A Sturdy Lancaster - 408 Squadron
170 men on top means about 8 tons on each wing.
Numbers indicate S/Ldr. Smith and crew who failed to return from Berlin Jan. 27/28, 1944.
1. S/Ldr. Smith – Pilot – Windsor On.
2. F/O Sim – Navigator – Toronto On.
3. F/O Canning – W/Op – Dunchurch On.
4. P/O Dutton – Navigator – Kichener On.
5. F/O Teskey – Bombardier – Kingston On.
6. P/O Bennet – Rear Gunner – Carleton Place On.
7. Sgt. Frauts – Mid Upper Gunner – Toronto Ont (in hospital when picture was taken)
This chap Kenn Canning joined up with me from Dunchurch, Ont. Jan 3/41 and we left on a draft of 28 for wireless training. His name, starting with a C, and mine with an M, meant we were soon on separate ways. I have thirty-five letters he wrote me before he “got it” on 408 Squadron January 27/28, 1944.
From the three random selections I’m enclosing, you can pick out excerpts that illustrate Kenn’s progress from keenness to despair.
Feb. 23, 1942.
I received your letter of Jan. 16th today and was certainly glad to hear from you….
I’m on my OTU now and it won’t be very long until I’m right in the thick of it. I had the chance to go on Coastal Command but I thought I might as well get some real action and get a bird’s-eye view of Berlin a the same time so I chose CENSORED . Out of two classes from wireless school only six of us took CENSORED. I’m sure glad I did now as I’m going into a wonderful ship, the CENSORED , its CENSORED and is the largest we’ve got, even bigger than the CENSORED . I’m really lucky getting into them and I think stand a far better chance than in most others…..
The first while we fly in CENSORED with the old CENSORED and then go into CENSORED with the CENSORED and then the final stages are in CENSORED. One thing, I’ll really know my stuff when I leave here for operations and believe me, I’ll need to………..
Any Canadians and the Newsies and the Aussies too all hate this place and everybody wants to get out of it as soon as possible….. One station we went to we were the first overseas men there and the officer gave us a lecture and said they weren’t going to have a bunch of outsiders come in and disrupt the routine. In that case we booed him out of the room and there were so many of us he couldn’t do much
Another time they would not heat the barracks for us. A class was leaving the next day so they threw all the beds out the windows and when the Orderly Sergeant came tearing up they tied him up in a chair and shaved his moustache off. Next the Orderly Officer came up and they took him and hung him by his coat collar to a nail on the wall. This may sound far fetched but it is a fact. We just stand for so much and then the lid blows off and something awful happens……
Well Don, I guess that’s enough so I’ll close. So long for now and write soon.
Your old Chum, Kenn
October 2nd, 1942
Received your letter just a few minutes ago so am answering it right away while I have time…. So you’ve been over to Ireland, hope none of those sweet little Irish girls got a hold of you, What is it like over there anyway?…..
Well Don I personally haven’t been doing any ops for quite a while now. I was given a “sprog” crew and I’ve been waiting for them to finish their conversion course. The longer I can stay on the ground the better I like it. You may think that funny but flying in Bomber Command is just about the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. When night after night kites fail to come back, it gets you down.
Maybe I’ve always been a bit high-strung and nervous but lately my nerves are going to hell fast. Last night we lost four kites and about the last of the fellows that were with the Squadron when I joined are gone. Old Jack Jennings is the only chum I have left here now. Of course you meet new fellows all the time but it’s never the same.
To size the whole thing up Don, I don’t have a Chinaman’s chance in this game, although I think Providence is on my side, something kept me from flying lately and the crew I was taken out of at Waddington have all gone for shit.
It didn’t use to be too bad over Germany but lately it getting terrific, just like walking into a wall of fire. I try not to think of it but it is getting me more and more all the time. If I could get out of it and up there with you I sure would, but to get out of Bomber Command is about the toughest thing in the world……
Old Doug Simpson from home was one of the first “get it”, one of the Traceys from Ardbeg also. I may meet old Maclean in York sometime. This T.B. McGee you say was killed, was he from Perry Sound? Helen was telling me that her girl friend’s boy friend, a Wop named McGee was killed and he was from Parry Sound.
