I graduated from #2 Wireless School November
6, 1941, and four days later, one of our Tiger Moths crashed with the loss
of Pilot and Student.
Karl Madder Gravell was born in Norrkoping, Sweden, September
27, 1923. He joined the RCAF on March 15, 1941, at his home in Vancouver,
BC. After Manning Depot he was posted to #2 Wireless School, Entry 21,
On November 10, 1941, during a training exercise, the
Tiger Moth, occupied by Pilot, F/O Robinson, and Karl Gravell, student,
age18, crashed into the yard of Bighill Springs country school in Simonds
Valley, Alberta, and immediately burst into flames. LAC Gravell managed
to extricate himself from the wreckage.
In spite of the intense shock from the loss of one eye,
and severe burns, LAC Gravell’s first thought was for the welfare of his
pilot. Ignoring the fact that his own clothes were ablaze, he went back
to the flaming wreckage and tried to pull his pilot clear.
Mrs. Walsh, the local teacher, at great danger to herself,
ran up and dragged him away. Mrs. Walsh rolled him on the ground to extinguish
the flames, which had by this time enveloped him totally. Despite her efforts
LAC Gravell succumbed to his injuries. Flying Officer Robinson was
a veteran pilot having been a member of the Royal Flying Corps. In WW I.
Mrs. Walsh was awarded the George Medal for her unselfish
act in attempting, with the aid of her students, to save the life of an
airman. Mrs. Walsh was the first woman in Canada to receive the George
Karl Madder Gravell, Wireless Air Gunner Trainee,
for his attempt to save his pilot, was awarded the
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
Progress Report No.15 ~ November 7, 2006
Registered Charity 84586
RCAF HALIFAX LW170 before she sank off the Irish
are the Hali-Facts:
During the time of the annual celebration at the Nanton
Museum on August 26 Directors Karl Kjarsgaard and Jim Blondeau were able
to make renewed acquaintance with all our supporters of the Halifax Project
who are also supporters of the Nanton Museum and their great Bomber Command
We were especially pleased to meet with Minister David
Coutts of the Alberta Cabinet who attended and was a guest speaker at this
function. The Minister continues to be a most stalwart supporter of all
our endeavours including the Halifax Project.
Jim Blondeau and Minister Coutts talked about the importance
of passing on our great RCAF heritage and sacrifice to all Canadians and
the world, especially the young people of our nation. David Coutts graciously
consented to a video interview at the Museum with Jim and he was able to
record Minister Coutt’s comments about the saving our air force history
and other important issues. These videos will be used in future developments
for the Halifax Project and promoting the Nanton Museum’s aims as we proceed
into the future on our joint projects.
Once again Father Harry Schmuck, mid-upper Halifax gunner,
joined us from Ontario on his third pilgrimage to Nanton. His presence
and eloquent addition of Grace before the luncheon was greatly appreciated.
The fact that he represents both the RCAF veterans and the Almighty in
one package is a wonderful addition to all of those gatherings he attends
Jim Blondeau, Director, multi-media expert, and creator
of the great musical ballad “The Wall at Nanton” performed
his musical tribute twice for the audiences attending on August 26. There
were many misty eyes after the luncheon as he performed the song for all
the audience. Not only this but Jim’s tribute song about our RCAF Americans,
personified by the song about Tom Withers Jr., called “American Eagle and
the Proud Maple Leaf , was also played, with Jim’s great musical video
on the big screen enhancing this Canada-USA tribute of the RCAF. Well done,
Jim, for all your efforts on our behalf
We have been able to keep the momentum going for the Halifax
Project with political support of our MP’s, Senators, MLA’s, and high level
officials. Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) directors has been able to open several
lines of communication with all these officials and this will help us as
we proceed in our efforts for the fund raising to start the Halifax Project
in the summer of 2007.
Dag Ammerud of Norway, our brilliant salvage master who
raised Halifax NA337 in 1995, has just contacted us with some very good
news. Dag has acquired a large sonar vessel to do deep water sonar searches
( operational to 3000 Meters! ) for several jobs he has planned. He has
offered to meet with us in London in December to plan for a search of Halifax
LW170 next summer. This could be very good news for our future plans as
Dag, along with his vessel and team, could be an efficient company to work
with to find LW170. These are very positive developments that Halifax 57
Rescue (Canada) had not planned on last year and it is a wonderful opportunity
to complete Phase 1 of the Halifax Project. On the next Progress report
we will have more information on this new technology offer by Dag Ammerud.
