Canada 150 Vignette Series
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Vignettes
PART XIX: Nos. 91-95
By Greg Sigurdson/Bill Hillman
91. Sam and Glen Merrifield Oral History
92. Welcome to Carberry
93. Fleet 50K Freighter
94. Al Mackay - Wireless Air Gunner - Oral History
95. Alex McQuarrie WAG ~ OHV (Oral History Video)
Continued in PART XX: Nos. 96-100
091 of 150: Sam and Glen Merrifield Oral History
When the first Handley Page Halifax four-engined bomber landed at our drome I just stood and stared. It was beyond the credibility of a small town prairie boy to know how anything that big and heavy looking could become airborne.
During April 1942 our first crews went to another Yorkshire drome, to a Conversion Unit, to learn to crew the Halifax. This unit was commanded by S/Ldr Cheshire who later commanded the Dam Busters after Guy Gibson. Cheshire later won the VC, DSO and two bars, and the DFC so ranks with the very best.
Our crews were trained and our first op with the 'Hallys' was on the night of May 30/31, 1942 which will be remembered as the first 1000 Bomber raid of the war. Cologne was the target and as it was a first, there was concern that so many a/c over one target would lead to collisions. There was only two recorded but one of the a/c was ours. We had 21 Hallys ready to go but only 18 got away and we worked our tails off to do that. These "heavies" carried more than twice the bomb load of the Wimpeys and we could not get the bombs prepared and out of our bomb dump fast enough.
These larger aircraft were equipped with much better equipment. The TR9F gave way to the TR1196, The T1054, R1055 gave way to the T1154, R1155 and the new SBA equipment was added. Also the type and manner of aircraft wiring was superior to the Wimpey so our compliment of section workers changed very little. During the following months, most of us were sent to Swindon for a course on SBA (Standard Blind Approach), and to Marconi Radio College in Chelmsford for a course on the T1154, R1155.
During May 1942 Tom and Sam went on a hitch hiking tour of Scotland during their spring leave. Sam wrote an account home in a letter and it was printed in the local Wolseley paper and you will find an account contained elsewhere in this narrative.
In Britain it is most difficult to travel by train across country. Most lines run into London like the spokes of a wheel. To travel from York to Chelmsford one went south to London and then back northeast to Chelmsford. Because we were seldom stopped and checked for passes it was common to spend a day, unofficially of course, as you passed through London. I was on my way back to York from Chelmsford Marconi Radio College and stopped over. At the Beaver club near Trafalgar Square I met Jack Duller. Together we went to the dance at Covent Gardens, where during the evening we met Vic Lenichek, Lloyd Brown, Harry Halliwell, George Crossley and Spencer Hollowell, all Wolseley (Saskatchewan) boys. Prior to meeting all but Jack I danced with a lovely girl by the name of Eva Elizabeth Frances Butters and she recounted many times during our 38 years of marriage how we Wolseley boys showed such affection for each other on chance meetings. Need I say I was smitten and spent the next leave in London meeting her folks and doing the most worthwhile promotional job of my lifetime. We were not married until after the war but that is another story.
During the winter of 1942 we received an invitation to attend a Wolseley Reunion in London. Seventy five invitations were sent to lads from our town and district. One officer, Captain Terry Cooke, attended and with my camera took the picture in the illustration showing the 31 of us in front of the Beaver Club, just off Trafalgar Square, on March 14, 1942. Note that Rusty Bompas is 'sans hat.' During our London roamings he stayed in the middle of the crowd when we passed MP"s and escaped detection.
The second reunion was held in 1943 at Slough, Buckinghamshire. Ben Barber arranged for a professional photographer so we have a superior picture of that gathering.
On July 1st, Dominion Day, of 1942 we had a field day. The squadron was about half RAF and half RCAF at that time. It got written up in the July 8/42 issue of the Wings Abroad, which is shown as one of the illustrations of this narrative. My memory of the event caused me to write an anecdote in Feb.'81. It follows;
We had a big field day at Pocklington and the rivalry between RCAF & RAF was pretty intense. I think we piled up more points, it's on record in Wings Abroad but that's not the story. I was the first to go up for my prize being presented by the wife of the Group AOC, an Air Marshal, she was a real Brit. Now I was just a raw kid from a small town in Saskatchewan and no one had ever told me that a gentleman waits for a lady to offer her hand before shaking. I had never before been awarded anything without a handshake so I took my prize in the left hand and held out my right. She paused. I held it out there. Then she took it. I learned a little of England and she learned a little of Canada that day. Probably did us both good.
