I graduated from #2 Wireless School November 6, 1941, and four
days later, one of our Tiger Moths crashed with the loss of Pilot and Student.
Karl Madder Gravell was born in Norrkoping, Sweden, September 27, 1923.
He joined the RCAF on March 15, 1941, at his home in Vancouver, BC. After
Manning Depot he was posted to #2 Wireless School, Entry 21, Calgary.
On November 10, 1941, during a training exercise, the Tiger Moth, occupied
by Pilot, F/O Robinson, and Karl Gravell, student, age18, crashed into
the yard of Bighill Springs country school in Simonds Valley, Alberta,
and immediately burst into flames. LAC Gravell managed to extricate himself
from the wreckage.
In spite of the intense shock from the loss of one eye, and severe burns,
LAC Gravell’s first thought was for the welfare of his pilot. Ignoring
the fact that his own clothes were ablaze, he went back to the flaming
wreckage and tried to pull his pilot clear.
Mrs. Walsh, the local teacher, at great danger to herself, ran up and
dragged him away. Mrs. Walsh rolled him on the ground to extinguish the
flames, which had by this time enveloped him totally. Despite her efforts
LAC Gravell succumbed to his injuries. Flying Officer Robinson was
a veteran pilot having been a member of the Royal Flying Corps. In WW I.
Mrs. Walsh was awarded the George Medal for her unselfish act in attempting,
with the aid of her students, to save the life of an airman. Mrs. Walsh
was the first woman in Canada to receive the George Medal.
Karl Madder Gravell, Wireless Air Gunner Trainee,
for his attempt to save his pilot, was awarded the
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) Progress
Report No.15 ~ November 7, 2006
Registered Charity 84586 5740 RR0001
RCAF HALIFAX LW170 before she sank off the Irish
During the time of the annual celebration at the Nanton Museum on August
26 Directors Karl Kjarsgaard and Jim Blondeau were able to make renewed
acquaintance with all our supporters of the Halifax Project who are also
supporters of the Nanton Museum and their great Bomber Command Memorial.
We were especially pleased to meet with Minister David Coutts of the
Alberta Cabinet who attended and was a guest speaker at this function.
The Minister continues to be a most stalwart supporter of all our endeavours
including the Halifax Project.
Jim Blondeau and Minister Coutts talked about the importance of passing
on our great RCAF heritage and sacrifice to all Canadians and the world,
especially the young people of our nation. David Coutts graciously consented
to a video interview at the Museum with Jim and he was able to record Minister
Coutt’s comments about the saving our air force history and other important
issues. These videos will be used in future developments for the Halifax
Project and promoting the Nanton Museum’s aims as we proceed into the future
on our joint projects.
Once again Father Harry Schmuck, mid-upper Halifax gunner, joined us
from Ontario on his third pilgrimage to Nanton. His presence and eloquent
addition of Grace before the luncheon was greatly appreciated. The
fact that he represents both the RCAF veterans and the Almighty in one
package is a wonderful addition to all of those gatherings he attends with
Jim Blondeau, Director, multi-media expert, and creator of the great
musical ballad “The Wall at Nanton” performed his musical tribute
twice for the audiences attending on August 26. There were many misty eyes
after the luncheon as he performed the song for all the audience. Not only
this but Jim’s tribute song about our RCAF Americans, personified by the
song about Tom Withers Jr., called “American Eagle and the Proud Maple
Leaf , was also played, with Jim’s great musical video on the big screen
enhancing this Canada-USA tribute of the RCAF. Well done, Jim, for all
your efforts on our behalf
We have been able to keep the momentum going for the Halifax Project
with political support of our MP’s, Senators, MLA’s, and high level officials.
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) directors has been able to open several lines
of communication with all these officials and this will help us as we proceed
in our efforts for the fund raising to start the Halifax Project in the
summer of 2007.
Dag Ammerud of Norway, our brilliant salvage master who raised Halifax
NA337 in 1995, has just contacted us with some very good news. Dag has
acquired a large sonar vessel to do deep water sonar searches ( operational
to 3000 Meters! ) for several jobs he has planned. He has offered to meet
with us in London in December to plan for a search of Halifax LW170 next
summer. This could be very good news for our future plans as Dag, along
with his vessel and team, could be an efficient company to work with to
find LW170. These are very positive developments that Halifax 57 Rescue
(Canada) had not planned on last year and it is a wonderful opportunity
to complete Phase 1 of the Halifax Project. On the next Progress report
we will have more information on this new technology offer by Dag Ammerud.
