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Edmund Marshall

In 1941, an Avro Anson set out from No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Calgary, and didn't come back. Edmund Marshall was part of the search and rescue party.

On August 14, 1941 at 4 p.m., a training flight in a twin-engine Avro Anson aircraft from No. 3 Service Flying Training School  (SFTS) at Currie Field, Calgary got underway. On board, in the front seats, were instructor Flight Officer (F/O) lan M. Sutherland Brown, of Vancouver, and student Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Fred W. Greenfield, of Madison, Saskatchewan. In one of the rear seats was Edmontonian Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Alexander (or Mac or Sandy) McGr3 SFTS Calgaryuther. The aircraft should have been headed for the training area, as described in standing orders, over relatively tranquil terrain northwest of Calgary. The weather was suitable for a training flight and there was lots of fuel on board.

When an aircraft is due back but has not returned, there is much to be concerned about, especially by the Chief Flying Instructor (CFI), and other aircraft are told to be on the lookout. 

By nightfall, this training flight had not returned and there was no other word. Phone calls were made to rural numbers north and west of Calgary to try and find out if anyone on the ground had heard an aircraft, possibly with engine trouble. Someone had—an aircraft had been heard flying fairly low, west of Bragg Creek, but it sounded okay. The next day at first light, an intense aerial search got underway. However, there still was no sign of the missing aircraft. 

Dennis Wagner, Royal Canadian Air Force, Retired As luck would have it, a student pilot who had flown solo was in the air force "hoosegow" for having been caught flying where he was not supposed to be. The grounded miscreant got the word out that he knew where the search should be directed. He was paraded before the CFI and suggested that the search area include Canyon Creek and Prairie Creek. On the basis of the information, a ground search was launched, led by Jake Fullerton, who knew every inch of the country. Those who accompanied him did not know the area at all, so they pretty well had to just follow along. At the time, there was nothing more than a trail west of the Bragg Creek hamlet, more or less following the Elbow River.

The ground search party was under the command of no less than Wing Commander A.D. Ross, the officer commanding No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS). The search soon started, not much helped, however, by bad weather and very rough terrain. Three other officers were part of the search party, one of them being Flight Office (F/O) Claire Manning (This is the Manning of the once well-known Manning Egleston Lumber Co, and who was also a former Calgary Stampede President). Another was Squadron Leader (SL) F.J. Cheeseman, a medical officer, and the third was Flight Liuteneant (FL) McManus. Other ground searchers included a few air force "other ranks," Jake Fullerton's crew, Forest Ranger William Shankland, Calgary Herald reporters David Stansfield and Denny Layzell, and staff photographer Joe Rosettis.

The Avro Anson had indeed crashed. It had flown up Canyon Creek towards Mt. McDougall. Like many others, the closer the canyon was to the mountain the narrower it became. The aircraft had flown in "no-no" territory and there had been no hope in the world of turning this workhorse trainer around or looping it out of its deteriorating situation. An attempted landing on the boulders below would have torn everything to shreds. The only choice was to stall the aircraft into the trees, hoping this would soften the crash. So, down they went.

Saving Leading Aircraftman Alexander McGrutherFlight Officer (F/O) Sutherland Brown, age 21, and Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Greenfleld, age 22, were killed upon impact. Leading Aircraftman (LAC) McGruther, age 20, was injured and unable to move. He spent Thursday night in the aircraft with his dead companions. On Friday morning, with a broken leg, he dragged himself out of the aircraft. With pieces of a parachute and a few nearby branches he made a splint of sorts. He was then able to crawl to the almost dry creek for a drink of water, then back to the plane. While at the creek bank, he saw what he hoped was a search aircraft. It was. He dragged the two other parachutes out of the aircraft, and with parts of the aircraft, tried to make himself a shelter and bed. This might have worked if it were not for the rain. As he was cold and getting soaked, he crawled back into the aircraft, rejoining his dead companions. That night, he was sure he heard a bear crawling around the aircraft. Although he couldn't see it, he yelled at it anyway.

On the Saturday morning, the ground search party reached a point close to where, today, Canyon Creek crosses the Powder Face Trail, and there established a base camp. The party was then divided with one group proceeding west up Canyon Creek. The distance to the base of the mountain would be five to six miles. Close to noon, and almost at the end of the canyon, they were sure they heard a yell. They did. Soon the aircraft was found with Sandy beside it, rather happy to greet his rescuers.

Better splints were made from wing parts for Sandy's right leg, badly broken just above the knee. He promptly devoured a chocolate bar, his first food since last Thursday's lunch. A stretcher of sorts was put together and the difficult return trip to the base camp got underway. It was an exhausting trip. Almost the entire party (that is those who made the distance to the wreck site), including the Herald reporters, took turns as stretcher bearers. Photographer Joe Rosettis was fully occupied and just glad to be alive getting himself over the boulder and fallen timber route. Finally reaching base camp, Sandy was fed some hot soup and put to bed on parachutes and spruce boughs.

A waiting Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) ambulance was still more than 15 miles away. Jake Fullerton invented a new stretcher. It consisted of two "teepee-like" poles and a canvas tarp mounted between two pack horses. It obviously was a better arrangement for the slightly easier terrain. When the going was too tough or too dangerous, the stretcher once again had to be carried by hand. Following game trails, cattle trails and with much bushwhacking, the exhausted rescuers and Sandy reached the ambulance after an eight-or-so-hour trip, about 30 hours after Leading Aircraftman ( LAC) McGruther  had been found.

On Sunday morning, Wing Commander (WC) Ross left the base camp on a saddle horse with all possible haste to summon more help and to report on the casualties. Time was against him. The replacement crew arrived at the ambulance's temporary post at about the same time Sandy and his rescuers appeared. The ambulance left with Sandy on board, plus a few of his weary air force friends, who properly wanted to see him safe and sound at the Colonel Belcher Military Hospital in Calgary. 

The ambulance trip was no picnic—through rain and mostly upon muddy trails it took five hours to travel the roughly 50 miles to Calgary. On Sunday morning, a small party left the base camp with packhorses to retrieve the two bodies that still remained in the downed aircraft.

 

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