Norman Harper Stuart in military dress stands in front of a house in this undated photo contributed by his nephew, John Stuart Harper. (Contributed)

B.C. soldier shot down a century ago to be honoured

Norman Stuart Harper, of Kamloops, was killed on a bombing mission over Lahr, Germany, in 1918

  • Jun. 23, 2018 9:00 a.m.

––Kamloops This Week

A Kamloops son shot down and killed in the First World War will soon be honoured at the Kamloops Legion, 100 years after his death.

Norman Stuart Harper was killed on a bombing mission over Lahr, Germany, on June 25, 1918. The bomber group he was in was attacked by hostiles and his plane was struck in the radiator and last seen being pursued by five enemy planes.

On Wednesday, Harper — of no relation to the ranch and ski hill family — will be honoured at the annual veterans luncheon at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 52 in Kamloops.

His nephew, John Stuart Harper, who is named after his uncle and has also served in the military, will say a few words and present a memorial plaque.

The elder Harper and his gunner, fellow Canadian D. G. Benson, were both killed the day they went down.

While no information was given to the families at the time and the graves weren’t discovered until years later, both were given a funeral with full military honours by the Germans.

“Chivalry was alive and well back then,” said the younger Harper.

“The German military provided a band and a German infantry regiment carried the coffin. And the local POW camp, which had British officers in it, let them attend the funeral.”

It was British officers who attended because his plane bore British insignia — unsurprising, considering Canada had no air force in those days. Norman Stuart Harper first went overseas as part of the 231st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and underwent further training in England before somehow ending up in the British Royal Flying Corps — it’s not clear how.

“That’s an unknown,” Harper said. “I am assuming the offer was made to him.”

Harper said his uncle might have done otherwise if he’d done his homework, considering the average pilot in those days lasted a mere 11 days in the air.

“He lasted about two months,” Harper said.

Because Canadians in the air were so rare those days, Harper thinks his uncle might have been among the first Canadians to go down in Germany — and that the plane he was flying probably had something to do with it.

Norman Stuart Harper was flying in a British Airco DH-9 biplane, similar to the one seen in this photo, when he was shot down over Lahr, Germany, 100 years ago.

As Harper explained, the plane, a DH-9 biplane, he was flying was built to succeed an earlier model, but when it came time to install the engine, however, wartime demand meant the supply was needed elsewhere and builders turned to their backup engine, which was underpowered, leaving pilots and crew “sitting ducks” in the air.

Harper said the DH-9 never flew over enemy lines again mere months after the crash due to the casualties it was producing.

The two Canadian pilots posthumously lent their names to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch in Lahr, Germany. Around 1980, the legion was searching for a name for the branch and discovered the history of the two men, deciding to name it the Benson and Harper Branch 002, Lahr.

Now, Norman Stuart Harper is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery in Kassel, Germany.

With non-combat military experience of his own, including 11 years in the armored corps and later service in the British Columbia Dragoons, nephew Harper said the real heroes are the ones with certain medals on their chests.

“The rest of us, we did our job,” he said.

And his uncle?

The same.

“Well, he did his job and he did it knowing his aircraft was a flying coffin, really,” he said.

Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tool and camping gear lending library to open in Revelstoke

Samantha Wex Special to the Review The North Columbia Environmental Society is… Continue reading

Two senior City of Revelstoke staff on paid leave

The City of Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer, Allan Chabot and the city’s… Continue reading

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Most long-weekend rain has already fallen

A mix of sun and cloud is expected for the last two days of the the Victoria Day weekend.

Update: Mother dead, youth in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Sandy Point Campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Former Greyhound Canada employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

“Greyhound may take our jobs but they will never take our friendships,” says former bus driver

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Okanagan Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws tons of support

Lineup around the block in Vernon for start of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Most Read