Taken from the BURMA BOMBER ASSOCIATION newsletter, Winter 2004.
MURRAY DUNCAN – Navigator 159 Sqdn.
Our crew; Herb Andrea, Pilot, Bill Head, Co-pilot, Ray Pink, Bombardier,
Jack Dungavelle, WAG, Air Gunners Jack Gordon and George Sprecker, and
yours truly, Murray Duncan, Navigator; the first crew from 5 OUT Boundary
Bay, Abbotsford, to commence Operations in SEAC flying out of India????
We were actually Course #5 from OUT but when we graduated we were told
we would be flying to India.. We waited at Lachine for the Libs to come
up from the U.S. and after 10 days they finally arrived. We left Dorval
on November 3, 1944 and flew to Gander. Just after midnight on November
4, we started out for Lagens in the Azores, listening to Foster Hewitt
in a rebroadcast of a Leaf game. That is the rest of the crew listened
but the navigator, of course, worked.
From the Azores we flew to Rabat in French Morocco, then to Tripoli,
Cairo, Sheiba (Iran) and then to Karachi for a total flying time of 42
hrs. 42 min. From Karachi, where we were in tents for two or three days,
we went by train to the big transit camp at Woprl on the outskirts of Bombay.
We had a pleasant four days in Bombay area, (remember the posh Willingdon
Club and the diving board that broke with the weight of four Canadians
piggy-backing off the end of it and who played knock rummy in that 36 hour
However,back to business. A signal was received at Worli from 231 Group
in Calutta. They urgently required one crew immediately. Our ten crews
now at Worli were all slated for a jungle survival course at Mahabaleshwar,
near Poona. Somehow, Herb Andrea’s crew was selected to fill the urgent
request. Thinking back, memory tells me that we were by far the fittest
crew and didn’t need the conditioning of the survival course. Take that,
Despite the urgency (had the Japanese made a break through or was there
a need for some precision flying, navigating and bombing?), we were routed
by rail to Calcutta. My recollection is that there were four gauges of
rail lines in India, so we had to keep changing trains and somehow it always
seemed to be at two in the morning..
When we finally arrived in Calcutta five days later, we were a hungry
and dirty group. Reporting at 231 Group, just off Chowringhe, we learned
that Wing Commander James Blackburn the CO of 159 Squadron, had initiated
the urgent signal. We were soon off by train to Chandrakona Road (Digri).
We arrived at 159 Squadron on December 5th. and on December 8th. Herb and
I went on our first op., a screen trip. Herb was with W0 1 Bretherton’s
crew as Co-pilot and I was with Johnny Poag’s crew as Navigator (F/L John
Brennan was the Nav. Leader and was Poag’s Navigator but he let me handle
all the navigation, so there was pressure).
#99 Squadron B-24 Liberators over Burma 1945
The target was Victoria Point. There were three crews mining the approaches
to the docking area and 13 crews bombing the docks and the rail lines.
There was also a float anchorage and planes sitting there. They were left
burning from 159 machine gun fire – everyone took a “go” at them. There
were Japanese LMG’s in the underbrush near this float plane anchorage and
Bretheton, with Herb aboard, had to land at Chittagong because they were
hit several times. We also were hit with only one bullet which came through
the nose wheel door and sliced the throttle cables to numbers 3 and 4 engines.
Jettisoning all of our machine guns, ammunition, our bomb bay tank and
everything else that could be thrown out, we finally reached 1,500 feet
from the 200 feet level at target. Total flying time 14 hrs, 35 min. Some
Anyway, the point of all this is that we flew our first Op on December
8/44. If there were any crews from 5 OUT that went on operations in SEAC
prior to December 8, I will send $10.00 Can. to the earliest reported.
Come on, lets hear from you.
Incidentally, the only Canadians that I can remember in the mess when
we arrived were Johnny Poag from Hamilton and Bob Martin from Timmins or
Ed. At press time we received a letter from Murray Duncan
and you might find this paragraph interesting. Each theatre of operations
had its own rules.)
Good to hear from you and I will watch for SHORT BURSTS from now on so
you've got a new reader.
