Bill Hillman Presents
Forces: Land ~ Air ~ Sea ~ Home
Compiled by Bill Hillman
FLASH. . . Editor and Webmaster: Bill Hillman:
MARCH 2006

L to R – Robert Rahn, William King, Lorne Mullen, 
George Martin, Lewis Riggs, Donald McLeod


Ilkey, England – A new memorial to six Canadians airmen killed in a Second World War crash was dedicated Tuesday, exactly 62 years after the tragedy on the bleak moorlands of Yorkshire.

A large crater still marks the spot on the English hillside where the Halifax bomber came down. Just a few metres away, wreckage from the aircraft have worked their way to the surface among the heather moss.

After years of effort and painstaking research, the memorial was unveiled to remember the crash that killed everybody onboard – the six Canadians as well as a Scottish crew member.  On a still, misty day, about 30 people made a half hour walk up from the small town of Ilkley for the ceremony. Surrounded by sheep and a dozen journalists, locals and Canadians, paid tribute to the perished crew.

The dedication of the 1.2 metre stone plinth designed by artist John Webber was organized by Paul Reilly and his father, John, whose best friend Felix Byrne was the only Scot on the plane. The Canadians aboard were Pilot   Donald George MaLeod, 21 of Waterford, Ont.; bomb aimer Robert Henry Rahn, 22, Kitchenor, Ont.; Navigator Lewis Riggs, 20, of Toronto, Ont.; Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, William George King, 27 of Teepee Creek, Alta.; Air Gunner George Ed. Martin, 21, of Toronto, Ont.; Air Gunner Albert Lorne Mullen, 19, of Burnaby, BC., who grew up in Regina. The memorial has a brass plaque bearing their names and rank.

Town of Ilikley in centre of circle. 
Monument one half-hour walk from town. 
6Grp. Members will be familiar with this part of England. 
Note watering hole – Harrogate.

Following a public appeal, the Reillys were able to track down relatives of all but one of them. Some have started corresponding with the Reillys; others came for the ceremony. Paul Reilly says he is determined to find Riggs’ relatives as well.

Douglas Mullen said that his brother Lorne grew up in Regina and attended Scott Collegiate, Lorne died at 19. Douglas said that the last time he saw Lorne was in B.C.., and that Lorne had told him the average life of an air Gunner was six weeks. Lorne lived four months.

“I feel tremendously honoured,” Douglas said of the memorial. “Sixty two year later – it’s a tremendous surprise. Five years ago Paul Reilly told me they were doing it. I had no idea until last October they were doing it. I think that it’s generous of the community to do so. It is fitting we remember all these young boys.”

Kenneth Rahn, 74, who lives in Grand Bend, Ont. Wanted to pay his respects to his brother Robert when he learned about the memorial. “It means a great closure to me,” he said. “I have been longing for years to get over here. It was very emotional. Maybe my brother heard me when I spoke to him.”

Now a Grandfather of 15, Kenneth Rahn was just 12 years old when he was told to go home from school after his parents had got word that his older brother had died.

The six Canadians are buried in the Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate, England. Kenneth Rahn and his daughter Nancy and her husband Alan Taylor visited the cemetery the first time on Monday. There are 665 at Harrogate dedicated to Canadian airmen. Byrne’s grave is close to his home town in Airdrie, Scotland, about 30 kilometres East of Glasgow. 

Padre John Hetherington from the Royal Air Force at Linton-on-Ouse conducted the service. Captain Greg Whyte represented the Royal Canadian Air Force at the ceremony.

“It is satisfying that a permanent memorial is here, that signifies the loneliness of the place,” said John Reilly, 83. “It is right on the spot where the plane crashed and in keeping with the bleak moolands. These young men came all the way across the ocean when it wasn’t their fight. I’m sure this will make sure they are remembered. This is no more than we should be doing and that the Canadians deserve for their sacrifice. They have done so much for this small country.”

The Halifax aircraft crashed on Ilkley Moor, west of Yorkshire, around 5:30 p.m. on January31, 1944,.aircraft and crew were attached to 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF Bomber Command based at Dishforth, North Yorkshire.

Editor: If any of our readers have information on the relatives of the Navigator Lewis Riggs of Toronto, please write to me and I will pass the information on to Paul Reilly.

F/L Doug Penny DFM
432 Squadron.