Well Don, I better close now… This is kind of a dopey letter but it is the way I feel. Hope to see you soon on your leave…… best of luck and I hope you get going home.
Your pal Kenn
Kenn Canning, Dunchurch, On. KIA; Don Macfie, Dunchurch, Ont.;
Ronnie Mclean, North Bay, On. KIA
At Bournemouth Holding Unit.
Oct. 19, 1942.
I guess I will try to scratch you a few lines tonight seeing as it’s one of the few nights I’ve stayed in for a long time…….
The past few days around here have really given me a touch of homesickness. The leaves coming off the trees all yellow and gold just the same as home, and its just partridge season too. Hunting season will be rolling around and all the old boys will be oiling up their blunderbusses. Gosh, how I wish I was home again, I’ve seen all I want of this country and this war, and enough close shaves with death to last me all my life. I suppose we will have to put up with it though and only hope that the block-heads at the head of this will open a second front because I believe that we can lick the bastards any time now.
You asked me once to tell you something of what I was doing, well its hard to write about but I had the worst and shakiest “do” I ever want to have the other night. I suppose you read in the papers of how the Kiel defences were swamped by us one night about a week ago, well from what I saw, they were a long way from being swamped. We got lost somewhere near Kiel and in doing violent evasive action our compass stuck. We flew about 15 minutes heading towards Berlin and thinking we were coming home. so that meant that we had to come all the way back across Germany again.
We were stooging along at 18,000 dodging flak and searchlights when we must have passed over some big city, because everything they had opened up on us. There was anything from 60 to 100 searchlights on us, so the Skipper did the only thing possible and stuck the nose down. We went down from 18,000 to between 150 and 200 feet. It took two on the stick to pull out. Even machine guns were giving us blazes so the pilot told the gunners to open up and we put out seven searchlights in half a minute.
Well, we flew the rest of the way so close I thought we were cutting grass, and to end with we had to hit for the closest aerodrome in England with only 15 minutes of gas left, our hydraulic system all shot to blazes, so many holes in us we looked like a sieve. I tell you Don, stay on Coastal, there’s a heck of a lot more future in it.
Old Jack Jennings is still kicking and he and I have quite a few merry times in the Village Inn. Hope you soon get leave and get down here, I’m dying to see your ugly pan again…..
Well, its all the paper I have, so long for now and write soon and give me all the Gen.
Your Pal, Kenn.
Submitted by Charley Yule
WARTIME PILOTS’ & OBSERVERS’ ASSOCIATION Newsletter April 2003
Reginald “Pat” McNamara
Reginald “Pat” McNamara was a WW II Air Gunner. On his first tour of ops with 427 Squadron, they were en route to bomb the German rocket base at Peenemunde when they were attacked by a Focke Wolfe 190. The enemy aircraft was equipped with 50mm cannon, whereas the Lancaster had only 303mm Brownings. Nevertheless, Sgt. McNamara shot down the attacker. Bombs were dropped on the target, and the crew returned safely. He was awarded the DFM for his feat. The captain of the aircraft, Bill Schmitt received the DFC.
McNamara’s next tour of duty was with 415 Squadron. By this time he had been commissioned and appointed Gunnery Officer. While encouraging other Gunners to achieve a high standard of excellence, he set them a fine example by sharing their experiences as he flew with his regular crew over the same targets. He was awarded the DFC when his second tour was completed.
“Pat” McNamara was an active member of the WPOA and also served for two years as the President of the Manitoba Ex-Air Gunner’s Association Branch. His leadership and camaraderie are sorely missed.
The WPOA has created trophies perpetuating the memories of a Pilot, “Gos” Goulding, an Observer, Jim Dow, and now a Rear Gunner, Reginald McNamara.
Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators (AES Ops) is the new military classification for non-commissioned aircrew in the Canadian armed forces. They are responsible for operating and employing a wide variety of airborne surveillance sensors, communications, and ordinance duties. These sensors include, Radar, Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR), Magnetic Anomaly Detection, Electronic Warfare Systems, Underwater Acoustics, photographic and communications equipment on both fixed and rotary winged aircraft.
They may also perform search and rescue duties on rotary winged aircraft as well as provide self-defence as DOOR GUNNERS on aircraft configured with machine guns.
Training has been consolidated within the walls of the Nav. School, and the DHDash 8 is employed as a flying classroom during training.
The initial course of the newly formed AES Ops were awarded their wings by Col. S. J. Kummel CD at an impressive graduation ceremony on Feb. 28th. 2003.
Corporal Jason Krzywonos
The outstanding member and the first winner of the McNamara trophy was Corporal Jason Krzywonos from Victoria B.C. The corporal will be flying Sea King helicopters with 423 Squadron in Shearwater, NS.
The silver cup donated by the WPOA was presented by President Ross Singleton in the presence of members of F/Lt McNamara’s family. The McNamara family lodged Pat’s decorations and medals with the Nav. School, where they are on display.
Ross Singleton; Cpl. Krzywonos; Mrs. Olinski; David McNamara; Mrs. Huffman
WPOA are to be congratulated. A fitting tribute to an old friend and comrade.
THE GUINEA PIGS
Copy purloined from TAILWIND the newsletter of the Aircrew Association of Nova Scotia. Courtesy of Editor, Allan Coggon, Mahone Bay, NS.
The guinea Pig Club members were men so badly burned and disfigured that radical new techniques in plastic surgery were needed – and developed – to repair the damage.
In 1940 when the Battle of Britain began, Hurricane and Spitfire pilots, suffering from burns were taken to what was to become the world’s famous hospital in East Grinstead, England. On the 20th of July 1941, some of these airmen were passing their time chatting in a newly erected hut at the hospital. One of them suggested forming a club. Someone suggested the name “Guinea Pig Club”. Burn and reconstructive surgery was in its infancy. It was recognized by the burned airmen that much of the surgery was experimental.
“It’s the world’s most exclusive club that no one wants to belong to because your admission is an air crash and the results of that,” Said retired dentist Lionel Hastings, who now lives in Regina. “There were three types of Guinea Pigs. There were fried, mashed, and hash browned. I was primarily mashed,” said Hastings, a former RCAF Navigator, aged 21 in 1944. He suffered 32 facial fractures, three spinal fractures, as well as arm and leg fractures, when his plane crashed in Belgium in 1944.
Guinea Pig Club Reunion Mount Hope On. June 1977
Dr. Lionel “Hank” Hastings (mentioned above) front row extreme right.
Hastings, now 80, is one of 650 Allied service men world wide – 175 of them Canadians – who joined the club as a way of helping them deal with their injuries. In Canada 45 still survive. Hastings spent seven months in hospital, three of those in East Grinstead’s Queen Victoria Hospital.
The Guinea Pig Club was formed in 1941 by patients of Sir Archibald MacIndoe, the pioneering New Zealand plastic surgeon who worked on them at the hospital. Dr. Ross worked as senior Canadian plastic surgeon. Hastings credits the two men with more than just skill in the operating theatre. “They treated you with the idea that you were there for one reason and that was to get better so that you could carry on with your life--,” he said.
The Club was duly formed with a committee and Dr. McIndoe as its President. The Secretary was a pilot with badly burned fingers, which meant he was excused from writing many letters. The treasurer was a member whose legs were burned, this insured he could not abscond with the funds! Members of the Guinea Pigs qualified by being a member of an aircrew and who received at least one operation at the hospital. Scientists, Doctors and Surgeons were honorary members.
