L to R – Robert Rahn, William King, Lorne
George Martin, Lewis Riggs, Donald McLeod
Ilkey, England – A new memorial
to six Canadians airmen killed in a Second World War crash was dedicated
Tuesday, exactly 62 years after the tragedy on the bleak moorlands of Yorkshire.
A large crater still marks the spot
on the English hillside where the Halifax bomber came down. Just a few
metres away, wreckage from the aircraft have worked their way to the surface
among the heather moss.
After years of effort and painstaking
research, the memorial was unveiled to remember the crash that killed everybody
onboard – the six Canadians as well as a Scottish crew member. On
a still, misty day, about 30 people made a half hour walk up from the small
town of Ilkley for the ceremony. Surrounded by sheep and a dozen journalists,
locals and Canadians, paid tribute to the perished crew.
The dedication of the 1.2 metre
stone plinth designed by artist John Webber was organized by Paul Reilly
and his father, John, whose best friend Felix Byrne was the only Scot on
the plane. The Canadians aboard were Pilot Donald George MaLeod,
21 of Waterford, Ont.; bomb aimer Robert Henry Rahn, 22, Kitchenor, Ont.;
Navigator Lewis Riggs, 20, of Toronto, Ont.; Wireless Operator/Air Gunner,
William George King, 27 of Teepee Creek, Alta.; Air Gunner George Ed. Martin,
21, of Toronto, Ont.; Air Gunner Albert Lorne Mullen, 19, of Burnaby, BC.,
who grew up in Regina. The memorial has a brass plaque bearing their names
Town of Ilikley in centre of
Monument one half-hour walk
6Grp. Members will be familiar
with this part of England.
Note watering hole – Harrogate.
Following a public appeal, the Reillys
were able to track down relatives of all but one of them. Some have started
corresponding with the Reillys; others came for the ceremony. Paul Reilly
says he is determined to find Riggs’ relatives as well.
Douglas Mullen said that his brother
Lorne grew up in Regina and attended Scott Collegiate, Lorne died at 19.
Douglas said that the last time he saw Lorne was in B.C.., and that Lorne
had told him the average life of an air Gunner was six weeks. Lorne lived
“I feel tremendously honoured,”
Douglas said of the memorial. “Sixty two year later – it’s a tremendous
years ago Paul Reilly told me they were doing it. I had
no idea until last October they were doing it. I think that it’s generous
of the community to do so. It is fitting we remember all these young boys.”
Kenneth Rahn, 74, who lives in Grand
Bend, Ont. Wanted to pay his respects to his brother Robert when he learned
about the memorial. “It means a great closure to me,” he said. “I have
been longing for years to get over here. It was very emotional. Maybe my
brother heard me when I spoke to him.”
Now a Grandfather of 15, Kenneth
Rahn was just 12 years old when he was told to go home from school after
his parents had got word that his older brother had died.
The six Canadians are buried in
the Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate, England. Kenneth Rahn and his daughter
Nancy and her husband Alan Taylor visited the cemetery the first time on
Monday. There are 665 at Harrogate dedicated to Canadian airmen. Byrne’s
grave is close to his home town in Airdrie, Scotland, about 30 kilometres
East of Glasgow.
Padre John Hetherington from the
Royal Air Force at Linton-on-Ouse conducted the service. Captain Greg Whyte
represented the Royal Canadian Air Force at the ceremony.
“It is satisfying that a permanent
memorial is here, that signifies the loneliness of the place,” said John
Reilly, 83. “It is right on the spot where the plane crashed and in keeping
with the bleak moolands. These young men came all the way across the ocean
when it wasn’t their fight. I’m sure this will make sure they are remembered.
This is no more than we should be doing and that the Canadians deserve
for their sacrifice. They have done so much for this small country.”
The Halifax aircraft crashed on
Ilkley Moor, west of Yorkshire, around 5:30 p.m. on January31, 1944,.aircraft
and crew were attached to 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF Bomber Command
based at Dishforth, North Yorkshire.
Editor: If any of our readers have
information on the relatives of the Navigator Lewis Riggs of Toronto, please
write to me and I will pass the information on to Paul Reilly.
