Friday, April 17, 2009

CALEDON HILLS ::: 1941 ::: RCAF Anson Crash

SHORTLY AFTER MIDNIGHT in deteriorating weather conditions on November 13, 1941, RCAF Avro Anson W1672 with a training crew of five aboard slammed into Caledon Mountain…not far from the legendary Forks of the Credit.

The crew had lost their bearings.

The pilot thinking he was still near Hamilton, Ontario dropped to an elevation of 1200 feet above sea level, taking the Anson just below cloud cover when disaster struck. While that might have been a safe aerial height for RCAF Station: Mount Hope…it wasn't for Caledon Hills, Ontario.

Three British RAF navigators perished in the mishap.

One in the arms of a rescue worker, another was discovered dead after having crawled 200 feet from the wreckage, and the third later in hospital. Dennis Donahue, Denis Drayton and Reginald Gillman became the first training casualties of No. 33 RAF Navigation School based out of Hamilton, Ontario commonly known as YHM and Hamilton International Airport (hi). By the war's end there would be eleven others. They all rest in peace, nearby, at St. Paul's Glanford Anglican Church on the "Mountain".

Surprisingly the pilot and the wireless operator survived!

Take a second look at the Anson's nose will ya—


Majorie Cluff who resided two miles away on Highway #10, spotted the aircraft going down and alerted other locals. The wreck was found four hours later by Arthur Bracken, a Caledon farmer, who discovered the tragedy after hearing someone cry out. No lights around for miles, and brambles everywhere "in the hills" the aircraft was not an easy find.

Not even ten years after this crash, hockey legend Conn Smythe, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (1927 - 1961), and builder of Maple Leaf Gardens would buy 2,000 acres of Caledon land where he both lived and ran Smythe Racing Stables. Smythe and his son led the Leafs through their glory years and he also found time to breed his own horses and win the esteemed Queen's Plate twice! This former Anson crash site was located on his property and not far from his actual home.

(Photo by Ruth Braiden, courtesy of daughter, Urla Braiden and Fay McCrea of Caledon Village Heritage, Post-Production - Special Projects In Research)

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