Later, as the bombing intensified against the industrial heart of Germany, the emphasis switched from burned fighter pilots to burned bomber crews. In time these patients represented 80% of the total. There were 649 Guinea Pigs at the end of the war. The majority were British (65-70%). Other nationalities include Canadian (27%), Australian (8%), New Zealand (8%)
Angels of Mercy – bless them
“How the Guinea Pig got its Wings”
Obviously, the Guinea Pig Club had to picture its namesake in some way or another. The issue of printed matter demanded a crest, or emblem – some means of identifying the Club in much the same way as the caterpillar people use that small insignificant insect.
Visits to the zoo, highly professional portraits of the most refined looking Guinea Pigs available, only confirmed the horrid suspicion that the thing looked like a rat. Top placed members of the East Grinstead coterie doodled far into the night without result.
Suddenly, it became obvious. Somebody drew a pilot’s brevet. Somebody else added a pair of ears at the top and a pair of feet below. Molly Lentaign did the rest and, below you see our emblem:
The Flying Guinea Pig.
BRANCHES REPORT IN
Hi John from the West Coast: Another great edition of' Short Bursts'! We had our regular monthly meeting last Tuesday and close to 20 members present. The latest issue of 'Short Bursts' was available for those who have not yet come into the 20th century. Kindest regards to Doreene and yourself.
“Smokey” Robson reported that 33 attended the Ex-Air Gunner’s annual steak dinner on Sept. 15.
WE AT THE SOUTHERN CHAPTER ARE STILL ENJOYING OUR SUMMERS DESPITE SARS, MEAT PROBLEMS AND THOSE PESKY WEST NILE MOSQUITOES!
WE HAD OUR ANNUAL SAIL COURTESY OF THE BLUFFERS PARK YACHT CLUB...PHIL JOHNSON OF THE CLUB IS A GREAT GUY WHO DOES ALL THE COORDINATING...THEN THERE'S THE BIG DUTCHMAN WHO IS SO GENEROUS...HE IS THE COMMODORE!
OUR PRESIDENT HAD A GET TOGETHER AT HIS HOUSE IN BRAMPTON AND WE ALSO ATTENDED THE THEATRE AND HAD DINNER TOGETHER. (NEW YORK-NEW YORK!)
I ATTENDED A DINNER AT THE ROYAL CANADIAN MILITARY INSTITUTE WHERE THE GUEST SPEAKER WAS PROFESSOR TERRY COPP A MILITARY ANALYST.HIS BOOK "FIELDS OF FIRE" IS ABOUT CANADIANS IN NORMANDY. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS. WORTH READING! A GOOD READ!
I WILL BE CONCENTRATING ON SHORT BURSTS SUBMISSIONS DURING THE COMING MONTHS. IN BETWEEN I AM WRITING A BAGPIPING COLUMN FOR THE SCOTTISH BANNER!
BILL COCKBURN CD
SOUTHERN ONTARIO CHAPTER
LAST WEEK I ENJOYED A TENDER AYLMER STEAK AT THE SCARBOROUGH GOLF CLUB...DELICIOUS!
I was speaking with a member from Calgary who advised that their group had mailed an honorarium to the CATP Museum in Brandon to help defray costs of this Web Page.At their last monthly meeting they had approximately 33 present and one of the members brought copies of the Short Bursts Web Page. Thanks chaps.
In the Regina Leader Post I read about a movement aimed at encouraging Veterans to speak to students in schools. The following Web Site was listed:
It is well worth looking at. I offered our help through Short Bursts, here is their reply:
“Dear Mr. Moyles,
You magazine sounds very interesting, as does your personal history. I would be pleased to link to your site on our Memory Project website. I also hope that I can convince you to participate in the programme as a classroom speaker!
We would be honoured to have you put information about the Memory Project and its new foray into Saskatchewan in "Short Bursts". Attached is some information which may be useful to you.
I look forward to working with you in the future, as we expand in the province.
