Bill Marr

 A well-known Langley pioneer and pilot has died.

William Lloyd Marr, known to many as Bill, passed away on Feb. 23 at the age of 100 in his home at Langley Lodge.
The son of Langley’s first resident physician, Dr. Benjamin Marr, Bill was born on July 4, 1917. Mr. Marr’s birth certificate, however, lists his date of birth as July 5, 1917. Reportedly, Dr. Marr did not want to celebrate his son’s birthday each year on America’s Independence Day.
Mr. Marr was born in England, but the family returned to Fort Langley after the First World War.
When Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Bill left his studies at UBC and enlisted two days later — a week before Canada was officially at war.
He trained with the RCAF before earning his wings and becoming a flight instructor in Moncton, NB and Trenton, Ont. It was in Moncton that he met his wife, Henrietta (Etta). In 1942 he was posted overseas.
At the end of the war he returned to Canada and worked as a pilot with Trans-Canada Airlines (which eventually became Air Canada).
For much of that time, he lived in Toronto and flew trans-Atlantic flights to Europe, in jet aircraft after 1962. He accumulated a total of 28,500 flying hours. He also flew out of Vancouver to London on the polar route.
He retired from the airline in 1977 at age 60.
Returning to Langley, Mr. Marr continued to fly, in a Cessna 185, until he gave up his pilot’s licence in 1983.
He was an active member of the Langley Heritage Society, Langley Rotary Club, the VALTAC transportation group and served as president of the Abbotsford Air Show.
Etta passed away in 2015 after 74 years of marriage. Together, the couple had a son and a daughter, eight grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
– files from Frank Bucholtz, Langley Times

