Miracle of the Hudson



By Dave O'Malley

This is a story of two worlds. One, a world of isolation for a tiny farming community in Québec during the Second World War; the other, a world of global communications and social networking employed to solve a mystery which involved the first world.

In the summer of 2011, my friend Paul Symes, owner of Wakefield, Québec's iconic Black Sheep Inn music hall, sent me an e-mail that brought together the many players who would, in the end, solve the mystery, and, in fact, discover information connected with the story that makes it far, far more interesting than first thought. Paul and I are both Members of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Bluesfest, one of Canada's largest outdoor music festivals. I know Paul loves music, he knows I love aviation. Paul had received an e-mail from a Geoff Russell of Kurrajong, New South Wales, Australia which had, attached, a photo of a wingless and damaged Lockheed Hudson bomber sitting on the roadway next to the side door of what was obviously Symes' beloved Black Sheep Inn. Russell wrote, “I have an unusual request - would anyone at the Black Sheep Inn be able to put me in contact with someone who knows anything about the incident in Wakefield in 1941 involving the aircraft as shown in the attached photo?”

When I realized that this had come as a result of an aviation forum which I frequent from time to time, I logged in to follow the thread back to its source. To my utter surprise, the man who started the forum thread that travelled to Austrailia and then back up to Wakefield and then to my desk, was Richard Mallory Allnutt, one of Vintage Wings' two key photographers and an aviation historian. Allnutt had found the image in a frame on the wall of a local general store just up the street from the Black Sheep. Upon reading the many entries in the forum, it was clear that no one had any idea about the story behind this photograph, and many were speculating wildly as to what may have occurred to result in a wingless, slightly damaged, medium bomber being towed past curious citizenry in a small village in western Québec in 1941. But, I knew that somehow they had circled back to the right person... me. This is not to say I knew anything about the situation captured in this remarkable photograph, but I knew my friend Tim Dubé at the Canadian Aviation Historical Society would know who needed to be contacted. Elapsed time since Allnutt posted the entry on the Aviation Forum website... less than 24 hours!

Through Tim Dubé, aviation historian Peter Robertson was called into the game. Peter was at that very moment researching aviation-related stories in the archives of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal newspapers and was able to unearth within hours, two small stories concerning the subject of the downed bomber in the Citizen . The stories dealt with the events that led to a forced landing and subsequently the recovery of the damaged aircraft. The pilot's name was given, an American by the name of “Captain Eddie Delorme”. Thanks to another Tim Dubé contact, Allan Levine who was researching a story of mercenary pilots, Delorme's real name turns out to be Edward Orville De Larm, an Arapaho aviator reputed to be America's first aboriginal pilot. My research on the web flushed out some very entertaining reading about De Larm. More on our pilot later.

Geoff Russell used the internet (forums, Google Maps, Street View etc) to find Paul Symes, the owner of the Black Sheep Inn. He also was able to contact Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society who was in turn able to provide additional images of the forlorn Hudson. Linda, obviously passionately in love with the rich history of the area she lived in, put us in touch with retired dairy farmer Doug Nesbitt, who at the age of 12 years old, was a witness to the crash landing of the Hudson near Wakefield and knew details of its salvage. What follows is what we were able to piece together through the efforts of people like Linda Bardell, Peter Robertson, Allan Levine, Tim Dubé, Richard Allnutt and Geoff Russell.

Without Allnutt's intense natural curiosity, Russell's web-based sleuthing, Tim Dubé's connections, Peter Robertson's knowledge of the Citizen archives, Linda Bardell's kindness and passion for history and Doug Nesbitt's remarkable powers of recollection, the story behind the enigmatic photograph on the wall of a general store in a far off village could not have been told. None of it could have happened without the aid of the internet, and certainly the search for the story could not have circled the globe to its ultimate revelation without the marvels that are the web and e-mail.



