Canada 150 Vignette Series
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Vignettes
PART XXI: Nos. 101-105
By Greg Sigurdson/Bill Hillman
101. Sailing Lake Manitoba in a Mark 5
102. War Production and the Home Front: The Penny
103. On the Home Front – The Plane Spotters
104. Ralph Wild - Oral History Video
105. World War II Memory - Sam & Glen Merrifield Part 9
Continued in PART XXII: Nos. 106-110
101 of 150: Sailing Lake Manitoba in a Mark 5
With signs of war on the horizon in Great Britain in the 1930s, the country was deeply immersed in preparation for what was inevitably coming from across the channel in Germany. The preparation included the creation of a number of organizations designed to help citizens prepare to repel and defeat the enemy. One such organization was the Air League of the British Empire, a home for air cadets aspiring to one day take their place in the skies as pilots in the Royal Air Force. The writer of this oral history is Maxwell E. Hagman who joined the Air League at 13 years of age as the first step towards accomplishing his dream.
From here, his career path took him to Britain's ATC (Air Training Corps), a stint with the Fleet Air Arm and completion of his RAF basic training, He finally, at age 18 in April 1943, won acceptance in the RAF to train for flight crew.
Qualifying for training as a navigator, Max found himself in the middle of North America as he says, at Central Navigation School in Rivers, Manitoba, where he won his wings. This is his accounting of a small portion of his story from Rivers outlining the an event that could have extinguished his dream… and his life.
11 The long night of IS/16th June 1944
I went to the hangar around 2200 hours -- the time scheduled for the briefing of the night flight to meet the Staff Pilot and the Staff Wireless Operator -- as well as the two 'Second Navigators' -- the standard crew of five for a navigational training flight. It was the routine for trainees to fly with a different crew every time -- one had to study a large board in the briefing hangar listing the make-up of the crew for each flight.
P/0 Bill Bates was a young Canadian Pilot -- who I believe was extremely annoyed that, after his own training and graduation, he had been posted to be a Station Pilot at No 1 CNS (Central Navigation School in Rivers Manitoba). He had been hoping for a posting to Europe where he could fulfill his ambition to fly combat missions against the Axis Forces.
The Staff Wireless Operator was -- as most of those at Rivers, not 'Aircrew' -- i.e. he did not have the half brevet -- he was 'Ground Staff' -- given extra pay for flying duty. Also a Canadian, his name was Carl Wek -- and, like Bill, he hailed from the area around the nearby city of Winnipeg.
The two 'Second Navigators' I soon found out were trainee 'Air Bombers' – newly arrived at Rivers - and this was their very first night flight. One, Paddy Kennedy was in the RAF -- though he hailed from the neutral country of Southern Ireland (many folk from S. Ireland served in the British Forces as volunteers). The other was in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) -- Jack McClaren -- he was probably the eldest of the five -- and had remustered from the Australian Army -- and, indeed, he had been in the siege of Torbruk in North Africa when Rommel's German Anny had had initial success against the British Army in N. Africa in 1941.
Because it was vital that I have a good flight -- and got good marks -- I was sad that I had two real 'Rookies' as second Navigators -- and resolved that I had do my 'Own Thing' -- I could not expect much help from them on their first night flight!
The briefing was special -- Navigators were warned by the duty Meteorologist that fierce bad weather was expected to pass across our flight line before we got back to base. We had to adjust our pre-flight plans to allow for the stronger winds expected towards the end of the flight. Rivers, being in the middle of the large land mass of North America, weather there was easier to forecast accurately than in the unsettled patterns to be found in the 'Maritime Climate' of the UK -- we hastily re-cast our flight plans with confidence that what we were now told was certain to happen.
Meanwhile, Engineering Officers had something special to say to the Pilots. Now, I, like all my Navigator colleagues, was busily redrafting our flight plans -- the words for the Pilots were none of our business -- though I had a clue of what it was all about. I got to hear that some engine problems were being experienced -- by the newer Canadian-built Ansons being flown at a slower cruising speed than that designed for them -- this, so that we Navigators could prepare one flight plan for whatever aircraft we may be flying in -- in fact, we were due to fly in one of the new aircraft that night.
We went out to our plane -- and took off for the triangular trip at around 2300 -- the first leg was about 200 miles to a point east of Winnipeg, up between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, then west back to base, returning there around 0200 hours.
At this point, I might mention the strange, typically British, way of making life as hard as possible for trainees. Unlike modem passenger aircraft of these days – there was absolutely no sound insulation -- the unhindered engine noise drowned even thought -- let alone anyone trying to communicate by word of mouth! The Pilot and Wireless Operator were in touch by radio intercom -- not so the trainees -- they had to shout any messages -- or scribble scruffy notes!
As I have said, I did not expect much in the way of valuable information from the two Second Navigators -- so I did not care too much if I could not hear anything they may have tried to tell me. The flight went well for me -- we made our turning points accurately and at the times I had forecast, nevertheless, I was mindful of the need to ensure that my log was packed with recorded information. This was necessary because at de-briefing one would be criticised if there was as much as two minutes without an entry!
Our turning point to put the aircraft on the last leg -- that back to base -- was just midway between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, but I was happy. I looked forward to the flight continuing that way, though I knew the time was approaching when the heavier wind forces forecast would begin to affect us.
Lake Manitoba is about 100 miles long and about 25 miles wide at its widest -- we were crossing at the top end where it is narrower. At a point roughly halfway across the Lake one of the Bomb Aimers came up to me and shouted, somewhat agitatedly, 'Pilot wants a new course -- to the nearest airport!'. Thinking that the flight was being foreshortened due to the adverse effect of the stronger wind, I quickly calculated a new course straight down the middle of the Lake to Portage le Prairie -- which was on the centre of the coastline at the south end of the Lake. The Bomb Aimer passed the new course to the Pilot by word of mouth.
