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Wif Mandel

The Fisher Family - 1926: Willie is the youngest boy on the left

Willie with his older brother – England, November 1944

Navigator Class 1943 – Willie is in the back row, 4th from the right


Wilf Mandel, posted May 14, 2012

 [At this year's Yom Hazikaron service, Wilf Mandel who lives in Toronto came to Winnipeg to address the crowd and tell the story of the heroism of his late uncle, former Winnipegger Willie Fisher who died in Israel's War of Independence in 1948. Willie was the youngest brother of the mother of Wilf Mandel. Below is his presentation]



My grandmother, Freda Fisher was not destined to have an easy life. In 1923, she found herself alone, widowed with 3 small children and pregnant in what was then Proskurov, Russia.

Her husband, Chaim Ze’ev had recently passed away.

Her youngest, son was born there on 28th of August of that year, and was named Chaim Ze’ev, after his deceased father (as I was much later). His English name would be Willie, known to his friends as “Bill”...

Early in 1924, Freda and her 4 children were brought to Winnipeg by relatives here and they settled in a house on Magnus Avenue. They were a close knit family, supporting each other in every way.

All of the children went to school and received a Jewish education, then went to work though in the midst of the depression.

In 1942, Willie entered the RCAF straight out of high school, and received training as a navigator. He served in Bomber Command in missions over Germany and France. We think of this service as relatively safe, 10’s of thousands of feet in the air. In fact Bomber Command was the most dangerous of the services. Losses were over 60% and the life expectancy of a bomber crew was 6 months or less.

Willie was one of the lucky ones who survived the war and returned to Winnipeg, where he started a small business.

But trouble was brewing half way around the world.

The UN took the vote in November 1947 recommending the partition of the British Mandate in to Jewish and Arab states. The Arab league promised that if a Jewish state were declared, the bloodbath would eclipse that perpetrated by Ghengis Khan. The state of Israel was declared in May, 1948 and 6 Arab armies attacked with the intent to eradicate it and the Jews there.

Like many Machal, Willie heard the call and volunteered to do what he could.

He arrived in Israel in late August by way of England and Switzerland under the false name Mordechai Mandel. He joined the infant IAF, and served with other MACHAL aviators on numerous missions.

It was erev Simchat Torah, October 24, 1948, when the twin engine Dakota began its flight in Haifa.

 Willie sent a telegram to my parents in Saskatchewan; “Received your mail, all is well. Mord Mandel”. The mission that night was to resupply Sdom at the south end of the Dead Sea. They landed in Tel Aviv, where a MACHAL hitchhiker left the plane, and then took off on their night mission. Shortly after takeoff, the right engine overheated and burst into flames, taking the wing with it. The MACHAL pilot, Wilf Canter (who had survived being shot down 3 times over Germany) tried to make it to the Tel Nof airfield. But the wing separated and all 5 aboard were lost in the crash near Kibbutz Yesdot.

The loss hit his mother and siblings very hard and they struggled to keep his memory alive. His picture figured prominently on his mother’s wall and then on my mother’s. We continue to honor his memory and his sacrifice.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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