F/L Doug Penny DFM
At the Ex-Air Gunners of Canada
Association Convention in Calgary 1990, we elected a new President, Doug
Penny. Doug served as President until our National Association folded its
tent in Edmonton and slipped into the sunset, September 2000.
In the Short Bursts News Letter
#31, September 1990, I came across Doug’s first letter following his appointment.
It is appropriate we re-run his letter here and acknowledge his loyalty
and leadership in our Association.
A Penny for your Thoughts
As the newly elected President I
have been asked to give Short Bursts some information on my past, as dark
as it may be! First I would like to express my appreciation to Tony Biegler,
who ran with me for President. Tony is a very valuable man and much needed
in Saskatchewan. I look forward to working with him and the other gentlemen
for the next two years.
I was born in Saskatchewan, near
the Qu’Appelle Valley. December 22, 1923 and joined the RCAF at the end
of 1941 but wasn’t taken on strength until after my 18th birthday. In early
1942 I went to Brandon Manning depot and besides the square bashing did
a stint in the Brandon General with scarlet fever. The rats in the old
hospital were as big as alley cats. Sounds like a song we used to sing.
Posted to #2 Wireless School in
Calgary about mid July but washed out because my Morse Code was not up
to speed, or so they told me. I think there might have been a shortage
of Ags about then. I then went to #3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald,
Manitoba, and graduated as a straight Air Gunner early 1943.
After the usual embarkation leave,
ended up in the UK at Bournemouth, just in time to get strafed by a couple
of ME 109s while lying around the Bowling Green. I went to OTU (Operational
Training Unit) at Stratford and crewed up with a bunch of guys on Wellingtons,
posted to Moreton-on-the-Marsh and was headed for North Africa with 420
Squadron. But a funny thing happened and Italy packed it up about September
1943 and we headed for HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) at Croft and Dishforth,
then on to 420 Squadron at Tholthrope. We did a few trips, including Berlin,
but our pilot was asked to go as second dickey (on another crew) and was
lost on a Berlin trip.
It was back to Con Unit at Wolmbleton-in-the-mud
for a new pilot, who had done a tour on Stirlings with 218 Squadron, RAF,
and he was looking for a headless crew. He was a Canadian and a super pilot,
also one of the great beer drinkers in the RCAF. We were posted to 432
Squadron, Eastmoor, near York. And did our first tour there, or should
I say, finished our first tour there. We got some Berlin trips in and of
course, D-Day, and wrapped it up around October 1944.
I returned to Station Eastmoor and
did some work with 415 and 432 Squadron Gunners on night vision. I wangled
a couple of trips with W/C J.K. MacDonald, who had returned to 432
Squadron after being shot down over France but evaded capture. He came
back as CO. He later became an Air Vice Marshall and remained in
the Permanent Force. He also talked me into a second tour at 405 PFF Squadron
but when I arrived at Gransden Lodge, it was decided I had not been screened
long enough and was sent home to Canada for 60 days leave. Thank God for
VE-Day and we lounged at Paulson B&G, and I was discharged September
I left the RCAF an older and hopefully
wiser Air Gunner and finished with the rank of Flight Lieutenant,
DFM, and 37 Ops.
I finished some schooling in Regina
but the lure of oil brought me back to Alberta and Edmonton. I was
the Adjutant of 418 (AUX HQ) until 1955.
I married Ellen Jackson October
8th 1949 and the union produced two fine sons, Rick and Jay. Ellen
and myself have attended six AG reunions, four Wartime Aircrew in Winnipeg,
two Allied Air force in Toronto, and a 432 Squadron bash in York this past
June. We should be reunioned out soon.
I hope to visit each Branch in Canada
during my two year tenure a your President. Best wishes to all and thank
you for your support during the Alberta reunion in Calgary Last August.
Ed. Doug fulfilled his
promise and, not only served two but 10 years as President, and visited
Canadian Ex-AG branches, and also travelled extensively in the United States
visiting our Members abroad.
