military training

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.

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.

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.

Edward Lionel Morley signature
Edward Lionel Morley died in Deseronto on this day in 1918 as the result of a flying accident in which he broke his back.

Edward Lionel Morley CIBC photograph

Courtesy of

Morley was born in London, Ontario, on October 1st, 1893, the son of Edward Morley and Sarah (née Swalwell). He worked for the Canadian Bank of Commerce from 1910 up until he joined the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on November 22nd, 1917 and was officially appointed on November 26th in Toronto with the regimental number 152936. He was five feet four inches tall, with a fair complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

In June 1918 he was given a temporary commission in the Corps and attended a course at the Special School of Flying to become an instructor with 82 Canadian Training Squadron, part of the Deseronto Wing of the Royal Air Force. He had passed his test as an instructor two days prior to his death. He was flying a Curtiss JN-4, number C.169 when he died, taking up Cadet Allardice for his first flight.

The Court of Inquiry held after the accident heard evidence from Lieutenant Brooks, of 90 C.T.S., who had spoken to two civilians:

Detail from file RG4-32/1612 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General 1918 file RG4-32/1612 at the Archives of Ontario

I questioned Joseph McCambridge of Deseronto (Civilian) who was the first on the scene of the accidents, and he told me the Cadet’s belt was fastened, whilst Lieut. Morley’s was not.

I also spoke to Mrs. Haggerty of Deseronto, who saw the accident happen. She described the machine as coming towards her house between three and four hundred feet up. It commenced spinning and she lost sight of it through the trees.

The court decided that the cause of the crash was:

Detail of file RG4-32/1612 at Archives of Ontario

Detail of Attorney General 1918 file RG4-32/1612 at Archives of Ontario

…that 2/Lt. Morley while taking Cadet Allardice for his first flight, got machine C.196 into a spin through some error of judgment unknown at a height of about 500 feet and was apparently just getting the machine out of the spin when he hit the ground.

Edward was buried in Woodland Cemetery, London.

Colin Goss Coleridge signature

Colin Goss Coleridge came to Canada from England on the SS Pomeranian in August 1911 at the age of 22. He joined the Royal North West Mounted Police and served with them in Saskatchewan and Manitoba before being discharged to join the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on August 13th, 1917. He was awarded a temporary commission with the Corps on December 21st, 1917 and worked as a flying instructor at Fort Worth in Texas and then at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto.

While he was in Fort Worth, at Camp Taliaferro, Coleridge was involved in a flying accident on February 9th, 1918, when he was instructing Cadet Cecil Bradford Corbin. Corbin suffered a broken leg and nose in the crash, while Coleridge had broken ribs. Both men suffered burns but Coleridge managed to rescue Corbin from the aircraft and was given an MBE for this action.

Colin was killed in another flying accident near Deseronto on this day in 1918. He and Lieutenant Priestman were flying from Camp Mohawk to Camp Rathbun. The following is a description of the crash by Lieutenant Stevenson at the Court of Inquiry held the day after:

Lieutenant Stevenson's evidence re Coleridge crash

Detail from Court of Inquiry, Attorney General 1918 file RG4-32/1762 at the Archives of Ontario

2nd Witness.

Lieut. A.R. Stevenson, states:-

I was standing about 50 yards from the scene of accident. I saw machine C-226 making a right hand vertical bank just North of the Officers’ Quarters, the undercarriage and right hand Wings struck a tree and then the machine swung nose down to the ground. I saw the engine knocked back to the petrol tank and almost immediately the machine burst into flames.

I saw an Officer jump from the rear seat, and owing to the extensive heat I was unable to render any assistance to the passenger I saw in the front seat.

Coleridge suffered burns to 90% of his body in the crash and died five hours later in the Camp Rathbun hospital.

He was born in Ashton, Devon, England on December 8th, 1888, the son of John Coleridge and Ellen Anne (née Goss). They were living in Snettisham, Norfolk, when their son died. He was buried in Deseronto Cemetery, and this photograph is believed to be of his funeral:

Funeral of Colin Goss Coleridge

Headstone of Colin Goss Coleridge

Coleridge’s parents donated a table to St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Deseronto, with a plaque commemorating their son. The plaque and the table were donated to the National Air Force Museum of Canada in 2018.

Lt Coleridge plaque



Lt. Colin Goss Coleridge, R.A.F.

OBIT JULY 23rd A. D. 1918

Cecil Humphreys signature
Cecil James Gaston D’Herbez Humphreys died on this day in 1918. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on August 14th, 1917 at the age of 20. His regimental number was 74523 and he was five feet nine and a half inches tall. Humphreys was granted a commission in the Corps on December 5th of the same year. He was working as a flying instructor for 89 Canadian Training Squadron of the Deseronto Wing of the Royal Air Force when he died. The RAF casualty card notes that he died in a flying accident in a Curtiss JN-4 aircraft and that Cadet W. A. Tramble was slightly injured in the incident.Cadet Tremble gave the following evidence to the Court of Inquiry held at Camp Mohawk on the day of the accident:

Detail from Attorney General's 1918 file RG 4-32/1745 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail from Attorney General’s 1918 file RG 4-32/1745 at the Archives of Ontario

6th. Witness.

No. 154368 Tremble W.A. Cadet 89 C.T.S. states:-

About 11.30 a.m. July 15/7/18. I was on my fourth trip up in the air practising gentle turns with Lieut. Humphreys. On the way home Lieut. Humphreys was driving the plane. He made three climbing turns around a yacht on the lake. While making the third turn the right wing tip touched the water, throwing machine directly over on it’s back. Next thing I remember was coming up out of the water about five feet from the fuselage. I then swam over to machine and removed my tunic and helmet and then made two attempts to remove Lieut. Humphreys, but was unable to do so. By that time one of the crew off the yacht picked me up in a small boat, but refused to dive under the machine. The owner of the yacht then arrived with a second boat and made several attempts to remove the Officer by diving under the machine. Attempts were also made by a man with a launch but neither were successful. As machine was sinking they decided to get a line on it. After doing so I went ashore in one of the small boats and telephoned from Mr. Chas. Walters cottage, Napanee, to Deseronto reporting the accident.

After telephoning I changed my clothes and then went down to the shore. Here the Medical Officer ordered me to lie down in the launch and rest. Then went to a cottage and rested until taken to Deseronto, by the Medical Officer.

The death registration records that Humphreys died in the Bay of Quinte, by drowning and the Deseronto Post reported the accident in the following way:

1918 Jul 18 Deseronto Post report of Lieut Humphrey's death

Lieut. Cecil J. Humphry Drowned

Lt. Cecil J. Humphry of the R. A. F., an instructor at Camp Mohawk met a tragic death by drowning on Monday when the machine in which he was instructing a cadet plunged into the Bay of Quinte near the High Shore. The cadet, sitting in the back seat was able to free himself. The late Lt. Humphry comes from Selkirk Ave., Victoria, B. C. His mother is at present in England. The remins were conveyed with military honors from the Presbyterian Church to the R.A.F. plot, Deseronto Cemetery where burial took place.

Cecil was born on June 6th, 1897 in Langport, Somerset, England, the son of Charles James Humphreys and Berthe Marie Therese (née D’Herbez). The family arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1911 and lived for a while in Spokane, Washington. Cecil attended McGill University and had been working for the Bank of Nova Scotia before he enlisted. He gave his home address as 924 Selkirk Avenue, Victoria, British Columbia.

Humphreys was buried in Deseronto Cemetery.

Grave of C. J. Humphreys

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.

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