I would especially like to thank all the Royal Canadian Legion branches
and their executive for supporting us by the wise selection of our great
Halifax print “INVINCIBLE ITEM”. Well over 30 branches of The Legion have
heeded our call for support by purchasing our Halifax print. We hope to
hear from many more Legions from across the country who want a quality
print of our famous bomber, RCAF Halifax LW170.
Director Chris Charland attended the annual Canadian Aeronautical Preservation
Association (CAPA) conference in Greenwood, Nova Scotia in October. Chris
has highly recommended that we should join this progressive organization
for all the valuable contacts and restoration information available through
CAPA. We will be reporting back to you on these developing contacts for
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
Please note that the digital encyclopedia of the Handley Page Halifax,
"HALIFAX B. Mk.III EXPLORED," produced by our friends Flyingzone Publications
has just been released. This CD-ROM has got to be THE definitive source
on the Halifax with over 2000 pages and diagrams on our good old Hallie.
For those of you who wish to see more go to the Flyingzone Publications
website at www.flyingzonedirect.com for more details on "Halifax B. Mk.
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) will be selling these Halifax CD-ROMs for
Flyingzone Publications in North America in the very near future (by Nov.15)
so for you Canadian and U.S. customers standby for a sales sheet with prices
and order addresses on our website on this new digital source of
Halifax information. This CD is highly recommended.
We cannot think of a more unique and better Christmas gift for Halifax
veterans and fans than either (or both ! ) a print of "INVINCIBLE ITEM"
and a copy of the CD "HALIFAX EXPLORED." This would be the ultimate “Hallibag”
bundle for Christmas.
There are several very positive developments for both Halifax 57 Rescue
(Canada) and our partners, the Nanton Lancaster Society, as we move forward
in the coming months of 2006 and 2007. Please check our official website
at www.57rescuecanada.com for all the latest events and happenings during
these exciting and formative times.
Warmest regards to all our members and supporters from the Directors
of Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada)
Phone - Eastern Canada 613 835 1748
Western Canada 403 603 8592
PLAQUE – ‘AN ENDURING
Oct. 27, 2006
301-204 Watson St
Mr. Joe Geurts
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place Private
Dear Mr. Geurts:
RE: New Canadian War Museum – Ottawa
PLAQUE – ‘AN ENDURING CONTROVERSY’
On Aug 9, 2006, I wrote a letter to The Honourable Beverley J. Oda,
to express my displeasure, concerning the wording of the above noted PLAQUE.
It does NOT convey the true or complete picture, to the uninformed.
On Aug. 31, 2006, Minister Oda, answered my letter, suggesting I contact
you and supplied your address and telephone number. I have tried
to contact you by phone on two occasions, without success.
I am forwarding a copy of my letter to the Minister and also additional
information concerning Allied aircraft Strategic Bombing of Germany.
It is my opinion, with the information I have provided, and the professional
thinking of David Bashow, Professor of History – Royal Canadian Military
College, Kingston, Ont., the Plaque can be reworded, to portray the truth
of history, so all military personnel will have respect.
I feel that a man with your integrity and position will remedy this
Thank you for your attention and cooperation.
Howard J. Elliott
Ex-Air Gunner - R.C.A.F.
LIFE AND TIMES OF A NEWSLETTER
"the glue that bound us together"
In response to Charley Yule’s ad in a newspaper inviting ex-air gunners
to form an organization for fellowship and remembrance, a group of eight,
plus Charley, in March 1983, formed Ex-Air Gunners Association of
Canada Inc. From this modest beginning the membership increased until by
September 2000 the last recorded membership number was #1269.
Charley took on the task of Secretary Treasurer, keeper of purse and
records, as well as editor of the, then unnamed, quarterly newsletter.
I asked Charley to give us some background on the Newsletter.
Here is his reply.
"The name 'SHORT BURSTS' was suggested by
one of our early members -- in fact I think we ran a sort of a contest
and awarded him a Life Membership. I have searched my records and
cannot, now, come up with his name. But I do seem to recollect that
he is now deceased!!
At the time of helping to give life to a Canadian
Air Gunner's Association, I had absolutely no knowledge that an Air Gunner's
Association existed in Great Britain. After this discovery I decided
to join that group and learned the name of their Newsletter was 'The Turret'.
