A Fond Farewell….

As the first of the R.A.F were preparing to return to the U.K., members of the R.A.F. from the Gananoque Airport hosted a dance at the Gananoque Lyceum on April 29,1944, with upwards of 100 enjoying the music of the R.A.F. band from Kingston. The newspaper gave this account:

“When the airmen had first arrived, it was not certain the dance would be held as they couldn’t find the caretaker and the building was locked. Once the doors were opened by young Pat Adair, no one knew how turn on the lights. The ice for the soft drinks had been left out-side the building and the boys had nothing to break it up to bring it inside. Finally they dropped it onto the sidewalk until it was the right size. They then filled a wash tub with ice and bottles and found it was too heavy to carry and had to do the job again in reverse. By 9.30 p.m. everything was under control and dancing began.”

After the slow start, the dance became a huge success. Having the airmen in Gananoque had been great and they were missed. As someone once said: It was the worst of times and the best of times.

Recalling his passage home on the SS Andes, a 25,000 ton ship, Bob Fidler wrote:

“We were in the prow at or below water line. There were a couple of long, narrow tables in the cabin and hammocks bumping each other. We arrived at Liverpool about four a.m., but as we had been asleep we didn’t know this. My closest friend and I had just awakened and were whispering as we had noticed the ship slowing down, when CRASH – the whole ship shook. There was total panic – thirty guys scrambling over top of each other in a state of panic thinking we had been struck by a torpedo. Then we discovered that the ship was just dropping anchor in the bay awaiting daylight and the terrorizing sound was the huge chain striking the side of the ship as it was lowered.” This was a sudden re-birth of the fear they had left behind them two short years before.

Bob’s mate had been a semi-pro footballer and strong enough to move a piano himself, and was a source of many stories. He had “a weakness for drink”, said Bob, and was the one who became involved in a fight with a group of lads in Gananoque. Bob had another story to tell:

“On the day we were sent back to Kingston from Gananoque for clearance in preparation for our train trip to the coast, he went into the city for a good booze up, got into a fight (which he usually always did) and finished up in custody. He was taken before the magistrate and fined $30., which he could not pay. The airdrome paid it for him, but had him under close arrest until we were on the train.

He also recalled: “When we arrived in Nova Scotia, the boat was in dock but was not sailing for at least ten days. We were bored stiff until we were all turned off the boat to help fight a forest fire. I remember it as a frightening experience.”

F/Sgt.(Pilot) R. Elliott, AC2 F. L. Cochshott
May 3, 1944

F/Sgt. R. Elliott, test pilot for the Maintenance Wing, took up Harvard II AJ 538 for a 40-minute test flight after a major inspection and engine change. Accompanying him was S/L S. V. Nicholson, Chief Engineer Officer and as far as he was concerned, the aircraft was fully serviceable. It was F/Sgt. Elliott’s intention to take up the aircraft for a further test including aerobatics. AC2 F. L. Cochshott accompanied him on this flight as passenger.

Testifying at a Court of Inquiry, F/O I. F. Hamilton said he was crossing Wolfe Island at an elevation of 300 ft. and as he was crossing the north shore line he saw an aircraft at approximately 1000 ft. spinning. Almost at the same time, he saw a parachute slightly above the spinning aircraft. The aircraft continued to spin until it hit the water and shortly afterwards the parachute also reached the water. Slightly behind was instructor F/O R. Moody who was flying with student A/LA Firstbrook also on a low level cross country flight that would take them to Lansdowne. He saw an airman struggling to free himself from the parachute harness. He managed to free himself and was swimming away from it; he was not wearing a Mae West. The next time F/O Moody saw him, the airman was swimming back to the parachute and was apparently endeavouring to use it for buoyancy. The instructor had his pupil take off his Mae West with the intention of dropping it but on the next run over the spot, the airman and parachute had both disappeared. Cpl. B. Saundercock, Coxswain of the crash boat, testified that depth soundings indicated a depth of approximately 55 ft. They dragged the bottom for over an hour but were unable to locate the wreckage.