Almost immediately THE SECOND ENGINE FAILED! Now one might ask how it was that I'd not noticed the change in engine note from two engines to one - the true reason for the need of a new course? My only defence was that I was so desperately anxious to have a good flight - and get good marks - that my total concentration meant my ears/brain were not attuned to pick up such an obvious change! The silence was eerie -- just wind noise rushing past the aircraft as we lost height in a controlled descent. I knew exactly where we were and began to think of what lay ahead. Bill shouted orders for us to bail out. The routine was that Carl, sitting at the rear of the aircraft would go to the door at the rear and jump first, then the two Bomb Aimers, then me, fourth in line. Bill would have to hold the aircraft steady -- and hope he could make it to the rear of the aircraft and make his exit before the plane got out of control.
13 Panic Stations!
In fact there was no panic as such -- though I guess all of our hearts were pumping pretty furiously – no one showed any other reaction than cool determination to do the right thing. Carl opened the door -- or jettisoned it, I am not sure which -- and then stood there - unwilling to jump! I found myself yelling 'Push him out' mindful that we were only at about 5000 feet- quickly reducing to zero! Engineless, the only way was down -- the thought ran through my mind that a ditching carried out by a fairly inexperienced Pilot was not something I cared to contemplate! Ditching a landplane is not something a Pilot can practice -- they are given advice what to do in such a situation -- but the first time is in extremis!
Stupid enough to think the only way to survive was to bail out -- I did not consider parachuting into very stonny, wind-swept water, miles from any habitation, without any flotation gear, in the total darkness meant certain death by drowning! Had I been the first one to jump -- I would have done so! Carl's hesitation saved all of our lives! Bill opened the bomb doors in the wings and dropped a flare - this showed that we were now too low for parachuting safely -- so he shouted to us to take up 'ditching positions'. For Carl and I this meant returning to our seats, strapping ourselves in, and, leaning forward, heads on our work-tables -- nestling between our arms. The two others did not have such a good spot -- but they had to get into a position where they could strap themselves in -- to reduce injury upon sudden deceleration/impact.
I well remember thinking in those last moments that we were not going to survive – I was only nineteen -- what a way to go, I thought -- and not even, heroically, at the hands of an enemy Pilot -- machine guns firing -- from an enemy plane!
In actual fact, Bill made a perfect landing! There was not the expected jolt – just water rushing in through the open bomb doors and into the fuselage - we were up to our waists in a trice (in a moment, very quickly)! Undoing our belts, we made our way to the door at the rear of the aircraft - in an orderly fashion - no panic at all - I guess we were all highly relieved that the ditching was so painless after all!
Now, the plane's fuel tanks, at the late stage of the intended flight, were only about one third full -- and further, the newer Anson made of plywood, meant that it floated! Most ditched planes sink -- certainly, one of the older Ansons would not have floated for any time at all!
There was a ship-like motion as the plane was tossed around by the strong swell – as we climbed on and sat astride the fuselage - just ahead of the tail fin - all in a row and wondering what next! Bill and I went back into the aircraft to look for anything buoyant enough for us to hold on to if the plane should sink. He thought our parachute packs would float -- but when we tested one -- it just sank straightaway leaving a few bubbles! In the middle of the huge land mass of North America our planes did not have any flotation devices aboard -- no dinghies -- we did not even have 'Mae Wests' – RAF slang word for bulky life jackets which all airnen wore on every flight back in Europe. As if our situation was not bad enough -- the landing lights in the wings, now under the water, gave off an eerie green light -- and the landing klaxon horns kept moaning as water short-circuited their electrics -- until the batteries gave out!
14 The Long Wait -- with Diminishing Hope!
Carl told us he had got a 'May Day' radio message out -- so we thought help would soon be to hand. In total darkness, we could hear other planes on the same exercise passing overhead. Bill used the Verey Pistol he had found on our trip back into the aircraft -- sending up a flare every time a plane passed over -- though there was never any response. Down to the very last cartridge -- Bill had a quick consultation with all of us -- should we risk using this last one next time a plane passed over? We agreed that we should -- and so when another engine note was heard Bill fired that last round.
[We had found out by this time that there were two of the five of us who could not swim -- Carl and Paddy. Though being about 8 miles from the nearest shore the ability to swim was unlikely to enable anyone to reach land -- should our hulk of a plane sink!].
Barely had that last flare ascended -- when there was a responding one from the plane. Thinking we had been spotted we took comfort, again, that help would soon ensue. [We did not know that the plane's operator had sent a radio message -- suggesting we must have landed on an island -- not believing our plane was floating on the water!]
When daylight came -- a series of Ansons buzzed low over us -- later on, they started dropping the inflated inner tubes from plane wheels -- these 'tubes invariably landed a
distance away -- and the high wind meant they sped across the water even further off! Eventually, one tube landed in a position which I thought I may be able to swim to and intercept. Never a strong swimmer -- I figured that I could plug away doing my breast-stroke, and get the tube. I jumped in -- and immediately got a mouthful of nasty oils and other fluids from the engines! Anyway, I battled through the awesome waves -- and got to the inner tube -- which had a thin rope tied in two places to make a loop. I put my arm through the loop and set off back to the plane.
A couple of the other chaps were standing on the tailplane to haul me out of the water, putting my arms up for them to take hold -- I put my arm on the wrong side of the rope loop! The ' tube, thus released, sped away across the water faster than I could recover it! Now thoroughly drenched -- in that strong wind I began to suffer in consequence.
Later, one of the Ansons dropped a dinghy -- uninflated -- but a valuable source of hope. It was then that the Australian, Jack, dived into the water, began swimming strongly using the crawl -- I wondered how it was I'd struggled away with my slow, inadequate breast stroke -- yet here was someone who would have done justice in an Olympic heat!
