Thomas Oswald McIlquhamDFM was born at Carleton Place Ontario (ON), son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Clyde McIlquham. On July 22, 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF at Kingston ON. After receiving air crew instruction at various training schools in Canada, in 1943, he graduated, as a Rear Gunner, from No. 4 Bombing & Gunnery School at Fingal ON.
After arriving overseas, he received further training before being posted to No.102 Squadron, Bomber Command. For Bomber Command air crew, there was a low probability of surviving and returning safely, from all of their tour of 30 missions over enemy held Europe. Over 60 % of air crew who began a tour of 30 missions would lose their lives before completing the 30 missions.
Regardless of the terrible odds, bomber crews buckled on their parachutes and began each mission with determination. They fell prey prey to the hazards of fog, icing and lightning, and they perished amongst the bursting shells of anti-aircraft guns.
However the greatest number died in the desperately unequal combat and the overwhelming firepower of tenacious German night fighter defenders. Over 9,900 Canadians in Bomber Command air crew, sacrificed their lives fighting dictatorship and autocracy.
Flight Sergeant McIlquham beat the odds against him and survived 35 dangerous and risky combat missions over enemy occupied territory against heavily defended targets such as Bremen and Cologne.
During a mission involving a 1000 plane attack on Cologne, McIlquham, rear gunner (tail end Charlie), on a Halifax bomber, had a hectic time. First of all he drove off a Focke-Wulfe enemy fighter. Later another Focke-Wulfe attacked him. Holding his fire until sure his bullets wouldn’t miss, he sent the fighter spinning to the ground where it exploded.
A few nights later while his squadron was on a mission to attack Bremen, McIlquham destroyed an enemy Me-109. For his skill and bravery during 21 missions against heavily defended targets and in recognition of his courage and skill in destroying 2 enemy fighter planes, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), effective July 13, 1942.
He was known as "Lucky". Once his aircraft blew up, shearing away his rear turret. His 400 foot fall was cushioned by landing on a haystack.
Two days before he went on the mission to Bremen, he was struck on the head by a piece of flak. He didn’t know it at the time that his head had been hit. First indication he had of this was when the headgear came apart. His helmet was ripped clear across by the razor edge of the shell fragment and the padding was pulled out.
After completing 35 dangerous and risky combat missions, McIlquham returned to Canada as an instructor. Postwar he was a machinist with the Ottawa office of the Department of Highways. In January 1956, he died a "hero’s death" in the icy waters of Mississippi Lake, in an attempt to save his son from drowning after their small truck fell through the ice.