One week later on July 8 another happening caused me to write another anecdote. It follows;
We got the S.B.A., (Standard Blind Approach), along with the Halifaxes. Now it was cheaply built and required frequent calibrating but it did the job for crews who bothered to become proficient in its use. It saved many lives but it nearly cost me mine, This day we had just finished tuning the set in this aircraft and I shouted out the pilots window to Alec Hutcheon, my workmate, to phone for the van to take us and our gear back to the workshop. Next thing I knew I was laying flat on my back with both arms and both legs sticking straight up in the air. It felt like they were not mine... no feeling. The feeling returned to my limbs and I got up woozy and left the aircraft. I saw some fitters standing under the wing and approached them and suggested they check the aircraft interior as I thought something had exploded. They pulled aside my tunic at the neck and remarked that I had been injured. I looked down to see a bloody shirt getting bloodier. The van arrived at that moment and off to sick bay, York Military Hospital etc. to be treated.
A rear gunner a quarter of a mile away having just cleaned his guns decided to fire a short burst to scare another guy standing close to his turret. Spur of the moment thing. This turret had four Browning 303s in it so just this short burst put 38 holes in the aircraft in which I was working. I just got one. It caused a flesh wound at the base of the neck and exited about a quarter of an inch from my spine. A big investigation was scheduled and I agreed to accept the story that it was a chance deflection. A few nights later his aircraft came down in the village and he was the only one to get out alive. He died on the way to the hospital. Case closed. My luck was better than his. A detail of the incident that was not mentioned in the anecdote was my entry into the base hospital where the M.O. was attending a fellow who was holding a kidney dish under his ear. He yelled at me and asked who I thought I was bursting into his surgery in such a manner. I pulled aside my tunic and he quickly forgot his complaint and attended me. I remember going out the door on a stretcher and this other fellow still stood there holding the kidney dish.
The ambulance driver of the day was a chap who often drove for our section and knew me so the trip into York Military Hospital was the most scary part of the whole affair. Before entering the operating room I was given a shot of brandy, my first ever drink of alcohol. The immediate application of anesthetic leaves me wondering to this day what effect alcohol has on human beings. My Doctor at YMH was a Major Latimore and I later learned he was considered a Saint by many motorcycle dispatch riders for the hours he had spent fitting small pieces of bone together rather than amputating their legs. The official case history shows the diagnosis as a Gun Shot Wound Right Shoulder. Entry and exit of wounds excised. Several portions of metal and softer F.B.s removed. Gauze soaked Dettol drawn through. Corrugated rubber drain put through from posterior wound and anterior wound closed after application of sulphanilamide powder to tube. Tube passed through levator anguli scapulae deep to trapezius. A.T.S. 3000 units. The report shows that on 17/7/42 I had a severe serum rash which I remember well. It also states 3/8/42 healing well, 10/8/42 almost healed and 13/8/42 to Unit. I spent the first ten days in York Military Hospital and the balance at Ascomb Grange, a large Manor House, used as a Convalescent Home on the road between York and Leeds.
092 of 150: Welcome to Carberry
The "Welcome to Carberry" booklet was published by the Carberry News-Express in Carberry Manitoba, with support from local businesses and interested groups as a friendly orientation booklet for Royal Air Force airmen coming to this prairie town for training at No. 33 Service Flying Training School. It was also intended for those airmen readers to send copies home to loved ones to put them at ease that their son, husband or friend was in a place where they were safe and welcomed with open arms.
"Welcome to Carberry" presents an appealing story of this town, past and present, as well as a description of life on the Canadian prairies.