He recovered the dinghy -- and it was up to us to get it inflated, SAP (soon as possible)! However, we found that the dinghy was not in the best condition - for years it been held up by instructors in one of the various flying schools -- used to demonstrate how a turn of the handle on the C02 bottle would unleash a puff of the gas into it. Due to thousands of 'puffs' meant that the bottle was now empty! Then we found a hand pump stowed with the pack -- it was like a small concertina -- made of rings of rubberised canvas glued together. I said 'My mother makes these -- doing piece-work at home in UK we'll be OK now'. But the pump was perished -- one squeeze -- and it burst!
15 Rescue at last!
We had been in this perilous situation for about nine hours by now - and our hopes were beginning to become a little thin -- no rescue scheme seemed to work! We were taking turns to blow up the dinghy by mouth -- unsurprisingly, the two non-swimmers were the ones most prominent in this endeavour! I still have a vivid picture in my mind of Paddy Kennedy's cheeks puffed out to full stretch -- the look in his eyes told – much better than any words -- how he regarded this lifeline! However, we had discovered that the dinghy was only a three-man version and further, it was perished and leaky, too!
It was then that a different engine note was heard above -- and out of the grey gloom a twin-engined flying boat appeared -- a Catalina! Hopes soared -- this really was something which could not possibly fail! After a couple of circuits around our position – the 'boat' disappeared back into the grey gloom -- we were utterly devastated!
After a while, yet another different engine note was heard -- this time it was a very quiet 'put-put-put' -- not at all a powerful sound -- and then a tiny twin-float, single engined
seaplane appeared -- and landed about 50 yards away from us! [Later on I was to find that it was a Junkers 34W - an earlier and smaller relation to the notorious Junkers 52 - the plane Germans used for dropping paratroops!].
This was the real stuff -- and could not possibly fail! A man -- an engineer – emerged from the two-man cockpit and climbed down on to one of the pontoons -- he shouted to us that they could not come to us -- we had to get to them! Because of the high wind and heavy wave pattern the seaplane had to stay pointing upwind with its engine running to avoid capsizing. We understood that -- and prepared to get into our one dinghy – five men into a dinghy meant for three, not fully inflated -- and leaking.
There were a couple of hand-paddles in the pack -- these were used -- together with another four pairs of plain, cupped hands -- we all paddled furiously to the seaplane --
I am willing to bet should there ever have been an odd Olympic category for that sort of craft -- we could have won easily -- in that desperate mode!
Aboard the seaplane -- we were all cramped into a metal-lined, box-like cargo hold just behind the cockpit -- a barren, hard place -- but we were overjoyed to be on our way to safety. It was then that the Pilot turned around and told us, that, in landing, that some of the struts holding the two floats had buckled -- and now overloaded, the seaplane could not take-off anyway! It was necessary to taxi to landfall -- but the craft had to stay pointing upwind - and land in that direction was 25 miles away! It was slow and very, very bumpy -- it took two and half hours and two or three of us were very seasick!
We were very weary when land was eventually reached -- but being an extremely rocky area -- it was necessary for us to jump into the water up to our waists -- to make our way the last 30 yards or so to dry land. The seaplane could not come closer lest more damage was done to the floats. It was then that we noticed a man tying up his outboard-engined boat nearby. To our surprise we were met by a RCAF Officer -- sporting both a Pilot's brevet – and medical insignia on his unifonn -- a Pilot and a Doctor.
16 Dry Land, Alcohol - and Pairs of Pink Socks!
The medico-cum-pilot led us to a group of log-cabins -- he took us inside one of them. The family there -- I barely noticed -- possibly ethnic Canadians -- Indians? I did not find out -- certainly subsistence farmers, not particularly well-off -- judging by a quick glance around their home -- though I was startled to see a spankingly modern Aga-type stove -- gleaming white in the dark interior!
The doctor gave us a quick once-over -- tired and weary though we were -- none of us had suffered any physical injury. Pulling out a flask from his jacket -- he offered us all
a swig of brandy! Both Bill and Carl declined -- they were dutifully teetotal -- so was I -- liquor had never passed my lips before -- but I took my very first swig of alcohol as did both Jack and Paddy!
The Doctor disappeared -- to one of the log-cabins which was the local store – to reappear, a little later, with five pairs of pink woollen socks - we had, of course, long since abandoned our footwear! Then an RCAF open truck came pounding along the dirt track -- two RCAF men dismounted -- and said they were to drive us back to their base -- Portage la Prairie -- the airport we'd been making for some twelve hours previously! Taking our leave of the Flying Doctor -- his Tiger Moth had landed on the dirt track not far away -- and the occupants of the log cabin -- we got into the open truck -- to see an outboard motored dinghy! Apparently the two RCAF men were Air Traffic Controllers, on duty at Portage -- and they felt it was their duty to come out and try to find us on that dark and stormy night. We had, in fact spotted some flares during the night some way south of our position.
It was a long and bumpy ride along dirt tracks -- I think it took about two and half hours to get to the airport -- and its well-appointed RCAF hospital. It was then the true, kind nature of Bill Bates was demonstrated -- the only one of us who was a Commissioned Officer -- he declined the separate, higher quality accommodation to which he was entitled -- 'I have shared the trials and tribulations of my comrades here for many hours -- we are not going to be separated now!' So it was that, after a warm shower we were all ushered into lovely warm and comfortable beds in one large ward!
We slept around the clock -- a good 24 hours -- hardly surprising after our denial of comfort and sleep during that long wet ordeal. It was difficult to estimate the times – but I suppose it was around ten hours on that sinking plane, two and a half on the long trip - taxiing to the shore, an hour in the log-cabin and another two and a half on that bumpy ride in the truck.