At the Ex-Air Gunners of Canada Association Convention in Calgary 1990, we elected a new President, Doug Penny. Doug served as President until our National Association folded its tent in Edmonton and slipped into the sunset, September 2000. 

In the Short Bursts News Letter #31, September 1990, I came across Doug’s first letter following his appointment. It is appropriate we re-run his letter here and acknowledge his loyalty and leadership in our Association.

A Penny for your Thoughts

As the newly elected President I have been asked to give Short Bursts some information on my past, as dark as it may be! First I would like to express my appreciation to Tony Biegler, who ran with me for President. Tony is a very valuable man and much needed in Saskatchewan. I look forward to working with him and the other gentlemen for the next two years. 

I was born in Saskatchewan, near the Qu’Appelle Valley. December 22, 1923 and joined the RCAF at the end of 1941 but wasn’t taken on strength until after my 18th birthday. In early 1942 I went to Brandon Manning depot and besides the square bashing did a stint in the Brandon General with scarlet fever. The rats in the old hospital were as big as alley cats. Sounds like a song we used to sing.

Posted to #2 Wireless School in Calgary about mid July but washed out because my Morse Code was not up to speed, or so they told me. I think there might have been a shortage of Ags about then. I then went to #3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba, and graduated as a straight Air Gunner early 1943.

After the usual embarkation leave, ended up in the UK at Bournemouth, just in time to get strafed by a couple of ME 109s while lying around the Bowling Green.  I went to OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Stratford and crewed up with a bunch of guys on Wellingtons, posted to Moreton-on-the-Marsh and was headed for North Africa with 420 Squadron. But a funny thing happened and Italy packed it up about September 1943 and we headed for HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) at Croft and Dishforth, then on to 420 Squadron at Tholthrope. We did a few trips, including Berlin, but our pilot was asked to go as second dickey (on another crew) and was lost on a Berlin trip. 

It was back to Con Unit at Wolmbleton-in-the-mud for a new pilot, who had done a tour on Stirlings with 218 Squadron, RAF, and he was looking for a headless crew. He was a Canadian and a super pilot, also one of the great beer drinkers in the RCAF. We were posted to 432 Squadron, Eastmoor, near York. And did our first tour there, or should I say, finished our first tour there. We got some Berlin trips in and of course, D-Day, and wrapped it up around October 1944.

I returned to Station Eastmoor and did some work with 415 and 432 Squadron Gunners on night vision. I wangled a couple of trips with W/C J.K. MacDonald, who had returned to 432  Squadron after being shot down over France but evaded capture. He came back as CO.  He later became an Air Vice Marshall and remained in the Permanent Force. He also talked me into a second tour at 405 PFF Squadron but when I arrived at Gransden Lodge, it was decided I had not been screened long enough and was sent home to Canada for 60 days leave. Thank God for VE-Day and we lounged at Paulson B&G, and I was discharged September 1945.

I left the RCAF an older and hopefully wiser Air Gunner and finished with the rank of Flight Lieutenant,  DFM, and 37 Ops.

I finished some schooling in Regina but the lure of oil brought me back to Alberta and Edmonton.  I was the Adjutant of 418 (AUX HQ) until 1955. 

I married Ellen Jackson October 8th 1949 and the union produced  two fine sons, Rick and Jay. Ellen and myself have attended six AG reunions, four Wartime Aircrew in Winnipeg, two Allied Air force in Toronto, and a 432 Squadron bash in York this past June. We should be reunioned out soon. 

I hope to visit each Branch in Canada during my two year tenure a your President. Best wishes to all and thank you for your support during the Alberta reunion in Calgary Last August.

Ed.  Doug fulfilled his promise and, not only served two but 10 years as President, and visited Canadian Ex-AG branches, and also travelled extensively in the United States visiting our Members abroad. 

Doug got his DFM on a Hamburg raid July 28, 1944 with 432 Squadron. They were jumped by a number of Junker 88s and Doug shot one down. He was too modest to mention these statistics in his message.

I’m sure Doug would appreciate a call or note from Members across our fair land. Pick up the phone.

Doug and Ellen Penny
4303 – 28thAve., S.W. 
Calgary, AB. T3E 0S5
Ph.  (204) 242-7048

Glen Clearwater
Interesting and unusual duties of Wireless Air Gunners

That picture of the WAG in Feb. Short Burst got me thinking back to my days as a WAG on Hudson and B-24Js. Most of our sorties on Hudson's were of 5-6 hours although one was 7 hours and we ran out of gas just as we landed.

