Taken from the BURMA BOMBER ASSOCIATION newsletter,
MURRAY DUNCAN – Navigator 159 Sqdn.
Our crew; Herb Andrea, Pilot, Bill Head, Co-pilot, Ray
Pink, Bombardier, Jack Dungavelle, WAG, Air Gunners Jack Gordon and George
Sprecker, and yours truly, Murray Duncan, Navigator; the first crew from
5 OUT Boundary Bay, Abbotsford, to commence Operations in SEAC flying out
We were actually Course #5 from OUT but when we graduated
we were told we would be flying to India.. We waited at Lachine for the
Libs to come up from the U.S. and after 10 days they finally arrived. We
left Dorval on November 3, 1944 and flew to Gander. Just after midnight
on November 4, we started out for Lagens in the Azores, listening to Foster
Hewitt in a rebroadcast of a Leaf game. That is the rest of the crew listened
but the navigator, of course, worked.
From the Azores we flew to Rabat in French Morocco, then
to Tripoli, Cairo, Sheiba (Iran) and then to Karachi for a total flying
time of 42 hrs. 42 min. From Karachi, where we were in tents for two or
three days, we went by train to the big transit camp at Woprl on the outskirts
of Bombay. We had a pleasant four days in Bombay area, (remember the posh
Willingdon Club and the diving board that broke with the weight of four
Canadians piggy-backing off the end of it and who played knock rummy in
that 36 hour marathon?
However,back to business. A signal was received at Worli
from 231 Group in Calutta. They urgently required one crew immediately.
Our ten crews now at Worli were all slated for a jungle survival course
at Mahabaleshwar, near Poona. Somehow, Herb Andrea’s crew was selected
to fill the urgent request. Thinking back, memory tells me that we were
by far the fittest crew and didn’t need the conditioning of the survival
course. Take that, Gordie Slark!
Despite the urgency (had the Japanese made a break through
or was there a need for some precision flying, navigating and bombing?),
we were routed by rail to Calcutta. My recollection is that there were
four gauges of rail lines in India, so we had to keep changing trains and
somehow it always seemed to be at two in the morning..
When we finally arrived in Calcutta five days later, we
were a hungry and dirty group. Reporting at 231 Group, just off Chowringhe,
we learned that Wing Commander James Blackburn the CO of 159 Squadron,
had initiated the urgent signal. We were soon off by train to Chandrakona
Road (Digri). We arrived at 159 Squadron on December 5th. and on December
8th. Herb and I went on our first op., a screen trip. Herb was with W0
1 Bretherton’s crew as Co-pilot and I was with Johnny Poag’s crew as Navigator
(F/L John Brennan was the Nav. Leader and was Poag’s Navigator but he let
me handle all the navigation, so there was pressure).
#99 Squadron B-24 Liberators over Burma 1945
The target was Victoria Point. There were three crews
mining the approaches to the docking area and 13 crews bombing the docks
and the rail lines. There was also a float anchorage and planes sitting
there. They were left burning from 159 machine gun fire – everyone took
a “go” at them. There were Japanese LMG’s in the underbrush near this float
plane anchorage and Bretheton, with Herb aboard, had to land at Chittagong
because they were hit several times. We also were hit with only one bullet
which came through the nose wheel door and sliced the throttle cables to
numbers 3 and 4 engines. Jettisoning all of our machine guns, ammunition,
our bomb bay tank and everything else that could be thrown out, we finally
reached 1,500 feet from the 200 feet level at target. Total flying time
14 hrs, 35 min. Some baptism!
Anyway, the point of all this is that we flew our first
Op on December 8/44. If there were any crews from 5 OUT that went on operations
in SEAC prior to December 8, I will send $10.00 Can. to the earliest reported.
Come on, lets hear from you.
Incidentally, the only Canadians that I can remember in
the mess when we arrived were Johnny Poag from Hamilton and Bob Martin
from Timmins or North Bay.
Ed. At press time we received a letter from
Murray Duncan and you might find this paragraph interesting. Each theatre
of operations had its own rules.)
Good to hear from you and I will watch for SHORT BURSTS from
now on so you've got a new reader.
