W.J. Allison Story
On November 20, 1944, while on a night training mission, Wellington bomber MF-509 crashed into the southwest slope of Carreg Goch (Red Rock), in the mountains of Brecon Beacons, Wales. The accident, although attributed to crew error by the RAF (Royal Air Force), was likely caused by icing of the carburetor which led to problems with the starboard engine. The entire Canadian crew, known as the Alouettes, were killed: Pilot Sgt Charles Hamel, Navigator Sgt Jules Robert Rene Villeneuve, Bomb Aimer F/Off William Joseph Allison, W/Op/Air Gunner Sgt Joseph Paul Ernest Burke, Air Gunner Sgt Arthur Grouix, and Air Gunner Sgt Gerard Dusablon.
Assisted by local people from Craig y Nos, the RAF rescue team reached the site and removed the bodies. Two days later, on a visit to the wreckage site, Eric Price, a local from Ynesen, Wales, recovered an unidentified photo of a flier, which he incorporated into his family album where it was to remain for 61 years.
The Search for the Identity of the Photo:
In 2005, Eric Price's granddaughter, Caroline Davies, began searching the web for the identity of the flier. She posted a request for assistance in identifying her grandfather's photo of the flier on RootsChat history messaging forum. The brother of the air gunner, Ernest Burke, was located in New Brunswick. On the McGill Remembers website, Davies came across the name of William Allison, who had attended McGill in 1936, and was listed among McGill's war casualties. She contacted Professor Christopher Milligan of McGill University's Faculty of Education and Wes Cross of the Dean of Students Office, both part of McGill Remembers Project, for further information.
Upon learning that Allison had never married and had no children, Cross and Milligan felt they had reached an impasse until Milligan located the obituary of Allison's sister in the McGill University Archives. Noting that a sibling was married to a Pare and recalling that Professor Anthony Pare worked at McGill, Milligan contacted him and learned that one of Allison's siblings, Phyllis (Allison) Burns, was still alive. Further research ensued revealing that the photo was not that of William Allison but that the pilot, Charles Hamel, and the navigator, Jules Villeneuve, had received their training at McGill's air school.
Surviving family members of the crew members were contacted. They were all surprised to learn that not only did the crash site still exist, but that a memorial had been erected there. They had all assumed that the plane had crashed near Chester, England, the burial site of the crew.
The Visit to the Crash Site:
On May 6, 2006, Wes Cross, Caroline Davies, Damien Thomas, Arwel Michael, Bill Grey, Paul Saunders, and Carl Ryan, as well as four locals who regularly tend the memorial, hiked the 7 km to the crash site. Phyllis (Allison) Burns and her husband had been scheduled to visit the site with this group; however, due to health issues, Phyllis was unable to travel.
Thus, Wes Cross performed a ceremony on behalf of the Villeneuve family and the First Peoples House recognizing Jules Villeneuve's First Nations Heritage. As well, the plaque that Phyllis Allison Burns had inscribed to record her visit to the site of MF 509 was attached to the site's memorial cairn and a prayer was said.
Soldier's Identity Still Unknown:
Unfortunately the identity of the airman in Eric Price's photo is still unknown. Due to his bout of air sickness, Gaston Caron, the crew's navigator, was replaced by Jules Villeneuve just prior to the crash. This explains why Caron figures in the crew photo and how he survived the war. It has been suggested that the photo is that of Caron, however, this has not been proven.
World War Two bomber crash man's sister makes emotional visit to Brecon Beacons - ITV, 21 July 2013
Case of the unknown soldier - The Gazette, 23 June 2006
Friends of MF-509 - Blog on the 2006 trip to Carreg Goch