Enamoured of its charm, lovely setting, cool flowing waters and tasty “boulangers”, aviation enthusiast and photographer Richard Allnutt frequently visited picturesque Wakefield, Quebec on the banks of the Gatineau River. Dropping in to the local General Store, he spotted this photograph of curious citizens gawking at a wingless Lockheed Hudson bomber in the middle of the community and miles from anywhere to land. It set in motion a quest that went around the world in less than a day and was resolved in less than 48 hours. The photo shows well dressed local citizens posing with the out-of-place Bomber. Photo via Richard Allnutt, and Gatineau Valley Historical Society, CD-019/02150-023


Saturday, July 19th, 1941–Ste Cécile de Masham


Twelve-year old Douglas Nesbitt had risen early that summer's day, as he always did on his father Marshall's dairy farm just west of the small, rural and predominantly English-speaking community of Masham in Western Quebec. The weather was not too pleasant, as rain and low cloud had rolled through the valley before sunrise and was still causing tumultuous conditions overhead. Summer thunderstorms that survive the night are known to be some of the worst that can be faced by pilots. By 6 AM, Douglas and Marshall were busy in the family barn off McCrank Road, milking cows and doing chores. Sometime in the early morning, Doug heard an aircraft circling over the barn and he ran outside to witness a large twin-engined military aircraft which seemed to be flying abnormally low. Douglas and his father watched as the dark brown and green Lockheed Hudson bomber made another very low pass and disappeared over a copse of trees on a slight ridge about a mile away to the southwest. It was clear the aircraft did not climb up again and the two knew right then that the aircraft had made an emergency belly landing. Given that it had landed on the nearby Martineau farm and was a fair distance away, the boy and his father returned to milking their cows before they ventured to see what had happened.

Today, eighty-two year old Doug Nesbitt is a soft spoken man with a clear determination and a slight, wry humour that flavours his powerful and simple words. Of Nesbitt, Linda Bardell says “... when you visit up there... sitting in the old farm kitchen with the roar and heat of the wood stove warming the whole house... it's so content and peaceful.  Doug is a great carpenter (he started after retiring from farming) and he makes replicas of antique furnture... he showed me the rocking chairs he was working on and a set of dining room chairs.... a great man”.

Nesbitt remembers that morning as if it had happened last summer and you can tell by listening to his honest voice that his memory of that day has not blurred in 70 years. Some of what he remembers makes one think about what happened that morning and gives pause when reading the published account. Doug is confident that the time of the incident was between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, though the papers the following Monday reported an 8:30 crash landing. Doug did not remember the terrible weather that reportedly had forced the aircraft down, and says that by the time he went to see the crash site some hours later, it was a bright sunny day.

By the time Doug Nesbitt got to the scene of the landing, the site, which was gathering a large crowd, was well policed and no one could get any closer than the gravel road (back then it had no name, but today is known as Chemin des Amoureux). Nesbitt remembers a man in an army uniform making sure everyone stayed back. This was corroborated by the Ottawa Citizen article the next Monday which mentioned Lorenzo Martineau, a young soldier home on furlough to whom the police had given responsibility for securing the perimeter around the downed aircraft. Young Nesbitt was kept from approaching the aircraft sitting some two hundred yards off the narrow road. By now, the thunderstorm conditions had abated and the day was fair and warm - far from what the pilot had apparently experienced.



A shot of Captain Eddie De Larm's relatively undamaged Hudson sitting level in a field belonging to farmer Francois Martineau of Saint Cécille de Masham, about four miles west of the community of Wakefield. It was probably very lucky that it had been raining, as the Hudson would have slid easily on the hay. Doug Nesbitt recalled that François Martineau had hoped to get considerable compensation for damages to his oat field, but was disappointed, when DND offered him little after finding out his field was fallow. Nesbitt also pointed out the massive pine tree in the distance, which he says was struck by lightning only a few years ago, setting it on fire and bringing, for the second time in 70 years, emergency crews to the field. Photo via the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, CD-019/02150-022

According to the Ottawa Citizen reporter, the pilot Eddie Delorme (real name Edward “Eddie” Orville De Larm (sometimes recorded as Delarm)), had taken off from Montreal on July 19th, 1941, bound for RCAF Station Uplands in Ottawa when he became lost in deteriorating conditions. According to the article, “Flying conditions were bad and the ground obscured by rain and mist following a thunderstorm when the landing was successfully undertaken... The huge Lockheed was on a routine practice navigational flight when it was caught up in a series of thunderstorms and heavy rain, which prevented the plane from returning to its base because of ground obscurity.