We offer the article within, "Airmen Arrive at Carberry" for your consideration. We do have copies of this booklet in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum but have chosen to refer you to the Wartime Canada website at View PDF: Souvenir of Carberry.pdf – click on the link to see the book.
For our Canada 150 Vignette we offer the one article as mentioned, some photos copied from the booklet itself and more photos gleaned from the CATPM archive. Please enjoy.
AIRMEN ARRIVE AT CARBERRY
It was early in the afternoon of a cold day in December, 1940 that the first R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) group, under the command of Wing Commander T.C. Dickens, detrained at the C.N.R. (Canadian Nation Railway) station in Carberry (Manitoba). The townspeople watched the party's movements with curiosity; this was their first contact with the Royal Air Force. The Mayor, Dr. Waugh, made himself known to the Commanding Officer and the relations between the Camp and Town were begun. Already a War Service Club had been prepared, and it was evident that the cafes and shops had made their plans against the day when the quiet life of Carberry was to be radically changed by the arrival of a large number of Officers and Airmen fresh from the United Kingdom.
The Camp was not fully completed, but an excellent pioneer force of the R.C.A.F. (Royal Canadian Air Force) was obviously determined to drive rapidly ahead to this end. Nevertheless there were certain inconveniences resulting from an arrival before the time originally arranged for opening. The buildings, however, were strong and adequately heated and it was, in a sense, not unfortunate that there was a lack of aircraft at the outset, for plenty of fatigue parties were required for the apparently infinite number of jobs to be done.
With the approach of Christmas there came a most amazing demonstration of hospitality - and not a single Airman who desired a real home away from home was at a loss. This hospitality was widespread. Airmen were scattered for the holiday over a hundred miles. But it was the friendliness and generosity of Carberry that provided Christmas dinners, home-life, and jollity for those who were unable to travel far.
It is not our intention to mention any particular names when so many came to our aid and lasting friendships were quickly established.
New Year celebrations were a repetition of those at Christmas and the early days of organizing work combined with leisured discovery of Brandon and Winnipeg were great indeed. The personnel who made up the embryonic unit in those cold winter months can never forget the warmth that emanated from the various Auxiliary Services and social groups of these cities.
The arrival of the second and third groups and the flying instructors to the Station (which now possessed aircraft) brought about a new and refreshing feeling that the unit was now to enter upon its full duties as a Service Flying Training School, and early in 1941 the town of Carberry was confronted with the task of accustoming its ears to the roar of (aircraft) engines. This must have been a great hardship to some. Indeed there was one famous letter sent to the Station suggesting that some form of silencer should be fitted to the engines. There were also a few rather anxious enquiries as to how often, on the average, would houses be carried away by over-anxious pilots.
Group Captain H.E. Walker. M.C., D.F.C. had now arrived from England to take over the duties of Station Commander, and the great task of forging a finished organization. It was at one period of this spring that Carberry and the Station were practically cut off from each other owing to the astonishing condition of the connecting road. This warm and friendly, happily placed on highway and railways, and, vitally to "Britishers," admirably decorated with trees, it became more and. more significant to the minds of the personnel as the home-town.
Yet another gesture placed the Agricultural Fair ground at the disposal of the Unit for its games, and rugger, soccer, softball, and cricket matches were played there. The effect of the quick change from the big cities of the United Kingdom to the prairie in midwinter was passing. Wives began to reach the town from Great Britain.
During the summer there were several visits of prominent persons to the Station which had now assumed a most pleasant appearance, thanks to a great deal of voluntary labour, the fine services of civilian labour, and valuable gifts of plants from various good-spirited sources.
These reached the culminating point in the gracious act of the Duke of Kent who flew to the Station where a Wings Parade was in progress. The people of Carberry had thus an opportunity of seeing and hearing His Royal Highness.
In the course of time, Group Captain H. C. Walker, who had lived for some months in Carberry was succeeded by Group Captain C. H. "The Old Order Changeth." Group Captain C.H. Brill (left) takes over from Group Captain H. C. Walker. October, 1941.
