January 19, 1923 - October 18, 19487
Bliss Eugene Strader Bowman was the son of James S. Bowman (1894-1979), farmer, and Olive Lillian (nee Strader) Bowman (1897-1988) of Winchester, Ontario. He had two brothers, Elgin and Carmen Malcolm (1927-2010), and one sister, Leona Grace (1930-1930). The family attended the United Church.
Bliss had been employed as a fitter/machine shop worker at Dominion Engineering in Longueil, Quebec, a gun factory, when he enlisted in October 1942. He liked hockey and baseball and felt that his interest working with electricity would be an asset to the RCAF. He wanted to be an aero engine mechanic.
He stood 5’8” tall, had hazel eyes and light brown hair. He had a small birthmark on his right ankle.
He married Phyllis ‘Joyce’ Timmins (1927-1991) of Inkerman, Ontario on October 12, 1946. (She married Raymond Harrington in December 1950.)
Bliss had two bank accounts, valued at $600. He also had Victory Loan Bonds worth $200 and a life insurance policy.
His journey through the BCATP began at the recruiting centre in Ottawa, October 26, 1942. He was then at AFH2 Ottawa from January 16, 1943 until he was at No. 5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec April 19, 1943.
From there, he was sent to TTS, St. Thomas on June 4 until September 9, 1943. Bliss was at the station hospital from July 29 to August 10, 1943. He was AWL on September 5th for two hours and was confined to barracks for five days.
He was posted to No, 6 Squadron, Alliford Bay, then Coal Harbour. On April 4, 1944, he did not report for duty to unload the General Kennedy. He was confined to barracks for two days.
By August 1944, he was with 165 Squadron, Sea Island, BC until January 6, 1944. He was again at the station hospital September 18-28, 1944.
From there, he was taken on strength at No. 19 SFTS, Vulcan, Alberta November 8 until December 16, 1944.
Bliss returned to Ottawa and was posted to No. 2 SFTS Uplands from January 23 to September 20, 1945. He then applied to continue with the RCAF (Interim Air Force) on September 21, 1945. Bliss re-enlisted with the RCAF March 1946 for a period of five years.
He was aboard Mitchell 894 on October 18, 1947. Mitchell 894 left Calgary, Alberta at 1032 hours, October 18, 1947 on a flight to Penticton, BC, estimated time en route, one hour forty-five minutes. Approximately one hour later, 1132 hours, the aircraft requested Crescent Valley Radio range for Penticton weather, by wireless, but did not give their position. This was given, but not acknowledged by the aircraft. Continuing in a letter by W/C W. R. Gunn, the families were told that the route of the aircraft was over a practically inaccessible area. Air and ground searches were conducted for many weeks, but due to severe winter weather, they were terminated. Several searches continued during better weather without success.
CREW • Bliss Eugene Strader Bowman, R195797, LAC - Aero Engine Mechanic o SON OF JAMES AND OLIVE BOWMAN; HUSBAND OF JOYCE BOWMAN, OF INKERMAN, ONTARIO. • Georges Yvon Lebel 26356, F/O - Wirelss Operator o SON OF JEAN BAPTISTE LEBEL AND CORDELIA LEBEL, OF RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, PROVINCE OF QUEBEC o • Benjamin Cook, 19826, F/O. He earned the DFM. Navigator o SON OF WILLIAM JEFFERSON COOK AND EDITH COOK; HUSBAND OF GLADYS MATHER COOK, OF PENTICTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA • William Hugh Molyneux 24798, LAC - Camera Operator o SON OF WILLIAM HUGH AND EDITH MOLYNEUX • John Leslie MacLeod, 20052, F/L, DFC -- Pilot o SON OF DONALD ALEXANDER AND BLANCHE LOUISA MACLEOD, OF CORNWALL, ONTARIO; HUSBAND OF DOROTHY ALICE MACLEOD • Arthur Gold Robertson, J28663, F/O -- Pilot o SON OF JAMES PAUL AND JANET GEORGINA ROBERTSON OF STONEY MOUNTAIN, MANITOBA, AND HUSBAND OF MURIEL IRENE ROBERTSON. • James Noah Sabourin, 22103, Cpl -- Airframe Mechanic o SON OF JOSEPH NOAH AND EDITH SABOURIN; HUSBAND OF RUTH C. M. SABOURIN, OF MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK
Two civilians: Frederick M. Knight and Beulah Jane (nee Braid) Knight, formerly of Calgary, were also aboard. Mr. Knight was the manager of the Incola Hotel, Penticton, BC, having been in the hotel business for 18 years. They had three children: Cecile, 9, Joan, 5, and Billy, 6.
