To Orwell Today,
Dear Jackie Jura:
I came across your web site by accident when surfing for a old friend with whom I flew while in the RCAF during the 50's. He was Ray Bourassa, an excellent pilot who was on 408 Sqdn in Rockcliffe for a time. He was one of our instructors while out in Victoria/Vancouver learning to fly Canso aircraft.
If you have information regarding Ray's career after 1956, I would be most pleased to have it. Is Ray still alive?
His brother's story of being lost in the bush was told to us when we were undertaking bush survival course in Edmonton in 1952. I was very much interested in your story of Johnny Bourassa and his exploits during wartime.
Peter J. Austin-Smith
(aka Peter Smith, ex-RCAF pilot, 1951-1958)
I'm sorry it's taken so long to respond to your enquiry about my uncle Raymond Bourassa but I wanted to wait until finishing an article about a search he took part in, ie the search for Ralph Flores and Helen Klaben in February 1963 after their plane went down near Watson Lake, Yukon. You can see it now at PILOT MCCALLUM RESCUED YUKON SURVIVORS
I was very young in 1956 and we were living in Vancouver but I remember Uncle Ray coming to visit us quite often -- so that must have been the time you were flying with him on the Canso aircraft.
In the late 50s we moved to Ontario and Uncle Ray visited us there too -- in his RCAF uniform -- and I remember him one time bringing us gemstones from Arabia -- they were wrapped up in a handkerchief and we could each pick one we liked -- I chose a garnet.
Then, in the mid 60s, when he was on leave in Toronto, Raymond was attending a football game at the stadium and suffered a serious accident. He was carrying a tray of hotdogs and pop up the stairs and slipped on something and fell backwards hitting his head on the cement steps. He was rushed to the hospital and holes were drilled into his skull to release the pressure on his swelling brain, but it was too late and the damage had already been done. The neurosurgeon who operated on him had actually met Raymond's brother Johnny at one time (can't remember in what capacity, either in the war or after when he was bush-piloting in the north) and he told my mother -- when she was visiting Raymond -- that the part of the brain that affected a person's personality had been damaged. He said that Raymond would either become a depressed person or a happy person -- and luckily, Raymond became happy -- but his flying career was over and he left the RCAF.
Raymond died in 1995 at age 65 and is buried in his ancestral home of Peace River, Alberta, next to his father -- my grandfather, Louis Bourassa.
A few years ago I was compiling a Bourassa family history and came across an interview Raymond gave in 1967 to a Peace River newspaper. This was not long after his accident and he was living in Edmonton at the time. I've scanned the pages and transcribed some of the passages. It gives a good overview of his career -- in his own words:
...Also an experienced pilot, Ray has served 12 years in the RCAF, including a two-year stint flying on the border patrol in Yemen. He also attained the rank of Flight-Lieutenant. In the Arctic he was placed in charge of the massive air search for Helen Klaben and Ralph Flores in their marathon survival ordeal. He said he's flown half the world and that "there's very little of Canada I haven't seen."
He's flown in Europe, the Middle East, southeast Asia and Africa.
He remembers the time his motor blew up 40 miles southeast of Jeddah on a flight to El Arish near the Red Sea. He manouvered his crippled craft to a safe landing and was fortunate enough to be picked up only 22 minutes later.
A classical pipe organist, singer, teacher and author who knows about seven or eight languages and speaks three or four fluently, the young bachelor says "I am far from obtaining my own education." His book on "How to Become a Pilot-Navigator" was adopted by the RCAF.
"I am proud of Canada's 100th Birthday" said Mr Bourassa. He said that his own personal Centennial project will be the donation of about 80 pounds of stone sculpture he got from the Queen of Sheba's Palace in Harib, Yemen, to the new Peace River museum.
His father, buried in St Augustine's Mission, was born in the St Paul area... Ray is one of a family of four boys and two girls... Ray Bourassa, colorful descendant of prominent founding fathers of Peace River, at present lives in Edmonton, but says he comes to visit his home town as often as he can....
~ end quoting ~
Raymond also talks about Johnny Bourassa's aviation career in that interview, saying that "his brother was a famous fighter pilot and Flight-Lieutenant during the Second World War, winning 16 medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a courageous bush pilot and died in the cockpit in 1951 with over 10,000 hours of flying time to his credit."
So glad you enjoyed reading my article about Johnny's flight exploits during wartime, ie JOHNNY BOURASSA DIAMOND IN ROUGH
One of the most amazing exploits is how Johnny flew the massive Lancaster like a glider and landed it safely in England after running out of fuel -- similar to how he glided the tiny Bellanca to a safe landing in Canada 14 years later -- his last flight.
Thanks for your interest in Ray and Johnny -- the flying Bourassa brothers.
All the best,
To Orwell Today,
Thank you very much for the information on Ray Bourassa. He was an excellent pilot, as I said, and just a great guy. Sadly he is no longer with us but I have wonderful memories of flying with him and the 408 parties in the Rockcliffe mess.
Greetings again Peter,
Yes, I have wonderful memories of Ray Bourassa too -- he was a very fun-loving uncle to have around -- the family favourite to all his brothers and sisters -- and his nieces and nephews.
...just posted another article on the 1963 Flores/Klaben search:
YUKON SURVIVOR FLORES FRIEND'S STORY
(Flores lived with Alaska family before crash)
...and also another article about the search for Johnny's plane: B-17 PILOT SPOTTED BOURASSA PLANE
All the best,
The Consolidated Vultee PBY-5A, otherwise known as the Canso, was originally designed and built for the military as a submarine patrol aircraft. The Canso was perfect for the role. It is fully amphibious, allowing it to take-off or land on ground or water, and it had the ability to search the world's oceans for enemy submarines for up to 18 hours without refueling....
Consolidated Canso. The Consolidated Catalina and Canso were close cousins. The Canso was the true amphibious version of the design and therefore included a conventional undercarriage to allow for either water or land use. The Canso provided over two decades of valuable service to the RCAF. The Catalina variant came first and was produced beginning in 1935 for the US Navy. The amphibious version, designated PBY-5A, came in service early in 1941 and the RCAF began using the aircraft on anti-submarine patrols that same year. After World War II, the RCAF used Cansos for search and rescue, arctic survey and various transport operations.
Searching for Johnny Bourassa (compilation of articles and photos)
LEGENDS LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA and YUKON SURVIVORS FLORES FRIEND STORY and PILOT MCCALLUM RESCUED YUKON SURVIVORS and B-17 PILOT SPOTTED BOURASSA PLANE and THE FLYING BOURASSA BROTHERS and JOHNNY BOURASSA DIAMOND IN ROUGH and POEM MEMORY OF LOUIS BOURASSA and SNOW WALKER JOHNNY BOURASSA and U-2 SEARCHERS FIND BOURASSA and JOHNNY BOURASSA'S MISSING PLANE and JOHNNY BOURASSA FLIES FARLEY MOWAT and THE BOURASSAS OF PEACE RIVER and TRIBUTE TO LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~