Tragic Accidents Continue At NO. 31

On April 13, two naval officers and thirty-seven naval ratings arrived for training with No. 53 Course. Sadly, that day a young pilot was killed at the Millhaven Bombing Range.

A/LA G. H. C. Deans – April 13, 1942

A/LA George Deans was killed flying solo in Harvard aircraft AJ6514 during low-dive bombing practice while attempting his third dive on the target. The Drogue Operator in Towing Flight A.T.S., LAC H. S. Cole 636344, testified at the Court of Inquiry that the pupil pulled out at about 20-30 feet above the water and flattened out at about 3 feet. The aircraft then hit the water striking on its belly, nosed over and the wings flew off. Fishermen who were close to the scene recovered the body of the 20-year old pupil. A/LA Deans, who was in No. 35 Course, was the son of George and Mary Deans of Largs, Ayrshire.

Other witnesses at the hearing were A/LA Gerald Harris FX88412, instructor W.O. H. R. Wadley and F/L M. W. Hicks, R.C.A.F. Medical Officer.

A/LA P. Robinson – April 20, 1942

A/LA Peter Robinson was dangerously injured when his aircraft crashed one mile northwest of the airdrome. He was rushed to the Kingston General Hospital where he died shortly afterwards. His funeral was conducted at Sydenham Street United Church and burial followed in the Cataraqui Cemetery. The 18-year-old pupil was the son of Henry and Eleanor Robinson of Scisset, Yorkshire.

On April 24, No. 35 Course graduated with three naval officers and forty-three naval ratings successfully completing their training. The station was equipped at this time with 109 Harvards and nine Battles.

Group Captain D. D’A. Greig, DFC, AFC, arrived from No. 4 Training Command in Calgary to assume command of the station on May 5, 1942, and on May 12, five naval officers and thirty-seven naval ratings arrived for training with No. 55 Course.

W/O D. C. Hide – May 17, 1942

Another crash took the life of instructor W/O D. C. Hide, while he was at the controls of a Harvard during a low flying exercise. The aircraft struck a hydro wire near Gananoque Lake sending the aircraft into the water. A/LA Paul Snowden, age 21, fortunately escaped with his life. The C/O’s diary records the following details: “W/O D. C. Hide killed in flying accident. Took off at 8:40 a.m. with A/LA P. Snowden to carry out instrument flying. After the pupil had flown ‘under the hood’ for 40 minutes, W/O Hide took over control in the low flying area for Relief Airdrome, Gananoque.”

The crash occurred near two American fishing parties from Griffin’s Lodge and the young pupil was pulled into the boat piloted by Lewis Griffin. A/LA Snowden said: “I undid the straps and got out, but my parachute pulled me to the bottom. I had to take it off too before I could swim to the surface and by that time, I couldn’t stay under any longer to help the other fellow.” He had seen the instructor’s head strike the instrument panel as he plunged forward on impact and credited his own miraculous escape to the fact that he was strapped in so tightly as to prevent his being thrown forward.

The Kingston Whig reported, “A minimum of excitement was attendant upon the incident. Within an hour nothing but a single pole sticking from the water 250 yards away from two dangling hydro wires remained to show that sudden death had invaded the quiet of the lakeside fishing resort. The necessary officials had made their visits, the rescued airman had been hustled off to Collins Bay, the plane had been pronounced unrecoverable without special equipment and the officials had departed, leaving the holiday makers to resume their Sunday fishing.”

Twenty-five year old W.O. Dennis Hide was the son of Eric and Elsie Hide and was survived by his wife, Joan (nee Burden) of Burley, Hampshire. His ashes were scattered over Lake Ontario. His name appears on The Cremation Memorial at the Ottawa Beechwood Cemetery. [The memorial commemorates twenty-six servicemen, including Commanding Officer, G/C Shekleton.]

On May 26, 1999, former A/LA Snowdon brought his wife to meet the man who saved his life, Lewis Griffin, and to finally thank him in person. The Snowdons were greeted at City Hall by then mayor, Gary Bennett. Snowdon said he would long be grateful to the mayor who had responded to a letter he had written only a month earlier asking for help in tracking down the man who had saved his life. Mayor Bennett had contacted The Whig-Standard because it had carried the coverage of the crash and they were able to bring the two together. Snowdon said officials at the aerodrome had made sure that he was up and flying the next day. After completing his training in the U.K., he had served on active duty and flew with the Fleet Air Arm until 1946. Upon retirement from a successful career and travels throughout the world, he had decided to return to the crash site on the Gananoque Lake. While driving back to Kingston, he was quiet: “I’m quite overcome, really. It puts the clock back; you do become more alive. The years just roll away and you feel just as you were 50 years ago.”

Those in the designated low flying areas complained of noise but during night flying training at Gananoque airport, the farmers whose fields bordered on the airport property were having a rough time becoming accustomed to the very noisy take-offs of the Harvards which caused many a disturbed night’s sleep. One farmer said some of the pupils were slower in their take-offs and just skimmed over the rooftop. Loss of sleep was a legitimate complaint but what concerned farmers was that their animals were continually being frightened by the noise of the low-flying planes. One area farmer who raised silver foxes complained: “My foxes go mad with the noise of the low-flying Harvards and tear up the walls of the building, even destroying their young.” He wasn’t going to win that war so he finally gave up and sold them.

Next Chapter: R.A.F. Schools Incorperated Into R.C.A.F.

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