Book of Remembrance honours Venture’s fallen

HMCS Venture graduate retired Capt(N) Wilf Lund displays the Venture Book of Remembrance in the Welland Room at Work Point. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout Newspaper

HMCS Venture graduate retired Capt(N) Wilf Lund displays the Venture Book of Remembrance in the Welland Room at Work Point. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout Newspaper

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

An unpretentious black, hard-covered book resides in a glass display case in the Welland Room at the Naval Officer Training Centre’s Kingsmill Building.

Etched in gold and white letters on the cover it reads: HMCS Venture, In Remembrance.

The book has 13 pages, each bearing the name of a pilot lost in the line of duty. These are 12 Venture graduates and one staff officer.

The original was a moldy, moth-eaten item forgotten and buried in storage after the closing of Venture decades ago. It contained only eight names and had not been updated since 1968 when the original HMCS Venture closed.

Discovered by Retired Captain (Navy) Ken Scott, the Collier Simulator Manager, in 1999, it was eventually recreated and updated by Retired Captain (Navy) Wilf Lund, HMCS Venture Association historian.

“Having a Remembrance Book that remembers our fallen brothers is very important to us,” says Lund. “There is a cost of serving, even in peacetime there is a cost of serving.”

A year ahead of Venture’s 2009 class reunion, Lund began piecing together the book by reviewing official records and consulting classmates and other Venture pilots close to 13 fallen military members.

His intent was to confirm the data on the original eight and to identity any other Venture graduates killed in the line of duty since 1968.

The job of identifying the fallen and retrieving accurate information on the individual crashes was not an easy one. The task was complicated as naval pilots were dispersed throughout Air Command after integration. But he applied strict historical research procedures to sift the evidence and remained objective in his research. In many cases there was conflicting anecdotal evidence provided and even some discrepancies found in documentation.

“This was the hardest job I ever did as a historian,” he says. “Not only because I had to do detailed and meticulous research on every person, consulting records and people close to each pilot to ensure the information was accurate, but also because two of the 13 pilots in this book were former classmates and close friends of mine.”

The two classmates were SLt Al Alltree and Major Ross Hawkes, who both died in horrific crashes. SLt Alltree died in 1964 near Eureka, California, when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter he was co-piloting crashed into the side of a mountain during a search and rescue operation killing everyone on board.

Maj Ross Hawkes, a maritime patrol pilot, was severely burned and died a day later in hospital in March 1977 after an Argus marine reconnaissance plane, in which he was riding as a crew auditor, suffered a mechanical failure on landing and exploded into flames on the runway at CFB Summerside, PEI.

Lund can still remember the day he heard about SLt Alltree, comparing it to a moment when you remembered exactly what you were doing when it happened. Lund heard about the crash that killed SLt Alltree on a local radio broadcast, just prior to heading out on a date with his fiancée.

He says Maj Hawkes was the most difficult death to research because he had met with him by chance a year prior to his death. Eight years later he met his widow and children. The daughter had a striking resemblance to her father, and years later she contacted Lund wanting to know more about him because she was an infant when he was killed.

Despite bringing back painful memories, Lund says completing the Book of Remembrance was highly rewarding.

Lund graduated from Venture in 1961 and had a 35-year career in Canada’s navy, commanding warships and submarines. He says his fallen classmates need to be remembered by future generations of sailors because they bravely served their country and died far too early in life. 

For more about HMCS Venture visit the Venture Association’s website

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  1. Jack McGee says:

    Captain Lund, Thank you for your exceptional commitment to this Book of Remembrance honouring Venture pilots lost in the line of duty. The three officers named above had each earned a stellar reputation and their deaths were tragic. I am sure that the others cited in the book will spark similar memories of their service, spirit and comradeship.
    Bravo Zulu, Wilf.

  2. Ray Paquette says:

    Thank you Captain Lund. The lives of Ex-Ventures who gave their lives in the service of Canada needed to be documented. Some or all of those included in the book will be remembered by their fellow classmates and Venture graduates. Memories will come flooding back and the anecdotes will ensure that they will be remembered for the good times…

  3. george plawski says:

    You’ve plucked a string of memory, Bud, by mentioning Brian as an inspiration for many of us to become aviators. I was certainly one of those; what impressed me was Brian’s cavalier informality so unlike many of the tight-assed pusser types I watched as a Midshipman. My most vivid memory of Brian occurred in the Ontario immediately after we came alongside in San Diego in 1955 where a smashing blonde sat on the jetty in a convertible.
    The moment that the brow came down, we watched breathlessly as Brian, in tropical whites, flew down the steps, ran up to the car, and in a single, silky move, without opening the door, vaulted into the front seat, and sweeping off his hat, held the blonde in his embrace. What imbued this gesture with its swashbuckling dash were those navy wings pinned to his chest.

  4. Bud Jardine says:

    Well done to Capt.Lund for renewing this memorial to our fellow Venture grads!

    The staff officer LCdr(P) Brian Bell-Irving, killed landing a Banshee aircraft on the carrier HMCS Bonaventure, was the officer who so influenced many of the first graduating class of Venture cadets to become naval aviators. He was wont to say:”You will have the best of both worlds – you can go to sea, and you can fly.”

    He was our mentor, the best, and his loss occuring whilst many of us were still in flight training truly left us numb; denying the personal ambition of one day being able to refer to this wonderful naval officer/naval aviator as a squadron mate.

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