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"Time to go, George!"

By Matt Ostapchuk, Curator, Military and Government History

June 23, 2020

Have you ever heard of the goldfish club? What about the caterpillar club? If you're familiar with military or aviation history, these might ring a bell.

To join both these unofficial clubs is a dangerous feat, but during the Second World War, Edmontonian George Aitken gained entry to both in one fell swoop.

Here’s his story!


Video Transcript

Ever heard of the Goldfish Club? What about the Caterpillar Club? If you're familiar with military or aviation history, these might ring a bell. 

Caterpillar Club members earn their entry by successfully using a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft. To join the Goldfish Club, you have to ditch an aircraft into a body of water and survive using a life preserver or inflatable device. George Aitken from Edmonton Alberta was a member of both clubs. 

Aitken was an RCAF fighter pilot during the Second World War. During a mission over German occupied France, his squadron was attacked and his Spitfire took on damage. Losing altitude on his way back across the English Channel, he bailed out of his aircraft, opened his parachute, and landed feet-first in the water. He inflated his dinghy, and climbed into it, earning him admission into both clubs in one fell swoop. 

RCAF members aren't allowed to display these unofficial patches and pins on their uniforms, but if you peek under the pocket flap or lapel of a members’ tunic, you'll likely find them, worn proudly, hidden away from sight.