Captain Roy Maxwell
Captain Roy Maxwell is an intriguing and defining figure in the history of Canadian Aviation. His career spanned two world wars and a quarter of a century of flying, fifteen of them in the public eye. His accomplishments were many including several firsts. He carried out the first Medivac flight in Canada in 1920 and the first winter flight into Moose Factory on James Bay in February of 1922 with Herve St. Martin.
Under his leadership Laurentide Air Services established the first scheduled passenger service in Canada between Angiers, Quebec and Rouyn/Noranda. The first airmail service soon followed, in which Laurentide Air Services printed their own stamps.
Roy Maxwell was the first Director and Chief Pilot of Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS). He spent ten years in developing it into the outstanding organization that it continues to be to this day (1924-34). The pilots under his supervision comprise a Who’s Who list of Canadian Bush Pilots including Harold Oaks, Fred Stevenson, Romeo Vachon, and Frank MacDougall among others.
Other accomplishments accomplished by Maxwell are the stuff that legends are made from, such as the Flight of the Curtiss Lark from New York to Red Lake in March of 1926
Although several of his accomplishments are recorded in isolated instances, there is no comprehensive printed record of his flying career. Bruce West in his book on the history of the OPAS “The Firebirds”, approaches the closest to providing an informative overview of Maxwell’s career. However, this publication is limited to the decade that Maxwell spent in the service of the OPAS (1924-34) and provides no background detail about a man who he described as charismatic.
Notable for its absence from any of the writings about Maxwell in aviation literature is the lack of detail about his background and family. In fact an extensive search of the Internet reveals a paucity of personal details. By way of example, neither his date of birth nor date of demise appears in the public domain.
Moreover, in spite of his several accomplishments, his name is singularly lacking from the roster of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. This raises the question as to
whether this is due to simple oversight or the outcome of a very long standing professional conflict or transgression that permanently clouded his reputation.
When the Liberals became the governing party in Ontario in 1934, Maxwell found himself the target of a Royal Commission into his conduct and into the operation of
the Provincial Air Service. Though there was no evidence of impropriety, Maxwell resigned from the Ontario Provincial Air Service in 1935.
From that point forward, his name disappears from the pages of Canadian Aviation history earning him the title; “The Forgotten Pilot of Canada’s North”
The remainder of this article will attempt to provide a comprehensive review of William Roy Maxwell’s life and flying career.
To be continued on the next page
History of Semi Official Airmail in Canada.