Winnipeg, 07 Nov 1904 Air Marshal C. Roy Slemon Colorado Springs, 12 Feb 1992
In 1926 F/L Ben
Harrop and Roy flew the first two Vickers Vedettes from
Ottawa to Winnipeg. As forced landings were
common, aircraft flew in pairs. En route, they had a total of 11 forced
landings. Slow, with a long gliding angle, Vedettes,
with numerous en-route lakes, made such landings safely. The main
problem was carburetor icing which was not a problem
in the UK or Ottawa, but was further north. They would sit on a lake
until the carburetors thawed. They both arrived safely
Roy spent a decade photographing the north and counting caribou and
musk oxen. One tribal head offered Roy his daughter
in exchange for his aircraft, so useful in hunting. Roy had great
respect for Natives and was able to amicably decline the offer.
Roy then commanded Western Air Command 1938-41. Overseas in 1942 he
headed up Bomber Command's 6 Group,
RCAF, that soon totalled 15 squadrons. In 1945 he was forming our
Lincoln squadrons to fly against Japan when the war
ended. A member of the Air Council until 1949, he became Air Officer
Commanding Training Command, Trenton. He was
Chief of the Air Staff 1953-57 before being selected as the first
Deputy Commander of NORAD.
While a capable administrator, Roy was, to some, a disciplinarian. He remarked "Every officer should at all times have three uniforms: one he is buying, one he is wearing, and one he is discarding". Uniforms were expensive on our low salaries, so, helped by moths, we often wore less-than-perfect uniforms. On another occasion, in an Ottawa carpool made up of six officers of captain and major rank, one remarked, "Slemon said today that every officer should at all times carry $35 in his wallet in case he has to be sent somewhere and can immediately buy a train ticket to get there." The six took out their wallets, counted their combined wealth, and it totalled $37. In Colorado Springs, Roy turned this around to his advantage. Several times, when the main speaker at mess function, he would reminisce about having been an SOB - a Sweet Old Buddy.
We, who briefed Roy following a midnight shift, found him attentive with good questions. When our meteorologist started with "Warm air from Canada is pushing south", Roy immediately hit the intercom button asking for a repeat, then simply added, "Thank you, major." Annoyed at the constant reference to cold air from Canada, he was delighted that, this time, Canada was warmer.
The calm manner in which he handled the flap, 05 Oct 1960, when radar returns to a Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site (BMEWS) indicated a 99% certainty of a Soviet launch, avoided a dangerous panic. This increased his popularity. The returns were actually pulses bounced off the moon which happened to be in the same direction as a Soviet launch site. The Australians had done this radar feat, but it was new to us.
Roy retired in
1964, the longest lasting of all DCINCs, after 42 years
of service. He
then worked raising funds for Air Force Academy activities.
As so often happens to brilliant minds, Roy was
afflicted with alzheimers, and
Marion did a great job in looking after him for many years until he
died 12 February
1992 at age 87. Subsequently, Marion married retired USAF general
Roy and Marion have three children: David, Patricia, and Pamela.