Second World War mystery solved in B.C.

Remains of four Second World War airmen recovered seven decades after B.C. crash

  • May. 30, 2014 8:00 p.m.

By James Keller, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – On Oct. 30, 1942, an Avro Anson Second World War aircraft lifted off from Patricia Bay on Vancouver Island for a routine training mission carrying a Canadian sergeant and three British airmen.

The twin-propeller plane never returned. The aircraft remained lost and the four men were listed as missing in action for more than 70 years.

But British Columbia’s coroners service has now recovered and identified the men’s remains from wreckage that was discovered by chance in a remote area of Vancouver Island last fall — solving a decades-old military mystery and finally giving the men’s surviving relatives answers about what happened.

A trio of logging engineers happened upon the wreckage last October while working on a remote mountainside near Port Renfrew, B.C., on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The site is barely 50 kilometres west of where the aircraft took off.

“They came across some debris in the forest, and they figured it was a plane crash,” said Michael Pegg of Teal-Jones Cedar Products Ltd., whose engineers made the discovery.

“There were wheels, the engine of the plane, mangled plane parts. There was a boot, shoes and a jacket.”

After examining the wreckage, the engineers were able to determine it was an Avro Anson, a war-era aircraft that was used for commercial and military purposes. They also found out that an Avro Anson had disappeared in the area seven decades earlier.

As it turns out, the stepfather of one of the engineers flew Avro Ansons while in the air force, and they brought him to the site.

“Which was a bit of an ordeal, at 89 years old and you’re going through forest,” said Pegg.

“They got him out to the site along with a friend of his, and they were able to pull some identification numbers off one of the engines.”

They passed along that information to the military, said Pegg

Department of National Defence went to the scene and also discovered human remains in the wreckage, which prompted a call to the BC Coroners Service.

Winter weather prevented the two agencies from mounting a recovery mission until earlier this month, when a coroner and a forensic anthropologist recovered and identified the remains as the four men listed on the flight’s manifest.

“We also found a number of artifacts — several wallets, a cigarette lighter, and a couple of other personal items that we were able to link back to the four men on board,” coroner Matt Brown said in an interview.

Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt. William Baird was among the victims, as were three airmen from the British air force: Pilot Officer Charles Fox, Pilot Officer Anthony Lawrence and Sgt. Robert Luckock.

The men’s names have been listed on the Ottawa Memorial as missing, along with nearly 800 people who died in service, transport or training accidents during the Second World War and who have no known grave.

Brown said Baird has family in Alberta, and his surviving relatives have been contacted. In Britain, defence officials have been attempting to track down relatives there, he said.

The Department of National Defence said Canadian and British officials are working to plan an interment ceremony and provide the men with a Commonwealth War Graves plot.

Pegg said it’s been a fascinating story for him and his forestry crew to be part of.

“It touches your heart when you realize there are these families that have been out there not knowing what has happened to their siblings for all these years,” he said.

“Hopefully this will be able to provide some closure to them.”

___

Follow @ByJamesKeller on Twitter

Just Posted

The City of Victoria is proposing a northern contraction from Haultain Street to Bay Street with a western contraction from Cook Street to Chambers Street for Fernwood. (Illustration/Google Maps)
Community association calls for input on Victoria boundary changes

City of Victoria proposes changes to neighbourhood borders

After seizing a handgun from his home on Tuesday, Victoria police arrested a wanted man on Wednesday after he fled officers on his bike. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man wanted on several warrants flees Victoria officers on bike

He was arrested after a brief struggle, transported to hospital with injuries

Divyesh Nagarajan, third from the left, has founded the Be My Friend project to bring support and companionship to vulnerable youth and address North Saanich’s food security challenges. (Courtesy of Divyesh Nagarajan)
Greater Victoria teen looks to connect vulnerable youth with a buddy, bolster food security

Be My Friend project was founded by St. Michaels University School student Divyesh Nagarajan

These are just a handful of Vancouver Island’s missing person cases. Clockwise from top left: Lisa Marie Young, Lindsey Nicholls, Micheal Dunahee, Jesokah Adkens, Belinda Cameron and Emma Fillipoff. (File photos courtesy of family members and police departments)
Gorge skull fragment could bring closure to one Greater Victoria missing person case

Skeletal remains found in Greater Victoria have not yet been identified

(Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Sooke Road reopens after gas leak at Colwood Corners

SD62 warns afternoon buses could be delayed

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

A nurse asks screening questions at an immunization appointment in Nanaimo earlier this year. (Shawn Wagar/Island Health photo)
Island Health appreciates nurses answering the call in challenging times

Health authority draws attention to National Nursing Week

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Most Read