News

Hornby Islanders discover details of heroic relative at museum

 

Bobby Waters was not quite 14 years old when he saved the life of a pilot whose aircraft had crashed and burned near the air force base in Comox in 1952.

Two years later, former governor general of Canada Vincent Massey presented Bobby with the George Medal for bravery at a ceremony at the Jericho garrison in Vancouver.

The story — which appears on a blog on the Comox Air Force Museum website — drew the attention of a few relatives of Bobby’s who recently paid the museum a visit.

“We call it one of our museum moments,” volunteer Corrine Bainard said.

Eileen Waters of Hornby Island remembers her late uncle as a funny, big-hearted guy who liked to entertain children by doing things like placing seaweed on his head.

“He was always a very jolly man,” said Eileen’s daughter, Jenny Smith. “He told the best jokes.”

Despite her uncle’s young age, Eileen said Bobby was quick to take action when the Lancaster aircraft crashed while returning from a practice flight on Nov. 24, 1952.

“He put the rest of the people into action — like what they teach in first aid,” she said.

After summoning assistance, a citation states that Bobby fought his way through heavy bush and swam in order to reach the flaming aircraft. Upon reaching the wreckage, he noticed the pilot trapped inside. Despite the heat and danger of an explosion, he entered the burning aircraft, and dragged the dazed and injured occupant to safety.

“This young lad’s courageous actions under the most dangerous and harassing circumstances was undoubtedly responsible for saving the life of the pilot,” the document states.

Waters, who was born in 1939, grew up near the base. He worked as a longshoreman and as a crane operator. He lived for a time in Toronto but “came back quickly,” said Eileen, recalling her uncle was an avid skeet shooter who raised hounds. He was married with a daughter, Lalani.

After Bobby passed away in 2007, his widow, Anne — now a Chemainus resident — donated his medal to the museum.

He was the youngest person ever awarded the George Medal, which at the time was the second-highest award for bravery that could be bestowed on a citizen of a British Commonwealth nation.

As chance would have it, the museum contains a second story about another Waters — of no relation to Bobby — who was also awarded a George Medal for helping save the life of a pilot who had crashed.

Master Corp. Harry John Waters was nearby when a Royal Canadian Air Force Sabre jet crashed and burst into flames on an airbase in Marville, France, July 21, 1955. Disregarding his safety, he rushed into the flames to assist the semi-conscious pilot, who had a broken back.

Like Anne, Marie Waters also donated her late husband’s medal to the museum.

The Comox Air Force Museum is rife with history of heroes.

The museum, located at 19 Wing, right at the end of Ryan Road, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Comox Valley recovering from earlier-than-normal storm
 
Emission limits set for B.C. LNG producers
 
Kathleen Bell: Business leader seeking council term
Proposed setbacks irk Hicks
 
Police probe suspicious vehicle fire
 
Toasting 50 years of public speaking

Community Events, October 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 21 edition online now. Browse the archives.