On Monday, April 16, 2001 the S'toon Ex. Air Gunners
& W.A.G.s met with 19 in attendance. The Lynx Wing RCAF Ass'n
catered the lunch. We again welcomed Joe Gagne, ex Bomb Aimer with
428 Sqdn, and accepted him as a member of the group.
We reviewed how, now that we are on the Internet, it's
up to the Air Gunners and W.A.G. groups to participate to ensure the success
of the program which is the successor to SHORT BURSTS. Jack Scarfe
suggested that we have someone from DVA speak to our group to bring us
up to date about DVA programs & activities. Hopefully this will
take place at the May meeting which will be held on the 4th Monday at noon
at the Lynx Wing on Ave C North.
149 Sqdn RAF Bomber Command at Mildenhall in mid 1941
occasionally had to contend with German nite-intruders; they would frequent
the area and zoom in and shoot down returning bombers. Robson reported
he will be attending the RAF Mildenhall reunion on May 18-20, 2001 which
is held at RAF Mildenhall, U.K.
~ C. A. "Smokey" Robson
Southern Ontario Chapter
Our Ontario 'Chapter' (why do we call it a Chapter?)
of the Air Gunners Association has about 60 members and our meetings
usually have about 20 regular members present.
Sickness, transportation, etc. may account for some
members not being present. . . hey! . . . we are all getting older!
(but we are rich in spirit, notably in that most members still want copies
of the minutes!)
We discuss various items, especially our FN turret
which will be on display at the Downsview Air Show on May 5-6-7.
The turret may also be viewed at the Collingwood Air
Show during the summer.
Those involved in the turret display (apart from many
volunteers!) are Bill Cole (428 Sqdn) Fred Vincent (189 Sqdrn) and
Jack Willis (100-405 Sqdrns)
Then ...courtesy of the Bluffers Park Yacht Club we
partake in an annual sail. (This year on June 15th . . . no hamburgers
this year - steak!)
Lake Ontario can get pretty rough . . . no Mae Wests
. . . but life jackets!
Ross Ellis (159 Sqdrn) is i/c entertainment. He is
dedicated. Last year it was theatre to see The Ink Spots (they are
Next is Camelot at the North York Library Theatre.
. . Chinese food prior to the show!
And . . . here, a message from our President, Ken Hill
From all our members in the Southern Ontario
Chapter . . . we wish to thank all the people responsible for their efforts
in the making it possible for us to receive the Short Bursts. It
has been a publication we have all enjoyed and look forward to receiving.
It has really been the thread that has kept us together.
Keep up the good work fellas!
Our sincere thanks,
Ken Hill - President
Bill Cockburn (15 Sqdrn)
You asked me what I thought of the article on the Halifax
IV. I have very mixed feelings as to the validity of this aircraft
such as: Why did it take so many years for the existence of this aircraft
to come to light? Ultra was taken off the secret list a good many
years ago. Surely it was more sensitive than an high performance a/c, that
was spectacular at the time, but far outclassed by modern jets for many
Mr. Harry Thomas says he joined the RAF in 1940 and
trained as a Flight Engineer in Canada To the best of my knowledge
they didn't start training F/E's in Canada until late in the war.
Our F/E's were all remusters from ground crew, mostly Aero Engine Mechanics/Fitters.
Hampdens & Wellingtons did not carry F/Es. Maybe he trained in
Canada as another aircrew trade and was remustered. Our crew trained
on Wellingtons at 22 OTU, Wellesbourne in the spring of 1943 We were
then transferred to HCU at Topcliff where we picked up our Flight Engineer
and Mid Upper Gunner. We completed our tour of ops (not missions) flying
Halifax Vs & IIIs on 427 Sqdn. Leeming, Yorks. and Halifax IIIs at
Would not a brevet inscribed "FES" be questioned by
anyone knowledgeable in aircrew trades? Secrecy?
On the other side of the coin, I have flown in Halifax
MKs 1, II, V & IIIs and have always wondered why I had never heard
of the Mark IV? This leaves room for speculation. Our W/Op was RAF. He
was quite a character. Our Canadian W/Ops wore the WAG brevet.
The RAF W/Ops just wore the AG with the sparks on their right sleeve when
they were NCOs. When commissioned they dropped the sparks and just
wore the AG brevet. As all their time was occupied manning their radio
sets, the RAF designated another trade for them, namely Signals and a distinctive
S brevet. The first time he went on leave wearing his new S brevet,
a sweet little old lady asked him what the S stood for? His reply
was that he was a "Stoker on a Steam Bomber." She just smiled and
said, Oh! This is God's truth. Our crew thought
it was hilarious. I'm afraid poor old Jim Smith our former W/Op cannot
confirm this for you. He is still alive and living in his home town
of London but is suffering from dementia. He had a very successful
career in business after the war. Our F/E Clem Corbiell is in his
eighties and still farming in Gleichen, AB. I am sure he would recall
this bit of wit from Smitty. We are the last three surviving members
of our crew.