De Larm probably found himself boxed in by severe weather, lost in heavy cloud and rain, with no idea where he was and even though, according to the article, he apparently had 7.5 hours of fuel remaining aboard had decided to get the aircraft on the ground, while he still had sight of it and control of the aircraft. Flying around in the clag, lost and confused is not a good thing to continue to do, especially over ground rising up to meet you in the cloud. It seems as though De Larm might have tried to find RCAF Station Rockcliffe as an alternate landing spot to Uplands, but due to weather, was unable to make it. The Citizen reports “Captain Delorme [sic] made for an alternative airport at Ottawa but found atmospheric conditions in this area equally bad. It was then that he decided to attempt the forced landing." If indeed he decided to get down after failing to find Uplands and the aforementioned alternate (possibly Rockcliffe), he was already, and certainly, far off course. The mountainous Gatineaus around the Ste Cécile de Masham area were more than twenty miles north west of the Rockcliffe airfield he was trying to find. He would have certainly known that the Rockcliffe runways were 188 feet ASL (above sea level), and now, lost, he most likely had no idea he was flying among invisible mountain tops that ran close to 2,000 ASL.  Not knowing the weather forecast, he made a decision to get on the ground while he still could.

Young Doug Nesbitt remembers that the Hudson had been circling beneath the low cloud, and this makes sense in that De Larm would have been looking for a flat spot to land. Once he found a suitable landing spot, the proper procedure would have been to do a low level, slow speed inspection of the area to check for fences, rocks and ditches. Likely it was the first go around that had brought the pilot's plight to the attention of Marshall and Douglas Nesbitt in their barn. By the time they were outside, they were witnessing his final approach past the Nesbitt farm, over trees and down on to the Martineau farm, near the intersection of McCrank Road and the present day Chemin des Amoureux.



Linda Bardell interviewed Doug Nesbitt and had him point out the exact spot where the bomber went down in relation to his father's farm. 



Today, Doug Nesbitt is a retired farmer, the fourth generation of his family to inhabit the homestead. Though he no longer raises dairy cattle or crops, he still actively taps the maples on his Québec farm to make one of the finest products of this country.... maple syrup. talking to Doug was one of the best things about researching and writing this story. Photo: Linda Bardell

The Citizen article goes on to state that, “Aurele Martineau, a nephew of the farmer, told The Citizen he heard the plane overhead near the farm and said that when the engine suddenly stopped roaring he ran to the field over which he had seen the plane, and found it on the ground”.  Young Aurele was probably describing the moment that De Larm had cut power to the two Wright Cyclone engines as he dropped into the field. With power to the engines right to the ground, the propellers (and engines) would have been more severely damaged than they appeared to be in the later photographs. As well, it is common (though not assured) that powered-up propeller blades bend forward when they strike the ground and that blades turned back are indicative of a power-off collision with the ground. The Citizen writer, speaking to Aurele Martineau, would quote him as saying “I was there about ten minutes after the crash," he said, "the landing wheels were still up in the fuselage and the pilot said he didn't want to use them because he was afraid the ground might be soft. He told me he made a belly landing," Martineau said. "The propeller was bent underneath the plane, the fuselage was damaged and the wings also broken”.



The Ottawa Citizen ran a story about De Larm's forced landing two days after the accident . Image via Ottawa Citizen

In addition to the pilot De Larm, the crew included three other airmen, all working for ATFERO, the Atlantic Ferry Organization employed to ferry military aircraft across the Atlantic via the Gander, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland route. The practice of ferrying aircraft from US manufacturers to the UK using the Atlantic Ferry Organization was set up by Morris G. Wilson, general manager of the Royal Bank of Canada and Lord Beaverbrook's personal representative for the Ministry of Aircraft Production in Canada and the United States. It was through Sir Edward Beatty, the president of Canadian Pacific Railway, that the embryonic ferry organization was put in place. ATFERO was operated by Canadian Pacific Railway and under its oversight, civilian pilots like De Larm, many recent BCATP graduated navigators and Canadian Pacific radiomen were hired to fly the aircraft to the UK, whereupon the crews were then ferried back. ATFERO hired the pilots, planned the routes, selected the airports and set up weather and radio-communication stations. Coincidentally, Atlantic Ferry Organization became a fully embraced RAF formation (Ferry Command) on July 20, 1941, the day after De Larm paid his unscheduled visit to Masham. Ferry Command would keep the large civilian element of its progenitor, ATFERO, including De Larm. At the time, it had more than 1,000 personnel at bases in Montreal, Newfoundland and Bermuda. This number included 400 aircrew, including 207 civilians, mostly Canadian and American.