Doug got his DFM on a Hamburg
raid July 28, 1944 with 432 Squadron. They were jumped by a number of Junker
88s and Doug shot one down. He was too modest to mention these statistics
in his message.
I’m sure Doug would appreciate
a call or note from Members across our fair land. Pick up the phone.
Doug and Ellen Penny
4303 – 28thAve., S.W.
Calgary, AB. T3E 0S5
Ph. (204) 242-7048
Interesting and unusual duties
of Wireless Air Gunners
That picture of the WAG in Feb.
Short Burst got me thinking back to my days as a WAG on Hudson and B-24Js.
Most of our sorties on Hudson's were of 5-6 hours although one was 7 hours
and we ran out of gas just as we landed.
Lib sorties were of 12 hours but
did a few of 14 hours plus. I recall the gas transfer switch had 24 positions.
The fuel gauges consisted of two sight glasses located on the flight deck
along with a spirit level attached to the side of the Radar operator's
seat which had to be used to provided correction to the sight glasses.
There was also a sign to convert the sight glass indications (US GALS)
to Imperial. It was not until very late in 1944 that we finally got fuel
flow meters and by then we got Flight Engineers and crews from No. 5 OTU
Boundry Bay and most of us "OLD GUYS" were tour expired.
119 (BR) and 11 (BR) MK 111
Hudson Pilot, Nav, two WAGs.
No turret. Bendix radio and
Two .303 MG in upper nose cowling
and fired by Pilot.
In late '43, had 4 rockets under
each wing and a .50 mg mounted in ball socket
in front nose perspect and operated
by either Navigator or a Wag.
Rockets -- a red line was painted
on the pilot's wind screen and a red painted rod was welded to the nose
cowling. When the red line and red rod lined up with the surface target-
as seen by the pilot, he would start attack using his normal ring and bead
gun sight. The Navigator or one of the wags would call off the Altimeter
reading less 500 feet which represented the range to target. Rockets were
fired at 800 yards Altimeter. Practice exercises were called Random. Shot
at smoke floats.
The electrical “pig tail” connections
to each of the rockets was not to be made until the a/c had taxied to holding
position then one Wag would get out and after getting "Thumbs up” from
pilot that indicated Master switch was OFF, would connect each of the 8
ASVMK 11 Radar was used for search
and also for BABS controlled landings in bad weather. Procedure: A beacon
would be placed at the up wind end of the operative runway. A signal
would be displayed on the a/c radar screen consisting of a blip which would
be read by the Wag over the intercom to the pilot giving range, course
corrections to the runway. If pilot could not eyeball runway at Altimeter
200 feet he was supposed to break off approach and go elsewhere? Usually
EAC weather was just as lousy at any other station within range. "Range"
being the operative word.
BABS Training ground school. Simulator
with ASV mock up booth and pilot in link trainer watched over by Instructor
at crab table. My logbook shows 10 hours of ground school and then 12 hours
of in air practice. Used three times for real.
Main Radar was ASG but ASV11 was also
available for BABS. Main Com freqs were 6666 kc day and 3333 kc night.
Aldus light signaling by a WAG to Convoy Escorts-later VHF was available.
Com code with Escorts was called "Reptile" ie: Cobra 10 from SNO Escort
meant "Circle Convoy at 10 mile distant." "Hungry"- later changed to Famished?
- when sent to SNO Escort from a/c, meant"What instruction do you have
Liberator-B24J 11(BR) Two
Pilots, Navigator, four WAGS. Wags manned Radar sets, Main Radio (USA),
Nose turret with two .50s, Tail Turret with two .50s. Launched
sonar buoys and operated receiver. As we did not have Flight Engineers
until early 1945, Wags were trained to act as in flight engineer; mainly
to operate fuel transfer system which was a real plumbing nightmare.
There were many "Cobra messages.
Another was a question "int strag?" which told us to look for stragglers
from convoy. All transmissions on the 6666/3333 kc had to be copied
but only those which included our call sign were for our action.
I was trained in underwater sound
(for use with sonar buoys) at RCN Dockyard, Halifax. WAGS changed positions
every hour IF POSSIBLE. Sonar buoys were to be used with the homing torpedoes
we carried (two). Not to be use against surfaced sub or when within range
of our own shipping. We also carried 250 lb depth charges. Crew positions.
