The Story of Lancaster KB 940
(Note: 101 Squadron was not the prime organizer on this project. Our task was to assist Capt N (Ret) Ted Gibbon of 888 Wing in the design of the obelisk and plaque.)
Lancaster KB 920 was delivered to 407 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron 5 August 1952 shortly after the station was reactivated from caretaker status where it was placed following WW II. Gus Baudais a member of 888 Wing was the Flight Engineer on that ferry flight.
At about 5 PM (the Comox fire department recorded the call at 4:56, tower records indicate the crash occurred at 1705) on Monday, 24 November 1952 KB 920 crashed in a swampy area approximately 800 feet from Kye Bay Road that runs adjacent to the southern perimeter of the air base. The aircraft was conducting an instrument landing procedure in marginal weather conditions when the accident occurred. The crash site is now part of a large agriculture enterprise and not accessible to the general public.
Background: A group of Airmen were in Vancouver for the weekend either on duty or on short leave and were scheduled to return to Comox on a Canso aircraft on Monday. The Canso experienced engine problems and was replaced by Lancaster 940. There are various numbers associated with those waiting for the return flight to Comox however the Lancaster had a maximum capacity of 10 and with a crew of 4 only 6 passengers could be accommodated. It is not known how the selection was made but it is recorded that 7 RCAF personnel returned to the Island by boat: Sgt ER Sherwood, LAC JH Hillman, AC2 Kambeitz, LAC RM Fraser, LAC (perhaps CPL) RE Glover and LAC BR Disson
The six who were assigned places on the Lancaster and two crew members perished in the crash.
F/Sgt J L L Maynard, had recently arrived at RCAF Station Comox and was assigned as the NCO in charge of re-opening the base maintenance workshops. It is believed that at the time of the accident he was also Acting Station Warrant Officer awaiting the arrival of the appointee. F/Sgt Maynard was a metal worker with WW II service and had rejoined the RCAF on 1 Oct 1946. He was posted to Comox from an instructional position at RCAF Station Aylmer. The story is that he and Cpl FA (Tiny) McKay were in Vancouver to rent a Santa Claus costume that McKay was to wear during the Station family Christmas party.
Cpl FA McKay was a WW II veteran and had been awarded the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star & Clasp, Italy Star, Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal & Clasp. He was a member of 407 Squadron.
AC2 Vernon Joseph McIntyre (age 17), AC2 Wayne Frederick Smith (age 20) and AC2 Roy Howard Walsh (age 20) were on weekend leave in Vancouver. All three were assigned to 407 Squadron and had been in the RCAF less than a year
Malcolm G MacLeod was a civilian meteorologist recently transferred from the weather office in Winnipeg to be a forecaster at RCAF Station Comox.
F/O Joseph Frederick Doucette the Navigator, was 21 and had recently arrived on the Squadron following training at Greenwood.
Cpl George Stanley Fletcher, the Flight Engineer, was 26 and had joined the RCAF on 5 Dec 1946.
The pilot F/O RF (Ruff) Johnson and the co-pilot F/O MJ (Monte) Wright survived the crash and their rescue from the wreckage resulted in two civilians; Robert Waters and Albert DeCuyper being awarded the George medal. Monte Wright left the RCAF in 1964 and died in 1996 while Ruff Johnson enjoyed a full career in Canada’s air forces and retired as a Colonel. He resides in the Ottawa area. It has been suggested that he is the only pilot to have flown every type of post war Maritime Patrol aircraft; the Lancaster, the Neptune, the Argus and the Aurora.