Late in the morning of October 18th, 1947 a B-25 Mitchell Bomber belonging to the Royal Canadian Air Force crashed into Plewman Basin. They were heading north and clipped the nearby ridge in poor weather. The plane carried 7 crewman and 2 passengers, both “smuggled” civilians, none of whom survived.
The B-25 Mitchell bomber was used quite heavily by the Americans, Brits, Aussies, and others during WWII. The medium-altitude bomber was also equipped with a gun, and thousands of them were manufactured. When the war was over, many of them were refitted to fly reconnaissance missions during the early parts of the Cold War. Canada bought 164 B-25 Mitchell bombers in the late 1940s for the Royal Canadian Air Force to use as training aircraft, light transport, and to fly special missions. Some of the planes remained bombers–this was the Cold War, after all.
It was on one of these special missions that the converted B-25 crashed The plane carried nine people: seven military personnel and two civilians (both “smuggled” aboard), a couple named Mr. and Mrs. F.M. Knight, who owned a hotel in Penticton. The plane was conducting an aerial survey and heading to Penticton to drop off the Knights. The weather was grim that day; it was the first snow of the season, the wind was howling, it was foggy, and visibility was very limited. The plane likely iced up and lost control because it lost a lot of elevation in a very short distance to end up on the floor of Plewman Basin.” But once the plane hit the floor of the basin, no one survived.
Though the peak of Old Glory was nearby and it was at the time manned by the Met Men, no one heard the plane go down because it was so windy. High atop Red Mountain, clearing the first ski run there, Ken Gresley-Jones and man called Jim Douglas, heard the plane pass so close over their heads that they hit the ground, but they saw nothing due to the fog. In fact, no one would see anything of this plane crash for five whole years, when Wilf Gibbard, the man who used pack horses to haul supplies up to the Met Men of Old Glory, randomly came upon the site after spotting something shiny in the bush while hunting for grouse.
Drive: From Rossland, drive north on Hwy 3B about 15kms and look on the left for a large tree with some weathered orange flagging tape wrapped around it, located a few meters from the highway. This is the lower trail, but is almost unusable as you near the clearcut, due to a tangle of large trees that have blown down.
Finding the upper part of the trail is difficult, even for those who have been there before, but that’s the best way to go. The description is not simple: Just before the highway cam tower/logging road on the right (Murphy Ck FSR), there’s a logging road on the left (no name). Hike or drive up this second logging road. The wreck is about 2kms from the highway.
Trail/Route: The logging road swings around, heads south towards the long east ridge of Mt. Plewman (sometimes called Cut Block) and takes a sharp right turn away from the tree line. Look for double flagging tape, and a hunter’s blind in the forest. The upper TH coordinates are: 47.167285°N 117.87704°W – 5,726′ just past the blind heading left. It doesn’t look like a trail, but it is, heads directly into the forest, and follows the edge of the clear cut through a creek bed.
Once on the trail, it’s not hard to follow to the “Crash Site” – coordinates: 49.167474°N 117.882076°W – 6,032′.
To get to the Igloo cabin, some pinkish flagging tape marks the trail start just before the crash site. This trail is overgrown in many areas, but has a few pink flags. The Igloo cabin coordinates are: 49.164907°N 118.888348°W – 6,271′.
The following are the lyrics to “The Ghost Cat of Plewman Basin” from the CD – “Stories From Rossland”:
The winter wind blew on the ridge north of Plewman ’til rime grew so heavy; the first snow that year.
The 18th of October, 1947; the Red Mountain ski lift was almost complete.
Chick Jones and Jim Douglas cutting the first ski run, still at the top, all alone in the fog.
The old Mitchel Bomber circled three times and came roaring right overhead, lost in the fog.
Hugh Urquhart heard it in Squaw Basin, engines still roaring, but he and Dave Keffer were the last.
They must have gone right by the Old Glory Met Station. Bart Dudley was there, but he never heard a thing.