Nav. in nose compartment. One Wag in Front turret. Flight deck; two pilots;
WAG at Radar, port side behind Skipper, WAG at Radio on starboard side,
behind co-pilot.. Wag located at waist position or Tail Turret.
Sonar buoys and sonar
Receiver in waist position.
SCOTLAND MAGICAL HIGHLANDS
By Elise Gee – CanWest News
This article is included as it
mentions the British Naval Base, Scapa Flow. Many of our readers will be
familiar with Scapa Flow, a "no fly zone" during WWII.
Elise Gee on Loch Carron with
Ed. When returning from
a convoy patrol, inside the Arctic circle, to Murmansk, Russia, our compass
went U/S and we were flying on dead reckoning in heavy cloud cover. The
Pilot saw an opening and dropped down to make land fall. The Second Pilot
called the Navigator and said, “there are a lot of bloody big battleships
Here is an extract from the article:
The Navigator, realizing where
we were, shouted, "get back into cloud - NOW!" Which we did. We had dropped
into the 'no fly zone' over Scapa Flow Naval Base.
"A little sunburned we stretched
our legs briefly at Dunnet Head – the Northern most point in mainland Scotland,
before embarking on an hour long ferry ride North to the Orkney Islands,
an archipelago of over 70 islets.
Pictish and Viking ruins, ancient
megaliths and half sunken Second World War battleships poking up among
the harbour depths reveal Orkney’s multi-facited history Orkney's largest
Island, called the Mainland is surrounded by one of the most renowned natural
harbour in the world – Scapa Flow, an important Naval Base during the First
and Second World Wars. Following a sneak attack by a German U-boat at the
Eastern end of Scapa Flow, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of
four causeways in 1939.
Started in 1940, using 1,300 Italian
prisoners of war captured in North Africa, the Churchill barriers were
completed in May 1945, ironically a few days before the end of the war
(in Europe). Today the causeways continue to serve as a vital link between
the Orkney communities.
The rock core of Number
Two Barrier in place across Skerry Sound, linking Lamb Holm with Glimps
Holm. The blockship in the foreground is the Lycia which provided a source
of fish for the PoWs. Fish became stranded in the hull of the vessel during
The PoWs left another legacy behind,
the Italian Chapel on the Island of Lamb Holm. Using scraps of wood, brick
and concrete, the prisoners created a church out of two Nissen huts provided
by the British. Inside the Chapel, painted-on images of brick, stonework,
and religious figures reveal the Prisoner’s painstaking efforts to add
a touch of warmth and grandeur with the meagre provisions they had at their
The Italian Chapel stands as a visible
reminder of Lamb Holm's Camp 60.
(Picture by Craig Taylor)
The Orcandians vowed to maintain
the Chapel after the war ended. An Italian flag overlooks the Chapel and
one of the Northern Churchill barriers – important reminders of Orkney’s
war history. A few miles away, the Standing Stones of Stennes and Ring
of Brodar, imposing mega liths built between 3,000 and 2,500 BC, jut out
from a barren landscape of low lying valleys and lochs.
Canadian connection: By 1799, three
quarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company employees working in the Dominion
of Canada were Orcadian
A Story of Three Uncles
There are a great many stories that
came out of WWII, some very interesting, some unusual and a great many
that were neither. I think this one is of interest because it concerns
three young men connected to the same family who lost their lives on active
service. The interesting part you will soon see. I learned
of these young airmen while collecting names for a Veterans Memorial Wall
in Edmonton, Alberta. I was contacted by a friend of my younger son,
Major Ross Beckett with the Army stationed in Ottawa, who sent me a photo
of his late Uncle's crew so I asked him if he would like the Uncles
name on the Wall. He replied by giving me the names of two
other Uncles, one I can include and the other as you will see I cannot.