I've still got my $10 but it's early yet. Our tour
consisted of 300 hours and as we were doing long trips down into Malaya
and French Indo China, we were able to complete the tour in only 23 trips.
On January 24, 1945, 159 completed the longest Op to that date. Sixteen
aircraft mined the channel between Penang Island off the coast of
Malaya. The Japanese used this channel between the mainland and the
island in trying to get supplies to their army in Burma and northern Malaya.
The trip was 3,162 miles and the flying time for our Lib was l8 hours,
35 mins. This was written up in The Hindustani Times(?) in Calcutta and
it was stated that it was equivalent to bombers flying from England to
Moscow and return with bombs up. This was a world record to that
time but within a month or so the U.S. Superforts beat it. Fame is
Cheers and regards,
S. Edward Matheson DFC -162 Squadron
passed away December 27, 2004.
A BRAVE FLYER DEAD AT 89
Former Leader Post Printer won the Distinguished Flying
By Will Chabun
Regina Leader Post December 30, 2004. (Abridged)
Matheson, one of the few Canadians to actually see – amid brutal conditions
– the wining of the Commonwealth’s military award for courage, he died
In Late June 1944 Matheson was the Navigator on the doomed
flight that resulted in F/L David Hornell receiving a posthumous Victoria
Raised in Nelson B.C. he worked on a compositor at the
Leader Post from November 1945 until his retirement in March 1981.
He joined the RCAF in 1942 and trained as a Navigator.
Nicknamed “The Professor” for his ability to make rapid, complex, calculations,
he was assigned to the RCAF’s 162 Squadron, which in the late spring of
1944 was sent from Iceland to Wick, near the Northern tip of Scotland,
to keep German submarines from threatening the Allied landing in Normandy.
So inspiring was Hornell’s story that for many years it
was included in the elementary school’s reader. In 1997, Matheson attended
the unveiling of a new stamp saluting Hornell and his crew.
Predeceased by his wife, Helen, whom he married during
the Second World War,
Matheson is survived by his daughter, Sydney. A memorial
will be held in the spring.
Faroe Islands location of attack 6300N 0050W
Andrew Hendrie gives a detailed account of Matheson’s
Canso crew’s sinking of U-1225 in his book Canadian Squadrons in Coastal
Command pg. 128 ff.
………….No. 162’s entry for 24 June 1944 gives six aircraft
on operations and two in transit from Wick to Reykjavik. Canso A 9754 captained
by F/Lt Hornell was one of those on operations and detailed for an anti-submarine
sweep. At 1900 hours a fully surfaced U-boat was sighted and Hornell closed
to attack. At ¾ mile range the U-boat opened fire with severe and
accurate flack; at 1200 yards F/O G. Campbell in the front turret responded
but one of his two 303 guns jammed. At 800 yards the Canso was hit and
one engine dropped into the sea. Hornell continued with his attack and
straddled the U-boat with his depth charges.
The Canso was unable to maintain height and Hornell ditched
about a mile from the U-boat survivors. No signal was received from the
Canso but by chance a Catalina from 333 (Norge) Squadron captained by Carl
Krafft sighted the U-boat survivors and then the Canadians in their dinghy.
Despite severe weather conditions with cloud base at one stage down to
50 feet, the Norwegian circled the dinghy for 12 hours transmitting homing
signals. The Norwegian Catalina was relieved by a Norwegian Sunderland
captained by S/Lt Ole Evensen who witnessed the pickup of the survivors
by an ASR launch.
From F/O Denomy’s account the Canso suffered two 2 feet
diameter holes in the starboard wing and a 1 and ½ feet diameter
hole in the fuselage. The aerials were shot away and when oil from the
starboard engine caught on fire, fabric on the aileron and trailing edge
They bounced three times before the aircraft remained
down; the two pilots escaped through the hatches, the remainder of the
crew through the blisters. St. Laurent launched the starboard dinghy and
it drifted away. Cole, although wounded and weak, jumped into the water
and attempted to swim back for the dinghy radio but was restrained by the
others, who feared the petrol tanks might explode.