Thanks again for the Short Bursts. I will make
copies of them and send them to Clem. He will be interested in the
~ All the best and to all fellow Ex
Air Gunners, Phil
Letter from Ken Law
Congratulations to all who had a hand in putting together
the great "Short Bursts" web page - good show.
It may come under the heading of knit-picking but -
to whom it may concern - something has been bothering me for lo-these many
years, and if I don't mention it now - when? As one who labored in the
turrets of Stirling a/c I cringe everytime I see the name with an "E" in
it. The mighty Stirling was never mounted on a pedestal at sites around
the globe or dredged from a lake in Scandinavia and carried half way around
the world to be lovingly restored and put on display. But let us remember
it was the first of the British four engine heavies and deserves to have
its name spelled correctly. Its STIRLING with two "I"s.
Ken Law #0422 218 Squadron.
Ed: My error Ken. This is the second time an ex-Stirling
AG has taken me to task. When Doreene and I published the Short Bursts
COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE, a collection of ten years Short Bursts articles
in 1994, an Ex-Stirling member pointed out that in the 190 page book there
was no mention of his favorite a/c, the Stirling. The reason being that
no members wrote in telling about their experiences on this aircraft. It
is not too late to hear from you Stirling AGs. What can I say Ken, "the
Stirling was truly a sterling machine."
Time for a plug: There are still copies of the COMMEMORATIVE
ISSUE if anybody is interested. They can be obtained from your Editor or
the CATP Air Museum in Brandon.
Short Stirling ready for delivery late in 1940
RECALLING FALLEN COMRADES
By Maurice Shnider
Bournemouth is a beautiful resort city on the South
coast of England. With its favorable climate and dozens of hotels it was
the ideal location for #3 Personnel Reception Center of the RCAF during
the Second World War. The beaches and cliffs overlook the English Channel
and, even on bright days, the horizon is usually obscured by a haze. On
occasion a fearful sight emerged from that haze; the so-called tip-and-run
raiders of the Lufftwaffe.
At times these were ME10-9 fighter bombers, but the
favorite attacker was the Focke-Wulf 190. They operated out of a number
of airfields in the vicinity of Cherbourg and Caen. The pay-load was a
500 kilogram bomb carried under the fuselage. Their objective was to hit
the railway, stations or gas depots, but other inviting targets were the
hotels of the Bournemouth and Torquay where the German Command knew the
Canadian Airmen were billeted.
For the most part they were young, recently graduated
officers and NCOs awaiting posting to operational Training Units or active
Squadrons. The time usually chosen for an attack was lunch time or tea
time when most everyone was eating or relaxing.
On May 23, 1943, the peacefulness of a beautiful Sunday
morning was abruptly shattered when 22 German aircraft, led by Leutnant
Leopold Wenger, conducted their most audacious raid on Bournemouth. The
Kingsway Hotel, the Congressional Church and Beales Department Store sustained
significant bomb damage, but at the Landsdowne Circle the Metropole Hotel
was virtually destroyed when it took a direct hit.
Casualties were high. Among the 128 killed that day
were 51 service men. Members of the RCAF are recorded in Les Allison’s
Grow Not Old and they include two Manitobans, Sgt. David Rainnie
Chalmers, age 38, from Rosewood, and 21 year old Flight Sgt. Air Gunner
William Geoffrey Abbott from Winnipeg.
My wife, Renee, and I visited Bournemouth this past
May (2000) and I had the opportunity to read the Anniversary copy
of the Bournemouth Echo. It contained a picture of Rhonda Taylor, the wife
of Renee’s nephew Leon. At the time of the raid, Rhonda was a pretty seven-year-old
girl who narrowly missed death when she and her sister answered their mother’s
call to lunch as they were playing in the garden behind her uncle’s tobacco
shop on the Landsdowne
Leon agreed to drive me to the Bournemouth Echo building
where I could start my research on the Canadian casualties. I identified
myself to a attractive young receptionist, but if I expected any
assistance in what might prove to be a special human interest story, then
I was sadly disappointed. Rather than direct me to the reporter who had
written the Anniversary article, she suggested that I might find the desired
information at the Bournemouth Library. I silently wondered whether she
had heard of the Second World War and if she had, did she know that the
streets of Bournemouth were once alive with young Canadian aircrew proudly
sporting their recently acquired wings that identified them as Pilots,
Observers, Navigators, Bomb aimers or Wireless Air Gunners, Air Gunners,
and Flight Engineers? Did she know that thousands of them made the
supreme sacrifice in the defense of her country and that many were buried
right here in Bournemouth?
