THE VETERAN ON OUR TEN
If you have a Canadian $10 bill, look at the back right
side of the bill.
At the age of 80 he wrote a book about his experiences
and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Ottawa. One day out of the
blue he received a call from a government official asking him to go downtown
for a photo op. He wasn't told what the photo was for or why they chose
You will see an old veteran standing at attention near
the Ottawa war memorial.
His name is Robert Metcalfe and he died last month
at the age of 90. That he managed to live to that age is rather remarkable,
given what happened in the Second World War.
Born in England, he one of the 400,000 members of the
British Expeditionary Force sent to the mainland where they found themselves
facing the new German warfare technique - the Blitzkrieg.
He was treating a wounded comrade when he was hit in
the legs by shrapnel. Enroute to hospital, his ambulance came under fire
from a German tank, which then miraculously ceased fire.
Evacuated from Dunkirk on HMS Grenade, two of the sister
ships with them were sunk.
Recovered, he was sent to allied campaigns in north
Africa and Italy.
Enroute his ship was chased by the German battleship
In North Africa he served under General Montgomery
against the Desert Fox, Rommel
Sent into the Italian campaign, he met his future wife,
a lieutenant and physiotherapist in a Canadian hospital.
They were married in the morning by the mayor of the
Italian town, and again in the afternoon by a British padre.
After the war they settled in Chatham where he went into
politics and became the warden (chairman) of the county.
"He had no idea he would be on the bill," his daughter
And now you know the rest of the story of the old veteran
on the $10 bill.
I have read, with great interest, of the 55,000
aircrew of Bomber Command that lost their lives. What is not stated is
that they were all volunteers, and I wish to tell two stories of volunteers
– one very slight story – and the other of a very brave man whose name
I cannot recall, in the hopes that somebody can tell me his name.
There is of the old adage, “never volunteer” but
the stories of World War II volunteers were legendry. Midget Submariners,
Paratroopers, Glider Pilots, Aircrews (including the Americans) etc.
Because of my age I only just made it by volunteering
for navigator training – did my training in St. John’s PQ and volunteered
to go to 5 OTU near Vancouver. It was there that I met the other “volunteer”.
He had done three tours over Germany, including Pathfinder, as an observer
– he wanted to continue and was refused – so volunteered to retrain as
a pilot. He arrived at 5 OTU, I believe a Wing Commander, D.S.O., D.F.C.,
& Bar. He treated all us younger men with respect and as equals, but
was tragically killed while taxing his Liberator by another Liberator which
tried to take off down the taxi strip. All of both crews died.
We, as a crew volunteered to go to the Far East and flew
a brand new Liberator from Montreal 5 August 1945 via Goose Bay, Gander,
Lagens Azores, Rabat French Morocco, Castel Benito Tripoli, Lydda Palestine,
Shaiba Iraq, Karachi, Alahabad to Salbani Bengal the home of 355 and 356
Squadrons. 25 August 1945 we parked the aircraft and waited in a hut for
further orders expecting to go for survival training.
We were informed that 355 Squadron had polio in the Officers
Mess and if we walked in we would be quarantined and would go straight
on ops. We "volunteered" and were taken on strength 29 August 1945. We
did a milk run screened by F/O Crawford's experienced crew. The Japanese
surrendered and 2 September 1945, again with Crawford’s crew, in our new
Liberator, we set off to drop sullies to a POW camp on the Burma railway,
Thakeh on the Mekong River. Unfortunately, although we found the town square,
a boy scout in full uniform using signal flags to give us a message the
hills where the camp was situated were blanketed in low cloud.
I still believe we should have dropped our supplies, plus
many personally made up packages, on the square – but I suppose we hoped
that we could return another day. So we turned round and set off back to
Salbani. Unfortunately, our Liberator and its Pratt and Whitney motors
had been built by Ford Motors and nobody had thought of doing a fuel consumption
check – and we did spend some time circling trying to find the POW camp
– although we had extra fuel tanks in the bomb bay, after 13 hours we were
nearly out of fuel and had to bail out, landing in Sunderbuns, the Ganges
Delta at night. Mangrove swamps and tigers.
