Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about


On 21 April 1918, two Australian observation planes lumbered slowly through calm spring skies above a cratered French landscape. Suddenly from nowhere, three German Fokkers descended on the hapless victims. Eight RAF Sopwith Camels, out on patrol, noticed the Australians plight and rushed to help. A few minutes later more Fokkers and a number of Albatross Scouts entered the fray. The battle was on and the once peaceful sky became a scene of frenetic activity, as airplanes jockeyed for position; climbing, diving and twisting in an effort to gain an advantage.

A young Canadian, Wilfred May, new to the Western Front, had been warned by his comrades to stay out of any fighting on his first patrol. Disobeying orders, he entered the battle, only to quickly realize how completely outclassed he was. The new pilot desperately tried to escape by flying a straight course away from the melee, a dangerous and amateurish move. He was instantly noticed by the pilot of a bright red Fokker Triplane who quickly launched into hot pursuit. Whether the young Canadian realized it or not, his life was about to end abruptly, for he was being chased by the greatest fighter Ace of the First World War, Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, who with 80 kills to his credit was considered virtually invincible. The American Ace, Eddie Rickenbacker had 26 victories, Edward Mannock the top British Ace had 61 victories and Billy Bishop, Canada’s best, had 72.

Fortunately for the luckless Lieutenant May, other eyes were also watching the developing disaster. Captain Roy Brown must have known who was flying the famous red triplane, as he disengaged from combat and raced to help his friend. No novice himself, he was a skilled Ace with 9 victories, yet the selfless young pilot must have felt more than a pang of fear and a tightening of the chest. Few engaged in a dogfight with the Red Baron, or as he was called by the French “The Red Devil” and lived. Brown’s hand tightened on the firing mechanism of his synchronized .303 Vickers machine guns. For a few seconds the two planes were connected by a stream of bullets. The German pilot slumped forward his plane turning on it side, before plunging vertically into the ground. Whatever it was, luck, divine providence or skill, Captain Arthur Roy Brown, born 23 December 1893, Carleton Place, Ontario, son of a flour mill owner, had shot down the greatest pilot of the First World War.

It was a time of great gallantry, as well as courage, and the allies buried the German nobleman with full military honours. While viewing Richthofen’s body, Brown was heard to say “If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow.” We in Canada, unlike the Americans, British, Germans or French, rarely extol the virtue of our heroes’. Perhaps we find it un-Canadian and perhaps this is why when researching Carleton Place, we felt compelled to mention Mr. Brown, definitely a Canadian unsung hero.

In this early private postcard of Carleton Place, the newspaper office for The Herald is located on the right. Started in 1850, James Poole was the editor and publisher. The paper is no longer in circulation.


Capt. Reilly Makes Trip From Aviation Camp at Beamsville

Machine Landed in a Buckwheat Field North of Billings & Spencer Plant

[Welland Telegraph, 7 August 1918]

Capt. J.R. Reilly, though he had already some records to his credit, made a new one on Saturday when he came to Welland from the aviation camp at Beamsville by airplane. Capt. Reilly is the first passenger ever landed at Welland from the air (exclusive of course, of these small passengers brought by the stork).

Inspector Godfrey, who is in active service, felled a number of Hun planes and two observation balloons, was in charge of the machine. They rose 500 feet above the Beamsville camp and were then able to see the smoke cloud of Welland twenty miles away. The highest altitude they reached was 3000 feet, from which vantage point they could see Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the shining waters pouring over Niagara Falls.

Reaching Welland, difficulty was found in getting a place to land. Ball’s farm, northwest of the city was tried, but did not present a favorable spot. The aviators next hovered over the fair ground, but so many poles are on the grounds that they thought it best not to risk a landing.

Finally they found an area on the White farm, north of Billings-Spencer plant. They came down in a nice soft field of buckwheat.

Capt. Reilly got out and later Instructor Godfrey rose to the heavens and made a bee-line for Beamsville.

In the days when we all travel by airplane, and when out mail, express and freight are brought that way, we must remember that Capt. Reilly was the first passenger of the skies to reach this city.


Death of James Kilty

Beloved Old Wellander Passed Away Yesterday

[Welland Tribune, 11 July 1918]

Few men have been better known for the last half century than James Joseph Kilty, as a conspicuous feature of the life and development of Welland. The news of his death at his home on Merritt Street, yesterday (Wednesday, the 10th inst.) will be learned with deep regret. The late Mr. Kilty was for many years lock tender on the Welland Canal and during his recent illness, anxiety for his recovery has been manifest among all old Wellanders. Members of his family were gathered round him a week back, the end then seemed near. There was, however, a rally which renewed the hopes of his friends for a few days, but the relapse came, and the end yesterday. The late Mr. Kilty is registered as 63 years of age. High Requiem Mass will be sung in St. Andrew’s Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday next. The interment at R.C. cemetery. The arrangements are in the hands of Messrs. Patterson & Son.

Welland Tribune
11 July 1918


Believed To Have Been Wounded in Airplane Fight and Died Afterward

His Observer Was Killed in the Machine-They Were Attacked by Fifteen German Planes.

[Welland Telegraph, 13 August 1918]

              J.D. Reilly received a cable on Saturday morning from the secretary of the British Air Ministry at London stating that his son, Flight Lieut. Fred Reilly, had died on or about the day he was reported missing. This makes a very sad ending, indeed, to weeks of harrowing suspense.

