military training

Percy Joseph Barnett signatureOn this day in 1918 Percy Joseph Barnett died of pneumonia (brought on by Spanish Flu) at the Ongwanada Military Hospital in Kingston. He was an Air Mechanic stationed at the Royal Air Force’s 42nd Wing in Deseronto. The date of death on the death registration is given as October 11th, but other records have October 12th.

Percy had been in hospital in Kingston before: on November 12th, 1917 he was involved at Camp Mohawk in a flying accident with 2nd Lieutenant Harold Robertson Carson as the result of engine failure. Barnett broke his arm, according to the RAF’s casualty card, and Carson was also injured, suffering minor cuts and bruises.

Barnett had been working as a motor truck foreman in Brooklyn, New York and on June 5th he had completed a US Draft Registration card which recorded that he had brown eyes, black hair and was of medium height and build. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in New York on July 5th, 1917 and was appointed to the Corps in Toronto on July 7th, with the regimental number 72910. He gave his next of kin as his mother, Sarah Barnett, of 665 Seven Sisters Road, London, England. On October 1st, 1917 he was promoted to 2nd Air Mechanic.

Percy was born in London, England on November 7th, 1888, the son of Henry Barnett and Sarah (née Fernandez). The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records note that he was married to a woman called Amelia. He was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston.

Rupert Cyril Spencer signature
Rupert Cyril Spencer died of influenza and pneumonia at the Camp Rathbun hospital in Deseronto on this day in 1918. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps in New York on July 2nd, 1917 and was appointed in Toronto two days later with the regimental number 72816. He was a draughtsman by profession and he joined the Corps with the rank of 1st Air Mechanic. Spencer gave his next of kin as his wife, Martha Lenore Spencer, of 1100 Market Street, Berwick, Pennsylvania.

He completed a US draft registration card on June 5th, 1917 on which he was described as tall and slender, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. On his RFC attestation his height was recorded as five feet nine and a half inches. Spencer was born in Oldbury, Worcestershire, England on February 15th, 1890, the son of James Harry Spencer and Alice Jane (née Goring). In 1912 he left England for North America, arriving in New York on October 28th. He married Martha Lenore Bates in Berwick, Pennsylvania on June 14th, 1916. The couple had a daughter in January 1918.

Rupert was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Berwick.

Thomas Wilfrid Duncan signature

Thomas Wilfrid Duncan died on this day in 1918 from injuries received in a flying accident in Deseronto. The Royal Air Force casualty card for the incident noted the following facts:

Date of Casualty: 25.9.18
Where occurred: Deseronto, Ontario
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4 C-1318
Nature and Cause of Accident:
Result of Accident: Acci: Killed
Name of other occupant of machine One other name not given slgt injured

The death registration notes that Duncan survived for 28½ hours after the crash, but died of his brain injuries.

Thomas Wilfrid Duncan photo in The Varsity magazine, Toronto

Photograph of Duncan in The Varsity, 1918 war supplement

Thomas was born in Moore township, Lambton County, Ontario on August 20th, 1896, the son of Thomas Reid Duncan and Isabella (née McDonald). He was a student of Applied Sciences at the University of Toronto when he joined the Royal Flying Corps on October 29th, 1917. He was officially appointed to the Corps on December 5th, with a regimental number of 153319. He was five feet nine and a half inches tall. After his initial training, Duncan was granted a commission in the Royal Air Force on August 15th, 1918 and was working as a flying instructor with 81 Canadian Training Squadron in Deseronto at the time of his death.

Duncan was buried in Bear Creek Cemetery, Brigden, Ontario.