All four of the men aboard the aircraft escaped injury. Shortly after landing, the group was in communication by telephone with authorities at their base in Montreal. Arrangements were made to bring a salvage crew to the crash site and begin dismantling the aircraft and getting it home. Once this was set in motion, the four survivors cut loose for Montreal by automobile.  Perhaps a little of the fascinating story of De Larm would be appropriate here.

 

Eddie the Freebooter–The Story Inside the Story


According Dick Trotten, of the University of Wyoming, in the February, 2012  issue of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribal Tribune, Eddie went by the name Eddie “Tall Feather” De Larm. According to the article, De Larm, who was born in Oklahoma in 1888 to an Arapaho mother and a French Canadian father, became an auto racer in 1914, and after a brief career in that sport, soloed in an airplane in 1916.  The article goes on to say that he spent some time “test flying” Jenny aircraft, barnstorming, as a factory pilot for Ford on the Tri-motor, and as a line pilot for the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line, flying Sikorsky flying boats to South American destinations - plus a whole lot of other stuff that I doubt is true.

De Larm seemed always to be connected with criminals, mercenaries, freebooters and suspicious people and events. In the Fredericksburg, Virginia Free Lance-Star of October 4th, 1930, a short piece was discovered concerning De Larm's arrest in a foiled arms delivery flight and possible attempted revolution in Chile (see image below). Shortly after the incident, the US State Department was forced to issue a Press Release which stated:  “The official communication of the Government states that the Ambassador reported that the airplane was piloted by two Americans who are understood to be Mr. Edward Orville De Larm, of 563 Hayes Street, San Fransisco, Calif., and Mr. R. Smith, whom the Department as not been able to identify from its records. These men, the Department has been informed, have been detained and placed on board a Chilean war vessel at Talacahuano to which place Camden L. McLain, American Vice Consul at Concepción, has proceeded in order to ascertain the facts.

An interesting detail of the Chilean affair, with which De Larm was connected and because of which he was arrested, was that the aircraft used for the transport of the men and arms was in fact the very Fokker F-7 Tri-Motor that Amelia Earhart had used on her now famous First Woman to Cross the Atlantic Ocean flight (as a passenger). The crossing was in 1928, just two years before the arrests in Chile.



Left: The article for the Fredericksburg VA, Free Lance Star and another image of De Larm, probably as a New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line pilot. Photo via Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribal Tribune



The aircraft used by De Larm and his passengers to deliver arms and men to Chile for an attempted revolution was in fact the very aircraft that Amelia Earhart had employed when she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Three years later, a couple of reports appeared in the Berkeley Daily Gazette concerning De Larm's “activities”. The first, dated February 16, 1933 stated, “Los Angeles, Accused on suspicion of smuggling, William Kelly, pilot, and LeRoy Powers, co-pilot, were held in the county jail today as the aftermath of seizure of a liquor laden plane near Corona yesterday. The plane, once the property of Edward de Larm, chief alibi witness for William James Guy, accused of the murder of Walter Wanderwell, was found to contain 100 cases of choice liquors from Mexico when seized by immigration authorities. Kelly, customs authorities said, attempted to set fire to the plane, but the flames were extinguished.” 

The second article, appearing in August of 1933 said, “Los Angeles, August. 15.–Edward de Larm, Indian airplane pilot, was granted an official guard today after he appealed to authorities for protection from asserted threats he said he received from William J. (Curly) Guy, young Welsh soldier of fortune, who was acquitted of the murder of Capt. Walter Wanderwell. De Larm said Guy threatened him because he refused to revise his statements to Federal authorities in connection with their attempts to deport him as an alien. Guy has until September 1 to leave the country. De Larm, who testified as an “alibi”  witness for the young Welshman when he stood trial in the unsolved Wanderwell murder, was given a personal bodyguard and a special guard was also posted at his home. Guy is at liberty under $3,000 bond in the deportation case, which De Larm had posted.

