The Story of Stranraer 935
(slideshow at bottom of page)
On 14 February, 1943, RCAF Stranraer 935 was scheduled for a training mission in the Alliford Bay landing area 1 1/2 miles to the west of the cairn location. The crew members were:
P/O DS MacLennen (J13672) Pilot (Captain), Montreal, Que
P/O LG Thompson (J13697) Second Pilot, Chance Harbour, NB
P/O FW McConkey (J13153) WAG, Calgary, Alta
Sgt JO Gilmour (R50322) AFM Crewman, Vancouver, BC
Cpl JP Sperling (R64622) AEM Crewman, Chamberlain, Sask
and F/L CWT Field (C3378) the Station Accounts Officer, from Edmonton, Alta decided to accompany the crew on this flight, possibly for the experience.
P/Os MacLennan and Thompson had recently graduated from the OTU and had a number of training missions to complete before becoming combat-ready. The Captain, P/O MacLennan was a steady and reliable pilot but his flying boat experience was limited – 300 hours flying time and of this 62 hours on Stranraers only 30 was as first pilot. P/O Thompson- the Second Officer was an average pilot also with limited experience – 47 hours on Stranraers as second pilot. They were scheduled to practice takeoffs and landings with the aircraft fully loaded. The ceiling that day was 3000 feet overcast with broken cloud at 2000, visibility was ten to twelve miles, and the wind was from the north east at ten to twelve knots, gusting, which made for choppy seas with a very light swell.
935 was given take-off clearance at 1553. The aircraft took off and thirty minutes later requested permission to land. Landing clearance was given and the aircraft made a normal landing. The aircraft took off again and at approximately 1635 hours Stranraer 935 requested permission to land again. Landing clearance was again given and a normal approach directly into wind was observed though the aircraft seemed to be descending at a fairly steep angle. Approximately 150 feet above the water it leveled off, continuing the descent until it hit the water between Maude and Lina Islands. The aircraft bounced slightly, followed by a series of increasingly severe bounces with the fifth bounce throwing it eighty feet back into the air. The aircraft suddenly swerved 90 degrees to port, dropping the port wing at the same time. Both engines were turning and there were no messages from 935 during landing attempt. On the final impact at 1642 it appeared that both the port upper and lower mainplanes broke off downwards from the wing roots. The aircraft started to sink immediately and within two minutes was completely out of sight. Approximately two minutes after 935 sank the water’s surface heaved to height of 8-10 feet, followed almost immediately by an eruption of flames twenty feet high with smoke rising nearly 1000 feet, lasting about three minutes. The depth charges had exploded.
There was no crash boat assigned to the landing area but the crew on crash boat 299 Gadwell, returning from a supply run to Sandspit, was told to proceed to crash site, which took ten minutes. In the meantime, HMCS Margret 1, which was on Skidigate Inlet approximately 1 mile from the landing site, altered course to the crash site. Oil started to appear on the surface along with other bits of debris and the crew noticed a large number of fish and water fowl. An object was noticed drifting about 100 yards away which was identified as a wing tip float.
P/O MacLennan likely made the first landing as was to be expected. P/O Thompson possibly attempted the second landing and his inexperience, compounded the effects of the bounce, lead to the crash. Officially the cause of the crash was rated “obscure”, with the misuse of controls while trying to correct for the bounce being the primary factor and gustiness in channel as a contributing factor. The accident might have been avoided if the pilots had been instructed in how to control the bounce after a hard landing and if there was more experience on the part of the pilots in handling heavily laden aircraft.
All the crew were killed and only P/O MacLennan’s body was recovered later, on the 26th of April.
The ceremony to remember the crew of Stranraer 935 took place in Alliford Bay on November 19th, 2011. 19 Wing transported the participants in an Aurora aircraft and we were honoured that two senior officers from 19 Wing, as well as members from 888 Wing joined 101 Squadron for the service. Our Haida Gwaii Flight had erected the obelisk on Kwuna Point and did a fine job of hosting the guests.
55º 12’ 43.06” N 131º 09’ 17.01”W