Brill who, at the moment of writing, continues to command the Unit. During his command the Station has forged yet further ahead. With the dignity of having its own crest, and with the steady accumulation of more flying records, for hours flown, more and more entertainment diversions, more and more personal and social contacts, and a steadily increasing feeling that more opportunities will be given for progress in the Service, No. 33 S.F.T.S. (Service Flying Training School) of the Royal Air Force has gradually achieved a reputation for being one of the happiest Stations in Canada.
Carberry will be present always in the memories of the visiting R.A.F. The Unit invites the town to share its motto: "Unity is Strength"!
The airmen of Carberry, as of most camps, are adept in the use of the thumb of the right hand, and many miles are travelled by the process commonly known as "hitchhiking" or "thumbing a ride". And why not? After all, these lads are far from home, and their leaves are precious, too precious to spend in a railway waiting room. It's a pretty mean motorist who, if he has room for another passenger, will pass by any chap in the uniform of the Royal Air Force
The War Service Club on the corner of Main Street and Third Ave. is Headquarters for all forms of community activity in which Carberry townsfolk and R.A.F. personnel unite.
No. 33 SFTS Carberry Manitoba
No. 33 Service Flying Training School, an Royal Air Force School, opened in Carberry Manitoba on December 26 1940 and was open 1422 days until November 17 1945. It was then reconfigured as a RCAF Storage Depot until the early 1960s when it was sold to private businesses. The site now functions as a primary producer of French fries for McCain Foods Canada. A secondary plant producers starch from the factory’s waste water. Farmers purchased some of the hangars to be used for potato and machinery storage..
This storage depot may be best known as the last stop for many for thr RCAF’s P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft which were sold to private buyers. The investory included Mustangs from Canada’s 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron, 403 City of Calgary Squadron and 443 City of New Westminster Squadron.
1. Autographed photo from Lana Turner, who it is said adopted the RAF boys at No. 33 SFTS during the war.
2. Among those who trained at the facility was actor Richard Burton (1925-1984), who later found fame in Hollywood.
093 of 150: Fleet 50K Freighter
A recent photo album donation to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum yielded a World War II photograph of an unusual and unknown aircraft with RCAF markings on the tarmac at RCAF Station Trenton. It had the archival staff scratching heads and audibly asking "What the hell is that?" Subsequent research revealed it to be a Fleet 50K Freighter.
This aircraft probably seemed like a good idea at the time to the engineering and marketing departments at the Fleet Aircraft Ltd. in Canada. They set out to build a twin engine utility biplane which could haul larger loads of cargo, based both on the weight and dimensions of the loads. It was also supposed to be adaptable for floatplane duty. The intended market was to be bush plane operators looking to increase cargo loads at lower costs with subsequently benefits to their profit margins.
Five Fleet Freighters were built in the late 1930s with the prototype know as model type 46K first taking to the air on February 22 1938. Subsequent models with more powerful engines were known as the model 50K. The experience of those operating these aircraft was short and painful due to high operating costs and poor performance. Those private owners who took a chance on this large bush plane flew them only for short periods of time of which only one of the Fleet 50K Freighter was in service for more than 18 months.
What was good about the Fleet Freighter – operators found the four or five large (depending on the model type) door openings as well as the roof mounted hoist in the fuselage very useful in loading and unloading bulkier pieces of freight. It was the first aircraft ever to have a nose door with gave access to cargo space the length of the fuselage. Two of the five built were capable of carrying up to 10 passengers and two crew.
The F50KF could cruise at 128 mph with a maximum speed of 148 mph, a ceiling of 15000 feet and range of 650 miles. It was powered by two Jacobs L-6MB, 330 horsepower radial engines. It was 36 feet long x 45 feet wide x 13 feet high and had a cargo capacity of 3200 pounds.
What was bad about the Fleet Freighter – a number of incidents which demonstrated how badly underpowered its twin Jacobs engines were in addition to a number of disappointing incidents, such as a fire which destroyed one of the Freighters on a marketing junket to the United States. This together with the start of World War II, which sent governments pursuing reliable aircraft with proven track records, meant the end of production for the Fleet Freighter in 1939.
