Gerry Musgrove DFC WOP/AG and Bomb Aimer,
RCAF, No. 15 Squadron RAF.
Dec. 22, 1915 – Dec. 28, 2006.
Taken in part, from The Globe and Mail, Friday
February 16, 2007.
Article by Buzz Bourdon.
Gerry joined the RCAF on Jan. 30, 1941 and trained
as a Wireless Air Gunner. He reached Britain in November 1941. He was posted
to No. 10 Squadron, RAF,June 1942.
First he was crewed up on Stirlings and then
went to Lancaster bombers.
Gerry put in 30 Ops, and was eligible to cease
flying as he had completed his tour of operations. However the other crewmembers
still had 5 more Ops. to complete their tours, so Gerry decided to stay
with the crew.
Gerry Musgrove leans against
the tail gunner’s turret on a Lancaster bomber
Their final operation, June 8, 1944, two days
after D-Day, target, the railway yards at Massy-Palaiseau. At this time
Gerry was acting as Bomb Aimer. They were holding a steady course at 6,000
feet in preparation for the bomb release but, within seconds of releasing
their bomb load, the Lancaster was subjected to cannon fire from an enemy
night fighter. The aircraft burst into flames necessitating bailing out.
Two air Gunners in the crew were killed.
Gerry landed safely and, with the help of the
French Resistance, was able to evade capture. Part of his story is as follows;
‘It was in the middle of the night and the French countryside seemed sound
asleep, but Gerry knew that, after five years of war, the German occupiers
and their French collaborators, were always watchful for Allied airmen.
Eventually he smelt coffee brewing. After an old man emerged from a building,
Gerry decided to take a huge risk and called out to him. After he was satisfied
they were alone, the Frenchman took him in and fed him.’ “He gave me part
of an apple, some bread, cheese, but best of all, a serving of Calvados
Gerry Musgrove with restored
Two in the French Underground who assisted him
were, Marcel Steinmetz and Rene Didier. Post War, Gerry kept in touch with
those brave men who risked their lives to assist him escape capture.
article is for the benefit of all AGs and WAGs (we will condescend to include
the Aeroplane Drivers, Navigators, Bomb Aimers, and Flight Engineers) who
are sitting around waiting for the Grim Reaper. Take a page from Glenn
Glenn Heisler, (AG with 434 Squadron), joined
the Corps of Commissionaires, Nov. 24, 1983 and took up his duties
at the Regina airport. In December 2006, after 23 years at his post, Glenn
was scheduled to move to a Commissionaire’s position in a downtown building
where his duties would be less strenuous. However, a recent call to Glenn
disclosed that he could not resist the lure of the winged machines and
the personnel who fly them. Glenn is again a Commissionaire at the Regina
Airport, proudly wearing his AG wing on his uniform. If you see him, say
When Glenn thought he was leaving the Airport,
he gladly accepted the well wishes, handshakes, and kisses from airport
It makes one wonder if maybe, just maybe, this
was a put up job so Glen could enjoy the ladies.
Congratulations Glen, you are an inspiration to
us all. Keep our runways safe. Many more years of happy employment.
Feed-back from February 2007 Page
My brother Don, who belongs to the Air gunners' Association, drew my
attention to your request in Short Bursts, and asked me to dispatch a response.
He has internet connection but hasn't figured out how to use it. His email
address is email@example.com so please
reply to him as well as to me (if you have a reply).
Our father, B69138 Pte. D. Roy Macfie, served in the Veterans' Guard
from Sept. 1942 until Jan. 1945, when he was invalided out -- as a consequence
of a shrapnel wound received at Passchendaele in the Great War!. The inactive
life of a POW guard, interrupted periodically with hard labour back home
on the farm during leaves, caused the shrapnel to move around, infect,
and cause serious trouble. Any photographs Dad brought home were of himself
and his mates grinning at the camera, so would hardly be of interest to
you. Well, there is one of himself standing post with rifle at a guard
post, but none I can think of that show actual POWs. He served only in
Ontario camps, and much of that out on detachment with trusty prisoners
on work parties, so life was tame. And he brought home no examples of POW
crafts that I know of.
He did, however, write lots of letters home, and to those of us away
in the military. Most of these were kept, and are in the hands of my aforesaid
brother, Don. Unfortunately, they consist mostly of his concern for how
Mother and the remaining youngsters at home were coping on the farm, and
seldom mention his "Jerries" (when he does, he generally speaks respectfully
of them -- except one occasion where a gang of woodcutters went on strike
and he and another guard with a farm background had to hitch up the horses
and put up the day's quota of firewood themselves.) Recently, I typed up
edited copies of a thousand or so family wartime letters for distribution
among present and future generations of Macfies. Included would be 60 or
more of Dad's from the POW camps. I could provide photocopies of pages
that I thought might interest you, or I suppose Don could dig out the originals
for copying if necessary. My hard drive probably contains the whole set,
or some of the years' worth at least, but the letters are arranged in chronological
order, day by day, and not grouped by writer (there are six regular correspondents
involved, plus the odd letter from or to six and eight-year old kids) so
you can imagine the volume you would need to wade through if I sent the
works by internet.