I've still got my $10 but it's early yet. Our tour consisted of
300 hours and as we were doing long trips down into Malaya and French Indo
China, we were able to complete the tour in only 23 trips. On January
24, 1945, 159 completed the longest Op to that date. Sixteen aircraft
mined the channel between Penang Island off the coast of Malaya.
The Japanese used this channel between the mainland and the island in trying
to get supplies to their army in Burma and northern Malaya. The trip
was 3,162 miles and the flying time for our Lib was l8 hours, 35 mins.
This was written up in The Hindustani Times(?) in Calcutta and it was stated
that it was equivalent to bombers flying from England to Moscow and return
with bombs up. This was a world record to that time but within a
month or so the U.S. Superforts beat it. Fame is fleeting!
Cheers and regards,
S. Edward Matheson DFC -162 Squadron
passed away December 27, 2004.
A BRAVE FLYER DEAD AT 89
Former Leader Post Printer won the Distinguished Flying Cross
By Will Chabun
Regina Leader Post December 30, 2004. (Abridged)
Matheson, one of the few Canadians to actually see – amid brutal conditions
– the wining of the Commonwealth’s military award for courage, he died
In Late June 1944 Matheson was the Navigator on the doomed flight that
resulted in F/L David Hornell receiving a posthumous Victoria Cross.
Raised in Nelson B.C. he worked on a compositor at the Leader Post from
November 1945 until his retirement in March 1981.
He joined the RCAF in 1942 and trained as a Navigator. Nicknamed “The
Professor” for his ability to make rapid, complex, calculations, he was
assigned to the RCAF’s 162 Squadron, which in the late spring of 1944 was
sent from Iceland to Wick, near the Northern tip of Scotland, to keep German
submarines from threatening the Allied landing in Normandy.
So inspiring was Hornell’s story that for many years it was included
in the elementary school’s reader. In 1997, Matheson attended the unveiling
of a new stamp saluting Hornell and his crew.
Predeceased by his wife, Helen, whom he married during the Second World
Matheson is survived by his daughter, Sydney. A memorial will be held
in the spring.
Faroe Islands location of attack 6300N 0050W
Andrew Hendrie gives a detailed account of Matheson’s Canso crew’s
sinking of U-1225 in his book Canadian Squadrons in Coastal Command
pg. 128 ff.
………….No. 162’s entry for 24 June 1944 gives six aircraft on operations
and two in transit from Wick to Reykjavik. Canso A 9754 captained by F/Lt
Hornell was one of those on operations and detailed for an anti-submarine
sweep. At 1900 hours a fully surfaced U-boat was sighted and Hornell closed
to attack. At ¾ mile range the U-boat opened fire with severe and
accurate flack; at 1200 yards F/O G. Campbell in the front turret responded
but one of his two 303 guns jammed. At 800 yards the Canso was hit and
one engine dropped into the sea. Hornell continued with his attack and
straddled the U-boat with his depth charges.
The Canso was unable to maintain height and Hornell ditched about a
mile from the U-boat survivors. No signal was received from the Canso but
by chance a Catalina from 333 (Norge) Squadron captained by Carl Krafft
sighted the U-boat survivors and then the Canadians in their dinghy. Despite
severe weather conditions with cloud base at one stage down to 50 feet,
the Norwegian circled the dinghy for 12 hours transmitting homing signals.
The Norwegian Catalina was relieved by a Norwegian Sunderland captained
by S/Lt Ole Evensen who witnessed the pickup of the survivors by an ASR
From F/O Denomy’s account the Canso suffered two 2 feet diameter holes
in the starboard wing and a 1 and ½ feet diameter hole in the fuselage.
The aerials were shot away and when oil from the starboard engine caught
on fire, fabric on the aileron and trailing edge burnt off.
They bounced three times before the aircraft remained down; the two
pilots escaped through the hatches, the remainder of the crew through the
blisters. St. Laurent launched the starboard dinghy and it drifted away.
Cole, although wounded and weak, jumped into the water and attempted to
swim back for the dinghy radio but was restrained by the others, who feared
the petrol tanks might explode.
