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

College of New Caledonia announces early childhood educator training

Fort St. James student may benefit from the program expansion

Vulnerable B.C. communities receive funds for structural flood mitigation

Communities throughout British Columbia that have been partial to flood risks in… Continue reading

B.C. students to benefit from internship investment

As someone who has ample experience going through the often tedious process… Continue reading

BC Coroners Service urges public to drive with care

With summer officially here and upcoming road-trips with family or friends looking… Continue reading

Highlights and winners from the Binche Fishing Derby

The third annual event was a massive succes

Here’s what you need to know about Day 1 at the BC Games

All 18 events kick off on the track, riding ring, fields, courts and lake in the Cowichan Valley

Seal attacks kayakers in the Broughton Archipelago

“It has to be one chance in a million of this happening.”

Victoria-area park sign removed after glitch redirects to porn site

Resident looking to learn more about workout equipment discovered the problem code

Special Olympic athletes take on BC Games during special anniversary

Known as the Global Day of Inclusion, July 20 marks the first Special Olympics in 1968 in Chicago

Scammers dressed as Mounties threaten to arrest senior if she doesn’t cough up cash

Pair of fraudulent officers threaten to arrest 90-year-old woman

Fundraiser to help mom of jogger detained after crossing U.S. border

Cedella Roman, 19, was held in U.S. after accidentally crossing border in South Surrey

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

UPDATED: 1,500 residents on evacuation alert as Peachland under state of emergency

The Mount Eneas wildfire has forced an evacuation alert of 596 properties

UPDATED: Remains of all eight Bruce McArthur victims now identified, Toronto police say

McArthur worked as a landscaper and allegedly concealed the remains of several men in planters

Most Read