The Story of Stranraer 951
Stranraer 951 took off at 0920 on the 23 of August 1943 for a long range patrol of 878 nm miles which takes about 11 hours. There had a 7 man crew plus 1 WAG under instruction, Sgt Anderson . The weather was less than 2000’ ceiling with good visibility. The aircraft was not overweight had been properly preflighted and everything appeared serviceable and had the standard safety equipment but only had one 5 man life raft as the Station only had enough for one per each aircraft plus one spare
F/S Cox was the Captain. The Squadron commander called him an exceptional pilot . He had 620 hours of flying time with 418 of these being on Stranraers. His copilot, F/S Horn had 440 hours on Stranraers so they were a very experienced crew. Cox had flown a 1hr an 10 min practice instrument flight the day before
At 1750 951 sent a position report then at 1818 sent the first SOS saying he is at 49 47’ N 130 W and sinking followed by several situation reports that allowed DF bearings to be obtained. They were about 1 hr 15 min from base. On receiving the crash message the Station Commander ordered the 5 remaining aircraft airborne for the search. Two rescue boats, M231 from Coal Harbour and M234 from Ucluelet were dispatched as well as a Navy minesweeper.
At 2024 951 advised they were still floating but the wing was breaking off. At 2030 952 advised they had spotted 951 and circled for about 1 hr 15 min. 952 observed that both engines on 951 were stopped. The radio operator of 951, F/S Cram, said the port wing tip had broken off and was gone but there was no water in the hull and they had torn off the fabric on the right lower mainplane to prevent lifting. The dingy was tied midship The crew were standing on the right wing and were very seasick as there was a 25 foot swell. The radio battery was disconnected and the engine battery was connected. The pilot of 952 said he was going to land but the pilot of 951 advised him not to as the sea was too rough. The last message from 951 was that the radio operator was going out on the wing as he was too sick to operate the radio
952 had a rough running engine and felt it was advisable to return to base but just before he left he saw six or seven red very light flares fired in the air. 952 did not drop its life raft off due to its own engine problems and they did not figure the crew of 951 could get it anyway. 950 was to be the relief for 952. All other aircraft were told to return to base. By the time 950 arrived on the scene it was very dark and he was unable to find 951
At 0144 Stranraer 909 who was on the way to relieve 950, while was at 200’, sighted what he thought was the M231 Malicite. He fired a white vey pistol and saw it was a sub. He circled and saw it diving heading approximately 235T which was the direction of 951 which was 52nm away. 909 proceeded to 951’s estimated position but could not locate 951. They fired white and green flares every 2 minutes and descended to 20’ and observed that there were 100’ swells with breakers, wind 340 at 35 kts in heavy driving rain. In the opinion of the Captain a floating Stranraer could not ride out such a condition. 909 was unable to find 951 and returned to base at 0605. M231and the minesweeper reached the area before daylight but did not find 951 or the crew
A full search was started the morning of August 24th and lasted until the 31 Aug. F/O Wayave, the captain of 909, was awarded theAir Force Cross for his courageous work in trying to locate the lost aircraft,Along with the other searchers, he refused to give up hope and continued to fly long hours in the next week as the search area was expanded.
One possible cause of the forced landing at sea could have been an engine failure as the Stranraer at that gross weight could not fly very long on one engine.
None of the crew of 951 survived…
F/S Everard Thomas Cox (Captain) Vancouver, BC
F/S Lawrence Alfred Bernard Horn, (2nd Pilot) Regina Sask
Sgt Robert Stuart, (Observer) Vancouver, BC
F/S Mervin Cram, (WAG) Renfrew, Ont.
Sgt A. Anderson, (WAG) Selkirk, Man (under training)
Sgt Kenneth Hope, (AFM) Vancouver, BC
Sgt Leslie Oldford, (AEM) Penhold, Alta
Sgt Charles Franklin Beeching, (AEM) Regina, Sask
Planning started on the memorial for Stranraer 951 was made in the fall of 2006. As 951 had disappeared at sea, Joey Eilertsen, who owned the old RCAF Station at Coal Harbour was approached about putting a memorial on his land. A location just next to the launch ramp that 951 had departed from was chosen. After several work parties, the site was cleared of the bamboo forest. In July of 2008 the monument to RCAF Station Coal Harbour, a flag pole for the RCAF Ensign, and the harpoon gun were moved down to the site. Port McNeill Enterprises donated and poured the concrete and we were ready for the dedication ceremonies on September 14, 2007.
It was a beautiful day and we had a great crowd. Lynneve Stewart, the daughter of FS Cox (the pilot of 951) and her daughter Charlotte attended the ceremony. Lynneve said it finally brought the family closure on the tragedy. After the ceremony and a flyby of two Aircab Beaver aircraft, we toured the Coal Harbour Museum and the WWII hanger and then retired to the Sergeants Mess and the three titted Moosefor for refreshments and a talk on Coal Harbor’s history by Chris Weicht. Afterwards a wine and cheese social was held at Russ and Cathie Hellberg’s house. On the Saturday 101 Squadron held their 7th Annual Battle of Britain Dinner and dance and enjoyed a Smugglers Inn fish and chip dinner. There were a number of 101, 888 and 19 Wing members in attendance.
49º47’N 130º 30’ W
50º 35’35.53 “N 127º38’ 27.08W