Hornell, Matheson, and Denomy slipped into the water to propel the dinghy
to St. Laurent’s, but one of the dinghies exploded. Those three remained
in the water for an hour when it was decided all should enter the remaining
dinghy although it was found necessary for one to be in the water to allow
room for baling. This was done by using Hornell’s trouser with the legs
knotted, plus a flying helmet. It was thus for twelve hours
Four hours after the ditching LT Kafft’s Canso was sighted and Campbell
released flares; the last was seen by the Norwegians who reported also
forty men spread over a mile and whom they took to be German. Waves were
then 8 feet high with a wind of 2 knots. Kafft released markers periodically
to keep the dinghy in sight.
After about eight hours, the Canadians saw one of the bodies from the
U-boat pass 50 feet away followed by one of the deck boards. They would
have been from U-boat 1225 which, captained by OLErnst Sauerberg, had sailed
from home port on 17 June only to be sunk in position 6300N 0050W.
The waves reached 25 feet high with winds of 30 knots and both Hornell
and Campbell were sea sick and Hornell suffered from cold. When the waves
increased further, the survivors shifted their weight from side to side
as the dinghy went through the crest and down again. Hornell and St. Laurent
began to weaken, with the latter becoming delirious before he passed away.
“We slipped his body out of the dinghy and made way for Scott who had remained
partly in the water.”
After 16 hours a Warwick dropped an airborne lifeboat which drifted
away; Hornell would have swum for it but was stopped by Denomy. Scott had
been in the water for a long time and had grown weak and died. “We also
slipped his body out of the dinghy.”
After 25 hours and 35 minutes under such conditions, the ASR launch
arrived and, from F/Sgt Bondoff’s report, Hornell was then unconscious;
Campbell and Matheson very weak, and only Cole and Denomy were able to
board the launch without help; the others were winched up. Hornell did
not regain consciousness despite prolonged effort
F/O Denomy paid this tribute to his co-captain: “outstanding ability
in flying such a badly damaged aircraft especially in the face of strong
enemy fire. His courage and bravery throughout marked him as great man.
Words cannot do justice to the fine job he has done.”
On the 28th of July the BBC announced that a posthumous VC had been
awarded to F/Lt David Hornell.
PRESS ON REGARDLESS (Canso)...© Rich Thistle
Under intense fire from U-boat 1225, the Hornell crew
bring their Canso down to required height of 50 ft.
for successful attack
David Hornell’s Victoria Cross has been placed in Air Command Memorial
building in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The following is an excerpt from General
Sutherland’s address at the dedication;
“Those of us who wear, and have worn, the light blue uniform enjoy a
bond which is exceedingly difficult to describe to those outside the military
community. This bond is not confined to the bounds of distance, time, or
technology. Nevertheless, few of us here this morning can ever come close
to comprehending the intensity of the ordeal which David Hornell endured
on that fateful mission so many years ago. There are, however, three with
us today who know only two well that terrible test of survival. It is with
great admiration and humility that I would like to welcome the crew of
9754 to Air Command this morning: Graham Campbell, DFC; Ed Matheson, DFC;
and Syd Cole, DFM. Gentlemen, your courage and resolve in the face of insurmountable
odds have become legendary, an integral part of our Air Force heritage.”
Back row left to right: -- Lawrence, Ed Matheson,
David Hornell, W.F. Bill Poag
Front row: -- Fernand St. Laurent, Donald S. Scott,
Graham Campbell, Joe Bodnoff
On the flight June 23, 1944 the crew consisted of St.Laurent, Scott,
Matheson, Hornell, Campbell, Sydney R. Cole, Bernard (Joe) Denomy, and
The Canso postage stamp illustrates F/L D.E. Hornell’s
THE LITTLE RASCALS
Our aircraft (Sunderland flying boat) was up on the slip for
a minor inspection. Terry Reeves and I had planned a nice day in the town
of Invenstown in Northern Ireland.
Gremlin #1. This was suddenly depth charged by the S/L in charge of
training who put our crew on bombing practice in “K” the training aircraft.
So, with the usual moaning we went out to do the pre-flight take off check..
We had to put old “K” u/s. Wizzo, this time off to town.
