Airplane Creek Memorial WWII
All onboard came from the United Kingdom. Many of the bomber crews were being trained at 5 OTU Training Squadron in Abbotsford because the rugged terrain and difficult weather resembled much of what the crews would encounter so far from home.
Just 30 minutes into the flight the crew radioed back to the tower. The signal was made on the same frequency as another aircraft and the crew were never heard from again.
The search lasted 17 days, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In all 700,000 miles were flown. 372 sorties involving 50 aircraft and over 200 men were involved in the search.
Sadly, the crash site was found on the 17th day at the 7600 ft. level of Mt Welch near Chilliwack B.C., just 100 feet from the top of the mountain. All eleven men perished. The average age of the men was just 22.
It took another three days for the ground search party to reach the site. The terrain was so difficult that the men’s bodies were buried in a mass grave in the small valley between Mt Still and Mt Welch. Only a small wooden cross with the men's names on it marked where the men lay. The site and their story was almost forgotten.
In 1983, the commanding officer of 861 Silverfox Squadron in Abbotsford along with a group of cadets erected a memorial cairn to remember the sacrifice of these brave men. The cairn was built on the shore of Airplane Creek (named after the crash) far below the site of the crash.
In 2009 Captain Bowman (commanding officer of 861 at the time) discussed the accident and asked if a group of cadets could go and find out what the condition of the memorial was. The cairn was located by the cadets of 147 Airwof Squadron in 2013.
Cadets found the memorial lying face down in the middle of Airplane Creek. The decision was made that a new more permanent memorial should be made. It needed to be more interactive, accessible and allow more people not only to remember the fallen but be able to see part of history in the memorial. The original cairn incorporated an engine from the bomber. Thus every effort is being made to keep the same tradition with the new memorial. One of the engines from the site, with the permission of the Provincial Government and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was flown out on July 14, 2015.
After a number of years of working on the project a group of supporters lead by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #280, the Legion Foundation, Friends of Old Canada, the Veterans Memorial Restoration Society, and volunteers will erect a permanent memorial in Thompson Park, just outside of Chilliwack, BC. The goal is to create a memorial that lists the names and pictures of the men who passed. (Note: We are trying to find pictures so if you have any ideas on how to find them - your assistance would be greatly appreciated.) The goal is to tell the complete story about what was going on in the region and the country during World War II. One interesting fact of history was 53% of all men aged 18-45 volunteered to fight in the war in British Columbia.
The artist rendering of the monument to be built (and attached to this campaign) will be a tribute to the men who, through the passage of time, were almost forgotten. “We will remember them”.
To date $63,000 of a budget of $105,000 has been raised. The funds yet to be raised will cover:
• cost of flying members of the families of the men that were lost in the crash from the UK for the ceremony
• cost of maintenance for 10 years
• commemorative pins to mark the event
• benches and concrete pads surrounding the memorial
• purchase and installation of a new flag pole.
- costs associated with unveiling on September 26, 2015
During the research of this crash the Veterans Memorial Restoration Society found there are an additional 27 other sites like this in British Columbia. Any money left over from this project will be used to fund other memorials that need to be rebuilt.
If you would like to know more please call Ron Shore (Project Coordinator) at 604-857-2488. All money raised in this campaign will go to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #280 in trust for the Veterans Memorial Restoration Society.
Thank you for you help!
Good day and greetings from New Zealand....I thought you might like to know that one of the fliers commemorated in the Airplane Creek Memorial (Gordon Hammond) would have been my first uncle. His brother, Anthony Norman Hammond, was my father and was also known as "Wally". I clearly remember my grandfather Len Hammond (from Banstead, Surrey, UK) saying that "those boys should never have been out flying in that sort of weather", referring to the prevailing flying conditions at the time of the accident. I am in direct contact with Gwen Edwards (nee Hammond; married to Alan Edwards) who is the Gwen referred to in the letters from Gordon. She still lives in Surrey. My father died in 1974 and as far as I know, nobody from our family has been able to visit the site at Mt Welch or the new memorial. I would like to be part of this! Please can you advise as to any planning? Many thanks, Nick Hammond