Flying Officer Gordon Elgin Vance (J/24133) was a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served with 290 Squadron, which formed in Newtownards, Co. Down on 1st December 1941.
On 15th April 1944, aged 22, Vance took off from RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down in an Airspeed Oxford (BG601). He was in a formation of three Oxfords, widely spaced, flying with Acting Squadron Leader Thomas George Westlake. The flight was a training exercise simulating torpedo attacks on naval targets. Five Miles Martinet planes formed a fighter cover about 500 feet above the formation of Oxfords.
Airspeed Oxford BG601 crash
At 1015hrs, Westlake commanded the covering Martinets to return to base at RAF Ballyhalbert. The Oxfords closed formation with the three planes then flying two wingspans apart. After this, Westlake’s plane dropped to around 50 feet above sea level about two miles east of the Copeland Islands. At around 1030hrs, Westlake’s propeller made contact with the water causing the plane to crash in the sea. The Oxford broke up on impact at around 160 mph. A high-speed rescue launch left from nearby Donaghadee but failed to reach the men in time.
He was the son of Samuel and Beatrice Emily Vance of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Gordon Elgin Vance’s grave is in Section E, Grave 41, Eglantine Church Of Ireland Cemetery, Lisburn, Co. Down.