On Monday, April 16, 2001 the S'toon Ex. Air Gunners & W.A.G.s
met with 19 in attendance. The Lynx Wing RCAF Ass'n catered the lunch.
We again welcomed Joe Gagne, ex Bomb Aimer with 428 Sqdn, and accepted
him as a member of the group.
We reviewed how, now that we are on the Internet, it's up to the
Air Gunners and W.A.G. groups to participate to ensure the success of the
program which is the successor to SHORT BURSTS. Jack Scarfe suggested
that we have someone from DVA speak to our group to bring us up to date
about DVA programs & activities. Hopefully this will take place
at the May meeting which will be held on the 4th Monday at noon at the
Lynx Wing on Ave C North.
149 Sqdn RAF Bomber Command at Mildenhall in mid 1941 occasionally
had to contend with German nite-intruders; they would frequent the area
and zoom in and shoot down returning bombers. Robson reported he
will be attending the RAF Mildenhall reunion on May 18-20, 2001 which is
held at RAF Mildenhall, U.K.
~ C. A. "Smokey" Robson
Southern Ontario Chapter
Our Ontario 'Chapter' (why do we call it a Chapter?) of the Air Gunners
Association has about 60 members and our meetings usually have about 20
regular members present.
Sickness, transportation, etc. may account for some members not being
present. . . hey! . . . we are all getting older! (but we are rich
in spirit, notably in that most members still want copies of the minutes!)
We discuss various items, especially our FN turret which will be
on display at the Downsview Air Show on May 5-6-7.
The turret may also be viewed at the Collingwood Air Show during
Those involved in the turret display (apart from many volunteers!)
are Bill Cole (428 Sqdn) Fred Vincent (189 Sqdrn) and Jack Willis (100-405
Then ...courtesy of the Bluffers Park Yacht Club we partake in an
annual sail. (This year on June 15th . . . no hamburgers this year - steak!)
Lake Ontario can get pretty rough . . . no Mae Wests . . . but life
Ross Ellis (159 Sqdrn) is i/c entertainment. He is dedicated. Last
year it was theatre to see The Ink Spots (they are still around?)
Next is Camelot at the North York Library Theatre. . . Chinese food
prior to the show!
And . . . here, a message from our President, Ken Hill (425 Sqdrn):
From all our members in the Southern Ontario Chapter . .
. we wish to thank all the people responsible for their efforts in the
making it possible for us to receive the Short Bursts. It has been
a publication we have all enjoyed and look forward to receiving. It has
really been the thread that has kept us together.
Keep up the good work fellas!
Our sincere thanks,
Ken Hill - President
Bill Cockburn (15 Sqdrn)
You asked me what I thought of the article on the Halifax IV.
I have very mixed feelings as to the validity of this aircraft such as:
Why did it take so many years for the existence of this aircraft to come
to light? Ultra was taken off the secret list a good many years ago.
Surely it was more sensitive than an high performance a/c, that was spectacular
at the time, but far outclassed by modern jets for many years.
Mr. Harry Thomas says he joined the RAF in 1940 and trained as a
Flight Engineer in Canada To the best of my knowledge they didn't
start training F/E's in Canada until late in the war. Our F/E's were
all remusters from ground crew, mostly Aero Engine Mechanics/Fitters.
Hampdens & Wellingtons did not carry F/Es. Maybe he trained in
Canada as another aircrew trade and was remustered. Our crew trained
on Wellingtons at 22 OTU, Wellesbourne in the spring of 1943 We were
then transferred to HCU at Topcliff where we picked up our Flight Engineer
and Mid Upper Gunner. We completed our tour of ops (not missions) flying
Halifax Vs & IIIs on 427 Sqdn. Leeming, Yorks. and Halifax IIIs at
Would not a brevet inscribed "FES" be questioned by anyone knowledgeable
in aircrew trades? Secrecy?
On the other side of the coin, I have flown in Halifax MKs 1, II,
V & IIIs and have always wondered why I had never heard of the Mark
IV? This leaves room for speculation. Our W/Op was RAF. He was quite a
character. Our Canadian W/Ops wore the WAG brevet. The RAF
W/Ops just wore the AG with the sparks on their right sleeve when they
were NCOs. When commissioned they dropped the sparks and just wore
the AG brevet. As all their time was occupied manning their radio sets,
the RAF designated another trade for them, namely Signals and a distinctive
S brevet. The first time he went on leave wearing his new S brevet,
a sweet little old lady asked him what the S stood for? His reply
was that he was a "Stoker on a Steam Bomber." She just smiled and
said, Oh! This is God's truth. Our crew thought
it was hilarious. I'm afraid poor old Jim Smith our former W/Op cannot
confirm this for you. He is still alive and living in his home town
of London but is suffering from dementia. He had a very successful
career in business after the war. Our F/E Clem Corbiell is in his
eighties and still farming in Gleichen, AB. I am sure he would recall
this bit of wit from Smitty. We are the last three surviving members
of our crew.
