November 16, 1921 - March 13, 1943
Fintan Howard Lalor, born in Welwyn, Saskatchewan was the son of Patrick Michael Lalor, beater engineer at a paper mill, and Myrtle Edna (nee Wright) Lalor (1901-1989) of Pine Falls, Manitoba. He had three brothers: George (1920-2008), also with the RCAF as a WOAG, Terence and Michael. One sister, Mary, died in 1925 at the age of 2 of pneumonia. The family was Roman Catholic.
He was in his first year at St. Davis College, pre-medical when he enlisted with the RCAF on November 21, 1941. He had been employed as a timekeeper at Manitoba Paper Co. Ltd. and as a ‘bathing pool’ lifeguard in the summer of 1940. He enjoyed swimming, basketball, rugby, and hunting. “First Aid Certificate, awarded Governor General’s Medal 1939 for highest standing in three years high school at St. Paul’s College.” He had his driver’s license.
Fintan was engaged to Kathleen Ford of Pine Falls, Manitoba. He wanted her to have his identification bracelet, ring and rosary beads.
Fintan weighed 142 pounds, stood 5’11” tall, had blue eyes and brown hair, with a fair complexion. He fractured his 5th metacarpal bone in 1940. He did not smoke and had a glass or two of alcohol at Christmas and New Year’s. “Athletic physique alert mentality.” Other comments: “Good motivation. Wants either Pilot or Observer. Superior intelligence. Good emotional and general adjustment. Superior type of aircrew candidate.” More comments: “Very good, clean-cut, intelligent; see marks Grade XI, over 90 in maths and physics. Should be A1 aircrew. Brother in RCAF, England. WOG.”
He had two $25 and nine $5.00 War Savings Certificates plus some life insurance. Mr. Lalor wrote, “I do not believe that the insurance companies in which my son was insured will pay the policies as my son was flying when killed. However, under the terms of the contracts, the premiums will be returned to the beneficiary.” He made out a will dated February 22, 1943.
His journey through the BCATP began at No. 5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec on January 8, 1942 until he was sent to No. 3 ITS Victoriaville, Quebec May 10, 1942. “Member of RCAF Precision Squad, accurate, intelligent and capable. Dependable. Good sense of duty. Popular with associates. Good background, clever academically. Cheerful and full of fun. One of the best.” Fintan was 2nd in his class of 123 with 98%.
Finton was at No. 6 AOS Prince Albert, Saskatchewan July 5, 1942.
From there, he was sent to No. 1 CNS, Rivers, Manitoba September 13, 1942. “Navigation: Capable neat navigator. Plotting very accurate. Armament: An average bomb aimer, intelligent and practical. General: Has made consistently good showing on his whole course both ITS and AOS. Too young for an instructor. Will make very good operational man. Prefers operational work in Middle East on light medium bombers.” He was 6th in his class of 24 with 82.5%.
Then he was sent to No. 7 B&G School, Paulson, Manitoba November 7, 1942. He earned his Navigator’s Badge on December 18, 1942. “Bombing: average bomb aimer. Gunnery: Fair gunner. Good type. Will probably improve with experience.” He was 15th out of 23 in his class with 84.7%.
He was at No. 12 SFTS, Brandon, Manitoba until January 22, 1942 before he was sent to No. 34 O.T.U. Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick.
Aboard Ventura AJ173, he along with Thomas Anthony Corr, RAF, 138491, pilot, and F/S David Armstrong Cannon, R103962, WOAG, were on a bomb and gunnery exercise to take place at the Pubnico Range and Port Maitland. They were to land at 1800 hours. This was their first exercise of this type. The last signal received was that they. had finished the bombing and were heading to the gunnery range. The aircraft did not return. A search was conducted without success. On March 15, 1943, boats found wreckage and a dinghy from Ventura AJ173. The next day, more wreckage was found. Cause: obscure, but an explosion was considered either in the air or on impact. “Wreckage picked up at sea and identified as parts of Ventura Aircraft AJ173 indicate that the aircraft broke up with great violence and probably exploded.”
A Court of Inquiry was struck. [Microfiche C5934, Image 1219.] Thirteen witnesses were called. “WEATHER: Overcast above four thousand feet. Visibility four to six miles. Surface wind eight to twelve miles per hour throughout the period, veering from WNW to NW. PILOT: He had been qualified as first pilot on Ventura aircraft and was considered to be capable and reliable.
On May 18, 1943, in a memo by G/C F. S. Wilkins: “It is practically certain that this accident was due to the pilot allowing his aircraft to dive into the water while engaged in front gun practice. This was the first occasion in which this pilot had been detailed for this exercise and it is very easy to misjudge one’s height above the water. The flight commander admits that it is usual to send a staff instructor on such an occasion when an instructor is available. There is no evidence to account for the presence in the aircraft of a naval rating and I submit that is undesireable to carry passengers in aircraft in which the pilot is carrying out his first practice on front gun exercise.”
Ordinary Seaman, Ronald Herbert Faulkner, D/JX 366668, was a passenger and his presence was unexplained. He was with the Royal Navy, attached to HMS, St. Vincent. His name is on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Plymouth, England.
A memo from G/C F. S. Wilkins, dated May 26, 1943: “Appropriate instructions are being reviewed at this Headquarters regarding carrying of passengers during gunnery exercises.”
Mr. Lalor received a telegram: “Previously reported missing 13-March-43 as the result of a flying accident (PUBNICO, NOVA SCOTIA) (LOCAL LOW LEVEL BOMGING AND AIR FIRING TRAINING FLIGHT). Now presumed dead 13-March-43 for official purposes.”
Kathleen, Fintan’s fiancée, might have received the rosary beads, as they were noted in the inventory of his intrinsic effects.