With all of this newfound knowledge in place we
were on our way - with only slight objection from those who thought we
were interlopers and 'much too late' in entering into the game! I
had not given my service in the RCAF much attention until after I retired
from my workplace and, with some free time on my hands, decided to try
and contact as many of those with whom I had shared my early days (1943)
- Manning Depot - WetP School at McGill - Tarmac Duty at St. Hubert - and
B&G School #10 (Mount Pleasant, PEI).
This venture took on a Life of It's Own, and we
began receiving inquiries of membership and steadily grew to number 1267
at the time of disbanding in the year 2000, eventually becoming known as,
'The Ex Air Gunner's Association of Canada'. It was decided that
we should become Incorporated and in choosing a name we had to adopt the
criteria of that Government Agency - and so the "EX" was added in order
to comply. We had originally intended to admit only those who were
entitled to wear the 'AG' Brevet (as did the Association in Great Britain)
but, eventually and after much persuasion and soul searching, agreed to
admit that the 'WAGs' of the RCAF were probably our equal.
I met Jim Patterson, living in Vancouver, at one
of our early Association Reunions in Winnipeg. I don't believe it
was our first one - in 1983 or '84 - but I do recall that he approached
me, knowing that I had been searching for someone to take that task off
my hands. He was a person just 'full of life' and very eager to help.
It seems he was a frustrated writer, and very much wanted to have a 'go'
at it - and I was more that willing to relinquish that task. I thought
he was great at it and was more than happy to 'assist' him!! Unfortunately
after a couple of years Jim decided to move to Britain.
We corresponded for years and he agreed to serve
as Associate Editor for every issue of the Newsletter, under the banner
"Patterson's Patter"- which I thought was most fitting! His health
began to deteriorate and finally he just seemed to 'fade away' and we lost
contact. I know he had a computer and most likely was on the Internet.
If he was I am sure he followed each issue until he was no longer able.
It is one of my many regrets - that I wasn't able (for whatever reason)
to maintain that contact. In his retirement he had availed himself
of a 'metal detector' and spend many happy hours tramping around interesting
areas where he thought some treasure could be found. He sent me one
of his finds! A Roman Copper Coin (antinomians) of the Class 'Claudius
Gothicus' from the period 268-270ad. It is probably one of my most
He was a great guy and a true Military Veteran."
In the beginning there was little feed back so the first three-page
newsletter contained, in the main, members service records. By June 1983
it had expanded to six pages with the membership rising to 21. By June
1984 it was 8 pages with membership of 193. Fast forward to September 1989,
the newsletter, now entitled SHORT BURSTS, was 24 pages with a membership
of 939 and growing fast. Thanks to Charley’s cajoling, there were many
articles from members. There was great discussion regarding wakey-wakey
pills on ops., as well as side arms, Benzedrine in escape kits, electric
flying suits, turrets and machine guns. Headings such as “Return
fire”, and “Search Pattern”, began to appear.
The 5th. Ex-Air Gunners reunion was held in Regina August 23 to 26,
1989. On August 21st. disaster struck. Saskatchewan Branch President,
George Tudruk and executive members Steve Young and Grant Wilson were transporting
an F/N turret from the Brandon Air Museum to Regina for display when they
were involved in an accident and all were killed.
Members Tony Biegler and Cy Huggett stepped in to manage the reunion.
This task was made more difficult because, as a result of the deaths of
the signing authorities, the bank account was frozen. But Tony and Cy soldiered
on to keep the reunion unfolding according to plan.
One incident comes to mind. Cy asked me to accompany him to pick up
the bar liquor supplies. When we arrived at the liquor store, the staff
said they knew nothing of an order. Panic – a reunion without liquor! After
many phone calls Cy realized we were at the wrong outlet. A fast drive
across the city and we located the liquor store that had ordered the booze.
On our return to the Reunion site we had no trouble getting volunteers
to help unload our cargo.
The late Cy Huggett
At the Annual General Meeting , Charley Yule submitted his resignation,
but with the suggestion that the added responsibility of the Newsletter
Editor be filled by another person, he agreed to let his name stand for
Secretary-Treasurer. There were no other nominations. Acclamation.
Being advised previously of Charley’s intension not to continue I, who
prided myself of never volunteering, offered to help in any way I could.
Newsletter Editor – John Moyles was nominated by Tony Biegler. There
were no other nominations. Acclamation. Duties to commence with September
1989 issue #27 of Short Bursts.
