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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
Remembering World War II
The Loss of Flight T9449
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At 8 pm on February 20, 1941, Lockheed Hudson III Flight T-9449 took off from the Gander, Newfoundland airport. Aboard were a crew of three: Captain Joseph Creighton Mackey (Pilot) of Kansas City, Missouri, Flying Officer William Bird (Navigator) of England, and William Snailham (Co-Pilot and the Wireless Radio Operator), a civilian from Bedford, NS. The sole passenger was Major Sir Frederick Grant Banting. England was the intended destination. The Ferry Command Program, where airplanes were purchased in the United States and then delivered to the Royal Air Force, was in its infancy and Banting was the second passenger to cross the Atlantic using this service. Major Banting, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner in 1923 as co-discoverer of insulin in 1922, was Canada’s chief liaison with British research scientists in the early days of WWII. He decided to make another trip to England, and arranged to obtain a ride on one of the Hudson bombers being ferried from Newfoundland to the UK. Not long after take-off, the radio operators on other aircraft, and the personnel at Gander heard Bill Snailham, T-9449’s radio operator, asking for directions back to the Gander airport. The directions were received but the plane never made it back. The Lockheed Hudson bomber crash landed on Seven Mile Pond (now Banting Lake) approximately 10 miles south Musgrave Harbour. Radio Operator William Snailham and Flying Officer William Bird, who served as navigator, died on impact. Pilot Joseph Mackey and Major Banting were knocked unconscious. Mackey awoke first, tended to Banting wound. Some have suggested it was Banting who awoke first, tended to Mackey’s wounds and then again fell unconscious. What can be confirmed is that while Banting was unconscious, Mackey left to find help. When he returned, he found Banting metres away from the aircraft, dead in the snow. Banting had succumbed to his injuries on February 21st. Newfoundland residents Tobias Mouland, Dalton Abbott, Harold Hicks, and Walter Hicks were nearing the tail-end of a week-long rabbit hunting trip, 10 miles west of Musgrave Harbour near Seven Mile Pond, when they were startled by an aircraft flying directly overhead. The plane, which by now was circling the hunters, was attempting to draw their attention. Soon thereafter, large pieces of paper fell from the sky - the aircraft was dropping notes to the four men, stating that a plane had crashed one mile from where they stood and that assistance was needed for a possible rescue, as at least one man had survived. The four men immediately followed the path of the overhead aircraft, leading them to the crash site. Arriving at the crash site, the hunters found the pilot Joseph C. Mackay draped in a sleeping bag and propped up against a rock. The sleeping bag and chocolate bars had been dropped by the rescue plane earlier in the day. Realizing that Mackay would need medical attention, they prepared to pull him by sled back to Musgrave. By then, the search plane had dropped notes over the town of Musgrave Harbour, informing locals of the crash. Rescue parties were arranged and departed for the crash site to recover those who had died. Pilot Mackay was brought to a home in Musgrave, where a local nurse had set up a clinic, and was given medical attention. He would recover after three days and was then readied to be airlifted to Gander. The bodies of three who had perished in the crash were brought back to the Orange Lodge in Musgrave Harbour and laid to rest until arrangements were made for their return home. Captain Mackey, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, would be invited back to Musgrave Harbour in 1971 as a guest of the town. After the festivities, Mackey was flown by helicopter to the site where he had crashed 30 years earlier where the Hudson was as he had left it on that cold day in February of 1941. The RCAF hospital in Gander was renamed Sir Frederick Banting Memorial Hospital in late 1941. In 1990, an Interpretation Centre was built in Banting Memorial Municipal Park, 2 miles east of Musgrave Harbour, to display the artifacts of the crash, and the wreckage from the crash was airlifted and placed outside the Centre. In 2001, a replica of the Hudson bomber was unveiled outside the Centre. Banting Lane in Musgrave Harbour, where the Orange Lodge still stands, was named in Dr. Banting’s honor.
