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Memorial cairn at Wegner Point in memory of paratroopers killed in tragic accident

August 2019

On 8 May 1968 at around 8:30 pm, the worst peacetime Canadian military training accident occurred at Camp Petawawa, 100 miles north-west of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, Ontario.

It was a cold and windy day that 26 paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment from Wollseley Barracks in London, Ontario, and 2 Signals Squadron, were participating in a training jump over Camp Petawawa.

Taking off in three Buffalo transport aircraft from the Bonnechere Airfield, an Air Defence Command auxiliary field, the paratroopers were expected to land in the designated landing zone on the Mattawa Plains within Camp Petawawa. The weather was good and a test dummy dropped earlier indicated no issues for the jumpers.

In a tragic fluke, an unexpected wind sheer at around 600 feet carried 22 of the paratroopers into the nearby Ottawa River, 1000 feet off shore near Wegner Point.

Weighted down by their heavy equipment and tangled in their parachutes, the soldiers struggled to make it out of the water. Rescue efforts saved all but seven of the soldiers.

Some of the bodies weren’t recovered until days later, still entangled in their parachute harnesses.

A memorial cairn was erected at Wegner Point the following July, with the name of paratroopers lost etched on the monument.

A wreath-laying ceremony is held each May at the memorial cairn, lead by the Canadian Airborne Regiment Association. Serving members of the 1st and 3rd Battalions, Royal Canadian Regiment, and 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2CMBG) Headquarters and Signals Squadron, gather alongside retired members and survivors of that horrible day to remember their comrades who never came home.

The seven paratroopers who died on 8 May 1968:

  • Master Warrant Officer Reginald Riddell (1RCR London)
  • Warrant Officer Michael McDonnell (1RCR London)
  • Cpl. Bruce Chiswell (1RCR London)
  • Cpl. Hugh Fields (2 Sigs Sqn)
  • Cpl. Bob Knight (2 Sigs Sqn)
  • Cpl. Dennis Clements (2 Sigs Sqn)
  • Cpl. Jim Misener (2 Sigs Sqn)

For more information about the annual ceremonies, contact Dennis Stow at 613-732-4477, or email dennis_stow@hotmail.com. Donations are also gratefully accepted to cover the cost of service programs and lunch.

Sources: www.petawawapostlive.ca/stories_site/may2018/may17/wegnerpoint.html, https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/remembering-a-military-tragedy-50-years-later, http://www.rcsigs.ca/index.php/2_Signal_Squadron, https://www.pembrokeobserver.com/2013/05/12/remembering-wegner-point/wcm/72f01edf-2cde-e952-e623-45dfb87e15e0, https://legionmagazine.com/en/2018/05/into-icy-waters/

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/memorial-cairn-at-wegner-point-in-memory-of-paratroopers-killed-in-tragic-accident/

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