Donald Palmer Scratch

Disgruntled Bomber Pilot

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Pilot Crashes To Death After Terrorizing City

VANCOUVER, B.C. Dec. 6, 1944 — (UP) — A Canadian Air Force pilot sneaked a Billy Mitchell bomber into the air early today and staged a terrorizing four and one half hour exhibition of hedge-hopping acrobatics before he peeled off and dived fatally to the ground with three Kitty Hawk fighters on his tail.
Other airmen who witnessed the flight said the crazed pilot went through every conceivable type of acrobatics and added some tricks of his own as he swooped and dived over the Boundary Bay Air Station at terrific speed.
At times the bomber came within inches of the ground and of military and civilian buildings in maneuvers the Western Air Command said "seriously jeopardized the lives of persons on the ground."
The pilot, whose name was withheld until next of kin is notified, took off in darkness at 5 a.m. without permission. After he had buzzed the airport and residential sections of this city of nearly 500,000 persons for three hours, six fighter planes were dispatched with orders to chase him back to earth. But the pilot in the truant Billy Mitchell ignored the fighters for 90 more minutes and went on zooming through the sky, making no effort to leave the area.
Finally, at 1000 feet he executed a half roll and dived straight down, crashing on a farm field on Tilbury Island six miles from the Boundary Bay base. He was killed instantly and the plane was demolished.
Three of the fighters were close behind when the bomber made its final plunge. The fighter pilots had been instructed not to fire their guns, and the bomber itself was without ammunition.


Donald Palmer Scratch (R60973 & J26269).
Born 7 July 1919 in Maymont, Saskatchewan.
Schooled in Radway Alberta.
Graduated in pharmacy from the Univ. of Alberta.
Living & Working in Edmonton as a Pharmacist.
Mother living in Ashmont, Alberta.
Enlisted 18 July 1940.
Trained at
No.1 ITS Toronto (until 11 October 1940),
No.2 EFTS Ft. William (8 Dec.'40 to 27 Jan.'41) &
No.1 SFTS Camp Borden (8 Feb.'41 to 30 Apr.'41).

Was with 118 F Sqn. Rockcliffe, May 1 to June 12.

16 March 1942 he was pilot of a Bristol Mercury XV
that crashed killing his friend, Nav. R.L. Parker &
slightly wounding 2 others. Scratch had both ankles
crushed & was hospitalized 6 months.
The crash was deemed to have been caused by
mechanical failure.
Hard work and custom-made shoes paid off and he
was allowed to continue flying.

On 20 June 1944, he "borrowed" a Liberator.
He was arrested and Court-Martialed.
He was tried July 8, found guilty & discharged.
The sentence was confirmed 11 Aug 1944 &
Promulgated 2 September 1944.
Strangely, he was allowed to re-enlist as a
Sergeant Pilot on September 21st.

On 6 December 1944 he "borrowed" a Mitchell and
"beat up" an area around RCAF, Boundary Bay for
over 4 hours before nosing down and crashing to
his death.


Don's Flight
Stolen Mitchell by Allan Botting

Flier Runs Amok In Large Plane

VANCOUVER. Dec. 6 1944 — (CP) — An R.C.A.F. student pilot ran amok in a twin-engine bomber here today and for 4½ hours endangered the lives of civilians and servicemen as he dived and performed seemingly impossible maneuvers before finally plunging to his death.
An attempt was made to drive him down to an airdrome by using fighter planes but pilots were instructed not to fire on him. He paid no attention to their efforts and continued his wild acrobatics. Time after time, he put his big craft into dives.
The plane missed persons, buildings and parked aircraft by inches.
Finally, from a height of about 1,000 feet he went into a roll and dived straight into the ground at Tilbury Island, six miles south of Vancouver. The pilot was killed instantly.
Next-of-kin have been notified and the name of the airman will be released shortly.


