1942 Hurricane Forced Landing
by Frank Tibbo
The Hurricane pilot in this story, Sgt Bochman, spent five cold December days in the interior of Newfoundland; and it wasn't all his fault. It is easy to criticise the other pilots for not finding him. But if you've ever flown over the thousands of square miles of Newfoundland's interior and tried to find something, you won't criticise. And besides, who would think he was seventy miles south west of the field when he went north for a practice flight? The fact that he got lost was also perfectly understandable. Unpredictable weather conditions have put the screws to many a good pilot.
The Squadron Diary had it this way:
Dec. 5, 1942 - While on low flying exercise, R.126797, Sgt Bochman, P.G. in Hurricane Mk IIB 5496, became lost. A search was immediately organized and all available aircraft were utilized for this purpose. Later in the day radio contact was made with Sgt Bochman via Romouski. An effort was made to get a fix on his position. At the end of the day no sign of the missing aircraft could be found.
Sgt Bochman was caught by unpredicted snow. He had been splattering a few bullets off the rock with the painted bulls-eye at Little Fogo Island. When he ran out of bullets, he decided to do a little sight-seeing. After all, the ice bergs were beautiful and the scenery dazzling to the young American. He had joined the RCAF prior to his country entering the war and was itching to get an overseas assignment. His Commanding Officer, Group Captain Basil Hobbs, had sternly told him, "A lot of people want to go overseas, but there is a job to do on this side too and you will do it!" That little speech had come in Dartmouth after he had complained about not being assigned to a squadron in Britain.
He also had reported back to duty late after being on a pass. Not only did he get a blast from the Commanding Officer, he had been transferred to Gander in the bargain!
When Bochman decided to end his scenic tour, he turned south and headed for Gander. He soon discovered a wall of cloud-filled snow which forced him to detour. Well, he thought, as he zigzagged around and under the snow, they can't blame this on me. I wasn't told about the dammed snow. He had received instrument training, so he finally decided to head into the snow hoping to break out and recognize Gander River or Gander Lake, or the railway track – or something!
It didn't happen. He couldn't find anything familiar. He circled around desperately hoping to see some recognizable landmark. No luck! His eye kept going toward his fuel gauge. The hand was getting near the big "E." He was in the vicinity of Gull Lake but didn't know it.
Bochman did the wise thing; he looked for a place reasonably level, found what looked like a fairly flat boggy area and prepared for a belly landing. He did his pre-landing checks – all except the gear, which he left up, and glided down to a pretty good landing.
The following entries from the Squadron Diary tell the story:
Dec. 6, 1942 - Search for Sgt Bochman, P.G. continuing today. During the night Canso aircraft of 5 Squadron searched a wide area. Pilots of 127 Squadron were present in the Canso aircraft and aided in the search throughout the night. Boston aircraft of the R.A.F. Ferry Command are now assisting and a large area of the northern half of Newfoundland has now been gone over.
Dec. 7, 1942 - Search continued throughout the day. Unfavourable weather conditions prevented continuation of the search tonight.
Dec. 8, 1942 - All available aircraft of 127 Squadron again employed in the search today. The Harvard aircraft made a flight to Stephenville, refuelled and searched the area on the return flight. Pilots of 127 Squadron have now put in many hours in the search – some pilots flying their own aircraft during the day and flying in the Canso at night.
Dec. 9, 1942- Search for Sgt Bochman, P.G., continues with aircraft of this squadron, 5 Squadron, R.A.F.F.C. making every possible effort to locate the missing aircraft and airman.
Dec. 10, 1942 - Sgt Frombolo, A.R.122110, in Harvard aircraft No. 2897, with Sgt Bridges, D.F., R.127878, as second pilot, found Sgt Bochman, P.G. in a position approximately 70 miles south-west of Gander at 1115 hours this morning. From the air the missing airman appeared to be in fairly good condition. A Canso aircraft (no. 9740) was immediately dispatched and a supply of food, blankets, etc. were dropped to Sgt Bochman by parachute. Later in the day a Taylor aircraft of the United States Army Air Corps proceeded to the scene of the forced landing and Sgt Bochman, P.G. was brought back to Gander and placed in the Station Hospital. The Hurricane aircraft in which Sgt Bochman, P.G. had made a forced landing does not appear to have been damaged severely.
Captain J. Treher of the USAAF flew Bochman (23 years old) back in a Taylor Craft. A Norseman on skis flew a crew to the site where they erected a 10 ft. high tripod over TF-X and with pulleys raise her nose, dropped her wheels and installed a new propeller. Jettisonable skis were attached and F/Sgt (later F/O) Maurice "Doc" Brown of Chatam, Ontario, flew it back to Gander.
The final Squadron Diary entry about Bochman:
Dec. 16, 1942 - Sgt Bochman, P.G. was discharged from the Station Hospital today.
Submitted by F. Tibbo