Bill Hillman Presents
Forces: Land ~ Air ~ Sea ~ Home
Compiled by Bill Hillman
Wherein we share an eclectic assortment of items gleaned from the
Internet, media and contributing readers.
Please send your ideas and contributions to the
FLASH. . . Editor and Webmaster: Bill Hillman:
May 2001 Edition
For the Moment Location Photos Pt. 2
by Bill Hillman
Taken at Brandon's Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
During the filming of the BCATP feature movie
Starring Russell Crowe

Trainees race from the rifle range to the scene of the crash

Film buff Ja-On Hillman with
vintage cars and preparation for the rifle range scene in the background

Preparing the Tiger Moth for a training scene

Visit our FOR THE MOMENT feature sites at:
for a complete list of 
credits, reviews, anecdotes, photos, etc.
Russell Crowe: Star of FOR THE MOMENT - Filmed at CATPM
Women of the War Years: WWII Tribute
Stories of Determination and Women
Whose Sacrifice Made An Incalculable Difference
to the Success of the War Effort
Isabel joined the Army in Winnipeg, Manitoba and left in May 1940.  She arrived in Halifax where transportation was waiting to take them to England.   They arrived in England on June 20, 1940.  Isabel was stationed at the #5 Canadian Hospital.

She tells of her many experiences there even meeting the Duchess of York and her daughters, one of whom was Elizabeth, our present Queen.

A group of nurses, including Isabel, landed in Sicily with the first wave of Canadian troops - apparently by mistake.  She told of the bombing and gunfire and how they were hustled into an army truck and driven over mountain roads with no lights due to the blackouts.   In Sicily, Isabel was bothered by sand fleas and by the lizards, which were apt to be in your bed.

In January 1943 they had moved over to Italy where they followed the fighting up the boot of Italy, working in field hospital tents close to the front lines. While working in the operating room, a sniper shot Isabel’s best friend who was standing across from her.

The family received a cablegram from Isabel in December 1944 saying, “Home for Christmas”.  After the war was over she stayed in England, working at the Canadian hospitals.

Isabel’s records and letters, etc. were left to my husband when she died, as she had no children.  My family treasure all the pictures and memorabilia we “inherited”' from Isabel.

Submitted by
Mrs. A. Gervin, Boissevain, Manitoba.

CWAC W-23235

 I was stationed in Ottawa in the Discharge Department and my friend and I became quite bored one weekend and decided to do something about it.  We asked around and found out that we weren’t very far from Montreal (Ha Ha) and decided to hitch hike there.  I had never hitch hiked in my life.

As we started out we must have looked quite strange.  My friend was six feet and I was just 5’2”.  We eventually arrived in Montreal and had a very nice weekend after staying at the ANA House (Army, Navy and Airforce).   They charged us ten cents a night, including breakfast.

We took off on Sunday and were eventually picked up by a very kind gentleman who informed us that he worked in a bank in Ottawa.  We in turn told him that we worked in an office in the army.  My friend left her wallet (containing ten cents) in his car.

Later in the day we had a phone call from the Bank of Canada (somebody’s Secretary).  The wallet was delivered to our barracks later that day covered in sealing wax.

It turned out our kind friend was Graham Towers – the Governor of the Bank of Canada.

We have had many a laugh over this.

Read more of these stories from Women of the War Years
in the huge hardcover book available at:
Order Info ~ Press Clippings ~ Over 30 Photos ~ Anecdotes ~ Book Launch

Gary McGregor: author of White Ensign, Black PitH.M.C.S. Prince Robert painting by Bill Sloan
Prince Robert painting by Bill Sloan available at:

Gary McGregor is doing what other people only talk about: he's writing a book about The Battle of the Atlantic. Gary is the son of a RCNVR vet who served in the Battle, Martin McGregor. Gary would like to meet and interview all those who played a part in the events he is chronicling. It is not only major events he is interested in but also details of day-to-day existence including thoughts, rumours, boredom, highlights, disappointments, letters, photos, etc.

Gary is trying to relate the everyday lives of the Canadian Navy vets who did the living each day through long months at sea. What he's trying to do is to bring home to his and future generations about exactly what it was like on the North Atlantic.  If you would like to contribute, give him a call at: 603.946.9741 or


One of the great benefits of working on my various WWII and military newsletters and websites is the almost daily surprises that appear in my mailbox and over the phone. Awhile back I had a call from RCN vet, Able Seaman Norman Rattray, of Don Mills. Mr. Rattray served on the H.M.C.S. Prince Robert in the Pacific at the same time as my dad from May 4, 1945 to November 12, 1945. He was thrilled to see the many pictures of the PR on my Prince Robert sites, as his collection of navy photos had disappeared many years ago. Of special interest was the one of him on sentry duty on the Prince Robert in Hong Kong Harbour - and until now, unidentified in my collection.

Norman Rattray: Sentry Duty on the Prince Robert docked at Kowloon
Norman Rattray: Sentry Duty on the Prince Robert docked at Kowloon
Click on photo for large image

Featured in this month's AS YOU WERE... is a preview of a few of the memories that Norman has so generously shared with us through his scrapbook of personal letters, anecdotes, photos and clippings. Much more of this memorabilia will soon be featured at our HMCS Prince Robert site in the Vet's Section



These two shots show Norman Rattray in 1943 and 1993, 50 years apart. The first photo shows him in his Purser's uniform in 1943, the 1993 shot shows Norm in a Captain's coat, loaned to him by Lee Werner. The similarities are striking.

