Newfoundland Ranger: S/Sgt. John Hogan: The Hogan Trail
In 2002 the RCMP Mounted Police Foundation donated $6000 to build a seating area with a plaque that told the unbelievable story of The Hogan Trail on the Northern Peninsula.
On May 8th, 1943, Newfoundland Ranger John Hogan was stationed at Goose Bay Air Base, Labrador. He was going on leave and accepted a lift on a Royal Canadian Air Force Flight to Gander along with other R.C.A.F. personnel.
While in flight, the plane filled with smoke and lost altitude rapidly. Believing that the plane was on fire and about to crash. Ranger Hogan and another passenger Cpl. Butt, were told to bail out by parachute. The pilot did go on to eventually land the plane.
Ranger Hogan landed in thick woods with only a minor injury to his knee. The first night he made a tent from his parachute and a fire to dry out. The next day, he observed the lay of the land and determined a direction. He then left to walk to the coast, intending to follow it to a settlement. He was making good progress that morning when he spotted footprints in the snow and followed them. He caught up with Corporal Butt, a fellow passenger. Cpl. Butt had landed in water and with the low temperature that night, his feet were frozen. Butt needed help to walk and progress was painfully slow.
When the plane landed, full scale military searches were conducted by land and air. However, because of the smoke-filled plane, the pilot was uncertain where Hogan and Butt came down and the searches were concentrated to the Northwest of where they landed.
They were presumed dead.
On May 16th, they came upon a dilapidated cabin and spent the night. The next day, they trudged on for three more days until hey found another cabin on May 19th. By this time, Cpl. Butt was unable to walk, and they were forced to remain in this cabin. The melting snows of spring caused the rivers to flood and pond ice became unsafe for travel. This frustrated attempts by Hogan to continue on the coast to seek help for himself and Butt.
They were forced to remain in this small cabin until June 25th, 1943. By June, the nearby pond was finally free of ice. Around that time Hogan spotted a survey party crossing the pond by boat and flagged them down.
Butt and Hogan had no food or equipment when they bailed out from the plane. During the fifty-two-day ordeal, Ranger Hogan managed to keep Cpl. Butt and himself alive by trapping a few rabbits, gathering berries exposed when the snow melted and brewing tea from wild herbs.
Although Hoban was almost a human skeleton when he was found, he insisted on walking to civilization on his own. The chance rescue party had enough difficulty carrying he injured Cpl. Butt over that rugged terrain.
Ranger Hogan was later awarded the King’s Police and Fireman’s Medal for his dedication in remaining with and caring for the incapacitated Cpl. Butt for more than fifty days. Had Hogan been able to travel alone, it is possible he would have been able to reach the coast before the spring thaw.
Hogan was promoted to the rank of corporal and continued in the Newfoundland Rangers until 1950. At that time, he transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with many of his fellow Rangers when the Force was disbanded following Confederation.
He served with distinction in the RCMP and retired in 1969 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
He was then appointed Chief of the National Harbour Police at the port of St. John’s. He retired in 1977. Hogan died suddenly on April 19th, 1977 and was laid to rest in St. John’s.
Hogan was born in Carbonear in 1910 and attended Memorial University College. He taught school for nine years on the Northern Peninsula. His wife and daughter died tragically by drowning in 1938. His second daughter was killed in a motor vehicle accident. He left the classroom in search of a new life and joined the Newfoundland Rangers on February 10th, 1941. He remarried and had three children, Rosemary, Maureen and Kevin. Both of his daughters became teachers and his son became a psychiatrist who later served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Health and was also the medical director at the Janeway Children’s Hospital. His youngest granddaughter is a medical doctor and the 2004 Newfoundland Rhodes Scholar.
In describing S/Sgt. John Hogan, a member once said, “Hogan was a tough but fair man. Few would challenge him and those few who did, regretted the challenge.”
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