It took three days to get out, we were reported “missing
in action” (our parents got the “dreaded telegram”) we got the Burma Star
(the last day it was awarded).
My “volunteer” story does not finish there. 16 September
1945 our crew F/O Tom Blackburn, skipper, were given the job of flying
from Salbani to drop supplies on the aerodrome at Saigon – again for POWs.
Off we went, not briefed on a tropical front – 8 hours there and using
one line of Loran and MPPs - the last 3 ½ hours in the inter tropical
front often climbing at 1000 feet per minute, faster than we could fly
level, the clouds cleared and there were the signal masts of Saigon
We dropped supplies on the runways and watched to POWs
in trucks pick them up, and turned for home and back into the front. Another
3 ½ hours flying in cloud and darkness, no radio because of the
rain, and the prospect of landing on a jungle strip at night in cloud.
We let down over the sea, headed for the coast north of Rangoon, turned
south and followed the coast to the river mouth leading to Rangoon. We
had marked on the map a race course with a landing strip and hoped that
if we fired our Very lights they would light up the strip-.
They saw our lights but did not light up so we headed
back to the coast and decided to land on flat ground near the coast - and
with landing lights on Tom set us down on paddy field. The next day a Beaufighter
found us and dropped supplies and told us to head for the coast where a
Sunderland flying boat, at great risk, landed on the sea and flew us to
their base on the river near Rangoon. We saw the Golden Pagoda towering
above the city – and we had been circling below its height.
Well, there are the two stories of volunteers. One who
did so much until eventually his luck ran out – and our crew who had such
a short, exciting and lucky career –and lived to return to civilian life,
marriage, and families -- and in my case, at 79 still enjoying life to
the full. But I can assure you, I’m ever mindful of the 55,000 volunteers
who never had the opportunity.
Donald H. Lamb,
Bomber Command Newsletter Spring 2005
I’m hoping you can help me or point me to somewhere that
can. My grandfather transferred from 16 squadron at Melbourne East
Yorks to 35 Squadron Pathfinders stationed at Graveney. His name
was Charles Pattison and he was a sergeant Air Gunner with the RAF volunteer
reserves. His service number was 632331 (I found this from the war
graves commission site). He had a good friend and fellow 35 squadron
member called Harl Espy who was an American who joined voluntarily with
Harl Espy became my father’s godfather when he was born
and my father’s middle name is Harl. They were killed when they were
shot down on their first mission on 27/3/1943. I now have a son who
is also called Harl after the American airman. I started by trying
to trace surviving members of Harl Espy’s family in America so that I could
contact them but haven’t had much luck. I am now looking for the
story of what happened on that mission and a photo of them with their crew
– which no one in my family has – or anyone surviving who remembers them.
I would be grateful for any help you can give me that
will help me find out something about my grandfather and his friend Harl.
ATTENTION 159 Squadron Members
Whilst searching for information on my fathers
unit in the hope of finding some of his war time buddies I came across
this article. In the last paragraph Murray asks if any one has a record
of a longer flight, well I think my dad does. He was second pilot
in a liberator in 159 Squadron in Digri. His log book records
Lib EV968 September 12.1944
First Pilot w/o Quaife (Quaifes Quavers)
Ops as ordered. Victoria point on Fakchan River. mining
(4x1000) ack ack from rivercraft and aerodrome. 3 Jap seaplanes at mooring
Flight time 15.15 hrs
He had a Canadian called Peachy Day who was a gunner
in his plane and my dad is Robert (Bob) Power. (85 this year)
He asked if Murray remembers Quaifes Quavers?
I wonder if you would be so good as to pass this on.
Another Request from the
I have recently discovered the site for the CATP and
the Ex-Air Gunners 'Short Bursts' and was wondering if you could help me.
late father, Ronald Courtney Stickland, from Catford in South London, was
in Canada during the war and we have found the attached photograph (not
in very good condition I'm afraid). His sisters believe it was taken
while he was in Canada. We know nothing about his time there,
in fact he never talked about his war experiences at all and we are finding
out bits and pieces all the time. We have a photograph of him taken
in 1940 and he was wearing the AG badge but when he married my mother in
1944 it wasn't on his uniform.