Hornell, Matheson, and Denomy slipped into the water to
propel the dinghy to St. Laurent’s, but one of the dinghies exploded. Those
three remained in the water for an hour when it was decided all should
enter the remaining dinghy although it was found necessary for one to be
in the water to allow room for baling. This was done by using Hornell’s
trouser with the legs knotted, plus a flying helmet. It was thus for twelve
Four hours after the ditching LT Kafft’s Canso was sighted
and Campbell released flares; the last was seen by the Norwegians who reported
also forty men spread over a mile and whom they took to be German. Waves
were then 8 feet high with a wind of 2 knots. Kafft released markers periodically
to keep the dinghy in sight.
After about eight hours, the Canadians saw one of the
bodies from the U-boat pass 50 feet away followed by one of the deck boards.
They would have been from U-boat 1225 which, captained by OLErnst Sauerberg,
had sailed from home port on 17 June only to be sunk in position
The waves reached 25 feet high with winds of 30 knots
and both Hornell and Campbell were sea sick and Hornell suffered from cold.
When the waves increased further, the survivors shifted their weight from
side to side as the dinghy went through the crest and down again. Hornell
and St. Laurent began to weaken, with the latter becoming delirious before
he passed away. “We slipped his body out of the dinghy and made way for
Scott who had remained partly in the water.”
After 16 hours a Warwick dropped an airborne lifeboat
which drifted away; Hornell would have swum for it but was stopped by Denomy.
Scott had been in the water for a long time and had grown weak and died.
“We also slipped his body out of the dinghy.”
After 25 hours and 35 minutes under such conditions, the
ASR launch arrived and, from F/Sgt Bondoff’s report, Hornell was then unconscious;
Campbell and Matheson very weak, and only Cole and Denomy were able to
board the launch without help; the others were winched up. Hornell did
not regain consciousness despite prolonged effort
F/O Denomy paid this tribute to his co-captain: “outstanding
ability in flying such a badly damaged aircraft especially in the face
of strong enemy fire. His courage and bravery throughout marked him as
great man. Words cannot do justice to the fine job he has done.”
On the 28th of July the BBC announced that a posthumous
VC had been awarded to F/Lt David Hornell.
PRESS ON REGARDLESS (Canso)...© Rich Thistle
Under intense fire from U-boat 1225, the Hornell crew
bring their Canso down to required height of 50 ft.
for successful attack
David Hornell’s Victoria Cross has been placed in Air
Command Memorial building in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The following is an excerpt
from General Sutherland’s address at the dedication;
“Those of us who wear, and have worn, the light blue uniform
enjoy a bond which is exceedingly difficult to describe to those outside
the military community. This bond is not confined to the bounds of distance,
time, or technology. Nevertheless, few of us here this morning can ever
come close to comprehending the intensity of the ordeal which David Hornell
endured on that fateful mission so many years ago. There are, however,
three with us today who know only two well that terrible test of survival.
It is with great admiration and humility that I would like to welcome the
crew of 9754 to Air Command this morning: Graham Campbell, DFC; Ed Matheson,
DFC; and Syd Cole, DFM. Gentlemen, your courage and resolve in the face
of insurmountable odds have become legendary, an integral part of our Air
Back row left to right: -- Lawrence, Ed Matheson,
David Hornell, W.F. Bill Poag
Front row: -- Fernand St. Laurent, Donald S. Scott,
Graham Campbell, Joe Bodnoff
On the flight June 23, 1944 the crew consisted of St.Laurent,
Scott, Matheson, Hornell, Campbell, Sydney R. Cole, Bernard (Joe) Denomy,
and Joe Bodnoff.
The Canso postage stamp illustrates F/L D.E. Hornell’s
THE LITTLE RASCALS
Our aircraft (Sunderland flying boat) was up
on the slip for a minor inspection. Terry Reeves and I had planned a nice
day in the town of Invenstown in Northern Ireland.
Gremlin #1. This was suddenly depth charged by the S/L
in charge of training who put our crew on bombing practice in “K” the training
aircraft. So, with the usual moaning we went out to do the pre-flight take
off check.. We had to put old “K” u/s. Wizzo, this time off to town.
Gremlin #2. Three of us are heading for the gate. “You,
You, and You,” that was me, Don Macfie, radio operator, Terry Reeves, Flight
Engineer, and Roy Snelus, Rigger,, the chaps needed for skeleton crew.