Elmer Worden signatureElmer Worden was killed near Camp Rathbun on this day in 1918. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on January 31st, 1918 with the regimental number 154631 and was officially appointed to the Corps on February 4th. He was described as five feet nine and three quarter inches tall, with a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

The Royal Air Force’s report of the accident noted the following facts:

Date of Casualty: 16.9.18
Where occurred: 2½ miles east of Rathbun aerodrome
Type of Machine: C1363
Nature and Cause of Accident: Killed. Came down in spin, made steep nose dive & turned over on back before striking ground.
Result of Accident: Killed

The Court of Inquiry into Worden’s accident found that his head had taken the brunt of the impact because his seat belt did not restrain him enough inside the aircraft. A sketch of a proposed improvement to the seat belt is included in the court record:

Sketch of proposed seat belt by Captain Coats in Attorney General's 1918 file RG 4-32/2610

Sketch of proposed seat belt by Captain Coats in Attorney General’s 1918 file RG 4-32/2610

Worden was born in Plankinton, South Dakota on June 16th, 1892, the son of Lavander Worden and Carrie (née Olson). He had been working as a construction manager in Grande Prairie, Alberta before he enlisted. Elmer’s family were living in Colville, Washington when he died and he was buried in the Highland Cemetery there.

The Colville Examiner reported Worden’s death:

Elmer Worden death report

The Colville Examiner report of September 21st, 1918 on Worden’s death, courtesy of Chronicling America



Expected to Leave Soon for Overseas – Details Have Not Been Received by Relatives

News was received Monday by Mr. and Mrs. L. D. Worden of Colville that their son Elmer was killed in an airplane crash at the aviation field at Camp Rathburn, Deseronto, Ontario, on that day. The details of the accident have not as yet reached this city, but word came the last of this week that the body would be shipped here for burial. Funeral arrangements cannot be completed until date of arrival is known.

Elmer Worden was 26 years old and enlisted in Alberta last winter. His father is in the implement business in Colville with the Stevens County Implement company and his mother and two younger sisters live in this city. He also is survived by a brother who is employed in the Portland shipyards and an aunt, Mrs. James McCormick, who lives in Spokane. The young man was expected to leave soon for overseas. The news of his sudden death came as a sad shock to his bereaved family.

Arhtur Brace Spooner signature
On this day in 1918 Arthur Brace Spooner was killed in a flying accident while in training as a cadet at the Royal Air Force’s 42nd Wing at Deseronto. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps on January 10th, 1918 in Winnipeg and was appointed to the Corps in Toronto on January 14th with the regimental number 154175. He was five feet six inches tall and had previously been working as a telegrapher.His accident happened on the morning of August 28th. Spooner had been sent up to practise spinning in aircraft C-1044. He tried to come out of a nose dive over a farm belonging to the McAlpine family of Tyendinaga (they owned property on Lot 28, Concession 1 in 1911). Mr Michael McAlpine described the accident at a Court of Inquiry held the same day:

Detail from Attorney General's 1918 file RG4-32/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General’s 1918 file RG4-32/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

2nd Witness Mr. M. McAlpin, Civilian, states:-

I saw the machine coming down in a nose dive. It then flattened out and the pilot put on his engine and flew over the barns at about 100 feet, his right wing struck an apple tree, the fuselage going on. I rushed over to the accident and had to undo the pilots belt in order to extricate him. He was already dead.

Spooner was born on May 28th, 1892, the son of William and Mary Spooner of Moosomin, Saskatchewan. He was buried in Moosomin’s South Side Cemetery.

Arthur Spooner's headstone

From Find a Grave, courtesy of Dean Weckman


Detail from the McGill honour roll, 1914-1918

Detail from the McGill honour roll, 1914-1918

James McMillan Hacker signature
James McMillan Hacker died in a crash at Camp Rathbun near Deseronto on this day in 1918. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on September 10th, 1917 with the regimental number 74813. There was an interruption in his service in January 1918 when he was thought to have deserted, but he returned at the end of the month and was reinstated. He was in training as a cadet with 90 Canadian Training Squadron.

Hacker was born in Prince Edward Island on November 4th, 1885, the son of Thomas Henry Hacker and Sarah (née McMillan). His parents had both died by the time he enlisted: he gave his sister, Louise, as his next of kin. She was living in Summerside, PEI. Hacker was five feet five and three quarter inches tall. He had been a student at Macdonald Agricultural College at McGill University in Montreal between 1912 and 1916.