Thanks again for the Short Bursts. I will make copies of them
and send them to Clem. He will be interested in the Halifax IV.
~ All the best and to all fellow Ex Air Gunners,
Letter from Ken Law
Congratulations to all who had a hand in putting together the great
"Short Bursts" web page - good show.
It may come under the heading of knit-picking but - to whom it may
concern - something has been bothering me for lo-these many years, and
if I don't mention it now - when? As one who labored in the turrets of
Stirling a/c I cringe everytime I see the name with an "E" in it. The mighty
Stirling was never mounted on a pedestal at sites around the globe or dredged
from a lake in Scandinavia and carried half way around the world to be
lovingly restored and put on display. But let us remember it was the first
of the British four engine heavies and deserves to have its name spelled
correctly. Its STIRLING with two "I"s.
Ken Law #0422 218 Squadron.
Ed: My error Ken. This is the second time an ex-Stirling AG has taken
me to task. When Doreene and I published the Short Bursts COMMEMORATIVE
ISSUE, a collection of ten years Short Bursts articles in 1994, an
Ex-Stirling member pointed out that in the 190 page book there was no mention
of his favorite a/c, the Stirling. The reason being that no members wrote
in telling about their experiences on this aircraft. It is not too late
to hear from you Stirling AGs. What can I say Ken, "the Stirling was truly
a sterling machine."
Time for a plug: There are still copies of the COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE
if anybody is interested. They can be obtained from your Editor or the
CATP Air Museum in Brandon.
Short Stirling ready for delivery late in 1940
RECALLING FALLEN COMRADES
By Maurice Shnider
Bournemouth is a beautiful resort city on the South coast of England.
With its favorable climate and dozens of hotels it was the ideal location
for #3 Personnel Reception Center of the RCAF during the Second World War.
The beaches and cliffs overlook the English Channel and, even on bright
days, the horizon is usually obscured by a haze. On occasion a fearful
sight emerged from that haze; the so-called tip-and-run raiders of the
At times these were ME10-9 fighter bombers, but the favorite attacker
was the Focke-Wulf 190. They operated out of a number of airfields in the
vicinity of Cherbourg and Caen. The pay-load was a 500 kilogram bomb carried
under the fuselage. Their objective was to hit the railway, stations or
gas depots, but other inviting targets were the hotels of the Bournemouth
and Torquay where the German Command knew the Canadian Airmen were billeted.
For the most part they were young, recently graduated officers and
NCOs awaiting posting to operational Training Units or active Squadrons.
time usually chosen for an attack was lunch time or tea time when most
everyone was eating or relaxing.
On May 23, 1943, the peacefulness of a beautiful Sunday morning was
abruptly shattered when 22 German aircraft, led by Leutnant Leopold Wenger,
conducted their most audacious raid on Bournemouth. The Kingsway Hotel,
the Congressional Church and Beales Department Store sustained significant
bomb damage, but at the Landsdowne Circle the Metropole Hotel was virtually
destroyed when it took a direct hit.
Casualties were high. Among the 128 killed that day were 51 service
men. Members of the RCAF are recorded in Les Allison’s Memorial book
Shall Grow Not Old and they include two Manitobans, Sgt. David
Rainnie Chalmers, age 38, from Rosewood, and 21 year old Flight Sgt. Air
Gunner William Geoffrey Abbott from Winnipeg.
My wife, Renee, and I visited Bournemouth this past May (2000)
and I had the opportunity to read the Anniversary copy of the Bournemouth
Echo. It contained a picture of Rhonda Taylor, the wife of Renee’s nephew
Leon. At the time of the raid, Rhonda was a pretty seven-year-old girl
who narrowly missed death when she and her sister answered their mother’s
call to lunch as they were playing in the garden behind her uncle’s tobacco
shop on the Landsdowne
Leon agreed to drive me to the Bournemouth Echo building where I
could start my research on the Canadian casualties. I identified myself
to a attractive young receptionist, but if I expected any assistance
in what might prove to be a special human interest story, then I was sadly
disappointed. Rather than direct me to the reporter who had written the
Anniversary article, she suggested that I might find the desired information
at the Bournemouth Library. I silently wondered whether she had heard of
the Second World War and if she had, did she know that the streets of Bournemouth
were once alive with young Canadian aircrew proudly sporting their recently
acquired wings that identified them as Pilots, Observers, Navigators, Bomb
aimers or Wireless Air Gunners, Air Gunners, and Flight Engineers?
