On Monday, May 28th the S'toon Ex A/G group
held its monthly luncheon with 19 present; one of which was Reg "Crash"
Harrison a wartime pilot.
Chairman Robson gave a report on his recent
visit to England and his attendance at the RAF Mildenhall Reunion.
Treasurer Doug Warren reported on the groups
finances; we are in a strong position financially.
Lunch was served by the R.C.A.F. Ass'n
A brief report was given re those not in
The next meeting will be on the 3rd Monday
in June; at the R.C.A.F. Lynx Wing on Ave C North.
The following report on a wartime experience
by Chairman Robson was given by Robson:
During the last half of December
of 1941 our crew completed three successful missions to the French Port
of Brest in our Wellington bomber. On one of these missions the following
is our experience in the target area.
"Our captain was a Canadian Douglas Bain
and our navigator was 'Buster' Fair, a Canadian. On our first run
up to the target the bombs failed to Fall so Douglas Bain said to Buster,
"We will do another run". We did and the bombs failed to fall for
a second time so Doug for the third time said, 'We will do another run
only lets jettison the Bombs' which we did and we headed for home lucky
to have survived three runs over a hot target like Brest."
~"Smokey" Robson - Pres.
CHARLIE YULE: A Bornemouth
I travelled 'Overseas' in early April 1943
(I know! Many will say I never truly participated in WWII since I
had not started my 'Overseas' Service a lot earlier!). In any event
we made a 'solo' run in a vessel named the SS Andes and arrived in Bournemouth
7 or 8 days after departure. This was a South American ship capable
of carrying 600 Passengers plus crew - we numbered 6000-odd! My billet
area was a mess room (over the engine room) which had wooden tables and
benches. There were hammocks slung over the tables and sleeping accommodations
available under the tables as well as on the tables.
It turned out that I was a terrible sailor.
Though I didn't get sea-sick I could only eat in a prone position and had
to rely on my comrades to provide me with cookies, etc. in the way of foodstuffs.
Bathing was out of the question and consisted of cold seawater showers.
Ugh! No Thanks! I'll just stink!!!
Upon arrival at Bournemouth many of us
were billeted in the twin 'pink' hotels in an elevated area of the city.
Our 'suite' was situated on the third floor and contained at least 4 or
5 rooms with a Bathroom. There were four or six individuals billeted
in each room. The others guys were anxious to get cleaned up and
hit the hi-spots. I kept out of their way until they were all finished
and gone! Then I leisurely filled the tub with lots of hot water
and began my soak when suddenly sirens began to wail! I leapt up
out of my sitting position and was in the act of stepping out of the tub
when I thought, 'Where do I run? And if I do who says I won't run
into a falling bomb or down the stairs? To Hell with it - I am staying
right where I am. If my number comes up at least I will be clean'.
The roof of the Hotel was made out of corrugated
metal with Pom-Pom Guns mounted on them. I could hear and feel the
guns firing and the spent casings rattling off the roof. After things
quieted down I seemed never again to be concerned about air raids.
As the saying goes about Air Gunners. 'Too dumb to be pilots and too stupid
to be scared'! Though I did earn my Glider Pilot's License in later
I remember my Bournemouth days as pretty
nice, and never did run into accommodation like John Moyles experienced.
As we departed Halifax on the Andes I remember thinking 'This war is real!
They actually think I can contribute something to it. Are they nuts'!?
I was on an adventure in Bournemouth and other stops in my overseas training
until I reached my squadron I thoroughly enjoyed all that was going on
- that is, up till our first operational trip when I saw all of the searchlights
and felt the effects of anti-aircraft flak! Then I knew it absolutely
I wish we could hear more from the Canadian
guys who did NOT serve in 6 Group. It was not until after the war
that I began feel like an outcast having served with the RAF, though I
had an ALL-CANADIAN crew except for our great Scottish Flight Engineer.
We served with 192 Squadron in 100 Group doing Special Duties - sometimes
within the Main Bomber Stream and sometimes on Diversionary raids or Electronic
Surveillance and Jamming duties.
The Halifax MkIV controversy does not want
to go away. PHIL DUBOIS sent the following, an extract from Halifax – Second
“The Mk.3 Halifax was originally intended
to be one of many variants – an interim model, pending the development
of the high altitude Hercules and while the development of the Halifax
Mk.4 took place. Unfortunately the high altitude Hercules engine never
proved reliable or satisfactory and, due to extensive development commitments,
the building of the Mk.4 prototype was abandoned, so the Mk.3 became the
next main service type and the most mass-produced version of the Halifax.
In May 1943 R9534 was being fitted with
Type D fins and rudders and flight trials had already been carried out
with Beaufighter type intakes to improve performance, By now the decision
had been made to incorporate into the Mk.3 production aircraft a
number of aerodynamic and structural improvements of the cancelled Mk.4.
Some of these were the local doubling of spar webs, an increase in some
bolt sizes, some tubes of the Messier undercarriage to be improved in strength,
the introduction of the Mk.4 floor and the re-introduction of the retractable
tailwheel assembly. MAP also ruled that the Mk.3 was to be tropoicalized
from the outset of production. With this marriage of airframe and Hercules
engine the Halifax was second to none; with further development and powered
by a more powerful Hercules we considered the Halifax superior to all.”
A bit of Trivia: The first internal combustion
engine built by Daimler Benz was run on coal dust!
