The Story of Canso 11043
(slideshow at bottom of page)
On the 14 July, 1945 three Cansos and a 24 man ground crew from 6 BR Squadron were sent to Prince Rupert on detachment with F/L Roberts as the OC. They stayed there until the 31 July when they were ordered home. At 14:15hrs on the 31 July Canso 11043 landed at RCAF Station Prince Rupert having completed the last operational mission of the war for No 6 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron. The six remaining ground crew members and their tools were loaded on G for George and at 16:45 hrs the crew headed for their home base at RCAF Station Coal Harbour. F/L Roberts, the Captain, had 1725 hours of which 640 was on Cansos with 285 hours logged in the last 6 months. He was considered the most experienced Captain on the Squadron F/L Banville, the copilot, had recently graduated from the OTU and had been on squadron for 1 month. He had 1859 hours of which 150 hours were on Cansos but only 10 hours of those were as 1st Pilot. He was judged to be a very good pilot for his experience level and was in line to be upgraded to Captain.
The departure weight was 30,482 lbs and by landing time the weight was down to 30,000+ which was within tolerances but still considered a heavy load. The load seemed to be well distributed as there were no trim or control problems. The trip to Coal Harbour was uneventful. Weather at Coal Harbour was 15 miles vis, lowest cloud 6,000’ overcast, wind NE 2 mph and the water had a slight ripple. The approach was normal with the copilot doing the landing from the Captain’s seat. They landed before the normal landing area which was prudent incase they had to do an overshoot. The landing was very light with no bounce and they ran over the water for 200 yds without swerving. The nose commenced to settle down in a normal manner but continued to go down past the normal level. Then there were two terrific jolts and the sound of tearing metal and at this point the nose dug in and the aircraft flipped over on its back.
Canso 11043 had hit a rock. The hull was ripped open in two or three places, both engines and the nose were torn off and the wings folded over with the four 250 lb depth charges still dangling from the mangled wings. The navigator was struck by the port propeller and had his left arm torn off and part of his head cut off. He died instantly. Most of the crew were thrown free from the aircraft on impact and the others managed to free themselves shortly afterwards. The thirteen survivors got into the life raft and were rescued by the crash boat which arrived a short time later. The wreckage was tied to Pot Rock overnight. The next morning the wreck was inspected and the armament crew tried to safety the 4 depth charges but were not able to. The aircraft was deemed too dangerous to salvage so it was towed to deeper water and blown up.
Several of the crew were in shock and had wounds severe enough to be transported to the hospital in Port Hardy.
Flight Crew of ‘G’ for GeorgeJ13063 Flight Lieutenant Joe Roberts, Captain, Chattanooga, Tenn. J20930 Flight Lieutenant Al Banville, Pilot J37489 Flying Officer Ben Hamilton, Navigator, Calgary, Alta. Killed J39651 Pilot Officer Bruce Pinkerton, Lead Wireless Operator, Vancouver, B.C. R70928 Warrant Officer 2 Wayne Griffith, Flight Engineer, Parkbeg, Sask. R133066 Warrant Officer 2 Al Jordan, Flight Engineer, Victoria, B.C. R198910 Warrant Officer 2 Barney Cavanaugh, WAG, Edmonton, Alta. R262522 Sergeant Jerry Guerard, WAG, Carleton Place, Ont.
PassengersR203559 LAC Roger Cook AEM R269031 LAC Gordon Winton AFM R201953 LAC Donald King IM R204804 LAC Quenton Vatne Armour R101028 Sergeant Joe McLeod Radar Mech 1960 WO1 Kenneth Horton Master Mech
The dedication for Canso 11043 was held on the 25th Sep 2010 in the WWII hanger at Coal Harbour. The service went on, on time, despite the heavy rains over the preceding days which had caused numerous highway closures due to flooding and washouts. All the guests from Comox were able to get in to Coal Harbour as well as the two sons of crash survivor WO2 Wayne Griffith, Bryan and Daryl. Bryan Griffith spoke on how his father managed to survive the crash. Also, Richard Graham – the grandson of the last living survivor, WO2 Al Jordan, flight engineer – spoke on his behalf. The guest speaker was the Ops Officer of 19 Wing, Lt Col Luke Bouchard. The Squadron presented a plaque to the RCAF Coal Harbour museum after the dedication – Ray Smither’s had purchased a scrollsaw while stationed at Coal Harbour during WW II creating many items on it over the years.
The trusty old Three Titted Moose was rolled out of hiding and put to good use during the reception that followed the dedication ceremony. There was a casual get together at the Glen Lyon Inn pub afterward. The following morning a flyby for the Battle of Britain was great again following the Tour de Rock ceremony. The Gazette did a follow up story in the Midweek paper.
50º 35’27.72 “ N 127º 37’ 21.53 W
50º 35’35.53 “N 127º38’ 27.08W