I would especially like to thank all the Royal Canadian
Legion branches and their executive for supporting us by the wise selection
of our great Halifax print “INVINCIBLE ITEM”. Well over 30 branches of
The Legion have heeded our call for support by purchasing our Halifax print.
We hope to hear from many more Legions from across the country who want
a quality print of our famous bomber, RCAF Halifax LW170.
Director Chris Charland attended the annual Canadian Aeronautical
Preservation Association (CAPA) conference in Greenwood, Nova Scotia in
October. Chris has highly recommended that we should join this progressive
organization for all the valuable contacts and restoration information
available through CAPA. We will be reporting back to you on these developing
contacts for Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
Please note that the digital encyclopedia of the Handley
Page Halifax, "HALIFAX B. Mk.III EXPLORED," produced by our friends Flyingzone
Publications has just been released. This CD-ROM has got to be THE definitive
source on the Halifax with over 2000 pages and diagrams on our good old
Hallie. For those of you who wish to see more go to the Flyingzone
Publications website at www.flyingzonedirect.com for more details on "Halifax
B. Mk. III Explored."
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) will be selling these Halifax
CD-ROMs for Flyingzone Publications in North America in the very near future
(by Nov.15) so for you Canadian and U.S. customers standby for a sales
sheet with prices and order addresses on our website on this new digital
source of Halifax information. This CD is highly recommended.
We cannot think of a more unique and better Christmas
gift for Halifax veterans and fans than either (or both ! ) a print of
"INVINCIBLE ITEM" and a copy of the CD "HALIFAX EXPLORED." This would be
the ultimate “Hallibag” bundle for Christmas.
There are several very positive developments for both
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) and our partners, the Nanton Lancaster Society,
as we move forward in the coming months of 2006 and 2007. Please check
our official website at www.57rescuecanada.com for all the latest events
and happenings during these exciting and formative times.
Warmest regards to all our members and supporters from
the Directors of Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
Phone - Eastern Canada 613 835 1748
Western Canada 403 603 8592
– ‘AN ENDURING CONTROVERSY’
Oct. 27, 2006
301-204 Watson St
Mr. Joe Geurts
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place Private
Dear Mr. Geurts:
RE: New Canadian War Museum – Ottawa
PLAQUE – ‘AN ENDURING CONTROVERSY’
On Aug 9, 2006, I wrote a letter to The Honourable Beverley
J. Oda, to express my displeasure, concerning the wording of the above
noted PLAQUE. It does NOT convey the true or complete picture, to
On Aug. 31, 2006, Minister Oda, answered my letter, suggesting
I contact you and supplied your address and telephone number. I have
tried to contact you by phone on two occasions, without success.
I am forwarding a copy of my letter to the Minister and
also additional information concerning Allied aircraft Strategic Bombing
of Germany. It is my opinion, with the information I have provided,
and the professional thinking of David Bashow, Professor of History – Royal
Canadian Military College, Kingston, Ont., the Plaque can be reworded,
to portray the truth of history, so all military personnel will have respect.
I feel that a man with your integrity and position will
remedy this emotional situation.
Thank you for your attention and cooperation.
Howard J. Elliott
Ex-Air Gunner - R.C.A.F.
TIMES OF A NEWSLETTER
"the glue that bound us together"
In response to Charley Yule’s ad in a newspaper inviting
ex-air gunners to form an organization for fellowship and remembrance,
a group of eight, plus Charley, in March 1983, formed Ex-Air Gunners
Association of Canada Inc. From this modest beginning the membership increased
until by September 2000 the last recorded membership number was #1269.
Charley took on the task of Secretary Treasurer, keeper
of purse and records, as well as editor of the, then unnamed, quarterly
newsletter. I asked Charley to give us some background on the Newsletter.
Here is his reply.
"The name 'SHORT BURSTS' was
suggested by one of our early members -- in fact I think we ran a sort
of a contest and awarded him a Life Membership. I have searched my
records and cannot, now, come up with his name. But I do seem to
recollect that he is now deceased!!
At the time of helping to give life
to a Canadian Air Gunner's Association, I had absolutely no knowledge that
an Air Gunner's Association existed in Great Britain. After this
discovery I decided to join that group and learned the name of their Newsletter
was 'The Turret'.
With all of this newfound knowledge
in place we were on our way - with only slight objection from those who
thought we were interlopers and 'much too late' in entering into the game!
