The last death associated with an aircraft at the Deseronto pilot training camps took place on the last day of the First World War. The victim was Joseph McDermid, described on the death registration as a worker for the Imperial Munitions Board. It is not clear whether he was “killed by aeroplane” on the ground or whether he was in the air at the time of the accident.

The registration does not give an age for McDermid, or a place of birth, so it is difficult to find out more about this man, especially as he was not employed by the Royal Air Force. It is even hard to know exactly where he died, as the registration states ‘Camp Rathbun’, but the death was registered in the ‘Mohawk Reserve Tyendinaga’ district of Hastings, which would normally suggest that the death took place at Camp Mohawk.

Joseph McDermid death registrationPlease comment if you have more information about Joseph or his family, or where he was buried.

Stephen Kennedy Burgess signature

Stephen Kennedy Burgess died of pneumonia, caused by Spanish flu, on this day in 1918. He was a fireman who had joined the Royal Air Force in Toronto on July 24th, 1918 as a labourer. He was five feet six and three quarter inches tall and his regimental number was 270201.

Burgess was born in Owen Sound on September 7th, 1896, the son of Stephen Burgess and Margaret Jane (née Whiteside). He was living in Collingwood when he enlisted. He died at the hospital at Camp Rathbun in Deseronto after 96 days of service.

Stephen was buried in the Collingwood Presbyterian Cemetery.

David James Kerr signature
David James Kerr died of pneumonia caused by Spanish flu on this day in 1918 at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto. In civilian life he had been a teamster and he enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps on June 4th, 1917 to serve as a batman (an officer’s servant). He was given the regimental number 72258 and was described as five feet seven inches tall when he enlisted. He was promoted to 2nd Air Mechanic on August 8th, 1917.

Kerr’s death certificate states that he was born in Michigan. His date of birth is given as July 16th, 1888 on his gravestone. His parents were David Kerr and Jeanette (née Whiteside). They buried him in Prospect Cemetery, Toronto.

Headstone for David James Kerr, courtesy of Islington and

Headstone for David James Kerr, courtesy of Islington and

John Richard Speer signature
On this day in 1918 John Richard Speer was killed in an air accident at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto. Speer was a schoolteacher from Springfield, Manitoba, who had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on November 2nd, 1917. He was officially appointed to the Corps in Toronto on January 7th, 1918 as a cadet. He was five feet six inches tall, with a medium complexion, dark brown hair and hazel eyes. His regimental number was 153957.
The Royal Air Force casualty card for Speer notes that he was involved in a collision when he was killed. The Court of Inquiry held two days after the crash noted that Speer was in a Curtiss JN-4 aircraft, number C-313, part of 89 C.T.S. The aircraft he collided with was C-103, piloted by Cadet Sweet of 79 C.T.S. Cadet Speer’s plane was sent into a nose dive by the collision and Speer died of internal injuries caused by the crash. Cadet Sweet’s plane span out of control, but landed flat and Sweet survived with only minor injuries. He was able to give evidence to the Court of Inquiry.1
Speer was born in Springfield, Manitoba on March 23rd, 1897, the son of James Speer and Elvira (née Beattie). They buried him in the Moose Nose/Sunnyside Cemetery in Springfield and he is also remembered on the war memorial there.

Springfield, Manitoba war memorial, courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

Springfield, Manitoba war memorial, courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

1 Court of Inquiry records in Attorney General’s 1918 file RG 4-32/2401 at the Archives of Ontario

Arthur Rosendale's signature

On this day in 1918, Arthur Rosendale died in the Number 12 Canadian General Hospital, Bramshott, Hampshire, England, of influenza. His service record contains his will, which left all his possessions to his wife, Ellen.

Will of Arthur Rosendale

He was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin in Bramshott. Every Canada Day, children from Liphook School in Hampshire commemorate the Canadians who are buried here.

Gravestone of Arthur Rosendale in Bramshott churchyard

Image uploaded by Don Knibbs to Find a Grave website

Arthur is also remembered on the war memorial in Deseronto. His widow, Ellen, remained in Deseronto and died in the town in 1943. She is buried in the Deseronto Cemetery.

Deseronto memorial

James Davidson Stephen signatureOn this day in 1918 2nd Lieutenant James Davidson Stephen was killed in a air crash at Camp Rathbun. Stephen had joined the Royal Flying Corps on October 21st, 1917 in Toronto with the regimental number 153410 and was officially appointed on December 10th, 17 days before his eighteenth birthday. He was five feet seven and a half inches tall. Stephen trained as a pilot and in June 1918 he was appointed as a flying instructor with the Deseronto Wing of what was by then the Royal Air Force.

