Canadian Fliers Rescue off Port Stanley 1957

The story starts on Saturday afternoon, January 19th 1957, a two plane formation ( Royal Canadian Navy Reserve "Avengers" TBM AS3's) left RCAF Station "Downsview" Toronto (that's where we were based) for a low level cross country over water (approx 300 ft), when flying over Lake Erie (south of Port Stanley, A/C #907 Bu86001 had an engine failure, pilot (Lt/Cdr (P) Cal Wilson & Observer's Mate LSOM Jerry Rol, both tried to send out a Mayday. The other A/C on hearing this circled over head sending out Maydays, until they stayed no longer, due to being low on fuel. Because of lateness of the day and the distance of the Canadian Air/Sea units (approx 275 miles to the east at RCAF "Trenton"), they could not get there until the next day. When the engine failed, Cal turn the A/C north and nursed it as far as he could (TBM's glide like a brick), they ditched on pan ice, they had plenty of time to pull the dingy and sat on it and watched the A/C sink through the ice ( true Hollywood fashion nose down, tail vertical). 


Sister aircraft to the one that went down

On US side of the boarder Jack Hendy AC3 was on duty in the Control Tower at NAS Grosse Ile when the Mayday was heard. In Hangar 2 Morris Bertsch was busy working in engine change when he was called to the Hot Spot. When told of the emergency, Morris fueled the HUP to capacity, the only time he ever fueled a HUP to capacity. Only a short time elapsed and the HUP 2 was on its way out over the lake with Lt. Helms and ADR1 Bertsch on board. It was late afternoon after 1600 when Jack Hendy, controlling traffic, said "---turkey in the drink, chopper on the way." This was heard by John Sanger in the electronic's shop.

The downed crew was in Lake Erie south of Port Stanley, Ontario a about 125 miles away. So when the HUP arrived in the area it was almost dark and they started the search. After 50 minutes of searching the HUP was now low on fuel so they were on their last pass over the area. The downed crew heard the Chopper and popped a flare. From the HUP  Morris Bertsch saw the flare and the crew was then picked up. This was about 15 miles out in the lake. The first thought was to land in St. Thomas, Ont. but after checking, St. Thomas did not have proper fuel for the HUP. After careful evaluation of their fuel status it was decided to go 20 more miles to London Ont. (civic airport), and later were transfer to RCAF Station "Centralia" (London) along with the American crew, they all spent the night there ( the USNR crew had to clear Custom's & Immigration, government at it's finest). After arrival in London, Morris checked the remaining fuel, only 3 buckets remained. The HUP was placed in a hangar and the USNR crew treated like royalty. The USNR crew was, Lt. Lewis Helms & Morris Bertsch ADR1, the A/C was a HUP 2 the side no.979 BuNo129979, A/C was Navy Blue in colour lettering in white with "GROSSE ILE" beneath the word "NAVY".

Information furnished by: Fred Rol, Morris Bertsch and John Sanger

Note: At this time NAS Grosse Ile had three HUP-2 aircraft: 129979, 129999, and 130068.

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Revised: June 30, 2010