15 September 2011

Walking The Ridge with Donald C.F. Moors

Christian Larsen and Veteran Donald Moors
Pennfield Ridge Air Station, 14 September 2011

Veteran Donald C.F. (Don) Moors of Nova Scotia heard a news report about the 1942 Connors murder approximately four months ago. This sparked his interest because he had been stationed at RCAF Station, Yarmouth, NS (about 2 hrs. away as the crow flies) during this time period. However he never heard any details of the crime until recently which is surprising since it received national coverage at the time.

Sgt. T.R.R. Hutchings, the accused murder, had been stationed at No.34 Operational Training Unit, Yarmouth, NS between April and May 1942. Then No.34 OTU moved to Pennfield Ridge in June 1942 and Hutchinson came here. A few months after the murder No.34 OTU, due to a shortage of buildings at "the Ridge", would establish No.34 OTU Detachment, Yarmouth between August 1942 and June 1943.

Not long after hearing the documentary, Moors contacted his son Don here in New Brunswick to see if he might be able to find additional for him. Don began by searching the internet for any information and this is when he stumbled onto my website. He then began printing off any material he thought might be of interest to his father and then would send the material, via snail mail, to his father.

The material, as with anyone who reads it, left Moors with many more questions and he then asked his son if it would be possible to travel to Pennfield Ridge. He wanted to see the base, or what remained of it, for several reasons. With the connection between No.34 OTU, Pennfield and RCAF Station, Yarmouth Moors knew a couple airmen who passed through here. More importantly he also wanted to learn more about the Connors murder and share his memories and reflections from long ago.

Moors identified, in some respects, with the accused murder since in 1942 both were Sergeants and both were married with young children, Hutchings with a young daughter back in England and Moors with twin daughters and a son who would be born shortly after Hutchinson met his maker.

So after a few phone calls and numerous e-mails a date of 14 September at 10:30 am. was set for the tour. The weather was questionable with a ground fog and cool dampness in the air but luckily no rain. However the weather was almost ideal as many of the airmen at the base would experience just such conditions.

I meet with Mr. Moors and his son Don at the Pennfield Ridge Irving. From there we traveled out to the base and began our tour. We chatted for awhile and looked over photographs that detailed the storied history of the former base. We then walked out to the one remaining structure still visible from the highway, the 25 Yd. Range.

Time may have slowed his step but memories of long ago, firmly pressed between the pages of his mind, remain ever present and very clear. We stopped near the 25 Yd. Range and took a couple photographs before heading out onto the runways. We drove around on all three of the runways which are still in remarkable condition all these years later.

After leaving the base we headed into Blacks Harbour for a small tour. It was here in the harbour that several airmen were attending a dance at the local community centre that fateful night in June 1942. Before leaving the village we drove down Deadman's Harbour Road close to the spot where Bernice Connors was eventually discovered after failing to return home from the dance the previous night.

Next stop was Comeau's Resturant for Fish'n'Chips (and a side order of scallops that father and son always share). Good food and pleasant conversation quickly pass the morning into mid-day. After recharging the batteries and discovering sunshine as we stepped outside, we head off to the St. George Rural Cemetery where 10 airmen from the base are buried.

Christian Larsen, Veteran Donald C.F. Moors and Don Moors
St. George Rural Cemetery, 14 September 2011

We spent time at the Cemetery talking about some of the crashes at the base and Moors shared his memories of the Venturas along with other aircraft that were at RCAF Station, Yarmouth. We were joined at the cemetery by my wife Sheri who presented Mr. Moors with a postcard of her painting "In Training at Pennfield Ridge".

Last stop on the tour was a trip to St. Andrews. Here we stopped at the St. Andrews Rural Cemetery to visit the unmarked grave of Hutchings. Then we stopped at the St. Andrews Courthouse where the trial was held and concluded the day by visiting the Old Goal, now home to the Charlotte County Archives. Longtime St. Andrews resident Kate Akagi was on-duty and provided us with a tour of Hutchinson cell, additional information on his time at the Old Goal and showed us a photograph of Hutchinson with jailer George Goodeill.

1 comment:

  1. Christian: My Dad was very moved by our visit as well as your and Sheri's dedication to preserving / promoting the history and memories of the air station. It was quite a day for him and I was honored to be a part of the "pilgrimage". It is true that this visit started with the story Dad heard about Hutchinson. His interest in that man's situation continues. However, he now better understands the close relationship that existed between the Pennfield Ridge Air Station and the Yarmouth Base. As a result of the visit with you, I think he feels closer to his vereran RCAF / RAF comrads who served in your area. Dad & I will attennd your reunion event in 2012. We are looking forward to it. Again, thank you both very much for welcoming us as you did.