Sunderland taking off
By the start of the Second World War in September 1939 three squadrons
had been equipped with the Sunderland. Seven hundred and forty-nine Sunderlands
were built, and they served throughout the war. The final Coastal Command
Sunderland operational mission was in June 1945 over four weeks after the
German surrender. Long-range Sunderland operations also took place overseas
from bases in Africa and the Far East.
Post-war the type took part in the Berlin Airlift carrying 4920 tonnes
(4847 tons) of freight. During the Korean War Sunderlands based in Japan
undertook nearly 900 operational sorties totalling over 13350 hours of
flying. The Sunderland finally retired from RAF service in 1959 when the
last aircraft were scrapped at RAF Seletar, Singapore.
The Sunderland's design was so good that it remained in front line service
for over twenty years. It was also the last flying-boat operated by the
Royal Air Force. The Sunderland was produced as a military development
of the 'C'-Class Empire flying-boat operated by Imperial Airways. It entered
service in June 1938 and was the first British flying boat to have power-operated
gun turrets as part of its defensive armament. This strong protective armament
resulted in the Germans giving it the nickname 'Flying Porcupine'.
Don Macfie WAG on 423 and 422 Sunderland Squadrons
Something inside me has been nagging for months to write this little
sad story. And now I have, I hope it goes away.
Harry Parliament had been a school teacher in Cannington, Ontario, and
must have been in his thirties, an old man to us 19 and 20 year old squirts.
But Harry had the right education to become a good Navigator at Oban Scotland.
Harry’s countenance was plain. Back home in “Sunny Slope” Ontario, my mother
would have said, “plain homely,” with his long face and jutting jaw.
Eventually it came to notice that Harry was escorting a female Naval
person, just as plain and homely as himself. Tall and angular, straight
lines, strolling arm in arm.
We finally got operational with 12 crews at Castle Archdale in Northern
Ireland, late fall 1942. By August 1943 we had all done many long and tiring
trips. In 1943 I was “joed” into Bishop’s crew in which Harry was the Navigator
for one patrol. Working across the isle from him, over a long, rough night
trip of 16 hours or more, I got to see how thorough and accurate he was.
In a wild North Atlantic gale, navigational aids being wireless fixes
from Group, and with rain pouring in from a leaking astro hatch right over
Harry’s navigation table, he brought us home right on time.
In August 1943 both our crews were scheduled for a search above 63 degrees
North, close to Iceland and then land at Reykjavik. For some reason our
trips were switched and we went first leaving at 10:30 p.m. We put in a
peaceful trip of 15 hours over calm seas.
Bishop’s crew followed the next morning at 0455 hours to cover the same
area. They found a fully surfaced “Milch Cow” submarine (a refuelling vessel)
on the surface. It was the one of two left in the enemy’s fleet and it
serviced 12 Atlantic submarines in the area.
Bishop’s crew attacked and the result was a destroyed submarine, a downed
aircraft, and a lot of airmen and sailors floating around in a sea
of burning fuel. A German started firing his luger pistol and ‘Ginger’
Harcroft took a bullet between the eyes. Harry Parliament was wounded and
struggling in the water. The rest of the crew reported that when they last
saw Harry, he had a look of agony on that plain countenance as he sank
beneath the waves, never to re-surface.
Front – Val Richard; Art Mountford
Second row – S. Gossop (KIA); Harry Parliament
Third row – Horseborough; Kelly (KIA);
Standing front – “Huck” Finn;
Extreme rear - “Ginger” Harcroft (KIA) - (Killed
The British Destroyer Castleton picked up six survivors of Bishop’s
10 man crew and fifty-eight survivors of the submarine crew.
423 Squadron Crest
Motto: QUAERIMUS ET PETIMUS - "We search and strike"
Editor’s Note. CANADIAN SQUADRONS IN COASTAL COMMAND
by Andrew Hendrie reports this attack pg 77/78
ISBN 1-55 125 –038-1
Vanwell Publishing Limited
PO Box 2131
St. Catharines, ON L2R 7S2
Roll out of the Curtiss Special Replica
July 09, 2006-07-20 Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta.
Submitted by Ted Hackett
The first air mail delivery in Western Canada took place on July 9, 1918,
when Catherine Stinson flew her Curtiss Special from Calgary to Edmonton
with 259 pieces of mail. The flight took two hours and when she landed
in Edmonton she handed over the bag of mail to the Edmonton Postmaster.
The Alberta Aviation Museum decided some years ago to commence
a restoration programme to bring the Curtiss Special back to life. It soon
became apparent that no remains of the original aircraft or plans had survived.
However, the Museum was undaunted and decided to construct a full scale
replica of the aircraft. The major details f the aircraft were obtained
from old photographs and parts from similar aircraft. It proved to be one
of the most challenging projects undertaken by the Museum.