The story of accused murderer  William “Curly” Guy was a sensational case in California at the time. Guy, oft spoken of as a “Welsh soldier of fortune” was accused of the murder of a Captain Walter Wanderwell aboard the vessel Carma (appropriate name) which was anchored at Long Beach being outfitted so that Wanderwell could take her to the South Pacific to make films. Captain Walter Wanderwell, age 39, world traveler, also a solider of fortune and suspected spy, was found dead, shot in the back, in a passageway leading from the dining salon of the Carma. This is a long and complicated story I won't get into here, but De Larm was a defense alibi witness who put Guy elsewhere at the time of the killing. Widely believed to be the killer because he had a quarrel with the victim and was seen aboard moments before, Guy was acquitted on De Larm's testimony. Guy was deported, eventually flew aircraft for Haile Selassie and then, even more coincidentally, became an ATFERO pilot flying Hudson bombers to Europe. In fact, on one such ferry flight, Guy would be killed, just 4 months after the Wakefield incident.

According to Trotten's article, De Larm was employed as a ferry pilot for 39 months, and was given an RCAF commission, becoming a Flight Lieutenant. Tim Dubé found De Larm's personnel card from ATFERO which seems to seriously contradict these claims. It appears that he flew just a couple of trans-Atlantic flights from Montreal through Gander to the UK. In the remarks column in this file, notes indicate that he had told ATFERO that he had 200 hours in Lockheed 10As, 600 hours in Consolidated Flying Boats, 1200 hours in Sikorsky Flying Boats, 400 hours in Curtiss Condor Flying Boats and 5,000 hours in Ford Tri-motors. The file also has a note at the bottom that says that he resigned on September 11th of 1941, after just a couple of flights across the pond (and one to Masham). This resignation note is crossed out by hand and the word “Killed” is written in pencil over the date. It just keeps getting stranger.

Clearly, De Larm survived the war. Clearly he did not ferry aircraft for 39 months, and clearly he did not rise to the rank of Flight Lieutenant in the few months he did ferry aircraft. With De Larm, it is extremely difficult to read facts in the stories he tells people – spurious tales and deliberate exaggerations that have some how come down through the years since, to be looked upon as fact by later chroniclers. 

Apparently De Larm flew as a line pilot for Venezuela's Avensa Airlines until, in 1948, an insurance doctor pointed out that he was 60 years old. Forced to retire, De Larm reportedly bought a single aircraft and parlayed this into a large airline. He was arrested again by authorities in Venezuela for smuggling Americans out of the country to avoid paying taxes. De Larm was last known to be living in Florida in the 1970s where he had retired and was operating a boat, bait and tackle shop - apparently he was still waiting for the Venezuelan government to give him back the airline he built. There is no record on the internet of him ever owning, starting up or building a large airline in that country...  but with De Larm, truth and fiction were blended together.

Even De Larm's son, Jerome “Jerry” Fred, would get into trouble as a mercenary pilot flying P-47s in Latin America. Jerry told everyone that he shot down two Zeros in the Pacific at the very end of the war, but this seems made up too as his claim does not show up in USAAF records and his enlistment date states June 27, 1945 - too late to train and get into the fight. He did however fly Thunderbolts in the CIA sponsored Banana Revolt in Guatemala, an armed C-47 in Puerto Rico and in clandestine operations in Nicaragua.  Like his father, Jerry Fred was an adventurer with a spectacular and very sketchy history and somewhat of a line shooter.

David Wise and Thomas Ross wrote of De Larm's son in their 1964 work about the CIA entitled  “The Invisible Government”: The most powerful military element in the coup was the CIA's air force. The handful of P-47 Thunderbolts and C-47 transports operated out of Managua International Airport. The pilots were Americans. The most dare-devil of these, as events later proved, was Jerry Fred DeLarm, a slim,short, hawk-featured man who liked to lay a .45 down on the table in front of him when talking to a stranger.

DeLarm, a native of San Francisco, was a barnstorming, adventurous flier well known in Central America. He had been flying in the area since he was nine, with his father, a pioneer pilot named Eddie DeLarm. Jerry DeLarm spoke Spanish fluently. When World War II broke out, he was flying in Panama City. During the war he shot down two Japanese Zeros over Saipan. He was discharged as a captain and shortly thereafter set up an airline in Costa Rica.

DeLarm's wife was related to Dr. Rafael Calderon-Guardia, the former President of Costa Rica. In 1948, when Otilio Ulate was elected President of that highly democratic nation, Calderon-Guardia tried to block him from taking office. In the revolt that followed, Jose Figueres battled Calderon-Guardia, and emerged as head of a victorious junta.

