An RCAF Memorial Birks Bar; Lost Over the Straits of Gibraltar
An RCAF Memorial Birks Bar; Lost Over the Straits of Gibraltar - Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp; and War Medal 1939-1945. Court-mounted with Birks Memorial Bar (engraved "F/O H.J. CROWE R.C.A.F. DIED IN HIS COUNTRY'S SERVICE 12 MAR. 1943") glued to the front, original ribbons, glue residue on the reverse of all three medals, near extremely fine. Accompanied by a Photograph of Crowe in his RCAF Uniform with Observer's Wing (black and white, gloss finish, 65 mm x 114 mm), a Postcard of a British Hudson Bomber (black and white, cutline inscribed "BRITISH HUDSON BOMBER. (Lockheed B-14) Photo taken over the English Channel. A general reconnaissance bomber highly praised by the Royal Air Force for its powerful and rugged reliability.", 89 mm x 138 mm), along with copies of his Attestation Papers, Service Records, Royal Canadian Artillery Discharge Certificate and Royal Air Force Report on Flying Accident. Footnote: Harold James Crowe was born on August 13, 1918 in Calgary, Alberta, the son of Thomas James Crowe (a Commission Agent) and Caroline Matilda Crowe of New Westminster, British Columbia. He attended public school at Earl Grey School (1924 to 1932), high school at Western Canada High (1932 to 1936), had one year of university at Mount Royal College (1936 to 1937), followed by six months of Night School in commercial subjects (1937). His interests were in Photography and Pharmacy, while he enjoyed athletic pursuits in Sprinting, Rugby, Hockey and Hiking. After his formal education was finished, he was employed by Jenkins Groceteria as a Truck Driver (1937 to 1938) and with Temple Duff Drug as an Apprentice Druggist, Clerk and Stock Keeper, before he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Artillery. Crowe enlisted with the 95th Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery as a Private (Gunner), on August 5, 1940, naming his father as his next-of-kin, stating that he had no previous military service and that his occupation was that of Druggist. He was subsequently transferred to 2/91st Field Battery, passed his NCO's exam on April 1, 1941 and five and half weeks later, was discharged from the 2/91st Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, on May 10, 1941, enabling him to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Crowe signed his Attestation Paper with the Royal Canadian Air Force (J/11646), on May 10, 1941 in Calgary, naming-his-father as his next-of-kin, stating that he had previous military service in the Non-Permanent Active Militia (RCA), that he was Single and that his occupation was that of Druggist's Apprentice. He did his RCAF training at various locations, including Brandon, Manitoba; Edmonton, Alberta; High River, Alberta; and Trenton, Ontario. He is also on record as having attended No. 5 Air Observers School in Winnipeg, Manitoba (1940 to 1942), No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School at Paulson, Manitoba (1942), No. 1 Air Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba (1942), all three schools for Navigation, and No. 31 General Reconnaissance School at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (1942). He was promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer on March 11, 1942, was posted briefly to Debert Military Camp in Debert, Nova Scotia on September 12, 1942, before being transferred to "Y" Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was organized as part of the Royal Air Force Trainees Depot on October 27, 1942. Crowe embarked Canada the following day, arriving in the United Kingdom on November 4th and was stationed at Bournemouth. While in England, he was named Temporary Flight Officer on November 11, 1942, before embarking the United Kingdom for India on December 13, 1942 and is recorded as being on North African Command as of January 1, 1943. Crowe was stationed with a Royal Air Force Transit Squadron in Gibraltar, and was on an Operational Night flight aboard a Hudson VI FK.621, with twin Wasp engines, carrying a crew of four including Crowe, when the plane crashed in Spanish territory. In the Report on Flying Accident, dated March 28, 1943 at RAF Station North Front, Gibraltar, it describes the crew's predicament: "On arrival at Gibraltar the following faults were reported and rectified: recoil from pistol cracked port window - no spares available; port undercarriage hydraulic pipe requires new length of rubber jointing - new joint fitted; both engines running hot - oil filters removed, inspected, cleaned and replaced. Ground tested O.K.; slight oil seepage near instrument panel - checked, no leak found." The Wing Commander who filed the report went on to state that the "Pilot took off at night and climbed to the East. He then turned West and flew past Europa Point but was off track and hit high ground to the North of the Straits of Gibraltar. Height of the crash approximately 1500 feet. Crew was out of practice at night. Last night flight was in August. Either the pilot did not fly on the correct course due to erratic instrument flying or observer did not give the pilot correct courses through the Straits." He continued to elaborate: "Recommend that all Ferry Pilots be kept in night flying practice. This pilot, although he had done no night flying for six months, (preferred) to be despatched to the U.K. by night rather than fly an unarmed aircraft up by day. It is now evident that the crew were not fit to do so." The crew were initially reported as "Missing" but later confirmed as "Killed as the Result of a Flying Accident" on March 12, 1943. In addition to 24 year old J/11646 Pilot Officer (Navigator) Harold J. Crowe, also killed were A/411641 Pilot Officer (Pilot) B.W. Polson, A/412698 Sergeant (Wireless Air Gunner) R. Rickett and NZ-41449 Sergeant (Wireless Air Gunner) H.E. Ash. The bodies were later recovered and buried at sea. Crowe is remembered with honour on the Gibraltar Memorial in Gibraltar and is commemorated on page 150 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. He was awarded the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp and the War Medal 1939-1945 for his Second World War Service. The Birks Memorial Bar was sent to his father on January 9, 1952. Also, as his mother was no longer alive and the fact that he was not married, no memorial crosses were issued.