It is 11 November 2018, and I am taking a moment to reflect.

Commemoration ceremony held in 2009 in Gander to remember those who perished in a crash on 14 February 1945. Second from the left is Bill Dolan, the son of the pilot on that flight. Find more information on this crash from Hillier’s thesis.

Much of my work is remembrance. While not every story involves tragedy, one of my goals is to get the names of those who were involved in Newfoundland and Labrador aviation out of the archives and on the internet so they can be more easily found. I have had many family members contact me to tell me how they found their loved one and links to other documents, through this work. It may not always be war stories, but many who were involved in aviation between and after the wars were typically aviators during the war, such as many of those involved in the Great Atlantic Air Race that pioneered trans-Atlantic Aviation, making way for Ferry Command in the Second World War.

While my work has kept me away from my blog posts, I have been working to continue my work. In the past few months, I have had an article come out about the American Overseas Airlines crash in Stephenville in 1946. This aircraft was looking to bring the families of those helping to rebuild Germany after the war together, but, tragically, there were no survivors. The article is online through the AP Online Journal in Public Archaeology called An Empty Graveyard: The Victims of the 1946 AOA DC-4 Crash, Their Final Resting Place, and Dark Tourism. The other articles all look at archaeology, death, ethics, and our perceptions of death in the contemporary world. I want to thank Howard Williams and Lorna-Jane Richardson for accepting my article into this journal, and for the help they and the other reviewers provided. This is my first sole author peer-reviewed article.

Images of the memorial cemetery from heritage.nf.ca. Note, since this image was taken, many of the wooden crosses have fallen.

Last week, the chapter in a book I have been working on came out. The book is Canadians and War, Volume 3 and my essay is called Sacrifice in Second World War Gander. The essay looks at the first tragedies associated with Gander during the war. First is the events around the crash and death of Sir Frederick Banting. Those who died in that crash were sent back to the mainland for burial. Months later, the next aviation tragedy happened in Gander with the crash of RCAF Digby 742. Due to these events, it was recognized that there would be more tragedies at the airbase, and this lead to the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves at Gander. For this work, I want to thank Jeremy Lammi, his editors, and Darrell Hillier for helping me and catching some of my errors in earlier drafts.

Canadians and War, Volume 3, published by Lammi Publishing, 2018.

Finally, later this month, the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives are having a symposium, and I was asked to be a part of the event. I will be giving a talk alongside other archaeologists, historians, and heritage professionals. I look forward to coming home for the event. It will take place at the rooms, and tickets can be purchased at anla@aibn.nf.ca. This talk looks more at the mechanics of research, the various sources and archives that I use, with a focus on Second World War Gander.

Finally, I did not write in this text, but I did contribute a photo. I do not have a copy yet, but I look forward to reading A Shadow of War: Archaeological Approaches to Uncovering the Darker Sides of Conflict from the 20th Century by Claudia Theune.

While I have not been posting here lately, I have been working on other projects while working CRM archaeology in New Brunswick. My heart certainly belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador heritage, and I will continue to work to tell the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador aviation.

Share

As I’ve said before, I have moved provinces, and am now working CRM archaeology. It’s busy work, but great. My things are starting to arrive from Newfoundland, but I am still missing a lot of my books and documents. Along with that, the Digital Archives are currently having issues, which does cut down on some of my research access. But, no more excuses, I plan to really start to try to get a few posts up, especially seeing as there is so much aviation history hitting the 100 year anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Air Race. On that note, for any Canadian writers out there, I will be the guest editor on a collection of short stories inspired by early aviation published by Engen Books. For more information, check out all the details on their website.

Engen Books is now accepting submission for Flights From The Rock.

Prior to the 200th rowing of the Royal St. John’s Regatta, I was asked for information about aviation history on Quidi VIdi Lake. I did a brief write-up, but because of work, could not participate in an interview. I am sharing some of that history now.