Upon awakening, a nurse came into the ward -- she held up two small plastic radios, one on each hand -- one pink and one yellow -- 'Which one would you like, boys' she asked -- as if it mattered after all we'd experienced! We chose·one -- and, switched on -- it was in the middle of a news broadcast. The first item was in a the mode those of us from the UK were not familiar (we were more used to the measured tones of BBC's Stuart Hibberd) was 'Flash - five airmen were plucked from Lake Manitoba today' etc., etc. then, a little later -- 'Flash -- the fifth wartime Derby was held at Newmarket, England, today -- it was won by a horse called Ocean Swell' -- we rocked with laughter at that strange coincidence.
17 Back to Rivers -- and the end of the Course
We thanked and bade farewell to the hospital staff at Portage -- and we were flown back to Rivers in an Anson. It was a Saturday afternoon -- and no classes. A quick explanation of those hectic days to the one or two of my colleagues who were around -- and it was necessary for me to go to the Instrument Section as my special RCAF issue Navigation watch had filled with water and had stopped.
I knocked on the door of the Section -- in which there was a small sliding hatch. One of the Instrument guys lifted the flap -- and I said 'May I have a new watch -- I was in the Lake' -- with what I thought was a suitably modest smile. 'If you're stupid enough to go swimming with your watch on -- it's up to you to get it fixed!' was the cross response! And the hatch was slammed down. I had to knock again and make it clear the reason I was in the Lake -- so then I became a hero for a few moments whilst I recounted some of the events of the ditching. I got a replacement watch.
Winnipeg Free Press article reporting Max Hageman's crew's
50th Anniversary reunion in Manitoba and recounting the events that night.
This Junkers, now in the collection of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum,
was located in Lac Du Bonnet, Manitoba during World War II.
It is possible that this is the aircraft that rescued Max’s crew.
102 of 150: War Production and the Home Front: The Penny
We deal with two commodities at the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum - history and artifacts. Although each is not dependent on the other for the purpose of creating a human thought or feeling, the two combined make for a much more meaningful human experience. An artifact gives tangible, sensory stimulation while adding understanding to the history related to that object while history provides purpose and meaning to the artifact. Without each other, history is an abstract concept... and the artifact is an old object with no meaning. We wouldn't be much of a museum if the effort to combine these commodities wasn't our primary goal -- we must strive to make displays where artifacts and history merge.
One Penny… Many Thoughts!
The Life and Times of a World War II Artifact
Our artifacts are specifically related to the history of Canada in the Second World War. When they were new, they were available in quantities of hundreds (hangars), thousands (aircraft) and in some cases, millions (buttons and bullets). Sixty years hence, most have been lost to the scrapper, 'the collector', the attic or they have just disappeared.
Yet, as scarce as World War II artifacts may seem to be, they still can be found all around us, as was discovered on a recent trip to the grocery. Together with the essential food items which left the store was a 1940 Canadian penny in the change (this was 2006). It was dark brown and dirty from thousands of financial transactions over its 67 year life but in fine shape nevertheless and not yet ready to retire.
One has to wonder how many people it has touched. If it has been given as payment or change in one financial transaction for every day of its life, it will have been in contact with almost 25,000 people by now. It is impossible to accurately make this calculation as the penny may have averaged more than one transaction a day or sat in somebody's jam jar for 40 years until returned to public circulation. However, one has to wonder… was it in William Lyon Mackenzie King's pocket when peace was declared in September 1945? ... or was it in Ann Murray's purse that 1971 night when this singer received her first Juno award? ... or was it in Wayne Gretzky's locker on October 15, 1989, the night he broke Gordie Howe's NHL
point record? Although it is not possible to verify these possibilities, our penny has undoubtedly been in existence for a large amount of Canada's historical events and touched many people – maybe some significant and famous. Our little 1940 penny is an artifact without a known history.
This Canadian artifact is from one of the country's most traumatic and triumphant eras and holds great meaning for those who know, or want to learn, the history of World War II. It provides tangible, sensory stimulation through sight and touch. It emits a power to evoke the history of World War II and all time thereafter. With literary license, we bring you parts of the history of Canada in World War II not normally seen in this publication. It is a story of the fictionalized experiences of our tiny copper artifact and some ordinary people it may have met along the way. It is the story of the citizens of Canada between 1939 and 1945 and their great sacrifices for war service and impressive contributions of labour, materials and manufactured goods.
Our artifact was one of 85,740,532 Canadian pennies minted in Ottawa in 1940 - the obverse side of the coin depicts King George VI, reigning monarch of the British Commonwealth at the time. The reverse side shows our beloved maple leaf and date of issue.
After being carefully fabricated in a mechanical press at the Canadian Mint in Ottawa, our penny was shipped to the Royal Bank branch located in Fort William, Ontario... here it, and 49 identical uncirculated brethren, were separated from their paper roll swaddling and mixed in with the six other pennies in the teller's cash drawer.
It is introduced to the world outside of high finance on July 22, 1940 as a small, but important portion of the cash given to Mary Hutton in exchange for her pay cheque from the Canada Car and Foundry company. Her job is applying dope to the fabric skins of Hurricane aircraft produced by that company. Mary is the mother of two children and wife to a husband in the army training for battle at a camp somewhere in the Canadian west.
Of the 11,300,000 people living in Canada during World War II, Mary was one of 1,049,876 workers involved in essential war industries. Another 2,100,000 were employed in "essential civilian employment" which included agriculture, communications and food processing. Aircraft workers such as Mary produced over 16,000 aircraft in Canada during the course of World War II. Of these, 10,000 were shipped directly to Britain while the remainder went to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, local air defence and the United States. Remarkably, manufacturing capacity in Canada vaulted from 5,000,000 square feet in 1939 to 14,000,000 square feet by war's end.