Born July 4, 1917. Bramshott, England
Father – Dr. Benjamin Butler Marr, medical doctor, Ft Langley. BC
Mother - Isabel "Drew" McIntosh
Decorations & Medals - AFC
Post-war occupation: Airline pilot, TCA/Air Canada, Captain DC8, retired 1977
Marital status - Wife Henrietta McAteer; son Richard Flynn, daughter Katherine Ann.
Hobbies - Flying, fishing
The experience of William Lloyd "Bill" Marr at 409 is one that illustrates the operational challenges of finding the enemy and shooting him down. He was the only son of a Boston-trained medical doctor, Benjamin Butler Marr, who was United Empire Loyalist stock from New Brunswick. Bill Marr was born on July 4, 1917, in Bramshott, England, where his father was stationed at the Canadian Army base hospital. His mother, Isabel "Drew" McIntosh, had joined her husband at Bramshott, leaving behind the family home in Fort Langley, British Columbia. Dr Marr registered his son's birthday as July 5, nor wanting any child of his to be born on the United States' date of independence from Britain.
Bill grew up in Canada near the Hudson's Bay post in Fort Langley where his father had become the village doctor. He spent most of his childhood on horseback and never owned a bicycle. Unlike many Depression-era boys, he could afford one or two flights, in his case in a Curtis Robin that barn-stormed off a friend's farm. His mother died in 1937, and in 1939, while Bill was in his third year of pre-medicine at the University of British Columbia and flunking his French, Latin and Biology courses, his father died. This left Bill and his nineteen-year-old sister, Katherine Isabel, without immediate family.
He had joined the Canadian Army in 1939 just before his father's death, enlisting in the Royal Westminster Regiment on September 3 (he had attended their summer camps in the 1930s), and was made corporal before the RCAF sent him word that he could start training. He joined the RCAF on June 6, 1940, and after receiving his wings around Christmas of 1940 he became an instructor on Ansons with No. 8 SETS in Moncton, New Brunswick, then, a few months later, a Central Flying School (CFS) instructor at Trenton, Ontario. He married eighteen-year-old Henrietta McAteer while at Moncton and they had a six-month-old son, Flynn, when, with fifteen hundred flying hours behind him, Bill escaped from the BCATP to start his operational career in Europe.
In November 1942 he completed AFU training in Britain, receiving a rare "exceptional" pilot-rating stamp in his logbook. He joined 409 Squadron RCAF stationed at Acklington, north of Newcastle, and ultimately paired up with J.L. "Joe" Carpenter, who was his navigator throughout all but the early stages of his tour. Carpenter refused to fly with anyone but Marr. In learning to fly the Beaufighter Mk VI, Marr did a checkout by looking over the shoulder of the "B" Flight commander for an hour (there was no dual-control Beaufighter). He then went solo for an hour, practicing landings and engine-out procedures:
“My next three flights were with my first navigator, a man named S __, who did not work out and whom I asked to have replaced. We did an air-to-air test with the camera gun, a night-flying test, then a camera-gun test in a two-plane formation. The last flight was intended to test the Beaufighter's 10-centimetre radar out to its ultimate range of nine to ten miles. We were now ready to fly operations. My call sign was "Gravel 31" when I was first there, and later "Kitchen," the squadron code on the side of some 409 aircraft being ‘KP.’”
Bill Marr by his Mosquito
Marr described the process of closing on an enemy aircraft in cloud, and the frustrations that could occur:
“Navigators have a tobacco auctioneer's sing-song chant, talking all the time. As the pilot I never respond, just listen to him as he is talking range and position of target: "2,000, 2,000, coming in 1,900, 1,900, check left, go left, slightly up, he's up above us, I think he is turning left, go left, go left, go hard left, climb, climb, 20 degrees up ..." and so on. Joe gave me one interception entirely in cloud and eventually the first vision I got was of the tail, I couldn't even see the wings; it was exceptional navigation. I pulled the nose up to fire on this Heinkel 177 and the cannons would not fire. I could not fire a shot. I was so mad I considered putting my propeller through his rudder. I called GCI and told them it was a Heinkel 177, and a British voice said, "We are on frequency ... we have contact." So I turned about forty five degrees to the right and then pulled up with full power. Well, as I looked over my shoulder I could see this other Mosquito. I shouted, "Not me, not me. Turning my landing lights on now." The British voice in the other aircraft came back, "Sorry, old boy." I would never have known what hit me!
Marr received an Air Force Cross (AFC) for his flying skills during his operational tour with 409 because of the many mishaps that he handled well. The citation states in part:
‘He has always been a tower of strength in Squadron affairs since arriving here and though he has had bad luck in contact with the enemy (on two occasions his guns jammed when in position to make a kill), he has never lost interest and has shown exceptional and outstanding keenness at all times. During his long tour he has had five successful single-engine landings at night and during his entire service career at no time has he had the slightest mishap or damaged his aircraft.
As the war was ending, Marr was pleased that he had been granted an AFC, but he never knew why he got it:
“After I finished my tour and was instructing at an OTU, the adjutant of the station, a woman I think, advised me that I had an AFC but I never saw the citation and I had no investiture. She gave me a bit of ribbon to sew on my uniform. The medal came in the mail long after the war, about 1950 ...
As veterans we had to make application to get our medals, and many of the boys did not. I think that was terrible, that you had to apply for your own campaign medals. When I joined TCA we could not wear our ribbons on our airline uniform, like they did at BOAC. The original civilian pilots at TCA had no medals, and it seemed that they did not want us wearing ours.
In a flying career that spans six decades he has had no accidents that caused death or injury, but Marr recalls that in wartime there were plenty of ways to kill yourself and your navigator other than air combat:
“We had a few crashes. When we got into France after D-Day, we were operating off primitive and bombed-out fields, and for night flying all we used was seven or so "Glim" lamps, hooded lights on a long string, each separated by 150 to 200 feet, with about a 40-watt bulb in each light. At this one airfield they had managed to put in two rows of these lamps, one for each side of the runway. Now we were like the airlines. Unfortunately, one set, the left-side string, burned out. Our usual procedure with one set of lamps was always to land with the lamps on the left side, i.e., the captain's side of the aircraft. In this case, by landing with those Glim lamps on their left, they were landing off the runway. One aircraft hit a bomb crater in the dark, collided with another aircraft: they were both written off with all four men killed. So that is how easy these things happened.
We had another one, during our move up to Lille, and B___our commanding officer, had been awake and flying for thirty-six hours, and he disappeared. We later learned that he had most likely drifted off to sleep as he was seen to fly into a hill and blow up ... those arc the stupid things in wartime that happen.
We lost S___ and N___ when they were shot down by one of our Lancasters. They came in far, far too fast, off-track, in and out the cloud tops, with about one hundred knots of overtake speed. Most of my intercepts were on Lancasters or Halifaxes, but as soon as you see the four-engine exhaust pattern you break off, and right away. If you look in Joe's logbook, you see these intercepts marked as "friendly," and there were lots of them.”
Aces, Warriors and Wingmen by Wayne Ralph