In 1989, a request appeared in SHORT BURSTS
asking Members to comment on side-arms and drugs issued to aircrew.
Here are a couple of replies.
Hand guns – they were
optional for aircrew on our Squadron. Our Skipper and both the A/Gs carried
a Smith and Weston .38, the rest of our crew declined. We only had six
rounds of ammo and left one chamber empty for safety reasons. We were not
issued holsters so tied the butt with lanyards to our epaulets and stuck
the .38 into our belts, not too comfortable with your mae west and parachute
harness. We never received any instruction on firing. When I bailed out
and roamed Germany for a while it gave me a sense of security knowing I
had some protection, small as it was.
Drugs – To the best
of my knowledge we never received any drugs on ops. On a raid to Settin
it took about 12 hours. This was about max time with full bomb and fuel
load, and we came home on the fumes. The Engineer had a nervous breakdown,
he never needed any wakey-wakley pills!
Wakey-Wakey pills handed
out by MO to aircrew as a precaution against sleepiness.
“If you were a commissioned officer, and
most AGs weren’t, you could draw a cute little 5 ½ lb. Webley, complete
with webbing from stores to take with you on Ops if you so wished. All
non-commissioned ranks were not included. Apparently we were not as intelligent
as the commissioned types. Even though we knew the Browning .303 inside
and out, we just couldn’t be trusted with a hog-leg like that.
This was the rule on our Squadron #76 at
Holme On Spaldng Moor.
About the drug bit … The two gunners were
the ones most likely to doze off because of their long periods of inactivity.
Doing a visual search on a pitch black night kind of hypnotized and, along
with the drone of the engines, induced sleep in most normal gunners. NOT
THIS BOY…. I was too damned scared to close my eyes. In fact I stared into
the darkness so hard that I couldn’t close my eyes for a least four hours
after we landed. My eyelids were stuck under the edge of my helmet.
We were advised, all joking aside, that
we could have wakey-wakey tablets if we felt we needed them, but were advised
not to take them if we did not need them. They were caffeine tablets
and also acted as a diuretic. You know what that meant and nobody enjoyed
that parade at 20,000 feet and minus 40 degrees fahrenheit!
The Benzedrine some people mentioned was
in the form of tablets in our escape kits and to be used ONLY in the utmost
urgency, as running from pursuers to cover lots of ground. Our Medics advised
us if we used them and did push ourselves to the limit to escape, we were
to realize that we would be completely worn out and to make sure to find
some place where we could sleep the clock around.
At no time were we, on #76 Squadron, ever
advised or coerced into taking any type of drug, and I’m sure it was the
same for all the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF, and the RSAAF.
I don’t know about the rest of you but
a nice warm electric suit and the gentle roar of those Hercs did nothing
to seduce me into the arms of Morpheus. I valued my hide too much! Any
stories to the contrary I believe are a pile of bull. We were not drug
The following is taken from RECOIL,
the Ex-Air Gunners’ Association, B.C. Branch Newsletter
PARKINSON: IS ANYBODY LISTENING?
I was with 31 Squadron from August 1942
to December 1943 and flew 500 operational hours and 250 non-operational
My next posting was to a Communication
Squadron in New Delhi. I was assigned as a WAG to the Supreme Commander
Sea, Lord Mountbatten, and when we were not required by him, flew other
senior officers. It was interesting and exciting. The A/C had special call
signs, and all ground stations kept a watch when we were airborne. We had
to be prepared for almost anything as we were not advised of destination.
On the trips we flew the brass were always
interesting and on one trip, after leaving Chunking, I was to contact Calcutta
but couldn’t raise them. I thought my transmitter was off frequency. After
finding no problem with the equipment I kept calling. My special call signs
really helped. Gibralta picked up my message and called Malta, Malta called
Karachi, Karachi called Allahabad, Allahabad woke up Calcutta and Calcutta
You will see that this page is a little
shorter than previous pages. I find that, when reading other AGs experiences,
they trigger memories of similar situations. If they do with you, jot them
down and sent them in for others to share. For example, George Parkinson's
communications problem (above) reminded me of returning from the East with
a load of ex-POWs from Japanese camps in Burma. We were headed up the Persian
Gulf at night in bad weather and, for some reason, could not gain altitude.
We did not carry a navigator and the pilot asked me to get a fix. The Japanese
had just surrendered, the RAF were going on strike - yes, strike, and all
service communication was shut down for the night. I had swing my loop
onto two domestic, broad band, AM stations. Not knowing the language
I could only guess at the location of the station by direction and strength
of the signal. To make it more difficult to plot one was approximately
10 degrees and the other was approximately 180 degrees. It was just pure
luck that, when we broke out into moolight, we were barrelling down a gorge
with the mountains rising on either side.
As Jim Patterson said, when he was Associate
Editor of SHORT BURST, "if you don't want to listen to any more of my stories,
get some of your own in to the Editor".
A big THANK YOU to the Southern Ontario
Branch for their donation to the CATP Museum.
Thanks again goes out to member Ray
Stoy for his painting of the Fairey Battle. If interested in
one of Ray's WW11 a/c paintings contact him at:
7728 U.S. Open Loop,
Bradenton, Fl. 34202
OK, how many of you chaps up-chucked in
the back of the Battle???
Until July, keep well and have a good summer.
Cheers, John Moyles.