Anyway, get back to Don and to me, confirming at least that you
Ed. We forwarded material to Tyler who attends
Tweedsmuir School in London, Ont.. Maybe one of our Members in that area
might want to contact Tyler to assist him in obtaining more information
on his Grandfather.
Dear Mr Moyles,
I apologise for the intrusion. I am writing to
you since, from browsing the various Dambusters Websites, you may be the
best person to help me. I am about to make a trip to Germany to visit the
Moehne, Eder and Sorpe dams and am interested in contacting anyone who
has been there. I am trying to find information about the (reported) museum
to the raid which is near the Eder, and also to locate anyone there who
had first or (by now) second hand information about events on the ground
during and after the raid. If you were able to suggest resources or even
put me in touch with any one who has visited the dams recently I would
be most grateful.
Electric Entertainment Ltd.,
Vancouver, V6R 3L8,
Tel: 604 738 8989
Fax: 604 738 8972
de ja vu
There was been much comment in previous Short
Bursts Pages regarding the controversial wording on the Plaque at the Canadian
War Museum in Ottawa. The Plaque reads as follows:
Mass bomber raids against Germany resulted
in vast destruction and heavy loss of life. The value and morality of the
strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested.
Bomber Commands aim was to crush civilian moral and force Germany to surrender
by destroying its cities and industrial installations. Although Bomber
Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead, and more than five
million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German
war production until late in the war.
Since 1945 critics have tried to diminish or tarnish
the achievements of the 125,000 gallant aircrew and ground personnel who
waged a relentless campaign over the skies of occupied Europe, mainly Germany,
It takes one back 15 years when the McKenna brothers
made the controversial TV documentary, “Death by Moonlight,” Bomber
Command, which was the second in the three part CBC series: “The Valour
and the Horror.”
Short Bursts March 1992, Issue #37, Pg. 15.
Letter to Regina Leader Post, February 8, 1992,
by Cliff Shirley DFM, DFC.
TV WAR DRAMA DISTORTED TRUTH
The TV drama, Death by Moonlight – Bomber Command,
depicts Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Harris as a killer of civilians. If
he was, where do you think he got his lessons? If you had flown over London,
Croydon, or Coventry in 1941, you would have seen that the German War Lords,
with fighters and bombers, practiced the theory of total destruction; and
in 1943 came the Nazi V-1 and V-2 rockets.
Yes, I was with the RCAF at an RAF station, and
my admiration for the planning skills of the British war cabinet and officers
regarding the air war, was most positive. I have nothing but praise for
Canada’s efforts in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan – the adequate training
of air and ground crew; the accurate planning that moved us from station
to station for our courses; and the professional treatment we received
regarding food, health, and accommodation during our preparatory career.
I have great appreciation for the U.S. Air Force and its successes in daylight
I would like to tell the authors of the Valour
and the Horror that he needs to change his thinking about the gruesome
things caused by bomb dropping, to positive thoughts about the Allied war
effort, especially the accuracy of the bombing using precise bombsights
equipped for night and day, while facing well aimed enemy hostility.
Even after viewing the show, I’m proud of the
cause we went to war for. I’m proud of the total plans for the Allied forces
– the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
The fire bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 was one
carefully planned step in the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. I was over Hamburg
that night and we had a very specific aiming point in an industrial part
of that great city. The TV show makes some gruesome presentation of those
We always thought of Harris as the key man in
sending information to heavy bomber squadrons, with orders for aircrew
to prepare “X” number of bombers, each loaded with 12,000 pounds of armour
piercing bombs and incendiaries, and a petrol load of 1,200 gallons. The
announcement of the aiming point came at the time of crew briefing just
prior to take off, with time to carefully study pictures and maps of the
route and target.
The point of bombing contact was always photographed
automatically upon the release of the last bomb. The air and ground crews
could view these photographs the morning after a raid. Maybe there could
be no greater feeling of accomplishment than to view a photograph that
showed a direct hit. I, for one, think that our targets were carefully
chosen industrial areas, and the aircrews’ intentions were, most definitely,
to help knock out part of the German war machine.
War is war, and the cost of losses on both sides
is a debt that can never be repaid or forgotten. The anxious parents and
friends also paid a price. Don’t destroy their pride in their sons and
daughters, by thinking this TV version depicts the whole truth.