Lib sorties were of 12 hours but did a few of 14 hours plus. I recall the gas transfer switch had 24 positions. The fuel gauges consisted of two sight glasses located on the flight deck along with a spirit level attached to the side of the Radar operator's seat which had to be used to provided correction to the sight glasses. There was also a sign to convert the sight glass indications (US GALS) to Imperial. It was not until very late in 1944 that we finally got fuel flow meters and by then we got Flight Engineers and crews from No. 5 OTU Boundry Bay and most of us "OLD GUYS" were tour expired.

119 (BR) and 11 (BR) MK 111 Hudson Pilot, Nav, two WAGs.
No turret. Bendix radio and ASV11 radar. 
Two .303 MG in upper nose cowling and fired by Pilot. 
In late '43, had 4 rockets under each wing and a .50 mg mounted in ball socket 
in front nose perspect and operated by either Navigator or a Wag.

Rockets -- a red line was painted on the pilot's wind screen and a red painted rod was welded to the nose cowling. When the red line and red rod lined up with the surface target- as seen by the pilot, he would start attack using his normal ring and bead gun sight. The Navigator or one of the wags would call off the Altimeter reading less 500 feet which represented the range to target. Rockets were fired at 800 yards Altimeter. Practice exercises were called Random. Shot at smoke floats.

The electrical “pig tail” connections to each of the rockets was not to be made until the a/c had taxied to holding position then one Wag would get out and after getting "Thumbs up” from pilot that indicated Master switch was OFF, would connect each of the 8 rockets.

ASVMK 11 Radar was used for search and also for BABS controlled landings in bad weather. Procedure: A beacon would be placed at the up wind end of the operative runway.  A signal would be displayed on the a/c radar screen consisting of a blip which would be read by the Wag over the intercom to the pilot giving range, course corrections to the runway. If pilot could not eyeball runway at Altimeter 200 feet he was supposed to break off approach and go elsewhere? Usually EAC weather was just as lousy at any other station within range. "Range" being the operative word.

BABS Training ground school. Simulator with ASV mock up booth and pilot in link trainer watched over by Instructor at crab table. My logbook shows 10 hours of ground school and then 12 hours of in air practice. Used three times for real.

Liberator-B24J 11(BR) Two Pilots, Navigator, four WAGS. Wags manned Radar sets, Main Radio (USA), Nose turret with two .50s,  Tail Turret with two .50s.  Launched sonar buoys and operated receiver. As we did not have Flight Engineers until early 1945, Wags were trained to act as in flight engineer; mainly to operate fuel transfer system which was a real plumbing nightmare.
Main Radar was ASG but ASV11 was also available for BABS. Main Com freqs were 6666 kc day and 3333 kc night. Aldus light signaling by a WAG to Convoy Escorts-later VHF was available.  Com code with Escorts was called "Reptile" ie: Cobra 10 from SNO Escort meant "Circle Convoy at 10 mile distant." "Hungry"- later changed to Famished? - when sent to SNO Escort from a/c, meant"What instruction do you have for me." 

There were many "Cobra messages. Another was a question "int strag?" which told us to look for stragglers from convoy.  All transmissions on the 6666/3333 kc had to be copied but only those which included our call sign were for our action. 

I was trained in underwater sound (for use with sonar buoys) at RCN Dockyard, Halifax. WAGS changed positions every hour IF POSSIBLE. Sonar buoys were to be used with the homing torpedoes we carried (two). Not to be use against surfaced sub or when within range of our own shipping. We also carried 250 lb depth charges. Crew positions. Nav. in nose compartment. One Wag in Front turret. Flight deck; two pilots; WAG at Radar, port side behind Skipper, WAG at Radio on starboard side, behind co-pilot..  Wag located at waist position or Tail Turret.  Sonar buoys and sonar
Receiver in waist position. 

By Elise Gee – CanWest News Service

This article is included as it mentions the British Naval Base, Scapa Flow. Many of our readers will be familiar with Scapa Flow, a "no fly zone" during WWII.

Elise Gee on Loch Carron with giant crab.
Ed. When returning from a convoy patrol, inside the Arctic circle, to Murmansk, Russia, our compass went U/S and we were flying on dead reckoning in heavy cloud cover. The Pilot saw an opening and dropped down to make land fall. The Second Pilot called the Navigator and said, “there are a lot of bloody big battleships below us.”