“You are on night flying circuits and bumps for three sprog Pilots on “K”,
she has been fixed up.” Boy, all night circuits, worse than Ops.
It is the darkest of dark nights. On board I find that
the R/T does not check out, no communication with shore. I get real busy
checking the equipment in the stowage for loose connections.
Gremlin #3. The Training Instructor comes on board with
the three new Pilots. He is a S/L DFC New Zealander I had not seen before.
I reported the u/s radio. He says, “just sign the form #700 and report
a snag after we are finished.
I start working on the radio and was about to change batteries
when I was ordered to take the aldis light up front as we were slipping
moorings. I get there and we have just slipped. The S/L has the Port inner
and Starboard inner running.
Gremlin #4. Who ever steered a Sunderland through the
maze of stuff in the inner trolts anytime, and at night, on the ‘inners’.
Gremlin #5. He must have come out from our a/c W6000
to join in the fun and aggravate me more. I plug in the Aldis light and
it comes on and immediately goes out. I fiddle around and find a loose
socket, tighten it up and ‘goodie’, I have a roving light. Good heavens
there are trees ahead! As I shine the light on the shore we are moving
ahead at a pretty good rate, the engines having reved a bit.
Gremlin #6. The Skipper, instead of trying to steer off
with one engine, shuts down both. Suddenly there is a great grinding noise
below and behind. We drift free and I hear water coming in. I go up to
the stowage again which is ahead of the Second Dickie’s feet and continue
to change batteries in the R/T. When finished I gather up spare batteries,
flashlight, and volt metre and jump down. The Rigger had just lifted the
floor boards and I went right down through the floor and the gaping hole
in the hull. He grabbed me and hauled me back out.
Gremlin #7. He must have gone into hysterics. I lost all
the stuff through he hole. I went above to get my Mae West. It wasn’t there.
Gremlin #8. Hunting around the radio I found an
out of the way switch in the “off” position. Gremlin #1 must have been
The R/T worked and in no time I had a refuelling barge,
dinghies and fire-boats out in short order, as well as S/L Hughes, our
Flight commander. Hughes ordered all movable equipment removed. We stepped
off a wing into a dinghy and went ashore. It was nearly morning.
I didn’t get any time for my logbook and I never did see
that Training Instructor around any more.
Hey! Maybe those little rapscallions prevented a deadly
prang on the flare path that night!
The distracting lady Gremlin
Ed: Don, she still turns my head.
N. Alberta Report
The annual Christmas Party for the Northern Alberta Group
was held in the Norwood Legion on December 16, there were 36 present and
a good time was had by all. The kitchen staff put on a good spread
as usual, turkey and ham and all the trimmings and several fine desserts
to finish off the meal. Everything was washed down with some of the
fine refreshments from the well stocked bar. This particular Legion
is known as the Ukraine Legion so there was a fine array of pierogy, kielbasa,
cabbage rolls, etc. There were plenty of prizes to be won, in fact, so
many that everyone seemed to win one.
The plans for the memorial benches at the Nanton Lancaster
Museum in Nanton, Alberta is moving right along. We now have to try
and get an estimate of the cost and then go to the Museum and see if they
can find a contractor to do the work. We will keep you informed of our
progress through Short Bursts.
We wish all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year.
The photograph shows a bench and walkway outside the City
Hall in Spruce Grove, Alberta. This is the kind of setting we would
like for our memorial benches at the Nanton Lancaster Museum. We
plan, at the moment, to have two benches and perhaps a small planter in
between with a small plate stating that the benches were presented to the
museum by the AG/WAG association in memory of fallen comrades. Once the
plan is finalized and the cost determined we may ask for donations.
I am not an ex-Air Gunner, but I was very interested
to read the articles on the web site about the S Squadron’s Secret Halifax
Bomber which was powered by steam. I find it highly improbable that this
really existed. As a recently retired employee of the Toronto Star I have
a couple of reporter friends who are also very interested in stories such
as this. I passed it along to them and after much emailing between others
we have come to the conclusion that this really is some sort of hoax. We
also noticed that this article was in the March issue lending credence
that it might have been an April Fool’s joke.
