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Pilot Officer, Hiram Churchill Farrer
Hiram Churchill Farrer, Pilot Officer
No. 407 Squadron, No. 17 Operational Training Unit, Royal Canadian Air Force
Hiram Churchill Farrer was born on January 31st, 1916, in Rainy River, Ontario.
He was the only boy born to Ernest and Eva Farrer among his three sisters, Mina, Lornie,
and Bessie. He was the second oldest of the four, after Mina, and following Hiram were
Lornie and then Bessie. He was an unmarried man who worked as a grocery clerk and
lived at 324 4th Ave. North, Kenora, Ontario, before signing up for military duties.
Farrer, whose regimental number was originally R 152585, then later changed to J
24533, was a member of the No. 407 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, under
commanding officer G.T. Sutherland. When Farrer was first evaluated in training, he was
reported as being a “rather weak student generally” and that his reactions were “slow and
judgment poor”. It was also stated, in several reports, that he lacked confidence in his
abilities and was nervous while flying. Therefore an October 12, 1942 report
recommended he get further training as an air bomber. A later report stated that Farrer
received his flying badge on March 19, 1943, and earned the rank of Pilot Officer. Now a
member of the No. 17 Operational Training Unit, he began training in several places in
Canada: Brandon, Regina, Fort William, Dauphin, Trenton, Fingal, and London.
On April 8, 1940, the 90 Squadron and No. 35 Squadron, stationed in Upwood,
United Kingdom, were merged with the new No. 17 Operational Training Unit. In April
of 1943, the No. 17 was chosen for transition to new aircrafts, Vickers Wellingtons. The
grassy fields of Upwood could not withstand the pounding from the heavier aircraft, so
the No. 17 was transferred to RAF Silverstone, which is where Farrer landed on April 29,
The Final Days
On the night Farrer was killed, September 18, 1943, he and several other men in
the No. 17 O.T.U (Sgt. N. N. Dunn, Pilot/Captain; Sgt. J. Donachie, Navigator; Sgt. R. E.
Dolling, Wireless Operator; Sgt. H. H. Newnham, Rear Gunner; and Sgt. J. W. Hallam,
Mid-Air Gunner; Farrer was the Bomber/Aimer) were running through a Combined
Command Bullseye exercise, which allowed them to practice low-level navigation,
supply dropping, and spot landing. They were performing the exercise in a Wellington X
aircraft, RAF No. H.E. 324, and at approximately 1:10 in the morning, in East Barton
near Hornwood, North Devonshire, it nosedived into the ground.
It was reported by Pilot Officer Stewart, pilot of a Beaufighter of the No. 125
Squadron, that he “carried out interception of a Wellington aircraft”. Flight Seargeant
O’Brien of No. 29 O.T.U, flying a Wellington, reported that the Beaufighter overtook his
aircraft and attacked the plane Farrer was on. Both the Beaufighter and the Wellington
disappeared into the clouds, and shortly after there was an explosion on the ground. All
men in the Wellington X, H.E. 324, were killed.
In addition to the crash that killed him, Farrer was in one other crash. When
training with the Elementary Flying Training School in Fort William, July 1942, he was
doing a ground loop move with his aircraft and crashed. Fortunately, he was uninjured.
Farrer’s medical records also inform that a .22 calibre bullet was found in his
lower thoracic spine. He had an operation in 1928, when he was just 12 years old, to
remove it. The attempted removal was unsuccessful, however he had no symptoms or
disabilities from it.
On May 25-27, 1942, Farrer had a submucous resection, for which he was given
10% cocaine and 2% novocaine. Other than that, he had only a few other minor problems
with his eyes and nose. As for his eyes, he had (correctible) 20/25 vision on his right eye.
He also had some photophobia, which is an abnormal sensitivity of the eyes to light, and
marginal blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelids. These problems were later
improved. In Farrer’s nose was a septal deflection to the left, so there was a 50%
obstruction in his nose. Other than these small problems, he was found to be “average
Lest We Forget
Farrer, whose military plaque number is A3137, stated in his will that he would
leave his entire estate to his sole beneficiary, his father Ernest. He earned a total of
$236.85 during his service in the air force. He also earned three medals: a Defence medal,
a General Service medal, and a Canadian Volunteer Service medal, with which also came
Farrer died on September 18, 1943, at 1:10 in the morning. He was buried on
September 22, 1943, at 3:00 p.m. in the Heanton Punchardon Cemetery, North
Devonshire, England. Hiram Churchill Farrer was only 27 years old when he died.
By Brittany Pearson