December 17, 1913 - November 23, 1944
Jean Burgess Atkinson was the daughter of Dr. Howard B. Atkinson, a veterinarian, and his wife, Annie Jane (nee Rutherford) Atkinson of Thamesford, Ontario. She was born on December 17, 1913. She had two brothers, Anson and Roy. Anson was a medical doctor by 1944. Roy was at Camp Borden.
She attended Embro Public School from 1920 - 1926, then Embro Continuation from 1926-1929, then Woodstock Collegiate from 1929-1932. She attended the University of Toronto from 1932 to 1939, with a Bachelor of Arts, and received a diploma in Physiotherapy. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity.
At the time of enlistment, she lived on Huron Street in Embro, Ontario, an hour west of Hamilton, Ontario, and 18 km from Thamesford, with her parents. She was a laboratory technician at the Ontario Hospital in Woodstock from December 1939 to October 1941, specializing in diagnostic and TB work. She was a member of the Red Cross at Woodstock, Ontario from February to October 1941.
Jean Atkinson enlisted in Hamilton, October 23, 1941, a member of the CWAAF as of December 1, 1941. This would later become the RCAF (WD). She made her way to Toronto, then St. Thomas, Ontario until February 7, 1942, then to Rockcliffe, outside Ottawa until April 23, 1942. She returned to Toronto at some point, then crossed the country to Calgary to No. 10 Repair Depot in April 1944, then to No. 6 Release Depot, Regina in November 1944.
On her PERSONAL HISTORY REPORT: "Jean Atkinson attended University for three or four years and this is the first job I believe she has had of any account when attending University she at first intended to be a Physical Training teacher and believe she spent a couple of summers at camps doing some work of this sort. Couldn't state regarding worth or annual income. The parents have given her a wonderful opportunity in life in every way, education, etc. She boards at home and drives back and forth to work. Jean is a very good mixer, enjoys social life, and has a good appearance and the ability and I know of no reason why she shouldn't be satisfactory if she applies herself, as she, I would consider, has the qualities of she uses them."
November 27, 1941: "Was elected Sergeant of her flight. Has organizing ability, leadership -- sometimes lacks balance." She took the CWAAF Administrative Course No.1 at this time and passed 43rd in a class of 150. She was ranked "above average" with a 76%. She took a refresher drill course at Rockcliffe in May 1942. "This officer is carrying out her duties very efficiently. Retention recommended." However, in June 1942: "Letter - not at present recommended for promotion as it is considered she requires more experience and a better sense of proportion." G/C Hurley, CO Stn Rockcliffe. In August 1942: "Well qualified Laboratory Technician. Very anxious to continue with this work if this Branch should ever be opened up to commissioned rank...has made a marked improvement and is recommended A/S/O Atkinson be eligible for promotion. This officer has been advised to work harder and think things out before coming to a decision." G/C Hurley, CO Rockcliffe. In September 1942, Hurley wrote: "She has worked hard and has shown herself capable of accepting responsibility. Her progress has been most encouraging. She is Flight Commander in the Training Wing and she is enthusiastic and keen about her work."
S/O Atkinson, on November 28, 1942 for two days, was admitted to Rockcliffe Station Hospital for exhaustion. "Patient had been working quite hard and became emotionally upset. When seen, she was weeping unrestrainedly and complained of feeling exhausted and not able to take the continual grind of training any longer. Admitted for rest and sedation."In March 1943: "Laboratory Assistant: S/O Atkinson is doing satisfactory as Squadron Commander, and works enthusiastically as sports officer on this depot." W. Walker, No. 7 "M" Depot, Rockcliffe. January 1944: "This officer has shown marked improvement since given a new assignment. Interested, keen on self-improvement and handling a difficult position in a most capable and efficient manner. Highly recommended for promotion." (Rockcliffe)
S/O Atkinson had been handling the position of Administration Officer at Rockcliffe since November 1944 had "proved most capable and efficient...S/O Atkinson was recently recommended from this Unit, for promotion to Flight Officer in view of the excellent job she has been performing." She was highly recommended as Medical Admin, and as a capable, efficient Officer. On March 23, 1944, at No. 7 "M" Depot, Rockcliffe, Ontario, she was assessed. "Good officer. Has done an excellent job as Administrative Officer. Capable, co-operative and efficient. Handles personnel well and insterested in their welfare."
Jean Atkinson was a student in Course No. 2 at the School of Aviation Medicine, No. 6, Initial Training School from March 27 - April 6, 1944. In Medical Administration, she scored 74%. She was 6th out of 12. "Should make a capable medical administrator." It was noted she was not suitable as an instructor.
