We shall remember them – Clarence Gordon Eagles

Clarence Gordon Eagles

Clarence Gordon Eagles was known as Gordon with the nickname BUBS. He was born in Southampton on August 3, 1921, another son for William and Annie Eagles who had immigrated from England. Gordon had six brothers and one sister. The Eagles family had a Builders’ Supplies business and Gordon was employed there doing woodworking and carpentry. He had attended local schools and had left after Grade 10. In his words, he said, “I played hockey extensively and baseball moderately”.

It was in 1940 that he decided to enlist in the R. C. A. F. In August that year, before he left for the Recruiting Centre in Toronto, he secured three letters of recommendation as he was applying for service in Air Crew. One letter was from the very highly respected local businessman, A. F. Bowman; another from the Reeve of Southampton, who also was the local dentist and eventually is heralded as the founding Father of the Bruce County Museum, Dr. J. F. Morton and the 3rd was from Gordon’s brother Ab who was managing the family business. All three touted Gordon for his outstanding character and being trustworthy.

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The following comments are from his enlistment officer. “Good type of boy, young, and has not had much experience. He is alert and accurate and will develop into a good air gunner at the completion of his training”. With that, it was off to Brandon Manitoba and Calgary Alberta for Wireless and Gunnery training. It was September 1941 before he left for England.

Initially, he was assigned to the 44th Squadron and on July 17, 1942 he joined the 405th Squadron that was flying Halifax Bombers. His rank was Flight Sergeant Wireless Op./Air Gunner. On September 2nd, the Halifax Bomber and crew he was a member of left their base in Dishforth in Yorkshire on a bombing mission. They were over the North Sea when their aircraft took fire. The pilot turned and attempted to return to England. The valiant attempt came to an end near Chapel St. Leonard’s in Lincolnshire on the coast.

Three of his comrades bailed out over the North Sea and two of them survived. One landed on solid ground and lived. Gordon bailed out over land, but his parachute was damaged by fire and he died on impact. The remaining two crew members died as they remained on board until the plane crashed.

Gordon’s remains were sent to the Dishforth Base, and he is buried in the small cemetery there along with 87 others that made the supreme sacrifice. He is in grave #18. He was 21 years of age.

In 2004, a group of residents in the small English town of Chapel St. Leonard’s raised the money to build a monument memorializing the crew that died that night 62 years earlier when their plane took fire and crashed in a field close by. At the ceremony, the locals were quoted, “It passed over the top of our house and a large wing tip with a full tank of petrol in it crashed about 50 yards from our doorway”. Another quote was “there was a roar and crash and a rattling of windows and milk churns and a heavy thud and we thought that our end had come”.

One of Gordon’s sisters-in-law and her daughter attended the ceremony. There are many Eagles family members in our community today including a nephew, Gordon Eagles, who was named after his uncle. His brother Ab, who wrote his letter of recommendation back in 1940, lived in Southampton until he was 103, passing away in 2016.

We Will Remember Them

Researched and written by: G. William Streeter