I had not given my service in the RCAF much attention until after I retired
from my workplace and, with some free time on my hands, decided to try
and contact as many of those with whom I had shared my early days (1943)
- Manning Depot - WetP School at McGill - Tarmac Duty at St. Hubert - and
B&G School #10 (Mount Pleasant, PEI).
This venture took on a Life of It's
Own, and we began receiving inquiries of membership and steadily grew to
number 1267 at the time of disbanding in the year 2000, eventually becoming
known as, 'The Ex Air Gunner's Association of Canada'. It was decided
that we should become Incorporated and in choosing a name we had to adopt
the criteria of that Government Agency - and so the "EX" was added in order
to comply. We had originally intended to admit only those who were
entitled to wear the 'AG' Brevet (as did the Association in Great Britain)
but, eventually and after much persuasion and soul searching, agreed to
admit that the 'WAGs' of the RCAF were probably our equal.
I met Jim Patterson, living in Vancouver,
at one of our early Association Reunions in Winnipeg. I don't believe
it was our first one - in 1983 or '84 - but I do recall that he approached
me, knowing that I had been searching for someone to take that task off
my hands. He was a person just 'full of life' and very eager to help.
It seems he was a frustrated writer, and very much wanted to have a 'go'
at it - and I was more that willing to relinquish that task. I thought
he was great at it and was more than happy to 'assist' him!! Unfortunately
after a couple of years Jim decided to move to Britain.
We corresponded for years and he
agreed to serve as Associate Editor for every issue of the Newsletter,
under the banner "Patterson's Patter"- which I thought was most fitting!
His health began to deteriorate and finally he just seemed to 'fade away'
and we lost contact. I know he had a computer and most likely was
on the Internet. If he was I am sure he followed each issue until he was
no longer able. It is one of my many regrets - that I wasn't able
(for whatever reason) to maintain that contact. In his retirement
he had availed himself of a 'metal detector' and spend many happy hours
tramping around interesting areas where he thought some treasure could
be found. He sent me one of his finds! A Roman Copper Coin
(antinomians) of the Class 'Claudius Gothicus' from the period 268-270ad.
It is probably one of my most prized possessions!
He was a great guy and a true Military
In the beginning there was little feed back so the first
three-page newsletter contained, in the main, members service records.
By June 1983 it had expanded to six pages with the membership rising to
21. By June 1984 it was 8 pages with membership of 193. Fast forward to
September 1989, the newsletter, now entitled SHORT BURSTS, was 24 pages
with a membership of 939 and growing fast. Thanks to Charley’s cajoling,
there were many articles from members. There was great discussion regarding
wakey-wakey pills on ops., as well as side arms, Benzedrine in escape kits,
electric flying suits, turrets and machine guns. Headings such
as “Return fire”, and “Search Pattern”, began to appear.
The 5th. Ex-Air Gunners reunion was held in Regina August
23 to 26, 1989. On August 21st. disaster struck. Saskatchewan Branch President,
George Tudruk and executive members Steve Young and Grant Wilson were transporting
an F/N turret from the Brandon Air Museum to Regina for display when they
were involved in an accident and all were killed.
Members Tony Biegler and Cy Huggett stepped in to manage
the reunion. This task was made more difficult because, as a result of
the deaths of the signing authorities, the bank account was frozen. But
Tony and Cy soldiered on to keep the reunion unfolding according to plan.
One incident comes to mind. Cy asked me to accompany him
to pick up the bar liquor supplies. When we arrived at the liquor store,
the staff said they knew nothing of an order. Panic – a reunion without
liquor! After many phone calls Cy realized we were at the wrong outlet.
A fast drive across the city and we located the liquor store that had ordered
the booze. On our return to the Reunion site we had no trouble getting
volunteers to help unload our cargo.
The late Cy Huggett
At the Annual General Meeting , Charley Yule submitted
his resignation, but with the suggestion that the added responsibility
of the Newsletter Editor be filled by another person, he agreed to let
his name stand for Secretary-Treasurer. There were no other nominations.
Being advised previously of Charley’s intension not to
continue I, who prided myself of never volunteering, offered to help in
any way I could.
Newsletter Editor – John Moyles was nominated by Tony
Biegler. There were no other nominations. Acclamation. Duties to
commence with September 1989 issue #27 of Short Bursts.