Some aircraft were built by a single company while others were assembled by groups of companies as was the case for the venerable Mosquito aircraft. It was built in pieces by General Motors (fuselages), Massey Ferguson (wings), Boeing (tailplanes), the Canadian Power Boat Company (flaps) and Otaco (undercarriages) together with numerous smaller companies. De Havilland undertook final assembly completing 1,100 by war's end. Canada's aircraft industry peaked with 120,000 employees producing 4,000 aircraft a year during World War II.
The story was the same for other wartime needs as well. Canada's workers produced 800,000 military transport vehicles. They made 50,000 tanks, 40,000 field and naval anti-aircraft guns and 1,700,000 small arms. The list of companies converting production from peacetime products to those of war include Bombardier and General Motors (450 military snowmobiles), Canadian Pacific Railway (788 Valentine tanks with General Motors engines), CPR's Angus Shops and Canadian National's Montreal Locomotive Works (5,200 tanks) with the latter also producing 2,150 Twenty-Five pounder Sexton self-propelled guns. Canada's shipyard workers produced 348 10,000 ton merchant ships while cutting production time per ship from of 307 to 163 days.
Mary and her million co-workers produced $10 billion (World War II dollars) worth of war goods. The wizard-boss behind this phenomenal production was Canada Department of Munitions and Supply Minister C. D. Howe who worked his production magic with the 28 crown corporations within his department. Howe's "Bits and Pieces" program assisted existing manufacturers in the conversion of their factories to the production of military goods -- the Canadian Cycle and Motor Co. Ltd. (CCM) converted from producing bicycles and skates to parts for anti-tank and Bren guns while the Liquid Carbonic Corporation converted from producing soda fountains to tank parts.
Howe's department came up with innovative measures to make labour available when and where it was needed. His Wartime Housing Ltd. produced two-bedroom houses for $1,982 and four-bedroom houses for $2,680. Agreements were established between Canada and the provinces for the first time to provide day-care funds for working mothers. As a result of the war production, Canada became the third largest trading nation in the world.
On the day Mary received our penny in her change, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan commenced operations at No. 1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden, Ontario. In England, 80 of 81 aircraft returned to base from seven operations in Europe including the largest night effort launched by the RAF since the fall of France. Twelve Blenheims attacked airfields in France, six Battles bombed barges in Dutch ports, eight Hamptons spent the night laying mines.
Five groups of aircraft were involved with OTU (Operational Training Unit) sorties. Amazingly, only one Whitley was lost (1).
In the air war over Europe, total United Kingdom losses of aircraft during the war were 22,010 - 10,045 fighters and 11,965 bombers.
Mary used our penny with her purchase of a basket of groceries. Unlike our 2006 transaction with Safeway, Mary was required to provide ration stamps for her purchases. Foodstuffs and other commodities rationed by the Canadian Government during the war included alcohol, gasoline and rubber starting in 1942. Eventually the list was expanded to include coffee, tea, sugar, meat and butter. Eleven million ration books were distributed to Canadians who all learned how to "make more with less."
Newly minted pennies are almost 98% pure copper today (2006) while WWII pennies were 94% steel, 1.5% nickel steel with 4.5% copper found mostly on its plated coating.
Our penny next turns up in the pocket of Sergeant Fred Bailey, a drill instructor at Camp Borden, Ontario on October 31, 1940. He was one of over 200,000 soldiers who passed through this army training centre during World War II.
Camp Borden was also the site of Canada's first operating Service Flying Training School which graduated 2,728 pilots. Enlistment in the Royal Canadian Air Force exceeded 250,000 during World War II of which 18,000 died in the line of duty.
When Canada declared war on Germany in September 1939, we had 4,500 regular soldiers and 51 ,000 reservists in the army. By war's end, 731,000 Canadians had served in the army of which approximately 23,000 were killed. Of 150,000 troops involved with the D-Day invasion of Europe, 14,000 were Canadian soldiers.
October 31, 1940 is generally accepted as the day that the Battle of Britain ended. In defence of Germany's direct attack against the Royal Air Force on British ground, the RAF lost 792 aircraft to the Luftwaffe's 1,389. Two-thousand, three-hundred and fifty-three men from Great Britain and 574 from overseas served as RAF air crew between July 10 and October 31, 1940 in the Battle of Britain - of the total 2,927 airmen involved, 544 (18%) were killed during the Battle of Britain while a further 791 (27%) lost their lives in air combat in other actions by the end of the war.
Sgt. Bailey bought a package of Player's Navy Cut cigarettes with the change in his pocket which included our penny.
The term 'cent' comes from the French word for 'hundred.' The term penny comes from British coinage which utilized the terms 'pounds' and 'pence.'
.Our penny next shows up in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 4, 1942 in the pocket of Robert "Bobby" Fletcher, single and one of 14,000 to serve in Canada's Merchant Marine navy. Canada's merchant seaman received training at four manning pools established in 1941 and 1942. From 1,400 merchant seaman in 37 ships, Canada's merchant navy grew to 14,000 seamen by war's end with 180 ocean-going cargo vessels - the largest merchant navy in the British Commonwealth. One-thousand, one-hundred and forty-six died of which 1,059 are remembered on the Halifax memorial which is dedicated to those whose place of burial is unknown. Of the 106,000 sailors to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, 6,500 were women. When Canada declared war, the navy had six destroyers. By war's end, the RCN had 471 warships and smaller fighting vessels and was the world's third largest navy. The RCN sank 28 enemy submarines and numerous surface vessels while losing 24 of its own warships. Close to 2000 Canadian sailors died during hostilities. Canada contributed 110 warships and 10,000 sailors to the D-Day invasion.
On April 4, 1942, an RCAF aircraft spotted the Japanese fleet en-route to Ceylon. Prior to the Japanese invasion, the air crew was able to give warning in time for a successful defence of the island. Winston Churchill cited this episode as "the most dangerous moment of the war."
