OCTOBER 2001

BLACKBURN SHARK III

BLACKBURN SHARK III
From L to R – WAG John Moyles, Navigator ‘Hank’ Hankinson, Pilot Jerry McKenna
Picture taken by Tommy Cousins WAG – Summer of 1942.

BLACKBURN SHARK III
Upper wing span – 46 ft.
Length – 38 ft. 5 in.
Height – 14 ft. 3 in.
800 or 840 hp. Pegasus engine.
Military load – 1595 lbs
(usually 2 – 500 lb. Depth charges – 1 .303 fixed Browning,
1 Gas Operated Vickers .303 free machine gun.)
Speed at Sea Level – 148 mph.
Service Ceiling – 15,800 ft.
Range – 731 miles.

The Blackburn Shark is usually remembered as the last of the line of Blackburn torpedo-spotter-reconnaissance biplanes that served on aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy  between the two world wars. Less well known is the story of Sharks operated by the R.C.A.F. Although they were originally intended to be used as a torpedo strike force against any hostile naval units menacing the Canadian coast, they never fulfilled this role. Nevertheless both Canadian and British built Shark seaplanes of the R.C.A.F. spent the first four years of the war, winter and summer, on patrol and anti-submarine duties among the mountains, islands, and fogs of Canada’s Pacific coast.

In December 1941 #7 BR Squadron was established at Seal Cove in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Blackburn Sharks and Squadron aircrew began arriving and started patrolling. At first there was a total of 9 pilots, 12 Wireless Air Gunners, and three Navigators. Pilots right off Harvards and Ansons developing skills flying pontoon aircraft dealing with glassy water, tides, currents, obstacles in the bay, mountains, and fog.

To check out a green pilot the instructor stood on the wing and shouted instructions in the art of taxiing, getting the ship onto the step for take-off, all the while the WAG sitting in the open cockpit behind the pilot was trying to protect his wireless equipment from the salt spray. When the instructor thought that the pilot “had the hang of it” he hailed a dinghy and went back to the mess for a stiff one, leaving the pilot and wag to take off and get to know the temperamental lady.

Spare parts were scarce or non-existent. There was no synchronization gear for the .303 fixed Browning machine gun firing through the three bladed wooden prop. A red tag reading, “use in emergency only” was hung from the gun. If the engine fire extinguisher was discharged, there were no replacements – another red tag! One day a ship arrived with spare parts. The whole Squadron went down to help unload this welcome cargo but, when the crates arrived at the hangar they were for Canso flying boats which, at that time, the Squadron did not have.

Most of the patrols were monotonous and boring, however, there was great excitement on June 2nd. 1942 when all serviceable Sharks (12) were scrambled and instructed to patrol West as far as fuel would allow. The crews did not know that at that moment  Admiral Katuta of the Japanese Imperial Navy in command of a force of 2 carriers, the Ryujo and The Junyo, 2 heavy cruisers, 3 destroyers, backed up  by a secondary force of 4 cruisers 9 destroyers, a screen of submarines, and 3 transports carrying 2500 invasion troops, ordered his planes from the Junyo to attack Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. It was a good thing the 7 B.R. Sharks didn’t have the range!  On October 27, 1942 a submarine was sighted and attacked off Rose Point on the Northern Tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. However, as the war in the Pacific moved South, patrols became routine and moral deteriorated. The term “bushed” became common.

The WAG  stood on the front of the pontoon, fed starter cartridges into the engine and when it started, he released the buoy rope and slid down the pontoon under the wing. As the pilot revved the motor, pulled back on the stick to ploughed water,  the WAG climbed up the side of the a/c and entered the rear cockpit, usually head first and soaking wet.


Gerald Trew, Ex-AG – Port Hope Ont.

“Despite all my travelling, there was something else I have always wanted to do – I wanted to make my own “War Pilgrimage.” I really wanted to see more of the towns of England and the air bases which were our home away from home. Also I wished to visit a number of air museums and, especially, to visit the graves of my friends and to pay my final respects.

