadians in the Royal Air Force, Henderson was a key part of many operations.

At one operation, Henderson, then 21 years old, was a pilot of one of five British planes that made a successful raid on the Kiel Canal in Germany on September fourth of 1940.

At another operation on November 7, 1939, Henderson was on a reconnaissance patrol over the North Sea, when he spotted two German flying boats 160 kilometres off the English Coast. He shot one down and silenced the guns of the second, neutralizing the threat.

The news of these operations was published everywhere, from the Edmonton Journal to the London Times.

For his honourable service, Henderson was one of two Canadians to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross by the British ministry in 1939. The King even invited Henderson along with other soldiers to speak to him about their operations.

However, the excitement and joy did not last for long. On July 4, 1940, he sadly went missing and was presumed dead, joining the other 116,000 pilots who gave their lives in service to the British Commonwealth. 1,700 of these brave men and women were Canadians.

Henderson was one of approximately 40,000 of those who died with no known grave. He is commemorated by name on the Runnymede Memorial, 32 kilometres west of London.

As students of St. Paul’s High School, we must not forget our past. We must honour those who walked the hallways of our school and served their country as soldiers and as Men for Others, lest we forget the lost generation that gave its life for future generations to come.

Photo Credits: Veterans Affairs Canada

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