Would it be possible to see if somebody recognizes anyone
in the photograph?
If not, could you point me in the right direction.
As far as we can work out Dad was with the 21 Squadron
Coastal Command in 1940, he was only 17 (he fibbed on his enlistment stating
he was born in 1921 not 1922 as he was) so it seems awfully young for him
to have been an Air Gunner. He was in Canada with the 35 SFTS
and 2 EFTS in 1941. I believe he was at Thunder Bay at one time as
he did mention that.
Dad is the one toward the front with one hand on the gentleman's
Enclosing the photo taken in 1940.
Thanks for your assistance
Brenda’s Dad with hand on shoulder of chap in front.
Since our last exchange of e-mails in April, I’ve received
another kind and helpful letter from Don Macfie concerning Mark II ASV
‘Stickleback’ radar. He remains convinced that a good operator could use
the radar for navigational purposes, not only picking up beacons that flashed
a call sign in Morse code, but also identifying features such as headlands,
which Don believes would have stuck out on the screen. He suggests that
I should put a further request in SHORT BURSTS for an ex-operator trained
at the Prestwick Radar School. Don also points out that many Wellington
Coastal squadrons were fitted with ‘Stickleback’ radar, so there must still
be quite a few operators around!
Would it, therefore, be possible to insert a notice along
the following lines in the next issue?
THE CRASH OF SUNDERAND
W4026 ON 25 AUGUST 1942 & THE DUKE OF KENT
In the May 2005 issue of SHORT BURSTS we mentioned that
a retired British lawyer was seeking information about the loss in northern
Scotland of the Oban-based Sunderland in which the Duke of Kent was killed.
At that time RCAF 423 ‘Eagle’ Squadron was based at Oban.
Flying parallel to the coast in cloud, W4026, which was
fitted with ASV Mark II ‘Stickleback’ radar, drifted inland and crashed
into a hillside at 650 feet.
Don Macfie has pointed out that a good operator of ‘Stickleback’
radar – such as one trained at the Prestwick Radar School near Glasgow
– could pick up not only beacons that flashed Morse code call signs,
but also features such as headlands.
If any reader has any information concerning the navigational
use of ‘Stickleback’ radar or any information concerning the crash of W4026,
please contact Glyn M. Gowans at the following address:
S’Hort d’ en Pau,
Cami d’es Clot de’s Pou 6163,
07669 S’Horta, Mallorca, Baleares
Tel +971 16 20 49 Fax +971 83 90 05
J-96289 Kenneth WIDEMAN
He was from my hometown Arcadia, CA in the USA before
he went to Canada and joined the RCAF. Mr. Wideman was an Air Gunner during
WWII. He enlisted 25 July 1942 and was discharged 25 October 1945. To look
at a picture of him and some of his decorations go to
go to the WWII Registry
then go to
and put in Wideman in the last name slot and put K or
Kenneth in the slot
and than click on Kenneth Wideman.
Is or was he a member of the EX-Air Gunner Association?
Bill Hillman, our web master, forwarded me, Editor of
Short Bursts, your letter re Kenneth Wideman.
I looked up his picture on the net but it gives little
Would you please tell us the Squadron to which he was
attached. Did he complete his tour (30 to 35 Ops if he was in Bomber Command,
or 800 operational hours in Coastal Command? What is, or was, your relationship
Kenneth should have more decorations than those listed.
Any information you have on Kenneth would be appreciated.
No, he was not a member of the Ex-Air Gunner's Association of Canada, but
he manned a turret, which makes him one of ours. We were truly A BAND OF
I do not know what Squadron he was attached to and I
do not know if he competed his tour. As far as know he is not related to
me he was just from my hometown. From the picture could you tell what the
decorations he had were (being that it is black and white)? Tip, if go
back his picture, highlight it and push enter, it should enlarge the picture.