From STEAMSHIP MEMORIES: A Conversation with Norman Rattray, a 'living museum' of the steamship era in Muskoka by Scott Turnbull ~ The Muskoka Sun ~ June 25, 1998

This and many more bits of nostalgia are featured in the Prince Robert Vets Pages
TO: Mrs. D.B. Rattray
75 Glebeholme Blvd
Toronto, Ont.
FROM: V-85924 A.B. Rattray N.A.
HMCS Prince Robert
RCN Overseas

Aug. 19, 1945

Dear Mom,
Well, the war is over Mom, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to us we're still cruising around out here. I don't think it will be too long however, until we get back. Well, we left Sidney after four days there. It's a beautiful looking harbour as you enter and it's a fairly nice city. Lot's of life there. The people were celebrating wildly three days before peace was actually declared. They certainly are a wild people. 

We're going up to enforce the peace terms now, I hope we don't have to do any enforcing. I've been thinking of going back to Tech for the term after Christmas if I'm back instead of the rehab. centre. I think I'd really enjoy that except that I missed the football season but there still would be basketball. Give my love to Dad and Marion. So long for now, 

Love, Norm


H.M.C.S. Prince Robert
Sept. 18, 1945

Dear Mom,

I received some very heartening news last night. The commander said that we would in all probability sail before Friday and today is Tuesday. Also McGilvray, another Toronto rating, who is an R.C. said the R.C. Chaplain is coming on board to hold mass and he says they always leave the day after. Here's hoping we go right back to Canada. 

The guys on the ONTARIO are really jealous of our souvenirs, swords, guns, bayonets, etc. They still haven't been ashore, and they are anchored still, out in the harbour. They came with the idea that they were going to disarm the Japs. When I told them we disarmed them two weeks previous they were somewhat taken back. I was talking to one of them and he said "You haven't been anywhere, we've been to the "Gib" (Gibraltar), Alec (Alexandria) and Malta." "And we saw a place that was "really" bombed, Malta." So I said, yes I guess you're right we've only been to San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Sydney Australia, Manus Admiralty Islands, Bataan, Corregidor, Luzon, Leyte, and now Hong Kong. And I said if he didn't think Corregidor and parts of Luzon and Leyte weren't bombed, he was crazy. He didn't have much to say after that.

Well, I'll say so long for now. I hope to be seeing you by the end of October.

Love to all, 


BRANDON, Manitoba - In honour of Manitoba’s 131th birthday, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum (CATPM) is hosting an Open house on Saturday , May 12th and displaying the artwork of the Grade One, Two and Six classes of Douglas Elementary.

As part of a province-wide initiative, the CATPM is utilizing Manitoba Day as an opportunity to educate youth about an important historic moment in Manitoba’s heritage.  On May 7th Douglas students where given tours of the museum to better understand Manitoba’s role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which was a vital element in the Allied victory.  The students are working together on artwork projects which will be displayed throughout the museum on May 12th.

We invite the general public to our free open house from 10 am to 4 pm, where they will have an opportunity to view the artwork of Douglas Elementary students and the completed truss repairs to our hangar.  As well the museum’s new 25 minute video ‘A Plan For Victory: Memories of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan,’ will be playing for the duration of the day.  This video is a result of our Oral History Project, where by the museum collected WWII stories.
At 2 pm will be our official opening for the tourist season by the Honourable Scott Smith followed by a fly-past of the museum’s Harvard aircraft.

“The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum believes strongly in educating today’s youth about this important time in Manitoba’s history,” said Stephen Hayter, Executive Director.
“We would like this new initiative to help build on an already strong relationship with surrounding schools and increase school participation in celebrating Manitoba Day.”

This project was coordinated by Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism to help commemorate Manitoba Day and promote the province’s rich heritage.

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is Canada’s only air museum solely dedicated to the preservation of those who trained and fought for the British Commonwealth during WWII.

by John Hughes ~ Brandon Sun ~ Sunday, May 13, 2001

The Tiger Moth sitting in pieces inside the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum's shop might not look like much right now, but volunteers restoring the plane hope to have it back in the air by this time next year.

"I think we all do it for a sense of what has been," said Jim Sheppard, an aircraft maintenance engineer who is supervising the plane's restoration.

"It's the type of people we have in the organization . . .  they're very talented. They claim they know nothing about airplanes, but they seem to develop their skills as they go."

While the Tiger Moth was one of 30 different types of aircraft used to train pilots across Canada during the Second World War, this particular plane was actually used to train pilots in Britain. It first came to Canada in 1973, and became the property of the museum in 1986.

One of the three planes the museum has that still fly, the Tiger Moth was used in the filming of For The Moment, a 1992 feature film starring Russell Crowe that was shot at the museum.

The Tiger Moth was grounded last fall, and during the last month, Sheppard and a handful of volunteers have put in roughly 250 hours disassembling the aircraft, stripping down the parts, cleaning them and having them inspected.

Sheppard said the plane's wings and the tail are made of wood, while the fuselage is made from wire tubing.

"There's a lot of wood in it, and it has to be tested," Sheppard said.

The wings and the fuselage are covered with fabric, Sheppard added. When the plane is put back together, the volunteers will use dacron which Sheppard says lasts a lot longer than cotton, the fabric that was originally used.

"You restore things to their original, but if you can improve it slightly, you do," Sheppard said.

Although the Tiger Moth will be new and improved when it takes to the skies, museum president Reg Forbes says it won't lose its appeal as a vintage aircraft.

"It looks like an antique," he said.

"When you climb into this thing, you've got your head out in the open air. You're not covered up with a bunch of glass."

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Short Bursts Monthly Online E-zine
This month's edition is at:


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