The Memory Project is a bi-lingual education programme which brings veterans and youth together in person and over the Internet. This programme is an initiative of the Dominion Institute, a national charity that promotes Canadian History.
Using free, curriculum-based, multi-media resources, and by hosting a veteran visitor, educators can bring key events of the 20th and 21st centuries to life for their students.
Each year, hundreds of veterans across the country are prepared by the Memory Project to present their personal experiences with WWII, the Korean War, or modern peacekeeping missions and international operations to young Canadians.
These veterans visit local youth, who then share the veteran's story, and their own reflections on it, in an online archive, preserving our oral history relating to the service and sacrifice of Canada's veterans.
www.thememoryproject.com (Peace and War)
The Memory Project, thanks to generous sponsorship from the Government of Canada, Veteran Affairs Canada, Department of National Defence, and various provincial governments and foundations, is now in every province in Canada, with over 1,000 veterans visiting 100,000 youth.
The window of opportunity is closing for young Canadians to meet the men and women who participated in this country's defining moments, whether in WWII, the Korean War, or in Peacekeeping and other international operations. Plus, this year more than ever the issue of Canada's role in international conflict is at the forefront of most people's minds. The Memory Project provides an opportunity for inter-generational dialogue on these important historical and contemporary issues.
For more information, please contact the Memory Project Manager, Jessica Humphreys at 1-866-701-1867 or visit
Memory Project Partners:
World War 1 British Prisoner of war built aircraft in Germany
HOME FRONT ARCHIVES AND MUSEUM
Robert J. Henderson,
Regina, SK S4T 6V4 Canada.
Place a captured airman behind barbed wire as a prisoner of war, and you won’t quell his spirit of adventure, the thoughts of freedom, nor the desire to get back into the battle to aid in victory for his side.
The utter boredom of captivity after a lengthy stay behind the wire was often relieved, particularly in World War One Germany, with prisoners turning to handicraft to while away the time.
One British prisoner of war in Germany not only had the time and talent to construct a group of five period aircraft, he also managed to get them back to England, where they remained until 2003, when they were acquired for the Homefront Archives and Museum.
Regretfully, the name of the builder and the camp he was held in has been lost to history. However, the talent and attention to detail are evident in this man’s work.
The years since their construction did take a slight toll on the aircraft, as three propellers and two sets of wheels were missing, and some ailerons also required maintenance before the craft could be displayed. John Moyles set to work carving replacement propellers, which look as good as the originals – even if he did not get around to balancing them. One tail fin is also damaged – it has been left as having been shot away in a dogfight.
Possibly some of you can identify the “types” of aircraft presented – consider it a challenge. If you can, drop a line to the Editor – address below.Robert Henderson
Don’t get excited chaps, I don’t think you will find this one in your local book store.
ONLY THE STARS KNOW by F/L D.A. MacMillan R.C.A.F was published – First printing Nov. 15, 1944; Second printing Nov. 30, 1944. However, as it is a unique insight into the young Canadian men in Bomber Command, it is worth mentioning here.
The author, F/L Don MacMillan went to school, played football, and got his first radio and newspaper jobs in Regina, Saskatchewan. When the war got underway he joined the R.C.A.F. He could not qualify for aircrew so spent the first two years in uniform doing recruiting publicity with the Directorate of Manning. A shortage of skilled men in Public Relations took him to that branch and, almost immediately, overseas.
His first assignment was to a bomber group, plentifully sprinkled with Canadians, where they didn’t care for publicists, in uniform or otherwise. A short time later however, he had won their deepest regard and was granted special privileges by the Air Officer Commanding.
He developed an admiration, akin to hero-worship, for his juniors who went out nightly over Germany. He knew these men and loved them. Out of his intimacy with their daily lives – out of the strange mingling of pathos and humour that constitutes life on a Bomber base – came the inspiration to pass on these imperishable tales in simple, glowing prose that leaves the reader almost breathless with admiration.