The Royal Canadian Air Force obtained two of the five Freighters for a brief period of time. CF-BJU, saw limited service between 1939 and 1942 for short periods with Canadian Airways and Quebec Airways before it was sold to the RCAF as number 799. The air force first put it to work in paratrooper training at Rockcliffe Air Station and then at Trenton Air Station in 1943 as an air ambulance and floatplane trainer. The RCAF, also found the aircraft underpowered and dangerous and sold it to the Labrador Mining and Exploration Company as CF-BXP in June 1944. It operated the aircraft for nine days before it crashed on a beach during a floatplane takeoff. The company took its losses and abandoned the hulk where it sat. The Canadian Air and Space Museum recovered the carcase in 1964 and now has it on display.
The other RCAF Fleet 50K Freighter was numbered 800 and came new to the air force in November 1942. As a custom-built it went to the Test and Development Flight at RCAF Station Rockcliffe. It had 11 hours and 20 minutes of airframe time when it was sold to a company in Mexico as XA-DOE in September 1944. It crashed and was deemed unsalvageable in 1946.
The Fourth 50K Freighter, having been leased by Fleet Aircraft for short times to a number of operators, eventually sold it to Austin Airways in 1945 which lost the aircraft to fire in 1946. The CAS Museum has obtained parts from this aircraft.
The last two Fleet Freighters flew in 1946.
094 of 150: Al Mackay - Wireless Air Gunner - Oral History
Allan D. MacKay, Fillmore Saskatchewan (AC2, LAC, Sgt., Flight Sgt., WO2, WO1, PO, FO).At that time, 21-year-olds (army enlistees) were given one month training. So I was a "Grenadier" for a month, but had already decided on the Air Force. No propaganda had any influence on my decision to join the RCAF – it just seemed the right time and of course, everyone wanted to be a pilot. But at that time they had too many pilots so my next choice was Wireless Air Gunner.
Enlisted, Brandon Manitoba October 1940 as Aircrew.
Sworn in July 14/1941 – Vancouver B.C.
Was one of the first Army Trainees at (Artillery School) A4 Brandon
For training, I arrived in Brandon on July 17, 1941 and was posted to the Brandon Manning Depot. When we arrived from Vancouver, the Manning Depot was full so us ERKS (ground crew) were housed on the 3rd Floor of #33 Tenth Street in Brandon – hot as hell! One week later we got into No. 2 Manning Deport at 10th and Victoria Avenue. We were there six weeks – mostly Guard Duty. But seeing as how I had had experience in marching, I was put on the drill team - "Big Deal!"
The food was good and the cow barn smell was mostly gone (prior to being No. Manning Depot, the Wheat City Arena was home to agricultural events which offered housing for animals in attached barns). Had a great bunch of mates – no problems. We left for Claresholm, Alberta for six weeks of General Duties -- then in October 1941 we went to Wireless School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was at the old Normal School in "Tuxedo" (suburb of Wpg). We had to attain 35 words per minute in Morse Code, learn about radio receivers and transmitters, but there was no radar training yet. We had some radio training in Tiger Moth aircraft and some in the Norseman- mostly over Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.
We had very good instructors. One was Lloyd Lee from around Waskada, Manitoba and he was a genius in radio. The only real thrill other than 'Girls' was a Virden pilot who loved to come down on the lake on the ice and bump the front wheel on ripples in the ice – it scared hell out of us.
Graduation from wireless was no big deal. We just received our "Spark’s Badge" then were posted to Bombing and Gunnery School at McDonald, Manitoba. Training there was in the Fairey Battle -- some had been in Dunkirk and looked like it. The meals were always good, probably because I was such a fine fellow. I only had one bad experience in Winnipeg – a fine young man shot himself in a vestibule on Portage Avenue – it was very sad.
Our Wings Parade in McDonald was very well put on and on of course, we were then Sergeants.
I was posted to Ferry Command and given one month leave. While on leave my posting was cancelled as no planes were available. So I was posted to Gaspe, Quebec for Ground Duty for three months. That consisted of drinking beer – Black Horse Quarts. I was finally posted to a refresher course in gunnery at #6 B&G at Mountain View, Ontario outside of Bellville. At Gaspe I flew one operational flight in a Canso as Spare Wireless Operator. Being such as brilliant gunner, I was presented with the silver wings as first in my class. I was also supposed to be commissioned as an officer, but a 48 hour leave in Toronto blew that -- enough said.
