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:
1. BCATP Service Flying Training School No. 34 ~ Medicine Hat
2. Alliford Bay - RCAF 1941: HMCS Prince Robert ~ Shark Aircraft
3. Blacon, England, War Graves Cemetery 
4. Canadian War Monuments Project
5. This Was Their Finest Hour: A Speech by Winston Churchill
6. The End of the Beginning: A Speech by Winston Churchill
7. Poem: Just a Common Soldier
8. Radio Premiums
9. The Stories Behind Old Time Radio
10. Fifty-Plus: An Organization for Individuals Over 50
11. P/O Percy Award: 57 Rescue: Halifax Bomber Site

A New BCATP Site on the Net:


APRIL 8, 1941 - NOVEMBER 17, 1944

Motto: Our skies have changed but not our duty

This website seeks to honour those men who trained at S.F.T.S. #34, 
especially those who died.
Harvard Trainers - Medicine Hat - 1941

      In time a booklet will be based upon personal interviews, 
and the 'secret' diaries of this installation.

      If you have any information or questions related to this site please contact
      David J. Carter at

Intrigued by the work that David Carter has done on this BCATP Medicine Hat  site and his POW - BEHIND CANADIAN BARBED WIRE book (see War Years: Motes & Quotes - January 2000), I asked him if he would supply our readers with a bit of information about himself:
"Being a prairie kid I always have had an interest in western Canadian history.  When in public grade school in Regina 1940-1945 I was always fascinated by the yellow training aircraft flying from Regina airport. Tiger Moths and Ansons represented the wonderful world of the freedom of flight.  The only day in my whole school life that I played hookey was when an Anson crashed near Regina airport - I took off and ran down College Ave. towards the crash site.

In the same year 1941 our next door neighbour was sent as construction manager to build the two huge POW camps in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. As a young child I couldn't figure why Canada was bringing 24,000 German prisoners to the prairies.

Years later I decided to find out about the POW camps and how the 22 POW died in Medicine Hat. That became almost like a detective story and finally resulted in the book 'POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire'.

Over the years I also wanted to research at least one of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan stations.  Now, working with some ex-RAF men who married Medicine Hat girls, plus working with the microfilm of SFTS #34's 'secret' diary I am putting together the story of this interesting 'pilot training factory'.

Over 50 young airmen died in training accidents in this general area, 46 of them lie in the Field of Honour, Hillside Cemetery, Medicine Hat.  Many of their colleagues died within 3 years of graduating from this training establishment, they lie buried in many different war theatres.

I often visit the graves in Medicine Hat but this web page is a long overdue 'Thank you!' to those who trained at this station and in particular it is a tribute to those who died for our freedom."

David Carter

Hi Bill:
Don Roy just sent me your web site on the HMCS Prince Robert. It's a small world Bill, believe it or not when I was stationed on the Queen Charlotte Islands during WW2 the Robert visited our base a couple of times. I went aboard once and was amazed at how they had armed her for wartime patrol duties. We invited some of the crew ashore and entertained them in our canteen. Fifty some years later, I can't remember the boys, but we must have had a good time. I remember our station baker made a big batch of bread for them to take aboard.

I just looked at an old photo album I have here as I remember taking pictures of her. She was away out in the Bay (Alliford Bay) and I had a forbidden camera which I secreted in  my kit bag. It was only a very small (about 3 in. square) but I snapped about three pictures of the Robert. I just looked at them now and thought you might be interested.  You almost need a magnifying glass to see her.The Capt, and officers were entertained in the officers mess I remember.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the exact date I took these, but I was at Alliford from July 1940  to about April 1941, and again in 1942, so these pictures could have been taken in that period.

Just thought you might be interested.

Bill Graham

Prince Robert at Alliford Bay, BCPrince Robert at Alliford Bay, BC
HMCS Prince Robert arrives at Alliford Bay - 1941

Visit the W.T. Graham WWII Sites at:

Editor's Note: It is indeed a small world. Mr. Graham and Mr. Roy are both neighbours of ours - we all live only a few houses apart in Brandon's North Hill area. Don Roy's Homepage is located at:

Bill Graham's Memories of the RCAF Sites are located at:

Blacon Cemetery: War Graves Cemetery
For more photos of Blacon Cemetery visit the
F/L Campbell Memorial and Lancaster KB879 Tribute sites


I was pleased to see your material on the Web about relatives who died during WWII. I was born and raised in Blacon, where your relative is buried, and lived very close to the cemetery. My Uncle Jim's house actually bordered the cemetery, and there is (or was) a picture of the cemetery on the web, taken from the old railway line which borders the cemetery. The Blacon of my youth (I am 51 and came here alone in 1967) was a working class neighbourhood, tough, but safe, and surrounded by farmland and woods. Although we youths were an adventurous lot I do remember that we were always reverent about the War Graves Cemetery, and vandalism was unheard of. It is an unforgettable experience to see row after row of small white crosses in that cemetery, many of then Canadians, all very young, and many of whom were obviously the entire crew of a crashed bomber. Years ago, on one of my visits home (about 1982) I read the guest book at the plot, which was very interesting, many Canadians had signed it. I hope the younger British are knowledgeable about the sacrifices so many Canadians in the RCAF and other arms of the Service made for them.