In October 1944, on her confidential report: "S/O Atkinson has not fitted into the Medical Administration required at No. 10 Repair Depot (Calgary) or No. 4 CMB. Might consideration be given to transferring her to some other Command where a Medical Administrative WD Officer could be employed." W/C Easton, No. 4 Training Command, Calgary. In November 1944: "As S/O Atkinson was formerly employed on General Admin duties, it is recommended that your HQ post her to a position for employment in her basic trade." F/O Horn, CAS. A letter with many sidenotes was found in S/O Atkinson's file. The conclusion was to place S/O Atkinson in a non-medical administrative role. She was transferred to Regina in October 1944.
On November 23, 1944, Section Officer Jean Burgess Atkinson was a passenger aboard Beechcraft Expeditor 1410, Communications Flight, travelling from Regina to Calgary, where she had been the former assistant adjutant at No. 10 Repair Depot. The others onboard included G/C D. G. Williams, an electrical engineer who was posted as Officer, Signal Section and Instructor of Signals, W/C Charles Burt, a physician before the war, was a Medical Officer, W/C Arthur Buckle, a WWI veteran pilot, who after the First World War became an investment broker and businessman. He was a senior Service Personnel Staff Officer for No. 3 TC. The fifth passenger was LAC Roy Eugene Walton, a bus driver who enlisted and was a driver for the RCAF, returning home that day to visit his wife and daughter. The pilot was F/O Harold Perry Nelson, of Spokane, Washington, who enlisted with the RCAF in 1941 and became a Staff Pilot. He had been a manager of an inn at Mount Ranier. For more information about these men, please visit the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website or view their files through Ancestry.ca.
Expeditor 1410 took off from Regina at 2101 hours due at Currie, Calgary 2345 hours on a routine communications flight. Due to visibility decreasing, a low ceiling, and blowing snow, the Calgary Municipal Airport was selected to be where they were going to land, but the airport lost contact with the aircraft twenty minutes prior to their expected arrival time. The plane was noted overdue by 0030 hours.
"G/C Williams, co-pilot, was considered to be "particularly valuable because he had an excellent knowledge of radio, which would be useful in the case of poor weather." F/O Nelson was also given an above average rating, but had had no time under the hood on the Expeditor. Twenty minutes before the estimated time of arrival at the Calgary range, Nelson called the radio range reporting the altimeter setting. ( During the Court of Inquiry, discussion of the effectiveness of an artificial horizon was brought up.)Visibility was closing in quickly. The plane crashed and burned 4 1/2 miles from the Municipal Airport in a fairly level stubble field in a NE direction. It was determined in the Court of Inquiry that the cause of the accident was weather related, but also "failure to maintain or recover equilibrium by instruments at night."
Jean Atkinson's body was the sixth body identified when the Medical Officer at No. 4 Training Command, Calgary, F/L John Birrell, arrived at the scene of the crash. He was able to identify four of the bodies from their uniforms or personal items, including house keys. Two of the bodies had to be identified by dental records, as the bodies were burnt. "The sixth body examined was located behind a very large man. Adjacent to this body was found an identification bracelet with the name 'J. B. Atkinson' indicating that this was the body of a WD officer. Identification was further proven by finding a wrist watch next to the body, with the name 'Jane Atkinson' on the back." He added, "I found three watches in the wreckage, with the hands all stopped at 15 minutes to 12." All six bodies were taken to Leyden's Funeral Home.
All of S/O Atkinson's personal items were listed after her death. They included a long list of clothing, a riding crop, one Indian doll, a sewing kit, one toy polar bear, toiletries, two pairs of book ends, tennis balls and racquet with press, make-up, pen and pencil set, a writing case, a camera, her U of T blazer, and photos.
On December 22, 1944, Dr. Atkinson wrote a letter to the Department of National Defence. "As I am the father of S/O Jean B. Atkinson, RAF [sic] who lost her life in plane accident near Calgary on November 23, and as she purchased two uniforms, I would appreciate very much if you would dispose of either or both of those uniforms as we do not want to see them. Her mother is taking it awful hard and I know if one of these uniforms came home, it would nearly finish her. Be careful, should you answer this, as I don't want her to know I am writing you."
On April 14, 1945, Mrs. Atkinson wrote a letter to the Department of National Defence. "Dear Sirs, Have been on the sick list, else I would have written as soon as the parcel arrived and I am very sorry to have caused all this trouble -- not knowing that Dr. Atkinson had wished the uniforms not to be sent as he thought it would save some sorrow at home, as we had a severe shock at the time of her accident. In writing to S/O Win Taylor, I inquired for them and was sorry you had to get them from some airwomen to whom they had been donated. I am expressing them back to you, as I know it would have been Jean's wish that they should be given to some person who could make use of them, and we would only be too happy to you give them back to the person to whom they were donated, but very sorry to have given you so much trouble. Thanking you for your courtesy to me in this affair and hope everything can be rectifice with not too much trouble."