16.04.1943 No. 34 EFTS, Fairchild Cornell I FJ654 Sgt. John Richard Mason
Date:16 April 1943 (Friday)
Unit: 34 Elementary Flying Training School
Type: Fairchild Cornell I
Code: Not known
Base: RCAF Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Canada
Location: Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Canada
Pilot Instructor: Sgt. John Richard Mason 1218537 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (1)
Trainee Pilot: LAC. John Hugh Evans 1670972 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (2)
REASON FOR LOSS
Pilot Instructor Sgt. John Richard Mason and Trainee Pilot LAC John Hugh Evans were both killed when their trainer aircraft, Fairchild Cornell FJ654 crashed on 16 April 1943. Further details are unknown; in fact the location of the crash is somewhat blurred.
"They Shall Grow Not Old" by Les Allison and Harry Hayward gives Medicine Hat, Alberta as the location; this is believed to be an error for several reasons. First, the two British airmen killed were both buried at Assiniboia some 220 air miles east of Medicine Hat. Second, the book entry states that they were killed at Medicine Hat, Alberta, but the unit based at Medicine Hat was 34 SERVICE Flying Training School (SFTS). 34 ELEMENTARY Flying Training School (EFTS) was based at Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, where they are buried. Third, Sgt. Mason and LAC Evans were killed flying a Fairchild Cornell which, together with Tiger Moths were flown at Assiniboia but not at Medicine Hat where only Harvards and Airstream Oxfords were used.
The above account was written in 2016 by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock and although it included an appeal for further information, nothing was forthcoming until July 2021 when Canadian, Alan MacKenzie, sent a photograph taken by his father Carl MacKenzie, of the wreckage of FJ654 with the following explanation:
'My father took this picture of crashed aircraft FJ654. At the time, he was a student minister in Alberta but I'm not exactly sure where. I hope it's of interest.'
Alan's father, Carl MacKenzie, who died in 1977, was a lifelong amateur photographer. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was Director of Welfare for Manitoba's northern region and wherever he went his camera went with him.
Photographs captured by Carl during his time as Director of Welfare were published in 2015 in a book edited by his son Alan MacKenzie and entitled 'Northern Manitoba'.
The photograph of the wreckage inspired Roy Wilcock to revisit the story that he first researched for Nottingham High School, some five years earlier. This time around he unearthed the Daily Diaries of the 34 Elementary Flying Training School and details of the loss of Cornell FJ654 were finally discovered.
THE LOSS OF FAIRCHILD CORNELL MK. I AS RECORDED IN THE DAILY DIARY OF 34 ELEMENTARY FLYING TRAINING SCHOOL BASED AT RCAF STATION ASSINIBOIA, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA
16 April 1943 Low Flying Area 5 miles South-East of Willows, Saskatchewan
Fatal accident involving aircraft Cornell Mark I FJ654 piloted by 1218537 Sgt. Mason, J. R., flying instructor, with 1670972 LAC Evans J. H. as student. The aircraft was low flying at the time of the crash and the cause is obscure. The wreckage was seen from the air by P/O J. Wild (137562) Flying Instructor, who, as the ground surrounding the wreckage was unsuitable for landing a heavy Cornell aircraft, immediately returned to the aerodrome and reported the crash to his Commanding Officer, S/Ldr. H. Marsden (70445). He then conveyed the Medical Officer, F/Lt. L. Fridjohn (88172) to the scene in a Tiger Moth. On examination of the bodies, F/Lt. L. Fridjohn reached the conclusion that death had been instantaneous in both cases. The bodies were then taken to Ross's Funeral Parlour in Assiniboia by the Station Ambulance. The aircraft was a total wreck, and the accident was made the subject of a Court of Inquiry.
The precise location of the crash remains unknown but the photograph of the wreckage was amongst others taken by Carl MacKenzie whilst at Willow Bunch.
On Saturday 17 April 1943, the Daily Diary records the formation of the Court of Inquiry and a Committee of Adjustment to deal with the effects of Sgt. Mason and LAC. Evans.
