For many years a story was told and retold in Air OP, army pilot and gunner circles about a low flying incident involving Gordie Shellard, an Air OP pilot with 2 Air OP Flight in Camp Shilo. (The story has Gordie in the rank of Lt, he is listed as having left the military as a Capt). There are several versions that have been related over a drink in the Mess and elsewhere. Unfortunately, those directly involved are no longer with us and have long departed for the big hangar in the sky. The army aviation website is trying to track down what actually happened. In doing so, we contacted Knobby Clark whom we thought would be the right vintage and closer to the story than anyone else we could name. Here is Knobby’s version:
“I was at the RCSA in Shilo as an instructor from the summer of 1952 to Nov 1953. Col AJB Bailey was Commandant of the school and Capt Bob Hemingson was his adjutant. One summer day, likely the summer of 1953 but possibly the summer of 1952, Col Bailey and Capt Hemingson were out on the ranges checking on range exercises.
Lt Gordie Shellard was in the air in an Auster and doing some low flying. Apparently there was a bit of a game in progress with the jeep going around the bush, perhaps ducking into the bush to hide and the airplane trying to catch it. For those who have never flown an Auster, the pilot is sitting on a seat over the gas tank which is on the floor. It is possible in that position to fly much lower to the ground that it was in an L19.
The story at that time was that the aircraft came around one side of the bush as the jeep was approaching from the other side. The plane was in a steep turn and the wing tip, missing the windshield, took both occupants out of the jeep. Col Bailey was struck on the head and had serious injuries. The injuries to Capt Hemiingson were apparently less severe. Col Bailey was away from work for a considerable period of time”.
Another version often related through the haze of a beer or two was that Col Bailey was standing on the seat of his jeep on a hilltop (for Shilo – read mound). According to this story, the Commandant was berating Gord Shellard for not flying low enough. Gord’s pass over the jeep where he dinged Col Bailey was obviously low enough. There is no mention of damage to the jeep.
The upshot of this story is to try to determine what really happened. If anyone has more empirical knowledge of the caper, please let us know. We believe this is the only time one of our pilots contacted, in flight, an object other than a tree, fence, antenna, telephone lines or RC signals’ cables.
Footnote: LCol (Ret'd) Mike Walker has provided an interesting sequel to the "Shellard Caper" that sheds more light on the event and subsequently. Our thanks to Mike for providing this remembrance.
LCol (Ret'd) Vic Coroy, Chairman, Editorial Board
Capt Gordie Shellard Remembered
One thing I did hear directly from Gord though was about the consequences of the incident – he was awarded a “Reproof”
To explain – By 1963 Gord was an Instructor in Gunnery, and one of my course officers, on OCP at the Royal Canadian School of Artillery in Shilo MB. Included in the formal training he gave us the series of lectures on military law. We came to discussing a “Reproof” as a means to record an incident (for a year) - to let the offender know he/she had done something “unfortunate” – but not bad enough to merit a formal charge. Gord chose to provide the following illustration of what was involved. (I am not sure of his exact words but the general gist is accurate) . He stated: “In 1953 I received a Reproof for a flying accident – my boss (whom I took to be the Camp Shilo commander) greeted me in his office – shook my hand – patted me on the back – and told me what a fine fellow I was – then ( I believe apparently after a cup of coffee or tea) he (the camp commander) continued by saying something along the lines of, ’ Oh yes – by the way I am giving you this reproof ‘ – and told me again what a fine chap I was, before he dismissed me.”.
(Apparently the two Colonels involved – the Camp Commander (Gord’s superior in the chain of command), hated the other Colonel who was the Commandant of the School of Artillery.)
LCol (Ret'd) G.M. (Mike) Walker