A more detailed account of the building of the replica and photographs
of it under construction, can be found in June 2006 Short Bursts Page.
(scroll down to archives)
On July 9, 2006, a re-enactment of that famous flight took place when
Audrey Kahovec, a pilot with the Edmonton Flying Club, flew from Calgary
to Edmonton carrying 259 pieces of mail. The envelopes of the mail were
designated and produced by the Western Chapter of the Canadian Aerophilatelic
When Audrey Kahovec landed she was driven to the Curtiss Special replica.
She climbed into the cockpit and the aircraft was pushed to the reviewing
stand where she handed the bag of mail to a representative of Canada Post.
Audrey Kahovec delivering the mail
This beautiful restoration is the work of Lindsay Deeprose, the Restoration
Manager, and his skilled team of Gerry Blacklock, John Burley, Arnold Dayman,
Jean Philippe Dacaen, Bill Else, Jim Fearn, Garry Fischer, Bill Gunn, Stan
Larson, Denis Loiseau, Chuck MacLaren, Gordon MacLaren, Roy Miller, and
Anyone coming to Edmonton should make a point of visiting the Alberta
Aviation Museum to see this work of art. While the Museum is home to some
great aircraft, this one for the moment, has to be the gem of the collection.
BEST KEPT SECRET OF WWII
The Armoured Train
by Ted Hackett
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the enemy’s successes in the
following weeks and months caused great concern on the West Coat of Canada.
Prince Rupert was now a strategic port, and embarkation point for US Army
Personnel and supplies destined for Alaska. The United States had already
built an installation and had several personnel stationed at the port.
The Canadian National Railway line that ran along the Skeena river now
became very important. At that time no highway ran to Prince Rupert.
The defence of Prince Rupert was supported by seven coastal batteries
and, in 1942, by two railway guns supplied by the United States Army.The
RCAF 7 BR Squadron patrolled the area using Blackburn Shark aircraft on
floats. John Moyles was stationed there and hopefully he will write an
account of his adventures at that time.
In early 1942 it was decided to build an armoured train to patrol the
railway line between Prince Rupert and Terrace, B.C., a distance of 95
miles. The train was assembled at the CNR Transconna Workshops in Winnipeg,
Manitoba and consisted of seven pieces of modified, armour plated, rolling
stock pulled by a steam locomotive. The locomotive was a CN class H-10,
number 1426 and 4-6-0 commonly called a “10 wheeler”. That last bit of
information is for any railroad buffs amongst our readers. There were plans
to replace the steam locomotive with a diesel electric and CN No.9000 was
chosen, but by the time it was obtained through the US Navy the need for
the train was downgraded.
The train was manned by a company from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and equipped
with Bren Guns, 75mm and Bofor guns. The assigned task was to patrol the
Skeena river and engage any ships that attempted to sail up the river and,
perhaps land troops.
The Japanese departure from Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and the reoccupation
of the Island by the US Army certainly lessened the threat to Prince Rupert
and the train was eventually taken out of service. The train was parked
on the siding at Terrace and eventually returned to the CNR for dismantling.,
a little over two years since its creation.
Ted refers to an excellent book on the topic; THE ARMOURED TRAIN IN
CANADIAN SEVICE by Roger V. Lucy. Your Editor was able to obtain this book,
courtesy of Robert Henderson. Following are some interesting excerpts from
Roger Lucy’s book.
With the attack on Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941 and the fall of Singapore
15 February 1942, public opinion on the West Coast, in the words of C.P.
Stacey were ….in a state approaching panic…..
[Editor – at that time plans for the mass evacuation of Vancouver
Island where being formulated.] Security was so tight that people
in Prince Rupert did not know of the armoured train until after the war.
The CNR train crew consisted of, engineer, fireman, conductor, and two
brakemen. Department of National Defence reimbursed the CNR $100.00 per
day for each crew member and $80.00 per day for rental of equipment.
The train at all times was to be in charge of the CNR crew, who in turn
were under the orders of the O.C. Troops and move the train in accordance
to his instructions subject to the standard of operating rules.
The five officers and 145 Other Ranks were made up mainly of Home
Defence conscripts and moral was not high. Major General W.A. Giesbach
, Inspector General for Western Canada states that he found them unenthusiastic,
even sullen. On the first run to Prince Rupert two went AWOL.
And you tail gunners thought you had it tough.
To add to the problems the rail bed was in need of up grading. Ties
were rotting and some spikes were so loose they could be removed by hand.
The resulting vibration necessitated lowering the speed to 10 to 15 mph.
The vibrations played havoc with the search lights and gun mountings which
were attached solidly to the floors of the rail cars. The cars had to be
sent to Vancouver for adjustments.