Did she know that thousands of them made the supreme sacrifice in the defense
of her country and that many were buried right here in Bournemouth?
Leon then drove me to Charminister Cemetery where an obliging member
of the Legion directed us to the military section known as the North Cemetery.
The grounds were immaculately maintained and there were spring flowers
at each grave site.
Spitfire Mk.V (fore) and Spitfire Mk IIA
I recorded the names of all the 21 Canadians, three of whom
were fighter pilots killed in training accidents, and three in an earlier
tip-and-run raid when an ME 109 fighter bomber hit the Anglo-Swiss hotel
on June 6, 1942.
Among those killed were 21-year-old Pilot Officer Russell Norman
Bailey, a Wireless Operator Air Gunner from Winnipeg, and Pilot Officer
Jacob Alexander Epp, a 25-year-old Wireless Operator Air Gunner from Manitou.
As a matter of interest, that Messerchmidt was pursued towards France
by two RAF Spitfires and shot down over the Channel. I discovered that
Christopher Gloss, an aviation writer and historian who lives outside of
London, is completing a book on the tip-and-run raids over Southern England.
Shortly after my return to Canada, I left a phone message on his
line and I was pleasantly surprised when he called back within the hour.
I had a delightful chat with him and I can't wait to obtain his book.
In the process of researching his book, Mr. Goss had corresponded
with Lieutenant Wenger’s brother in Austria. He obtained a picture of a
hotel on the East Overcliff Drive taken from the cockpit of the Focke-Wulf
190 as it swooped in from the Channel at roof-top level. This hotel was
later identified as the Cumberland, which is only two doors away from the
Cottonwood where I was first billeted in January 1943.
As a footnote Mr. Goss learned that the enemy pilot was awarded the
Knight’s Cross for bravery in January 1945 and was killed three months
later when his aircraft was shot down by the Russians.
*Maurice Shnider, a longtime Wartime Pilots & Observers
Association Member, is a Winnipeg family physician. He was a Navigator
during WWII in the RCAF, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
after completing a tour of operational flying in the Far East on Catalinas.
** The Bournemouth Echo wrote Dr. Shnider later to apologize for
***This article first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, November
Messerschmitt 109E fighter. Color scheme of the Battle
of Britain period
Bournemouth, the place where the young Canadian "Colonial" aircrew
were introduced to England, was an Island fighting for its very existence.
This was where we learned the British pound shillings and pence, became
familiar with the Inns and Pubs which were a far cry from the 'men only'
beer parlors of Saskatchewan. From the vantage point on the Southern Coast
we watched the bombers returning from raids on the continent, first the
main stream, then the stragglers with engines feathered, trailing smoke.
It was a time for enjoying the British countryside but all the while being
very conscious of what lay ahead. And, of course, there were the tip-and-run
The Reception Center was quite crowded and our ablutions consisted,
in part, of a long wooden trough with cold water taps and a wash basin
hanging on a nail over each tap. On one tip-and-run raid a German pilot
strafed the ablutions. When he got home he could have painted three wash
basins below his cockpit as three basins had been punctured. We thought
the administration would replace them, but no, with typical RAF frugality,
the basins were put back into active service, the holes plugged with bits
Most aircrew went through Bournemouth Reception Center. Send your
memories of this posting to the Editor for inclusion in Ex-AG Web Pages.
I was in the Museum site (Edmonton) the other day, very interesting,
and the description of the Bolingbroke prompted me to write. There are
what I consider some inaccuracies in that description. I thought
I would put to paper my opinion, maybe our members will find it interestisng,
so here goes.
The Bristol Bolingbroke
Mention the name Bolingbroke and someone will say, "oh yes, that's
the Canadian built version of the Blenheim Mk4". The imformation that I
have to hand contradicts that statement. Let me explain.
The Bristol Blenheim made its debut in 1936 and was selected by the
RAF for re-equipment of the rapidly expanding force. It set the pattern
in light-bomber design which other nations were not slow to follow.
However, when the RAF went to war in 1939 it soon discovered that the Blenheim
was not the redoubtable weapon it had supposed. To make a rather
long story short, several modifications were developed one of which, type
152, was to become the Beaufort. The other was called the Bolingbroke.