Unfortunately what I already gave you is all I have.
Our Volunteer Web Master, Bill Hillman, has put together
some wonderful pictures of the Brandon, Manitoba, Westman Air Show June
11/12, 2005, with hundreds of photos of the Snowbirds, displays, and aerial
Great show. Thanks Bill.
Letter from Ron Bramley, Editor of RAF Air Gunner’s
Great to keep hearing from you. Will be using the
Tee Emm in next Turret.......Took me right back.....had to confer with
fellow W/op to clue up my Q code!!
Still not got the Standard back from Andy Colvin, despite
personal and Branch letters. London Branch have said, ‘nothing to
do with them, write direct to Andy’. Must have it for Air Gunners Day July
7th. as it is a memorial Service for Fred Stead as well, this year. A letter
from Canada might help. Address:
131 Ambleside Drive,
Southend on Sea SS1 2UW
He is not on e mail. Does not subscribe to the Self
financing Turret, but is still Hon. Sec.,of London Branch, who now have
a web site, unconnected with our Web Site at Elvington.
Have an idea you are on a long vacation? If you
do make contact with Andy...... we are only concerned with the return of
the National Standard to members........... not the final laying up.
I seem to remember that you heard of this about a year ago, and offered
help, but then it did not appear to be necessary.
Spring Turret is late....... my fault, had a fall
and irreparably damaged left shoulder.... no more Golf (very serious)
(Ed. If you want to ‘eye-ball’ Bram (with two good shoulders,)
go to Short Bursts Page August 2003. http://www.airmuseum.ca/mag/exag0308.html
Don Macfie writes:
These 7 pictures of nose and nacelle art came to me from
a cottager close by. He took these pictures while he was an armourer on
424 and 433 Squadrons at Skipton-on-Swale. If you used them in Short Bursts
month to month, someone out there might recognize their own “kite” and
send you a story about it.
(Ed. Will do Don, thanks, here is the first one.)
Murray Kalmovich – Armourer, 424 & 433 Squadron
6 Ivan Ave. Grimsby, Ont.
If any reader has a story about this a/c, please send
it to the Editor.
Progress Report #7 -
Recovery of Halifax LW170
Some interesting happenings for the Halifax Project the
past few weeks which are like "2 steps forward - one step back".
In early May a contact in Houston passed on to me
info that his company Fugro, a deep sea exploration leader in the field,
was going to do a deep sea sonar job (in the area of Halifax LW170) for
a major oil company. I immediately contacted Fugro Aberdeen , Scotland
and in turn, the Oil company to lobby for them to include a sonar survey
of the location of LW170 after they finished their scientific work nearby.
Both companies were positive in their response to my proposal. The oil
company was willing to offer resources and Fugro agreed to use their highest
technology, the "HUGIN" underwater sonar submarine, to survey the location
of LW170. Fugro's technology is so advanced that they can do in 3 days
(with more accuracy) what would take the other companies 6 days. Fugro
are not cheap, twice the daily rate of others, but they decided that this
project was historic and have quoted us a 50% reduction in daily rates
to do the sonar survey for LW170. So the cost will be the same but with
These are the 2 steps forward. The one step back was that
as the oil company job schedule was delayed a week, and we have lost
our Halifax survey window with Fugro NOW. But they have said they will
still offer us the lowest rate they can when they are ready to go thru
or near LW170's location this summer. Therefore, with this step-forward
of teeing up Fugro's high tech talents for the immediate future ( for a
wholesale price) we have made progress. We are now promised
and are certain of the best tools available for LW170.
The funding is the only and last hurdle remaining.
I am hopeful that the American will be of help as so many
of their boys were in the RCAF, as I have told them. We have a core group
of supporters in Richmond, Virginia who are influential and powerful. These
people are determined to help us find the funding to locate and recover
the Halifax. I will be meeting with them soon in Rcihmond. Also, thru the
Canadian Embassy in Washington I have made an official request to the U.S.
