TRIBUTE TO LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA
Canada's heroic Olympic cross-country ski champion, Beckie Scott, hails from an Alberta town, Vermilion, that reminds me of my maternal grandfather, Louis Bourassa. He was the recipient of the "Order of the British Empire" [see bottom of page] for delivering the Royal Mail in the 1920s and 1930s, by dog sled, on the nation's toughest mail route between the northern towns of Peace River and Fort Vermilion. Click images twice to enlarge.
The 1981 newspaper sketch above describes how in 1928, when a diptheria epidemic threatened to wipe out Fort Vermilion, Louis Bourassa raced along the blizzard-ravaged trail to Peace River (370 kms south) in 12 days to telegraph for help. The following poem was written in 1988 for centennial celebrations of Louis Bourassa's birth:
LOUIE BOURASSA, O.B.E.
by Florence Letts-Sutherland
In the year of 1888,
in ancient town "The Fort",
a blessed event of late,
was Louie's birth report.
His home was in the trapper's shack,
his father standing by.
Brothers and sisters he did not lack.
They heard his very first cry.
He grew up on the banks of the mighty Peace.
His father's footsteps he did follow.
For 19 years he never did cease,
up and down hills and every hollow.
This year of 1988,
the mail will come I'm told,
by dog sled like days of old,
with river ice the road.
Delivering the Northland's royal mail,
down the river on the "Old Fort Trail",
his sled loaded with bundles, many a bale,
he mushed his huskies through the snow,
in frosty air at seventy below.
On snowshoes breaking the trail ahead,
for horses, huskies and the sled,
he would camp at night to make a bed,
from spruce boughs where he laid his head.
With his huskies beside him fast asleep,
in boughs of spruce in snow so deep.
Tired from pulling the royal mail sled,
next day the mail must forge ahead.
On the trail for 30 days,
the round trip going both ways.
He travelled by day and into the night,
under the dancing Northern Light.
I was told many a tale,
down the shutes he did sail.
The "D.A. Thomas" was king of the North,
down the Mighty Peace, 1930, June the fourth.
For every Northern pioneer,
"The Fort" will honour this hero dear,
who did his duty with many a tear.
We celebrate now the 100th year.
In "Peace River Town" pioneers say,
the angels came and took him away,
on a sunny 1935 day,
in the beautiful month of May.
Today on the banks of the Mighty Peace,
under the medal, "O.B.E.", he sleeps.
His friends laid him down to rest.
He was their hero - the one they loved best.
Louis Bourassa was also the pilot of a famous steamship: The queen of the river craft, the "D. A. Thomas" began as an independent vessel...built to order in 1915 by the Askew Company of Vancouver for the Peace River Development Company...During her days of honorable service she burned wood like all other steamers. Besides winter trapping, settlers near the river now had all-year employment -- cutting and stacking the immense piles of logs at every place the steamer could berth...Besides immaculate staterooms, white linen tablecloths and proper cutlery and crockery in her dining salon, the D.A. Thomas was lauded for good service. The fresh meat provisioning service, said the traveler-author Lewis Freeman, was unique. In hunting season and out, the captain had a rifle ready on the pilothouse table, to pick off any swimming moose or even one pawing the earth ashore in case it should attack the boat... Louis Bourassa, the pilot, was almost as distinguished in his way as the vessel he piloted. He was later awarded the King’s Order of the British Empire for his exploits and contributions to the north. His grandfather, Vital Bourassa, had been apprenticed to the Company at St. Mary’s Fort in 1820. His father, John Bourassa, carried the company’s mail from Fort Dunvegan to Fort Chipewyan by dog-team and canoe.
The page above is taken from the book entitled "Where the Boats Go...Navigation on the Peace 1792-1952". The top photo shows the D.A. Thomas steamship after its drop over the Vermilion Chutes on the way to Fort Fitzgerald. The photo on the left is of Louis Bourassa, who piloted the D.A. Thomas when the steamer "ran the chutes" in June 1930.
To see a copy of Louis Bourassa's OBE, click the photo below to enlarge:
GEORGE THE FIFTH by the Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India and Sovereign of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire to Our trusty and well beloved Louis Bourassa Esquire. GREETING.