One early production Blenheim I (7072) was set aside in 1937
for conversioin as a prototype for the Bolingbroke. The unusually
short nose gave way to a lengthened structure which retained the contours
of the Blenheim I, the whole windscreen and the bomb aimers window assembly
being moved forward about 3 feet. It was immediately realized that
this was unsuitable from the pilots point of view and, therefore, the pilots
windscreen was moved back to its original position. After a few more mods
the aircraft took on the appearance that is so familiar to us today,
the forward hooding on the port side was "scalloped" to produce what was
later to become the characteristic nose of the Bolingbroke / Blenheim.
In this form the Bolingbroke was adopted by the RCAF and negotiations
commenced regarding production of the aircraft in Canada. Plans
for producing the Bolingbroke in the UK were cancelled in favour of maintaining
the supply of Blenheims for RAF squadrons. The prototype Bolingbroke
K7072 was shipped to Canada to assist in the production of the type by
Fairchild Aircraft. The first batch of 18 aircraft were essentially replicas
of K7072 with Mercury engines and were designated Bolingbroke MkI.
The standard Canadian version was the Bolingbroke MkIV and was redesigned
for Canadian and US equipment. One version was built with Wright-Cyclone
engines and 15 were delivered with Pratt & Whitney twin wasp
engines. One version, a mark III , was equipped with floats.
In 1938 interest by the Air Ministry in the Bolingbroke was revived
and it was decided to put a generally similiar aircraft in production
until the Beaufort became available. The type number 149 was retained
but the aircraft was designated BLENHEIM IV, it differed from the
earlier version by having the stepped windscreen and lengthened nose introduced
on the Bolingbroke.
I would suggest that the above facts contradict the idea that the
Bolingbroke is a Canadian version of the Blenheim MkIV. The reverse is
The Bolingbroke went on to have a good career in Canada, it served
as an operational aircraft on coastal patrols, took part in operations
in the Aleution Islands,and served as a trainer at Bombing and Gunnery
schools and as a drogue towing aircraft. A great many gunners and
WAGs trained on the "Boly".
There is a Blenheim flying in the UK that was built from parts of
Bolingbrokes obtained from Canada. One other Bolingbroke is being
rebuilt in England and , when completed, will be painted in training
yellow and have RCAF markings. The number of this aircraft is 9893,
check your log book, maybe you flew in that aircraft. The aircraft
at No.10 B&G were all in the 10000 series. The aircraft 9893 was used
for a time as a source of spares for the airworthy Blenheim. There is a
photograph of it in a recent issue of "Flypast" magazine.
There you are John, I hope they can find room for this article in
the next issue of "Shortbursts". I hope to be able to supply you
with some news about our branch before too long, we are still working on
our summer programme and there is a chance that we will be changing the
location of our meetings. I made copies of the March and April isssues
and willdistribute them to our members at lunch tomorrow, if there is enough
interest I shall do it with every issue.
BLENHEIM MK I, pictured late in 1938, first
fast monoplane light bomber used by the RAF
BLENHEIM IV in service in 1942, fitted with a 'chin'
turret, a late modification
British Commonwealth Air Training
Presentation of Commemorative
On April 01, 2001 a ceremony was held at the Alberta Aviation Museum
to commemorate the founding of the BCATP. The event was attended
by a large crowd including members of the Ex-Air Gunners Association, the
Wartime Aircrew Association, and the Prisoner of War Association.
Also in attendance were representatives of the Government of Canada, the
Government of the Province of Alberta and the City of Edmonton. The
highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of a pennant honouring
the 60th anniversary of the BCATP by Lois Hole, Lieutenant Governor of
the Province of Alberta, to the Alberta Aviation Museum and the Edmonton
Aviation Heritage Centre. The pennant was received by Doug Matheson,
DFC and Cal Bricker, DFC two graduates of the plan who went on to fly Spitfires
during the war.
The plan graduated 131,553 aircrew, 72,835 Canadians, 42,110 from
Britain, including other nationalities serving with the RAF, 9,606 Australians,
and 7,002 from New Zealand. At the completion of the ceremony the
guests were invited to tour the museum and view the various aircraft including
a rebuilt DeHavilland Mosquito. Some of the aircraft on display include
an F86 Mk6, a Cf100, a CF101 Voodoo, A Harvard, A T33 and a Vampire.
The museum restoration staff are presently restoring an Avro Anson.
75th. Anniversary of Blatchford
Field - Edmonton City Centre Airport
On June 17, 2001 Blatchford Field will celebrate its 75 birthday.