419 Moose Squadron, circa 1943.
Halifax aircraft, Mark II, Series V
Left to right: Warrant Officer John Fletcher (Killed January
1944); Flight Sergeant V.L.D. Hawkes, Pilot; Flying Officer Frank, Houison,
Bomb Aimer; Don Board, Engineer (Royal Air Force); Warrant Officer Don
McDevitt, Wireless Operator; Sergeant Art Beckett, Rear Gunner (Killed
July 1944); Sergeant Al Bowman, Gunner.
All of these men, except Art Beckett, became prisoners
of war in January 1944. Note the brand above Art Beckett. Clem Gardner,
rancher, permitted Hawkes to carry his brand.
The first Uncle was Sergeant John
Arnold Mitchell who was an Air Gunner with No.78 RAF Squadron. He
was shot down in a Halifax near Weisbaden, Germany on August 12, 1942,
age 19. He is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery at Bad Tolz, Germany.
The second Uncle WO2 Arthur Beckett was an Air Gunner with 419 RCAF Squadron
at Middleton St. George, Yorks. He had completed 18 Ops, including
3 to Berlin, and his crew had converted from the Halifax Mk II to the Lancaster
Mk X. They were on an operational sortie to Dortmund and were shot
down by a night fighter near Munchen Gladbach, Germany. He is buried
in the Rheinberg British Military Cemetery at Duisberg.
The third airman is an uncle of
Major Becketts wife, one Unteroffizier Paul Stahl, a Bordfunker(Radio/Radar
Operator) in a Bf 110 G-4 of III/NJG 5. . On the night of May 12,
1944 operations were carried out on the railway yards at Louvain, Belgium.
Uffz Paul Stahl and crew took off from Juvincourt to intercept the bomber
stream. They apparently made a head on attack on Halifax MZ642, OW-N
of 426 Squadron. They passed underneath the Halifax and pulled up
to starboard and were fired on by the mid-under gunner and the rear gunner.
The Bf 110 broke away in a vertical dive and was not seen again.
The rear gunner saw strikes on the nose of the e/a and it was claimed
as damaged. Postwar it was determined that the aircraft
had crashed at Herne, Belgium and the three crew members Uffz Karl Korner,
Pilot, Uffz Paul Stahl, Radio/Radar Operator and Uffz. Rudi Buckner,Gunner
, were killed. They are buried in the German Military Cemetery in
Lummel,.Belgium. .Major Beckett said that he had the unusual experience,
while stationed in Belgium, of visiting an Uncle in a British Military
Cemetery and driving about 50ks down the road to visit his wife's Uncle
in a German Military Cemetery.
The Picture of WAG George Irving
in the February 2006 Page prompted some feed-back.
WAG George Irving
When I saw George appear on the
computer memories came flooding back and I had the sudden compulsion to
Well! Right there on front of February
Short Bursts was George Irving from Meaford, Ont. George was youngest of
a tribe of eight. His Dad had been in the Boer War and the First World
War. He liked to give his boys names of important people. George was really
Lloyd George Irving and, being the youngest, was known to his parents as
"Our Little George." George died at the age of 56 from a brain tumour.
George had been one of the earlier
grads of wireless school when 8 words per minute seemed good enough and
I don’t thing he ever got above that. He said to me once, “knocking around
the UK for 18 months and not doing anything I forgot all the Morse code
I knew.” But he had been to the #3 Radar School at Prestwick on the old
S.E. 2 straight time base equipment, and boy, was he ever good on
that. On patrol at night over the intercom you’d hear him say, "Dalphin",
“Porpoises”, “whale”. But on an appearing and disappearing blip you’d hear
him say, “ I believe I got a periscope.”
When we got down to Oban to form
Canada’s first Sunderland Squadron, George and I became WAG’s on the first
a/c AB-A.W6000 under Skipper F/Sgt. Clyde Cook. Between myself and the
RAF WOM A/G, we soon agreed that George was better on the radar and the
turrets and the wireless was left to us.
George had a seemingly endless collection
of songs, recitations, ditties, sayings, and jokes, all of which were his
own ribald versions and he used them unsparingly, How I remember dark 3
a.m. mornings, standing on a pier, spirits at the lowest ebb, and miserable
rain coming down, George would start up with, “Mary had a little lamb,”
or, “who will play the piano, or, “starkle starkle little twink, who the
hell you are I think.” By the time we were climbing aboard the aircraft
we would all be laughing and in far better spirits.