Previous to my departure I had written the War Graves Commission in Ottawa giving them details of the ones I knew had been killed. They responded promptly, giving instructions on how to reach the cemeteries, and the row and lot numbers of the graves.

On a Saturday morning in May 1993, I entered Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking, South West of London. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining through the trees, and of course the grounds were like a picture post card. As I stood before the Stone of Remembrance, I raised my eyes and saw the beautiful White Cross of Sacrifice located at the far end of the cemetery. Ahead of me was a wide walkway, and the papers I had in my hand stated that to my left were the graves of 925 Canadian soldiers, and to the right the final resting place of 875 members of the RCAF.

I soon reached Row H and started over to the grave. My tears were coming and I knew in a few moments I would, for the first time in more than 49 years, be standing in the presence of a friend of so long ago. As I stood there in front of the grave I cried my eyes out and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My mind was flooded with the thoughts of the many blessings that I have enjoyed since the end of hostilities yet, deep in my heart, I knew that my friend had just as much right to live as I did. I also knew that, if it had not been for an illness which delayed my posting overseas, perhaps except for the Grace of God, my name might have been on the next stone. The crew were all laid out in a row, the pilot, navigator,, bomb-aimer, and gunners. The pilot was the “old man” 21 years old, yet he was flying a large twin-engined Wellington bomber. My friend’s name on the stone read “Sgt. Robert Pegg RCAF. Killed August 30th. 1944 age 19 years.”


Robert Campbell Pegg



The story continued by Reporter Elaine Smith
SIMCOE REFORMER Thursday, Feb. 3rd. 2000.  (In part)

PORT ROWAN – Betty Brown thought she had locked away memories of her brother, killed during the second world war, long ago.

In mid November, she found the lock undone. That’s when Gerald Trew, a Port Hope resident and wartime pal of her brother, placed an ad in the Simcoe Reformer looking for the family of  Robert Campbell Pegg, Soon Brown’s phone was ringing non stop, as were those of her other four siblings. Friends, neighbors, and relatives were all calling to make sure they had seen Trew’s advertisement.

“Bob and I were seventeen months apart,” said Brown, “I was in the Air Force myself so I didn’t come home at the time. I got about 12 calls from people who had known Bob. It was like sending sympathy cards, a nice feeling.

Within no time she and her siblings were placing calls to Trew in Port Hope.

“It was just tremendous” said Trew, whose idea of seeking out Pegg’s family was cemented after a serious illness. “They had my tears flowing when I got the call. They were just flabbergasted after all these years to talk to someone who knew their brother”. Brown agrees, “He was there and he had the memories”.

Betty Brown  Gerald Trew  Nancy Whitworth
L to R Betty Brown  Gerald Trew  Nancy Whitworth



ENEMIES TURNED FRIENDS

A report by Gavin Engelbrecht

A Royal Air Force veteran has described meeting the crew of a German submarine he had tried to shoot out of the water August 2, 1943. Bill Owens of Richmond, North Yorkshire, who joined crew members of U-218 at their annual reunion, said, “They were all laughing and smiling when I entered the function room. It was not a case of meeting the vanquished. We met as war veterans and there was a feeling of real fellowship and camaraderie.”

U-boat gunner, Martin Wilns – one of six crew members wounded by Bill in the submarine attack, still suffers from a leg wound, but was one of the first to shake hands with him.

Bill, who served as a radio operator/front gunner in an RAF Wellington bomber,  recalls  how he was confronted by the startling sight of a U-boat slowly emerging from the vast expanse of the Bay of Biscay – beneath his very nose. He said, “ we had heard of air crews who had flown hundreds of monotonous hours on these patrols without seeing anything at all. Looking for U-boats was like looking for a needle in a haystack.” He added, “ once alerted the pilot decided to attack immediately. As we went in low to drop our depth charges I could see my aim was accurate, the bullets hitting the conning tower area of the U-boat.”

Six depth charges exploded on the starboard side of the submarine but too far away to cause any damage. After three more machine gun passes the U-boat crash dived ending the attack.