Of the 20 or so postings, I was the only one posted overseas but I had requested that. I arrived in Halifax on January 1, 1943. I got engaged to the girl I had met in Brandon back in July 1941 – Grace Goldstone -- and I left from Brandon for Halifax. It was forty below the night I left. Halifax was not the best station in the world, but then people were coming and going every day. My brother was in the air force as a motor mechanic instructor and was at Moncton, New Brunswick which I never knew at the time.
Our trip overseas was on the Empress of Scotland which was a good boat. We had good quarters and I was able to find my girlfriend’s brother who was on the same boat. I had never met him but somehow I ran into him. We went across in a convoy. We were required to man the Orlikon Guns at certain hours. I think it took five days to reach Greenock, Scotland and then we took a train to Bournemouth. We were only there for a short time. I was then posted up to Chester in "Cheshire" for Radar Training. We used Botha aircraft. Now I want to tell you it was not all work at Chester. There was a Lever Brothers Soap Factory beside the station and it employed about 200 ladies and this was war? Also we were close to Liverpool.
Now I want to tell you that my friend from Roblin, Manitoba, Harold Keast – now deceased -- decided after a night in the pub to go to Blackpool, a resort north of Liverpool.
In the morning before catching the double-decker bus to Blackpool, we thought we should have a half dozen pints of Mild & Bitter, so about half way to Blackpool I needed a bathroom as that Mild & Bitter was a bit heavy in the bladder. We had a chat with the lady ticket-clipper and told her about my problem. She never batted and eye and said "Canada - do no worry, up ahead is a small shack across the road and I’ll stop the bus and you can nip across behind said shack." Which I did and thanked her so much.
After Chester, we were sent to a holding unit and then to an Operational Training Unit at Cranwell in Lincolnshire, home of the Royal Air Force. There we were put into crews and were to go to Coastal Command at Cranwell. It was a very nice station, only thing was it was RAF so we did a lot of saluting. As we were to fly Wellington (Wimpy) bombers, that’s what we trained on and all being new we immediately got quite lost on our first training flight. But we managed to get back a bit late.
I had to take a radar flight in an Anson and as we went down the runway, the pilot asked me to do something and I reached over my head and hit an engine switch and shut down one engine so the pilot did a ground loop and said I did it. You crank it. When we finished the course, were posted to 407 – the Canadian Demon Squadron. We were stationed in Devon. The night we arrived, a Wimpy with the new engines was being test flown on one engine and crashed and burned at the end of the runway. All on board were killed. Our first eight hour patrol, looking for U-Boats, was in July 1943. We flew about 24 U-Boat patrols until January 1944 when they posted us to Limevary North Ireland for maneuvers with the Fleet.
I must mention that on Remembrance Day in 1943 we had been out about nine hours and when we were about 100 miles from the base, we received a message that the base was fogged-in so we diverted to Leaming. But it was also fogged-in so as a last resort I called the Search Light Station for guidance to an open airport. They guided us right out over the ocean and shut off lights. We were low on fuel and after 10 ½ hours in the air, one engine quit. The pilot took us up to 6000 feet and told us to bail out. We had a crew of seven that night, so me being the No. 1 WAG, I was third last to leave. The tail gunner didn’t want to jump so I went back turned the turret manually and told him to count 10 and pull the ripcord. I assisted him out. Then I went back up to the front and bailed out myself. That’s where that "O" ring came from. I guess it slipped back on my wrist when I pulled it. I looked up and didn’t think it had opened but the wind picked up and I could see lovely silk above.
The fog base was approximately 50 feet . I came through the fog at 50 feet heading for trees. I had heard someone say if you want to steer a parachute, pull on shroud lines and I didn’t want approximately 50 miles per hour speed. I landed flat on my ass in a wet plowed field and knew I was dead. But I wasn’t – but it was 2:30 in the morning. It was a small field with a ditch full of water all around. I buried the parachute as instructed and found the best way out of the field. I didn’t know where we were, so I walked about a mile and found the village of Kanoctted. I knocked on a door and was greeted by a man and shotgun. He thought I was the German Air Force. It took some time to convince him. The actual Village was Bromley in Kent. So I became a member of the Caterpillar Club (reserved for air foce personnel who used a parachute to escape a doomed aircraft).