For security reasons the train did not adhere to scheduled runs. As
a result it ran over a man asleep on the tracks severing both is legs.
It was determined that he was a local sleeping off a binge. Two CNR
rail line workers were killed when the train hit them when they were using
jackhammers. Due to the non scheduled runs they were not expecting the
train and they did not hear it approaching over the sound of jackhammers
.Due to the status of the roadbed, the train was located at Tyee, close
to the mouth of the Skeena.
On November 7, 1942 the train complement consisted of a Major, Company
Sgt. Major, Quarter Master Sergeant, 3 Corporals,, clerk, artificer, and
cook. The remainder of the crew were detailed from 14th Brigade, an Infantry
company (5 officers and 119 Ors) gun crew (2 officers and 24Ors, searchlight
crew (8 Ors), signals (3Ors), Medical staff, and 3 Royal Canadian
Prince Rupert Regiment Badge provided by
stamp and Military Memorabilia Collector
Nick Kainer, Regina, SK.
Nick served with 5th Canadian Armoured Troop W/S
in the Italian Campaign.
The first Commanding Officer of the Armoured train was Captain N..K.
Gateson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served from 27 June, 1942 to 28
February 1943. He was replaced by Major J.C. Herbert of the Oxford Rifles
who served until the train was moth-balled in October 1943.
On July 31, 1944, Royal Assent was given to the Order in council disbanding
Ted suggested your Editor add a line concerning the North West Coast
defences. [Big mistake Ted, never ask a yakkety old bugger to “add a
In 1942 we had to challenge all shipping in the area with the call signals
of the day. We often came across Russian freighters heading for the port
of Prince Rupert. Sometimes they would respond, sometimes not. When we
dropped down to deck level their ack ack guns followed us closely. In most
cases they were manned by women. We went down to the docks when they arrived
in port but they were forbidden to speak with us.
My experience with the mighty Skeena is as follows.
The Diversion Base
Jerry Mckenna and I were returning from a patrol and base radioed advising
that Prince Rupert was fogged in. We were ordered to divert to the Diversion
Base at Lake Lac Else, approximately 60 miles inland up the Skeena River,
We found the mouth of the river but, due to heavy fog, Jerry had to fly
with the pontoons just above the fast flowing river waters.
We had to follow the river under fog banks and around many bends. At
each turn in the river we prayed the fog around the corner would not be
completely down on the deck. Mountains rose steeply on either side, and
many power lines crossed the river. We flew under the lines.
Finally we reached the camp and landed on the fresh water lake. The
camp consisted of a one-room log cabin, no water or power, many 45 gallon
drums of aviation fuel, piles of firewood. The one room cabin had a table,
chairs, three beds, a wood stove, dishes and cutlery, and a cupboard full
of canned goods covered in mould and rotting labels. They were all pork
and beans. There were no personnel in attendance. The place was overgrown
with weeds and bush and had become home to squirrels, whiskey jacks, and
Each morning we would start the aircraft engine, and radio base for
instructions. Due to the bad weather on the coast we spent three days at
the lake with nothing to eat but pork and beans, and no local stores to
purchase food. It was a pleasure swimming in the fresh water lake.
On return to Prince Rupert we learned that the Diversion Base was a
precaution in the event of an enemy attack. Our obsolete aircraft would
be no match for enemy fighters, so the plan was to move the whole squadron
inland. Ottawa realized the inadequacy of its West Coast defences.
We never saw or heard of the armoured train.
7 BR Squadron, February 1942 (minus two crews on patrol)
Jerry Mckenna 2nd row 6 from Right. Jerry was killed
in action flying out of Iceland with 162 Squadron, at the age of 22.
We will remember him.
John Moyles (age 19) back row 2nd from Left. Other
Members of the Ex-AG’s Association: Paul Switzer, Abbottsford, BC., back
row 4th from Right ~ Mel Livingstone, Vancouver, BC., back row 3rd from
Right ~ Tommy Taylor, Mather, Man., back row 5th. From Right; Harold Penn,
Burlington, Ont., Left Prop Blade. Behind, the mighty Blackburn Shark.
Ted Hackett sent the following bit of trivia
RCAF Station Patricia Bay, BC 1942
Two RCAF Westland Lysanders painted to look like Lufwaffe aircraft for
the movie, Commandos
Strike at Dawn.
Starring, paul Muni, Ana Lee, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Robert Coote, and
from Fairey Battle articles in June Page
By Howard Elliot
I earned my Air Gunners Wing at # 3 B&G Macdonald MB.
The Day that my lower bunk mate Bill Elliott (from Montreal, Que) and
myself (from Melville, Sk) did our drogue firing exercise, from a
Fairey Battle, it was in January and the temp. was minus 30 degrees F.