In Europe a total of 208 aircraft were involved in a raid against Dortmund Germany. This force, which was greater than any previously sent to this city, included 142 Wellingtons, 34 Hamptons, 20 Stirlings, eight Halifaxes and four Manchesters of which five Wellingtons and four Hamptons were lost. The bombs fell across a 40 mile stretch of the Ruhr Valley. The reports included one unspecified industrial building destroyed, one military establishment severely damaged, four dwelling-houses destroyed and 31 damaged with four people killed and 27 injured. It is possible that other Ruhr cities and towns were hit but no details are available. Also that night, minor operations included 23 aircraft to Le Havre (one Wellington lost), five Blenheim Intruders to Soesterberg Airfield, one Stirling minelaying near Heligoland. Of the 237 sorties that night, 10 aircraft (4.8%) were lost. (1)
Bobby used the penny in payment for a $10 war savings coupon.
According to numismatic experts, our penny has a value today of 75 cents to a collector willing to part with the cash.
By the end of World War II, over 1 ,000,000 Canadians served in the country's armed forces. They brought home 48,000 war brides and 22,000 children. Of the 1,000,000 serving, 50,000 were women. Of the 1,000,000 serving, 45,363 died in action, 53,174 were wounded and 9,334 were held as prisoners-of-war. Canadian service men received 16 Victoria Crosses during combat of which two were given to men enlisted in the RCAF - David Hornell and Andrew Mynarski. Of the 19,000 who served in the armed forces for Newfoundland, 700 were killed in World War II.
A great number of Canadian civilians contributed to the Allied war effort in a paramilitary manner. Serving in No. 45 Wing and No. 45 Group of the RAF Transport Command and the Atlantic Ferrying Organization an unknown number of Canadian men and women flew aircraft from North America to Britain to be used for the war effort. Standard wage for this activity was between $500 and $1,000 per trip with the pilot being required to find his/her way home. The casualty rate for this activity was 20%.
Other Canadian civilian activities aiding the war effort in Britain were firefighting (422 men with 11 casualties), canteen and reading room volunteers (585 with 71 casualties), Red Cross and St. John Ambulance assistants and ambulance drivers, and Newfoundland Foresters who served in the British Home Guard.
All facts and statistics were gleaned from various internet web sites and a book.
We wish to offer special gratitude to one, incredibly interesting site -
The Veterans Affairs Canada web site (www.vac-acc.gc.ca)
from which a huge amount of the information in this article was acquired
Also to be thanked are the following organizations and book from which information for this article was obtained.
www.civilization.ca - The Canadian War Museum
www.pcfleet.com - Canadian Coin Club
Canadian Military Heritage Project
www.legion.ca - Royal Canadian Legion
(1) --The Bomber Command War Diaries, Martin Middlebrook & Chris Everitt, 1996.
103 of 150: On the Home Front – The Plane Spotters
The following is an article written by Graham Chandler
and published in the Man/June 2013 edition of the Legion Magazine.
Official observer reports kept by Doug Betts, a.k.a. Delta 86; Air Vice-Marshal George Croil;
aircraft spotter cards contained in Sweet Caporal cigarette packages.
"I hereby declare my willingness to act without renumeration as an Official Observer in the Aircraft Detection Corps of the Royal Canadian Air Force."
Thus began the agreement for civilian volunteers who wanted to do their part by becoming the eyes and ears of Canada's home front during the Second World War. Among those signing the call were lighthouse keepers, housewives, hjgb school students, fishermen and Hudson's Bay Company fur traders.
Doug Betts was just 13 years old and in school at Wentworth, N.S., when he heard about the Aircraft Detection Corps (ADC) from a friend who had been appointed Chief Observer for his area. "He called me up and said, 'Guess what, we are organizing a post in our area here? Will you be an observer?' Of course I was ecstatic," recalls the wartime observer, now 84. "We were as keen as mustard to do anything like that." Typical of this patriotic enthusiasm, by war's end, 30,000 had been recruited as unpaid observers to scan Canada's skies, ground and seas and report aircraft, ships, submarines and suspicious activity anywhere.
They also reported and assisted Allied ships and aircraft in distress. Many even rescued downed aircrew. Some were supplied with radio equipment but most called in sightings via normal telephone lines on which they were given priority routing. All were civilian, however, the corps was administered by the RCAF who pulled together observations to compose live grid maps of activity and potential threats for both coasts and in between.
Under ADC's motto Watch And Warn, these unsung heroes played a critical role in Canada's wartime defences. Few Canadians are aware how close German and Japanese forces came to Canada during that war: U-boats just 15 miles off Halifax; a German submarine landed on Sable Island; 23 ships sunk in the Gulf of St Lawrence; Estevan Point on Vancouver Island shelled by a Japanese submarine; a German spy put ashore along the Gaspe.
"We didn’t realize how important our job was," says Fern Falardeau, who as an AC2 (Aircraftman Second Class) worked in a "filter centre" in 1943 taking calls from observers and passing the information to operations staff at RCAF Station Chatham, N.B., for analysis.
The idea for the corps was hatched under Air Commodore George Croil in late 1938 as war loomed and Canada's coasts would be vulnerable. In October that year, after a committee meeting on the proposed scheme, he requested Air Officers Commanding east and west coasts to form Air Detection Corps in their areas. A year later, Croil was Air Vice-Marshal and worked with the two commands in organizing publicity, recruiting, training and communication networks.
The formidable task of volunteer recruiting got underway in May 1940. "Of Canada's 3·9 million square miles, an astonishing 528,000 were organized by ADC to be monitored," wrote Allan Coggon in his 2004 book, Watch And Warn: A Wartime Story Of Canada's Homefront Aircraft Detection Corps. "Divided into 91 sectors, they were subdivided into Chief Observer areas of 48 square miles." Each sector was further divided into number-coded observer post names approved by the Chief Observer.