Bill thought no more about it until he was contacted by a war historian, Norman Franks, who wanted help with researching the book Conflict Over the Bay. He learned then that U-218 had had to abort its patrol and return to port. Later a friend was swopping wartime stories with the proprietor of a guest house in Germany who just happened to know U-218’s radio operator, Herman Knoll.

Bill established contact, leading to his meeting with the crew, including U-boat commander Captain Richard Becker and First Officer Wilhem Foehner.

After the submarine limped back to base the crew members were sent on two weeks leave – for which Bill received “grateful thanks” when they met.

Captain Richard Becker  (left)
Captain Richard Becker  (left)

Bill Owens centre with crew of U-218
Bill Owens centre with crew of U-218
from left, Herman Noll, Mar Wilms, Lieutenant Walter Boley and Captain Richard Becker.


WELDY MOFFATT - WAG 427 Sqdrn.

REQUIEM FOR A REAR GUNNER

My brief sweet life is over, my eyes no longer see
No summer walks –
No Christmas trees –
No pretty girls for me –
I got the chop. I’ve had it. My nightly ops are done.
Yet in another hundred years I’ll still be twenty-one!

~Anon.


Your Editor's Ramblings

A bit of Trivia – did you ever wonder what happened to some of those reliable Lancasters?

I was reading a book by Charles Berlitz – THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, and came across the following:

“A British South American Tudor 1V four motor passenger plane, a converted Lancaster bomber, called the Star Tiger, flying from the Azores to Bermuda, disappeared on January 29, 1948. It carried a crew of six and twenty-five passengers, including Sir Arthur Cunningham, British World War 11 Air Marshal and former commander of the Second Tactical Air Force RCAF. The Star Tiger was scheduled to land at Kindley field, Bermuda, and at 10:30 p.m. shortly before ETA, the pilot radioed the control tower a message including the worlds, “weather and performance excellent and expect to arrive on schedule.” The plane’s position was reported 380 miles North East of Bermuda.

There was no further message but the Star Tiger never arrived. Thirty planes and ten ships combed the area for several days without success.

By an extraordinary and rather disquieting coincidence occurring within twelve days before the first anniversary of the disappearance of the Star Tiger, her sister ship, the Star Ariel, carrying a crew of seven and thirteen passengers, disappeared in a flight between Bermuda and Jamaica on January 7, 1949. Her Captain sent the following routine flight report back to Bermuda about forty-five minutes after takeoff.

“This is Captain McPhee aboard “Ariel” en route to Kingston, Jamaica from Bermuda. We have reached cruising altitude. Fair weather. Expect time of arrival Kingston as scheduled … I am changing frequency to pick up Kingston.”

There was no further messages from  Star Ariel, then or ever. Seventy-two search planes, from a Naval Task Force in the area, flying in close formation, covered 150,000 square miles of ocean. They were unable to discover a single piece of evidence which could be identified with the missing plane.”



Sven Jensen from Edmonton, Alberta dropped in for a visit. Sven showed me a book he had put together setting out the Members of the Ex-Air Gunner’s Association – Northern Alberta Branch. A Member is acknowledged on each page setting out particulars of residence, date of enlistment and service career, squadrons, if POW, etc. as well as pre-war and post-war occupations, and also a picture of the Member. Sven is to be congratulated on what he refers to as “a labor of love”.

Elizabeth and Sven Jensen
Elizabeth and Sven Jensen



In the September Issue we mentioned that the Northern Alberta Group had presented the Greenwood family with a gift of appreciation. Here it is:


The Greenwood Family
In Appreciation
Ex-Air Gunners



Charlie Yule, accompanied by Earl Hiscox, from Winnipeg presented a complete set of  SHORT BURSTS, to the CATP Museum in Brandon, Manitoba, and we spent some time with our volunteer Web master Bill Hillman.

Charlie Yule, Earl Hiscox, Bill Hillman, John Moyles
Charlie Yule, Earl Hiscox, Bill Hillman, John Moyles



Gleaned from Gaggle and Stream Bomber Command Newsletter

A man is flying a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost.
He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says, “yes you are in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field.”