The C-5 was an unexpected entry for the Great Trans-Atlantic Air Race. The American non-rigid airship built by the Goodyear and Goodrich companies for the US Navy did anti-submarine and coastal patrols during the First World War. In 1919, it was to be another attempt by the United States at crossing the Atlantic. The US Navy was also trying to be the first to fly the Atlantic with the NC flying boats leaving from Trepassey. The airship flew from Montauk, on Long Island, where 15 km/hr winds made the 192 ft airship hard to handle. It took 300 people to walk it out of the hangar. The captain was Lieutenant-Commander Emory Coil, and the crew were co-pilots Lieutenant John Lawrence and Ensign David Campbell, Lieutenant Marcus Easterley, and chief machinist mates T.L. Moorman and H.S. Blackburn. Officially, the flight was to a testing of the practical radius of this type of airship, but the press didn’t believe that. Coil told newsmen, just before takeoff, “We’ll beat the seaplanes yet”.

U.S. Navy blimp C-5 about to leave Cape May, New Jersey (Rowe 1977).

The C-5 passed over Saint Pierre on the morning of May 15, but arrived 3 or 4 hours later than expected. The blimp was reported over Placentia Junction, Whitbourne, Brigus Junction, Avondale, Holyrood, Petty Harbour and Kelligrews before crossing the Narrows and arriving in St. John’s, passing Quidi Vidi Lake and landing at a cricket field in Pleasantville, on the north side of the Lake. They experienced some Newfoundland fog as they arrived on the island, lost their bearings, and had to drift low at Placentia Junction to ask surprised locals directions.

The C-5 arriving at Pleasantville, in St. John’s (Rowe 1977).

The airship landed at Woodley field, and thousands of people were there to see her land. The crew were greeted with cheers and handshakes by the crowd, and were brought to the American cruiser Chicago, docked in the harbour. Young officers from the Chicago got to work preparing the C-5 for her crossing. When the blimp landed, she had been tied down with earth anchors sufficient for 20 mile/hr winds but within a half hour, the winds were at 30 miles/hr. One hundred men from the Chicago were having trouble controlling the airship. As winds continued to increase, they had to decide if they would take the airship up and ride out the storm, or pull the ripping panels, which would deflate the craft and take them out of the running for the trans-Atlantic race. The carburettors had been removed for servicing, so the only option was the pull the ripping panels.

The C-5 airship shortly after it landed in Pleasantville (Rowe 1977).

When they attempted to pull the cord to release the ripping panels, the cord broke, and at the same time, two steel mooring cables snapped. Many of the Newfoundlanders present tried to help save the airship. There were casualties when the steel cables broke. Two boys were hit. A fifteen year old, son of James Cleary, had a broken collar bone, and the son of Garrett Kavanagh suffered a severe concussion. Early reports said he had been killed. Lieutenant Charles Little, Lieutenant Preston, and a machinist from the Chicago were in the control car of the C-5 as it started to lift away. They jumped down about 7m to avoid being blown away with the ship. Little sprained his ankle in the jump. As hundreds of people tried to hold on to the C-5, the hemp lines continued to break. The aircraft raised 200ft, bounced back to the ground and the control car broke away from the bag. Then “with mooring lines trailing like streamers” (Rowe1977) the blimp flew over Signal Hill and out to sea. It was last seen travelling east by the Cape Spear lighthousekeeper. She was reported by the British steamer War Nipigon, but that might have also been an iceberg. The destroyer Edwards searched for the C-5, but it was never seen again. The last sighting was a piece of spruce wood with C-5 on it recovered from a beach in New Jersey.

The C-5 bring walked from the hangar for takeoff at Cape May, New Jersey (Rowe 1977).

 

 

Sources

Deal, M.
2012 Airships over Newfoundland. Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal, 50(1): 14-25.

Meaney, J.T.
1979 Aviation in Newfoundland. The Book of Newfoundland, vol. 1: 141-152.

Rowe, P.
1977 The Great Atlantic Air Race. McClelland and Stewart Limited: Toronto.

Share