09 January 2009

Bernice Connors' Murder

On 26 January 2007 I began researching the history of the Pennfield Ridge Air Station. In those two short years Iʼve made tremendous strides in recording its rich and colorful history. In that time Iʼve been blessed enough to have interview fourteen (14) veterans from the Air Station and even luckier to have personally known over a dozen others who were stationed there and/or worked there as civilians. The latter ones whose stories have been silenced by the cold hand of death remind me (us) to never forget. The living veterans continue to inspire me to push ever forward to make sure the stories are not lost forever to the ravages of time.

Shortly after No.34 Operational Training Unit established itself at Pennfield Ridge, a murder of a young Blackʼs Harbour girl occurred on 5 June 1942. An R.A.F. sergeant from "the Ridge" was arrested for the crime, tried by a jury of his peers and subsequently convicted for the crime. The conviction for the crime brought with it a death sentence, and on 16 December 1942 the R.A.F. sergeant went on to meet his maker. This was to be the last hanging in Charlotte County and the first one in 65 years.

For the past two years now I have chosen not to include any reference to the murder on the Pennfield Parish website. This was simply done because, it seems to most people, that the Air Station and the murder go within the same sentence. While the murder was tragic and senseless, I wanted to separate the two things because they are after all just that...two separate things.

I knew several of Bernice Connorsʼ siblings and her great niece (the grand daughter of her sister Patricia) is a good friend of mine. In fact many of Patʼs children are friends of mine...some of those friendships going back 30+ yrs. Mildred Justason, probably the last person to see Bernice alive that night, I also knew along with her late husband (another Airmen from Pennfield Ridge). Foster Eldridge and Gib Eldridge who "were standing on the same road beyond the range of the streetlight enjoying a ʽbrightenrʼ ", I had many memorable conversations with over the years. Also in the course of my research other Airmen have also spoken about their memories of the murder. One of these Airmen was also an armourer-fitter at the Station at the same time. So now that a complete picture of the Air Station as its own entity has been painted, I am including material on the murder.

G. Christian Larsen
President "Pennfield Parish Military Historical Society

To read more on this story please click here.

4 comments:

  1. Quite simply, I like how you think, and the order in which you put things, speaking of priority. I agree that the Bernice Connors' murder is a defining moment, but that somehow the Veterans that served for us, is somehow getting lost within the talk of the murder and that the two need to be separated. In saying that, is not to minimize in any way shape or form the tragedy of Bernice Connors' death.

    You have done an amazing job Christian, in trying to make sure that the Veterans are acknowledged. It has been a great pleasure to watch you for the past 6 months, working so hard at trying to achieve this for them. Your heart and mind are in the right place. Keep up the amazing work ! <3

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  2. Thanks Sheri!

    For so many Veterans, Pennfield Ridge would be the last stop in their grueling training schedule before heading off to the battle front. Many who passed through the gates at "the Ridge" never returned, and those that did return were forever changed. It's sad to think that there remains no visible signs at "the Ridge" to even suggest that there was a British Commonwealth Air Training Base there, and certainly no reminder of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Something more needs to be done to remember those ordinary and yet an extraordinary human beings - people who offered some of their life's most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs. Somehow I've been chosen to be that person to record some of the rich and colorful history of this base

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  3. I lived on the ridge in the 1980's and owned one of the last officers houses , the last of the 3 straddling the simple gravel road. I always wanted to know the story about the air field. Clem Griffiths. , Brampton Ontario 2015

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    Replies
    1. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nbpennfi/penn8bAirStation.htm

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