Advance advertising was through posters, local newspaper stories and letters to prominent community members such as postmasters, clergy, police chiefs and school principals -- many of whom became regional directors. These were followed up by visits to communities by ADC officers to interview and sign up potential observers and chief observers.
At first there was no handbook; instead a series of notices were provided. Observers were, for example, to "report all aircraft seen contrary. Local flying within 15 miles of an airport or seaplane base positively identified as friendly need not be reported. "Other instructions included "planes that are lost or in trouble while still in the air" as shown by "rockets being fired or flares dropped; engine misfiring or not sounding right.'' With regard to marine vessels, "all submarines, strange trawlers, coasters and other suspicious marine craft," with the proviso "never mention the name of Allied ships in reports."
Furthermore, "strangers that you think may be about to do damage to planes, boats, barracks, railways, power plants, telephone or telegraph lines, wireless stations, water supplies, factories" are to be reported, as well as "strange signaling or flashing lights, things thrown from vessels, caches of supplies, unusual camping grounds."
Observers were to get to a telephone or telegraph fast. "Tell the operator you have a report for the Aircraft Detection Corps. The operator will know how to and where to send your report," the notices went.
A Certificate of Appreciation from the RCAF; Doug Betts (right) and a friend in 1943; The Observer newsletter;
llustrations show an ADC observer phoning in a report, the message going by telegraph and being received at a filter centre.
An aircraft direction finder and some instruction on aircraft and vessel recognition were provided. "They sent us out a little package of profiles -- three views of Blenheims, Hudsons, etc.," says Betts. But he recalls a better guide: "Where most of us got our aircraft identification statistics was from Sweet Caporal cigarette packages," he says. "During the war on the back of the Sweet Caps they would have an aircraft, like a Hurricane or a Spitfire or a Mustang with their general characteristics and a small review. Occasional further assistance was given in the ADC's journal, The Observer, published monthly by Air Force Headquarters.
Betts remembers having regular assigned shifts each day, which bad a bonus. "I was going to school at the time and this was my greatest forte because the Chief Observer went to the teacher and said ' it would be nice if you wouldn't keep Doug in after school because he has to spot between three and five [o'clock].'
So I was king of the hill. My call sign was Delta 86 and my direct connection was I called the operator at Wallace N.S. and just said, 'This is Delta 86 and I wish to report an aircraft movement,' and it was all on her switchboard where she was supposed to route the call." He says on a typical shift he would report up to 15 airplanes, which he would summarize on official forms at shift's end.
Where the telephone was on a rural party line, reports took immediate priority. Coggon wrote that in some country areas without phones, "Children at home and also those in school were runners for their observer parents, rushing their written sighting report to the filter centre on foot or by bicycle to the nearest telephone."
Numerous incidents involving Japanese ships and aircraft beginning in 1942 resulted in stepped-up observer posts: 192 fishing vessels were in use as observers that year -- together with former fishermen, they became known as the Fishermen's Reserve of the Royal Canadian Navy. Other B.C. co-operation came from the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, made up of loggers, miners and woodsmen who knew the coastal rain forests well and were sometimes described as a "guerilla group." They were especially important before radar installations in 1943. Similarly, lighthouse keepers and their families played their expert role in reporting; although some had no telephones, so reports were mailed to the filter centres -- anything more urgent demanded sending a boat with the observer's report.
Some upgrading was prioritized by the government: in 1943, $1 million was spent for new radiotelephones and telephone lines on both coasts. In the north, the Hudson's Bay Company's 101 fur trading posts were already connected by a vast radio network, and Coggon reported that by fall 1940 with the support of the RCAF they had all been updated and properly organized into an efficient Aircraft Detection Corps that could report on airplanes and ships in the Far North. Most also became crucial weather reporting stations.
Observers were kept busy. According to Coggon's book, reports for the year 1943 totalled 223,336 of which 221,359 were aircraft movements and 142 were submarines. German submarine crews had intensified their offensive early in 1942 when the area west of Newfoundland, south of Labrador and north of Nova Scotia became popular U-boat hunting grounds. Convoys were routinely attacked and dozens of Allied ships torpedoed.
Falardeau reckons the ADC was a critical part of Canada's wartime defence. "All of it -- the east coast, the west coast, Sault Ste. Marie (important for protection of the locks on the Great Lakes) and the Hudson Bay portion," he says. "At one time there were rumours that the Germans had landed in the Arctic and were assembling a bomber up there. And they had weather stations there, too."
Late in 1944 as the Allies gained the upper hand in Europe, the bomber threat to Canada was considerably less and it was decided to disband the ADC that November. Individual letters of thanks on RCAF letterhead were sent out in December.
The ADC had its postwar legacy: the corps' organizational experiences were used as the basis for Canada's Ground Observer Corps to watch Cold War skies before Distant Early Warning Line and Pinetree Line radars were operational.
For Betts, it was full circle: joining the RCAF in 1949, he served on the Pinetree Line in heavy radar.
104 of 150: Ralph Wild - Oral History Video
Ralph Wild brings a Royal Air Force perspective to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum Oral History program. Born in Great Britain, he enlisted in the RAF in 1939 and was chosen to be an instrument fitter with ground crew duties. Posted to 242 (Canada) Squadron and other fighter squadrons he experienced the Battle of Britain from the tarmac of an operational station. He was kept busy maintaining the squadron’s aircraft and upgrading new aircraft received from Ferry Command directly from the factory.
In 1940 he was posted to No. 33 Service Flying Training School in Carberry Manitoba with ground crew duties. It was here that he began his lifelong love of Canada, and his wife who he met in Winnipeg. He eventually found his place as aircrew in Bomber and Transport Command. Ralph is a talented storyteller who bring a great deal of interesting detail of life in the RAF and Canada during World War II.
