April 15, 1923 - July 23, 1942
Josephus Stanley Yurkowski, born in Borsursvicusis, Poland, was the son of Ignatius/Egnace Yurkowski, railway section man, and Maria/Mary Yurkowski (nee Adamowska) Yurkowski (1902-1977) of Lanigan, Saskatchewan. He had two sisters, Bernice Kolodziejksi (1926-2017) and Vicki Millar, and two brothers, John and Stanley. The family was Roman Catholic.
Known as Joe and then Stanley, he was a student who worked at a grocery store after school, when he enlisted with the RCAF. After the war, he hoped to enter a manufacturing business. Prior, he had broken his left wrist twice. He smoked eight cigarettes a day and indicated he drank alcohol very seldom. He stood 5’5” tall and weighed 125 pounds. He had blue eyes and brown hair. “Athletic. This chap was calm and composed, co-operated well. Is a little short on leg length. Good appearance, personality, carriage, and physique. Polite and mannerly. Desirable type of material. Fit for full flying duties except pilot (leg length). Would make good gunner.” Other comments on his interview sheet: “Sports: hockey, football, rugby; good character, sturdy, confident, alert, pleasant manner. Keen to go as aircrew and do his best in RCAF. Well recommended. Good student. Industrious. Best fitted for wireless operator, air gunner.” He spoke both Polish and English.
His journey through the BCATP started in Saskatoon, then he was sent to No. 2 Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba July 15 until September 9, 1941. From there, he was sent to No. 15 SFTS, Claresholm until October 26, 1941. He was then sent to No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, October 27, 1941 until April 12, 1942. He was then in Dafoe at No. 5 B&G School until May 20, 1942. He was sent to No. 34 O.T.U. Pennfield Ridge, NB May 31, 1942.
With No. 34 O.T.U., Pennfield Ridge, NB, on July 23, 1942, Ventura AE950 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during a local training flight. Sgt. Harvey John Austin (1331495 RAF) was also killed.
OBJECT OF FLIGHT: Feathering of propellers. Single engine flying. Use of flaps. No instruction was being given. WEATHER: Between 1800 and 2300 hours, wind: east to north east 2-6 mph. Cloud: 3/10 – 6/10ths. St. cu. Base at approximately 6000 feet. Overcast alto stratus above 1000 feet. Visibility 15 miles. PILOT: Sgt Austin’s flying times: Tiger Moth: Dual: 35:20 hours; Solo: 33:15 hours; Oxford: Dual: 45:15, Solo: 64:15 hours; Ventura: Dual: 8:05. Solo: 7:10 hours. Sgt. Yurkowski’s flying time as follows (WOAG): On various types: 36:50 hours. DESCRIPTION OF FLIGHT: Sgt. Austin, pilot, with a WOAG as crew, took off at 1850 hours in Ventura aircraft AE950 instructed to carry out single engine flying, feathering of propellers, and the use of flaps. The exercise was to be carried out about 5000 feet above the aerodrome, and this was pointed out carefully to Sergeant Austin as it was his first solo attempt at these exercises. The duration of the flight was to be 2 hours. The aircraft had enough fuel for about 3 hours flying. Aircraft failed to return to base. The last message received from the aircraft was at 1917 hours when it acknowledged reply from base as to the strength of the aircraft signals. The strength of the aircraft signals at this time was strength was nine. At 2110 hours, the base station started calling the aircraft and continue doing so until 0100 hours the next morning but there was no reply from the aircraft. Searching aircraft took off at dawn on the morning of July 24th and the search by air was carried out for three days. The search was intensive and extensive but was unsuccessful in locating either aircraft or its occupants. The constable of the RCMP at Grand Manan Island reported a patch of oil on the water 1/4 mile across, and half a mile off Fish Head, one-mile north NE of Swallow Tail Lighthouse; Grappling operations were carried out but nothing was discovered. All efforts to locate the missing aircraft proved unavailing and no trace has been found of either the aircraft or its crew. CAUSE: Obscure.” Group Captain F. S. Wilkins, CI Accidents wrote, “There is very little evidence of any value in this investigation but if that of the 7th witness is worth anything at all it seems probable that the aircraft crashed into the sea from a low altitude about 40 minutes after taking off which suggests the pilot lost control at a low altitude while practicing the exercise for which he was detailed.”
The complete Court of Inquiry can be found on microfiche C5934, starting at image 792.
23-July-1942 (Daily Diary, No.34 OTU, Pennfield Ridge): First accident at this Unit. Ventura AE950 failed to return from evening local flight for airscrew feathering, single engine flying and use of flaps. The crews consisted of pilot 1334195 Sgt. AUSTIN, H.J. and WAG. R.107012 Sgt. J.S. YURKOWSKI, both pupils of No. 1 Course. The aircraft was not heard of after 19.17 hours local time when W/T communication ceased. It took off at 1900 hours. Flying Control, E.A.C. were informed immediately and given all available details. MILLINOCKET and all adjacent aerodromes were asked to switch on landing lights for one hour. ST. JOHN Control was asked to inform the R.C.M.P. of the missing aircraft. Flying Control, E.A.C. were informed of the Station Commander’s decision to commence aerial search with the first daylight, the search being organized by him. Extracts from the Operations Log Book concerning this missing Ventura AE950 are attached as Appendix “C”. 24-July-1942 (Daily Diary, No.34 OTU, Pennfield Ridge): As soon as weather permitted search was started and continued all day for the missing aircraft AE950 with the co-operation of R.C.A.F. Station, ST. JOHN. An appeal for information with regard to the missing aircraft was broadcast from ST. JOHN Radio Station CHSJ. Many replies were received and the information amassed was acted upon where advisable. 25-July-1942 (Daily Diary, No.34 OTU, Pennfield Ridge): Search continued all day for AE950. BOSTON enquired through E.A.C. whether we would like them to co-operate. The Station Commander not thinking this necessary the offer was declined with thanks. 29-July-1942 (Daily Diary, No.34 OTU, Pennfield Ridge): In view of the favourable report from F/LT. CROSS from GRAND MANAN, authority was granted by E.A.C. to continue salvage operations for missing aircraft AE950 and S/LDR. GRINDEN was detailed to proceed to the Island and deal with operations there. See Appendix “C”. TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES: Tuesday July 29th. 0015 F/Lt. Cross agrees water is too deep. He will sweep again tomorrow, and make a decision as to whether it will be worth while continuing. 03-August-1942 (Daily Diary, No.34 OTU, Pennfield Ridge): Salvage operations for the lost Ventura AE950 previously referred to was today abandoned off Grand Manan Island where dragging operations had been carried out. The object contacted was in some 60 fathoms of water, too deep for a diver to be used or for lifting operations to be carried out, and further dragging gave the impression that after all it was a rock and not the missing aircraft. No eye witnesses either have been discovered who saw a crash in this area. S/Ldr. J.E. GRINDON and F/LT. F. CROSS returned from GRAND MANAN ISLAND and presented their report to the Station Commander and S.A.S.O. Command. [Thank you G Christian Larson for this information and additional photo.]
Stanley is remembered on the Ottawa Memorial, as is Sgt. Austin. A lake in northern Saskatchewan was named in Stanley’s honour in 1969.