The Court of Inquiry into Hacker’s crash, held the next day, found that he had fallen out of aircraft C-1324 while practising spins. Here is the evidence from Second Lieutenant F.R. Winter:

Detail of Attorney General's 1918 file RG4-32/1792 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail of Attorney General’s 1918 file RG4-32/1792 at the Archives of Ontario

2nd. Witness. 2/Lieut. F.R. Winter, 90 C.T.S. R.A.F.

States:- I watched Cadet Hacker do one turn of a spin, in machine C-1324, he came out and dove for about 500 ft. straight down and went past the vertical and went on his back and fell out of the machine from a height of approximately 2500 feet. The machine then glided down and landed upside down.

[signed] F.R. Winter Lieut

The Court found that Hacker had died because his seat belt had somehow become unfastened. It recommended that a new type of belt be used in future.

James was buried in the Summerside People’s Cemetery in Prince Edward Island.

Presqu'ile Beach

Presqu’ile Beach, Northumberland County. Picture by Dave Kellam.

It was not just airmen who died as a result of flying mishaps near Deseronto. On this day in 1918 a young man called Charles Austin lost his life near the beach at Presqu’ile, near Brighton, Ontario. Here is Cadet Albert Alexis Dumouchel’s account of the circumstances leading to Austin’s death.

Detail from file RG4-31/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General 1918 file RG4-31/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

At about eight o’clock on Monday morning the 19th of August, I was sent up with three other machines to make a formation and reconnaissance flight. While near Brighton, my engine began to miss and I looked for somewhere to land. The only place I could see was the Beach which runs north and south. There was a north east wind blowing so that on trying to land my machine was drifted over the water. My engine refused to pick up again and my wheels hit the water turning the machine over on its back. I waded to shore and by this time, one of the other cadets, seeing my trouble, had landed. I told him to fly back to the aerodrome and report that my machine was on its back in the water near Brighton. When I again turned around to the machine, I saw it beginning to float out in the bay. I tried to wade out to it but found the water too deep. I then saw a boy in a rowing boat some distance away and got him to row me out to the machine. It was then floating on its back on the upper main planes and tail plane. We clung on to the propeller intending to try and tow the machine in. The machine, however, then tilted up on its nose, the radiator striking the boat and upsetting it. We both managed to climb on to the machine which was now floating in an upright position. I asked the boy if he could swim and finding that he could not, took off my tunic and swam to the over-turned boat. I climbed on it and tried to paddle the boat back to the machine. The current however was drifting me away from the machine and having only my hands to paddle with, I was unable to reach it. As the boat floated farther away, the machine began to sink. When nearly a quarter of a mile from the machine, I saw it sink completely. I was, by this time, suffering considerably from cold and cramp and when ultimately picked up by a Motor Boat, after I had been in the water about an hour, I was barely conscious.
The last I saw of Mr. Austin, he was climbing up the machine as [it] sank lower in the water and taking his clothing off.

Austin’s body was retrieved from Presqu’ile Bay later that day. The conclusion of the Court of Inquiry into the incident was as follows:

Detail from file RG4-32/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from file RG4-32/2062 at the Archives of Ontario

The circumstances connected with the accident, which led to the death of Mr. C. Austin, civilian, were that through ignorance of the normal floating position of an aeroplane which it was liable to assume at any moment, the deceased and Cadet Dumouchel endangered their lives by trying to tow the machine which was floating on it’s back, by the propellor.

The Court respectfully suggests that, in view of the fact that the deceased Mr. C. Austin, civilian, lost his life by drowning in a voluntary effort to assist in the saving of Govt. property, and bearing further in mind that he was the main supporter of his mother and family, as has come to the knowledge of the Court, the expense of his funeral be borne by the Government.

Charles Francis Austin was born in Brighton on September 28th, 1899, the son of Lucien Austin and Bessie (née Proctor). His father, a druggist, had died of influenza in 1904 and at the time of the 1911 census Charles was living with his mother, Bessie, his younger brother John and his mother’s elderly parents. His death registration gave his occupation as bank clerk.

« Previous PageNext Page »