Allan Walton Fraser photograph from University of Manitoba Roll of Honour

Allan Walton Fraser photograph from University of Manitoba Roll of Honour

Allan Walton Fraser signature

Allan Walton Fraser died at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto on this day in 1917. He was born in Emerson, Manitoba on January 30th, 1898, the son of William Fraser and Annie Matilda (née Baskerville) of 215 Spence Street, Winnipeg. He joined the 196th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 1st, 1916 when he was a student at the University of Manitoba, with the regimental number 910044. He was five feet seven inches tall, with a dark complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. On April 26th, 1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps with a new regimental number of 70175. He was a cadet in 84 Canadian Training Squadron, learning how to fly at the recently-opened pilot training camp to the west of Deseronto, when he died. This was the first fatality at Camp Mohawk.

The accident was reported in The Hartford Herald newspaper in Kentucky in the following way:

Report of Allan Walton Fraser's death at Camp Mohawk in the Hartford Herald

Report of Allan Walton Fraser’s death at Camp Mohawk in the Hartford Herald newspaper, courtesy of Chronicling America

 

BRITISH AVIATOR BURNED TO DEATH

Deseronto, Ont.—While flying with Vernon Castle at Camp Mohawk, Cadet W. E. Fraser, of Winnipeg, Man., was burned to death. Castle escaped with slight injuries. The two were ascending for instructional purposes when Fraser was seized with nervousness and lost control. The machine swept backward into the hangar and the gasoline tank exploded, setting fire to the hangar. Castle was thrown out when the aeroplane hit the shell.

This photograph shows the burning hangar after the crash.

Allan Walton Fraser crash

From Sergeant Devos’s photographic collection, 2009.09(38), courtesy of Denzil Devos

The official report from the Royal Flying Corps gives a slightly different version of events:

Allan Walton Fraser RFC casualty card

Casualty Card on Allan Walton Fraser’s death, courtesy Royal Air Force Museum

…Date of Casualty: 30.5.17
Where occurred: Camp Mohawk Deseronto
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4a.
Nature and Cause of Accident: Machine whilst making a turn at the height of 200 ft suddenly put her nose down, frightened pupil who gripped control wheel & pilot unable to right machine which struck roof of hangar and burst into flames.
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: 2/Lt W.B.T. [V.W.B.] Castle (Injured)…

Vernon Castle was a well-known Broadway dancer who had travelled to England to join the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He was one of the flight instructors at Camp Mohawk. After experiencing this accident, Castle insisted on taking the more dangerous front seat in the cockpit of the Curtiss JN-4 training aircraft used by the Royal Flying Corps in North America.

A Court of Inquiry was held on June 1st, at which Vernon Castle described the accident and gave his views on the wheel versus stick controls for training aircraft:

Allan Walton Fraser Court of Inquiry - Vernon Castle's evidence

Detail from Attorney General’s 1917 file RG4-32/1145 at Archives of Ontario

1st. Witness. (Contd.) Question from the President:-

“Please give us your reason why you think the “Curtiss” with wheel control is an unsuitable machine for school work”

Witness

“I consider the wheel control unsuitable because you have not the control and quick action with the wheel that you have with the stick control”.

Question from a member:-

“Do you think you could have averted this accident if you had had the stick control?”

Witness.

“I really think I could”.

(Signed) Vernon Castle.

It was also noted by the Court of Inquiry that this aircraft had no instruments. Castle did not believe that instruments would have prevented this accident, but the Court expressed the opinion that stick controls offered more safety than wheel controls and that “all school machines of this type should be fitted with instruments”.

Allan Walton Fraser was interred in the mausoleum at Glen Eden Memorial Garden/Riverside Cemetery in Winnipeg.

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