________________________________________ Name: William Snailham Role: Civilian (Wireless Radio Operator) Service Number: Not applicable Service: Ferry / Transport Command, Royal Air Force Date of Birth: Summer 1903 (July/Aug/Sep) Place of Birth: Chorley just south of Preston in Lancashire, England Date of Death: February 21, 1941 Age: 37 Cemetery: Halifax (Fairview Lawn) Cemetery, Nova Scotia Grave: Section 1, Lot 193C Commemorated on Page 609 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on December 26 and 27 William Snailham was the son of and husband of Viola Bertha (Adams) Snailham (1911-1936). Viola was born in July 28, 1911 in Halifax, NS; the daughter was George Albert Adams and Louise May (Webster) Adams of Colchester Co., NS. William and Viola had two daughters; Viola and Gloria Louise Snailham (1930-1956) and a son William Roy Snailham (1932-2005). According to family history, he moved to Bedford, NS shortly after the First World War. William Snailham was a radio operator by occupation, having worked on numerous ships, and for a short time in the military. He also worked for the Canadian National Railway (CNR) as a radio operator. For some time, he served aboard the Lady Nelson. The earliest record of William travelling from England to Canada was a 16-year-old passenger (he lists Telegraphist as his trade) aboard the Haverford departing Liverpool, England on June 23, 1920 for Halifax, NS. By February and July 1924, he is serving aboard the SS Canadian Spinner. He then spends much of his career at sea aboard the RMS Lady Nelson; records from show him aboard the Lady Nelson as early as November of 1932 and at least until January of 1939. By April 1939 he was serving aboard the MV Victolite as WTO (Wireless Telegraph Operator) and indicated he had been serving at sea for 18 years which would mean he started working in 1921. In December 1940 he is serving as the Wireless Operator from Liverpool to Halifax on the SS Tetela. William Snailham was the radio operator aboard the plane, apparently a friend of the pilot - Joseph Mackey. According to a family account Mackey was a perfectionist, and considering the importance of his passenger, wanted the best crew he could find, which included William Snailham. The plane was flown from Winnipeg, and on to St Hubert, near Montreal. At this point, the crew, including Snailham, took control of the plane and Banting joined them in Montreal. After the February 21, 1941 crash, William Snailham was interred in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax. Sources: Canadian Virtual War Memorial http://www.geocities.ws/scottsnailhamhomepage/sfh.html ________________________________________ Name: William Bird Rank: Flying Officer (Navigator) Service Number: 79749 Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Date of Birth: November 18, 1915 Place of Birth: St George’s Parish, Kidderminster, Worcestershire Date of Death: February 21, 1941 Cemetery: Halifax (Fort Massey) Cemetery, Nova Scotia Grave: Section E, Grave 128 William Bird was the only son of Florence Bird of Gretton, Gloucestershire. From the age of nine, he lived in Cheltenham (9 miles south of Gretton). William married Gertrude Ann Haslum (1910-1993) in 1939 in Cheltenham. At the time of his death, his wife was living in Evesham Road, Cheltenham, with her parents Mr. Frederick M Haslum (1873-1951) and Mrs. Louisa (Humphries/Humphris) Haslum (1874-1950). William Bird had one child, a son, who was just over one when his father died. After his body was transferred to Halifax , a service was held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. An Air Force band and the party escorted the lorry through Halifax streets while hundreds of civilians watched. The cap of an RAF officer was placed atop the Union Jack draped over the coffin. The firing party poured three volleys into the sky at the grave while the band rendered ‘Abide with Me’. Two Air Force buglers rippled the March air with The Last Post and he was interred at the Fort Massey. Sources: Commonwealth War Graves Commission https://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/7664485.the-mystery-of-flight-t-9449/ https://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/7658890.town-sleuths-end-10-year-quest-for-info/ ________________________________________ Major Sir Frederick Grant Banting was born November 14, 1891, the youngest of six children of William Thompson Banting and Margaret (Grant) Banting. As a medical student, his last year in was condensed due to the urgent need for doctors in WWI. He enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, initially working in military hospitals in England which sparked his interest in surgery and research. In the summer of 1918, he was sent to France as a battalion medical officer. He saw heavy action in the last great battles of the war. His posting in France ended when he was wounded by shrapnel at Cambrai in September. He recovered in England, received the Military Cross for his valour under fire, and returned to Canada in 1919. Sources: Canadian Virtual War Memorial Banting House National Historic Site of Canada Gander Heritage Trails