World War II

Readers of this blog will be very familiar with the exploits of the pilots who trained at Deseronto in the First World War, but may be less aware of the pilot training that took place in the area during the Second. The former Camp Mohawk site on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory became part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, as No. 1 Instrument Flying School, during World War II.

A recent visitor to the Community Archives in Belleville brought in some materials which relate to Flight Officer George McCallum Sheppard’s time at the School. Sheppard was from Gananoque, and was stationed in Tyendinaga from 1940 to 1945 as part of ‘B’ Flight as a flight instructor.

This photograph is of an unofficial coat of arms designed by a member of the school, which lists the people who worked there:  J. A. ‘Jack’ Coulter, J. E. ‘Johnnie’ Millard, R. W. ‘Ralph’ Snider, D. K. ‘Mac’ McColl, L. G. ‘Lloyd’ Polden, W. E. ‘Mac’ McKinney, J. H. ‘Joe’ Wiley, R. A. ‘Bob’ Harris, D. H. ‘Sammy’ Wood-Samman, J. H. ‘Jimmy’ Clarke, W. F. ‘Bill’ Veitch, W. H. ‘Bill’ Durnin AFC, P. M. ‘Pete’ Bickett, E. E. ‘Hake’ Hacon, A. A. ‘Art’ Egan, G. J. ‘Fin’ Finlay, G. M. ‘Shep’ Sheppard, W. J. ‘Bill’ Morrison.

Harold Mills, the donor of these materials is interested in knowing whether anyone can identify the location of the house in the image below. It was the scene of a crash that took place on August 3rd, 1943. Flight Officer Sheppard’s Airspeed Oxford lost power to its port engine and clipped two trees before crashing just short of this farmhouse. Mr Mills would love to know where the house was. Please comment if you can help.

Estella Burkett was a teacher at the Deseronto Public School. She was born in Maynooth, Ontario in 1913 to Agnes Shields and Patrick Burkett. The picture below shows her with her class of children in 1949, outside the old Public School building. Estella retired in 1974 and lived in Belleville until her death in 2010 at the age of 97.


Estella did a considerable amount of travelling in her vacations and she donated some of her photographic materials and notes about her excursions to the Deseronto Archives in 2004. These materials include some photographs taken on a trip to Berlin in 1955, ten years after the end of World War II and six years before the city was divided by the construction of the Berlin Wall. Estella took photographs of the monuments her tour group visited, including this image of a statue of Joseph Stalin, which was removed in 1961 and melted down.

Statue of Stalin

She also photographed the Brandenburg Gate, which would be isolated by the Berlin Wall six years later and impassable until the Wall’s destruction in 1989. The damage caused to the Gate during the Second World War is visible in this image.

Brandenburg Gate 1955

These photos are good examples of the way that small local collections can be unexpected sources of information about entirely different parts of the world. It’s not until we dig into the boxes and do the work of describing the materials, that it becomes possible for everyone else to see what is in them.

A recent accession from the Town of Deseronto included this certificate of Public Recognition which was designed to honour those returning from overseas service after World War II.

If you look closely at the document (click on the image to see a bigger version), you will see that the town mentioned is Halifax and the crests are those for Halifax (as it was before 1964) and Nova Scotia. Pencilled annotations state ‘Your crest here’ and ‘Ontario crest here’ and the name Deseronto has been pencilled in next to the main block of text, where it would replace the word Halifax.

What is not clear from the certificate is whether the Town went ahead and ordered their own version of the certificate for servicemen returning to Deseronto. Did any Deseronto veterans receive such a thing? Has anyone seen a certificate like this among the papers of a friend or relative?