A senior Public Relations position opened in the Middle Eat and the author was posted away from his beloved group. When his book was published he was working out of Cairo.
What makes ONLY THE STARS KNOW so different and fascinating is that he has not used any surnames, only given names, or in most cases, nick names. He describes aircrew life on the squadron, their working nights, their relaxed times, their acceptance of lost comrades, describes the old city of York, the Bomber Station, and life in the barracks. The author traces the stories of individual aircrew, the kid you met in the mess, Tex the American, Bill the Wireless Operator, to mention a few. Then there is Jumbo, the boy from a western Canadian farm who loved to repair tractors. He told the recruiting officer he wanted to be a mechanic. However, he was slotted into pilot training, went to Bomber Command and, due to heavy casualties, rose to W/C and was put in charge of a Squadron. But he refused to be grounded and donned a Flt/Sgt’s battle dress to fly with his boys.
Hopefully I have piqued your curiosity. See if you can find this book in your local library.
Published by J.M. Dent & Sons (Canada) Ltd.
Printed by The Wrigley Printing Company Limited
578 Seymour Street, Vancouver, B.C.
No ISBN numbers in 1944.
Let us know if you locate Only the Stars Know.
Every Saturday morning I meet for coffee with a number of old curmudgeons, some war vets, some who just missed the war and wonder at our longevity. One of our group, Maurice Winton, sat in the tail turret of a Liberator and watched allied bombs knock out the bridges over the River Kwai. Another landed on Sicily and fought his way up the Italian boot. All of them are collectors of some sort, coins, stamps, badges, and military memorabilia. One chap haunts the parks and beaches with his metal detector making interesting finds.
Every meeting is “show and tell” and there is great debate on the authenticity of the memorabilia presented. Not being a collector, I am just an interested bystander. It reminds me of when our children were small and I was watching them play street hockey in front of the house. No.1 Son was sitting on the side-lines. When asked why he was not playing he replied, “Every sport needs spectators Dad.” That is my contribution to our coffee clatch – a spectator.
One of the chaps has an extensive War library and loaned me the book reviewed above, ONLY THE STARS KNOW. Another member, Robert Henderson, retired RCMP Officer, and owner of the Home Front and Archives Museum, has a vast knowledge of Pow and military memorabilia. Bob has made valuable contributions to our Short Bursts Newsletter.
With November 11 coming up, check with Memory Project Manager, Jessica Humphreys at 1-866-701-1867 or visit:
to see if you can assist them in their efforts to keep the memory alive.
Send us your stories, anecdotes, and activities of your individual A/G groups.
If you need a piper, don’t forget “Piper Bill”. Better check his fees first.
Until November, Keep well.
John and Doreene Moyles – Editors.
Ste. 233 - 1060 Dorothy St.,
Regina, Sask. S4X 3C5 CANADA
Ph. (306) 949-6112
Southern Ontario Chapter
Royal Canadian Legion
Wilson Branch 527
948 Sheppard Avenue West
We meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Legion hall 1:00 pm.
No meetings July, August, September.
Ken Hill ~ President ~ 905.789.1912
Bill Cockburn ~ Secretary ~ 416.492.1024
Location - Royal Canadian Legion Br.#4 St. James Legion.
Date - Third Thursday of each month.
Time - Luncheon meeting (provide your own lunch).
Contact Member - Charlie Yule Ph. (204) 254-6264.
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 - Norwood Branch 178, 11150 – 82 Street, Edmonton, AB
Date - The first Thursday of each month.
Time - 12:00 hours.
Contact Members - E. H. "Ted" Hackett (780)962-2904
or Sven Jensen (780)465-7344.
Location - Royal Canadian Legion #264
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.
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
Meeting time and local: 2nd Tuesday of each month at 11:30
send current information regarding
regular meeting places, dates, and Contact Members, to
John and Doreene Moyles,
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:
Box 3, Grp. 520, RR5,
Brandon, MB R7A 5Y5
Phone: (204) 727-2444
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