Gerry Musgrove DFC WOP/AG and
Bomb Aimer, RCAF, No. 15 Squadron RAF.
Dec. 22, 1915 – Dec. 28, 2006.
Taken in part, from The Globe and
Mail, Friday February 16, 2007.
Article by Buzz Bourdon.
Gerry joined the RCAF on Jan. 30,
1941 and trained as a Wireless Air Gunner. He reached Britain in November
1941. He was posted to No. 10 Squadron, RAF,June 1942.
First he was crewed up on Stirlings
and then went to Lancaster bombers.
Gerry put in 30 Ops, and was eligible
to cease flying as he had completed his tour of operations. However the
other crewmembers still had 5 more Ops. to complete their tours, so Gerry
decided to stay with the crew.
Gerry Musgrove leans against
the tail gunner’s turret on a Lancaster bomber
Their final operation, June 8, 1944,
two days after D-Day, target, the railway yards at Massy-Palaiseau. At
this time Gerry was acting as Bomb Aimer. They were holding a steady course
at 6,000 feet in preparation for the bomb release but, within seconds of
releasing their bomb load, the Lancaster was subjected to cannon fire from
an enemy night fighter. The aircraft burst into flames necessitating bailing
out. Two air Gunners in the crew were killed.
Gerry landed safely and, with the
help of the French Resistance, was able to evade capture. Part of his story
is as follows; ‘It was in the middle of the night and the French
countryside seemed sound asleep, but Gerry knew that, after five years
of war, the German occupiers and their French collaborators, were always
watchful for Allied airmen. Eventually he smelt coffee brewing. After an
old man emerged from a building, Gerry decided to take a huge risk and
called out to him. After he was satisfied they were alone, the Frenchman
took him in and fed him.’ “He gave me part of an apple, some bread, cheese,
but best of all, a serving of Calvados brandy.”
Gerry Musgrove with restored
Two in the French Underground who
assisted him were, Marcel Steinmetz and Rene Didier. Post War, Gerry kept
in touch with those brave men who risked their lives to assist him escape
article is for the benefit of all AGs and WAGs (we will condescend to include
the Aeroplane Drivers, Navigators, Bomb Aimers, and Flight Engineers) who
are sitting around waiting for the Grim Reaper. Take a page from Glenn
Glenn Heisler, (AG with 434 Squadron),
joined the Corps of Commissionaires, Nov. 24, 1983 and took up his
duties at the Regina airport. In December 2006, after 23 years at his post,
Glenn was scheduled to move to a Commissionaire’s position in a downtown
building where his duties would be less strenuous. However, a recent call
to Glenn disclosed that he could not resist the lure of the winged machines
and the personnel who fly them. Glenn is again a Commissionaire at the
Regina Airport, proudly wearing his AG wing on his uniform. If you see
him, say hello.
When Glenn thought he was leaving
the Airport, he gladly accepted the well wishes, handshakes, and kisses
from airport personnel.
It makes one wonder if maybe, just
maybe, this was a put up job so Glen could enjoy the ladies.
Congratulations Glen, you are an
inspiration to us all. Keep our runways safe. Many more years of happy
Feed-back from February 2007
My brother Don, who belongs to the Air gunners' Association,
drew my attention to your request in Short Bursts, and asked me to dispatch
a response. He has internet connection but hasn't figured out how to use
it. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
so please reply to him as well as to me (if you have a reply).
Our father, B69138 Pte. D. Roy Macfie, served in the Veterans'
Guard from Sept. 1942 until Jan. 1945, when he was invalided out -- as
a consequence of a shrapnel wound received at Passchendaele in the Great
War!. The inactive life of a POW guard, interrupted periodically with hard
labour back home on the farm during leaves, caused the shrapnel to move
around, infect, and cause serious trouble. Any photographs Dad brought
home were of himself and his mates grinning at the camera, so would hardly
be of interest to you. Well, there is one of himself standing post with
rifle at a guard post, but none I can think of that show actual POWs. He
served only in Ontario camps, and much of that out on detachment with trusty
prisoners on work parties, so life was tame. And he brought home no examples
of POW crafts that I know of.
He did, however, write lots of letters home, and to those
of us away in the military. Most of these were kept, and are in the hands
of my aforesaid brother, Don. Unfortunately, they consist mostly of his
concern for how Mother and the remaining youngsters at home were coping
on the farm, and seldom mention his "Jerries" (when he does, he generally
speaks respectfully of them -- except one occasion where a gang of woodcutters
went on strike and he and another guard with a farm background had to hitch
up the horses and put up the day's quota of firewood themselves.) Recently,
I typed up edited copies of a thousand or so family wartime letters for
distribution among present and future generations of Macfies. Included
would be 60 or more of Dad's from the POW camps. I could provide photocopies
of pages that I thought might interest you, or I suppose Don could dig
out the originals for copying if necessary. My hard drive probably contains
the whole set, or some of the years' worth at least, but the letters are
arranged in chronological order, day by day, and not grouped by writer
(there are six regular correspondents involved, plus the odd letter from
or to six and eight-year old kids) so you can imagine the volume you would
need to wade through if I sent the works by internet.
