Duncan Brothers

He made a German plane land near British lines and the pilot was taken as a POW. “It was one of the most thrilling acts in Canadian aerial records."

William James Arthur “Art” Duncan enlisted in 1917 and later became a flying ace with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). From 6,000 feet in the air, Capt. Art trailed the tail of a German airplane, damaged it, and forced the plane to land near British lines, where the pilot was taken as a prisoner of war. “It was one of the most thrilling acts in Canadian aerial records; not the actual wounding of the aviator, but the fact that Duncan brought him to earth alive,” a Calgary newspaper wrote.

Art shot at German planes and wounded a German pilot near his kidney. The German pilot headed for his own lines but Art forced him back to the British side. The German pilot nosedived and swung around the sky and Art outmanouevred him and they both dropped towards the ground. In total, Art knocked about a dozen German planes and won the Military Cross and later added a bar.

When he returned to Canada in 1919, he again played hockey with the Vancouver Millionaires until 1925. He scored nine goals for the Calgary Tigers in the Western Canada League in 1926 then became manager of the Detroit Cougars. He then played three seasons on the Maple Leaf defence until 1931. Art coached the Leafs to second place in the Canadian Division of the NHL. A newspaper clipping from the April 15, 1975 edition of the Globe and Mail described Art as “the cleanest playing defenceman in pro hockey, always aggressive and clever with the stick.”

Art was married to Phyllis and they had two daughters.

Art’s brother, Gordon George Duncan, also served in the war. Gordon started as a gunner with the 53rd Battalion then switched to the RFC to serve with his brother. He never saw active service with the RFC.

During his service he wrote short entries in his diary nearly every day, often about food, sports, and flying. “Had a beautiful flip (day before) on a Bristol fighter, a beautiful machine,” he wrote on August 16, circa 1918. “We got up amongst the clouds, dived, looped, and dodged amongst them. It was a gorgeous sensation, best I ever had.”

Gordon married Marie Green, and had one child, Kittie-Marie, before the war. After the war, he graduated from the University of Toronto in mining engineering and used his education and flying skills to work for mining companies in Northern Manitoba until his death shortly thereafter at age thirty-six.

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