Crazed Flier Terrorizes Vancouver; Dies In Crash

VANCOUVER, B. C. Dec 7, 1944 — (INS) — Residents of the Vancouver area were still rehearsing Thursday the details of a grim game of tag played in the skies Wednesday, which ended only when a crazed Canadian air force pilot crashed to his death.
The pilot stole a Mitchell medium bomber from the Boundary Bay air field 20 miles from Vancouver and ran amok in the skies, terrorizing many residents and eluding three fighter planes sent up to force him down.
Zooming down to an elevation of a few feet, the pilot repeatedly roared within a matter of inches from buildings, parked planes and people and skimmed past trees and power wires.
After three hours of the antics, air force authorities sent the fighter planes aloft with orders to crowd him down without shooting. The mad pilot gave no heed to pursuers and went through fantastic maneuvers dodging them.
After more than four hours of aerial antics, the bomber plummeted 1,000 feet and crashed on Tilbury Island, six miles from Vancouver. The flier was killed outright.


Wild Flying by Crazed Airman Is Ended With Death Dive

VANCOUVER. Dec 7, 1944 — An R.C.A.F. student pilot crashed to his death yesterday after running amok in a large twin-engine bomber stolen from a nearby air base.
For four and half hours the apparently crazed airman dived on Vancouver and villages to the south, endangering countless lives before crashing on Tilbury Island, in the south arm of the Fraser River.
In wild, screaming dives, he swooped on airdromes, roads and other points where airmen and civilians were gathered, missing people and parked aircraft by inches.
Fighter planes, pilots of which had been instructed not to shoot, took to the air in an attempt to induce the student to land, but he paid no attention.
Finally, he spun the aircraft in a half roll at 1000 feet and dived downward at terrific speed into the ground.
Western Air Command officials said that the mad flight was entirely unauthorized and that the pilot was alone. He began his death flight shortly after 5 a.m., P.D.T., taking off from an R.C.A.F. base south of Vancouver, and fell to his death around 10 a.m.
Twisting, rolling, diving, without leveling off during the entire flight, the plane went through what flying men termed "impossible maneuvers."
Again and again, the plane roared over airports near Vancouver, and shot earthward in racing power dives. It streaked across airdromes below hangar height.
Airmen watched open-mouthed as it shot past parked aircraft, hangars, buildings and persons standing on the ground, missing everything by a hairsbreadth.
Residents of Boundary Bay, 28 miles south of Vancouver, were awakened by the plane. The proprietor of a Boundary Bay store said a customer told her he intended to report the plane for "low flying."
"The plane just nosed into the ground," said Fred Hopcott, who lives not far from the scene of the crash on Tilbury Island. "I saw it going down and I saw it land. It crashed in a field.”
Name of the airman will be released when next-of-kin have been notified.


Name Acrobatic Flier

VANCOUVER. Dec. 8, 1944 - (CP) - Sgt. Donald Palmer Scratch of Ashmont, Alberta was the airman who staged a sensational display of aerial acrobatics in a Mitchell bomber at Boundary Bay Wednesday before plunging to his death, Air Force officials announced today.


Victim of wild air ride born in Saskatchewan

CALGARY. Dec. 9, 1944 — (CP) — Sgt. Donald Palmer Scratch, former Edmonton druggist, was the airman who staged a spectacular display of aerial acrobatics in a Mitchell bomber last Wednesday before plunging to his death at Boundary Bay, Vancouver, the Albertan learned today.
Although officially listed as a native of Ashmont, Alta., a telephone call to the town, 100 miles northeast of Edmonton, revealed he had never lived there, although his mother and step-father, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Whitman, are Ashmont residents.
For Sgt. Scratch, the wild 4-1/2 hour flight at Vancouver was both his second "crazy" ride and the second major crash in which he had been involved since enlisting in the R.C.A.F. July 18, 1940.
Two years ago, while stationed in Nova Scotia, he is understood to have suffered fractures of both legs in a crash that took the life of a close friend and fellow airman who was with him at the time.
In August of the current year, he went on an unauthorized flight in a Liberator bomber while stationed in Newfoundland and was discharged Aug. 31, only to be permitted to enlist in the service again.
Born in Saskatchewan, Scratch went to school in Radway, Alta., and then moved to Edmonton to start his apprenticeship with an Edmonton drug store. He graduated in pharmacy from the University of Alberta and returned to the same store as a graduate druggist before enlisting in the R.C.A.F.
It was while he was in Edmonton that his mother moved to Ashmont.


Air Force Casualties

Ottawa, Dec. 17, 1944 - The Department of National Defense for Air today issued Casualty List No. 1068 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, showing next of kin of those named from Ontario as follows :

Killed Accidentally
Scratch, Don Palmer, Sgt., Ashmont, Alta.




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