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Library Reference Number: 180

The Bermuda Triangle

Jack Burgess, Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA.

Ken CameronFlying training at No.111 Operational Training Unit, Nassau, Bahamas, seemed too good to be true. With good food, excellent sunny climate, loads of spacious skies to undertake flying training well away from interfering enemy aircraft, who would have guessed we were about to have our first taste of losing an aircraft and crew in strange, mysterious circumstances in such splendid peaceful conditions.

Fellow flight engineer Ken Cameron, a native of Fort William was a good mate. A tall, fit and healthy guy, who although not aggressive, would be the first to step in between two others who were about to become so. Ken and his crew were at an equal stage to ours through the training course, and like ourselves looked forward to setting out soon on the final part, the Kingsley Exercise which contained many tasks during the course of flying from Nassau across to Key West, Florida, landing for a short spell at this U.S. base, and then returning to Nassau.

Taking off in high spirits on their final training exercise at 6am on 24th April 1944, Ken Cameron's B24 Liberator and crew were never seen or heard of again. They never reached Key West, and although they carried instructors including a fully qualified and experienced wireless operator instructor, no signal or message was ever received by the many ships, aircraft or agencies who would have been listening out for them and others. Along with other crews, we looked for any sign of wreckage or dinghies for nine hour searches over the next few days.

Ken Cameron and I had spent most of the previous year together as we progressed through the RAF School of Technical Training in the UK. I still remember the feeling of guilt during the long hours of searching for Ken and his crew, as scanning the Caribbean at low level for many hours produced an almost hypnotic effect and which seemed to destroy ones concentration. I had every reason to stay alert, as Ken had saved my life only a few days before, as he and two others, Bill Lowe and Paddy Tweedie, had hauled me out of the sea when I was swimming near Nassau harbour. I was being pulled down by a strong under-current.

Fate has a strange way of turning the pages of life, as I discovered much later, that both those other two had also been killed in separate operational duties.

Nothing was ever seen or heard of Ken's Liberator and I proceeded onwards to continue my service over the next few years in the Far East. No news that is, until the disappearance of Flight 19, a US Navy mission that began the myth of the Bermuda Triangle which is still unexplained but not forgotten some 65 years later.

Some time after Ken Cameron's crew disappeared without trace, five US Navy Avenger air planes left the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on 5th December 1945 on a routine training mission over the Bahamas. The five pilots and nine crewmen, led by instructor Lt. Charles Taylor, were to practice bombing and low-level strafing on small coral shoals 60 miles east of the naval station. They were then to turn north to practice mapping and then south west to home. The entire flight, which Air Station pilots took three or four times a day, should have lasted three hours. All five planes disappeared, and the mystery deepened when a few hours later a Navy rescue air plane, a Martin Mariner with 13 crewmen sent out to look for them, also vanished without trace.

So many ships and aircraft suddenly disappeared in mysterious circumstances within the area bounded roughly by Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that it became known as the Bermuda Triangle measuring less than one thousand miles on any one side.

Although there may have been many mysterious incidents of vanishing aircraft before Ken Cameron and his Liberator crew disappeared, it was only after the five U.S. Navy Avengers and their would-be rescue Mariner all vanished, that the authorities began to sit up and take notice that something unusual was happening in the area now widely known as the Bermuda Triangle, or named by some living in the surrounding area the "Devils Triangle". Bermuda Triangle author Gian Quasar believes electromagnetic anomalies in the area's atmosphere led to the demise of Flight 19, “Such electronic fog can cause needles on compasses and other instruments to spin. This fog comes and goes and can cause pilots to become disoriented” Quaser said, "It's something that will seize the aircraft and travel with you," he said, "You are not flying into the fog, it is flying with you."

For whatever cause or reason, an unbelievably high number of aircraft and surface ships continued to simply vanish. Even when being observed on radar, some aircraft were mysteriously replaced by a blank space. Like the case of Ken Cameron's disappearance, the presence of fully qualified pilots or radio operators made not the slightest difference. The immediate effect of suddenly vanishing gave no chance of warning or signal being given.

The list of aircraft below represent a wide range of bizarre and mysterious disappearances. Many have vanished within sight of land, while on radar and while just about to touch down at runways. Others have vanished over shallow water. Some have been in radio communication, saying their equipment was acting erratic, or that a “weird object” was harassing them. Sometimes an unusual object was seen in the aftermath of a disappearance. On a few occasions a minor piece of debris was found. In one case, containing an unexplained “magnetic particle.” One thing is the same for them all: they all vanished without reason.

A comprehensive list has been formulated, not compiled from "mystery magazines reading or old books". All are based on official documentation from the NTSB, US Coast Guard, US Air Force and US Navy and many foreign archives. This list included several amphibious aircraft and which even if in trouble may have been expected to land on the sea. In 1942, two aircraft disappeared, an Avenger and a Catalina; in 1943 six aircraft vanished; 1944 a further four. In 1945 nine aircraft disappeared including the entire flight of 5 US Navy Avengers and the Martin Mariner sent out to look for them.

The entire list is too extensive to quote here but the incredible fact is that between 5th December 1945 and 6th September 2002, 129 aircraft disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The evidence, gleaned by Gian J. Quasar over the last few years, has led to the first serious book to be published on the subject of the "Bermuda Triangle" in 25 years. (Published by McGraw-Hill).

A number of years after the close of World War Two, I was passing through Fort William, and there on the town's War Memorial, I spotted the name “Sgt Kenneth Cameron, RAF”. Although this was confirmation enough that my old friend Ken had paid the ultimate price, I decided to search for any relatives still resident in Fort William. Finding his brother and sister's residence, his sister told me she had been a young teenager when he disappeared and had looked up to her older brother as "her hero". The only communication the family ever received was the dreaded message “Missing - presumed killed.”

Wartime aircrew had no false illusions regarding our future - or indeed by looking at the casualty figures if we had any future at all. Like submarine crews and other specialised sections of HM Armed Forces we were all volunteers, and therefore had no grounds for complaint on where we were sent. Some of our colleagues were sent out on bombing operations over Europe while still undergoing training at Operational Training Units.

In our case, after qualifying at the RAF School of Technical Training, we had been selected to become flight engineers on B24 Liberators and to be "crewed up" for flying training at Nassau where there was ample space to train for long-range special duties mainly with Canadian aircrews. After crossing the Atlantic on the old "Queen Mary", we trained briefly in Canada before travelling by rail to Miami. From there we crossed over to Nassau on the 640 ton MV Jean Brillant. This craft looked rather small but our group consisted of only 30 passengers.

Setting off on a beautiful evening with music playing and coloured fairy lights stretching out to sea, events took a sudden change. Two hours later, we were being flung about like a cork in the midst of a terrifying storm. Arriving in Nassau harbour next morning, several hours past our scheduled time, we came ashore bruised and battered by kit and unsecured iron beds and loose cargo which had been flung from one side of the small vessel to the other all during the night crossing. Medical attention was required to deal with sprains, bruises, and other injuries.

We had therefore gained early, first-hand experience of the vagaries and wild mood swings of the Caribbean before even starting our flying training but at that point we had never even heard of the Bermuda Triangle. It would appear that none of the permanent staff of qualified Instructors whose training duties required them to fly regularly over this suspected area had experienced anything unusual. Looking back in history, there had been a large number of strange happenings to ships and aircraft before we lost Ken Cameron and his crew. It seems the event that brought the whole matter to light, was the case of Flight 19, a US Navy mission, where all five Avengers and their attempted rescue plane, a Martin Mariner, all disappeared without trace on 5th December 1945.

Today, the Internet is awash with claims of the bizarre disappearances of aircraft in this particular part of the Caribbean in addition to the 129 cases mentioned above. There are also many sceptics who argue the disappearances are due to human error or other logical causes, despite official sources failing to find any evidence of those so-called logical causes. Be it fact or fiction, the only certain fact that I know, is that Ken Cameron and his crew, as I remember them, were 100% fit, qualified and competent before they left Windsor Field, Nassau. Someone would have their hand on the morse key, yet they had no time to send a flicker of a message indicating any trouble.

Neither departure point Nassau, or Key West where they were heading, or any point between received any news, and even more sadly, the only official news the family received was the brief note “Missing - presumed killed.”

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