Leon then drove me to Charminister Cemetery where an
obliging member of the Legion directed us to the military section known
as the North Cemetery. The grounds were immaculately maintained and there
were spring flowers at each grave site.
Spitfire Mk.V (fore) and Spitfire Mk IIA
I recorded the names of all the 21 Canadians,
three of whom were fighter pilots killed in training accidents, and three
in an earlier tip-and-run raid when an ME 109 fighter bomber hit the Anglo-Swiss
hotel on June 6, 1942.
Among those killed were 21-year-old Pilot Officer Russell
Norman Bailey, a Wireless Operator Air Gunner from Winnipeg, and Pilot
Officer Jacob Alexander Epp, a 25-year-old Wireless Operator Air Gunner
As a matter of interest, that Messerchmidt was pursued
towards France by two RAF Spitfires and shot down over the Channel. I discovered
that Christopher Gloss, an aviation writer and historian who lives outside
of London, is completing a book on the tip-and-run raids over Southern
Shortly after my return to Canada, I left a phone message
on his line and I was pleasantly surprised when he called back within the
hour. I had a delightful chat with him and I can't wait to obtain his book.
In the process of researching his book, Mr. Goss had
corresponded with Lieutenant Wenger’s brother in Austria. He obtained a
picture of a hotel on the East Overcliff Drive taken from the cockpit of
the Focke-Wulf 190 as it swooped in from the Channel at roof-top level.
This hotel was later identified as the Cumberland, which is only two doors
away from the Cottonwood where I was first billeted in January 1943.
As a footnote Mr. Goss learned that the enemy pilot
was awarded the Knight’s Cross for bravery in January 1945 and was killed
three months later when his aircraft was shot down by the Russians.
*Maurice Shnider, a longtime Wartime Pilots
& Observers Association Member, is a Winnipeg family physician. He
was a Navigator during WWII in the RCAF, and was awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross after completing a tour of operational flying in the Far East
** The Bournemouth Echo wrote Dr. Shnider later
to apologize for its behavior.
***This article first appeared in the Winnipeg Free
Press, November 10th, 2000.
Messerschmitt 109E fighter. Color scheme of the Battle
of Britain period
Bournemouth, the place where the young Canadian "Colonial"
aircrew were introduced to England, was an Island fighting for its very
existence. This was where we learned the British pound shillings and pence,
became familiar with the Inns and Pubs which were a far cry from the 'men
only' beer parlors of Saskatchewan. From the vantage point on the Southern
Coast we watched the bombers returning from raids on the continent, first
the main stream, then the stragglers with engines feathered, trailing smoke.
It was a time for enjoying the British countryside but all the while being
very conscious of what lay ahead. And, of course, there were the tip-and-run
The Reception Center was quite crowded and our ablutions
consisted, in part, of a long wooden trough with cold water taps and a
wash basin hanging on a nail over each tap. On one tip-and-run raid a German
pilot strafed the ablutions. When he got home he could have painted three
wash basins below his cockpit as three basins had been punctured. We thought
the administration would replace them, but no, with typical RAF frugality,
the basins were put back into active service, the holes plugged with bits
Most aircrew went through Bournemouth Reception Center.
Send your memories of this posting to the Editor for inclusion in Ex-AG
I was in the Museum site (Edmonton) the other day,
very interesting, and the description of the Bolingbroke prompted me to
write. There are what I consider some inaccuracies in that description.
I thought I would put to paper my opinion, maybe our members will find
it interestisng, so here goes.
The Bristol Bolingbroke
Mention the name Bolingbroke and someone will say,
"oh yes, that's the Canadian built version of the Blenheim Mk4". The imformation
that I have to hand contradicts that statement. Let me explain.
The Bristol Blenheim made its debut in 1936 and was
selected by the RAF for re-equipment of the rapidly expanding force.
It set the pattern in light-bomber design which other nations were not
slow to follow. However, when the RAF went to war in 1939 it soon
discovered that the Blenheim was not the redoubtable weapon it had supposed.
To make a rather long story short, several modifications were developed
one of which, type 152, was to become the Beaufort. The other was
called the Bolingbroke.
