Leeds man’s search for his heroic father

Ken Cothliff'.
Ken Cothliff'.
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KEN COTHLIFF knows only too well the ultimate sacrifice made by Canadian air crews during the Second World War.

He never knew his biological father, Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Sergeant William Brown Gracie, who was killed in action when his aircraft was shot down near a French village during the conflict – just seven days before he was born.

Jim Moffat pictured second from right.

Jim Moffat pictured second from right.

Following the tragedy he was adopted by a family in Liverpool when he was months old and it was to be several decades before he discovered the remarkable tale.

Now Mr Cothliff, 71, has written a book telling the story of his father and three other Canadian servicemen, who all served with bomber command, stationed at Yorkshire air bases during the Second World War.

Three of the men returned home, albeit their lives changed forever by what they had seen, but Mr Cothliff’s father never came back.

Mr Cothliff, who now lives in Rawdon, Leeds, hopes his book, Under the Maple Leaf, will remind people of the sacrifice made by those in the Commonwealth.

He said: “There was no mandatory conscription in Canada. They chose to serve their country and the British Commonwealth in its time of greatest need. I wanted to tell these stories so people realise the contribution that the Canadians made,” he added. The book also focuses on Pilot Officer Steven Puskas, Pilot Officer Jim Moffat and Group Captain Reg Lane.

Mr Cothliff began looking for information about his biological father when he was in his 30s and once he had his name, service number and the date of his death, pieced together details of his final flight.

Born in Scotland, F/Sgt Gracie had emigrated to Canada as a child with his family. The flight engineer was part of a crew on a Halifax bomber, which took off from RAF Tholthorpe, near York, in 1944.