Mike Butler

DR. Michael. J. Butler
Visiting Scientist
Department of Plant Sciences
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, N6A 5B7

I was sure that Mike's letter would be of interest to our readers, so I requested permission to reprint it here.
Mike graciously provided permission and included a few more details about his ties to Blacon Cemetery and the War Years.

Good Morning!, Nice to hear from you, by all means use my email in your feature.

I came to Canada alone when I was 18, in 1967. I worked in unskiled heavy construction and factory jobs in Sarnia Ontario until I was 30, and then went to university. I am currently a research associate, a plant disease biochemistry specialist. Before this I was a university lecturer in Newfoundland, a fantastic place.

Blacon, unfortunately, fell on hard times, and became a very tough place to live. I understand that it was officially listed as one of the most dangerous places to live in England. The few contacts I have in Blacon scoff at this idea though. There always was something about that War Graves site in Blacon cemetery that put people in awe, it was always meticulously kept, and was a sobering sight. I remember that the local newspaper had front page headlines about a woman from Sarnia, while I was there on a visit, she was visiting the burial site of her son for the first time. Did you know that there are a few German soldiers buried there also? Americans also, and probably Australians and New Zealanders. Sealand and Hawarden airfields were nearby, and my Dad told me that it was not unusual for a bomber to stagger back to those fields badly damaged after a raid, only to crash and burn on landing, with the inevitable tragic consequences, a row of white crosses all in a row from the same aircraft.

I have no immediate family left in Blacon, My Dad died last year, and my mother and brother within a week of each other in 1995, my sister lives in Lanashire. I might have some cousins left in Blacon. I am in contact with a woman in Sarnia (she came to Canada in 1978), by email, who lived across
the road from the Cemetery (her sister is the crematorium manager there). I have never met her, even although she lived just up the road, is near my age, and I used to play with her brother when I was a lad!

I was "adopted" by a family of four beautiful girls and their mother (An English War bride) soon after I came to Canada, and am still very close to them. Their father, Ray Irwin, was in the RCAF and based in England, he apparently was on the Dresden Raid. I did make some attempt to contact
members of his old Squadron but was not able to find anyone. He is interested in finding them. I hope none of his friends ended up under a white cross in Blacon.

My Father served in India and Burma, and while he was a hard tough little man, he was scared to death of flying! I have a pilots licence and tried to get him to go up for a ride, no luck though.

Once again, nice to hear from you

regards, Mike Butler.
Canadian War Monuments are a poignant reminder of the price Canadians have been willing to pay to preserve our democracy. Many of these are falling into a state of disrepair. The War Monuments project is an attempt to preserve the history surrounding the hundreds of war monuments across Canada in digital format and to make it available to a wide audience through the Internet. The development of this web site is being carried out by STEM~Net, at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and with the support of funding from Industry Canada.

We are now in the process of collecting information about as many monuments in Canada as possible. Each web page about a monument will contain a set of basic information about the monument including a picture, where it is located, when it was constructed and who it is constructed in memory of.

To send information on a War Monument in your area, print this Information Form and send it with a picture to:

War Monuments Project
5 Gander Bay Road,
Gander, NF,
A1V 1W1
Fax: (709)-256-6080

           If you have any questions about the project, you may contact us at or at:
Paula Shapleigh ~ Phone: (709)-256-2488

This is an excerpt from the speech of Winston Churchill, 
at the House of Commons on 18th June 1940. 

What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say 

"This was their finest hour." 


This is an excerpt from the speech of Winston Churchill, 
at the The Lord Mayor's Luncheon, 
Mansion House on November 10, 1942 

After a series of defeats from Dunkirk to Singapore, Churchill could finally tell the House of commons that "we have a new experience, we have victory" after Alexander and Montgomery turned back Rommel's forces at El Alamein, thus winning what Churchill called "The Battle of Egypt."

The End of the Beginning

I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil, and sweat. Now, however, we have a new experience. We have victory -- a remarkable and definite victory. The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers, and warmed and cheered all our hearts.

