Harry Albert Downer signature

On this day in 1917 Harry Albert Downer, a law student, died at Camp Rathbun when the aircraft in which he was a passenger crashed. He was born in Vancouver on December 17th, 1897, the son of Frederick Downer and Lilian (née Orchard). He had originally joined the Canadian Field Artillery on February 24th, 1917 with the regimental number 339577. He was five feet six and a half inches tall, with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. On June 13th, 1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a cadet with the number 70420. He was attached to 86 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Rathbun as a Cadet Flight Instructor.

The accident in which Downer died was reported in Belleville’s Intelligencer newspaper on Monday September 17th, 1917:

Intelligencer report of 1917 Sep 17 on Harry Albert Downer's death

Intelligencer report on the accident in which Cadet Downer died, courtesy of Belleville Public Library

Fatal Accident at Camp Rathbun

At Camp Rathbun, on Friday afternoon, another air tragedy took place resulting in the death of a flyer and serious injuries to another. Flight Sergt. Drummond with Flight Cadet Alexander were in a plane at a considerable height when from some cause it fell to the ground. Sergt. Drummond was killed and Cadet Alexander sustained injuries of such a nature that his life is despaired of. The aeroplane was wrecked. The accident was witnessed by a number of residents of Deseronto and some from this city were in the vicinity at the time.

Gordon Porter Alexander

The newspaper got Downer’s name wrong. The other man in the aircraft was 22-year-old Lieutenant G. P. [Gordon Porter] Alexander, who suffered cuts and bruises and was “badly shaken up”. Lieutenant Alexander was a Toronto man who had originally served in the 48th Highlanders. He received his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate (#2869) on May 3rd, 1916 in England – this photograph of him is taken from the records of the Royal Aero Club (courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum).

The casualty card for the accident is reproduced below:

Harry Albert Downer RFC casualty card

Royal Flying Corps casualty card for Harry Albert Downer, courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum

…Date of Casualty: 14.9.17
Where occurred: Canada Camp Rathbun Deseronto
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4
Nature and Cause of Accident: Stall on a turn. Nose dive into the ground from 100 ft.
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: Lieut GP. Alexander Injured…

The Court of Inquiry into the accident was held on the same day. Captain Aird of 85 C.T.S. gave the following description of the accident:

Detail from Attorney General's 1917 file RG4-32/1900 from the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General’s 1917 file RG4-32/1900 from the Archives of Ontario

1st. Witness.

Capt. J. Aird, C.C. 85 C.T.S. having been called, states:-

Driving along the road I saw a machine steeply bank to the left at about 150 feet; he then straightened out and went along about 100 yards or so, making a vertical bank to the left in which he seemed to lose his flying speed and went into a spinning nose dive. When I arrived on the scene they were endeavouring to take Lieut. Alexander out, having first discovered Can. 70420 Sergeant Downer was dead. I inspected the machine and found all controls in perfect condition. The work of taking the bodies out was carried on as fast as possible, but could have been greatly accelerated if axes and proper wire cutters had been available.

[signed] John Aird


Harry Downer was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver.

Intelligencer report 1917 Sep 14 on Domville and Kramers' deaths

Report in the Intelligencer newspaper of September 14th, 1917, courtesy Belleville Public Library


Two Airplanes Collide Over Landing Place and Crash to Earth – Cadets Domville and Kramer in Training for Royal Flying Corps, Instantly Killed

Camp Mohawk, where so many bright young men are being trained for service in the Royal Flying Corps overseas, was saddened yesterday by a double tragedy which cost the lives of two popular young students of aviation. Cadet Domville, of Montreal, and Cadet Kramer, of Detroit, both strong and vigorous young men, with high hopes and ambitions to give their best, even life itself, in the great struggle for the freedom of the world which is being waged with such relentless fury on the battlefields of Europe, on the sea and in the sky, where the “eyes of the army” keep unceasing vigil on the movements of the the enemy and fight thrilling duels among the clouds with armed enemy aircraft.

The two young cadets had each taken a machine up and after successful flights returned about the same time and were manoeuvring over the landing place preparatory to alighting, when in some manner both machines came together and crashed to the ground. Death came almost instantaneously to both cadets and life had departed when the bodies were lifted from the wreckage.

The Toronto express was just passing the camp when the accident took place and the machines fell near the station. Many of the passengers were witnesses of the event and were shocked and thrilled by the spectacle of a collision between two of these aircraft, and saddened by the certainty of death to the gallant young aviators.

Cadets Domville and Kramer were fine upstanding types of young manhood eager for adventure and anxious to take a man’s part in the great task of freeing the world from the menace of German domination. Both were blessed with jovial and kindly natures and had many friends in the camp and in Belleville who sincerely regret the sudden call with closed to prematurely lives giving such abundant promise of usefulness.

James de Beaujeu Domville had enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on July 12th, 1917 with the regimental number 74199. He was born in Montreal on March 1st, 1899, the son of James Domville and Adele (née de Beaujeu). He was five feet eleven inches tall and was flying with 84 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Mohawk.

Justin John Kramer initially joined the United States Army and transferred to the Air Service. He was born in Dayton, Ohio on April 28th, 1895, the son of John Kramer and Theresa Rosa (née Stompf).

The official reports of the accident assigned blame to neither pilot. Kramer was flying under the instruction of 2nd Lieutenant E. C. Bridgman, who escaped the crash with cuts to the face and bad bruising.

J. J. Kramer RFC Casualty Card

Royal Flying Corps casualty card for Justin John Kramer, courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum

Date of Casualty: 13.9.17
Where occurred: Canada Camp Mohawk
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4a.
Nature and Cause of Accident: Mach[ine] C650 piloted by Cadet Domville while coming in from an altitude of over 400 ft in a straight glide collided with a machine C632 piloted by Cadet Kramer who was flying at less than 400 feet & turning to the left to make landing into aerodrome
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: 2Lt Bridgman Injured
Remarks: Cadet Kramer had control of the machine & the finding of the Court of Inquiry attached no blame to Cadet Kramer

Once again, we have photographs showing the aftermath of the crash.

Kramer and Domville crash

From Sergeant Devos’s photographic collection, 2009.09(29), courtesy of Denzil Devos

James de Beaujeu Domville was buried in the Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.

Justin John Kramer was buried in the Calvary Cemetery, Kettering, Ohio.

Norman Bruce 'Nipper' ScottOur colleagues at Elgin County Archives hold the Norman B. ‘Nipper’ Scott fonds, which includes materials relating to Scott’s career as a pilot during the First World War. Scott trained at Camp Rathbun in Deseronto, among other places, before joining the Royal Flying Corps’ No. 11 Squadron in France.

Elgin County Archives have digitized Scott’s pilot log book and made it available online [PDF]. It is interesting to see the flights logged by a trainee pilot at Camp Rathbun, and Scott’s subsequent activities on the front line in France.

Norman Bruce Scott's pilot log book

This page shows the flights taken by Scott this week in 1917: his third week as a cadet. You can see that he was already taking solo flights in this week, and getting a good tour of the local sights: Napanee, Belleville and Kingston all feature in his log.

The serial numbers of the Curtiss JN4A aircraft Scott flew are listed. We have two photographs of one of the planes, C593, in our digital collections. Let’s hope Nipper Scott wasn’t responsible for this particular landing.

Curtiss JN4A C593 upside-down

2011.20 (11) George Edward Munk’s album

Thomas Mungo's signatureOn this day in 1917 Tom Mungo died of gunshot wounds he had received to his chest and arms on the previous day at the Battle of Hill 70. The war diary for the 16th Battalion describes the battle and is available online: page 1, page 2, page 3. Thirty seven men of the battalion were killed, nine reported missing and 206 wounded.

War diary extract 16th Battalion Hill 70

Summary of 16th Battalion casualties at Hill 70

Tom was buried in the Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

He is also remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

William Sidney Gallie signature

William Sidney Gallie, a grain merchant, died in Camp Mohawk near Deseronto on this day in 1917. He was born in the United States in 1896, the son of William and Mary Gallie. By 1916 the family were living at 225 Bell Avenue, Winnipeg. Gallie joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on June 18th, 1917 with the regimental number 70447. He was five feet six and a half inches tall.