Sunderland crew waiting to be taken to their Aircraft
in the bay.
If it was raining and a heavy sea, the crew were soaked
before they boarded the aircraft, usually for a fifteen-hour
A Sunderland Flying Boat quietly awaits her crew.
Terminology was all nautical, galley, head, hull,
bilge, bulkheads, decks, etc.
One time we were on a convoy in
atrocious weather under low ceiling with waves going right over the ships
below. George, who was in the mid-upper turret called up George Kilgour
who was in the tail turret and said, “how would you like a nice big feed
of fat pork just now?” Poor Joe had 80’ feet of tumbling fuselage to traverse
to get to ‘the head’ (the washroom) and when he got there, there was a
George and I had our pictures taken
by an official RCAF Photographer on a delightful August day in 1943 half
way on an Ops trip that started at Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland
and ended at Rejkavick, Iceland. We had an early take off and Bishop’s
crew to follow an hour later. We had a magneto drop and Bishop’s crew was
ordered onto our time slot but we arrived at Iceland before him. We probable
flew right over Bishop and his crew in the water along with the crew of
a submarine. You have most likely heard this story. Lady luck road along
with Macfie again and George’s picture appears as noted instead of going
down to a watery grave in the Atlantic Ocean.
After 57 trips and 800 hours on
Ops George and I were tour expired.. We put in for a W.O.M. AG six months
course and were posted to Number 7 Radio School, Kemingston, London. Imagine,
just like a six months leave.
We arrived around midnight and a
disgruntled Corporal bunked us in a far corner of the school with a bunch
of AC2s who were snoring away and didn’t notice two WO 1s in their midst.
Around 2 a.m. I remember the bed leaving the floor and crashing down again.
George and I slept on. In the morning when we woke up there was not another
body around, just us. We wandered about looking for breakfast and found
the whole school lay in rubble, fire, and smoke. Lines of dead were placed
on the sidewalk. I stood there not believing what I was seeing. Lady luck
had ridden along with Macfie again!
That night we were on the train
for number 1 Radio School, Cranwell. The place where all RAF B/S had been
invented and still faithfully maintained – maybe improved upon.
Our stay at Cranwell is another
story which can be read in my diary and letters home that are in the CATP
Museum in Brandon, Manitoba. When mid-term exams came around George didn’t
make it, was CT’d, and banished to instructing on Catalina aircraft at
Killadees, back on the old sod of Ireland.
But I have this to say in tribute
to George, “fortunate was the Air Force crew that had a George Irving aboard
as one of the lads.”
Bless ‘em All
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
Don Macfie extreme right. Note the ‘clown’.
There was one in every crew.
In Macfie’s article he states, “We
probable flew right over Bishop and his crew in the water along with the
crew of a submarine. You have most likely heard this story.”
Here is ‘this story’ in the words
of the pilot F/O Al Bishop:
“At about 0900 hrs. while flying
at 5000 feet my crew sighted a fully surfaced U-boat which made no sign
of diving. During that period of the ASW some of the U-boats were staying
on the surface to fight it out with attacking aircraft so we did not find
X marks approximate site of
As we circled the U-boat we soon
saw the advantage we might have was to attack down sun. We proceeded with
such an attack descending to sea level. We approached, the U-boat started
shooting at us with what appeared to be cannons with exploding shells and
machine guns. I took evasive action by undulating the aircraft. As I levelled
out at 50 feet for the final bombing, the shells began to hit the aircraft.
A submarine under attack from 50 ft. altitude.
Two of my crew forward in the Sunderland
returned fire with a .5 on a swivel and a .3 gun in the front turret. I
was successful in tracking over the submarine and dropped six DCs straddling
After the attack the crew advised
me that there was a fierce fire in the galley and bomb bay areas with flames
The starboard engines were running
at full power and there was very little aileron control. This was apparently
caused by a shell that had burst under my seat severing the exactor controls
to the starboard engines. I had slight flak in the back of my left knee
which I did not know at the time. I had to stop the starboard engines and
attempt to maintain control with the rudder. I decided to make an emergency
landing and advised the crew over the intercom. All this happened in a
few seconds. In trying to land we bounced and I had trouble controlling
the aircraft; as we hit the water again the port wing dropped a little,
the port float caught in the water, and we cartwheeled in the sea.