Plewman Peak passed to their right, then they turned east and crossed Record Ridge and went down in the trees.
No trace was found, though a man, name of Tjader, hunting off to the east, said he heard it explode.
In nineteen-and-fifty-two Wilf Gibbard walked over Record Ridge down into Plewman Basin.
He followed the Murphy Creek headwaters east, looking for grouse, heading for the Sheep Lake trail.
He found that Mitchel’s lonely resting place, but no trace of the nine crew and passengers aboard.
Some say for five years the animals took what was left of the bodies. Well that may be true, but I’m not so sure.
Sometimes when the snow’s deep and the moon’s bright on Plewman a great white cat appears like a ghost in the night.
Some say he’s a lynx, but he’s much too big for that; some say he’s a cougar who’s lost his tail.
But maybe he’s the ghost of the souls of that plane wreck, wandering the ridge and the trails for 50 years.
The Ghost Cat of Plewman Basin watches over that lonely place, and for 50 years that plane and it’s souls have been left in peace.
And the times that I’ve seen him have made me hope
that I might find a final resting place
like the Plewman Basin Cat.
Pilot Flight Lieutenant JOHN LESLIE MACLEOD, DFC
MacLEOD, F/O John Leslie (J24399) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.160 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron – Award effective 1 December 1945 as per Canada Gazette dated 15 December 1945 and AFRO 183/46 dated 22 February 1946. Born in Alexandria, Ontario, 24 April 1919. Attended Queens University (B.Commerce). Home in Kingston, Ontario; enlisted in Toronto, 21 January 1942 where he had been an auditor. Trained at No.6 ITS (graduated 29 August 1942), No.12 EFTS (graduated 23 October 1942), and No.9 SFTS (graduated 19 March 1943). As of recommendation he had flown 1,380 hours, 865 operational (105 sorties). Remained in postwar RCAF, first with No.5 Equipment Depot, then AFHQ. Assigned to No.413 (Photographic) Squadron, September 1947; missing on a flight on 18 October 1947 (No.413 Squadron Mitchell). Sent by registered mail to next-of-kin, 7 November 1949.
“This pilot and captain has completed most successfully many operational sorties. His ability to handle his crew resulted in their being selected as one of the best in the squadron. His steadiness in undertaking all task, his courage and cool efficiency have made him an excellent pilot whose service in operational flying is most praiseworthy.”
Flight Lieutenant MacLeod is also commemorated on a cairn at Mount Glory near Rossland, British Columbia.
Flying Officer GEORGES YVON LEBEL, DFC
LEBEL, P/O Georges Yvon (J85624) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.429 Squadron – Award effective 21 July 1944 as per LondonGazette of that date and AFRO 2052/44 dated 22 September 1944. Born 1922 at Cacouna, Quebec; home there; enlisted Quebec, 26 June 1940. Trained at No.2 WS (graduated 20 January 1941) and No.4 BGS (graduated 15 March 1941). Commissioned 1944. Invested at Buckingham Palace, 11 August 1944. Missing, presumed dead, 18 October 1947 following crash of a Mitchell, No.413 Squadron. D Hist file 181.009 D.5524 (RG.24 Vol.20667) has recommendation dated 29 May 1944 when he had flown 47 sorties; he must have been on second tour. Recommended again, 21 June 1944 following his 50th sortie.
As air gunner this officer has taken part in a large number of sorties involving attacks on a wide range of enemy targets. He has proved himself to be a skilful and determined member of aircraft crew and his exemplary conduct in the face of the enemy has won great praise.
Flying Officer BENJAMIN THOMAS COOK , DFM
Flying Officer ARTHUR GOLD ROBERTSON
Leading Aircraftman BLISS EUGENE STRADIE BOWMAN
Lance Corporal WILLIAM HUGH MOLYNEAUX
Corporal JAMES NOAH SABOURIN