Gremlin #2. Three of us are heading for the gate. “You, You, and You,”
that was me, Don Macfie, radio operator, Terry Reeves, Flight Engineer,
and Roy Snelus, Rigger,, the chaps needed for skeleton crew. “You are on
night flying circuits and bumps for three sprog Pilots on “K”, she has
been fixed up.” Boy, all night circuits, worse than Ops.
It is the darkest of dark nights. On board I find that the R/T does
not check out, no communication with shore. I get real busy checking the
equipment in the stowage for loose connections.
Gremlin #3. The Training Instructor comes on board with the three new
Pilots. He is a S/L DFC New Zealander I had not seen before. I reported
the u/s radio. He says, “just sign the form #700 and report a snag after
we are finished.
I start working on the radio and was about to change batteries when
I was ordered to take the aldis light up front as we were slipping moorings.
I get there and we have just slipped. The S/L has the Port inner and Starboard
Gremlin #4. Who ever steered a Sunderland through the maze of stuff
in the inner trolts anytime, and at night, on the ‘inners’.
Gremlin #5. He must have come out from our a/c W6000 to join in
the fun and aggravate me more. I plug in the Aldis light and it comes on
and immediately goes out. I fiddle around and find a loose socket, tighten
it up and ‘goodie’, I have a roving light. Good heavens there are trees
ahead! As I shine the light on the shore we are moving ahead at a pretty
good rate, the engines having reved a bit.
Gremlin #6. The Skipper, instead of trying to steer off with one engine,
shuts down both. Suddenly there is a great grinding noise below and behind.
We drift free and I hear water coming in. I go up to the stowage again
which is ahead of the Second Dickie’s feet and continue to change batteries
in the R/T. When finished I gather up spare batteries, flashlight, and
volt metre and jump down. The Rigger had just lifted the floor boards and
I went right down through the floor and the gaping hole in the hull. He
grabbed me and hauled me back out.
Gremlin #7. He must have gone into hysterics. I lost all the stuff through
he hole. I went above to get my Mae West. It wasn’t there.
Gremlin #8. Hunting around the radio I found an out of the way
switch in the “off” position. Gremlin #1 must have been there first.
The R/T worked and in no time I had a refuelling barge, dinghies and
fire-boats out in short order, as well as S/L Hughes, our Flight commander.
Hughes ordered all movable equipment removed. We stepped off a wing into
a dinghy and went ashore. It was nearly morning.
I didn’t get any time for my logbook and I never did see that Training
Instructor around any more.
Hey! Maybe those little rapscallions prevented a deadly prang on the
flare path that night!
The distracting lady Gremlin
Ed: Don, she still turns my head.
N. Alberta Report
The annual Christmas Party for the Northern Alberta Group was held
in the Norwood Legion on December 16, there were 36 present and a good
time was had by all. The kitchen staff put on a good spread as usual,
turkey and ham and all the trimmings and several fine desserts to finish
off the meal. Everything was washed down with some of the fine refreshments
from the well stocked bar. This particular Legion is known as the
Ukraine Legion so there was a fine array of pierogy, kielbasa, cabbage
rolls, etc. There were plenty of prizes to be won, in fact, so many that
everyone seemed to win one.
The plans for the memorial benches at the Nanton Lancaster Museum in
Nanton, Alberta is moving right along. We now have to try and get
an estimate of the cost and then go to the Museum and see if they can find
a contractor to do the work. We will keep you informed of our progress
through Short Bursts.
We wish all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year.
The photograph shows a bench and walkway outside the City Hall in Spruce
Grove, Alberta. This is the kind of setting we would like for our
memorial benches at the Nanton Lancaster Museum. We plan, at the
moment, to have two benches and perhaps a small planter in between with
a small plate stating that the benches were presented to the museum by
the AG/WAG association in memory of fallen comrades. Once the plan is finalized
and the cost determined we may ask for donations.
I am not an ex-Air Gunner, but I was very interested to read the articles
on the web site about the S Squadron’s Secret Halifax Bomber which was
powered by steam. I find it highly improbable that this really existed.
As a recently retired employee of the Toronto Star I have a couple of reporter
friends who are also very interested in stories such as this. I passed
it along to them and after much emailing between others we have come to
the conclusion that this really is some sort of hoax. We also noticed that
this article was in the March issue lending credence that it might have
been an April Fool’s joke.