I recall putting my right arm up
over my face and the next thing I recall I was under water and rising to
the surface. I came up slightly behind the port wing. What was left of
the aircraft was on fire and there was fire on the water around it. I swam
through an open space.
As I was swimming I heard Sgt. Flinn
call, “Skipper can you give me a hand?” I turned and swam to him and discovered
he had no Mae West and was obviously badly hurt.
He did not struggle probably because
of his injuries (he had been on the front gun) and his extensive swimming
experience. I grabbed hold of him with my right arm. I saw one of the aircraft
floats and was able to reach it but a soon as I grabbed it, it started
to fill with water and sank.
I could not see any of the other
crew members but a short while later I saw the submarine, stern down, not
too far away. The crew were getting onto the carley floats or rafts. As
the sub sank there was a big explosion. Its crew made no attempt to come
over to us. For the next while (I was in the water about fifty minutes),
I don’t recall anything. I attempted to change Flinn to my left arm but
every little move caused him to scream in pain.
Next I recall looking around and
seeing an RN destroyer. Apparently they had been patrolling in the same
area and an alert lookout had seen the Sunderland dive down. Then after
the crash they could see the black smoke from the fire. They launched lifeboats
and picked us up. I was able to scramble up the scramble net at the side
of the destroyer. While in the water I recall seeing a Sunderland overhead.
It was from a Norwegian Squadron and I later met with the Captain.
Once aboard we were taken to the
wardroom. There we started shivering violently. Before I could bed down,
I was called to the deck to identify one of my Seargeant’s bodies and witness
his burial at sea. After that I saw a doctor briefly and climbed into a
I was awakened at about 0230 hrs
5th August as we were entering Reykjavik. We survivors were taken to the
hospital. Two of us were able to walk. The other four were badly injured
and were in hospital in England for some time. I returned to Ireland on
13 August via a Liberator and went on a month sick leave. I returned to
flying September 19 and onto ops on 2 October. I was repatriated to Canada
U-89 had sailed from a home port
on 22 July as one of “two remaining tankers” which had been sent to the
North Atlantic to refuel U-boats operating in distant areas. Due to attacks
such as that of F/O Bishop, many U-boats were recalled.
The Destroyer was HMS Castleton
which picked up fifty-eight of the U-boat’s crew and six of the Sunderland
(twelve man) crew.
U-489 was one of ten-type XIV ocean
going ‘milch-cows’ of which seven had been lost. Captained by OL Schmandt,
it sank in position 6114N 1438W30.
F/O Bishop was awarded the DFC.
Canadian Squadrons in Coastal
Command by Andrew Hendrie pages 77, 78.
This book is an in depth study
of Canadian Squadrons in Coastal Command during WWII
Vanwell Publishing Limited,
St. Catharines, Ontario.
understand that you are the editor of the Air-Gunners e-zine, "Short-Bursts".
Mr. Penny here in Calgary suggested that I ask if you could enquire whether
any of your association knew my father, Joseph Albert Tanice Gauthier.
He was a tail-gunner in 1944-45.
Mum tells me he was posted to Bournemouth with the R.C.A.F. I have attached
a picture of him and the crew in front of what appears to be a Lancaster.
I'd like to find out more about Dad and the squadron with which he flew.
Joan and Gary Gauthier firstname.lastname@example.org
Gauthier back row extreme left
Ed. If anyone has an address
for Dept. National Defence archives send it to your Editor or directly
to Joan and Gary Gauthier email@example.com More information
might be obtained from this source.
I am currently researching the
Preston Green ventral gun turret and its use with 431 Squadron. According
to the 431 Squadron Operational Record Book, the squadron experimented
with a turret that contained two .50 calibre guns as well as the typical
single .50 calibre type.