The Calgary Albertan reported on October 20, 1947 that Mrs. Robertson and Mrs Cook arrived on the missing aircraft from Penticton on the Friday. “They understood that the survey work was now completed in the Penticton area and they would be stationed in Calgary for a time. When the plane left Calgary on the return trip, it was expected to pick up equipment and return to Calgary.”
“Five aircraft from Edmonton and two from Vancouver scoured some 30,000 square miles of BC territory…paratroopers flown from Edmonton were standing by in Penticton, ready to jump to the help of the missing plane’s passengers and crew. In addition, 10 planes from the US combed the area of the international border for the missing aircraft, taking off from Seattle. Northwest Air Command revealed that the Mitchell plan was a photographic survey aircraft. It had been carrying out aerial mapping of the Penticton area and was based at the BC town. The craft flew to Calgary Friday and tried to return to its base on the same day. However, icing conditions at 16,000 feet forced it to return to Calgary for the night. It took off from the municipal airport at 1032 am Saturday. It was last heard from one hour and 20 minutes later when it signalled the radio range station at Crescent Valley, BC. The pilot asked for a report on the weather at his point of destination: Penticton. He said he had sufficient gas for a further four hours flying. When the plane left Calgary, it was expected to arrive at Penticton in about two hours but had fuels for a flight of six hours aboard. At the Calgary municipal airport, officials said, to the best of their knowledge, the RCAF transport was to have flown across country along a practically straight line between Calgary and its BC base.” [See articles above.]
In October 1952, the Windsor Star reported that a wreckage was found in the BC interior. The Vancouver Sun had a full report. Their reporter, Bob Porteous, went to the crash site by pack horse and on foot. [See article.]. “A junkyard of death high in the mountains.”
Wilf Gibbard spotted the wreck while out hunting near Rossland, BC. “It was only by sheer luck that I stumbled on the crash...I had been out chopping wood at the halfway cabin. On my way back to my camp, I decided to leave the trail on the chance of seeing some grouse. The first thing I saw was a shiny piece of metal glinting in the sunlight. I followed the path of aircraft pieces 200 yards down the slope before coming on the main wreck.”
“THE AIRCRAFT STRUCK AT 62OO FOOT LEVEL IN A HOURSEHOE ENCLOSURE ON THE EAST SLOPE OFF MOUNT GLORY. AIRCRAFT IMPACT DIRECTION IS WEST TO EAST DOWN SLOPE, BUT DISTANCE DOWN FROM THE TOP (3/4 MILE) AND STEEPNESS PRECLUDES POSSIBLITY OF AIRCRAFT APPROACH FROM WEST. DESCENT IS CONSIDRED TO HAVE BEEN IN OUT OF CONTROL, SPIN, OR SPIRAL CONDITION. ALL COMPONENTS FOUND NEAR BY. ALTHOUGH WATCHES VARY, THERE IS AN INDICATION THAT CRASH OCCURRED A FEW MINUTES AFTER THE RADIO CONTACT WITH THE CRESCENT VALLEY. WEATHER AT TIME WAS CLOUD BELOW MOUNTAIN TOP AT ICING TEMPERATIVE. 894 DID NOT HAVE WING DE ICERS. THERE WAS FIRE ON IMPACT BUT NOT SURVIVORS CAMP FIRE AS STATED IN NEWSPAPERS. ALL RADIO MASTS AND AERIAL WIRES HAVE BEEN RETURNED FOR CHECKING AT 418 SQDN. NONE APPEAR TO BE MISSING. A SMALL QUANTITY OF HUMAN BONES WERE FOUND BUT NO SKULLS. IT COMPRISED THREE HIP SOCKETS, TWO PIECES OF ARM BONE, ANDO NE OF LEG. THREE PIECES FROM A SKULL CROWN, A FEW RIBS AND A PIECE OF JAW CARRYING TWO MOLAR TEETH. THE CORONER AT ROSSLAND BE SUMMONED AND WAS SATISFIED THAT THE VICTIMS WERE THE NINE PERSONS LISTED IN THE AIR FORCE RELEASE. IN MY POSSESSION ARE A NUMBER OF SMALL PERSONAL ARTICLES FROM WHICH SOME OF THE PERSONNEL MAY BE IDENTIFIED. YOUR AUTHORITY TO HAND THESE OVER TO THE B OF I IS REQUESTED.” W/C W. O. REEVES
There is a metal cross atop a cairn at the site of the crash in memorial to those nine who died aboard Mitchell 894.
Bliss is remembered on the Ottawa Memorial as well as in the Spruce Haven Cemetery, in Ontario.