Usually when the Last Post sounds, the mind scans the skies of yesterday
in search of those lost, but as the 200 members stood with bowed head and
moist eye at the Cenotaph, George, Steve, and Grant, were with us.
Immediately following the Reunion, Charley went West and Doreene and
I travelled to Northern Alberta. I took the membership list and called
members en rout. My first call was to Mervin Lewis, Grand Prairie, AB.
The call was made with some hesitation but the reception was as if we had
known each other in the past. Merv informed me that he had most likely
put the first entries in my flying log book at Curry Field, Calgary September
1941. Merv was a clerk prior to transferring to aircrew. Merv’s assistance
didn’t help as I added up my months flying time at #2 B&G Mossbank,
by putting 100 minutes to the hour.
Each person I called I asked about Short Bursts. The replies were
positive. “look forward to it”; “read it from cover to cover”. As Jim Patterson
said, “it is the glue that binds us together”. When we arrived home September
26, the pile of copy was waiting for us.
In the beginning the publication rolled off a typewriter, hunt-an’-peck
method. I called it my Huntandpeckerclatter. Our daughter, Elizabeth, helped
with the typing until the Association purchased a computer for my use.
I edited, and Doreene proof read and censored the 28 page quarterly newsletter.
Charley Yule supplied Last Post entries and address labels. Doreene and
I stuffed envelopes, applied labels, stamped envelopes, and hauled the
mail bags down to our local post office. At peak mailings the number was
around 750 envelopes. A lot of stuffing, sticking and stamping. Living
room became mailroom for a few days. It made us realize what Charlie
had to do, along with his many related tasks.
One month Charley put the address label sheets into his printer label
side down. A nice job of printing but not on the peel off address labels.
We saved the blank labels as they made great markers to stick onto leftovers
and home preserves. Just today, November 11, 2006, I saw Doreen labelling
some freezer bound soup with one of the labels.
View from our living room window at Kenosee Lake.
Yes the white tailed deer were alive and hungry.
We were living in the Village of Kenosee Lake, SK., (POP 140) a two
hour drive to the closest major centre. At times one felt isolated and
remote from the Association. One day the phone rang and a gentleman from
Toronto asked if this was the Publishing Company that handled the Newsletter
Short Bursts. Publishing Company! That made my day.
At the 5th Reunion the Association bank balance was $12,310.58. Cost
of publishing, including printing, supplies, and postage, was approximately
Our little Kenosee Lake convenience store/ post office was glad of the
business which ran around $3,400.00 per year. On one mailing
we combined the newsletter with an updated Membership List. This increased
postage but, by cutting Short Bursts down to 22 pages that month, we saved
$400.00 in postage.
It was a continual struggle to get members to contribute.
March 1992 Issue #37
Mind Boggling Question
Who owned this
First four correct answers get a free raffle draw courtesy of your
Toss in a service anecdote for Short Bursts for the same postage.
No replies received.
(Answer – comic strip character, Jane. Daily Mail.)
Jane managed to modestly shed her clothes in every strip.
was a prize to the member who had the most postings during WW II.
Winner was Malta survivor,
Eric Cameron with 33.
The prize – a carving I whittled out of a birch log.
A little "Son-of-a-Birch Air Gunner."
Eric became a regular and valued contributor to our newsletter.
In a small village rumours fly like wild fire. One December I dragged
five stuffed mailbags into the store just when the locals were having their
morning coffee. One chap said, “what have you got there John?” I replied
in a matter-of-fact manner, “Oh, Doreene and I like to get our Christmas
Cards out early.” Dead silence – change of subject. That afternoon at the
senior’s centre rumour mill, the conversation was, “did you hear that the
Moyles send out five mail bags of Christmas cards?”
We were fortunate to have a very conscientious printer in Regina, Karmen
Bernt of Future Print. In edition # 39, page 13, there is a picture
of a Tiger Moth and flags at the Brandon airport printed a little off kilter.
I didn’t notice it until we got the publications home Friday evening (this
was before scanners, and pictures were scotch taped into the copy. It was
most likely my fault.). Karmen offered to drive to Kenosee, pick up the
publications, call in staff on a Sunday, correct the page, and have the
650 newsletters back by Monday. We declined his generous offer and mailed
them out as printed. There was not one comment from members. However in
Issue #52 I erred by making it #51. That generated eight complaints. One
Member wrote, “it makes it difficult to file.”
There were other bloopers such as the word, “lives” where I typed “livers”.
