Intelligencer newspaper report of Buchanan and White's crash near Picton

Intelligencer newspaper report of the crash between Buchanan and White, published July 15th, 1918


Two Airmen Killed Near Picton, Ont.

Cadets from Deseronto Camp collided in the Air

DESERONTO, July 15- Caedt J. F. Buchanan and Cadet J. C. White of the Royal Air Force were instantly killed about 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon as a result of a collision in the air near Picton, Ont. Both were Canadians.

Cadet Buchanan’s next of kin is his mother, Mrs I. F. Buchanan, Box 66, Loreburn, Sask. Cadet White came from Delhi, Ont., where his father P. G. White, resides.

The body of Cadet J. C. White will be forwarded from Picton to his home in Delhi, Ont., on Monday. Arrangements have been completed as to the remains of Cadet J. F. Buchanan, who was also killed in the same accident.

On July 13th, 1918 two cadets from the Royal Air Force’s 81 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Rathbun in Deseronto were killed when they collided in mid-air near Picton.

The story about this crash still circulating in Prince Edward County is  that the two men were rivals for the affection of the same woman. The official Court of Inquiry into the accident does introduce a woman: a Mrs Palmer. This letter from Major Woodman of 42nd Wing, Deseronto, summarizes the court’s findings:

Detail from file RG4-32/1598 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General 1918 file RG4-32/1598 at the Archives of Ontario

Royal Air Force,
Toronto, Canada.

Herewith Court of Inquiry in which Cadets Buchanan and White were killed. I visited the scene of the accident shortly after it occurred and while there was asked by a Mrs. Palmer that Cadet White’s body be taken to her house. She stated that Cadet White was a great friend of the family and had always spent his leave with her. She also stated that Cadet White had on the previous day visited her home and had promised to come over the following day and drop a message to her.

When this Court of Inqiry first came in I returned it to the President with instructions for him to get evidence from Mrs. Palmer. The Court went over to Mrs Palmer’s house at Picton for the purpose of getting her evidence but she she refused to give any evidence at all. On account of Mrs. Palmer’s statements to me I concur with the Opinion of the Court in that Cadet White had flown to Picton for the purpose of stunting or dropping a message to Mrs. Palmer.
(Sgd) F. V. Woodman
Officer Commanding 42nd Wing,
Royal Air Force.

This could have been Annie Palmer (née Ready), who was listed as living near Picton in the 1921 census. She married Leonard Palmer in 1912 and would have been 27 at the time of the crash.

An eyewitness account from William Cox, a civilian from Picton, describes the collision:

Detail from file RG4-32/1598

Detail from file RG4-32/1598 at the Archive of Ontario

About 3.00 p.m. on the 14th July 1918, I observed three Aeroplanes flying South, at I think about 2,000 feet. They were flying in this formation,-
The centre man turned to the Right fairly sharply, the Right hand man turned to the Left and the wings of the machines caught. The two machines came down locked together. I went to the field where they fell and one pilot had just been taken out of his machine, – he was alive at the time. The other fell out of his machine as they collided and fell about 100 feet from the crash.

Irwin Franklyn Buchanan signature
Irwin Franklyn Buchanan was a 23-year-old former lathe hand from Loreburn, Saskatchewan who had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on December 18th, 1917 with the regimental number 153685. He was five feet five inches tall. He was born in Michigan in November 1894, the son of William Henry and Frances Buchanan. In the Court of Inquiry, Lieutenant E. P. Cavanagh of 81 Canadian Training Squadron stated that Buchanan was “very erratic – you could never depend upon him doing the same thing twice…His discipline was very poor, he would never do as he was told.”

Irwin’s family were living in Detroit and he was buried in that city, in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Gilbert James White signature

The other pilot was 23-year-old Gilbert James White. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on December 12th, 1917 with the regimental number 153535. He was five feet eleven inches tall and had previously been working as a clerk in London, Ontario. He was born in Delhi, Ontario on August 16th, 1894, the son of Philo Gilbert White and Edith (née Wilson).

Gilbert was buried in Delhi Cemetery, Ontario.