Anyway, get back to Don and to me, confirming at
least that you received this.
Ed. We forwarded material to
Tyler who attends Tweedsmuir School in London, Ont.. Maybe one of our Members
in that area might want to contact Tyler to assist him in obtaining more
information on his Grandfather.
Dear Mr Moyles,
I apologise for the intrusion. I
am writing to you since, from browsing the various Dambusters Websites,
you may be the best person to help me. I am about to make a trip to Germany
to visit the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe dams and am interested in contacting
anyone who has been there. I am trying to find information about the (reported)
museum to the raid which is near the Eder, and also to locate anyone there
who had first or (by now) second hand information about events on the ground
during and after the raid. If you were able to suggest resources or even
put me in touch with any one who has visited the dams recently I would
be most grateful.
Electric Entertainment Ltd.,
Vancouver, V6R 3L8,
Tel: 604 738 8989
Fax: 604 738 8972
de ja vu
There was been much comment in previous
Short Bursts Pages regarding the controversial wording on the Plaque at
the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The Plaque reads as follows:
Mass bomber raids against Germany
resulted in vast destruction and heavy loss of life. The value and morality
of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested.
Bomber Commands aim was to crush civilian moral and force Germany to surrender
by destroying its cities and industrial installations. Although Bomber
Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead, and more than five
million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German
war production until late in the war.
Since 1945 critics have tried to
diminish or tarnish the achievements of the 125,000 gallant aircrew and
ground personnel who waged a relentless campaign over the skies of occupied
Europe, mainly Germany,
It takes one back 15 years when
the McKenna brothers made the controversial TV documentary, “Death by Moonlight,”
Bomber Command, which was the second in the three part CBC series: “The
Valour and the Horror.”
Short Bursts March 1992, Issue #37,
Letter to Regina Leader Post, February
8, 1992, by Cliff Shirley DFM, DFC.
TV WAR DRAMA DISTORTED TRUTH
The TV drama, Death by Moonlight
– Bomber Command, depicts Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Harris as a killer
of civilians. If he was, where do you think he got his lessons? If you
had flown over London, Croydon, or Coventry in 1941, you would have seen
that the German War Lords, with fighters and bombers, practiced the theory
of total destruction; and in 1943 came the Nazi V-1 and V-2 rockets.
Yes, I was with the RCAF at an RAF
station, and my admiration for the planning skills of the British war cabinet
and officers regarding the air war, was most positive. I have nothing but
praise for Canada’s efforts in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan – the
adequate training of air and ground crew; the accurate planning that moved
us from station to station for our courses; and the professional treatment
we received regarding food, health, and accommodation during our preparatory
career. I have great appreciation for the U.S. Air Force and its successes
in daylight bombing.
I would like to tell the authors
of the Valour and the Horror that he needs to change his thinking
about the gruesome things caused by bomb dropping, to positive thoughts
about the Allied war effort, especially the accuracy of the bombing using
precise bombsights equipped for night and day, while facing well aimed
Even after viewing the show, I’m
proud of the cause we went to war for. I’m proud of the total plans for
the Allied forces – the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
The fire bombing of Hamburg in July
1943 was one carefully planned step in the defeat of Hitler’s Germany.
I was over Hamburg that night and we had a very specific aiming point in
an industrial part of that great city. The TV show makes some gruesome
presentation of those raids.
We always thought of Harris as the
key man in sending information to heavy bomber squadrons, with orders for
aircrew to prepare “X” number of bombers, each loaded with 12,000 pounds
of armour piercing bombs and incendiaries, and a petrol load of 1,200 gallons.
The announcement of the aiming point came at the time of crew briefing
just prior to take off, with time to carefully study pictures and maps
of the route and target.
The point of bombing contact was
always photographed automatically upon the release of the last bomb. The
air and ground crews could view these photographs the morning after a raid.
Maybe there could be no greater feeling of accomplishment than to view
a photograph that showed a direct hit. I, for one, think that our targets
were carefully chosen industrial areas, and the aircrews’ intentions were,
most definitely, to help knock out part of the German war machine.
War is war, and the cost of losses
on both sides is a debt that can never be repaid or forgotten. The anxious
parents and friends also paid a price. Don’t destroy their pride in their
sons and daughters, by thinking this TV version depicts the whole truth.