DeLarm fought on the losing side, for Calderon-Guardia. He flew a DC-3 rigged up with a machine gun in the co-pilot seat and another poking through the floor of the rear bathroom, for ground strafing.

After Costa Rica, DeLarm moved on to Guatemala. During the election of 1950 he took a job doing sky-writing and aerial broadcasts for Arbenz. He was promised $20,000 by the man he later helped to overthrow, and was understandably disturbed when the money did not come through after Arbenz won. That, DeLarm reflected later, was when he first began to suspect Arbenz was a Communist.

By 1954 DeLarm was flying for Castillo-Armas and the CIA. Until shortly before the invasion, here remained behind in Guatemala City, giving flying lessons and using this and an automobile dealership as cover. He had the code name "Rosebinda."




A great image of Jerome “Jerry” Fred De Larm taken from the documentary film "Science of Spying" from 1965.  De larm is standing in front of a Lockheed 18, possibly from Guatemalan firm Servicios Interamericanos de Aviación or SIDA, owned by none other than Delarm himself. The image certainly demonstrates his swagger and confidence. Image via “Science of Spying”

It seems that the apple did not fall far from the tree. Often apocryphal, false, ridiculous, misleading and amateurish stories and threads permeate the truth and live on, appearing again as fact in later stories. I have tried to eliminate much of the material I found (and there was much) about De Larm and his son that is, most certainly, false, but overall, there is no doubt that De Larm had a “unique” life, living as an adventurer and getting into scrapes - both innocent and suspect.

 

Back to Masham
 

De Larm, a highly experienced trans-Atlantic ferry pilot and intercontinental airline pilot with a fairly sketchy history, was on a “routine practice navigational flight ” when he was caught by the weather. I know that I am speculating here, but there seems something not right about the story as it was told in 1941. I can't put my finger on it, but something is not right.  It is curious that the word “routine” was added to the description of the flight's purpose. What were they trying to justify? A flight of 120 miles along a wide river from Montreal to Ottawa could, I believe, be said to be not much of a navigation challenge to an experienced ocean-qualified pilot and three of his buddies (was one of them Curly Guy?). On the July 19-20, 1941 weekend, filming of the Warner Bros. blockbuster “Captains of the Clouds” was in full swing at RCAF Station Uplands, De Larm's destination on that morning. Some of Hollywoods biggest stars including James Cagney, Alan Hale and Dennis Morgan were on hand and the excitement in town over their presence was at a feverish pitch. Even the Governor General and Lady Byng accompanied by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, were out at Uplands this particular weekend to meet the stars, watch the filming and chat with director Michael Curtiz.

There were several enthusiastic and star-struck articles about the film and its stars in the Citizen in the same issues that covered the crash. Most certainly, the movie production was the talk of the RCAF and pilots in Montreal were but a short hop to Ottawa, an air side look at the big production and a good spot to star-gaze. Given the complexities of shooting the film at Uplands and requirements for skies clear of noise and aircraft, it makes sense that the usual visiting or training aircraft would have been restricted and no official training flights would be considered. Could it be that the aviators were bound for Uplands for some star-spotting or to hook up with De Larm's Hollywood chums? Could it be that the Hudson or its crew was somehow involved in the production? The film's finale involves many Hudsons and James Cagney finding redemption as a civilian ATFERO/Ferry Command pilot flying the very same type Hudson – coincidence?



Black and white photos, though dramatic, do not show the true colours of the Lockheed Hudson that De Larm was flying that day. Being a pilot with the Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO), De Larm's aircraft would have looked exactly like these Hudson's being ferried across the Atlantic in the Hollywood movie "Captains of the Clouds”.   Image via Warner Bros

 

Salvaging the Hudson at Masham


The dismantling of the Hudson was done in only a couple of days, as the Ottawa Citizen reported on the 22nd, just two days later, in an article entitled, Hundreds Get View Of Bomber Being Towed, Hundreds of citizens in Ottawa and Hull saw the giant 12-ton bomber which was forced down at Masham, Que., over the weekend, when it passed through the two cities to a repair depot on Monday night [21 July 1941].

