Ferry Command





The Gander Commonwealth War Graves


by Frank Tibbo

The Gander Commonwealth War Graves at Gander is the burial site for military members of the British Commonwealth who were stationed at Gander and who died here during the war. It contains 100 war graves.

Ninety-four graves are airmen from various countries: 75 Royal Canadian Air Force, 8 Royal Air Force, 5 Royal Air Force Ferry Command, 4 British Overseas Airways Corporation and 2 Royal Australian Air Force. Most (69) of the men buried here were killed in 17 aircraft crashes and accidents, 10 of which were at or near Gander during the war.

Six soldiers are buried in the remaining graves: five Royal Canadian Army and one British Army. Some deaths were attributed to natural causes, some to vehicle accidents. One soldier was accidentally shot, two were drowned while sailing on Gander Lake and one was lost on the SS Lady Rodney.

The site for the cemetery was selected on July 26, 1941, following the crash of 10(BR) North Atlantic Squadron, Digby aircraft number 742, which was returning from operations. It crashed two miles north-east of the airport. The six crew members who died were:

AC 1 Thomas Crawford, age 33, Toronto, ON
S/Sgt Mervyn Hunt, age 22, Calgary, AB
P/O William Mather, age 25, Tunbridge, Wells, Kent, UK
Sgt Ronald McDavid, age 24, Flat Lands, NB
P/O Allan Pratt, age 22, Winnipeg, MB
F/L Martin Tomsett, age 27, Regina, SK

The only servicemen buried at the Commonwealth Graves that lost their lives as a result of direct enemy action were three members of the RCAF. They were aboard the SS Caribou that was sunk by a German U-Boat in the Cabot Strait on October 14, 1942. Their names are as follows:

AC2 Thomas Cummings, age 20, Toronto, ON
Cpl. Hebert Elkin, age 24, Hamilton, ON
AC2 Lawrence Truesdale, age 22, Hamilton, ON

Fifteen members of the RCAF from Gander were killed in the Knights of Columbus Fire in St John's, which claimed 99 lives on December 12, 1942. Their bodies were brought to Gander for internment. Their names are as follows:

LAC Gomer Bellerive, age 22, Montreal, PQ
AC1 Frank Burton, age 19, Eden, MB
AC2 Vincent Callery, age 26, Deloro, ON
LAC Roy Chapman, age 25, Hamilton, ON
Cpl. Roy Corner, age 21, Lac Verte, SK
LAC Lester Hoggard, age 22, Redwing, ON
Sgt Wallace Ibbotson, age 26, Sudbury, ON
AC1 Frederick Langley, age 23, Oshawa, ON
LAC James Lawrence, age 19, Glace Bay, NS
LAC Joseph Legris, age 24, Montreal, PQ
AC1 Joseph Lepine, age 29, St. Bonafice, MB
AC” Stuart Murray, age 22, Verdun, PQ
LAC Joseph Ouellet, age 25, Ste. Anne de la Pocatiere, PQ
AC1 Frank Sawada, age 21, Niagara Falls, ON
AC2 Joseph Sturgeon, age 21, Bruce Mills, ON

The crash of Liberator 591 on February 9, 1943, was the cause of the largest loss of life at Gander during the war. There were 21 aboard (5 crew and 16 passengers) and only 2 survived. Nineteen were buried in the Commonwealth Graves, but three U.S. personnel were disinterred after the war, and their remains were sent back to the United States. Four of the five crew members were employed by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), now British Airways. The 16 bodies resting there now are:

591 Crew:
F/O Frederick Brown, navigator, RAF
G.P.M. Eves, captain, BOAC
T.R. Harmes, pilot, BOAC
J.D. Jones, radio operator, BOAC
J.B. Merriman, flight engineer, BOAC

L/Col Lancelot Grove, Royal Engineers, UK.
Sgt-P James Elding, pilot, RAF
Sgt Wilton Kyle, navigator, RCAF
P/O Howel Lewis, pilot, RAF
Ernest Longley, civilian flight eng., Ferry Command
P/O David Owen, pilot, RAF
Sgt-P Graham Pollard, pilot, RAF
F/O Robert Scott, navigator, RCAF
Frederick Scrafton, RAF radio op., Ferry Command
Reginald Wadsworth, civilian radio op., Ferry Command
Wilmot Wilson, civilian flight eng., Ferry Command

Shortly after F/O Kenneth Lobb of No. 126 Flying Lancers Squadron was killed February 21, 1944, a change in policy took place. F/O Lobb died when his Hurricane No. 5668 crashed while on a dawn patrol 30 miles south of Gander near Deer Pond and was buried in the Commonwealth Graves. The Canadian government purchased a plot of land in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St John's and decided that all further RCAF and Ferry Command casualties were to be buried in Newfoundland's capital city. The only exceptions made were S/L Ratcliffe and Joe Gilmore. The exceptions were made because S/L Ratcliffe's family was living here, and he had been a resident of Gander prior to the war. Gilmore had been with Ferry Command at Gander since early in the war.


Editors Note: Please click on this link to access the record of grave sites. Also highlighted links will lead to the actual photos of grave markers.


Submitted by F. Tibbo

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