The Navigator, realizing where we were, shouted, "get back into cloud - NOW!" Which we did. We had dropped into the 'no fly zone' over Scapa Flow Naval Base.

Here is an extract from the article:

"A little sunburned we stretched our legs briefly at Dunnet Head – the Northern most point in mainland Scotland, before embarking on an hour long ferry ride North to the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of over 70 islets.

Pictish and Viking ruins, ancient megaliths and half sunken Second World War battleships poking up among the harbour depths reveal Orkney’s multi-facited history Orkney's largest Island, called the Mainland is surrounded by one of the most renowned natural harbour in the world – Scapa Flow, an important Naval Base during the First and Second World Wars. Following a sneak attack by a German U-boat at the Eastern end of Scapa Flow, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of four causeways in 1939.

Started in 1940, using 1,300 Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa, the Churchill barriers were completed in May 1945, ironically a few days before the end of the war (in Europe). Today the causeways continue to serve as a vital link between the Orkney communities.

The rock core of Number Two Barrier in place across Skerry Sound, linking Lamb Holm with Glimps Holm. The blockship in the foreground is the Lycia which provided a source of fish for the PoWs. Fish became stranded in the hull of the vessel during receding tides.

The PoWs left another legacy behind, the Italian Chapel on the Island of Lamb Holm. Using scraps of wood, brick and concrete, the prisoners created a church out of two Nissen huts provided by the British. Inside the Chapel, painted-on images of brick, stonework, and religious figures reveal the Prisoner’s painstaking efforts to add a touch of warmth and grandeur with the meagre provisions they had at their disposal.

The Italian Chapel stands as a visible reminder of Lamb Holm's Camp 60.
(Picture by Craig Taylor)

The Sanctuary

The Orcandians vowed to maintain the Chapel after the war ended. An Italian flag overlooks the Chapel and one of the Northern Churchill barriers – important reminders of Orkney’s war history. A few miles away, the Standing Stones of Stennes and Ring of Brodar, imposing mega liths built between 3,000 and 2,500 BC, jut out from a barren landscape of low lying valleys and lochs.

Canadian connection: By 1799, three quarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company employees working in the Dominion of Canada were Orcadian 

Ted Hakett
A Story of Three Uncles
419 Moose Squadron, circa 1943
Halifax aircraft, Mark II, Series V

Left to right: Warrant Officer John Fletcher (Killed January 1944); Flight Sergeant V.L.D. Hawkes, Pilot; Flying Officer Frank, Houison, Bomb Aimer; Don Board, Engineer (Royal Air Force); Warrant Officer Don McDevitt, Wireless Operator; Sergeant Art Beckett, Rear Gunner (Killed July 1944); Sergeant Al Bowman, Gunner.

All of these men, except Art Beckett, became prisoners of war in January 1944. Note the brand above Art Beckett. Clem Gardner, rancher, permitted Hawkes to carry his brand. 

There are a great many stories that came out of WWII, some very interesting, some unusual and a great many that were neither.  I think this one is of interest because it concerns three young men connected to the same family who lost their lives on active service.   The interesting part you will soon see.  I learned of these young airmen while collecting names for a Veterans Memorial Wall in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was contacted by a friend of my younger son, Major Ross Beckett with the Army stationed in Ottawa, who sent me a photo of his late Uncle's crew  so I asked him if he would like the Uncles name on the  Wall.  He replied by giving me the names of two other Uncles, one I can include and the other as you will see I cannot. 

The first Uncle was Sergeant John Arnold Mitchell who was an Air Gunner with No.78 RAF Squadron.  He was shot down in a Halifax near Weisbaden, Germany on August 12, 1942, age 19.  He is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery at Bad Tolz, Germany.  The second Uncle WO2 Arthur Beckett was an Air Gunner with 419 RCAF Squadron at Middleton St. George, Yorks.  He had completed 18 Ops, including 3 to Berlin, and his crew had converted from the Halifax Mk II to the Lancaster Mk X.  They were on an operational sortie to Dortmund and were shot down by a night fighter near Munchen Gladbach, Germany.  He is buried in the Rheinberg British Military Cemetery at Duisberg. 

