With 2012 ChisholmTownship’s
Centennial Year a fascinating story is worth repeating .As I write this article
on January 6, 2012
I note that seventy years ago today in 1942 a
Bolingbroke Bomber crashed in ChisholmTownship..
I wrote about it in 2002 in Community Voices and it
bears repeating here 70 years later to the day, with some updates. The article
is also in my recent book Voices from the Past.
During one of the worst winter storms in years in the North Bay area, seventy
years ago, on Tuesday January 6th, 1942, the people of North Bay, who
could barely see across the street, heard the roar of a large low-flying plane
over the city in mid-afternoon. The airport was deluged with calls, and it was
soon learned that three Royal Canadian Air Force Bristol Bolingbroke Bombers
with four-man crews from the Rockcliffe Airbase near
Ottawa were caught in the storm. Bolingbrokes were
used exclusively for bombing and gunnery training, and as target tugs.
A Nugget reporter rushed to the airport, where a report eventually came in that
one of the planes had made it back to Rockcliffe and
had landed safely. A second report indicated that the second plane had
crash-landed without casualties. There was no sign
of the third plane, and it was assumed that it was the one flying extremely low
over North Bay.
The third plane, #702 under flying officer Sgt. T.C.
Warrender, was in trouble circling North Bay, trying to find the
airport. LAC J.G. Graham, the wireless operator, could not make radio contact
with the North Bay Tower. A nugget reporter later described the radio operator
at the airport repeatedly calling “Bolingbroke 702, please come in.-
Bolingbroke 702, please come in.” The plane’s radio operator later reported
that he could “hear the beam through my earphones, and I figured by its sound
that we were within twenty-five miles of North Bay.”
Bolingbroke bomber that crashed in Chisholm township
in 1942. Chisholm Women’s Institute History Book.
But the plane was in bigger trouble than the radio – their left engine was
failing, and they couldn’t get enough power to rise above the storm. The plane
was flying south of North Bay toward North Bay, following the CNR rail line just
above the telegraph wires, when the pilot decided to ditch the plane in a
farmer’s field. He circled two or three times, realizing they had little room
to manoeuver. They dropped several unarmed bombs
into the adjoining fields. They also had several barrels of machine gun
cartridge straps on board. With the flaps down and the wheels retracted, they
skimmed over the farmer’s barn and bellied their way across the field. The weak
engine caused the plane to veer to the left. After ripping out a fence and
knocking down a telephone pole, they slid with a thud against the elevated CNR
rail bed and came to a sudden halt.
farmer George Girard’s son Maurice headed for the plane with the farm’s team.
All of the four-man crew were dazed, but okay. They went back to the Girard
farmhouse and called the airport. Mrs. Girard served coffee and cake left over
from Christmas. In short order, Nugget reporters and photographers were on the
scene with their panel truck. The truck was later used to bring the duffel bags
and other items of the airmen back to North Bay.
The phones at the North Bay
airport rang until
with people wanting to find out what had happened.
One of the Nugget reporters described how the airmen were busy salvaging what
they could at the crash site when Flying Officer W.J.Wilson,
the medical officer from the RCAF recruiting office in North Bay,
reached the crash site. He reported that, as Wilson
approached, “up went the cold-numbed hands of the four crewmen in a smart salute
– discipline was not forgotten.”
In the aftermath of the event, the word “miraculous” was used to describe the
survival of the men, and the word “brilliant” to describe the pilot’s work.
People came from near and far to the Girard farm (later Giroux Meat and
Abattoir) on river Road in north Chisholm township to
see the plane over the next few days. A salvage crew of fourteen men, with a
twenty-ton crane and seven floats camped at the Girard’s for a week, removing
the plane which was beyond repair. Mr. Girard later found the bombs while
ploughing his fields, and had them carefully removed
by the RCAF.
Sixteen years later, almost to the day, a CF100 Jet interceptor from North Bay
got in trouble and the two-man crew ejected over the Girard farm,
droping the cockpit canopy into their field.
As a footnote, I had a conversation with Yvonne Buckner, who lived in ChisholmTownship
at the time of this crash. When a knock came at the door, they opened it to find
Squadron Leader Burnette bleeding and shaken. The
brought him in and got him comfortable, and let him call the airbase. The two
oldest sisters still have laminated copies of the Nugget article describing the
adventure. Squadron Leader Burnett returned a couple of weeks later and
gave the children a nice gift.
For more information on the Bolingbroke Bomber and
the CF100, check the Department of National Defense
website: www.airforce.dnd.com. They
also have the NationalAviationMuseum
at Rockcliffe and have a Bolingbroke and CF100 on
site. The CanadianWarplaneMuseum
has a North Bay Black Knight Squadron CF100, and are
restoring a Bolingbroke (www.warplane.com).
To visit the North Bay Air Defense Museum go to the
airport and turn right at the black CF100, and take the first left, any Sunday
from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., except holidays. The plane on the North Bay Lakeshore
is also a CF100. More Chisholm memories in the year ahead