Whereas We have thought fit to nominate and appoint you to be a Member of the Civil Division of Our said Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. We do by these presents grant unto you the Dignity of a Member of Our said Order and hereby authorise you to have hold and enjoy the said Dignity and Rank of a Member of Our aforesaid Order together with all and singular the privileges thereunto belonging or appertaining.
Given at Our Court at Saint James under Our Sign Manual and the Seal of Our said Order, this First day of January 1935 in the Twenty fifth year of Our Reign.
By the Sovereign's Command
Grant of the dignity of
a Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire
to Louis Bourassa, Esq.
After Louis Bourassa's death in 1935, his son Johnny (my mother's brother), carried on the mail route until he left for WWII where he earned the Distinquished Flying Cross and Bar.
Flight Lieutenant John Bourassa, who was lost with his Norseman plane in 1951, wore the "Wings" of the Royal Air Force and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar. He won these honors after he quit the mail run from Peace River to Fort Vermilion by horse and sleigh in winter and by boat in summer. The planes had put the old river mail carriers out of business...
Below is a record of the flights that earned Johnny Bourassa his Distinquished Flying Cross and later the Bar to the Distinquished Flying Cross. It's taken from the website of the Air Force Association of Canada under the ALPHA.BO link. Click to enlarge:
"This Captain has carried out a large number of operations against some of the most heavily defended cities in Germany including Berlin. He has several times been viciously attacked by fighters and has displayed exceptional skill and coolness in extricating his aircraft and crew from perilous situations. He sets his mind on the task in hand, fearlessly and with a fine offensive spirit, setting a magnificent example to his crew."
"Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross this officer has completed many further sorties as captain of aircraft with outstanding success. He has always displayed the utmost determination to complete his mission which, combined with his cool courage in the face of all opposition and his unfailing devotion to duty, have won the confidence and admiration of all members of his crew."
Tributes paid to RAF war hero, Spenborough Guardian, Apr 19, 2011
An RAF war hero whose crew survived 43 bombing missions across occupied land and into Germany has died. Second World War veteran Donald Beaumont, 88, flew with the 635 squadron, known as the Pathfinders - and was awarded a medal by the King for his courage and devotion to duty. He was born in Cleckheaton in 1922 and grew up with his parents Allen and Florence, and sisters Jean and Freda. After school he worked as a welder for a short time before deciding to enlist in the RAF. He trained as a wireless operator at Elvington Airfield, York, and was enlisted to elite bombing command the Pathfinders. His son Nick said:
“The lifespan of an aircraft was three flights and Flying Officer John Bourassa and his squadron flew 43 missions without losing a single man - which was completely unheard of.” Mr Beaumont was flying on March 30 and 31, 1944, later dubbed Black Thursday after 98 aircraft were missing, 565 airmen were killed in action and 61 airmen were captured as prisoners of war. Nick said: “On their way back from Nuremberg, having being hit by enemy flak, dad persuaded the skipper, Johnny Bourassa, to change course to avoid further enemy fire, but this meant using more fuel. Their fuel ran out over the Wash in East Anglia. Bourassa somehow managed to glide the massive Lancaster in to land, the under carriage and wings shot to bits. “Having witnessed a lot of aircraft shot down, you would think they would be terrified of going out again - but within days they were back.” He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but was serving abroad and did not meet King George VI. However he was later invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.... He died on March 31 and the author of a book written about the 635 Pathfinders Squadron, Christopher Coverdale, gave a eulogy at his funeral at Dewsbury Crematorium.
EDWARD VIII STAMPS/POSTBOX/ABDICATION and ORWELL'S WALLINGTON ROYAL MAIL DELIVERY
CANADA'S WINTER HEROES (Heroic cross-country Olympic champion Beckie Scott hails from an Alberta town, Vermilion, that reminds me of my maternal grandfather, Louis Bourassa. He was the recipient of the "Order of the British Empire" for delivering the Royal Mail in the 1920s and 1930s, by dog sled, on the nation's toughest mail route between the northern towns of Peace River and Fort Vermilion....)
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
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