World War I

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.


Ernest Russell Brant signature

Ernest Russell Brant died on this day in 1918 of a wound that he received at the Battle of Amiens on August 9th.

Ernest Russell Brant circumstances of casualty

Canada War Graves Registry: circumstances of casualty for Ernest Russell Brant, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

“Died of Wounds”

This soldier received a gunshot wound in the head, during the attack on ROSIERES on August 9th. He was attended and evacuated to No. 6 General Hospital, Rouen, where he succumbed to his wounds a few days later.

Ernest was buried in the St. Sever cemetery extension in Rouen, France. His brother, Arthur, had died almost exactly a year before.

Ernest is remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

Lorne Oliver signature

On this day in 1918, Lorne Gould Oliver was killed shortly after the Battle of Amiens in France. He was serving with the 4th Field Ambulance at Warvillers. The war diary for his unit gives Oliver’s date of death as August 13th, but other casualty records state that he was killed on the 15th.

Here is the war diary entry for the 4th Field Ambulance for the day Lorne Oliver’s death was reported:

Lorne Oliver mentioned in war diary

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s report on the circumstances of Oliver’s death explains that he was returning from duty when he was killed by shellfire. The corresponding record for John McLachlan, the man he was with (and who was killed at the same time), explains that they were stretcher-bearers.

Lorne Gould Oliver casualty report

The diary entry for this day in 1918 for the same unit gives some idea of the scale of the Canadian losses in the Battle of Amiens (August 8th-12th), as well as an indication of the amount of work that stretcher-bearers like Oliver and McLachlan were undertaking:

Lorne Oliver's unit report of losses over four days in August 1918


A general estimate places the losses in the Canadian Corps for the four days fighting at 8000, viz:-

2000 Dead

2000 Stretcher Cases

4000 Walking Cases

Oliver and McLachlan were buried beside each other in the Warvillers Churchyard Extension in France. Lorne is remembered on the cenotaph in Napanee.

Napanee cenotaph, east side

On this day in 1918 Thomas William Ellis was killed in the Battle of Amiens. He was named as a casualty in the 21st Battalion’s war diary entry for the battle.

Originally, Ellis was buried in Midway Cemetery, near Marcelcave, but his body was exhumed in 1920 and transferred to the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery.

Tom is remembered on the Deseronto memorial.
Deseronto memorial

Francis Russell Cook signature
On this day in 1918 Frank (Francis) Russell Cook died in a fall from an aircraft near Napanee, while in training with 81 C.T.S. at Camp Rathbun. The RAF report notes that the aircraft was a Curtiss JN-4, number C189. The Court of Inquiry took evidence from an eyewitness, R. H. McCreer of Napanee:

R. H. McCreer's evidence

Detail from Attorney General’s 1918 file RG4-32/1755 at the Archives of Ontario

1st Witness

R.H.McCreer, Farmer, R.R.No. 5 Napanee, states:-

I saw an aeroplane manoeuvering over my farm about 7.20 a.m. today. I saw a man fall out of the machine and the machine then flew level for about a mile with the engine stopped and then crashed.

The Court of Inquiry found that Cook’s seatbelt had become unfastened during the flight, causing him to fall while manoeuvering at a height of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet.

Cook was born on September 17th, 1898 in Clanwilliam, Manitoba, the son of Andrew Cook and Elizabeth (née Rowat). He had been working as a drug store clerk in Minnedosa, Manitoba when he joined the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on January 3rd, 1918. Four days later he was officially appointed to the Corps in Toronto with the regimental number 153929. He was described as five feet eight and a half inches tall, with a fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes.

Frank was buried in Clanwilliam United Church Cemetery.

Thomas John Warren signature

Thomas John Warren

HMR2-10-90c Photograph of T. J. Warren by Harold McMurrich Rathbun, ca.1914

Thomas John Warren, an assistant electric and gas inspector, was conscripted in Ottawa on this day in 1918, the last local person to be drafted in this way. He was born in Deseronto on March 19th, 1885, the son of James Warren and Matilda (née Alexander).

Warren joined the 2nd Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 3327432. He was five feet four inches tall, with a medium complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His service record shows that he did not go overseas and was discharged from the army in Ottawa on December 14th, 1918, with a note that his character was “Most reliable and trustworthy”.

In 1921 Thomas was living with his mother, sister, uncle and aunt in Fourth Street, Deseronto, still working as a gas inspector. His sister, Lena, was a teacher at Deseronto Public School.

Harry Frank Allardice signature

Harry Frank Allardice died in Deseronto at 9pm on this day in 1918 as a result of the same accident which killed Lieutenant Edward Lionel Morley. Allardice had suffered a fractured skull in the crash and died 34 hours later, according to his death registration.

The Intelligencer, Belleville’s newspaper, reported the crash on the day that Allardice died:

Belleville Intelligencer report of Jul 27 1918 on Morley and Allardice's accident

Fatal Aeroplane Accident at Deseronto

DESERONTO, July 26.- Second Lieut. E. L. Morley was killed and Cadet H. F. Allardince was seriously injured in a flying accident at 11.30 a.m. to-day near Camp Rathbun. Second Lieut. Morley was a son of Edward Morley, 169 Ridout street south, London, Ont. Cadet Allardice was married, and his wife lives at 52 Gloucester street, Toronto.

Allardice was born in Fulham, London, England on May 24th, 1888, the son of Joseph Allardice and Emily (née Foster). He came to Canada on the SS Lake Champlain on June 30th, 1907, heading for Wadena, Saskatchewan. He worked as a superintendent for the Barnett McQueen Company in Fort William (Thunder Bay) from 1908 to 1912. He married Hilda Powell Chipman in Port Arthur on December 30th, 1912 and the couple then moved to Ottawa, where Allardice worked as manager of the Silicate Brick Company. They had two sons, Francis Joseph who died at the age of two in 1916 of a fractured skull and Donald Clair, who was born on May 3rd, 1917.

Harry signed up on January 3rd, 1918 in Toronto, with the regimental number 153797. He was five feet eight and a half inches tall. He gave his home address as 216 Waverly Street, Ottawa. The accident which killed him was his first flight with 82 Canadian Training Squadron.

Allardice was buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, in the same plot as his son.

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