“You must be an L.A.C.,” says the balloonist.

“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know.”

“Well”, says the balloonist, “Everything you have told me is technically correct, but its not useful to me.”

The man below says, “You must be a Pilot Officer.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist, “But how did you know?”

“Well”, says the man, “You don’t know where you are, or where you are going, but you expect me to be able to help. You are in the same position you were before we met, but now its my fault!”



The Editor of Gaggle and Stream needs our help with some Air Force jargon. As we all found out, the “ERK” was the backbone of the Air Force. Why an “ERK”? What was the derivation of the word? Where did the word come from? If you have a clue, please let your Editor know and I will pass it on.


Correspondence Received

Subject:  combat reports
From:  Richard Koval <rkoval@voyageur.ca>
To:   tweedhouse@sk.sympatico.ca
Hello John. I have a large web site on the 6 group at www.rcaf.com/6group . I have just received combat reports from Jan 43 to April 44, concerning 6 group aircraft. In due time they will all be on my site. If any ex 6 group gunners would like copies of these, I will have them copied and mailed.
Best regards Richard.

Subject:  crewmembers
Date:  Sun, 01 Jul 2001 15:52:05 -0700
From:  Jim Murphy <jt.murphy@home.com>
To:  tweedhouse@sk.sympatico.ca
I was an A/G on 115 squadron Witchford in 1945. We had two Canadian members our B/A was named Roman Strelchuk and our WOP/AG was named Cliff Mayne, a long shot I know but I wonder if anyone can maybe recall either name .
thanks for your time.     Jim Murphy

From: Chalet <chalet@manitoulin.net>
To:   tweedhouse@sk.sympatico.ca
Hello, my father, Malcolm "Mac" McLean passed away in 1964. He was a tail gunner with 429 sqn, 6th bomber group stationed at Leeming. I was wondering if any of your members knew him and had any pics they wanted to share. I have only one picture of him in uniform, the rest were lost years ago.
Thank you,
Regards, Jim McLean
 


BOOK REVIEW

BEHIND ENEMY LINES   "A Memoir of James Moffat" by Mary Thomas

Epic Press - Belleville, Ont, Canada.  224 pages, soft cover. Cdn. $19.95 plus $2.50 per book postage;
U.S. $16.95 plus $2.50 postage. To order:

Jim Moffat                                                          M. Thomas
810 - 49 th Ave.,                                                36 Meadowvale Ave.,
Lachine, PQ. H8T T2T                                       Belleville, ON. K8N 2L4

RCAF F/O Jim Moffat an Air Gunner with 427 (Lion) Squadron parachutes into enemy territory after his Halifax bomber collides with an RAF Lancaster bomber during a Nurenburg raid over Germany in 1944. He is the only survivor. Jim spends six months in Germany-occupied Belgium and France. Often alone, always in danger. The Belgian Resistance and the French Maquis help him.

I have read many books written by men who served in the RCAF and many of them follow the same pattern; pre-service, Manning Derpot, Training and on to Ops and then post war activities. BEHIND ENEMY LINES is different. The writer leads the reader right into the action and as the story unfolds the reader finds that it is not just a story of Jim Moffat, it is also a story of the people who  rescued him, helped him, looked after him when he was sick. People he faught beside. These were the villagers of Southern Belgium and North Eastern France, trying to live under the occupation of a brutal Nazi Germany, and risking their lives helping allied airmen and carrying out operations against the enemy.

In 1988 Jim returned to Belgium and was reunited with those coragous people who helped him 44 years before. The book contains may pictures of his Belgium friends, some taken during the war.

You will find that Mary Thomas has a convincing way with words. Mary has taken the memories of Jim Moffat and, in true jounalistic fashion, told a story depicting compassion, suspense, vivid description, portaying  Jim's fight for survival and the courage of the Belgium and French Resistance.

I recommend BEHIND ENEMY LINES, it is a gripping book, hard to put down. A valuable addition to your WWII book shelf.

