We Remember - Ronald E. Johnstone

The next Balfour soldier we'd like to honour is Ronald E. Johnstone. 
 
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It's a real pleasure to give Ron's story as his name does NOT appear on Balfour Memorial plaque - an oversight it seems.  Ron's brother Lorne, who lives in Regina with his wife Ruth, kindly donated some of Ron's Balfour memorabilia for the Balfour 75th reunion, in 2005. Lorne tells the story below of his older brother and has kindly allowed us to scan pictures, documents, etc. to be presented on this memorial website story. 
 
Here is Ron's story:
 
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Ron was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on December 31, 1918. Ron grew up on a farm just outside of Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan.  He was the son of Arthur and Macil Johnstone who came from Owen Sound, Ontario to homestead north of Yellow Grass in 1902.  Ron had three siblings:  Elaine, Verna & Lorne.  In the winter, the Johnstone's would move into a house in town so that the kids wouldn't have to walk so far to school.  Ron attended both elementary school & high school in Yellow Grass.  Ron graduated from high school in 1937. Ron was a true farm boy at heart.  He was musical, mechanically enclined, had a vibrant personality, was handy around the farm, and loved to ski.
 
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Ron attended Balfour's Commercial High School side during the 1937-38 school year in order to take a stenographical course.  Ron rented a room a few blocks away with a local family on 1503 15th Ave. During his time in Regina he taught a Sunday School class at a local church. He was also active in boxing in the city of Regina. Ron had a real interest in photography, and the following pictures were taken by him of a very young looking Balfour Tech!
 
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Balfour Technical School - 1938 - click thumbnails to see larger pictures

 

After attending Balfour Technical School Ron worked on the farm outside of Yellow Grass with his dad.  The Johnstones grew wheat and also had a few head of cattle. They also raised hogs and chickens as well as having a large garden. The farm was very self-sufficient. Ron's father always had the latest in equipment. Ron planted many of the trees around the farm in 1939 that are still there today.
 
Ron then moved on & worked for INCO in Sudbury in the nickel mines.  Following this Ron enlisted in the armed forces.  During pilot training Ron made his way through the following communities:
  • Brandon, Manitoba - British Commonwealth Air Training (Manning Depot)
  • Dafoe, Saskatchewan - Gunnery School
  • Edmonton, Alberta - Flight Training
  • High River, Alberta - Pilot Training School
  • Lethbridge, Alberta - Bombing & Gunnery School
  • April, 1943 - England
 
Ron was stationed as a Pilot Officer (Air Bomber) with RAF 576 Squadron, flying out of Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire, UK.  On approximately January 28th, 1944 Ron's crew went out on their first initial operation. Ron was the only RCAF member of the crew of this Lancaster bomber. On their second operation, Ron's Lancaster bomber was shot down on the way to attack Berlin, Germany on January 30, 1944.  Ron was killed in the crash. Ron was twenty-six years old. Two crew members (Sgt. VET White and Sgt. E. Bardsley) survived, both taken as POW's. Sgt. Bardsley was quite severely injured by the explosion and crash, but recovered. Tragically, he was killed on April 19, 1945 when Allied bombers attacked a column of marching POW's near the village of Gresse, 6km NNE of Boizenburg, Germany ... click here to view a Wikipedia article on these 'death marches.'
 
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Ron with his Lancaster crew (back row - left side)
 
Ron is buried at the Berlin war cemetary in Berlin, Germany. On the left, below, is a picture of Lorne Johnstone, paying tribute to his brother at his gravesite in 1990. On the right, Lorne holds Ron's picture.
 
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Ronald E Johnstone write-up at Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial
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