By Steve Goodwin
A chance viewing of part of an airplane that crashed long ago in Pictou County has a local resident thinking deeply about the price of war.
Merigomish resident Frank Barry happened to be in John Marshall’s antique store in downtown New Glasgow when he got to hold a piece of fuselage that was found recently on Dalhousie Mountain. Its green colour and location suggest it’s from a Lockheed Hudson bomber that crashed at night on a return flight to Debert.
The Australian pilot and the four Canadian crew members on board died in the crash.
A monument of local sandstone with an etching of the plane and an information panel are located on the mountain beside the ancient Willis Cemetery. It was dedicated as part of a commemorative service on August 10, 2008, some 66 years to the day after the crash.
Military investigations cited pilot error as the cause of the crash and concluded those aboard died instantly, although weather, possible engine failure and lack of familiarity with the terrain may have played a role.
“My knowledge of things like this is somewhat limited,” said Marshall, who added that he bought the piece from people who frequently walk in the area looking for parts from the plane.
He said it’s remarkable that the piece was found, given that everything possible from the crash scene was removed. It is thin-gauged aluminum that would comprise an airplane’s fuselage.
Barry is a retired architect who moved from Toronto to Merigomish in 2012.
He considered the discovery a valuable piece that merits display at a place like the Pictou County Military Museum.
“I’m an aviator buff and I find this really interesting,” he said. “This is major league history that five men died in a crash in a Hudson bomber.”
He concluded the piece as part of a plane, having once boarded one of the last remaining Lancaster bombers in Ontario.
Viewing the piece took him back to the Second World War and an uncle whose first name was also Frank. His uncle was killed aboard a British aircraft carrier named the HMS Avenger in the Gulf of Cadiz off the Atlantic coast of Spain.
Barry’s uncle previously survived several perilous voyages to deliver supplies to the Arctic Soviet port of Murmansk, while German submarines and battleships ventured out from occupied ports along Europe’s west coast.
Barry was working in Montreal years later when he met someone named Gerry Beck.
Beck was German and anglicized his first name, which was actually Gerhardt.
“I told Gerry about how my uncle died and he broke down,” Barry said. “He was aboard the submarine that torpedoed the carrier.”