17 April 1943 34 EFTS Assiniboia
S/Ldr. E. V. Finland (C.2767) HQ No. 4 Training Command investigating officer arrived by air to conduct Court of Inquiry into the accident to Cornell Aircraft Mk. I on 16 April 1943.
A Committee of Adjustment, comprised as hereunder, was formed at the Unit to deal with the personal and Service effects of the personnel killed in accident to Cornell Mk. I A/c No. FJ654 on 16 April 1943
President - F/Lt. J. C. Beckham M.C., M.M.
Members - F/O. L. A. Walker (125845) and P/O. J. Wild (137562)
Court of Inquiry, comprised as hereunder, formed at this Unit to inquire into the circumstances of the accident to Cornell Mark I A/c No. FJ654, which resulted in the death of 1218537 Sgt, Mason, J. R., 1670972 LAC Evans J. H.
President - S/Ldr. E. V. Finland (C.2767)
Members - F/Lt. R. Mount (85931) and P/O. J.G. Harrison (N.K)
Unfortunately, the report and findings of the Court of Inquiry have not been found.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Sgt. John Richard Mason was born on 6 March 1922 at Basford, Nottinghamshire the son of John William Mason and Ines Kathleen Mason nee Earp. He had an elder sister Vera born in 1920 and the family lived at 19 Trevose Gardens, Sherwood, Nottingham. His father was a Lace Manufacturer.
John Richard Mason entered Nottingham High School on 20 September 1934 and left on 31 July 1939. He was a member of the school Officer Training Corps, passed the OTC Certificate A in 1938 and was the Drum Major in 1939. He won his First XI colours and was Captain of Cricket. (Courtesy Nottingham High School Archives) He was also a keen ice skater and excelled at barrel jumping.
Prior to joining the air force John Mason was employed as a Builders' Clerk.
He is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial and St. Martin's Church War Memorial, Sherwood, Nottingham.
(2) LAC John Hugh Evans was born in 1922 at Holywell, the son of Hugh Evans (an Electric Crane Driver) and Sarah Ann Evans nee Ames of Bryn Celyn, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales. He had two siblings: David H. Evans born 1927 and William T. Evans born 1933. In 1939 the family lived at 5 Greenbank, Holywell.
John Hugh Evans is commemorated on the Holywell War Memorial.
The burial of Sgt. John Richard Mason and LAC John Hugh Evans took place on Monday 19 April 1943 at Assiniboia. Details recorded in the Daily Diary of 34 EFTS are as follows:
19 April 1943
Joint Funeral Service of 1218537 Sgt, Mason, J. R., 1670972 LAC Evans J. H. took place in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan with full military honours. The Funeral Service was held in St. Paul's United Church and interment was made in the Chapel Site Plot of the Mount Hope Cemetery, Assiniboia. S/Ldr. the Revd. R. H. V. Vivian, the Station Padre, officiated at both services assisted by The Revd. L. B. Hann of Assiniboia. Amongst those who attended were Mr. C. W. Nicholl, Manager of the civilian operating company, S/Ldr. H. Marsden (70445), Officer Commanding RAF Personnel, F/Lt. J. C. Beckham M.C., M.M., Station Administrative Officer, F/Lt. E. N. Jepps, Flight Commander, F/O. J. K. Wiltshire, Flight Commander of both the deceased, F/O. W. White, Officer i/c Funeral Party and Cpl. A.N. Budd, N.C.O in charge of escort and firing parties.
N.C.Os and pupils of the same flight as the deceased personnel formed the bearer, firing and escort parties and the Last Post was sounded by buglers of the Southern Saskatchewan Regiment.
Floral tributes were sent by the officers, airmen and civilian staff of this Unit.
Sgt. John Richard Mason was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Canada - Chapel Plot. Grave 5
His epitaph reads:
He did his duty
Thy will be done
LAC John Hugh Evans was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Canada - Chapel Plot. Grave 6
His epitaph reads
A smiling face
No one on earth
Can ever replace
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all the relatives and friends Sgt. John Richard Mason and LAC. John Hugh Evans - June 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.