Canadas first municipal airport came into existence in 1926, and has a
history of pioneer aviators delivering mail and supplies to the north country.
C.H. "Punch" Dickens. W.R."Wop" May, Leigh Brintell, Grant McConachie,
Matt Berry and Walter Gilbert made their names as flying pioneers, they
were the famous "Bush Pilots. Edmonton became a vibrant centre of of aviation
and earned its nickname as "Gateway to the North".
The airport hosted the first Canadian air show with 60 pilots participating.
Edmonton and its airport were an important part of the BCATP and
Canadas war effort. It was the location of No,.2 Air Observers School,
with "Wop" May as its general manager. On a September day in 1943, 865
aircraft went through Blatchford Field in a 24 hour period, that same year
a world record of 82,500 take-offs and landings was set. The airport
was also used by the USAAF as a staging post in the transit of aircraft
to Alaska and the USSR.
The celebrations will be held at the Alberta Aviation Museum
at the Edmonton City Centre Airport. There will be a celebration of the
anniversary of the airport and special attention will be paid to individuals
who contributed so much in the past and who are currently involved
in the success of the City Centre Airport. Special guests will
be the pilots and crews from CFB Cold Lake who are participating in the
Maple Flag exercise.
Just back from France, but ready for more, are
Sgt. C.L. Brown (Member #849) giving a light to Sgt.
Brown was the rear gunner and McNally the Mid-Upper
gunner with 429 (Bison) Sqdrn. RCAF
flying Halifaxes out of Leeming, York. July
TEARING OFF A STRIP
by the late Bill Hooper TEE EMM.
Stolen from TAILWIND,
Aircrew Association of Western Nova Scotia Newsletter
Britain’s best known pin-up girl will be back in Lincolnshire on
Saturday to see an historic bomber which has been named after her. Jane
Leighton-Porter – who was the model for the Daily Mirror’s famous wartime
Jane cartoon series, will be at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre
at East Kirby, near Spilsby, helping to launch a new book on the Lancaster
bomber. During the war a 57 Squadron Lancaster based at East Kirkby was
named Just Jane and flew on operations with a Jane cartoon painted on its
fuselage.The aviation centre is currently restoring a wartime Lancaster
and has painted the aircraft the colours of Just Jane of 57 Squadron, complete
Jane, who was travelling from her home in Horsham, West Sussex, for
the occasion, said, “I’m looking forward to it. I have happy memories of
appearing in the theatres in Grimsby and Lincoln during my showbiz days
with the Grade Brothers.” She told the evening telegraph: “It is nice to
think that there was a Lancaster named after me in the war and even nicer
that one of the few to survive is called Just Jane.” She remembers vividly
her first visit to Grimsby to play the Palace Theatre in her own show,
Jane of the Daily Mirror. “The place was packed to the rafters. It always
was when we played in towns full of service men.
After the show, she presented prizes to the local air cadets and
still has a photograph and cuttings of the event among her souvenirs. Jane
and husband Arthur have a son, Simon, now a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F.,
who did part of his training at nearby Coningsby. Although now in her 70’s,
she has been very busy with personal appearances during the VE-Day celebrations
because of her fame as a wartime morale-booster
Note: two brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, farmers, who purchased
the aircraft in memory of their brother who died on Ops on a Halifax have
been responsible for the aircraft .sitting in its own hangar, the four
Merlins have been overhauled, permitting day and night time taxy-rides
at sixty quid per ride to repay for the Merlin’s overhaul.,
BELL, R. 'Dick', MBR. #1204, OF EDMONTON, AB: Suddenly, on
March 17, 2001. Enlisted 1943 with Manning dept at No. 3 in Edmonton.
Graduated from #3 B&G MacDonald, MB. Trained at No. 82 OTU, Ossington
and #1659 HCU at Topcliffe. Operations with 434 'Bluenose' Squadron
RCAF at Tholthorpe, Yorks.
From Your Editor
The Halifax picture in this Issue is a photo of a water-color
painted by Member Ray Stoy. We will be featuring one of Rays paintings
each month. If you would like to obtain one of Ray's paintings/prints,
contact him at the following address. Ray will also do special orders,
e.g. type of aircraft and markings as requested.
7728 U.S. Loop,
Bradenton, FL. 34202
USA Ph - (941)907-6077
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Ray, for sharing your talent with us
To make this Web Page a success we need material from Members
so the Page can be up-dated each month. We need Branch reports as well
as memories. Send pictures and copy to John Moyles - address and Email
is on this page.
Until June, keep well. Cheers, John Moyles