At the inquiry, Sgt. W. L. Ratcliffe, Fitter attached to Repair Squadron, testified that he had seen F/Sgt. Elliott just prior to take off and that he was wearing a Mae West, but AC1 Cochshott was not. There was no regulation regarding the wearing of safety jackets for ground crew members and it was not customary for riggers or fitters to wear Mae Wests. It was concluded that F/Sgt. Elliott’s body was probably caught in the wreckage.

Chief Flying Instructor, W/C L. G. Schwab, D.F.C., testified, as did Senior Medical Officer S/L D. W. Ashby.

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On June 14, the body of AC1 Cochshott washed up on Howe Island and four days later the body of F/Sgt. Elliott was found on the south side of Leek Island by a fishing party of Americans.

AC2 Frederick Lewis Cochshott was the 22-year old son of Frederick Charles and Susan Jenny Cochshott of Liverpool, England. He is buried at Cataraqui Cemetery.

F/Sgt. Richard Gordon Elliott was the son of Lieut. Gilbert Oldfield Elliott and his wife of Iver, Buckinghamshire, England. He is buried in the Sioux Lookout Cemetery.

On May 5, twenty-eight F.A.A. graduated from No. 98 Course. The next day, twenty-six F.A.A. pupils arrived for Course 106. On May 20, one officer and twenty-six naval personnel completed training with Course 99 and two officers and nineteen ratings arrived for Course 107.

THE R.A.F. ENTERTAINERS OFFER AUDIENCES THEIR VERY BEST
with a little help from their Kingston friends

R.A.F. players presented their 3-act comedy, “French Without Tears,” for the first time to the general public in KCVI auditorium on May 9 and 10th. The play was produced by F/L Denis Ogden who, prior to the war, was on the professional stage in England and had written several plays himself. Another member of the cast was Sgt. James Pirrie, a native-born Canadian serving with the R.A.F. Sergeant Pirrie was a well-known motion picture actor in England before the war and performed in several successful films, including “49th Parallel”. The scenery was designed and built by LAC Bill Linton.

The cast included: Diana Lake, Frances Flynn, Kenneth Lake, Edgar Lee, Brian Curtis, Hon. Alan Howard, Peter Moyes, Kit Neilen, Alan Bain, Monsieur Maingot, Malcolm Bryden, Jacqueline Maingot, Betty Pipe, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Rogers, Lord Haybrook and Buddy George. Those on the Production staff were: Edward Vickers, Bill Jones, Fred Heath and Fred Hutchings, stage crew; Edgar Lee and Ian Hamilton, stage managers.

Under the auspices of the YMCA War Services, No. 31 S.F.T.S. Concert Party presented their first new revue called, “This is the Gen”, on May 25. It was produced by LAC John York and the entire script was written by LAC James Forbes and LAC York. Acting as master of ceremonies was P/O Boots. Only civilians taking part in the review were: Florence Daly, Kay Grimshaw, Mrs. Kay White, Betty
White, Freda Eves, Freddie Martin, and Thelma Birch.

In Gananoque, the very successful Armed Forces Club celebrated their second anniversary on June 19. Since their opening in 1942, thousands of young men representing almost every part of the Empire had passed through their doors. Canadian airmen at the Gananoque Airport, were gradually replacing the R.A.F. who had been regular visitors to the club since its opening. On weekends, the rooms were filled with men from Ordnance and Signals in Kingston and others travelling through.

On June 2, thirty-six pupils graduated from Course 100 and on the next day one officer and twenty-two ratings arrived for Course 108. Twenty-six more pupils graduated with No. 101 Course. On June 30, twenty-eight naval personnel graduated with 102 Course.

Next Chapter: The First Of The Tranferred R.C.A.F. Personnel Arrive

Previous Chapter: State Of The Garden And Farm At NO. 31