On Monday, May 28th the S'toon
Ex A/G group held its monthly luncheon with 19 present; one of which was
Reg "Crash" Harrison a wartime pilot.
Chairman Robson gave a report
on his recent visit to England and his attendance at the RAF Mildenhall
Treasurer Doug Warren reported
on the groups finances; we are in a strong position financially.
Lunch was served by the R.C.A.F.
Ass'n Lynx Wing.
A brief report was given
re those not in attendance.
The next meeting will be
on the 3rd Monday in June; at the R.C.A.F. Lynx Wing on Ave C North.
The following report on a
wartime experience by Chairman Robson was given by Robson:
During the last
half of December of 1941 our crew completed three successful missions to
the French Port of Brest in our Wellington bomber. On one of these missions
the following is our experience in the target area.
"Our captain was a Canadian
Douglas Bain and our navigator was 'Buster' Fair, a Canadian. On
our first run up to the target the bombs failed to Fall so Douglas Bain
said to Buster, "We will do another run". We did and the bombs failed
to fall for a second time so Doug for the third time said, 'We will do
another run only lets jettison the Bombs' which we did and we headed for
home lucky to have survived three runs over a hot target like Brest."
CHARLIE YULE: A Bornemouth
I travelled 'Overseas' in
early April 1943 (I know! Many will say I never truly participated
in WWII since I had not started my 'Overseas' Service a lot earlier!).
In any event we made a 'solo' run in a vessel named the SS Andes and arrived
in Bournemouth 7 or 8 days after departure. This was a South American
ship capable of carrying 600 Passengers plus crew - we numbered 6000-odd!
My billet area was a mess room (over the engine room) which had wooden
tables and benches. There were hammocks slung over the tables and
sleeping accommodations available under the tables as well as on the tables.
It turned out that I was
a terrible sailor. Though I didn't get sea-sick I could only eat
in a prone position and had to rely on my comrades to provide me with cookies,
etc. in the way of foodstuffs. Bathing was out of the question and
consisted of cold seawater showers. Ugh! No Thanks! I'll
Upon arrival at Bournemouth
many of us were billeted in the twin 'pink' hotels in an elevated area
of the city. Our 'suite' was situated on the third floor and contained
at least 4 or 5 rooms with a Bathroom. There were four or six individuals
billeted in each room. The others guys were anxious to get cleaned
up and hit the hi-spots. I kept out of their way until they were
all finished and gone! Then I leisurely filled the tub with lots
of hot water and began my soak when suddenly sirens began to wail!
I leapt up out of my sitting position and was in the act of stepping out
of the tub when I thought, 'Where do I run? And if I do who says
I won't run into a falling bomb or down the stairs? To Hell with
it - I am staying right where I am. If my number comes up at least
I will be clean'.
The roof of the Hotel was
made out of corrugated metal with Pom-Pom Guns mounted on them. I
could hear and feel the guns firing and the spent casings rattling off
the roof. After things quieted down I seemed never again to be concerned
about air raids. As the saying goes about Air Gunners. 'Too dumb
to be pilots and too stupid to be scared'! Though I did earn my Glider
Pilot's License in later years.
I remember my Bournemouth
days as pretty nice, and never did run into accommodation like John Moyles
experienced. As we departed Halifax on the Andes I remember thinking
'This war is real! They actually think I can contribute something
to it. Are they nuts'!? I was on an adventure in Bournemouth
and other stops in my overseas training until I reached my squadron I thoroughly
enjoyed all that was going on - that is, up till our first operational
trip when I saw all of the searchlights and felt the effects of anti-aircraft
flak! Then I knew it absolutely was real!!!
I wish we could hear more
from the Canadian guys who did NOT serve in 6 Group. It was not until
after the war that I began feel like an outcast having served with the
RAF, though I had an ALL-CANADIAN crew except for our great Scottish Flight
Engineer. We served with 192 Squadron in 100 Group doing Special
Duties - sometimes within the Main Bomber Stream and sometimes on Diversionary
raids or Electronic Surveillance and Jamming duties.
The Halifax MkIV controversy
does not want to go away. PHIL DUBOIS sent the following, an extract from
Halifax – Second to None.
“The Mk.3 Halifax was originally
intended to be one of many variants – an interim model, pending the development
of the high altitude Hercules and while the development of the Halifax
Mk.4 took place. Unfortunately the high altitude Hercules engine never
proved reliable or satisfactory and, due to extensive development commitments,
the building of the Mk.4 prototype was abandoned, so the Mk.3 became the
next main service type and the most mass-produced version of the Halifax.
In May 1943 R9534 was being
fitted with Type D fins and rudders and flight trials had already been
carried out with Beaufighter type intakes to improve performance, By now
the decision had been made to incorporate into the Mk.3 production
aircraft a number of aerodynamic and structural improvements of the cancelled
Mk.4. Some of these were the local doubling of spar webs, an increase in
some bolt sizes, some tubes of the Messier undercarriage to be improved
in strength, the introduction of the Mk.4 floor and the re-introduction
of the retractable tailwheel assembly. MAP also ruled that the Mk.3
was to be tropoicalized from the outset of production. With this marriage
of airframe and Hercules engine the Halifax was second to none; with further
development and powered by a more powerful Hercules we considered the Halifax
superior to all.”
A bit of Trivia: The first
internal combustion engine built by Daimler Benz was run on coal dust!