The bomber completely tied up traffic from Masham to Wakefield, and forced bridge railings and light standards in its path to be torn down. Attached behind an R.C.A.F. truck it moved along on its own wheels. With wings removed it measured more than 30 feet in width, and 15 airmen and provincial police guarded it as it made the journey

The Federal District Commission
[now the National Capital Commission (NCC)–Ed.], which does not allow commercial vehicles on the Driveway, granted special permission, and the aircraft was taken across the Champlain bridge after it had been dragged through Hull. Street cars on the Hull-Aylmer line were blocked for 20 minutes”.

Getting the downed aircraft out of the field and down the Gatineau River to Ottawa was no mean feat. The wings and empennage were removed, the aircraft jacked up in Martineau's field and the landing gear was lowered and locked.  It was then hooked backwards to an RCAF tractor, readied to be towed down to Ottawa.  It is clear from the photos taken in Wakefield on the 21st, that the wheels had been rotated inboard of the gear oleos (probably to reduce the wheel base and turning radius) and that possibly the oleos were connected beneath the fuselage by a cable. With the wings off, the centre section still measured more than thirty feet wide, and no doubt, the gravel surfaced roads leading out of the area and down to Wakefield's Highway 105 were not that wide.

The Hudson sits in the field where it came to rest before the RCAF crews arrive to take her apart. Photo via Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society



An interesting if blurry shot of the downed bomber (at left) in the Martineau field with attendant salvage truck and spectators. The wings are still attached. Evident in this shot is the massive pine tree that was still there just a few years ago.  Photo via Doug Nesbitt



Still blurry, but much more interesting. The stake truck at the back of the aircraft may be the one which ultimately towed the Hudson from the field and in to Ottawa. Photo via Doug Nesbitt



A nice shot of the bomber in Martineau's field with empennage being removed and still belly to the ground. Photo via Doug Nesbitt

RCAF crews attempt to drag the wide aircraft across a bridge on Route Principale (Highway 366) en route to Wakefield. It appearsthat a larger truck at the front of the aircraft was used to lift the aircraft high enough to clear the railings. Photo via Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society

Crossing the bridge. Photo via Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society

It seems that the landing gear were too wide to squeeze across this bridge. The photo found in the Wakefield General Store (at beginning of story) shows that the solution they came up with was to turn the gear legs to put the wheels inboard of the oleos, thereby clearing the railings. Photo via Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society

RCAF technician in a heavy truck work out a solution for crossing the bridge. Photo via Linda Bardell of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society



A Google Maps screen capture with some geographical locations to help folks from the forums, who were so interested in the story, orient themselves. Image: Google Maps



Another photo from the same group shows curious villagers, farmers and cottagers looking on as mechanics inspect the damage and condition of the tow while the aircraft rests outside the Chateau Diotte, a lumberjack's hotel and tavern built on the site in 1928. At this point, the aircraft has made the four mile journey from Masham down the highway which would become Mill Road as it entered Wakefield. Today the road to Masham does not take this route into the village. We can clearly see the rear axle of the RCAF truck dispatched to retrieve the damaged aircraft. The Hudson's wheels have been rotated inboard of the oleos perhaps to allow easier towing down narrow country roads. Photo via the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, CD-019/02150-022



A detail from the Mill Road photo shows the inverted wheel arrangement and what appears to be a jury-rigged cable holding the wheels to the fuselage. The damage seems to be minimal considering the circumstances. Photo via the Gatineau Valley Historical Society



On a breathtakingly beautiful summer's day in 2011, photographer and aviation forum member Richard Allnutt stands where he thinks the original news photographer had stood in 1941 to take the photo which started this search. If one looks at the old photo and compares it with the modern one, one sees that the exterior of the Black Sheep Inn had changed not at all since the days of the old Chateau Diotte. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt



Ghosts from the past. Overlaying the 1941 photo of the Chateau Diotte and Hudson over the proceeding image of today's Black Sheep Inn, they match nearly perfectly with windows aligning nicely. The landscape in the distance has not changed at all. Photos by unknown news photographer and Richard Mallory Allnutt

The Citizen reported that some bridges along the route had to lose their light standards and even railings to accommodate the towed aircraft fuselage and centre section. According to Nesbitt, the people of Masham were much more creative than this. There were two small bridges between Masham and Wakefield which would have to be crossed. The railings on these bridges would unfortunately impede the progress of the salvaged aircraft. They went to the Legrois Sawmill at Masham and had heavy wooden planks cut. These planks were used to create a raised ramp and base on the bridge's roadbed that would lift the aircraft's stubby centre wing section up over the railings. With this method, the rig made its way safely, if ponderously, down Mill Road to the intersection where the now-famous photos were taken.