I would like to hear from anyone
that operated or serviced the Preston Green turret, information on it is
Northern Alberta Branch
Just about to start on an article,
with photos, for Short Bursts so I thought I would drop you a line.
I had lunch with the Wartime Aircrew people again last Wednesday, Svend
and George Williams were also there. It would appear that they are
ready to go together with the AGs and form one group, at least for luncheons
and outings. We also may have the Ex-POWs joining us, I think Svend
still has to talk to them. He attended their luncheon a week or so
ago and ended up being their "guest speaker" for the day"!
We may have to change our meeting day to satisfy everyone and I will let
you know if that happens.
I think I mentioned that the Westlawn
Memorial Gardens in Edmonton was planning to build a Veterans Memorial
Wall as a Year of the Veteran project. I have collected, and
submitted, a large number of names mostly from our members and through
the Legion etc.
The article on the Orkneys and
the Italian PoWs stirred this memory.
We had landed at Sullom Voe in the
Shetland Islands, just North East of the Orkneys on temporary duty and
in the evening went to a local movie theatre. We were ushered into one
side of the seating area and the other side was left vacant. I was sitting
in a centre isle seat and wondered why we had all been placed on one side.
Then there were sharp army commands and Italian prisoners of war were marched
in and seated in the vacant area. I found myself sitting three feet away
from the ‘enemy’. I caught the chap’s eye, nodded and smiled, but he snapped
his eyes front and stared straight ahead. I guess they had been told not
to fraternize. After the show we had to remain seated until the prisoners
were marched out.
Another “brush” with Italian PoWs
was at Tripoli, North Africa (now Tarabulus, Libya). We had to pass their
fenced in exercise yard on the way to the mess. They were young, healthy,
sun tanned, athletic, chaps, usually playing soccer or volleyball. As we
passed their compound they would call out, “How is the war going chaps,”
and laugh. We were not amused.
In future Issues I would like to
explore the subject “fear”. I can’t recall being afraid in the air. Many
times young people have asked me this question and I always responded with
a rather trite answer, “no, we were well trained and, if we reacted to
situations according to the training manuals, all went well.”
The following happened in 1945 -
I’m not suggesting it would happen today.
The only time I actually felt fear
was on the ground. We were downtown in Karachi India (now Pakistan). Young
boys waited for Colonials and worked as a team. They chewed beetle nut
gum, which created bright red saliva. One boy would splatter your boots
with red spittle, another would appear with a portable shoe shine
kit, point at the dirty boots and say, “shoe shine Sahb?” Whether you accepted
or not there would be another boy pushing postcards into your face saying,
“buy dirty post card mister.” And yet another waving a picture of a girl
and offering, “I take you to my sister, very pretty girl.” As all this
was going on they would be picking your pockets. At the time a full-blown
Arab uprising was taking place in Palestine and we were considered persona
The main streets were well policed
and such encounters seldom happened unless one entered bazaars down side
streets. On one occasion my second pilot, Bill Thompson, and I, shopping
for souvenirs, made the mistake of going into one of these allies. Immediately
we were hit by the young entrepreneurs. In the selling frenzy Bill heard
a click and, realizing his pen had been removed, lashed out with his fist
knocking a boy to the ground. He bent over and retrieved his pen from the
Immediately we were surrounded by
men moving in on us, trampling over the prone boy and pushing up against
us. Two thoughts flashed through my mind, there was not a white face in
the crowd and, they carried knives under their long white robes. Bill muttered,
“walk.” We stood tall, eyes front, and marched smartly towards the
street as if we were on the parade square. The crowd pressed around us
until we reached the street and then fell back into the alley.
There was no manual for that situation.
Did I experience fear? Yes, the fear was real.
I would like to get some feed back.
Take a moment to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for the April
Short Bursts Page, many of our young readers would be interested.
Our Web Master, Bill Hillman, is
a volunteer, so let's keep the Page running. Without articles from Members
we find it difficult to continue. As the saying goes, “If we don’t use
it, we lose it.”
Keep well. We will see you in April.
John & Doreene Moyles