Another small thrill was on takeoff in October 1943 with a load of depth charges. We lost an engine as we got off the ground and had to jettison the charges in the bay. We landed on one engine. Later on, we were turning over and I was in the tail turret having a smoke when I saw trees going by! We had been given height in meters instead of feet and lost hydraulics so we had no landing gear and no flaps, no brake and bugger all but we had a good pilot. He had many hours instructing at Claresholm and came back to base to land on grass by the runway. No one was even scratched.
We bombed four German destroyers around New Years. Forty-four aircraft carried bombs that night. We also lit up a British destroyer one night – we sure got the hell out of there in a hurry.
Half of Squadron 407 was transferred to Limavady, Northern Ireland for training with the U.S. Navy. That ended in March 1944 and we were given a chance to go to a different squadron or consider volunteering for duty in the Pacific. I was posted to Warrington repatriation and ended up in the hospital with acute sinusitis and had to have sinus surgery. That meant having a hollow needle driven up the nose to drain the sinus. I had this done four times at Warrington and once more at the Army Hospital outside of London. It was no fun.
In the meantime, the rest of the crew except the pilot left for home. After the hospital I had a chance to rejoin 407 but with a different crew. A buddy of mine wanted me to join his crew which I almost did but decided I would come home. My choice was lucky for me but sad for the new crew as they were shot down in the channel on their first trip. All were killed.
I came home in May 1944 and got married in June 1944. I was posted to Pat (Patricia) Bay and rejoined my old crew. We flew out of Pat Bay on sub patrol for one year (July 1944 to July 1945. I was commissioned in December 1944 to Pilot Officer. Our daughter Judith Anne was born on April 21 1945. In July 1945 I flew to Vancouver in a DC3 Dakota and was discharged exactly four years to the day (July 17) that I had located to the Manning Depot in Brandon.
Some of the best memories of England and Scotland were the dances at Hammersmith Palace or Convent Gardens and also in Edin Bergen at the Palais there. I also enjoyed a visit to the Soho District of London – it was August and I got very drunk and woke up on the Flying Scotsman just outside of Edenborough. Harold thought it quite funny but we loved laying in the heather. A lady who owned a pub always left a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch for me.
I was promoted to Flying Officer just before discharge. I could have gone to the Queen Charlotte Islands as Commanding Officer but took my discharge. The planes I flew in were the Tiger Moth, Norseman, Anson, Fairey Battle, Bolingbroke, Catalina, Botha, Wellington Wimpy and Ventura. My last flight was in a Dakota DC3.
Al passed away in 2013 at the age of 92. His wife Grace predeceased in 2002.
095 of 150: Alex McQuarrie WAG ~ OHV (Oral History Video)
.Alex McQuarrie was a young man working in a bank in Yorkton Saskatchewan when he decided to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was sent to a temporary Manning Deport at Penhold, Alberta and then on to Claresholm, Alberta where he was placed on guard duty, with no bullets in his rifle, awaiting a posting to the Wireless Air Gunner school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Upon completion of his training at No. 3 Wireless School, he went next to Dafoe Saskatchewan for bombing and gunnery training.
As a qualified Wireless Air Gunner he was posted to an Operational Training Unit and then No. 424 Squadron in England as a member of a Vickers Wellington bomber crew. After a number of successful missions, he and his crew were shot down over France and were taken prisoners of war for two years. Alex was discharged from the RCAF as a Flying Officer in October of 1945.
In his Oral History Video, Alex and the CATP Museum’s Kathy Shepherd, talk about his interesting story as an airman in the RCAF at war.
The video can be seen on YouTube at:
Representing Air Gunners and Wireless Air Gunners
Published 1983 - 2008
Editors John Moyles and Bill Hillman
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BCATP Vignettes are Continued in PART XX: Nos. 96-100
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