In the condominium that I live a fellow neighbor is a
retired Halifax and Lancaster mechanic and he is the one who first mentioned
this “special” plane to me. Could you please enlighten me further on this?
As a steam locomotive buff I find it very interesting
that a similar concept was used in airplanes.
Thank you for your time.
George Pereira firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed: To view the March 2001 Issue with the article on
the steam powered Halifax see:
If you happened to have shovelled coal on this Special
Halifax, drop George a line.
I am pleased to tell you that I have found information
regarding my Father. Only by talking to other crew members in my fathers
squadron, did it 'come to light' that he knew my mother.
May I take this opportunity in thanking you for all the
help you gave me. Good wishes for the coming season.
From Ted Hackett
Good evening John. Glad you like the photo of the
Fury. I have several photos taken at Trenton in the 30s, my eldest
brother was stationed there for a few years. He had joined the RCAF
in 1924 and his Service number was C46. It was a big treat to go and visit
with him in the summer. He would take me into the Station on Sports
afternoon and take me around the hangers, I got to sit in the Siskins and
the Atlas, real operational types.
You asked if I had ever flown in a Cat.
I did, in a Canso, between December 5 and December 13, 1953. We did
some photo work for the Army flying north from the Lakehead, I can't remember
between which two points but I took oblique photos of various points on
the instructions of a Major who accompanied us. A couple of the trips
were in the Lake Nipigon area and lasted 2 hours, one trip was to Winisk
and lasted 8 hours and 30 minutes. I do believe that the photos were
for use in Mid-Canada Line radar sites.
The one thing I appreciated, apart from being able to
take photos from the blisters, was the fact that the aircraft had a galley
of sorts. The Flight engineer made us hamburgers and coffee for lunch
and, I think, a steak sandwich on the long trip, a lot better than what
we usually got in a Lancaster with nothing more than hot cups.
There is one little incident I would like to mention concerning
a Canso crew. They used to go to Lake Golden near Pembroke Ontario
to practice water landings. The aircraft was just touching down when
the nose wheel doors caved in and a huge column of water (I'm told) shot
up between the two pilots. They had the presence of mind to pour
the coals to her and get her off the water but I understand the cockpit
was soaked as well as the two pilots.
A letter from Charley Yule reads in part:
"Reach For The Sky" film
The Producer, Don Young from Frantic Films, has been
interviewing Air Gunners from across Canada. From these interviews
they will select 6 or 7 persons who they will then gather to a central
location (presumably, Winnipeg) in the near future, where further interviews
with these individuals will be filmed for inclusion in the 4 part series.
Earl Hiscox, George Longbottom and myself met with Don
Young (the Producer) and Ryan Fitzgerald last week. They asked questions
about our individual experiences during wartime - no doubt to review our
answers and, if found suitable, perhaps one of us will appear in the taped
interviews to be interlaced into the film. None of the 3 of us are
expecting to be in the group selected. We are sure that there are
many far more worthy and interesting than us.
I hope to tape the Series on my VCR - provided I program
it correctly. After all, I am just an Air Gunner, you know!
Watch the History Channel for programming dates or visit
the Hillman feature at the BCATP Air Museum and Hillman RCAF Sites.
Betty Damery email@example.com
Subject: [Ont] Looking for Hobens
I am asking for help in finding either Hilda Marie Hoben
(nee Duffy) or any relative that may have survived her passing.
On 8 Mar 1941 in Toronto Ont. Hilda Marie Duffy married
Gordon Francis Joseph Hoben, at the time a Sergeant in the Royal Canadian
Air Force. Gordon was the son of Elmo Murray Hoben and Lucie Isabelle Hoben
(nee Street). Elmo was born in St. John, N.B. Elmo and Lucie were
living in Ottawa at 146 Slater St as late as 15 Jan. 1942.
On 11 July 1942, Gordon Hoben lost his life in a tragic
training accident near Topcliffe, Yorkshire, UK. He had been hand picked
by the Police Association of Canada to fly a Spitfire fighter aircraft
dubbed “The Canadian Policeman” and was promoted to Pilot Officer and posted
to 403 Squadron.
Any help would be appreciated.
“The Canadian Policeman”
Dear Air Gunners,
I discovered your website and decided to try my luck with
you and your buddies.
