Fateful Flight

by Catherine Carter from Vancouver, BC

I am 90 years old and if I don’t tell my story now I may never get the chance. Although I can’t be sure of the exact date anymore I do know this story takes place in the early 1940’s.

I tell all my children that if their paternal grandmother had not died exactly when she did, that they would not be here today and this is the story why. My husband Donald, writes Catherine, was a Flight Sergeant in the R.C.A.F. at their headquarters in Ottawa. There he received a message from Saskatoon that said his mother was dying. He was granted a week’s compassionate leave and took the next scheduled flight to Saskatoon. 

He found his mother still alive and delighted to see him. To this day we still have a photo of her sitting up in her hospital bed with Donald’s air force cap sitting gently on top her head. As the week drew to a close Donald asked the doctor, “How long do you think my mother will last?” To which the doctor replied, “As long as you’re here.” The next day they said their goodbyes and Donald took the next scheduled flight that took him to Winnipeg where he would then have to transfer to Ottawa. 

The transfer plane was ready to go and Donald picked up his bags and headed down the walkway prepared to board the aircraft. Before he could a voice over the radio said “Flight Sergeant Donald Carter, report to the desk immediately.” There he was told his mother had passed, and called me to tell me he was going back to Saskatoon to bury his mother. 

Around 8p.m. that same night, I received a knock on my door. There stood a padre and a commanding officer. “Mrs. Carter,” they said “it is our sad duty to tell you that the plane on which your husband was returning to Ottawa, went down. There were no survivors.” Needless to say I was shocked and scared for a moment. Then, “Wait just a minute,” I said. “He only got as far as Winnipeg, was called back, as his mother had passed shortly after he left.” He had not been on that fateful flight. His mother had been looking after him right until she took her last breath.

I am happy to report Donald went on to serve 26 years in the R.C.A.F. starting at the lowest rank possible only to retire as a squadron leader. Had his mother not passed when she did not only would I have lost Donald but he would not have become the proud father he is of both his son Kenneth and his daughter Pamela.