April 8, 1922 - July 27, 1944
John Donald Buchanan was the son of Robert Russell and Onadell Buchanan of 132 Second Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario. He was born in Toronto. He had one brother, Robert Russell, Jr. who was living at 1216 Bank Street, Ottawa. The family attended the United Church.
Buchanan enlisted in Ottawa on September 12, 1941. He had been working as an RCMP police officer prior. He was a constable on detachment. He wanted to continue on in a career with the RCAF or RCMP after the war. He listed track, basketball, and football as his sports of preference and 'pastimes' as his hobby.
He was assessed as "alert, keen, well-disciplined lad, excellent motivation -- determined and fairly stable, altho possessing a mild impediment in speech and stammering. Good average intelligence, powerful athletic physique. May be rough and have difficulty in coordinating fine moves. Maybe heavy handed. Excellent aircrew material, except for latter. Best as P8. Too tall and heavy for gunner. Above average." On his interview sheet: "Excellent type Canadian youth. Good education and well groomed."
At No. 1 ITS, Toronto: "A practical, hard working airman, possessing good team spirit. Carried out his duties at Flight S quite well. Deportment very good." March 17, 1942
At/ No. 3 EFTS: "Cool, capable, and hardworking. Is intelligent and given promise of being an above average service pilot." He was 2nd out of 41 in his ground training classes.
He attended No. 2 SFTS, Uplands: "Average student. Progressed steadily. Very keen about flying. Airmanship weak. Careless of details. Link Trainer progress and ability above average." He was popular with his fellow students. It was noted by the CO: "A poor type and a show-off." Buchanan received his wings in October 1942, departing from Halifax for overseas, where he arrived in the UK on November 4, 1942.
By February 1943, he was at No. 55 OTU. "An above average pilot. Very keen and an asset to a Squadron."
WO Buchanan was also pilot with 198 Squadron. He is mentioned flying with other members of his Squadron on June 6, 1944. In the book To Scale the Skies by Peter Cornwall, Buchanan is noted as being very lucky as the enemy destroyed his cockpit hood with cannon fire, fortunately, with only splinters in his arm. He also ferried aircraft from Gibraltar to North Africa and had a temporary posting to Egypt, earning the Africa Star.
John Donald Buchanan was killed flying Typhoon MN494 on July 27, 1944 in the vicinity of Tilly-la-Campagne. On July 29, 1944, 609 Squadron Leader wrote, "P/O Buchanan as Raven Red Leader was given a target by 'Corker' control but owing to prevailing weather conditions was unable to go into the attack. The section did an orbit of the Caen area and then Red Leader set off to go east of the rainstorm covering the target area. At the front line flak encountered whilst the section was flying at approximately 2500 feet, Red 1 broke left followed by Red 3 (F/Sgt Adam) and Red 4 (W/O Bavington). Red 2 (F/Sgt Price) broke right and down and was last seen disappearing into the rainstorm. Red 1 called up Red 2 on two occasions but received no answer. The section then return to the Caen area and proceeded down the west side of the rainstorm which was still covering the target area. Flak was again encountered and Red 3 was hit in the tailplane, broke right and returned to base. Red 1 and Red 4 orbited the Caen area before setting off for the target area. When reaching the target area (700 yards south west of Tilly-la-Campagne) Red 1 called up and said he was going to attack. Height of cloud base at the time was 2500'. Red 1 made his attach and as Red 4 followed to make his attack, he saw him flying low over the target. Red 1 broke steeply to the right and vapour trails were seen from his wing-tips. Almost immediately, the aircraft flicked over on its back at approximately 150-200 feet crashing in flames about 400-500 yards from the target. Flak was not seen during the attack and after completing his attack on the target, Red 4 broke and returned to base. Red 4 does not think that Red 1 was hit by flak for there was no fire until the aircraft exploded on the ground."
In 1945, Bomber Mail indicated that a wallet, letters, pictures, and two books of clothing coupons, effects of Buchanan, were forwarded to the Estates Officer in London, England. The effects were received by an NCO i/c that unit's detachment attached to 3 Polish Inf. Bye from the latter's formation's Padre, but nothing beyond the information contained in the note is known regarding the casualty except that his plane crashed.In a letter dated July 5, 1945 to Donnie's fiancee, Miss B. E. Noble: "The village cemetery, due to heavy fighting in the area, was almost completely destroyed by artillery fire and bombing. Civilians in the district are questioned but could supply no information whatsoever [in locating his grave] as they were evacuated during the months of July and August. As the evidence received indicates that P/O Buchanan was buried by the Germans on August 3 at Rocquancourt, a plaque cross will be erected in the memorial ground of the cemetery there in memory of your fiancé."
Mrs. Buchanan wrote, after her son's death, "We were notified in January of this year thru the RCAF Headquarters here in Ottawa, stating the British Liberation Army in France had been informed of our son's death, also that his wallet, letters and photographs were handed over to them. He also had a suitcase of civilian clothes left in care of Mrs. E. Hayes at 53 Church Street, Leigh, Lancashire, England. I would greatly appreciate having his personal effect which no doubt have been turned in to Headquarters overseas."
Recent photos provided by Mehdi Schneyders, Belgium.