In 1989, a request appeared
in SHORT BURSTS asking Members to comment on side-arms and drugs
issued to aircrew. Here are a couple of replies.
Hand guns – they were optional
for aircrew on our Squadron. Our Skipper and both the A/Gs carried a Smith
and Weston .38, the rest of our crew declined. We only had six rounds of
ammo and left one chamber empty for safety reasons. We were not issued
holsters so tied the butt with lanyards to our epaulets and stuck the .38
into our belts, not too comfortable with your mae west and parachute harness.
We never received any instruction on firing. When I bailed out and roamed
Germany for a while it gave me a sense of security knowing I had some protection,
small as it was.
Drugs – To the best of my
knowledge we never received any drugs on ops. On a raid to Settin it took
about 12 hours. This was about max time with full bomb and fuel load, and
we came home on the fumes. The Engineer had a nervous breakdown, he never
needed any wakey-wakley pills!
Wakey-Wakey pills handed
out by MO to aircrew as a precaution against sleepiness.
“If you were a commissioned
officer, and most AGs weren’t, you could draw a cute little 5 ½
lb. Webley, complete with webbing from stores to take with you on Ops if
you so wished. All non-commissioned ranks were not included. Apparently
we were not as intelligent as the commissioned types. Even though we knew
the Browning .303 inside and out, we just couldn’t be trusted with a hog-leg
This was the rule on our
Squadron #76 at Holme On Spaldng Moor.
About the drug bit … The
two gunners were the ones most likely to doze off because of their long
periods of inactivity. Doing a visual search on a pitch black night kind
of hypnotized and, along with the drone of the engines, induced sleep in
most normal gunners. NOT THIS BOY…. I was too damned scared to close my
eyes. In fact I stared into the darkness so hard that I couldn’t close
my eyes for a least four hours after we landed. My eyelids were stuck under
the edge of my helmet.
We were advised, all joking
aside, that we could have wakey-wakey tablets if we felt we needed them,
but were advised not to take them if we did not need them. They were caffeine
tablets and also acted as a diuretic. You know what that meant and nobody
enjoyed that parade at 20,000 feet and minus 40 degrees fahrenheit!
The Benzedrine some people
mentioned was in the form of tablets in our escape kits and to be used
ONLY in the utmost urgency, as running from pursuers to cover lots of ground.
Our Medics advised us if we used them and did push ourselves to the limit
to escape, we were to realize that we would be completely worn out and
to make sure to find some place where we could sleep the clock around.
At no time were we, on #76
Squadron, ever advised or coerced into taking any type of drug, and I’m
sure it was the same for all the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF, and the RSAAF.
I don’t know about the rest
of you but a nice warm electric suit and the gentle roar of those Hercs
did nothing to seduce me into the arms of Morpheus. I valued my hide too
much! Any stories to the contrary I believe are a pile of bull. We were
not drug addicts.
The following is taken
from RECOIL, the Ex-Air Gunners’ Association, B.C. Branch Newsletter
PARKINSON: IS ANYBODY LISTENING?
I was with 31 Squadron from
August 1942 to December 1943 and flew 500 operational hours and 250 non-operational
My next posting was to a
Communication Squadron in New Delhi. I was assigned as a WAG to the Supreme
Commander Sea, Lord Mountbatten, and when we were not required by him,
flew other senior officers. It was interesting and exciting. The A/C had
special call signs, and all ground stations kept a watch when we were airborne.
We had to be prepared for almost anything as we were not advised of destination.
On the trips we flew the
brass were always interesting and on one trip, after leaving Chunking,
I was to contact Calcutta but couldn’t raise them. I thought my transmitter
was off frequency. After finding no problem with the equipment I kept calling.
My special call signs really helped. Gibralta picked up my message and
called Malta, Malta called Karachi, Karachi called Allahabad, Allahabad
woke up Calcutta and Calcutta called me.
You will see that this page
is a little shorter than previous pages. I find that, when reading other
AGs experiences, they trigger memories of similar situations. If they do
with you, jot them down and sent them in for others to share. For example,
George Parkinson's communications problem (above) reminded me of returning
from the East with a load of ex-POWs from Japanese camps in Burma. We were
headed up the Persian Gulf at night in bad weather and, for some reason,
could not gain altitude. We did not carry a navigator and the pilot asked
me to get a fix. The Japanese had just surrendered, the RAF were going
on strike - yes, strike, and all service communication was shut down for
the night. I had swing my loop onto two domestic, broad band, AM
stations. Not knowing the language I could only guess at the location of
the station by direction and strength of the signal. To make it more difficult
to plot one was approximately 10 degrees and the other was approximately
180 degrees. It was just pure luck that, when we broke out into moolight,
we were barrelling down a gorge with the mountains rising on either side.
As Jim Patterson said, when
he was Associate Editor of SHORT BURST, "if you don't want to listen to
any more of my stories, get some of your own in to the Editor".
A big THANK YOU to the Southern
Ontario Branch for their donation to the CATP Museum.
Thanks again goes out to
member Ray Stoy for his painting of
the Fairey Battle. If interested in one of Ray's WW11 a/c paintings
contact him at:
7728 U.S. Open Loop,
Bradenton, Fl. 34202
OK, how many of you chaps
up-chucked in the back of the Battle???
Until July, keep well and
have a good summer.
Cheers, John Moyles.