Lost WWII Aircraft Recovered From Lake Maskoka

A search and rescue mission over Lake Maskoka of Ontario in 1940 resulted in the loss of a Northrup A17 Nomad and two servicemen. While searching for a missing pilot, a collision with another aircraft resulted in the deaths of Flight Lieutenant Peter Campbell of the British RAF and Leading Aircraftsman Ted Bates, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Now that the wreckage has been found, it will be salvaged and restored to honor military history and pay respect to the men who died. Breaking into several pieces after hitting the water, the pieces are nevertheless in relatively good condition, lying 30 feet down under the lake. The National Air Force Museum plans to restore the plane and display it at the CFB in Trenton, Ontario.

Divers of the Royal Canadian Navy are using sonar and an underwater camera to help locate pieces of the wreckage. “The metal is deteriorating, and when we do salvage exercises like this we look for strong points,” says Lieutenant Commander Stephane Juilen, RCN. Her commanding officer, Major Jane commented, “It’s in remarkable condition considering it’s been under water all these years,” They initially recovered a landing gear and tire and the right wing with gun still attached, during an operation estimated to take 10 days to finish, the CTV News reports.

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion, as well as an organization called the Lost Airmen of Muskoka have been searching for the wreckage. Matt Fairbrass as president of the organization found it in 2007. The remains and personal effects of the two airmen were recovered in 2012, after which Mr. Fairbrass continued to work for the recovery of the aircraft. “I never thought the day would come that we could help tell the story of these two men who died while looking for a friend,” he said.

“This is one of only 32 Nomads purchased by Canada during the Second World War,” says Kevin Windsor of the National Air Force Museum. “It will be the only one in existence in Canada.” The aircraft was lost only 12 days before Christmas of 1940. Since their recovery, the remains of the two lost airmen have been laid to rest with full military honors.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE