Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

Jim Davis assists in search-and-recovery mission

In the fall of 1954, I was a sergeant in the Governor General's Horse Guards (Armored) Militia, located at the University Avenue Armories in Toronto.

On Friday, October 15, 1954 after work in my civilian job, I attended the armories for the Friday night parade. We all had heard of the hurricane in Florida on the radio and word came out that we may get the tail end of it. When I traveled down to the armory, it was raining and very windy, but didn't take any real notice of these conditions.

On Saturday, we heard of the huge amount of rain that poured down in a short time—11 inches in an eight-hour period—which did a lot of flooding and took some lives on a street near the Humber River, as well as some firefighters having been washed away.

Later on Saturday, the Regiment called us in for an aid to the civil power for the morning of Sunday, October 17. We formed up at the armory and were transported to the Humber River, near the Old Mill bridge, which was damaged by the flood.

The unit was broken into teams and equipped with rods to search the river embankments for bodies that could have been washed down to this area.

My team was detailed to crew an armored personal carrier (APC) on loan from the American Army, and was being tested at CFB Borden. It was transported to the Humber to assist in the search. Our job was to deliver motor-driven pumps to other crews, up and down the river in the search for bodies trapped in the embankments.

We also transported box lunches and drinks to the troops working in the area of the Humber between the Old Mill bridge and the Bloor Street bridge.

When we arrived at the search area, starting at the Old Mill bridge and looking south to the Bloor Street bridge, the scene was of complete destruction. Being October, all the trees were bare of leaves and the approach to the Old Mill bridge was washed away by the 10-foot raging floodwaters of the Humber River. The whole scene was littered by downed trees and wreckage. This hampered the soldiers as they had to search through all this tangled mess as they looked for any unfortunate victims and their houses that were washed down the river from Raymore Drive, which had been washed away further up north, as well as the fire truck with it's crew that were swept away in the torrent.

The Toronto Service Battalion and the Royal Canadian Engineers were using all their heavy equipment, bulldozers and heavy tow trucks to pile up the debris to burn it away. Boats and a helicopter were also on the scene, aiding in the search.

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