The Northrop A-17 Nomad 3521

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Backgrounder / September 17, 2013

BG-12.055, dated October 12, 2012

The final flight

On December 13, 1940, two Northrop A-17 Nomad aircraft departed from Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Borden, Ontario, a Second World War training site (now Canadian Forces Base Borden, home of the RCAF’s 16 Wing). Both aircraft were searching for a fellow airmen who had gone missing during training the day before.

During their search for the downed aircraft and fellow pupil, who were part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the two Nomads conducting the search were involved in a mid-air collision. Nomad 3512 and its pilot and co-pilot were located shortly after the crash. The other aircraft, Nomad 3521, and its crew remained missing in the Lake Muskoka region of Ontario.

The missing crew consisted of Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Peter Campbell, the 24-year-old pilot who was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and  the 27-year-old observer, Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) Theodore (Ted) Bates, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) who was from Guelph, Ontario.

The discovery

In November 2007, a group comprising members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Lost Airmen of Muskoka Project (LAMP) sought the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the search for Nomad 3521. Using side scan sonar, a modern technology that creates an image of large areas of the sea floor, and the expertise of the underwater search and recovery team, Lake Muskoka was searched extensively.

On July 27, 2010, a remotely operated vessel and OPP divers were sent down to investigate a previously identified location in the middle of Lake Muskoka.  The investigation led to the discovery of aircraft wreckage from which the OPP recovered personal effects belonging to F/L Campbell and LAC Bates. The discovery of these personal effects confirmed that the wreckage was that of the missing Nomad 3521.

Personal items recovered from the wreckage

The items, which were recovered from the wreckage in July 2010, were held at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa until they were treated and returned to the Department of National Defence’s Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH). 

On August 23, 2012, a DHH representative returned LAC Bates’ belongings to his family members. The items belonging to F/L Peter Campbell were returned to the British High Commission, in Ottawa, on September 21, 2012, for return to the nearest descendents of F/L Campbell via the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre in the United Kingdom.

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