Worst plane crash in RCAF history frozen in time
Video: Little is known about a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of 24 RCAF men. Global National’s Mike Armstrong made the trek to visit the remote crash site.
Seventy years later, it is still the worst accident in the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On Oct. 19, 1943, an Ottawa-bound B-24 bomber crashed into a mountain just north of Montreal, killing 24 military men who were headed for some well-deserved time off.
The wreckage of the B-24 Liberator that crashed during a snowstorm still rests near the summit of Black Mountain, outside of St. Donat.
After the plane disappeared during the flight from Gander, Newfoundland, the RCAF sent more than 700 search flights to locate the wreckage.
Friends and family of those on board waited for news of survivors, but as time passed and the plane was not found, hope began to fade.
The RCAF eventually had to call off the search.
Nearly three years later, a pilot noticed a flicker of light coming from a forest, far north of where the original search had taken place, and the wreckage was discovered on the remote mountain top.
For families of the deceased, the agony of never knowing what happened had finally ended and personal belongings recovered from the crash site were sent back to grieving next of kin.
PHOTO GALLERY: Wreckage of the B-24 Liberator on Black Mountain
As Canadians mark Remembrance Day, the family of one of the deceased airmen, Corporal Ronald Douglas Marr, is recalling their own tragic story of loss.
“To think family didn’t know anything for 32 months about where the crash was, where his remains were… that’s a long time,” said Karen Valley, Marr’s grandniece.
It took several days for officials to make the trek to the crash site. Some family members, including Marr’s father, travelled there to hold a funeral and bury the remains of the men on the mountain.
Marr’s nephew, Graham Ingram, said although officials debated sending bodies back to families, there was no way to individually identify the remains because the wreckage was so badly burned.
“These are people who lived together, who worked together… for eternity, let them be together. I think it was a good decision,” Ingram said.
Marr was a wireless operator and armourer with the RCAF and his family still has precious personal items of his, including a helmet, photos and letters that depict some of the horrors of war.
“We’ve had a very busy three weeks, mom. The squadron is credited with nine kills on submarines and we alone made two attacks with one confirmed kill. It was pretty grim. Ships all over the ocean basically and all over the Atlantic, but one night alone we saw five ships on fire. Sickening is no word for this sight,” Marr wrote to his mother.
The family has also kept letters from the RCAF and one from King George Vl.
Read the original letters:
On this Remembrance Day, sharing their story is a way for Marr’s family to honour his sacrifice and the contributions of others who defended the freedom of all Canadians.
With files from Mike Armstrong