The third airman is an uncle of Major Becketts wife, one Unteroffizier Paul Stahl,  a Bordfunker(Radio/Radar Operator) in a Bf 110 G-4 of III/NJG 5.  . On the night of May 12, 1944 operations were carried out on the railway yards at Louvain, Belgium.  Uffz Paul Stahl and crew took off from Juvincourt to intercept the bomber stream.  They apparently made a head on attack on Halifax MZ642, OW-N of 426 Squadron.  They passed underneath the Halifax and pulled up to starboard and were fired on by the mid-under gunner and the rear gunner.  The Bf 110 broke away in a vertical dive and was not seen again.  The rear gunner saw strikes on the nose of the e/a and  it was claimed as damaged.  Postwar   it was determined that the aircraft had crashed at Herne, Belgium and the three crew members Uffz Karl Korner, Pilot, Uffz  Paul Stahl, Radio/Radar Operator and Uffz. Rudi Buckner,Gunner , were killed.  They are buried in the German Military Cemetery in Lummel,.Belgium.  .Major Beckett said that he had the unusual experience, while stationed in Belgium, of visiting an Uncle in a British Military Cemetery and driving about 50ks down the road to visit his wife's Uncle in a German Military Cemetery. 

The Picture of WAG George Irving in the February 2006 Page prompted some feed-back.

WAG George Irving

Don Macfie
When I saw George appear on the computer memories came flooding back and I had the sudden compulsion to start writing.

Well! Right there on front of February Short Bursts was George Irving from Meaford, Ont. George was youngest of a tribe of eight. His Dad had been in the Boer War and the First World War. He liked to give his boys names of important people. George was really Lloyd George Irving and, being the youngest, was known to his parents as "Our Little George." George died at the age of 56 from a brain tumour.

George had been one of the earlier grads of wireless school when 8 words per minute seemed good enough and I don’t thing he ever got above that. He said to me once, “knocking around the UK for 18 months and not doing anything I forgot all the Morse code I knew.” But he had been to the #3 Radar School at Prestwick on the old S.E. 2  straight time base equipment, and boy, was he ever good on that. On patrol at night over the intercom you’d hear him say, "Dalphin", “Porpoises”, “whale”. But on an appearing and disappearing blip you’d hear him say, “ I believe I got a periscope.”

When we got down to Oban to form Canada’s first Sunderland Squadron, George and I became WAG’s on the first a/c AB-A.W6000 under Skipper F/Sgt. Clyde Cook. Between myself and the RAF WOM A/G, we soon agreed that George was better on the radar and the turrets and the wireless was left to us.

George had a seemingly endless collection of songs, recitations, ditties, sayings, and jokes, all of which were his own ribald versions and he used them unsparingly, How I remember dark 3 a.m. mornings, standing on a pier, spirits at the lowest ebb, and miserable rain coming down, George would start up with, “Mary had a little lamb,” or, “who will play the piano, or, “starkle starkle little twink, who the hell you are I think.” By the time we were climbing aboard the aircraft we would all be laughing and in far better spirits.

Sunderland crew waiting to be taken to their Aircraft in the bay. 
If it was raining and a heavy sea, the crew were soaked 
before they boarded the aircraft, usually for a fifteen-hour patrol.

A Sunderland Flying Boat quietly awaits her crew.
Terminology was all nautical, galley, head, hull,
bilge, bulkheads, decks, etc.

One time we were on a convoy in atrocious weather under low ceiling with waves going right over the ships below. George, who was in the mid-upper turret called up George Kilgour who was in the tail turret and said, “how would you like a nice big feed of fat pork just now?” Poor Joe had 80’ feet of tumbling fuselage to traverse to get to ‘the head’ (the washroom) and when he got there, there was a line-up. 

George and I had our pictures taken by an official RCAF Photographer on a delightful August day in 1943 half way on an Ops trip that started at Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland  and ended  at Rejkavick, Iceland. We had an early take off and Bishop’s crew to follow an hour later. We had a magneto drop and Bishop’s crew was ordered onto our time slot but we arrived at Iceland before him. We probable flew right over Bishop and his crew in the water along with the crew of a submarine. You have most likely heard this story. Lady luck road along with Macfie again and George’s picture appears as noted instead of going down to a watery grave in the Atlantic Ocean.

After 57 trips and 800 hours on Ops George and I were tour expired.. We put in for a W.O.M. AG six months course and were posted to Number 7 Radio School, Kemingston, London. Imagine, just like a six months leave. 