Usually when the Last Post sounds, the mind scans the
skies of yesterday in search of those lost, but as the 200 members stood
with bowed head and moist eye at the Cenotaph, George, Steve, and Grant,
were with us.
Immediately following the Reunion, Charley went West and
Doreene and I travelled to Northern Alberta. I took the membership list
and called members en rout. My first call was to Mervin Lewis, Grand Prairie,
AB. The call was made with some hesitation but the reception was as if
we had known each other in the past. Merv informed me that he had most
likely put the first entries in my flying log book at Curry Field, Calgary
September 1941. Merv was a clerk prior to transferring to aircrew. Merv’s
assistance didn’t help as I added up my months flying time at #2 B&G
Mossbank, by putting 100 minutes to the hour.
Each person I called I asked about Short Bursts.
The replies were positive. “look forward to it”; “read it from cover to
cover”. As Jim Patterson said, “it is the glue that binds us together”.
When we arrived home September 26, the pile of copy was waiting for us.
In the beginning the publication rolled off a typewriter,
hunt-an’-peck method. I called it my Huntandpeckerclatter. Our daughter,
Elizabeth, helped with the typing until the Association purchased a computer
for my use. I edited, and Doreene proof read and censored the 28 page quarterly
newsletter. Charley Yule supplied Last Post entries and address labels.
Doreene and I stuffed envelopes, applied labels, stamped envelopes, and
hauled the mail bags down to our local post office. At peak mailings the
number was around 750 envelopes. A lot of stuffing, sticking and stamping.
Living room became mailroom for a few days. It made us realize what Charlie
had to do, along with his many related tasks.
One month Charley put the address label sheets into his
printer label side down. A nice job of printing but not on the peel off
address labels. We saved the blank labels as they made great markers to
stick onto leftovers and home preserves. Just today, November 11, 2006,
I saw Doreen labelling some freezer bound soup with one of the labels.
View from our living room window at Kenosee Lake.
Yes the white tailed deer were alive and hungry.
We were living in the Village of Kenosee Lake, SK., (POP
140) a two hour drive to the closest major centre. At times one felt isolated
and remote from the Association. One day the phone rang and a gentleman
from Toronto asked if this was the Publishing Company that handled the
Newsletter Short Bursts. Publishing Company! That made my day.
At the 5th Reunion the Association bank balance was $12,310.58.
Cost of publishing, including printing, supplies, and postage, was approximately
Our little Kenosee Lake convenience store/ post office
was glad of the business which ran around $3,400.00 per year.
On one mailing we combined the newsletter with an updated Membership List.
This increased postage but, by cutting Short Bursts down to 22 pages that
month, we saved $400.00 in postage.
It was a continual struggle to get members to contribute.
Mind Boggling Question
owned this wiener?
First four correct answers get a free raffle draw courtesy
of your Editor.
Toss in a service anecdote for Short Bursts for the same
No replies received.
(Answer – comic strip character, Jane. Daily Mail.)
Jane managed to modestly shed her clothes in every strip.
contest was a prize to the member who had the most postings during WW II.
Winner was Malta survivor,
Eric Cameron with 33.
The prize – a carving I whittled out of a birch log.
A little "Son-of-a-Birch Air Gunner."
Eric became a regular and valued contributor to our newsletter.
In a small village rumours fly like wild fire. One December
I dragged five stuffed mailbags into the store just when the locals were
having their morning coffee. One chap said, “what have you got there John?”
I replied in a matter-of-fact manner, “Oh, Doreene and I like to get our
Christmas Cards out early.” Dead silence – change of subject. That afternoon
at the senior’s centre rumour mill, the conversation was, “did you hear
that the Moyles send out five mail bags of Christmas cards?”
We were fortunate to have a very conscientious printer
in Regina, Karmen Bernt of Future Print. In edition # 39, page 13,
there is a picture of a Tiger Moth and flags at the Brandon airport printed
a little off kilter. I didn’t notice it until we got the publications home
Friday evening (this was before scanners, and pictures were scotch taped
into the copy. It was most likely my fault.). Karmen offered to drive to
Kenosee, pick up the publications, call in staff on a Sunday, correct the
page, and have the 650 newsletters back by Monday. We declined his generous
offer and mailed them out as printed. There was not one comment from members.
However in Issue #52 I erred by making it #51. That generated eight complaints.
One Member wrote, “it makes it difficult to file.”
There were other bloopers such as the word, “lives” where
I typed “livers”. The line read, ‘They had long livers’. No one wrote
in on that one.
