October 3, 1919 - April 24, 1944
Murray Thomas Robertson was the son of Marie Francis Robertson (1891-1978) and Matthew Rae Robertson (1891-1950), advertising salesman, of Regina, Saskatchewan. He had one brother, John Rae, also with the RCAF, stationed in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The family was Roman Catholic.
He was a store clerk with Safeway prior to enlistment in the summer of 1940 with the RCAF as an armourer. He felt his experience as a working in a store and supplier division having had three and half years’ experience would be beneficial to the RCAF. “Standard general duties, applicant is suitable type for above. Good experience in store work.”
Murray stood 5’ 5 ¾” tall and weighed 113 pounds. He had light blue eyes and light brown hair.
Murray started his journey through the BCATP on October 31, 1940, Manning Depot No. 2, Brandon, Manitoba. He was then sent to No. 7 SFTS Macleod, Alberta, at the beginning of December. His next stop was to Mountain View, Ontario, June 1942. “66.1%. He has completed No. 11 Armourers (Guns) Course, finishing 43rd in a class of 71. Of average ability. Not outstanding in any way, but diligent and dependable.”
He was then sent to No. 133 (F) Squadron, Lethbridge, Alberta August 1942. He remained there for two months, then sent to Boundary Bay, BC.
On March 3, 1944, he married Leading Airwoman Sylvia Helen Wallace, W308374, at the Jubilee United Church in New Westminster, BC. She was living at RCAF Station Patricia Bay, BC afterwards. Murray’s mother wrote, “At the time of enlistment, my son assigned pay to me. He married suddenly six weeks before his accidental death while on a routine flight from Patricia Bay to Tofino, BC on the night of April 25, 1944.” By October 1955, Sylvia remarried and was Mrs. Copeman (1923-2014), living in St. Catherines, Ontario, but the letter sent to her was returned. She passed away in Alberta.
Murray was in the hospital January 31 to February 5, 1941, plus September 25 - 27, 1941. Again, he found himself in the hospital January 16 - 23, 1944.
On April 25, 1944, the result of a flying accident during a navigation flight between Patricia Bay and Tofino, Ventura V2218 was lost. On board were P/O John E. Moyer, Sgt. Harry Arthur Maki, LAC Murray Thomas Robertson, F/O Ambrose Moynagh, WO1 Brinsley George Henry Palmer, and WO2 Lawrence Kerr.
The wreckage was later found as it crashed into Mount Bolduc, south of Cowichan Lake, BC, but due to the difficulty of the terrain, the bodies were buried at the site. In The Cowichan Leader, dated May 1, 1944: “Six RCAF flyers were given a last resting place at the top of rugged peaks in the mountains near Cowichan Lake where their plane crashed killing them all last Wednesday. They were on a navigational flight from a Vancouver Island base. On Tuesday, while two RCAF padres read the burial service, comrades of the dead reverently erected a cairn of stones over the bodes and left them to their last sleep…wreckage of the plane was still hot and smouldering. Bodies of two of the crew were found 30 feet in front of the demolished fuselage. Another body was found at one side and two more were discovered in the wreckage. Later, a sixth body was found to one side, 50 feet distant. All must have died instantly.” [See the Cowichan Chamber of Commerce link below for more.]
REPORTED LOCATIONS OF GRAVE: “This grave is located on the summit of Mount Bolduc, which is some 3500 feet above sea level. Owing to the almost inaccessibility of the wreckage, it was decided that the burial should take place at the scene of the crash. Consequently, Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplains were flown into a base at camp #3 of the lake logging company, some 8 miles West and South of Cowichan Lake Village. A period of 3 1/2 hours was required to reach the bodies. A single grave containing the six deceased personnel was blasted out of solid rock after removing some two feet of stone. The grave was lined with six inches of evergreen boughs on which the bodies were placed and were then covered with another layer of spruce boughs. There being no earth available, it was necessary to complete the grave with rock. A cairn was erected, surmounted on the grave which was inscribed the names and rank of each deceased personnel. The funeral service of the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches was conducted at the graveside by Flight Lieutenant McDonald representing the Protestant Church and Flight Lieutenant Gerard, representing the Roman Catholic Church. An Air Force Ensign was flown during the ceremony. The burial party was composed of 10 RCAF personnel, Constable Jack Henry of the BC provincial police, and Doctor JB Carson. He was a civilian doctor from the village of Youbou, British Columbia. Photographs were taken and will be submitted in due course. Letters are being sent by the respective chaplains to the next of kin as well as photographs. With these grave ledger sheets, the letter to the next of kin and the photographs to same, will complete this operation. An added item of interest is the fact that Mrs. Florence Kelly, resident at the base camp, made an 8 foot wreath of spruce, wild flowers, and three daffodils, which was all that could be found in the camp. This wreath was carried to the summit and placed on their grave as a memento from the folk in the camp.”
Murray’s remains were badly burned but identified by a ring and a case found by one of the RCAF men who made it to the crash site. Colonel J. H. Boyd, the coroner of Duncan, BC wrote, “Fracture of skull, crushed pelvis, amputation of right foot at the ankle. Third degree burns over thorax and upper members.”
The six men are commemorated on a plaque and a sign at the site of the crash, as well as their names appear on the Ottawa Memorial, as their grave was considered inaccessible. On an old growth forest tree stump, dozens of poppies have been placed at the crash site. [See photos in the links below.]
Mrs. Robertson had hoped to have a stone erected in the Soldiers’ Plot in Regina Cemetery. “As his grave is in an inaccessible location, I was denied the small consolation of kneeling there. Next year, I hope to visit Ottawa and the Memorial. Knowing he is remember give comfort and consolation and helps to ease the ever present heart-ache.”
For the complete Court of Inquiry, please contact me.