|First Flight Envelope Signed by|
Wilfrid "Wop" May
|First Flight Envelope signed by Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May. The envelope cancellation date is 21 May 1929 commemorating the first airmail flight from Grande Prairie to Edmonton Alberta. The envelope is signed by the pilot, W.R May. Wilfrid "Wop" May was born in Edmonton Alberta in 1896. He obtained the name "Wop" in 1902 when he was being introduced to his 3 year old Cousin Mary Swanson who tried to pronounce Wilfrid and came up with "Woppie". This was shortened to "Wop", and it stuck. After serving as Infantry in the CEF, he joined the RFC in 1917. By April 1917 Lieutenant May was attached to 209 Sqn RAF. On 21 April 1918 Wilfrid May departed in Sopwith F1 (Camel) D3326 for a flight into the Somme river valley and into history.|
|At 10:45 Hours (Allied time), three Fokker Triplanes jumped a pair of lumbering RE.8 observation planes of the No. 3 Australian Squadron. The action caught the attention of Capt. Roy Brown 209 Sqn RAF, who led a flight of eight Sopwith Camels in Sopwith F1 (Camel) B7270 far above.|
|Wilfrid had been told by Brown to stay above any fight, should one develop. He did, but couldn't resist the temptation to join the battle. He quickly became overwhelmed in the tangle of 30 or more planes, and broke away, flying a dangerously straight line away from the fight. Richthofen noticed and gave chase. "Wop" began evasive actions after the Baron's initial burst. The Camel and the Triplane raced through the valley, the Triplane steadily gaining.|
|At least two witnesses reported seeing the wheels on Lt. May's Camel touch the ground. Racing down towards them, Capt. Brown knew that unless he distracted the Triplane's pilot, Lt. May was doomed. Diving at full speed, he swept in behind the Fokker and fired a burst before Wilfrid and the Triplane disappeared behind a stand of trees. Finally risking a glance behind him, Wilfrid could find no sign of the red Triplane. He could not believe his luck. Captain Oliver "Boots" LeBoutillier was witness to the attack by Captain Roy Brown and the subsequent crash of von Richthofen. Immediately after the crash, "Boots" flew over the crashed Triplane of von Richthofen. Click HERE to see the fabric from the actual aircraft Capt LeBoutillier was flying at the time. An examination of von Richthofen's machine guns later, revealed that one was hopelessly jammed and the other had a broken firing pin. Had they both been operational, Lt. May certainly would have been von Richthofen's 81st victim.
"Wop" May survived the war as a Captain with 13 aerial victories to his credit and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Wilfrid and his brother formed May Airlines in 1919 and was issued Commercial flying license No. 7 in 1920. He flew a famous Mercy flight delivering serum to Fort Vermilion North West Territories in 1929 and delivered the first Air mail to Aklavik north of the Arctic Circle. The same year he flew the first airmail flight from Grande Prairie to Edmonton Alberta which the envelope commemorates. He is also well known for being the pilot that helped the RCMP track the legendary "Mad Trapper". In 1935 as a result of his contributions to Canadian Aviation, Wilfrid May was appointed as an Officer of the British Empire. In 1952, at only age 56, Wilfrid "Wop" May suffered a heart attack and departed on his final flight.