Collection paa-9329 - Matt Berry and Wop May Photograph collection

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Matt Berry and Wop May Photograph collection

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the fonds.

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PAA paa-9329

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  • Copied 1966 (originally created ca. 1930-1950) (Creation)
    Berry, Matt

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Physical description

177 photographs. -- 43 negatives

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May, 1896-1952, was born in Carberry, Manitoba, and moved to Edmonton with his family in 1902. He began his flying career during the First World War, where he fought in the 1918 battle in which Baron von Richthofen was shot down. On his return to Canada in 1919 he began flying commercially. In 1924 he married Violet Bode, and they had one son, Denny Reid May, 1935- , and an adopted daughter, Joyce. May was the founder and first instructor at the Edmonton Aero Club, 1927-1929. The family moved to Fort McMurray in 1929 and May became a bush pilot. He made a mercy flight, carrying diphtheria serum, to Fort Vermilion during the 1929 epidemic in the isolated community. He started the Mackenzie River air mail route from Fort McMurray to Aklavik, NWT. In 1932 he assisted in the capture of Albert Johnson, the "Mad Trapper", in the Yukon. He received the Order of the British Empire in 1935 for his outstanding flying career. In 1936 he was employed by Canadian Airways (later Canadian Pacific Airlines). During the Second World War he ran the No. 2 Air Observer School at Edmonton. After the war he resumed his position as director of northern development for CPA. In 1974 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated May as a National Historic Person. For more details see The Bush Pilots / J.A. Foster. - Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1990; Wop May : Bush Pilot / Iris Allan. -- Toronto : Clarke, Irwin & Company, 1966; and Wings of a Hero : Canadian Pioneer Flying Ace Wop May / Sheila Reid, 1997.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May was born April 20, 1896 in Carberry, Manitoba, the son of Alexander E. and Elizabeth (Reid) May. The May family came to Edmonton, North West Territories in 1902. May received his education in Edmonton public schools, as well as the Western Canadian College in Calgary, Alberta and Alberta College in Edmonton. In 1916, he enlisted with the 202nd Edmonton Sportsmen's Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and in 1917 transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and served with 209th Squadron of the Royal Air Force until 1919, attaining the rank of captain in 1918. While serving, May is known for helping take down the German pilot Baron von Richthofen; as well, he shot down thirteen other German aircrafts. For his service May was awarded with the Distinguish Flying Cross. Returning to Edmonton, May operated May Airplanes Limited (Ltd.), which later became May-Gorman Airplanes Ltd. The business folded in 1924, and May began work with the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio. On November 19 of that same year he married Violet Bode. In 1927, the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club was established and May became its first president as well as the chief flying instructor. He tried the aviation business again in 1928, when he, Victor Horner and Charles Becker organized Commercial Airways Ltd., which received the contract for airmail service to the Mackenzie River District. As a well respected bush pilot, May is known for his and Vic Horner's January 1929 flight to Fort Vermilion to deliver medicine to prevent a diphtheria outbreak. In 1929 he was awarded with the J. Danzell McKee trophy for aviation achievement. In 1935 he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire. Beginning 1936 May was appointed superintendent of the Mackenzie River district for Canadian Airways. During the Second World War May managed the Number Two Air Observer School, an air training school at the Edmonton Airport in Edmonton, operated under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and beginning in 1942 May was supervisor of all Canadian Airway Training Ltd. School in western Canada; the Edmonton school closed in 1944. In 1943 he organized a training program for a first aid parachute crew to help bring aid to pilots who crashed in remote areas. After the war May returned to his position as superintendent of Mackenzie River district for Canadian Pacific Airlines (which had purchased Canadian Airways). In 1946, he became the regional traffic manager, in 1947 director of northern development, and in 1949 director of development in Vancouver, British Columbia. May managed the Canadian Pacific Airlines repair depot in Calgary beginning in 1951. Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May died June 21, 1952 while on vacation with his son in Provo, Utah. Arthur Massey (Matt) Berry was born on June 19, 1888 in March, Ontario. During WWI, Berry joined the 30th Wellington Rifles, traveling overseas with the 153rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Captain. Berry transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in England and upon graduation as a pilot, served as a flying instructor with the 189th Canadian Training Squadron of the RFC in Deseronto, Ontario. Berry left the service in 1919 and obtained a Canadian pilot's certificate. He worked for the Soldier's Settlement Board in Ottawa for two years before taking a homestead near Rimbey, Alberta. In 1928 at Camp Borden, Ontario, he took a pilot's course with the Royal Canadian Air Force, then, obtained his commercial pilot's license. Berry joined Northern Aerial Mineral Exploration Limited (NAME) at Hudson Ontario and flew from bases in Northern Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta into the Hudson Bay area and throughout the Northwest Territories. Berry joined Canadian Airways Limited in 1931 and flew charters out of Tashota, Ontario. In 1932, after the cancellation of Prairie Airmail Service left Berry without employment, Berry joined General Airways, flying out of Chapleau, Ontario. Later that year he joined Mackenzie Air Services at Edmonton, and he graduated with honors from a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) course at Camp Borden in instrument flying and radio beam work. Berry then returned to flying duties with Canadian Airways Limited and in 1936 was awarded the McKee Trophy for several hazardous flights to the Arctic coast, and pilot rescue missions. Berry retired from professional flying to become manager of Northern Transportation Limited in Edmonton in 1937, holding the position until the Canadian government requested his service in WWII as second-in-command of No.7 Air Observer's School at Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. In 1942, Berry oversaw construction of airfields in the Northwest Territories and the Canol Project for the United States government. At the end of the war Berry founded Territories Air Service Limited at Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and became involved with M.W. Ward in Yellowknife Airways Limited. In 1951, Berry disposed of his interests in both companies to Associated Airways Limited in 1951. Until his retirement in 1969, he occupied himself with various mining ventures. Berry died in Edmonton on May 12, 1970. He married Eileen May Johnson and they had two children: Kathleen Elizabeth (b. 1918) and Arthur Lawrence (b. 1925).