Not too many raids were ill-timed or missed their
target areas. No secret policy of using civilians as aiming points was
ever heard in our war arena. We knew our losses every night were anticipated.
We knew the targets on the Ruhr – like Essen, Hamburg, and Duesseldorf
– meant death, and we saw it all around us.
The death of over 9,000 Canadian aircrew was a
sacrifice made to keep our way of life on its right course. I refuse to
believe that their actions were ever directed towards the planned slaughter
of thousands of German and Italian civilians.
It is ironic that a historian of 1991 uses the
1943 fire bombing of Hamburg and Dresden to discredit the war plans, when
neither Harris, nor many dedicated airmen are here to defend themselves.
Fifty years have not destroyed my remembrance
of German search lights, German night-fighter aircraft, balloon cables,
the accuracy and effectiveness of their exploding ammunition, their dummy
cities lighted at night, and their determination to win.
Many times, after a bombing attack, Enemy night-fighters
followed aircraft to their bases in England, and succeeded in shooting
down bombers as they made their landing approach. The enemy was doing his
cruellest best to win the war. We were well equipped and trained to do
our cruellest best to prevent him from winning.
Cliff Shirley, DFM, DFC, No. 10 Squadron (RAF)
Cliff served two tours, the first as
a Navigator/Bomb Aimer, and the second as a Bomb Aimer. (60+ operational
flights over enemy territory) In the 1990s a class action suit was
filed against the CBC and the MacKenna brothers, but the Supreme
Court of Canada would not recognize the Class Action suit.
Your Editor, after retirement, had the pleasure
of knowing Cliff and Margery Shirley as kind and considerate neighbours
for twenty-two years. Cliff passed away in 2005 at the age of 92.
Flight Cadet Chalmers, CMR
at St. Jean, Québec,
Lidstone ( now of Victoria), with whom I spent the summer of 1957 in Centralia
and 1958 in Trenton with the RCAF, wrote to tell me that S/L McLeod's poem
rang a bell with him, and when he checked his collection he found the book
of poetry in which the poem appeared, Dat H'ampire H'air Train Plan. It
was first published in 1943 and printed by Gaylord Printing Co. Ltd. of
So having the name of the book, I went to www.abebooks.com,
which I have used several times to locate and purchase used, old, and out-of-print
books. I picked up the phone and ordered the book from Alice at Cal's Books
The little hardcover book arrived the next day.
It has 7 poems by S/L McLeod, illustrated with 33 cartoons by F/O H. Rickard.
The cartoon sent with the poem as it appears in the February Page was not
one of those by Rickard. I think it may have been drawn by someone for
a station newsletter.
The book is the story of a French-Canadian airman
named Joe, who trains in the BCATP, earns his pilot's wings, is shipped
overseas where he flies Halifax bombers, survives a belly landing after
a mid-air collision with a German night fighter, is shot down overseas,
evades capture, returns to England and is decorated by the king. It is
all told in first-person with good humour about a young man who served
his country in time of war.
S/L McLeod has inspired me to write my own
poetic response to all this. It follows below, and is called, "Dat Poetry
I know that some folks may take exception
to the accent used by S/L McLeod, but I'm sure he meant no offence to anyone.
Nor do I. We're just having fun with words. As McLeod wrote in the
book about Joe, "You will find him an earnest, brave, hard-working airman.
He trained hard, studied hard, and proved to his superiors that he was
the 'stuff' of which heroes could be made."
Following is my response to finding S/L
McLeod's book. I would welcome any information about him or his illustrator,
F/O Rickard at
Dat Poetry Book
By John J. Chalmers © 2007
One day I’m read on h’Internet ‘bout Pierre who
fly de goddam Link
And dat poem ’bout him and Trainer make me start
Of d’ose airman boys from good ol’ days who serve
When we all put on de h’air force uniform in
I remember days we spend on h’air force station
At Centralia and Trenton an’ de recreation
At station dances wit’ dem cute WD’s and old
cars we drive
Like my ’40 Ford, and nights on beach when we
love to be alive.
An’ I t’ink of days at h’officer school on de
Where we march wit’ shiny boots and short cut
And lef’, right, lef’, right, we march in good
An’ learn to make de bed just right, according
So when my ol’ frien’ Dick get my e-mail, he write
To tell me where to find de h’air force poetry.
I get on computer and to search for book,
An’, tabernac, I find it right d’ere wit’ very
So right away I pick up phone an’ call de store
And nice lady name of Alice send book real soon,
But cost for book an’ shipping is only t’irteen
Which makes me happy to have such damn good luck.
'eading home from Centralia in my 1941