I have spent so much time at the university library in recent years that I forgot how wonderful the public libraries can be. Sure, I would always visit the library at Gander and Stephenville to check their compiled articles and community histories, but I was browsing my local library trying to find a book about the Ocean Ranger disaster, and have been finding some wonderful rare books about Newfoundland aviation.
One I recently discovered was A Broken Arrow: The Story of the Arrow Air Disaster in Gander – Newfoundland by Captain T.C. Badcock. As the back of the book says:
it is, quite simply, the story of the Armed Forces role in the worst disaster in Canadian aviation history.
I know I have reviewed a few books about the Arrow Air disaster. Like all aviation stories, it is fascinating, and even more so because of how powerful the memorial site is. I cannot help but be moved any time I am at the site, and have seen so many people moved to tears at that site when they think about what happened. Unlike any other book I have read about the subject, this one tells a simple story with no comments on the causes or politics surrounding the site. This books outlines what the Armed Forces did in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Badcock shows nothing but respect throughout everything and demonstrates the value of the Canadian Armed Forces, especially in a disaster situation. And it is one of the few books I have read on the subject that never forgets that there were people on that aircraft. This story goes through the work the RCMP did on site, and how the Armed Forces helped facilitate, from providing men to making sure everyone was fed throughout the ordeal. Badcock talks about the stresses on everyone to work hard, do a good job, and do whatever they could to recover the victims.
A Broken Arrow does contain some images I had never seen of the Arrow Air crash. In fact, all of the images in this post are from the book. And is the only book I have read on the subject which lists all of the military personnel involved in the recovery operation and lists everyone who was on the aircraft in a dedicated memorial section. It is moving, and makes one recall the number of people who died in that crash, and all of the people (even knowing that it is a partial list because it doesn’t show the police, Salvation Army and American Military who were on site) who were involved in the recovery of the incident.
Of all of the books written on the subject of the Arrow Air disaster, this was by far the most moving of any I have read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this crash, the role of the Canadian Armed Forces, or the history of Gander.
1988 A Broken Arrow: The Story of the Arrow Air Disaster in Gander – Newfoundland. Al Clouston Publications: St. John’s.