We arrived around midnight and a disgruntled Corporal bunked us in a far corner of the school with a bunch of AC2s who were snoring away and didn’t notice two WO 1s in their midst. Around 2 a.m. I remember the bed leaving the floor and crashing down again. George and I slept on. In the morning when we woke up there was not another body around, just us. We wandered about looking for breakfast and found the whole school lay in rubble, fire, and smoke. Lines of dead were placed on the sidewalk. I stood there not believing what I was seeing. Lady luck had ridden along with Macfie again!

That night we were on the train for number 1 Radio School, Cranwell. The place where all RAF B/S had been invented and still faithfully maintained – maybe improved upon.

Our stay at Cranwell is another story which can be read in my diary and letters home that are in the CATP Museum in Brandon, Manitoba. When mid-term exams came around George didn’t make it, was CT’d, and banished to instructing on Catalina aircraft at Killadees, back on the old sod of Ireland.

But I have this to say in tribute to George, “fortunate was the Air Force crew that had a George Irving aboard as one of the lads.”

Bless ‘em All

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
Don Macfie extreme right. Note the ‘clown’.
There was one in every crew.

In Macfie’s article he states, “We probable flew right over Bishop and his crew in the water along with the crew of a submarine. You have most likely heard this story.”

Here is ‘this story’ in the words of the pilot F/O Al Bishop:

“At about 0900 hrs. while flying at 5000 feet my crew sighted a fully surfaced U-boat which made no sign of diving. During that period of the ASW some of the U-boats were staying on the surface to fight it out with attacking aircraft so we did not find it unusual.

X marks approximate site of the action

As we circled the U-boat we soon saw the advantage we might have was to attack down sun. We proceeded with such an attack descending to sea level. We approached, the U-boat started shooting at us with what appeared to be cannons with exploding shells and machine guns. I took evasive action by undulating the aircraft. As I levelled out at 50 feet for the final bombing, the shells began to hit the aircraft.

A submarine under attack from 50 ft. altitude.

Two of my crew forward in the Sunderland returned fire with a .5 on a swivel and a .3 gun in the front turret. I was successful in tracking over the submarine and dropped six DCs straddling the sub.

After the attack the crew advised me that there was a fierce fire in the galley and bomb bay areas with flames coming upstairs.

The starboard engines were running at full power and there was very little aileron control. This was apparently caused by a shell that had burst under my seat severing the exactor controls to the starboard engines. I had slight flak in the back of my left knee which I did not know at the time. I had to stop the starboard engines and attempt to maintain control with the rudder. I decided to make an emergency landing and advised the crew over the intercom. All this happened in a few seconds. In trying to land we bounced and I had trouble controlling the aircraft; as we hit the water again the port wing dropped a little, the port float caught in the water, and we cartwheeled in the sea.

I recall putting my right arm up over my face and the next thing I recall I was under water and rising to the surface. I came up slightly behind the port wing. What was left of the aircraft was on fire and there was fire on the water around it. I swam through an open space.

As I was swimming I heard Sgt. Flinn call, “Skipper can you give me a hand?” I turned and swam to him and discovered he had no Mae West and was obviously badly hurt.

He did not struggle probably because of his injuries (he had been on the front gun) and his extensive swimming experience. I grabbed hold of him with my right arm. I saw one of the aircraft floats and was able to reach it but a soon as I grabbed it, it started to fill with water and sank.

I could not see any of the other crew members but a short while later I saw the submarine, stern down, not too far away. The crew were getting onto the carley floats or rafts. As the sub sank there was a big explosion. Its crew made no attempt to come over to us. For the next while (I was in the water about fifty minutes), I don’t recall anything. I attempted to change Flinn to my left arm but every little move caused him to scream in pain.

Next I recall looking around and seeing an RN destroyer. Apparently they had been patrolling in the same area and an alert lookout had seen the Sunderland dive down. Then after the crash they could see the black smoke from the fire. They launched lifeboats and picked us up. I was able to scramble up the scramble net at the side of the destroyer. While in the water I recall seeing a Sunderland overhead. It was from a Norwegian Squadron and I later met with the Captain.

Once aboard we were taken to the wardroom. There we started shivering violently. Before I could bed down, I was called to the deck to identify one of my Seargeant’s bodies and witness his burial at sea. After that I saw a doctor briefly and climbed into a bunk.