One early production Blenheim I (7072) was set
aside in 1937 for conversioin as a prototype for the Bolingbroke.
The unusually short nose gave way to a lengthened structure which retained
the contours of the Blenheim I, the whole windscreen and the bomb aimers
window assembly being moved forward about 3 feet. It was immediately
realized that this was unsuitable from the pilots point of view and, therefore,
the pilots windscreen was moved back to its original position. After a
few more mods the aircraft took on the appearance that is so familiar
to us today, the forward hooding on the port side was "scalloped" to produce
what was later to become the characteristic nose of the Bolingbroke / Blenheim.
In this form the Bolingbroke was adopted by the RCAF
and negotiations commenced regarding production of the aircraft in
Canada. Plans for producing the Bolingbroke in the UK were cancelled
in favour of maintaining the supply of Blenheims for RAF squadrons.
The prototype Bolingbroke K7072 was shipped to Canada to assist in the
production of the type by Fairchild Aircraft. The first batch of 18 aircraft
were essentially replicas of K7072 with Mercury engines and were designated
Bolingbroke MkI. The standard Canadian version was the Bolingbroke
MkIV and was redesigned for Canadian and US equipment. One version
was built with Wright-Cyclone engines and 15 were delivered
with Pratt & Whitney twin wasp engines. One version, a
mark III , was equipped with floats.
In 1938 interest by the Air Ministry in the Bolingbroke
was revived and it was decided to put a generally similiar aircraft in
production until the Beaufort became available. The type number
149 was retained but the aircraft was designated BLENHEIM IV, it
differed from the earlier version by having the stepped windscreen and
lengthened nose introduced on the Bolingbroke.
I would suggest that the above facts contradict the
idea that the Bolingbroke is a Canadian version of the Blenheim MkIV. The
reverse is obviously true.
The Bolingbroke went on to have a good career in Canada,
it served as an operational aircraft on coastal patrols, took part in operations
in the Aleution Islands,and served as a trainer at Bombing and Gunnery
schools and as a drogue towing aircraft. A great many gunners and
WAGs trained on the "Boly".
There is a Blenheim flying in the UK that was built
from parts of Bolingbrokes obtained from Canada. One other Bolingbroke
is being rebuilt in England and , when completed, will be painted
in training yellow and have RCAF markings. The number of this aircraft
is 9893, check your log book, maybe you flew in that aircraft. The
aircraft at No.10 B&G were all in the 10000 series. The aircraft 9893
was used for a time as a source of spares for the airworthy Blenheim. There
is a photograph of it in a recent issue of "Flypast" magazine.
There you are John, I hope they can find room for this
article in the next issue of "Shortbursts". I hope to be able to
supply you with some news about our branch before too long, we are still
working on our summer programme and there is a chance that we will be changing
the location of our meetings. I made copies of the March and April isssues
and willdistribute them to our members at lunch tomorrow, if there is enough
interest I shall do it with every issue.
BLENHEIM MK I, pictured late in 1938, first
fast monoplane light bomber used by the RAF
BLENHEIM IV in service in 1942, fitted with a 'chin'
turret, a late modification
British Commonwealth Air Training
Presentation of Commemorative
On April 01, 2001 a ceremony was held at the Alberta
Aviation Museum to commemorate the founding of the BCATP. The event
was attended by a large crowd including members of the Ex-Air Gunners Association,
the Wartime Aircrew Association, and the Prisoner of War Association.
Also in attendance were representatives of the Government of Canada, the
Government of the Province of Alberta and the City of Edmonton. The
highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of a pennant honouring
the 60th anniversary of the BCATP by Lois Hole, Lieutenant Governor of
the Province of Alberta, to the Alberta Aviation Museum and the Edmonton
Aviation Heritage Centre. The pennant was received by Doug Matheson,
DFC and Cal Bricker, DFC two graduates of the plan who went on to fly Spitfires
during the war.
The plan graduated 131,553 aircrew, 72,835 Canadians,
42,110 from Britain, including other nationalities serving with the RAF,
9,606 Australians, and 7,002 from New Zealand. At the completion
of the ceremony the guests were invited to tour the museum and view the
various aircraft including a rebuilt DeHavilland Mosquito. Some of
the aircraft on display include an F86 Mk6, a Cf100, a CF101 Voodoo, A
Harvard, A T33 and a Vampire. The museum restoration staff are presently
restoring an Avro Anson.
