Philip Tripe learned to fly as a teenager in Ottawa on the eve of the Second World War. In 1939, he signed up for the Royal Air Force in England, rising through the ranks to command a Spitfire squadron.
On Jan. 16, 1945, Sqn. Ldr. Tripe was leading a mission to strafe German supply trucks and tanks in Belgium when the planes came under fire from anti-aircraft guns. He was hit, taking five pieces of shrapnel in his arm. As he headed back to base, another explosion damaged the right wing of his plane. Despite his injuries, Sqn. Ldr. Tripe managed to open the top of the cockpit, stand up and let the air current pull him free. He parachuted from 1,500 feet and landed near a pub called the Mardaga.
According to a contemporary newspaper account, the bar owner recognized the injured pilot – British airmen used to drink at his establishment nightly – and offered him a bottle of his best cognac while they waited for an army truck.
Sqn. Ldr. Tripe returned to Canada shortly afterwards. He died in 1982.
His daughter, Anne Crossman, visited the Mardaga herself more than 60 years after her father’s remarkable survival to present the bar with a poster commemorating that day.