24 November 2015

Great War Airmen studied by UNB researcher


Brent Wilson looking for personal records, letters and diaries of New Brunswick flyers


CBC News


A UNB researcher is looking for records of First World War New Brunswick airmen.


Brent Wilson of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick says this province may have produced as many as 200 flyers — and possibly more.


But finding official information about them is difficult, says Wilson.


"Part of the problem overall is that they served in the British Air Services during the war," said Wilson.


Some records are available in Ottawa but in many cases you have to go to Britain for the information. Wilson says he gathered much of the material he now has from local newspaper accounts from that time.


"We don't seem to have a lot of collections of personal letters and diaries available to us either," said Wilson.


"So it's hard to get at their stories."


One man's story is fairly well known. Maj. Albert Debrisay Carter, of Point de Butte was an accomplished fighter pilot with 31 victories over German aircraft.


Carter was a militia member and student at Mount Allison University when the war began. He joined the New Brunswick 26th Battalion but was wounded in Belgium in the fall of 1915 and sent back to New Brunswick to convalesce.


Carter later returned to Britain with another infantry unit before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. He was shot down in May 1918 and spent the remainder of the conflict in prisoner of war camps.


After the war he joined the newly formed Canadian Air Force and was named one of its two squadron commanders.


He died in 1919 during a trainer exercise while flying a captured German fighter aircraft. 


"All of that in a very short period of time," said Wilson.


"He was only 27 when he died. It's part of the kind of experience I think that these airmen had, they often led quite extraordinary lives."


Wilson will deliver a lecture titled New Brunswick's Airmen in the Great War on Thursday night at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John.