I was awakened at about 0230 hrs 5th August as we were entering Reykjavik. We survivors were taken to the hospital. Two of us were able to walk. The other four were badly injured and were in hospital in England for some time. I returned to Ireland on 13 August via a Liberator and went on a month sick leave. I returned to flying September 19 and onto ops on 2 October. I was repatriated to Canada March 1944.”

U-89 had sailed from a home port on 22 July as one of “two remaining tankers” which had been sent to the North Atlantic to refuel U-boats operating in distant areas. Due to attacks such as that of F/O Bishop, many U-boats were recalled.

The Destroyer was HMS Castleton which picked up fifty-eight of the U-boat’s crew and six of the Sunderland (twelve man) crew.

U-489 was one of ten-type XIV ocean going ‘milch-cows’ of which seven had been lost. Captained by OL Schmandt, it sank in position 6114N 1438W30. 

F/O Bishop was awarded the DFC.

Canadian Squadrons in Coastal Command by Andrew Hendrie pages 77, 78.
ISBN 1-55125-038-1     Published 1997
This book is an in depth study of Canadian Squadrons in Coastal Command during WWII
Vanwell Publishing Limited, 
Box 2131
St. Catharines, Ontario.
L2R 7S2 


Dear Sir;
I understand that you are the editor of the Air-Gunners e-zine, "Short-Bursts". Mr. Penny here in Calgary suggested that I ask if you could enquire whether any of your association knew my father, Joseph Albert Tanice Gauthier. 

He was a tail-gunner in 1944-45. Mum tells me he was posted to Bournemouth with the R.C.A.F. I have attached a picture of him and the crew in front of what appears to be a Lancaster. I'd like to find out more about Dad and the squadron with which he flew.

Gary Gauthier
Joan and Gary Gauthier

Gauthier back row extreme left

Ed. If anyone has an address for Dept. National Defence archives send it to your Editor or directly to Joan and Gary Gauthier  More information might be obtained from this source. 


I am currently researching the Preston Green ventral gun turret and its use with 431 Squadron. According to the 431 Squadron Operational Record Book, the squadron experimented with a turret that contained two .50 calibre guns as well as the typical single .50 calibre type.

I would like to hear from anyone that operated or serviced the Preston Green turret, information on it is very scarce.

Matt Lacroix

Ted Hackett
Northern Alberta Branch

Just about to start on an article, with photos, for Short Bursts so I thought I would drop you a line.   I had lunch with the Wartime Aircrew people again last Wednesday, Svend and George Williams were also there.  It would appear that they are ready to go together with the AGs and form one group, at least for luncheons and outings.  We also may have the Ex-POWs joining us, I think Svend still has to talk to them.  He attended their luncheon a week or so ago and ended up being their "guest speaker" for the day"!   We may have to change our meeting day to satisfy everyone and I will let you know if that happens. 

I think I mentioned that the Westlawn Memorial Gardens in Edmonton was planning to build a Veterans Memorial Wall as a Year of the Veteran project.   I have collected, and submitted, a large number of names mostly from our members and through the Legion etc. 

Editor's Report

The article on the Orkneys and the Italian PoWs stirred this memory.

We had landed at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands, just North East of the Orkneys on temporary duty and in the evening went to a local movie theatre. We were ushered into one side of the seating area and the other side was left vacant. I was sitting in a centre isle seat and wondered why we had all been placed on one side. Then there were sharp army commands and Italian prisoners of war were marched in and seated in the vacant area. I found myself sitting three feet away from the ‘enemy’. I caught the chap’s eye, nodded and smiled, but he snapped his eyes front and stared straight ahead. I guess they had been told not to fraternize. After the show we had to remain seated until the prisoners were marched out.

Another “brush” with Italian PoWs was at Tripoli, North Africa (now Tarabulus, Libya). We had to pass their fenced in exercise yard on the way to the mess. They were young, healthy, sun tanned, athletic, chaps, usually playing soccer or volleyball. As we passed their compound they would call out, “How is the war going chaps,” and laugh. We were not amused.

In future Issues I would like to explore the subject “fear”. I can’t recall being afraid in the air. Many times young people have asked me this question and I always responded with a rather trite answer, “no, we were well trained and, if we reacted to situations according to the training manuals, all went well.” 

The following happened in 1945 - I’m not suggesting it would happen today.

