There’s a hero in every west side neighbourhood

 

No 15 Elm Street, near Booth, was the home Joseph Guillaume Laurent “Larry” Robillard and his brother(s) grew up in.

On Nov 8, 1941, 76 years ago, Sgt. Robillard of the Royal Canadian Air Force was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. He downed two enemy aircraft while protecting a descending parachutist. Then just 20 years old, the resident of 15 Elm Street had already shot down a Messerschmidt 109 on 22 June .

During a patrol over Lille, France, on 2 July 1941, then a novice pilot with less than a month’s flying under his belt, he saw a descending parachutist and moved down to protect him. Nine enemy fighters moved in to kill them both. In the following firefight, Larry Robillard shot down two German fighters and drove off the others. The parachutist lived.

Unfortunately, he was shot down in the process. Would he become the 404th RCAF casualty of the war?

Within a few minutes of his crashing in occupied France, peasants came rushing up with civilian clothes. They removed his uniform and hid it. Dressed as a peasant, he was employed by the Germans to head up the search for himself.

With the assistance of the Resistance, aided by his fluent French,  he walked across France, snuck through the Spanish border, and travelled at nights across Fascist Spain, and snuck across the border into British Gibraltar on 12 August 1941. He had travelled through 1724 km of enemy territory.  By October, he was back in the UK where he got his DFM medal. He wasn’t promoted, however, until March 1942.

The New York Times reported on June 6, 1942 that a civic reception was held on Parliament Hill in honour of Larry Robillard and Paul Emile Morin. Over 10,000 people showed up on the lawn of Parliament Hill.

By November of ’42, Robillard had eight enemy planes to credit.

In Nov ’43, Larry’s little brother RJ, aged 19, who had been serving in the Wildcat Squadron patrolling over Alaska, flew cross country and then over the Atlantic to join the RCAF in Europe.

On June 29th, 1944 (just three weeks after the D Day Normandy invasion) Larry Robillard was part of a group of RCAF fighters than engaged 34 enemy aircraft in Normandy and shot down 26 of them in one day. Robillard was credited with one kill.

He retired as a Lt.Commander in 1955.

He was born in Ottawa on 17 November 1920, residing with his parents and brothers at 15 Elm Street. He learned to fly at the Ottawa Flying Club. Robillard died at his home in Montreal, Canada on 8th March 2006.

Thank you, Larry.

Vintage Wings Canada has named their Mustang fighter aircraft after Larry and his brother Rocky:

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