The line read, ‘They had long livers’. No one wrote in on that one.
was the tenth anniversary of the Association and we began thinking of how
the stories that were appearing in Short Bursts could be preserved for
future generations. The idea for the book,
COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE 1983-1993 – SELECTIONS FROM SHORT BURSTS,
It took us six months to edit the 190 page book which rolled off the
presses in May 1994.
As I was personally on the hook for the printing costs, we crossed our
fingers and mailed out order forms to the membership. The members came
through with flying colours, Within a month we hit the break even point.
Some members ordered two and three copies to be given to family or placed
in local libraries. The book can be obtained through Canadian public
libraries under ISBN 0-920436-48-X.
Member Ray Stoy of Bradenton Florida, designed the cover, As a matter
of interest, Ray was an illustrator after the war and designed the Coca
Cola logo we see today.
Ray Stoy at 2000 Reunion
At the Reunion AGM in Edmonton, September, 8, 2000, a call was
made for nominations for executive positions, National President, Secretary
Treasurer, and Editor of the newsletter. Weldy Moffatt of Regina offered
to let his name stand as Editor. The other positions were not filled. A
motion to disband the National Association was proposed and passed.
The last quarterly Short Bursts Newsletter Issue #71, covering
the National Reunion was mailed out in September 2000. The following is
from The Editor’s Dining Room Table.
"It is with regret, melded with relief, that Doreene
and I lay down the quill. The past eleven years spent publishing Short
Bursts renewed old friendships and created new ones. It is said that life
is a process of making memories, and our work and play with the members
of the Ex-Air Gunners Association has certainly been memorable. Thanks
to the many who contributed to the Newsletter. Keep in touch."
Cheers, John and Doreene.
We thought Short Bursts was dead, but it was only resting. The
CATP Museum in Brandon , MB., breathed new life into the publication by
offering to host a Short Bursts web page, and the services of their web
master, Bill Hillman. Our first monthly web page newsletter hit the World
Wide Web on March 1, 2001. Our publication was going around the world at
no cost to the Ex-AG Branches now operating autonomously. As many members
were not computer literate, each Branch has someone print out the page
and take it to their monthly luncheons.
Correspondence to the Editor came from people searching for information
regarding relatives who served. The Baby Boomer generation, computer literate,
and with more time on their hands, began delving into family history.
There was the chap from New Zealand whose father had been a tail gunner
and he was trying to locate the Canadian mid-upper gunner in his father’s
crew. Short Bursts was able to bring them together. Then there was the
English lady of 60 years who was looking for information regarding her
birth father. Her mother, who had passed away, did not give her much information
regarding her father, except that he was tall, blond, and an RCAF Pilot.
We managed to trace him to a Squadron, get photos and information from
the Squadron web page, which led to a major Canadian city. Unfortunately
he had passed away. The comparison of the daughter’s picture and the Squadron
picture, left no doubt.
After we went on the internet, Charley Yule presented a complete set
of the printed Newsletter to the CATP Museum in Brandon.
L to R Charley Yule, the late Earl Hiscox, Bill
Hillman, John Moyles
On our Short Bursts web page www.airmuseum.ca/mag
there is a link to all
copies from March 2001 to December 2006.
The Short Bursts publication was created to reunite AGs and WAGs
for fellowship and remembrance and to honour Andrew Mynarski VC. Over the
last 23 years it has met its mandate.
Gradually the newsletter has become a vehicle for the younger generation,
and researchers, searching for wartime information. Two reasons for
this change is the internet, and the fact our Ex-Air Gunner ranks are thinning,
age is taking its toll.
Letters were sent out to a number of contributing members across the
country requesting direction on the future of our newsletter. Some thought
the newsletter had served its purpose and should be put to bed, but it
would be missed. The general consensus was, if it was serving a purpose
helping provide information, and be the duct tape to keep us in touch,
it should continue.
A heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to Bill Hillman and the CATP Museum for
their financial support and encouragement.
By publishing a shorter, modified, Short Bursts Page, we will attempt
to assist those searching for WW II information. If you can assist in any
way, direct your information to the party involved or to your Editor. We
will also print any stories, anecdotes, memories, Branch information, and
Obituaries, so take time to send in your material. There is also the option
of running articles from our 23 years of publishing.
Doreene and I wish you good health, and may you be surrounded by family
and friends this joyous season. In the words of Tiny Tim,
"God Bless us, everyone."