Bill was allotted to fire his rounds first, so I vividly remember the square
"hole" in the floor of the fuselage with no hatch cover. What a
smell of exhaust, glycol, fuel and oil. I was sick to my stomach and barfed
several times. The first time it was so sudden, my lunch went
everywhere inside the plane. I managed to get further upheavals
out the "hole", without falling out, despite the fact there was no safety
device to keep us from falling out.
I told Bill to fire off my rounds, which he did. Perhaps the extra
practise got him through his tour of "ops". When we landed, I could
hardly stand and was ordered to see the M.O. I spent the night
under observation and was informed another incident like that and I would
be out of aircrew. I was never airsick again. Man was I embarrassed,
poor Bill had to clean up the mess. We realized the NCO only had
one Elliott on his list at inspection time. Thus we would take turns
I had my first flight, in Melville, when I was about 15. In Melville,
on Dominion Day, the movie projectionist Harry Card, would give the public
a flip for a dollar per pound, if one weighed over one hundred pounds.
If one weighed less than a hundred pounds, it was a dollar. I made
4 quarters by playing the only song I knew on the piano. F/L Card
was attached to # 30 Hurricane Sqdn and died 29 Dec l940.
P.S. When I was in Britain, I was fortunate to get leave
and went to Ireland. With help from the Legion, I was able to locate
and visit 3rd cousin Elliotts, in the area of Donegal, which I have kept
in touch with. Unfortunately with the pressures of re-entering civy
life, I did not keep up with Bill Elliott, who knows we might have been
God bless, take care. Howard
I am a cousin of Harold Constable, born Windsor, Ontario, 1922.
Harold flew in Lancasters from the Diss area U.K. 1944 -1945.
I do know from earlier enquiries that Harold passed away some eight
years ago in Windsor but I am trying to trace his Squadron number information
whilst in the U.K. and details of when he was shot down over Holland 1944
Any further information would be gratefully received for family history
Regards John Constable (Ex F.A.A)
Dear John Moyles,
I've arrived at " Short bursts " after quite some time of trawling the
net. I have a friend and neighbour, Walter Booth, who flew with the RCAF
as radio op out of Croft during WW2.
As with most lads who served, I wasn't aware of this fact until quite
recently because he never spoke of it. It was only when I told him last
year I was visiting my brother in Ontario that it all came out.
Now to the point. I agreed to search for any information I could find
on 434 Sqdn and more especially the crew he flew with. Some was plain sailing
due to so much effort by people like yourself, but other bits ( Up-to-date
information on the crew ) I've hit a blank wall and don't know where to
turn. If you have time, could you please tell me where to look or who to
contact ? If he had been with an RAF crew I think this would have been
so much easier. I have joined so many British forums and drawn a blank
Just to let you know this is in fact a genuine search the crew were
434 sqdrn, crew 170.
F/L D.A.Milloy ( pilot ) RCAF
Sgt. G.C.Cook ( navigator ) RCAF
F/O A.Tschaikowsky ( bomb aimer ) RCAF
Sgt. A.Macarthur ( mid upper gunner ) RCAF
Sgt A.Dunne ( tail gunner ) RCAF
F/S F.Newton ( flight engineer ) RAF
And Sgt Walter Booth 2204667 ( radio opp ) RAF
I have been told that to get information on the dead or missing is quite
easy. The living are so much more difficult. I agree.
Thanks for your time,
Possibly it's a bit after the fact but I located the link shown below
wherein Adrian was looking for photographs of the RAF Memorial at Alness.
My wife and I visited Alness/Invergordon in May this year and a very kind
gentleman from the Alness Heritage Society drove us to the memorial and
around many of the sites where WW2 remnants were still in place that a
tourist from Canada would never have found.
Adrian had requested photographs of the memorial and since the link
to his e-mail address has been disabled I have attached them here for forwarding
to him if possible. If he wishes to contact me directly, he may reply to
this e-mail address or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a memorial room in the Heritage Society’s house dedicated to the
air force during those times and they have a number if interesting artifacts
and are constantly trying to acquire additional information.
I took quite a few digital photographs during our visit and would be
pleased to share them with any interested person.
My father was a WAG on Sunderlands flying out of Alness on August 15,
1944. He and 10 other young Canadian airmen were killed on November 26th
when DD851 crashed and burned with a full load of fuel and depth charges
on the railway tracks two miles northeast of the Invergordon railway station.
The funeral parade would obviously have been a few days later. All except
one of the crew were buried in the Roskeen Cemetery.
The photographs are of the Memorial to the men who served at RAF Alness.
It was unveiled by John Cruickshank, V.C. on October 16, 2001.