Not too many raids were ill-timed
or missed their target areas. No secret policy of using civilians as aiming
points was ever heard in our war arena. We knew our losses every night
were anticipated. We knew the targets on the Ruhr – like Essen, Hamburg,
and Duesseldorf – meant death, and we saw it all around us.
The death of over 9,000 Canadian
aircrew was a sacrifice made to keep our way of life on its right course.
I refuse to believe that their actions were ever directed towards the planned
slaughter of thousands of German and Italian civilians.
It is ironic that a historian of
1991 uses the 1943 fire bombing of Hamburg and Dresden to discredit the
war plans, when neither Harris, nor many dedicated airmen are here to defend
Fifty years have not destroyed my
remembrance of German search lights, German night-fighter aircraft, balloon
cables, the accuracy and effectiveness of their exploding ammunition, their
dummy cities lighted at night, and their determination to win.
Many times, after a bombing attack,
Enemy night-fighters followed aircraft to their bases in England, and succeeded
in shooting down bombers as they made their landing approach. The enemy
was doing his cruellest best to win the war. We were well equipped and
trained to do our cruellest best to prevent him from winning.
Cliff Shirley, DFM, DFC, No.
10 Squadron (RAF)
Cliff served two tours,
the first as a Navigator/Bomb Aimer, and the second as a Bomb Aimer. (60+
operational flights over enemy territory) In the 1990s a class action
suit was filed against the CBC and the MacKenna brothers, but the
Supreme Court of Canada would not recognize the Class Action suit.
Your Editor, after retirement, had
the pleasure of knowing Cliff and Margery Shirley as kind and considerate
neighbours for twenty-two years. Cliff passed away in 2005 at the age of
Flight Cadet Chalmers, CMR
at St. Jean, Québec,
Lidstone ( now of Victoria), with whom I spent the summer of 1957 in Centralia
and 1958 in Trenton with the RCAF, wrote to tell me that S/L McLeod's poem
rang a bell with him, and when he checked his collection he found the book
of poetry in which the poem appeared, Dat H'ampire H'air Train Plan. It
was first published in 1943 and printed by Gaylord Printing Co. Ltd. of
So having the name of the book,
I went to www.abebooks.com, which I have used several times to locate and
purchase used, old, and out-of-print books. I picked up the phone and ordered
the book from Alice at Cal's Books in Saskatoon.
The little hardcover book arrived
the next day. It has 7 poems by S/L McLeod, illustrated with 33 cartoons
by F/O H. Rickard. The cartoon sent with the poem as it appears in the
February Page was not one of those by Rickard. I think it may have been
drawn by someone for a station newsletter.
The book is the story of a French-Canadian
airman named Joe, who trains in the BCATP, earns his pilot's wings, is
shipped overseas where he flies Halifax bombers, survives a belly landing
after a mid-air collision with a German night fighter, is shot down overseas,
evades capture, returns to England and is decorated by the king. It is
all told in first-person with good humour about a young man who served
his country in time of war.
S/L McLeod has inspired me
to write my own poetic response to all this. It follows below, and is called,
"Dat Poetry Book."
I know that some folks may
take exception to the accent used by S/L McLeod, but I'm sure he meant
no offence to anyone. Nor do I. We're just having fun with words.
As McLeod wrote in the book about Joe, "You will find him an earnest, brave,
hard-working airman. He trained hard, studied hard, and proved to his superiors
that he was the 'stuff' of which heroes could be made."
Following is my response to
finding S/L McLeod's book. I would welcome any information about him or
his illustrator, F/O Rickard at
Dat Poetry Book
By John J. Chalmers © 2007
One day I’m read on h’Internet ‘bout
Pierre who fly de goddam Link
And dat poem ’bout him and Trainer
make me start to t’ink
Of d’ose airman boys from good
ol’ days who serve wit’ me
When we all put on de h’air force
uniform in university.
I remember days we spend on h’air
At Centralia and Trenton an’ de
At station dances wit’ dem cute
WD’s and old cars we drive
Like my ’40 Ford, and nights on
beach when we love to be alive.
An’ I t’ink of days at h’officer
school on de pee-rade square
Where we march wit’ shiny boots
and short cut of hair
And lef’, right, lef’, right, we
march in good formation
An’ learn to make de bed just right,
according to regulation.
So when my ol’ frien’ Dick get my
e-mail, he write to me
To tell me where to find de h’air
I get on computer and to search
An’, tabernac, I find it right
d’ere wit’ very first look.
So right away I pick up phone an’
call de store in Saskatoon
And nice lady name of Alice send
book real soon,
But cost for book an’ shipping
is only t’irteen buck
Which makes me happy to have such
damn good luck.
'eading home from Centralia
in my 1941