~John Moyles
OBITUARIES

SARSON, A.L.J. Burlington, ON:  'Tony' passed away peacefully at his home Sept. 13/01 - age 78.  His Service Number was R200836 and he received his Air Gunner training at #1 B&G School at Jarvis, ON.  He served with 424 Squadron in 6 Group and was a member of the Hamilton Air Force Club and RCL Br. #36 in Dundas as well as the Halton Naval Veterans Assoc. and Bomber Command Association as well as the Hamilton Representative for the Allied Airforce Reunion Committee.

BRANCH REPORTS

There were no Branch Reports this month, however, the Southern Ontario Chapter sent the following group picture of the gang at Buffer's Park Yacht Club June 15th 2001.

To get the names you will have to contact:

Bill Cockburn (Secretary - Toronto Chapter Air Gunners)
Ph. (416) 492-1024

E-mail   piperbill@home.com

 
Regional Meetings


Southern Ontario Chapter
Royal Canadian Legion
Wilson Branch 527
948 Sheppard Avenue West
Downsview,Ontario
We meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Legion hall 1:00 pm. 
No meetings July, August, September.
Contact persons: 
Ken Hill  ~  President ~  905.789.1912
Bill Cockburn  ~  Secretary ~  416.492.1024
Email:  piperbill@home.com

Winnipeg
Location - Royal Canadian Legion Br.#4 St. James Legion.
Date - Second Thursday of each month.
Time - Luncheon meeting (provide your own lunch).
Contact Member - Charlie Yule Ph. (204) 254-6264.


Northern Saskatchewan
Location - Lynx Wing Ave. C North, Saskatoon.
Date - Third Monday of the month.
Time - Luncheon meetings.
Contact Member - C.A. "Smokey" Robson  Ph. (306) 374-0547.


Northern Alberta Branch
Location - Jasper Place Legion , 10220 - 156 St. Edmonton.
Date -  Third Tuesday of each month.
Time - 12:00 hours.
Contact Members - E. H. "Ted" Hackett (780)962-2904 
or Sven Jensen (780)465-7344.


Southern Alberta
Location - Royal Canadian Legion  #264 
Kensington, Calgary
Date: Second Monday of each month.
Time - 11:30 hours.
Contact Member: Dave Biggs Ph: (403)236-7895
or Doug Penny Ph: (403)242-7048.
Note: 
October meeting time moved to third Monday. 
Also there are no meetings in July and August, however, a Barbecue is usually held  at Larry Robinson's ranch in Okatoks during that time.


British Columbia Branch
We meet on the first Tuesday in 
March, June, September, and December at 11:30 am. 
There will also be special events and meetings throughout the year. 
Our mailing address and meeting place is:
Royal Canadian Legion #83, 
5289 Grimmer St., 
Burnaby, BC. V5H 2H3
Contact Members are - Stan Sullivan (604)277-5641 
and Rod MacDougall (604)515-4280 
rdmacdougall@pacificcoast.net

Members across the Country are encouraged to 
send current information regarding 
regular meeting places, dates, and Contact Members, to
John Moyles
Box 6 
Kenosee Lake 
SK   S0C 2S0 



Members are requested to send their experiences, articles, anecdotes, pictures, etc., to John Moyles and I will forward them to our Web Master in Brandon. Articles and Last Post items will be deleted from the page each month after the designated Member in each region has had an opportunity to copy the material for their Members. Notices of deceased Members are to be sent to Charlie Yule who is still our 'Keeper of the Rolls'. This is your SHORT BURSTS with no printing or mailing costs, and no deadlines! The Brandon Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum has agreed to host our AG page. However, as it costs the Museum $35.00 per month to maintain the Web Page, it is suggested that each Ex-AG group contribute periodic donations to the Museum to help off-set this expense, and to enhance the work they are doing.  We thank our Web Master, Bill Hillman, for his volunteer time and expertise.

Donations can be made directly to:   CATP Museum Inc.
                                                            Box 3, Grp. 520, RR5,
                                                            Brandon, MB   R7A 5Y5
                                                             Ph.- (204)727-2444
 


 
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