1993, was the tenth anniversary of the Association and we began thinking
of how the stories that were appearing in Short Bursts could be preserved
for future generations. The idea for the book,
COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE 1983-1993 – SELECTIONS FROM SHORT
BURSTS, was born.
It took us six months to edit the 190 page book which
rolled off the presses in May 1994.
As I was personally on the hook for the printing costs,
we crossed our fingers and mailed out order forms to the membership. The
members came through with flying colours, Within a month we hit the break
even point. Some members ordered two and three copies to be given to family
or placed in local libraries. The book can be obtained through Canadian
public libraries under ISBN 0-920436-48-X.
Member Ray Stoy of Bradenton Florida, designed the cover,
As a matter of interest, Ray was an illustrator after the war and designed
the Coca Cola logo we see today.
Ray Stoy at 2000 Reunion
At the Reunion AGM in Edmonton, September, 8, 2000,
a call was made for nominations for executive positions, National President,
Secretary Treasurer, and Editor of the newsletter. Weldy Moffatt of Regina
offered to let his name stand as Editor. The other positions were not filled.
A motion to disband the National Association was proposed and passed.
The last quarterly Short Bursts Newsletter Issue
#71, covering the National Reunion was mailed out in September 2000.
The following is from The Editor’s Dining Room Table.
"It is with regret, melded with
relief, that Doreene and I lay down the quill. The past eleven years spent
publishing Short Bursts renewed old friendships and created new ones. It
is said that life is a process of making memories, and our work and play
with the members of the Ex-Air Gunners Association has certainly been memorable.
Thanks to the many who contributed to the Newsletter. Keep in touch."
Cheers, John and Doreene.
We thought Short Bursts was dead, but it was only resting.
The CATP Museum in Brandon , MB., breathed new life into the publication
by offering to host a Short Bursts web page, and the services of their
web master, Bill Hillman. Our first monthly web page newsletter hit the
World Wide Web on March 1, 2001. Our publication was going around the world
at no cost to the Ex-AG Branches now operating autonomously. As many members
were not computer literate, each Branch has someone print out the page
and take it to their monthly luncheons.
Correspondence to the Editor came from people searching
for information regarding relatives who served. The Baby Boomer generation,
computer literate, and with more time on their hands, began delving into
There was the chap from New Zealand whose father had been
a tail gunner and he was trying to locate the Canadian mid-upper gunner
in his father’s crew. Short Bursts was able to bring them together. Then
there was the English lady of 60 years who was looking for information
regarding her birth father. Her mother, who had passed away, did not give
her much information regarding her father, except that he was tall, blond,
and an RCAF Pilot. We managed to trace him to a Squadron, get photos and
information from the Squadron web page, which led to a major Canadian city.
Unfortunately he had passed away. The comparison of the daughter’s picture
and the Squadron picture, left no doubt.
After we went on the internet, Charley Yule presented
a complete set of the printed Newsletter to the CATP Museum in Brandon.
L to R Charley Yule, the late Earl Hiscox, Bill
Hillman, John Moyles
On our Short Bursts web page www.hillmanweb.com/rcaf/mag
there is a link to all copies from March 2001 to December 2006.
The Short Bursts publication was created to reunite
AGs and WAGs for fellowship and remembrance and to honour Andrew Mynarski
VC. Over the last 23 years it has met its mandate.
Gradually the newsletter has become a vehicle for the
younger generation, and researchers, searching for wartime information.
Two reasons for this change is the internet, and the fact our Ex-Air Gunner
ranks are thinning, age is taking its toll.
Letters were sent out to a number of contributing members
across the country requesting direction on the future of our newsletter.
Some thought the newsletter had served its purpose and should be put to
bed, but it would be missed. The general consensus was, if it was serving
a purpose helping provide information, and be the duct tape to keep us
in touch, it should continue.
A heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to Bill Hillman for his
financial support and encouragement.
By publishing a shorter, modified, Short Bursts Page,
we will attempt to assist those searching for WW II information. If you
can assist in any way, direct your information to the party involved or
to your Editor. We will also print any stories, anecdotes, memories, Branch
information, and Obituaries, so take time to send in your material. There
is also the option of running articles from our 23 years of publishing.
Doreene and I wish you good health, and may you be surrounded
by family and friends this joyous season. In the words of Tiny Tim,
"God Bless us, everyone."