In the condominium that I live a fellow neighbor is a retired Halifax
and Lancaster mechanic and he is the one who first mentioned this “special”
plane to me. Could you please enlighten me further on this?
As a steam locomotive buff I find it very interesting that a similar
concept was used in airplanes.
Thank you for your time.
George Pereira email@example.com
Ed: To view the March 2001 Issue with the article on the steam powered
If you happened to have shovelled coal on this Special Halifax,
drop George a line.
I am pleased to tell you that I have found information regarding my
Father. Only by talking to other crew members in my fathers squadron, did
it 'come to light' that he knew my mother.
May I take this opportunity in thanking you for all the help you gave
me. Good wishes for the coming season.
From Ted Hackett
Good evening John. Glad you like the photo of the Fury.
I have several photos taken at Trenton in the 30s, my eldest brother was
stationed there for a few years. He had joined the RCAF in 1924 and
his Service number was C46. It was a big treat to go and visit with him
in the summer. He would take me into the Station on Sports afternoon
and take me around the hangers, I got to sit in the Siskins and the Atlas,
real operational types.
You asked if I had ever flown in a Cat. I did, in a Canso,
between December 5 and December 13, 1953. We did some photo work
for the Army flying north from the Lakehead, I can't remember between which
two points but I took oblique photos of various points on the instructions
of a Major who accompanied us. A couple of the trips were in the
Lake Nipigon area and lasted 2 hours, one trip was to Winisk and lasted
8 hours and 30 minutes. I do believe that the photos were for use
in Mid-Canada Line radar sites.
The one thing I appreciated, apart from being able to take photos from
the blisters, was the fact that the aircraft had a galley of sorts.
The Flight engineer made us hamburgers and coffee for lunch and, I think,
a steak sandwich on the long trip, a lot better than what we usually got
in a Lancaster with nothing more than hot cups.
There is one little incident I would like to mention concerning a Canso
crew. They used to go to Lake Golden near Pembroke Ontario to practice
water landings. The aircraft was just touching down when the nose
wheel doors caved in and a huge column of water (I'm told) shot up between
the two pilots. They had the presence of mind to pour the coals to
her and get her off the water but I understand the cockpit was soaked as
well as the two pilots.
A letter from Charley Yule reads in part:
"Reach For The Sky" film
The Producer, Don Young from Frantic Films, has been interviewing Air
Gunners from across Canada. From these interviews they will select
6 or 7 persons who they will then gather to a central location (presumably,
Winnipeg) in the near future, where further interviews with these individuals
will be filmed for inclusion in the 4 part series.
Earl Hiscox, George Longbottom and myself met with Don Young (the Producer)
and Ryan Fitzgerald last week. They asked questions about our individual
experiences during wartime - no doubt to review our answers and, if found
suitable, perhaps one of us will appear in the taped interviews to be interlaced
into the film. None of the 3 of us are expecting to be in the group
selected. We are sure that there are many far more worthy and interesting
I hope to tape the Series on my VCR - provided I program it correctly.
After all, I am just an Air Gunner, you know!
Watch the History Channel for programming dates or visit the Hillman
feature at the BCATP Air Museum Site:
Betty Damery firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: [Ont] Looking for Hobens
I am asking for help in finding either Hilda Marie Hoben (nee Duffy)
or any relative that may have survived her passing.
On 8 Mar 1941 in Toronto Ont. Hilda Marie Duffy married Gordon Francis
Joseph Hoben, at the time a Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Gordon
was the son of Elmo Murray Hoben and Lucie Isabelle Hoben (nee Street).
Elmo was born in St. John, N.B. Elmo and Lucie were living in Ottawa
at 146 Slater St as late as 15 Jan. 1942.
On 11 July 1942, Gordon Hoben lost his life in a tragic training accident
near Topcliffe, Yorkshire, UK. He had been hand picked by the Police Association
of Canada to fly a Spitfire fighter aircraft dubbed “The Canadian Policeman”
and was promoted to Pilot Officer and posted to 403 Squadron.
Any help would be appreciated.