75th. Anniversary of Blatchford
Field - Edmonton City Centre Airport
On June 17, 2001 Blatchford Field will celebrate its
75 birthday. Canadas first municipal airport came into existence
in 1926, and has a history of pioneer aviators delivering mail and supplies
to the north country. C.H. "Punch" Dickens. W.R."Wop" May, Leigh
Brintell, Grant McConachie, Matt Berry and Walter Gilbert made their names
as flying pioneers, they were the famous "Bush Pilots. Edmonton became
a vibrant centre of of aviation and earned its nickname as "Gateway to
The airport hosted the first Canadian air show with
60 pilots participating. Edmonton and its airport were an important
part of the BCATP and Canadas war effort. It was the location
of No,.2 Air Observers School, with "Wop" May as its general manager. On
a September day in 1943, 865 aircraft went through Blatchford Field in
a 24 hour period, that same year a world record of 82,500 take-offs and
landings was set. The airport was also used by the USAAF as a staging
post in the transit of aircraft to Alaska and the USSR.
The celebrations will be held at the Alberta Aviation
Museum at the Edmonton City Centre Airport. There will be a celebration
of the anniversary of the airport and special attention will be paid to
individuals who contributed so much in the past and who are currently
involved in the success of the City Centre Airport. Special
guests will be the pilots and crews from CFB Cold Lake who are participating
in the Maple Flag exercise.
Just back from France, but ready for more, are
Sgt. C.L. Brown (Member #849) giving a light to Sgt.
Brown was the rear gunner and McNally the Mid-Upper
gunner with 429 (Bison) Sqdrn. RCAF
flying Halifaxes out of Leeming, York. July
TEARING OFF A STRIP
by the late Bill Hooper
Stolen from TAILWIND,
Aircrew Association of Western Nova Scotia Newsletter
Britain’s best known pin-up girl will be back in Lincolnshire
on Saturday to see an historic bomber which has been named after her. Jane
Leighton-Porter – who was the model for the Daily Mirror’s famous wartime
Jane cartoon series, will be at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre
at East Kirby, near Spilsby, helping to launch a new book on the Lancaster
bomber. During the war a 57 Squadron Lancaster based at East Kirkby was
named Just Jane and flew on operations with a Jane cartoon painted on its
fuselage.The aviation centre is currently restoring a wartime Lancaster
and has painted the aircraft the colours of Just Jane of 57 Squadron, complete
Jane, who was travelling from her home in Horsham,
West Sussex, for the occasion, said, “I’m looking forward to it. I have
happy memories of appearing in the theatres in Grimsby and Lincoln during
my showbiz days with the Grade Brothers.” She told the evening telegraph:
“It is nice to think that there was a Lancaster named after me in the war
and even nicer that one of the few to survive is called Just Jane.” She
remembers vividly her first visit to Grimsby to play the Palace Theatre
in her own show, Jane of the Daily Mirror. “The place was packed to the
rafters. It always was when we played in towns full of service men.
After the show, she presented prizes to the local air
cadets and still has a photograph and cuttings of the event among her souvenirs.
Jane and husband Arthur have a son, Simon, now a Squadron Leader in the
R.A.F., who did part of his training at nearby Coningsby. Although now
in her 70’s, she has been very busy with personal appearances during the
VE-Day celebrations because of her fame as a wartime morale-booster
Note: two brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, farmers,
who purchased the aircraft in memory of their brother who died on Ops on
a Halifax have been responsible for the aircraft .sitting in its own hangar,
the four Merlins have been overhauled, permitting day and night time taxy-rides
at sixty quid per ride to repay for the Merlin’s overhaul.,
BELL, R. 'Dick', MBR. #1204, OF EDMONTON, AB:
Suddenly, on March 17, 2001. Enlisted 1943 with Manning dept at No.
3 in Edmonton. Graduated from #3 B&G MacDonald, MB. Trained
at No. 82 OTU, Ossington and #1659 HCU at Topcliffe. Operations with
434 'Bluenose' Squadron RCAF at Tholthorpe, Yorks.
From Your Editor
The Halifax picture in this Issue is a photo
of a water-color painted by Member Ray Stoy. We will be featuring
one of Rays paintings each month. If you would like to obtain one of Ray's
paintings/prints, contact him at the following address. Ray will also do
special orders, e.g. type of aircraft and markings as requested.
7728 U.S. Loop,
Bradenton, FL. 34202
USA Ph - (941)907-6077
Email - email@example.com
Thank you Ray, for sharing your talent with
To make this Web Page a success we need material
from Members so the Page can be up-dated each month. We need Branch reports
as well as memories. Send pictures and copy to John Moyles - address and
Email is on this page.
Until June, keep well. Cheers, John Moyles