March 22, 1919 - August 23, 1942
Robert Bruce Stuart, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was the son of Robert Bruce Stuart (1880-1955), stone mason, and Sarah (nee Barbour) Stuart (1885-1954) of Winnipeg. He had three sisters, Mary Ward, Rosetta Stuart, and Elizabeth Alleston plus one brother, George Stuart, all of Toronto. The family was Presbyterian.
He had senior matriculation (Grade XI) at 17, missing French and Latin. He was a receiver at T. Eaton Co. in Toronto for three years prior to enlistment with the RCAF in August 1940. He enjoyed hockey and soccer on school teams. He indicated he did not smoke, nor drink alcohol.
His physique was athletic. A well-healed appendectomy scar was noted (from when he was 4 years old) as was a small mole above the scar. Robert stood 5’11” tall and weighed 174 pounds. He had blue eyes and light brown hair, with a medium complexion. He had Scarlet Fever when he was 12. “Good physique. Average intelligence. A little backward. Has good education. Believe he is officer material.”
“Choice: Observer, Pilot, Gunner. Married. Big steady lad, deliberate in manner and therefore slower in responding. Gives one impression of being rather awkward. is frank, responsible, and fairly alert. Emotional stability better than average. General adjustment and self-confidence: average.”He married Winnifred Bernice Cotton, Toronto, December 31, 1940.
Robert was accepted into the RCAF on March 3, 1941. He was discharged from the 2nd Divisional Signals, RCCS from January 16 to March 3, 1941.
Robert started his journey through the BCATP at No. 3 ITS, Victoriaville, Quebec, July 15 – August 20, 1941. “82%, 6th out of 14 in Observers Class. Very cheerful and good natured. Good appearance. Pleasant personality. Self-confident. Easy going. Enthusiastic. Good average type.”
He then went to No. 9 AOS until November 21, 1941. “Below average on air training. Good student on ground training. 71.8%. 29th out of 41 in class. Unsuitable for commissioned rank and instructor. Average on training and ability.”
Robert was then sent to No. 1 BGS, Jarvis, Ontario, until January 3, 1942. “Above average as bomb aimer. Below average as air gunner. 13th in class of 37. This man will be an asset to any aircrew. He is aggressive but well liked. Has lots of common sense. He may make the odd error in grammar but measures up in other respects for commissioned rank.” Robert was awarded his Air Observer’s Badge on January 3, 1942.
The RCAF sent him to No. 2 ANS, Pennfield Ridge, NB, until February 2, 1942. “Slow worker. Works hard and is accurate as far as he gets. Understands the subject of A.N. 40th out of 69 in class. Slow but persevering. Excellent observer material.” Final assessment: “Self-confident and conscientious in his work. Neat appearance and should be considered as future officer material.”
Winnifred and Robert had $200 in a join account and Robert took out a $1000 life insurance policy making Winnifred the beneficiary.
Robert was taken on strength with 120 BR Squadron, Coal Harbour, BC February 4, 1942. Winnifred moved to Vancouver to be with him. (She resided at 2029 Pendrell Street, down the street from Everard Thomas Cox’s wife, who lived at 171 Pendrell Street, a seven-minute walk, and a block off English Bay. Robert Bruce Stuart III was born February 18, 1943. Winnifred returned to Toronto by June 1943.)
From Aviation Safety Network: “At 1750 on August 23, 1942, Supermarine Stranraer 951 of 120 (BR) Squadron RCAF, with a crew of eight was on a routine combat patrol out of Coal Harbour, Vancouver Naval Air Station Base when it suffered engine failure and was forced to ditch. An SOS was received at 18.18 hours to say that it was sinking. A search located the aircraft but due to high sea conditions, rescue was impossible. Later searches failed to locate the aircraft or crew and they were lost without further trace.”
Crew: • F/S Everard Thomas Cox (Captain) Vancouver, BC • F/S Lawrence Alfred Bernard Horn, (2nd Pilot) Regina, Sask. • Sgt Robert Bruce Stuart, (Observer) Vancouver, BC • F/S Mervyn Cram, (WAG) Renfrew, Ont. • Sgt Adolph Willard Anderson, (WAG) Selkirk, Man (under training) • Sgt Kenneth Earl Hope, (AFM) Vancouver, BC • Sgt Leslie Oldford, (AEM) Penhold, Alta • Sgt Charles Franklin Beeching, (AEM) Regina, Sask.
From the Court of Inquiry: “One man in excess of the normal crew of seven was carried. This airman was a WAG under instruction…the aircraft was not overloaded…equipped with one dinghy which would accommodate five men. One spare dinghy was available at the Station which could have been drawn by the captain of the aircraft but was not. Two rescue boats…attempted to reach the aircraft…but due to high seas and failure of radio returned to base. One reached the reported position before daylight the morning following the crash but could not locate the aircraft. The captain of the sighting aircraft carried only one dingy and was having trouble with both engines during the time he circled above the aircraft hence he did not drop his dinghy.”
Winnifred, living in Toronto, received a letter dated October 24, 1955 informing her that since Robert had no known grave, his name would appear on the Ottawa Memorial.