At the side door, the salvage crew stopped for a brief rest... perhaps quenching their thirst with a quart of local Brading Ale at the Chateau Diotte. At this time, the Chateau Diotte was not licensed as rigourously as such establishments are today. Back then, at the Chateau Diotte, one could not have an alcoholic beverage without ordering food. As Nesbitt describes, there was one old, stale, shared cheese sandwich that went from table to table, at the Diotte to keep things legit.  While the aircraft sat outside the tavern (I'm not saying the salvage boys were in there), a crowd of curious onlookers gathered, some getting their photograph taken in front of the strange sight.

Soon the aircraft/truck combo made its way south along highway 105, past the small hamlets of Larrimac, Kirks Ferry, Gleneagle, Chelsea, and then through the cities Hull and finally Ottawa. More than likely it was taken to either Rockcliffe or Uplands, and from there loaded onto a flatbed truck or rail car, bound for a repair depot in Montreal.

The story pretty well ends there for us at Vintage Wings of Canada. With limited time and resources, we could dig up no more facts about the incident or the men involved – no accident reports, follow-up stories in the newspapers, or evidence giving us an idea what happened afterward to the aircraft or the people. Given the terrible daily news of the day, the story of the downed Hudson was only of fleeting interest, worthy of the minimal column inches it received.

There still remains the forum thread, which continued after the mystery was solved by Peter Robertson. Happy to have the photo explained, history enthusiasts and plane spotters were still extremely curious as to the aircraft's identity or serial number and its subsequent military history. An enlargement of the numerals on the nose was blurry and failed to fully convince people as to its identity.  I have no doubt that the aviation history buffs, web sleuths, internet connected aviators and record roamers will soon uncover more of this wonderful and rich story

This story was researched using both the modern world of cyber-connectivity and information exchange and the old world of friendships, relationships, and kindnesses. What started out as a simply quest to find the story behind an old photograph turned into a saga that worked together threads from many blankets. I am now a registered member of a web-forum dedicated to the historical detail of the histories of Latin American airlines.... who'd have thunk? And I am glad to now know a little bit about Eddie Orville “Tall Feather” De Larm, certainly one of the most colourful characters to ever take to the air. I am also glad to have spent a bit of time with another colourful character named Doug Nesbitt and in the end, connect the two.

Dave O'Malley



The blurry four digit (only three are visible) serial can just be seen in this shot.  Aviation Forum members are not 100% sure but speculate that this is Hudson 2932 (AM850). Paul MacMillan of the forum speculates, “If it was indeed AM850, that aircraft didn't fly Gander-Prestwick until June 2/3, 1942, which was late for an AM*** series aircraft - all her sisterships (AM85*) were delivered the previous July. Might indicate she had been under repair”.  Photo via the Gatineau Valley Historical Society

 

 

 

Wakefield and the Black Sheep Inn/Chateau Diotte

 




Part of the summertime weekend charm of the village of Wakefield was, until last year, the daily arrival of the Wakefield Steam Train, seen here puffing slowly along the river's edge in Wakefield. One look at the hills in behind the village, you can see how lucky Delorme was to find a flat enough and large enough spot to land the big aircraft. Photo: Anuj Raj




On a sunny summer's day the village of Wakefield is a lovely destination for those wishing a country walk, some ice cream or cold glass of Sancerre by the flowing waters of the Gatineau. Only a few decades ago the river was choked with logs floating their way downstream to the big CIP pulp mill at Pointe Gatineau. One can surely see the difficulties a recovery team might have had pulling the Hudson through the Gatineau Hills along the narrow dirt roads that connected communities in 1941. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt



The corner of Mill Road and Riverside Road and The Black Sheep Inn, one of Canada's most legendary music emporium. Known across Canada and to musicians around the world the small, intimate venue has a reputation far beyond its size. This is the very spot where the RCAF Husdon recovery team stopped for a break in 1941.





The view looking up modern day Mill Road, whence, in 1941 the Hudson was towed by an RCAF recovery vehicle. Today, Mill Road runs west only as far as the 4-lane Autoroute 5, but, on Google Maps, one can still make out a faded trace of the old road as it continues its winding way through hills toward Masham, some 4 miles distant. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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