Belleville’s Intelligencer reported the accident:

Intelligencer report of W. S. Gallie's death

Lost Control From Collision With Another Plane and Crashed to Ground

A sad accident occurred at Mohawk Aviation Camp yesterday, which cost the life of Cadet Gallie, of Winnipeg
Two airplanes were landing close together and collided. Cadet Gallie’s plane was struck from behind when about one hundred feet in the air, and he lost control. The machine crashed to the ground, and Cadet Gallie was almost instantly killed.

The official casualty card confirms the details, and names the pilot of the other plane. Gallie was a member of 87 Canadian Training Squadron.

William Sidney Gallie RFC Casualty Card

Casualty card for William Sidney Gallie, courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum

…Date of Casualty: 16.8.17
Where occurred: Camp Mohawk Deseronto Canada
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4a. C617
Nature and Cause of Accident: Collison with machine piloted by Cadet Burrowes T.N Can 74101
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: None…

This record gives us the identification number of the aircraft: C617. In our collection of digital photographs we have a series of images taken of the remains of this aircraft after the crash.

William Sidney Gallie's crashed plane

From Sergeant Devos’s photographic collection, 2009.09(22), courtesy of Denzil Devos

William Sidney Gallie was interred in the mausoleum at Glen Eden Memorial Garden/Riverside Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Charles Arthur Brant signature

On this day in 1917 Charles Arthur Brant was killed in action at Bois Hugo during the Battle of Hill 70. The extract from the 15th Battalion’s war diary for the battle may explain the circumstances of his death:

War diary extract 15th Battalion Hill 70

Extract from war diary of the 15th Battalion for August 15th, 1917, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

At 5.30 a.m. our barrage again started forward and our waves advanced. The 3rd. Wave remained at the BLUE LINE. More opposition was encountered this time. There were small parties of the enemy in shell-holes, and these had to be dealt with by Bombing Parties before our line could advance. In BOIS HUGO one M.G. [Machine Gun] of the enemy was causing many casualties, but was silenced by Bombing Sections from No.1 Company, which worked around to the flank of the gun and captured it and killed the crew. The enemy who were in the the trenches on our left, kept up a continual rifle and M.G. fire, which caused a few casualties.

Arthur Brant was buried at the St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery at Haisnes in France.

St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, Haisnes, France, courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

He is also remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

George Anderson Morton signature

On this day in 1917, George Anderson Morton, a grain merchant, died at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto as the result of a flying accident. George was born in Winnipeg on September 20th, 1895, the son of Thomas Morton and Mary (née Anderson). Mary died in 1904. Morton joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on June 26th, 1917 with the regimental number 74036. He gave his home address as Grande Pointe, Manitoba. He was five feet five and a half inches tall.

The accident in which he was killed was reported in Belleville’s Intelligencer newspaper in the following way:

Intelligencer report of G. A. Morton's death

Aviator Killed at Deseronto
On Saturday at the local Aviation Camp another fatal accident occurred, resulting in the death of Flight Cadet Morton, of Winnipeg. The young aviator was up at a height estimated at about 2,000 feet, when from some unknown cause the plane plunged to the ground and was totally wrecked. It is surmised that Morton fainted while in the air and in this manner lost control of the machine. The unfortunate victim was dead when taken from his seat and his body was badly mangled. Many bones of the body were broken. The body was prepared for burial and shipped to Winnipeg.

This is the official casualty record from the Royal Flying Corps, which notes that Morton was in 84 Canadian Training Squadron.:

George Anderson Morton RFC casualty card

Casualty Card for George Anderson Morton, courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum

…Date of Casualty: 11.8.17
Where occurred: Camp Mohawk aero. Canada
Type of Machine: Curtiss J.N.4a.
Nature and Cause of Accident: Machine nosedived vertically & continued in this position until it hit the ground completely wrecking the machine
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: Nil
Remarks: Cadet Morton had shut of[f] his engine preparatory to making a landing at a height of 2000 ft. A Court of Inquiry found no constructional fault in the machine

This photograph shows what remained of the aircraft after the accident:

George Anderson Morton's crash

From Sergeant Devos’s photographic collection, 2009.09(45), courtesy of Denzil Devos

George Anderson Morton was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg.

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