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Base Borden’s first military flying casualty

Barrie Examiner

4 April 2017

This year marks the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the 100th anniversary of the founding of Canada’s first military airfield.

In March 1917, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) training school at Camp Borden, north of Toronto, Ontario (now known as Canadian Forces Base Borden – CFB Borden), began training student pilots on a rudimentary grass airfield; a training camp that would later become the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force on 1 April 1924.

It also marks the 100th anniversary of the death of RFC Cadet James Talbot, who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first fatality at Camp Borden and the first casualty of military flying in Canada.

James Talbot was born in Buffalo, New York, on 22 July 1893 to Canadian parents John and Jesse Agnes Talbot. The family later returned to Canada, settling near London, Ontario, and Talbot would go on to graduate from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

A sense of patriotism and desire to serve his country caused Talbot to forgo any other education and join the RFC (Canada) on 23 January 1917.

Talbot was among the first group of cadets to commence training at Camp Borden in April 1917. So new was the RFC training program that the aerodrome hadn’t officially opened for service yet. Official opening ceremonies were scheduled for 2 May 1917, almost a month after Talbot’s death.

On that fateful morning, 8 April 1917, Easter Sunday, Talbot was flying in a Curtiss J.N.4 ‘Jenny’ aeroplane, piloted by instructor 2nd Lieutenant G.C. Husband. The resulting crash of their aeroplane seriously inured both pilots.  Husband eventually recovered from his injuries, but Talbot died that evening at a civilian hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, in nearby Barrie, Ontario.

At the time, Talbot was serving as a trainee with the newly-formed No. 81 Canadian Reserve Squadron of the RFC Canada.  He had only recently arrived at Borden and some accounts stated that this was only his second or third flight.

Talbot was buried in Union Cemetery in Dorchester, Ontario, his hometown near London. The inscription on Talbot’s tombstone reads: “A noble young life given in service”.

Though his service to his country was brief, his sacrifice has not been forgotten. On 10 July 1999, the newly-built aircraft control tower at CFB Borden, the Talbot Tower, was dedicated to the memory of Cadet James Talbot.

The above is an updated article.  The original article is below.

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Springwater News

12 June 2008

16 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force web site
7 April 2012

Esprit de Corps

June 2016

Canadian Forces Base Borden has the dual distinction of being Canada’s first military airfield, opened in March, 1917 and the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924.

Another distinction related to Borden belongs to Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Cadet James Talbot, who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first fatality at Camp Borden and the first casualty of military flying in Canada.

James Talbot was born in Buffalo, New York, on July 22, 1893 to Canadian parents John and Jesse Agnes Talbot. He eventually returned to Canada and graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston.

A sense of patriotism and desire to serve his country caused James to forgo any other education and join the RFC Canada, on January 23, 1917.

James was among the first group of cadets to commence training at Camp Borden in April 1917. So new was the RFC training program that the aerodrome hadn’t officially opened for service yet. Official opening ceremonies were scheduled for May 2, 1917, almost a month after Talbot’s death.

On the fateful day, April 8, 1917, Easter Sunday, Cadet James Talbot was flying in a Curtiss J.N.4 ‘Jenny’ aeroplane, piloted by instructor 2nd Lieutenant G.C. Husband. The resulting crash of their aeroplane killed the 23 year-old pilot trainee and seriously injured 2nd Lieutenant Husband, who eventually recovered.

At the time, James was serving as a trainee with the newly formed No. 81 Canadian Reserve Squadron of the RFC Canada.  He had only recently arrived at Borden and some accounts stated that this was only his second or third flight.

James Talbot was buried in Union Cemetery in Dorchester, Ontario, near London. The inscription on Talbot’s tombstone reads: “A noble young life given in service”.

Though his service to his country was brief, his sacrifice has not been forgotten. On July 10, 1999, the new aircraft control tower at CFB Borden, the Talbot Tower, was dedicated to the memory of Cadet James Talbot.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/base-bordens-first-military-flying-casualty/

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