Stories from Banting’s Basement: Week 3

Today, on June 6, we remember the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, that happened 78 years ago on this day. However, for today’s blog, I want to go back a bit further in the war to Monday, February 24, 1941. On this day, in the midst of a war, the London Free Press printed an article on the front page with the headline “Sir F. Banting and 3 Others on Warplane Missing Since Friday”.

Banting House received 12 pages of this paper earlier this year, and I had the pleasure of cataloguing it last week.

London Free Press, February 24, 1941, pp. 1, Banting House National Historic Site.

This paper is important to Banting House as it is a contemporary view of the incident surrounding the death of Banting.

On February 24, 1941, the article states, “…it was indicated that it [the airplane] may have come down somewhere in the sea along Canada’s eastern coast or in some remote section of the Maritime Provinces or Newfoundland”. Now, in 2022, we have come to understand that the latter is true. The plane only briefly made it out to sea before it had to turn around due to engine failure and, eventually crashed near Seven Mile Pond (now Banting Lake) as pictured below.

2001.04.01.01, Banting House National Historic Site.

Further, at this point in 1941, the public also did not know where the plane took off or where it was headed. The article reads, “…where the plane on which Sir Frederick was a passenger had taken off, or where it was going, was not announced…”. Again, now in 2022, we know that Banting was flying from Gander, Newfoundland to Great Britain to discuss the transfer of military research to Canada as there was fear Britain might fall to Germany.

Unfortunately, the article on February 24, also reports him missing, but we now know that Banting passed three days prior on February 21 at the age of 49 from injuries related to the crash. More information about this event can be found in a previous blog post, Banting Remembered: 74 Years Later or in the Canadian Hero Gallery at Banting House.

The idea I want to put forth by making these comparisons is that we are very privileged to have this knowledge of the event now, 81 years later. But could you imagine what it would be like for family, friends or admirers of Banting reading this article in 1941? Or other articles like it? Not knowing any of the information we have today. Just sitting, waiting for anything to help them understand where Banting might have been or what might have happened.  We are very fortunate to have answers to these questions.

More importantly, all this information comes from people like you who contribute a piece to the past, present and future of Banting’s story by visiting the museum, learning about Banting’s importance, donating artefacts, voicing your story, and spreading awareness.

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