The only time I actually felt fear was on the ground. We were downtown in Karachi India (now Pakistan). Young boys waited for Colonials and worked as a team. They chewed beetle nut gum, which created bright red saliva. One boy would splatter your boots with  red spittle, another would appear with a portable shoe shine kit, point at the dirty boots and say, “shoe shine Sahb?” Whether you accepted or not there would be another boy pushing postcards into your face saying, “buy dirty post card mister.” And yet another waving a picture of a girl and offering, “I take you to my sister, very pretty girl.” As all this was going on they would be picking your pockets. At the time a full-blown Arab uprising was taking place in Palestine and we were considered persona non grata.

The main streets were well policed and such encounters seldom happened unless one entered bazaars down side streets. On one occasion my second pilot, Bill Thompson, and I, shopping for souvenirs, made the mistake of going into one of these allies. Immediately we were hit by the young entrepreneurs. In the selling frenzy Bill heard a click and, realizing his pen had been removed, lashed out with his fist knocking a boy to the ground. He bent over and retrieved his pen from the dirt.

Immediately we were surrounded by men moving in on us, trampling over the prone boy and pushing up against us. Two thoughts flashed through my mind, there was not a white face in the crowd and, they carried knives under their long white robes. Bill muttered, “walk.”  We stood tall, eyes front, and marched smartly towards the street as if we were on the parade square. The crowd pressed around us until we reached the street and then fell back into the alley.

There was no manual for that situation. Did I experience fear? Yes, the fear was real.

I would like to get some feed back. Take a moment to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for the April Short Bursts Page, many of our young readers would be interested.

Our Web Master, Bill Hillman, is a volunteer, so let's keep the Page running. Without articles from Members we find it difficult to continue. As the saying goes, “If we don’t use it, we lose it.”

Keep well. We will see you in April.
John & Doreene Moyles



ROY, Nelson H: Mbr #417: After a lengthy illness in Edmonton, AB.  Nelson enlisted in the RCAF as R274787 and was selected for training as an Air Gunner while attending Manning Depot at Lachine, PQ.  He graduated with his AG Brevet from #10 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mount Pleasant, PEI.  Arriving overseas he attended Operational Training School at Ossington, Notts. and 164 Heavy Conversion Unit at Dishforth, Yorks.  He was posted to #420 RCAF Squadron at Tholthorpe, Yorks

FRASER, David Scott, EDMONTON. AB:  (Although not a member of the AGA, David's passing was forwarded to us by Ted Hackett)  Dave joined the RCAF in December 1940 and did his Manning Depot at No 2, in Brandon, MB.  He was on Couse #14 at #2 Wireless School, Calgary and graduated with his WAG Brevet from #2 B&G Mossbank, SK.  He was then posted to North Africa where he and a group of other WAG's were apparently wandering around with nothing to do.  They were discovered by the USAAF and ended up flying on operation with 434 Squadron (USAAF) on B25 Mitchells.  He was awarded the Air Medal with Clusters.  (I am curious to know: Who Paid Them?)

Please drop us some copy and pictures for the April Issue.
Keep well.
John and Doreene Moyles
 Ste. 233 - 1060 Dorothy St.,
Regina, Sask.     S4X 3C5  CANADA
Ph. (306) 949-6112
Regional Meetings

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.
Contact persons: 
Ken Hill  ~  President ~  905.789.1912
Bill Milne,  Secretary,
392 St. Clements Ave., 
Toronto, Ont. M5M 1M1 

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.

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 - 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.

Southern Alberta
Location - Royal Canadian Legion  #264 
Kensington, Calgary
Date: Second Monday of each month.
Time - 11:30 hours.
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.

Contact Person and President
Larry Robinson 
Box 179
Okotoks, AB   T0L 1T0
(403) 938-4105

British Columbia Branch 
Meeting time and local: 2nd Tuesday of each month at 11:30 
Firefighters Social & Athletic Club, 
6515 Bonsor Avenue, 
Burnaby, B.C. V5H 3E8 
Super eating facilities 
Contact person - Dave Sutherland       Ph. 604-431-0085 

Members across the Country are encouraged to 
send current information regarding 
regular meeting places, dates, and Contact Members, to

John and Doreene Moyles, 
Ste. 233 - 1060 Dorothy St., 
Regina, Sask.     S4X 3C5  CANADA
Ph. (306) 949-6112


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! 
We thank our Web Master, Bill Hillman, for his volunteer time and expertise.

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