Ralph Wild’s Oral History Video can be seen on YouTube at:
105 of 150: A World War II Memory - Sam & Glen Merrifield Part 9
We continue with "Brothers Two Dressed in Blue," the recollections of Sam and Glen Merrifield who were stationed in Yorkshire, England with the Royal Canadian Air Force 405 Squadron of 4 Group, Bomber Command. In this installment, their good friend Stoney contributes to the story.
We enjoyed the ground when we got back onto it. I received a few anecdotes from Russ "Stoney'' Stonehouse, an AEM, now a resident of Digby, N.S., in January 1981 and recount them here as they tell their own story.
A few more of Stoney's remembrances follow... As time went on the squadron continued to become a more seasoned unit and started to receive recognition. We then moved to Topcliffe, Yorkshire the peacetime drome. We were proud of this base because it was one of two bases of the RAF that Herman Goering visited in the early part of 1939.
We had converted to Halifax Bombers by then and the old squadron was really developing a name for itself. The thousand bomber raids on Cologne and Essen were history and the first Canadian Bomber Squadron was coming on strong. We were adopted by the City of Vancouver and I believe Len Fraser was our C.O. at that time. I remember being on the famous control tower duty one day and this Halifax Bomber taxied to runway position and took off. A great scurry from the control occurred and we were asked to find out who had taken off in the Halifax... Fraser's groundcrew reported that he had forgotten his laundry at Barmby Moor and had to fly to Pocklington to pick it up. Typical 405 Commanding Officer.
In January 1989 I had a phone call from Jack Hart, 405 Squadron Armourer Sergeant who now lives in West Vancouver. He had found the brothers Merrifield name on the Association roster and was making contact. He remembered me being shot and remarked how lucky I was to be struck by an armor piercing bullet as all other types in the belt ( 4 out of 5 or so) would have mushroomed and I certainly would have been killed. It is strange to learn after more than 46 years that you were luckier than you knew.
Topcliffe as well as being a permanent base had the added attraction of a workmans train that left in the late afternoon and proceeded through Harrogate down to Leeds. It left in the early hours of the morning and returned in time for both the workmen and the airmen to be to work on time . Early in the war the British had moved some 5000 young female clerical staff to Harrogate to get their Government Departments out of London. To say that the military descended on this city as a result was an understatement and our train was a very great asset. There was a problem as Harrogate had only one very small military hostel run by TOCH people and I have a memory of spending one night there, on the floor, sharing a blanket above and one below with two French Canadian WAGs from 425 Squadron Dishforth.
Another memory is entering the ballroom at the 425 Squadron Hotel and seeing a hall full of young lovelies and one solitary male. A British soldier. This was prior to the pubs being closed when most of the other males arrived. Being a non-drinker I got there early and enjoyed changing partners every few steps in the ladies "Excuse me" dances. Harrogates problems with hostels could be overcome by continuing on down to Leeds and spending the evening on the town and then going to the Leeds railway station, purchasing your ticket back to Topcliffe Station. and convincing the station guards to let you go the spotted train and sleep in the cars until morning. This was not always possible and dozing sitting up in the first class station restaurant for six or seven hours was no fun but we were young and it beat staying in camp on your day off.
Stoney recalls the night we had a sneak raid on Topcliffe with the flare path on and two chaps at a dispersal point on the far side of the drome took shelter in the Bomb Dump. The lads who were permanently attached to one aircraft, such as Stoney, were often included in the crew parties and if a new commission was granted they joined in the new hat being kept filled with "half & half" at the local pub. Having received my corporal stripes at Topcliffe I was chosen to be the W/T NCO for a partial squadron move on October 25, 1942 to a drome in Southern England to help 18 Group Coastal Command with a problem for a couple of weeks. The aircrews flew down with their kit in their aircraft and a Harrow took we 25 or 30 maintenance characters with our kits. Now we had all decided as kits were strictly limited, to take no razors and all grow beards. The Harrow was a high wing fixed undercart, vintage aircraft and I remember it banked so slow coming in to land that we had to hold on to keep from falling off our seats.
This move was to Beaulieu airdrome in the middle of the New Forest between Bournemouth and Southampton. The drome had an RAF Squadron of American built Liberators which they could not keep in the air. The blokes had no experience for spares so guess it was an administrative goof. We must have proved satisfactory as the rest of the squadron arrived before the two weeks were up and we were sent back to get the rest of our kit. So no beards.
Our original Task was to patrol the Bay of Biscay during the convoys to the Oran Landings in North Africa to guard against the German subs. Beaulieu was a nissen type drome but worse than that, it was only half built. No hangars, electricity only in the messes and none in the huts or ablutions. Mud everywhere, if you stepped off the pavement it was bad and Sam slid into a ditch and had to remain there until a passerby helped him out.
.When May Kearns joined our section as our driver, I do not recall but I do remember she was with us as early as Beaulieu if not earlier. The job done by the WAAF's and May in particular will always stand out in my mind. Our section Chiefie at this time was Tom Cranston and he was a benevolent task master. He was a liberal and gracious with days off but only if the ones who stayed behind worked harder to see the aircraft got the very best possible attention. Now the section driver was a very important part of this routine and when we had male drivers I can recall many frustrating times, Tea time would be approaching and much work remained to be done and the damn male driver would be wasting time phoning for a replacement, which was rarely available, for fear he missed his tea. How many of us had RAF drivers licenses, but once May took over, no one drove "her" van, regardless of the hour, and replacements were needed only when May went on leave. A vast improvement over the previous situation, Hats off to the WAAF's (Women's Auxiliary Air Force).
Click for full-size promo collageContinued in PART XXII: Nos. 106-110
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