Flying aces are romantic heroes of the war that first used air battle and reconnaissance to advantage. Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop quickly realized “it’s clean up there! I’ll bet you don’t get any mud or horse shit on you up there. If you die, at least it would be a clean death.”*
In the week marking the centenary of Bishop’s first hit, it seems fitting to remember how dangerous the job was.
Two Royal Flying Corps training camps – Camp Mohawk and Camp Rathbun – were established near Deseronto, Ontario in 1917. British, Canadian and American aviators trained there.
A memorial in Deseronto Cemetery is dedicated “to the memory of the officers, non-com officers, cadets and airmen of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force who died while on duty in Canada 1917-1919.” Six British men who died at the camps are buried around the memorial.
- Lt Cecil J Humphreys, 15 July 1918, age 21 (drowned by flying accident, Mohawk Camp)
- Lt C G Coleridge, MBE, 23 July 1918, age 29. He died in an air crash. (In God’s safe keeping, His sure certain keeping)
- Sgt John R Holland, 16 December 1918, age 27. Died of pneumonia. (A joyous life cut in its bloom)
- Cadet John Robson, 3 July 1918, age 21 (Rest in peace till Jesus comes)
- Private Frederick W Grand, 3 October 1918, age 33. Died of illness. (From our happy home and circle God has taken one we love)
- Air Mechanic 1st Class George D Marshall, 19 October 1918, age 21. Died of pneumonia. (Sleep on dear son, Thy will be done)
A seventh, Cadet Carl Bender from Winnipeg, age 24, is buried at nearby St Vincent-de-Paul Cemetery. He died in an air crash.
Deseronto Cemetery is on Hwy 2, about 1 km east of Deseronto (between Kingston and Belleville). Road access is on the south side of the highway.
*Quoted in Dan McCaffery, Air Aces: The Lives and Times of Twelve Canadian Fighter Pilots, p 98.
Text in parentheses from each man’s gravestone.