The beautiful Bay of Fundy is recognized as one of the natural wonders of the world, but beneath the dark waters rest many aviators killed when their aircraft disappeared during the Second World War. At least 31 men from around the British Commonwealth were lost in the Bay between 1941 and 1945.
Some locations of their deaths are well known, while other crews simply 'failed to return' from a mission; their final resting places only estimated within wartime documents. Families had no bodies to mourn, only memories. Today, when families return to the site of the loss of loved ones, there is no marker, no commemorative for contemplation save the Ottawa Memorial in Ontario.
The final phase of a research activity conducted by Russell Keddy and Chris Larsen in the Annapolis Valley is now leading into the creation of a granite obelisk marker to be placed at Margaretville, Nova Scotia, north of 14 Wing Greenwood. The memorial will overlook the Bay of Fundy.
If fundraising is successful, the stone will be unveiled as a cooperative effort between 14 Wing Greenwood and the community. Almost seventy years have passed since British Commonwealth Air Training Plan commenced training and operational flying in 1941. The lost aircrew flew from several bases around the Maritimes, including Greenwood, Debert, Stanley and Yarmouth in Nova Scotia and Pennefield Ridge in New Brunswick.
The research into the loss of the 31 servicemen, from Britain, Australia and New Zealand and Canada will continue until shortly before the stone's unveiling. Any individual or organization is welcomed to make financial donations to this project. More information can be found by contacting Major Chris Larsen by email or phone 765-1494 (extension 3149).
In 1941, the establishment of the Empire Air Training Scheme, and later the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan led to an astounding level of flight operations in Canada. Training and operational missions were conducted concurrently and many remember the intensely busy skies where dozens of different kinds of aircraft flew from newly created airfields. The air over the Bay of Fundy was especially busy, with the waters used for flight training, gunnery practice and bomb dropping.
While training missions were often noted by local residents as they frequently happened close to shore, there were also operational missions flown to combat the German U-Boat menace and provide escort further out over the Bay. During the War, flying was a dangerous endeavour, even when not threatened directly by the enemy. The Maritime Provinces are subjected to extreme weather conditions, with Atlantic storms, extreme winter winds, and fog being constant threats.
Of the thousands of missions that were flown from Nova Scotia airfields bordering the Bay of Fundy (Greenwood, Debert, Yarmouth, Stanley) as well as New Brunswick airfields (Moncton, Pennefield Ridge), many crews simply ‘failed to return’ or are known to have crashed into the dark, cold waters.
The rocky terrain around most of the airfields, as well as forests and small size of lakes would have led several pilots into making the decision to attempt landing on the water; a process known as “ditching” the aircraft. Ditching safely on the Bay waters certainly did not guarantee survival, as the temperatures and treacherous tides could make rescue of drowning aviators impossible. As well, the difficulty of landing a twin-engined plane on choppy surface would have been immense. Very few successful ditchings are recorded on the Bay.
To complicate issues, many times a crew would ditch before able to make a Mayday call, or worse, the aircraft was disintegrating or had suffered a structural failure – leading to the inevitable loss of the crew. Most of the aircraft that disappeared were not witnessed in their demise, though a few were. There were no naval rescue vessels that could have been called upon for assistance until late in the War. Sadly, most of the the Bay of Fundy aircrew have no known graves.
These men simply vanished, with families left to mourn the disappearance of their loved ones. In fact, the men who gave their lives are not memorialised close to where they died. For families to remember, they must travel to Ontario, to visit the Ottawa Memorial – a memorial dedicated to those lost in Canada with no known grave.