Seventy-three years ago, on Jan. 2, 1944, six Canadians died when the Wellington MK-III BK-387 bomber they were flying crashed into a hillside in England’s West Yorkshire county.
Among the dead was a man from Saskatchewan, 28-year-old Ernest Israel Glass. Glass was a pilot from Walpole, Sask. The other airmen were from Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario.
Andy Wade, who has been researching the crash for years, is from the village of Oakworth where the crash occurred.
He spoke with CBC Radio’s The Afternoon Edition on Thursday about the crash and its annual memorial. Wade is part of a group called the Men of Worth, who have been researching the crash and the lives of the people involved.
Wade said the group departed from a Royal Air Force station in Ossington, approximately 130 kilometres southwest of Oakworth, on a night-time training run. As the group made its way north, clouds moved in and visibility was significantly compromised.
“What we think is that they just flew straight into the hillside as they were going along,” Wade said.
There are no official eyewitnesses who can provide an account of the crash but Wade said there is one potential witness.
The landlord of a nearby pub was using an outhouse and he may have seen the aircraft barreling toward him, narrowly missing the outhouse and pub and careening into the hillside, Wade said.
The men have been memorialized with a large, flat boulder, inscribed with their names. The village pays a tribute and lays a wreath during an annual ceremony. The ceremony has been happening since it was inaugurated in July 1993, typically on the first Sunday of the year.
Wade said the ceremony is similar to Remembrance Day ceremonies, but specific to the site of the crash.
Wade said Glass was born Feb. 3, 1916, and he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on June 5, 1937. He trained as a mechanic.
Three years later, he applied and was accepted as a pilot. He went over to England in 1943 for further training under bomber command. He had been in England for approximately 10 months when he died, Wade said.
A relative of Glass, Max Friebel, would attend the ceremony for years. Friebel was the nephew of Glass but has since passed away, Wade said.
“We should always remember these things because they are very, very important part of our history,” Wade said.
“We consider them to be Yorkshire’s sons now.”
The other soldiers who died are James Justin McHenry of Lonsdale, Ont., Jack Henfrey of Ninette, Man., but lived and worked in Kenora, Ont., James Edwin Dalling of Sackville, N.B., Norman Willard Crawford of St. John, N.B., and Emery Savage of Fisher Branch, Man.