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Famous Graduates of the St. Catharines Collegiate



We would like to dedicate this page to the graduates of the St. Catharines Collegiate and the Grantham Academy of the 1800's that attained some form of national or international recognition..

If you have a nominee for this page, they must have attended either institution and they must have attained National or International fame.The best indicator would be some form of official recognition in the form of an award or national recognition.

Leonard Joseph Birchall was born on July 6, 1915, in St. Catharines, Ontario. He served in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, then, in 1937, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force to train as a pilot. After the start of World War II, he flew convoy and anti-submarine patrols from Nova Scotia. In early 1942, he joined 413 Squadron, then based in the Shetland Islands and flew patrols over the North Sea.

After the Japanese successes in South-East Asia, the squadron was sent to Ceylon to provide a reconnaissance force. On April 4, 1942, only two days after arrival, Squadron Leader Birchall was flying a Royal Air Force Catalina flying boat that was patrolling the ocean to the south of Ceylon. Eight hours into the mission, as the plane was about to return to base, the lookouts spotted ships on the horizon. Investigation revealed a large Japanese fleet, including five aircraft carriers, headed for Ceylon, which at that time was the base for the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet.
Birchall's crew managed to send out a radio message, but the Catalina was soon shot down. Three crewmen were killed and the others, including Birchall, spent the rest of the war as prisoners. The attack went ahead despite Birchall’s signal, but because of him the British were prepared and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese. These losses later had repercussions both in the battle of the Coral Sea and again in the battle of Midway. Dubbed the 'Saviour of Ceylon' by Winston Churchill, Birchall reflects that his sighting of the Japanese armada was the beginning of the end of Japanese successes in World War II. As Churchill famously said, " ...the Japanese capture of Ceylon, the consequent control of the Indian Ocean and the possibility of a German conquest of Egypt would have closed the ring and the future would have been black." (Sunday Times)

Birchall was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1946, after his return to Canada. In 1950, US President Harry Truman appointed Birchall an officer of the Legion of Merit, In 1999 Birchall was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. He was the only member of the Canadian military to have earned five clasps for his Canadian Forces Decoration (CD), representing 62 years of service with the air force. The only other person with five clasps was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Per the obituary published by The Globe and Mail, September 18, 2004 Birchall attended the St. Catharines Collegiate in the 1930's. Leonard Birchall died in 2004.

Source:From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka 

Stay tuned more famous grads to come......