Veteran’s son learns father’s story from recovered flight logbook

On one of the last pages of his father’s old pilot’s logbook, Dave Ward Jr. saw his own name written down. Dave Sr. often took Dave Jr. up for casual flights at the Brampton Flying Club well after his time in the armed services.

“I never knew that he had kept track of all of our flights together,” Ward Jr. said. “That’s pretty cool.”

During the Korean War, Flying Officer David Ward logged over 1,148 hours teaching pilot recruits of the Royal Canadian Air Force how to survive in the sky.

It was dangerous work that left many instructors and students dead from training accidents. From the air bases of Gimli, Man., to Trenton, Ont., hundreds of air force cadets shared training flights with F/O Ward in preparation for the service to Canada during the Cold War.

When F/O David Ward died in the summer of 1989, he willed a trunk of his memorabilia to his eldest son, David Ward Jr. For 26 years, until this month, the son had refused to examine the trunk’s contents. He said he feared it was tampering with what his father left behind.

As Remembrance Day approached in 2015, he changed his mind.

“I’m not sure what’s in here,” he said as he lifted the buckle latches of the trunk. “I’m not sure that there is going to be anything too important.”

One by one, Ward Jr. lifted each keepsake from the box: two pilot’s logbooks, 10 training manuals, 30 RCAF navigation maps, a tin case of medallions, a dead reckoning navigation device, newspaper clippings and a handful of photographs.

As he skimmed through the yellowed pages of his father’s logbook, Ward Jr.’s eyes caught sight of a newspaper clipping stapled to a page from over 60 years ago.

“Forced landing is made despite fog at Crumlin,” Ward Jr. said, reading the article aloud. His brows furrowed in confusion as it went on. “It says here that he was flying a plane that had to make an emergency landing due to a failure in its control panel.”

Details in the newspaper clipping indicated that on the night of Dec. 23, 1952, F/O David Ward was tasked with co-piloting an RCAF Expediter aircraft on a course from Gimli, Man., to Toronto. Visibility was below the safe minimum, but he and his co-pilot were determined to keep flying in order to get the three soldiers aboard the plane home in time for Christmas Eve.

As they neared London, Ont., the story went on, smoke began to pour out from the control column it ignited into a small fire. At 700 feet altitude, Ward and Flight-Lieutenant Doug Scott decided to request an emergency landing in a field near Crumlin, Ont. The two skilfully landed the Expediter by instruments (flying blind) without any casualties.

“I never knew this story,” Ward Jr. said.

When he’d finished reading the newspaper story from half a century ago, Dave Ward Jr. admitted he wished he’d had a chance to ask his father some questions about the pilot’s log and the newspaper clipping.

“When I was younger I never really cared,” Ward Jr. said. “When you’re that young, you always think that you’ll get another chance to talk about it.”