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Arthur Massey Berry

Arthur Massey Berry, also known as Matt Berry, was born on 19 June 1888 in March, Ontario. A Captain in the 153 Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Berry was transferred to England when WWI broke out. Once there, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He later returned to Canada where he took up the duties of a flight instructor.

After the war, he developed exceptional skills both as a bush pilot and in northern terrain flying. He is well known for his rescues into the northern regions of Canada.

On 17 August 1936, two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) personnel, Flight Lieutenant S. Coleman and Aircraftman Joseph Forty, took off to fly to Fort Reliance. The two were caught in a storm that forced them to land on an unidentified lake. Once the storm cleared, they placed an oil drum on the shore with a note stating that they would attempt to fly south. The two took off and flew until they were out of fuel, landing at another small lake.

After several weeks, the six aircraft search teams working on the case had only found the oil drum with the message. Matt Berry, from Canadian Airways, came in to assist the rescue effort. He found the pilots after he followed a line of flight from where the oil drum was found and based his direction on what he himself would have done in similar circumstances.

Berry was called upon again to rescue a small group of priests and Inuit. A message arrived stating that the group was stranded at Letty Harbour, along the Arctic coast. The Canadian Government asked Berry and the air engineer Rex Terpening of Canadian Airways to rescue them.

They flew out from Aklavik on 11 December with a Junkers monoplane equipped with skis. At this altitude the compass was of no use, so Berry had to keep track of his direction by watching the ground - a difficult task because of the dim arctic conditions. The extreme wind they also faced made flying very difficult, but later proved a benefit when they arrived at Letty Harbour: flying into the wind was keeping them at such a slow forward speed that when they landed in the drifts, there was no damage to the Junkers.

When they arrived, the duo found that the food supplies at the small mission were nearly all gone, thanks to bears who had taken most of their fish. On 12 December, they were able to take off and the two airmen flew to a cache of supplies to later return with about 1,500 lbs of food. The weather turned bad and they were not able to fly out again for 10 days.

On 22 December, it appeared that the weather was good enough to fly so all of the inhabitants and the dogs were loaded into the Junkers. The plane took off, but the weather suddenly turned bad again, and they landed at a small lake where they spent the night.

The next day the group once again climbed into the Junkers, turned the craft toward Aklavik, and made it, landing with only three and one half litres of fuel left.

In recognition of his rescues, Berry was awarded the McKee Trophy in 1936, to honour those who made a significant contribution to aviation in Canada.

In 1942, he assisted the United States government in constructing airfields in the north, advancing northern transportation and the construction of the CANOL Project: a pipeline constructed between 1942 and 1944 between Norman Wells in the North West Territories and Whitehorse. The pipeline had a total distance of about 1000 kilometres.

Arthur Massey Berry died on 12 May 1970, and was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.

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