For over 50 years, the residents of St. Martin de Mailloc, France never knew the name of the courageous young pilot who was shot down over their village during World War II. The heroic pilot manoeuvred his plummeting aircraft into a nearby field in order to avoid crashing into a house sheltering many people in the small village located in Normandy.
The mystery was finally solved in 1999 when the mayor of St. Martin de Mailloc, Pierre Behier, tracked down the identification of the unknown pilot -it was Flight Lieutenant Arnold "Rosey" Roseland of Okotoks.
Behier was a teenager when he witnessed the crash on July 13, 1944. He and other villagers watched helplessly as the Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron 442 was caught in a dogfight with about a dozen German fighter planes. When Roseland's Spitfire was shot down, Behier and others ran to help the pilot, but before they could reach him, German soldiers had already arrived, stripping Roseland of any identifying documentation. The only clues to his identity were his Canadian shoulder patch and a cigarette lighter which was inscribed 'Roseland.' The villagers buried the pilot in their cemetery under an anonymous marker. Right after the war, Canadian military authorities, who knew of Roseland's reconnaissance mission, retrieved the body and placed it in the Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery at Calvados, France.
And so began the hunt for the identity of the pilot and his surviving family. In July, 1999, Behier successfully tracked down the Roseland family. Roseland's youngest son, Ron, was only nine months old when his father died. Ron, along with his own sons, helped commemorate a war memorial in St. Martin de Mailloc in his father's honour.
Also in 1999, members of the Comox Air Force Museum on Vancouver Island began an arduous project to construct a Supermarine Spitfire IX. When finished, this Spitfire will fly with the Y2-K markings made famous by the 422 Squadron of World War II. Y2-K was flown by many individual pilots of 442, but none came close to the 65 sorties on which it was flown by a man known to his friends simply as Rosey. It is being named the Roseland Spitfire in honour of this Okotoks hero.