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
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
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
Gerald Trew, Ex-AG – Port
“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
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
Within no time she and her siblings were placing calls to Trew in
“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”.
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,
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
Captain Richard Becker (left)
Bill Owens centre with crew of U-218
from left, Herman Noll, Mar Wilms, Lieutenant Walter
Boley and Captain Richard Becker.
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!
A bit of Trivia – did you ever wonder what happened to some of those
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
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
In the September Issue we mentioned that the Northern Alberta Group
had presented the Greenwood family with a gift of appreciation. Here it
The Greenwood Family
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
Gleaned from Gaggle and Stream Bomber Command
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
Subject: combat reports
From: Richard Koval
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.
Date: Sun, 01 Jul 2001 15:52:05 -0700
From: Jim Murphy <email@example.com>
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
thanks for your time. Jim Murphy
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
Regards, Jim McLean
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:
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.
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.
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.