Custodial history

In 1966, the Provincial Archives of Alberta received the material from the Film and Photo Branch, Government of Alberta. The Film and Photo Branch copied the material from originals provided by D.R. May, Son of Wop May, and Matt Berry.

Scope and content

The collection pertains to Matt Berry's and Wop May's careers as bush pilots and includes copied photographs circa 1930s to the 1940s featuring Matt Berry and Wop May as well as other individuals and subjects related to air travel in northern Alberta including Frank Harley (Berry's mechanic) carrying canoes, Cranberry Portage, airplanes, airplane wrecks, Bathhurst Inlet, Harry Hayter and Curtis Robine, Patsy Xlengenberg's residence on Wilmot Island, K.V. salvage operations on Lake Athabasca, McMurray airport construction, installing floats on an airplane, hand-made carriage and track for wood hauling on Boar Island, R.H. Channing Jr., Tom McCallum, Jack Stark, construction of the Yellowknife airport, Berens River, Jack Humble, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Bob McInnes, Frank Baragar, Bill Francis, Bob McInnes, Frank Baragar, Bill Francis, Ed Ballan (Berry's instructor), Curtis Jenny, and Ruby Henss

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


The photographs comprising this collection, and originating from Matt Berry and D.R. May, have been amalgamated to form this collection. The materials can not be attributed to either the Matt Berry fonds or the May Family fonds, both available at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Language of material

  • The material is in English.

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Restrictions on access

There are no restrictions on access. Permission for use required. Subject to the Copyright Act.

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Finding aids

An inventory is available.

Associated materials

Other records pertaining to Matt Berry can be found in the Arthur Massey Berry fonds at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Also see the Wilfred Reid May fonds at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, the Wop May fonds at the Glenbow Archives in Calgary, Alberta and the Wop May fonds at the Northwest Territories Archives. Other material about Wop May is held in many Canadian archives. Refer to Archives Canada, []. Please see the Matt Berry fonds and the May Family fonds at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

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Further accruals are not expected.

General note

Information for the administrative history/biographical sketch sourced from the May Family fonds and the Matt Berry fonds descriptions at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.<br><br>Record No. The fonds includes the following accession: PR1966.0122<br><br>

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