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Monday, 28 January 2013

The Queen's Rum Runner

I've started the research phase of my next book, which is an historical fiction based on my grandfather. He was a fascinating man, who died when I was only three.

The few memories I have of him are questionable. Do I truly remember my grandfather or are my memories only copies of the photos I've seen of him holding me as a toddler?

Every family has one person of interest. Someone who is unusual or extraordinary for varying reasons.  
My grandfather is our family's legendary member.  

With my grandfather, it is his war years that interest me most. But I can't look at that period of time in a vacuum; I must examine his entire life to try and understand the entire man.

His name was Edward Hugh Martin Crawford and he was born in Newfoundland in 1894. My grandfather didn't speak until he was seven years old - and as family history retells it, his first word was actually a full sentence. He was a brilliant student, leading his classes in academic achievement and earning the Rhodes Scholarship in 1914. He studied law at Oxford University and flew for the RCAF in World War II from 1941-1946.

When he returned to Canada after the war, he brought home an MBE (Member, Order of the British Empire), a serious alcohol addiction (which he later overcame), and experiences never shared with us.

When asked what he did during the war his simple answer never changed.

"I ran liquor to the troops."

Many soldiers don't speak of their time at war, and this was even more true of that generation. Proper manners of the time, pushed common curiosity aside. But curiosity abounds in me. It always has.

To stoke my burning curiosity, several years ago, my mom found his wartime flight log. Strange trips were recorded. And might I add, no mention of rum running.

Rumours of his involvement with famous spy, William Stephenson - "Intrepid" - abound. 

They both were Winnipeggers. Both geniuses. Both in the Royal Military.

Our quest to find out the truth has led my brother and cousins to request information from the RCAF. Every request has been denied and his records resealed.

Why? What don't they want us to know? 

This is what I've discovered so far:

"CRAWFORD, W/C Edward Hugh Martin (C5251) - Member, Order of the British Empire - No.2 Air Command Headquarters - Award effective 13 June 1946 as per Canada Gazette of that date and AFRO 660/46 dated 5 July 1946. 

Born in Newfoundland. Home in Winnipeg; enlisted there 10 May 1941 in Administration Branch; appointed Flying Officer, 14 June 1941. At No.7 AOS as of 18 September 1941. Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 25 March 1942. To AFHQ, 30 June 1942. Appointed Judicial Officer, No.2 Training Command, as per RCAF Routine Order 1731 dated 30 October 1942. Promoted Squadron Leader, 1 February 1943. To Northwest Air Command, 31 May 1944. To No.2 Training Command Headquarters, 2 September 1944. Promoted Wing Commander, 1 November 1944. To No.5 Release Centre, 5 January 1946. Retired 14 January 1946. Award presented 30 October 1948.

This officer has displayed outstanding devotion to duty and intense interest in the Service throughout his career. His wide experience in legal and administrative matters has been applied most diligently to the benefit of the Service, his brother officers and all other ranks. His attitude towards his Service obligations has been exemplary and has been reflected in the work of all those with whom he has been associated."
- Airforce Association of Canada 

This doesn't tell us too much about his day-to-day activities, does it? Certainly doesn't give us any clues as to what he was involved in, that 77 years later, the military still won't release information. What is the big secret?

My limitless imagination is working on overdrive.

Now I begin to dig through old letters, newspaper articles, read countless books on Intrepid and WW2, and consider our old family stories. Then comes the really fun part - weaving together historical fact with a fictional story line.


  1. Hi Jodi-
    This project sounds SO FUN! I love the RUM RUNNER. Do I see humor in this novel? Knowing you, for sure.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Michelle,

      Yes, humor is on the list! I'm beginning my character sketches and having a lovely time fleshing out the three kids that are at the centre of the story. Two sisters and their American boy cousin...I can hardly wait to see what shenanigans they get up to.

  2. Sounds like you have all the ingredients for an exciting new writing project.
    Good luck with it. Family secrets are such fun to uncover. Your grandfather sounds
    so interesting!

    I like the new, fresh look of your blog!

    1. Hey Gabe,

      You are the Anita's Queen of uncovering family secrets. I may have a zillion questions for you, as I go along.

  3. If Edward Hugh Martin Crawford has been dead for 20 years or more, and if proof of death (such as a newspaper obituary) can be produced, it is possible to examine his full RCAF service file. As the compiler of the data that is on the Air Force Association website, I would like to expand on his entry. (Hugh Halliday,