Navy to access their databases and underwater technology resources to help
us find LW170 in our sonar survey area. Hopefully our American brothers
and sisters will be able to help us in our quest as their sons helped us
some 60 years ago in the RCAF in winning Victory and Freedom.
We still have not been able to find a corporate, government,
or philanthropic sponsor for the $150,000 cost of the Halifax sonar survey
( I still have some hair left - sorry Bob - after many refusals and rejections
and I will continue to find a good sponsor!). The legal costs for Halifax
57 Rescue (Canada) to become a Registered Charity have now been paid in
full with the donations from our membership fees and donations to the Halifax
Project. Funding is still required if we are keep up our efforts to promote
the Halifax Project and find a good sponsor.
I have been very busy with 2 months of training with Air
Canada and have not had the time to apply myself to other activities beyond
what I have reported today.
I apologize for the slow progress of the Project but it
is progress. In 1944, did our fathers and grandfathers know that Victory
was only a year away in 1945? The only guarantee they gave was they would
do their best and never give up. It is wise to emulate them.
Press on Regardless...
Best wishes to you all,
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
P.S. Have included a photo of NA337 from March/05. The
Official dedication ceremony of Canada's first (but not last) Halifax
will be November 5, 2005.
Only the Stars Know
Just thought I would let you know that I have a copy of
the second printing of "Only the Stars Know." I was given it by my father
"W.G. Harrison" on May 31 1945. He was a flight officer in the RCAF. His
brother, Jim Harrison, was killed in a bomber landing in England shortly
Dear Mr. Moyles,
7 May of this year, 828 "Hurricane" Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Cadets,
with the assistance of 819, 861 and 907 Squadrons, unveiled and consecrated
a new cenotaph at Boundary Bay Airport, the former RCAF Station Boundary
Lt. Col Michel Brisebois, the current Commanding Officer
of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, attended as Guest of Honour, to assist
in the unveiling. As you're likely aware, #14 (Fighter) Squadron, which
was based at Boundary
Bay in late 1943, was renumbered 442 Squadron on departing
for the European Theatre.
I was able to speak with several veterans who flew from
Boundary Bay during the war, two with #18 EFTS, and one who flew P-40's
with the Fighter Affiliation Flight at #5 OTU.
I thought that you might be interested in a few photos
of the cenotaph and event.
J.M. (Jason) White
Special Projects Officer
828 "Hurricane" Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron
If anyone can name these handsome chaps, please
information to the Editor and we will rerun the photo
5 OTU Reunion Association will be visiting Boundry Bay
and Abbotsford. A group of 5 OTU vet's from the UK, will be visiting Boundary
Bay on Sept 6, and Abbotsford on Sept 8. If you live in the area make a
point of welcoming them.
TRAQUAIR, Robert John, #0440, EDMONTON,
Bob passed away in Edmonton on July 01, 2005 at age 80.
Joined the RCAF Nov. 10/42 in Winnipeg, MB as R205150. #2 Manning
Depot at Brandon, where he was selected for Gunery Training. He graduated
as an Air Gunner from #3 B&G MacDonald, MB. Attended #12 OTU,
Edgehill and #1652 HCU at Feltwell in the United Kingdom, where he completed
a tour of operations with #90 RAF Squadron at Tuddenham, a unit in 3 Group.
BIGGS, David G. #0484, CALGARY, AB:
Dave passed away on Monday, June 27th 2005 at the age
of 87 years. He attended #3 Manning Depot at Brandon, MB where he
was selected for Wireless Air Gunner training, taking Wireless at #2 W/S
in Calgary and his Gunnery training at #4 B&G in Fingal, ON where,
upon graduation, he was presented with his WAG Brevet. Following
Operational Training at Debert, NS he arrived in the United Kingdom January
7, 1942 where he completed further training at Invergordon, Scotland from
where he was posted to Africa November 30/42. On December 11th he
arrived at Freetown, Sierra Leone and #270 Squadron in Coastal Command,
flying Catalina Flying Boats. From July 23/42 Dave and his crew were
stationed at Lagos, Nigeria from where, on September 4th, 1943, they completed
their 'tour of Ops' of over 800 hours. On Sept. 10/43, they were
assigend to an Air Communication Flight, or, as Dave described it, 'a Taxi
Service for Big Shots'. They were assigned to General Bruce and his
ADC and Mr. Granthom, the Governor General of Nigeria. In December
'43, they left to return to the UK where, in January '44 he became an Instructor
at 131 OTU at Killareas (sic) N. Ireland and in October of the same year
was posted to #12, FIS, in St. Angelo, N. Ireland in the same capacity.