The Toronto World newspaper reported the crash in the following way:

James Davidson Stephen Toronto World report 22 Oct 1918

Young Toronto Aviator Was Instructor at Camp Rathbun in Deseronto
Deseronto, Oct. 21. – Lieut.. J. D. Stephen, 636 Euclid avenue, Toronto, was killed and Cadet W. L. Somerville, of Burritt’s Springs, Ont., seriously injured, when their airplane crashed to the ground about a mile from Rathbun airdrome, at 11.30 a.m. today. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Second Flight-Lieut. James Davidson Stephen was the son of ex-Staff Inspector James M. Stephen, 636 Euclid avenue, who retired from the Toronto police force about nine years ago. No particulars in regard to the accident have been received except that Cadet W. L. Somerville of Burritt’s Springs, Ont., was in the airplane at the time and sustained serious injuries.
Lieut. Stephen was born in Toronto 18 years ago and would have been 19 years of age on Dec. 27. He attended the Toronto public schools and Harbord Collegiate. His enlistment in the Royal Air Force took place in Dec., 1917. He trained at Burwash, Camp Borden, Leaside, Texas, Camp Mohawk, and Beamsville, where he received his commission.
He wanted then to go on overseas duty but the air force authorities encouraged him to become an instructor and out of regard for his mother he decided to do instructor’s work temporarily. He was assigned to a special course at Armour Heights and put on duty at Camp Rathbun training cadets. He was attached to the 90th Squadron. He had recently applied to his commanding officer for permission to proceed overseas and was promised that his wish would soon be granted.

The Royal Air Force casualty card for Stephen’s crash noted the following facts:

Date of Casualty: 21.10.18
Where occurred: Deseronto Ontario
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4 C.1024
Nature and Cause of Accident: [blank]
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: Cadet W. L. Somerville

The image below shows the aircraft after the crash. The cadet involved, William Lawrence Somerville recovered from his injuries (broken bones in his left leg) and was discharged from the RAF in February 1920.

Aircraft in which James Davidson Stephen was killed

In the Royal Air Force’s Court of Inquiry, Cadet Somerville gave the following account of the accident:

Detail of Attorney General's 1918 file RG 4/32 2289 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail of Attorney General’s 1918 file RG 4-32/2289 at the Archives of Ontario

8th Witness:- Can.154662 Pte.II.Somerville, W.L., Cadet for Pilot No. 90 C.T.S., R.A.F., being duly sworn, states:-

On the 21st day of October, 1918, at about 11.30 I went up with 2/Lt. Stephen to practise Camera Gun and Higher Manoeuvres. We were at 3000 feet, and Lt. Stephen put the machine into a right hand spin and we spun 1000 feet. I then did 2 left hand spins, which brought us down to 1000 feet. The machine came out of those spins quite easily. Lt. Stephen then made 2 left hand rolls, and in the second roll he seemed to have slight difficulty in getting it out. On the third roll I could feel him kicking on the rudder-bar, a thing he never did with me before. The machine went into a fast spin and continued so into the ground, I could feel Lt. Stephen working on the controls trying to get the machine out of spin, but I left controls absolutely alone. To the best of my knowledge the engine was full on all the time until we crashed.

Certified true statement. Cadet sent to Kingston Hospital. [signed] W.S. Anderson Capt. R.A.F.

Stephen was the son of James Milne Stephen and Margaret Helen (née Davidson). They buried their son in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto and put up a private memorial to him.

Memorial for James Davidson Stephen from, courtesy of Islington

Memorial for James Davidson Stephen from, courtesy of Islington

Harry Douglas Barnhardt signature

Harry Douglas Barnhardt was admitted to the 30th Casualty Clearing Station dangerously wounded, on October 13th, 1918. He was serving with the 21st Battalion near Cambrai in France. His unit did not see action that day, but it had on the 11th and on the 12th it was withdrawing from the front line. On that day the war diary noted that two men were missing after the men of the 21st Battalion reached their billets in Escaudœuvres:

21st Battalion war diary 12 Oct 1918

12-10-18. During the night of October 11th- 12th the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade was relieved by a Brigade of the 51st Division, the 6th Gordons relieving the 21st Canadian Battalion. Relief was complete at 0245 hours and the Battalion proceeded to billets in ESCAUDOEUVRES, with Headquarters at T.25.a.10.25. Our casualties during the advance of the day were: Officers, killed,3; died of wounds,1; wounded,6; wounded at duty,2; Gassed,1; Other Ranks, killed,39; wounded 272; Missing,2.

Perhaps Barnhardt was one of the two missing men. He was transferred to the 22nd Casualty Clearing Station on October 17th and died of his wounds on October 21st at the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station. He was buried at the Bucqoy Road Cemetery in Ficheux.

Harry is remembered on the Deseronto war memorial. He was the only conscript in our memorial project who was killed in action.

Deseronto memorial

He is also named on the Belleville war memorial.

Belleville War Memorial

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