             Lieut. Reilly was with Lieut. Hall of Woodstock and were over the British lines on May 28th when they were attacked by fifteen German planes. A letter from the front at the time gave the following particulars of the incident:-

             “Fred’s Flight Commander being ill, they were sent over the flight under the leadership of an inexperienced man to bomb_______. Arriving there, they were severely shelled by anti-air craft guns and the formation was split up. Fred and his observer, a Canadian, Hall by name, from Woodstock, were separated from the rest and fifteen Bosche machines sat on his tail and shot him down.”

             The writer inclined to the belief that Fred had been taken prisoner.

             Hall’s relatives at Woodstock were notified on Friday that Hall had been killed on May 28 and from the nature of the cable now received by Mr. Reilly, it is to be presumed that Fred, though he was able to bring down his machine, was wounded and died shortly after.

             The young man was 20 years of age and went overseas in August of last year. He had been on the fighting front for two months and had been very busily engaged in the air offensive that has been carried on by the British behind the German lines.

             The young man is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Reilly, Maple avenue, two sisters, Mrs. Charles Coulson and Miss Beth, and one brother, Capt. James Reilly, who went overseas with Col. Ashton’s battalion in the spring of 1915, and is still in France. They have the most heartfelt sympathy of many friends in the great bereavement they have been called upon to bear.


[Welland Telegraph, 26 July 1918]

              “Fred’s cheque arrived.”

             Those three words in a cable yesterday from Pat Robertson, son of Senator Robertson to J.D. Reilly, brought the news that Fred Reilly is a prisoner in Germany.

             Young Robertson and the missing aviator, though separated for some months, kept in touch with one another through a banking house in London where they carried accounts.  A letter received from Robertson previously stated that he had learned through the bank that Fred was in such and such a place.

             Now he cables under date of Tuesday, “Fred’s cheque arrived.”

             The only meaning that can be taken from this is that Fred Reilly has drawn a cheque on his London account.

             These words are but three and are not commonplace and yet it may be doubted if the cable ever carried a message meaning more. A long and bitter suspense is broken, for in the manner in which the young aviator was lost made anything seem possible.

             Soon, no doubt, a letter will come through and his friends here will learn how good or ill the fortunes have been to him.


Fred Reilly Was Engaged in an Important Expedition

Comrade Writes That Pilot and Observer are Probably Safe As Machine Was Under Control

[Welland Telegraph, 28 June 1918]

              That Flight Lieut. Fred Reilly, reported missing on May 28th, is probably safe in Germany was the cheering news received this week by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joliffe D. Reilly, from a comrade in the air forces in France. With his observer, Hall of Woodstock, Fred’s plane separated from the British formation, was attacked by fifteen German planes, and brought down. It was, however, under control and the writer inclines to the opinion that he landed safely. When attacked he was engaged in one of the most important bombing operations that have been carried out by the British recently.

             The letter says in part:

             “We trained together in Canada and England and worked off the same aerodrome in France. While we were not in the same squadron, but had our huts near each other.

             Fred’s Flight Commander being ill, they were sent out over the flight under the leadership of an inexperienced man to bomb__________. Arriving there, they were severely shelled by anti-air craft guns and the formation was split up. Fred and his observer, a Canadian, Hall by name, from Woodstock, were separated from the rest and fifteen Bosche machines sat on his tail and shot him down.

             I have made cheerful inquiries from other pilots who went over and they tell me that the machine was under control as it went down, so I think you can hope he is safe in German hands. We will drop a note shortly in Germany and enquire exactly how he is.”


19 April 1898-28 May 1918


Official Messsage Brings Unfortunate News of Fred Reilly

He Had Been With the Allied Forces in France Since the First of April

[Welland Telegraph, 7 June 1918]

             Mr. and Mrs. Joliffe D. Reilly, Maple avenue, were officially notified on Tuesday that their youngest son, Flight Lieut. Fred Reilly, with the British aviation forces in France, was reported missing on May 28th. The message was delayed in receipt having been sent to Willard, Manitoba, instead of Welland.

             Further news is, of course, very anxiously awaited.

             The young man is 20 years of age and after completing his course last year, went overseas in August, He had been on the fighting front for two months and had been very busily engaged in the air offensive that has been carried on by British aviators behind the German lines. From the beginning of his training he developed a great fondness and aptitude for the airplane and was more than ordinarily efficient.

             His only brother, Capt. James Reilly, has been overseas for three years with Col. Ashton’s battalion. His cousin, Capt. J.R. Reilly, was wounded at St. Julian, and again suffered wreck when the Hesperian was shelled. His cousin, Hugh Reilly, after being at the front with the artillery for a year is now in England training as an aviator.

             The Telegraph expresses the heartfelt wish of many friends that favorable news of Flight Lieut. Reilly may come speedily, for his own sake and for the sake of those plunged in deepest anxiety.


20 May 1894-10 November 1918

[Welland Telegraph, 26 November 1918]

              James McKenney, Industrial Park, received the sad news on Saturday, that his son,, Earl Coleman McKenney, had died of wounds at No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station on Nov. 10, one day before peace was declared. The official message says he suffered gunshot wounds in the back and hand, and a fracture of the left thigh. The young man was 24 years of age and when in Welland was employed by the Canadian Steel Foundries. He is survived by his parents, one sister, Leotta, two brothers in Welland, Argo and Eric and one brother at the front, Ray, who went overseas with the 176th battalion. The bereaved family has much sympathy in their bereavement. The Telegraph hopes we may hear of no more of our boys paying the supreme sacrifice in the great war.




 Crow, Gordon W.

Horsley, William J.

McCormick, Arthur B.

McKenney, Earl C.

Michener, Leo

Page, Clairmont A.

Reilly, Fred H.

Roberts, Caradoc

Varcoe, Thomas Roy

Wade, John