Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May (1896-1952) was born in Carberry, Manitoba, and grew up in Edmonton. He acquired the nickname "Wop" as a child, when a young cousin who could not pronounce the name Wilfred called him "Woppie". He was working as a mechanic when he enlisted with the 202nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in February 1916. On August 11, 1917, he was posted to the cadet wing of the Royal Flying Corps and qualified as a fighter pilot early the next year. In one of May's first combat missions, on April 21, 1918, his squadron took part in aerial combat with a squadron led by Manfred von Richthofen, known as the "Red Baron," the most feared and deadly German pilot. While attacking May, the Red Baron was shot down and killed, either by another Canadian pilot, Roy Brown, or by Australian anti-aircraft guns on the ground. May went on to become a renowned flying ace, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross of the Royal Air Force. After the War he formed his own small airline, working largely in remote parts of Northwestern Canada. He later helped train allied pilots in the Second World War. Wop May died in Utah in 1952.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: March 20, 1896
Date of Attestation: February 18, 1916
Age at Enlistment: 19 years
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Weight: 175 pounds
Description: Clear complexion, blue eyes, light brown hair. Presbyterian.
Home Address: 10327 – 99th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta.
Details of Family: Father, Alexander E. May, and mother, Mrs. Alexander May, both living at 10327 – 99th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta.
Next of Kin: Father (Alexander E. May)
Branch of Service: 202nd Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
Theatre of War: France
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- November 1916 – A note indicates that he sailed from Halifax on November 24, 1916, and arrived in Liverpool, England, on November 30. He is then stationed at Witley Military Camp in Surrey until June 1917, when he is transferred to Bramshott Military Camp in Hampshire. (Page 9)
- October 25, 1917 – He is discharged from the CEF "in consequence of being appointed to commission in the [British] Empire Army R.F.C." (Royal Flying Corps). His "military character" is described as "very good". (Page 11)
- November 19, 1917 – He weighs 160 pounds, 15 pounds less than when he enlisted 21 months earlier. (Page 17)
- Undated – A note in red ink indicates that he died on June 21, 1952. (Page 11)
The London Gazette
The London Gazette—December 3, 1918, Supplement 31046, Pages 14323-14324
"Lieut. (A./Capt.) Wilfred Reid May. (FRANCE): This officer has carried out numerous offensive and low-bombing patrols, proving himself on all occasions a bold and daring Pilot. He has accounted for seven enemy machines; two of these he destroyed in one flight. His keenness and disregard of personal danger is worthy of the highest praise."
Military Medals Honours and Awards
No records found
In 1901, Wilfred R. May is five years old and living in Carberry, Manitoba, with his father, Alexander E. May (37), his mother Elizabeth (37), his brother Court (10) and his sister Vera (8). The family is of Scottish descent, and Presbyterian. Alexander is self-employed, though his profession is difficult to decipher on the census form.