“The Canadian Policeman”
Dear Air Gunners,
I discovered your website and decided to try my luck with you and your
My research has led me from Ottawa's archives to the German Embassy
and over to the site where my father and his buddies Wellington Mk1 crashed
on the land of Mr. Komen at Schagen in the Netherlands.
I believe that my father would be pleased with my work. He would however
have me continue in my pursuit of gathering more information from his friends
and buddies of the Bomber Command. Dad was a wonderful piano player.
After his death, his Chaplain wrote mother, to tell her of his piano
playing in mess halls as well as in chapel.
Mom passed on in February 2003, but hopefully she and dad are enjoying
a nice cup of tea, or a cold beer, as we speak.
You may have some thoughts on how I could contact those airman and airwoman
who might have had contact with my dad. One person who may be alive is
James Moffatt. Mr. Moffatt was included in the CBC production entitled,
DEATH BY MOONLIGHT: BOMBER COMMAND.
Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Congratulations to you all for keeping the cause alive.
24 Kedgewick Court
Subject: 49 Squadron
I found your site very interesting, I noticed 49 squadron mentioned.
I am trying to find information about my father, believed to be in 49 Squadron,
His name was HAROLD BLOWER from DONCASTER YORKSHIRE. He was a
rear gunner and a flight sergeant in the R.A.F. I wondered if anyone who
uses this site would know of him. Can a post be added to the site to see
if anyone knows anything about him?
I look forward to hearing from you .
Rod MacDougall reports from BC Branch advising they had made
a donation to the CATP Museum. Much appreciated Chaps.
It is interesting the number of people around the world that are reading
our Short Bursts Page and, in some cases, asking for assistance to obtain
information regarding war time relatives.
For example “….I recently read an article in the October
2001 edition of Short Bursts regarding the Blackburn Shark and the
No. 7 (BR) Squadron at Prince Rupert Station.
I came across this article while I was researching my family history
including that of Harold Edwin Phillips 1919-1942, Flt. Sgt. Pilot
RCAF. I have learned that he died on June 20, 1942 and that he was
a member of the No. 7 (BR) Squadron and also that he was flying a Blackburn
Shark when he died in some sort of accident. His name appears on
a memorial in Ottawa and he is buried in his hometown of Sennett NY
which is not far from where I live in Syracuse NY.
The article on the No. 7 (BR) Squadron does not list an author.
Do you know who wrote or submitted the article? I would very much
like to find out more information about this squadron and the accident
that resulted in Harold Phillips’ death. I would think that there
was a WAG in the backseat and for all I know, maybe he survived.
Any information or leads you could provide would be greatly appreciated….”
We were able to put Michael in touch with our member Harold Penn,
a WAG, who was flying in formation with the Phillips and Baum aircraft
when it crashed. Penn and Phillips usually flew as a crew but when the
crews went to the hangar that day the names of the two WAGS, Penn and Baum,
had been switched on the operations board.
Michael also put me in contact with a chap who has researched Americans
who joined the RCAF prior to December 7, 1941. If you are looking for Americans
in the RCAF check with Wally
I asked Wally to check on an American RCAF pilot, VanHouton,
with whom I was crewed in 1942. Within a day Wally gave me an address and
phone number. It turned out to be VanHouton’s son’s number. Unfortunately
I was a few years late as Van has passed away. After the war Van became
an Orthodontist and practiced in Portland. However, his daughter is researching
her Dad’s wartime career and we might be able to help her in that time
So, check Search Pattern section again, you just might be able to help.
We are all in our 80’s + and sharing the same bodily break-downs. After
following doctor’s pill solutions, I feel like the Chief in the following
A medicine man gave his Chief a lace of rawhide and told him
to chew off a piece each morning. Two weeks later he returned to see how
his patient was feeling. The Chief reported, “Well, the thong is gone but
the malady lingers on.”
That has been my experience with our medical men/women. However, through
the internet, I found an herb, Ganoderma (Asian Red Mushroom) Lingzhi,
that is doing what the prescription pills couldn’t.
There are pages on this on the internet. Due to its alleged anti-inflammatory
capabilities it is supposed to slow down dementia and reduce the risk of
cardiovascular disease. If you are interested in learning more, just give
me a shout.
Please send us anecdotes, articles, suggestions, for the March Page.
John and Doreene Moyles