The Juno Beach Centre has published a seven-part series that tells the story of the Last Flight of the Whitley AD-701, researched and written by Shirley Stone. This is part three. Click here to read The Last Flight (part one), F/O David Goodwin (part two), Sgt. John Gordon Hopper (part four), W/O Joseph Gaston Jacques (part five), F/O Joseph Hong (part six) and F/O Charles Beverly Wyckoff (part seven).
WILFRED GORDON HARRIS
SERGEANT – AIR GUNNER
R.C.A.F. – R/115064
Gord, as he was known, was born in Caledon, Ontario, on August 12, 1920. He was the son of William Henry Harris and Bertha (née: Moynes). He had two brothers, Wilson and Jim; and three sisters, Hilda, Betty and Dorothy. Gord’s mother died in 1938 at the age of 46 years, when the youngest child, Dorothy, was three years of age. William Harris worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a trackman and later as a section foreman.
Before enlisting for service in WWII, Gord was employed as a clerk for a dairy in Grand Valley. He was a Private with the Lorne Scots in Orangeville.
Gord’s training with the RCAF started on July 11, 1941. He trained at Edmonton, Regina, Quebec, Sidney and Mont Joli, passing through the ranks to Sergeant. Before joining the RCAF, Gord was dating Dorothy Leach who lived in Orangeville, a town near Gord’s hometown. Gord was stationed in Vancouver, when he asked Dorothy to marry him. His training schedule did not allow enough time to travel to Orangeville for the wedding, so he asked Dorothy if her father would allow her to go to Vancouver and be married there.
Dorothy had little time to prepare for the wedding, but laden with her wedding dress, trousseau, and wedding cake, she boarded a train in Toronto, making the long journey with the wedding cake placed carefully on her lap. Dorothy, and the cake, arrived safely in Vancouver, and Gord and Dorothy were married there on July 17, 1942.
After completing a commando course at Valleyfield, Quebec, Gord went home for a one-month leave. It may have been during this leave when the town of Grand Valley presented him with a gold signet ring. The town presented rings to each man in the area who was being shipped overseas. “Grand Valley C.A.S.” was engraved on the ring and the man’s initials were etched inside the band. (C.A.S. = Canadian Active Service)
On May 22, 1944, Gord was aboard Whitley AD701, on a mission to drop leaflets over the LeMans, France area when shot down by flak and crashed at La Potence, near Sées, Normandy. All aboard were killed. Gord is buried at Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Cintheaux, Coll. grave XXVII. G. 4-7. The Town of Sées, erected a memorial to the crew that was dedicated on May 8, 2005. Family and friends of Gord attended the ceremonies. The ring presented to Gord by the town of Grand Valley was found at the crash site. The son of the French Gendarme who found the ring returned it to Gord’s family at the ceremonies on May 8th.
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.