70 years after final flight, four will be buried in Victoria

The remains of four young air force men will be laid to rest in the Royal Oak Burial Park in November, more than 70 years after their plane disappeared on a training flight out of Victoria.

“It will be a full military honours [ceremony],” said Stephen Olson, executive director of the Royal Oak Burial Park.

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The ceremony will take place Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. at the park’s Commonwealth War Graves area. Family and members from the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force will attend. The public is also welcome.

The four airmen — one Canadian and three British — took off in an Avro Anson from the Royal Canadian Air Force Base Patricia Bay on the morning of Oct. 30, 1942.

They were called back with other training planes in the area after a heavy fog rolled in, but never returned to base. A search party was sent out, but within a few days the men were presumed dead and their families notified.

On Oct. 25, 2013, loggers working in a remote area near Lake Cowichan came across the wreckage of a crashed Second World War plane.

A forensic anthropologist with National Defence visited the site and determined through remnants of personal belongings that this was the missing Avro Anson from 1942.

The crew included wireless operator Sgt. William Baird from Brooks, Alta., 25, and three Britons, pilot officers Charlie George Fox, 31, and Anthony William Lawrence, 21, and pilot Sgt. Robert Ernest Luckock, 21.

The families of Baird and Luckock were located and notified of the discovery. Baird is survived by two siblings and an extended family, who said they found peace knowing their loved one would be laid to rest with the honour and dignity he deserved.

“My understanding is that this is only the second time in 60 years that this type of ceremony has occurred, with multiple interments at once,” said Olson.

The four men will be interred in a single grave, with a marker bearing their names. He noted the Commonwealth War Graves area at the burial park includes mostly men who died around Vancouver Island from 1940 to 1945.

“A number of the fellas interred in that section died in training exercises. It’s a given they [the airmen] would have known the other guys,” said Olson, adding this is the burial park’s first interment of missing servicemen.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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