The late M. Venizelos observed that in all her wars England -- he should have said Britain, of course -- always wins one battle - the last. It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time. General Alexander, with his brilliant comrade and lieutenant, General Montgomery, has gained a glorious and decisive victory in what I think should be called the battle of Egypt. Rommel's army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force.

This battle was not fought for the sake of gaining positions or so many square miles of desert territory. General Alexander and General Montgomery fought it with one single idea. they meant to destroy the armed force of the enemy and to destroy it at the place where the disaster would be most far-reaching and irrecoverable....

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.     Henceforth Hitler's Nazis will meet equally well armed, and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against other, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless....

We mean to hold our own. I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of  the British Empire. For that task, if ever it were prescribed, someone else would have to be found, and, under democracy, I suppose the nation would have to be consulted. I am proud to be a member of that vast commonwealth and society of nations and communities gathered in and around the ancient British monarchy, without which the good cause might well have perished from the face of the earth. Here we are, and here we stand, a veritable rock of salvation in this drifting world....

The British and American affairs continue to prosper in the Mediterranean, and the whole event will be a new bond between the English-speaking peoples and a new hope for the whole world.

I recall to you some lines of Byron, which seem to me to fit the event, the hour, and the theme:

Millions of tongues record thee, and anew 
Their children's lips shall echo them, and say -- 
"Here, where the sword united nations drew, 
Our countrymen were warring on that day!" 
And this is much, and all which will not pass away

Just a Common Soldier
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
(from his 1991 book: Rhymes and Reflections)

  He was getting  old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past,
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politiciains leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It's so easy to foget them for it was so long ago
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

c. 1985 A. Lawrence Vaincourt

                    by Charles Sexton (

Remember when you sent for your first radio premium? Perhaps it was the Shadow Blue Coal Ring, or a Tom Mix Identification Bracelet or one of Chandu's latest tricks. Whatever it was, you couldn't wait for it to arrive and the wait seemed forever. I was convinced most of my letters containing the required box top and/or dime had been lost in the mails before finally receiving my prize. Jean Shepherd's movie, A Christmas Story, beautifully recreates this frustration as it features a 10 year-old boy named Ralphie who checks his mailbox daily for the Orphan Annie Code-O-Graph he ordered "ages ago".

Fans of OTR will want to visit this nostalgic site at:
which features descriptions of premiums featured in the following radio shows:

Radio has two great features.  First, it allows the imagination to run free, enabling the listener to create his or her own images.  Secondly, it enables the listener to do other things while listening, such as driving a car, doing housework, or the like.  The soap operas of OTR were successful because they enabled the homemakers of the day to be entertained while doing the almost mechanical chores of the time.

Another of the joys of OTR comes from the sharing the adventures of the various
programs we listened to.  One way this was enhanced was from the collection of premiums: Captain Midnight's Code-O-Graphs,  Jack Armstrong's Hike-O-Meter (a pedometer), The Lone Ranger Six-Gun Ring, the Tom Mix Lario and signal arrowhead, the Superman Walky-Talky, the Sky King Magni-Glo Writing Ring... and especially those from the War Years...Magic Blackout Lite-Ups, The MJC-10
Plane Detector, etc.

The interesting thing is that, even though we may age, the premiums we got are still
capable of performing as faithfully as when we first got them.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear aren't really that far away.

Here's a tidbit concerning the Captain Midnight radio programme from "The Flight Against Evil" in the December 1987/January 1988 issue of "Air&Space Smithsonian" magazine:

"In a late-1941 episode, Captain Midnight foiled agents of an unnamed nation who had been plotting to sink a ship at the mouth of Pearl Harbor and thereby bottle up the U.S. fleet for aerial attack. Two weeks later life imitated art, and Burtt and Moore had to convince FBI agents that the striking coincidence was indeed just that."

Are you hungry for more memories of Radio as it was in the War Years?
Wander over to:
The Stories Behind OTR
Some of the history of how radio got to be what it was in "the golden days," as well as the background behind some of the favorite shows of the day.

The "First Summit"
Argentia Bay, Newfoundland ~ August 1941

CARP is Canada's largest non-profit organization representing individuals over the age of 50, retired or not.
CARP's goals are:
1. To preserve and protect 50-plus rights
2. To provide meaningful, useful information on 50-plus lifestyle choices and key political and economic issues
3. To negotiate group discounts and other special offers for members

57 Rescue: Halifax Bomber Site

"Have just visited your site & find it to be EXCELLENT!!
(Even though it is a Lancaster page!)   :-)
We would be pleased for you to accept our "Percy" award and grateful if you would link the award to our main site at "
Trigga ~ Secretary ~ 57 RESCUE

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