On December 30th, 1944 he was assigned, 'HOME' -------
FOSTER, Robert, Member #0049, Markam, ON:
Bob passed away October 29th, 2004. He was a longtime
member of the Southern Ontario Chapter of our Air Gunner's Association.
Upon completion of High School, Bob enlisted in the RCAF in 1942 - R199287,
graduating from #9 B/G, Mont Joli, PQ with his Air Gunner Brevet.
Overseas he attended OTU at Leighton Buzzard, in Bucshire. Served
on operations with Nos. 75, 142, and 37 (RAF) in India, North Africa and
Italy. Crashed on Base, Sansevero, Italy after enemy action.
Bob was the only survivor. Invalided home, arriving VE Day Europe
in Toronto. Discharged June 8th, 1945. In civvie street, Bob
became President of Foster Motors in Agincourt, Ontario and, as a hobby
(if I am not mistaken), sang in choirs.
GALLAGHER, James, Patrick, Member #0362, Willowdale,
'Pat' enlisted as R270013 and was posted to Lachine,
PQ for Manning Depot where is was selected for Gunnery Training.
He received his Half-Wing at #9 Bombing & Gunnery School at Mont Joli,
PQ on April 7th, 1944 Overseas he served with RAF Group 231 on Nos.
159 and 356 Squadrons in Digri and Salboi, India as a Nose Gunner on B24
Liberators. He was discharged as a Warrant Officer, 2nd Class and
eventually became a member of the Burma Star and RCAF Associations.
As a Post Script, may we add, that
we are very pleased to hear from the Southern Ontario Chapter of our National
Association. There has been a disconnect with many former members
since the Association disbanded as a National Organization at our final
'Reunion' in 2000. We would be very pleased to receive communications
from individuals who are, or have been, keeping in contact through our
Internet Webpage. Since there is no way of telling who are looking
into the site and printing off copies of the very interesting 'Newsletter'
being put together by John Moyles on a continuing basis, it would be heartening
to hear from former members who are doing so.
In addition to former members, we
do know that there is much interest in the site by many folks seeking information
about the relatives who served in various capacities in the RCAF during
the war, or are otherwise just interested in wartime memories. Not
surprisingly, there were many veterans who chose not to discuss with their
familes this portion of their lives, and now those family members are older
and very much interested in knowing where and in what capacity their relatives
There is 'No Charge' for accessing
the Web Page, and the address is:
Regular Mail, or contact by phone,
can be made to JOHN MOYES (address and phone number below)
or CHARLIE YULE: email@example.com
Thanks to all who supplied material for this Newsletter.
We hope you are enjoying the Summer months. I have
been busy carving walking sticks, trying to keep up with family orders.
Doreene keeps busy looking after the both of us. I was cleaning a paintbrush
on the lawn and, losing my balance, spilled some paint thinner. The chap
who looks after the grounds wanted to know why there was a patch of dead
grass by our patio. I told him that it must be that damn Saskatchewan Gopher
with the bladder problem. He didn’t dispute the fact.
Read the Correspondence/ Search Pattern letters carefully,
you just might be able to help. Remember, there are a thousand stories
out there, lets capture them before it is too late.
Note that Bill Milne is the Secretary of the Southern
Bill’s address is: 392 St. Clements Ave.,
Bill replaces Bill Cockburn “Piper Bill”.
I spent 15 days of August in hospital recovering from
surgery. My 82 year old plumbing system needed repair. Fortunately, the
efficient medical staff signed me out for a few more Ops.
We will see you in October.
Doreene & John Moyles