With a parachute strapped to his back

After seven decades, they’ll rest together

In 1940, a plane crash in Seymour Narrows took the lives of five RCAF airmen, including H.L. Gordon

Peter Gordon never knew his father.

He was just 16 months old when his dad, Hugh Lockhart Gordon, perished in a plane crash along with four other men.

The date was August 14, 1940.

All five men were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and were on a routine flight from Alliford Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands to Patricia Bay in Victoria.

They never made it.

“I’m not morose about never knowing my father,” says Peter. “I just never had the chance…Apparently I’m a dead ringer for him, the mannerisms and everything.”

Saturday is a special day for the Gordon family and their friends who will reunite in Campbell River.

They’re coming to scatter the ashes of Gordon’s mother Helen, who died  a year ago at age 101. She had been married to Gordon for less than two years when he was tragically killed.

“She deeply loved him (and) she had him taken away from her in the prime of his life,” says Peter from his home in Duncan.

When Gordon died, Helen was taking care of Peter, just a toddler, and another son, Hugh Donald, who was just 13 days old. Tragically, his brother would die in a drowning accident when he was just 21.

“My mother had a tough life,” says Peter.

Ironically, Helen’s maiden name was Gordon when she met Hugh  Gordon. They would marry in Toronto in November 1938.

He had attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, obtained a degree in accounting and then went to work at a prestigious firm in Montreal.

But then came war and Hugh enlisted in the RCAF. Helen went to stay with family in Regina while Hugh was sent west to Victoria.

On the fateful day, their pontoon-equipped plane was heading south, homeward bound, when they passed over a luxury yacht.

According to the newspaper account from the Victoria Daily Times, a witness described the crash:

“The plane made a big circle over the yacht as if inspecting it. Then it made second circle at a lower altitude. After this, it headed south again.

“It hadn’t gone more than 1,000 feet when it seemed to dive right into the ocean. It struck with a terrific crash and spray flew up 60 feet.”

Boaters in the area came to the rescue, but the only thing they managed to save was a pontoon. The bodies of the men were never found which isn’t unusual given the strong tides in Seymour Narrows.

Peter and a good friend have some theories about why the plane crashed, but no one will ever know for sure.

Helen would later re-marry and have another son, but her heart was always with Hugh. Before her death, she told Peter it was her wish to have her ashes “joined” with Hugh’s.

That takes place tomorrow, after a reception at the museum.

“My son Patrick and myself will spread the ashes,” said Peter.