Prince Edward unveils memorial to Halifax bomber crew

News Article / September 19, 2012

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8 Wing Trenton

On September 15, 2012, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, unveiled a memorial commemorating the crew of Halifax bomber LW682/OW “M”, of 426 Squadron, who died while serving Canada on May 13, 1944.

The memorial is located in the foyer of the new Wing Commander Sedley S. Blanchard Air Mobility Training Centre at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. Creating the memorial was a joint project between the modern squadron, 426 Transport Training Squadron, known as The Thunderbirds and located at 8 Wing, and the 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron Association. Current and past members of the squadron were present to meet the Prince and witness the unveiling.

"This is an honour, to be standing before you today in front of this particular memorial," Prince Edward said. “To be here today to unveil this memorial is truly a very special occasion."

"I want to remember those who didn't come back and be eternally thankful to those of you who returned safely.”

On May 12, 1944, No. 426 Squadron was tasked with the bombing of the rail yards at Louvain, Belgium, as part of a 120-aircraft raid. Fourteen Thunderbird crews were on the battle order, and each aircraft carried nine 1,000-pound [454-kilogram] bombs and four 500-pound [227-kilogram] bombs. Eight of the fourteen Thunderbird crews are known to have attacked the target on May 13, 1944.

Halifax LW682 never made it to the objective. A Luftwaffe night-fighter ace, Major Martin Drewes, flying an Me 110, shot the Halifax down near the village of Geraardsbergen, Belgium.

All eight crew members died: Pilot Officer Wilbur Boyd Bentz (pilot), Flying Officer Thomas Wessel Taylor (navigator), Flying Officer Clifford Stanley Phillips (bomb aimer), Pilot Officer Jack Edwin McIntyre (wireless air gunner), Sergeant Roy Ellerslie (flight engineer), Pilot Officer Joseph Eduard Jean-Guy Arbour (mid-under gunner), Pilot Officer Fred Roach (tail gunner), and Pilot Officer John Wilson Summerhayes (mid-upper gunner). All were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force except Sergeant Ellerslie, who was a member of the Royal Air Force.

German forces recovered and buried the remains of five airmen. On September 6, 1997, more than a half century later, a small group of dedicated Canadian volunteers, led by Karl Kjarsgaard, of the Halifax Aircraft Association, and the pilot’s nephew, Jay Hammond, began the work of recovering LW682, which was buried in up to seven metres of mud. When the shattered aircraft was recovered, Pilot Officer Bentz, Pilot Officer Summerhayes and Pilot Officer Roach were still at their stations; they were buried with full military honours in Belgium in November 1997, alongside their five comrades.

The project to recover the aircraft was sponsored by the 426 Squadron Association with financial support from Heritage Canada and in cooperation with the Belgian Aviation History Association.

“We will always remember the heroic sacrifice of our fellow Thunderbirds who gave their lives while carrying out their mission on board the Halifax LW682 aircraft,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Damon Perrault, commanding officer of 426 Squadron. 

The Halifax LW682 memorial’s aluminium ingots were created from aluminium recovered from the wreckage of the aircraft. Each ingot, set the in the wall of the memorial, records the name of a crew member. The same aluminium was used for the base of the Thunderbirds’ totem pole, located in the lobby of the Air Mobility Training Centre, and is present in the roof of the London, England Bomber Command Memorial, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2012.

In July 1948, the crew posthumously received the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm and, although the memorial specifies this crew in particular, it serves as a memorial for all other Halifax crews as well.

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophia Rhys Jones, Countess of Wessex, were visiting Canada as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration.

With files from the 426 Squadron Association.

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