My research has led me from Ottawa's archives to the German
Embassy and over to the site where my father and his buddies Wellington
Mk1 crashed on the land of Mr. Komen at Schagen in the Netherlands.
I believe that my father would be pleased with my work.
He would however have me continue in my pursuit of gathering more information
from his friends and buddies of the Bomber Command. Dad was a wonderful
After his death, his Chaplain wrote mother, to tell her
of his piano playing in mess halls as well as in chapel.
Mom passed on in February 2003, but hopefully she and
dad are enjoying a nice cup of tea, or a cold beer, as we speak.
You may have some thoughts on how I could contact those
airman and airwoman who might have had contact with my dad. One person
who may be alive is James Moffatt. Mr. Moffatt was included in the CBC
production entitled, DEATH BY MOONLIGHT: BOMBER COMMAND.
Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Congratulations to you all for keeping the cause alive.
24 Kedgewick Court
Subject: 49 Squadron
I found your site very interesting, I noticed 49 squadron
mentioned. I am trying to find information about my father, believed to
be in 49 Squadron, from England.
His name was HAROLD BLOWER from DONCASTER YORKSHIRE.
He was a rear gunner and a flight sergeant in the R.A.F. I wondered if
anyone who uses this site would know of him. Can a post be added to the
site to see if anyone knows anything about him?
I look forward to hearing from you .
Rod MacDougall reports from BC Branch advising
they had made a donation to the CATP Museum. Much appreciated Chaps.
It is interesting the number of people around the world
that are reading our Short Bursts Page and, in some cases, asking for assistance
to obtain information regarding war time relatives.
For example “….I recently read an article
in the October 2001 edition of Short Bursts regarding the Blackburn
Shark and the No. 7 (BR) Squadron at Prince Rupert Station.
I came across this article while I was researching my
family history including that of Harold Edwin Phillips 1919-1942,
Flt. Sgt. Pilot RCAF. I have learned that he died on June 20, 1942
and that he was a member of the No. 7 (BR) Squadron and also that he was
flying a Blackburn Shark when he died in some sort of accident. His
name appears on a memorial in Ottawa and he is buried in his hometown of
Sennett NY which is not far from where I live in Syracuse NY.
The article on the No. 7 (BR) Squadron does not list an
author. Do you know who wrote or submitted the article? I would
very much like to find out more information about this squadron and the
accident that resulted in Harold Phillips’ death. I would think that
there was a WAG in the backseat and for all I know, maybe he survived.
Any information or leads you could provide would be greatly appreciated….”
We were able to put Michael in touch with our member
Harold Penn, a WAG, who was flying in formation with the Phillips
and Baum aircraft when it crashed. Penn and Phillips usually flew as a
crew but when the crews went to the hangar that day the names of the two
WAGS, Penn and Baum, had been switched on the operations board.
Michael also put me in contact with a chap who has researched
Americans who joined the RCAF prior to December 7, 1941. If you are looking
for Americans in the RCAF check with Wally
I asked Wally to check on an American RCAF pilot, VanHouton,
with whom I was crewed in 1942. Within a day Wally gave me an address and
phone number. It turned out to be VanHouton’s son’s number. Unfortunately
I was a few years late as Van has passed away. After the war Van became
an Orthodontist and practiced in Portland. However, his daughter is researching
her Dad’s wartime career and we might be able to help her in that time
So, check Search Pattern section again, you just might
be able to help.
We are all in our 80’s + and sharing the same bodily break-downs.
After following doctor’s pill solutions, I feel like the Chief in the following
A medicine man gave his Chief a lace of rawhide
and told him to chew off a piece each morning. Two weeks later he returned
to see how his patient was feeling. The Chief reported, “Well, the thong
is gone but the malady lingers on.”
That has been my experience with our medical men/women. However,
through the internet, I found an herb, Ganoderma (Asian Red Mushroom) Lingzhi,
that is doing what the prescription pills couldn’t.
There are pages on this on the internet. Due to its alleged
anti-inflammatory capabilities it is supposed to slow down dementia and
reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you are interested in learning
more, just give me a shout.
Please send us anecdotes, articles, suggestions, for the
John and Doreene Moyles