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Ex-Air Gunners Association of Northern Saskatchewan. August 20, 2001

The meeting was held on the 20th of August with an attendance of 17 (16 members and one guest).

During the course of the meeting, we held a 50/50 draw.  The treasurer  reported on the financial position of the group, which is strong.  All  agreed that the Association's finances would pay for the Christmas banquet.

A progress report was given by Jack Scaarfe re: the Veterans section of  Woodlawn Cemetery.

A member reported on visiting the air force museum at Brandon, Manitoba.

It was agreed that Chairman, Smokey Robson, would continue to send in a report after each meeting.  Also, individual members supply stories of wartime experiences on their own directly to John Moyles.

C. A. "Smokey" Robson

Northern Alberta Branch

The Greenwood family held the Air Gunners barbecue on July 28 at Gilbert Greenwoods acreage west of Edmonton.  Ed Greenwood was a popular member of our group and a WAG who flew with 86 Squadron, Coastal Command.  He began holding a barbecue on his farm near Evansburg, Alberta, about an hour drive from Edmonton.  Ed passed away in 1994 and the family decided to continue the barbecues in memory of their Father.  The event this year was, as usual, very well attended and a good time was had by all.  Gilbert and his brother cooked 36 chickens on a large outdoor fire.  The weather was nice until late in the afternoon when it started to rain, but we were all able to move into a large outbuilding where we could eat in comfort.  The family was certainly prepared for a change in the weather because they had tables and chairs set up in the building.

The family refuses any donations or help with these affairs so it was decided to present them with a small gift to show our appreciation.  The family lives on an acreage so they see lots of wildlife during the year and it was suggested that we give them a nice bird bath.  Svend Jensen and Ted Hackett purchased a rather nice bird bath and had a plaque attached that read, "To the Greenwood Family, In Appreciation, From the Ex-Air Gunners."  The bird bath was well received.  Svend took some photographs so we will see if he has one to send you.

We have tried three different Legions in our search for a new meeting place, The St Albert, Strathcona and the Norwood. We had an executive meeting at the Norwood this past Wednesday and everyone seems to think that this is the place.  The accommodations are nice, the menu really good, specially the buffet, and the manager was doing his best to make us feel welcome.  We are going to hold our next meeting there ( September 06) and let the general membership decide.  I'll let you know how it comes out.

Cheers,  Ted Hackett

(Editor)  It would be appreciated if other AG Branches and Groups would submit an update on their activities. Let us hear what is happening across the country.


This Blenheim was built in Montreal and used for gunnery training.
After the war it was purchased by a person in Manitoba.
It was loaned to the RAF at Hendon museum and refurbished.
On a test flight it crashed and now has been rebuilt.
This photo was taken in 1989 over Duxford RAF Station.

Weldy Moffatt, 427 Squadron


A Blenheim fighter of the RAF Coastal Command set off from a base in Northern Scotland to make a routine reconnaissance of a fortified zone in South-west Norway. The aircraft had a crew of three – the pilot, the observer, and the gunner, who also was the wireless operator. The patrol had been in progress for one hour forty minutes. It was then 3:50 p.m., the time of the last entry in the log book.

At that moment, the Blenheim had sighted a Heinkel 111 counter-patrolling the Norwegian coast. The British pilot went into attack from the rear. He got in the first burst, a heavy one from fairly close range. It must have been very effective. The Heinkel immediately fled to cloud for safety, with only one gun firing as it turned for home. But six bullets entered the front part of the pursuing Blenheim,

For the next hour and one-half nothing was heard from the Blenheim at its base in Scotland. Then at 5:15 p.m., the Squadron Commander was told – “A signal has just been received, Sir, from J for Johnny, but it is incomplete.” The signal was just three words, “pilot and observer”.

At irregular intervals, J for Johnnie’s wireless spoke again. It was obvious that someone in the aircraft was trying to tell something about the pilot and the observer, but there was no coherence or substance in any of the signals.

A message with real meaning came however, at 6 p.m., three quarters of an hour later. It read, “J for Johnnie pilot and observer require urgent medical attention.” That was four hours after the Blenheim had taken off, and none of the unfinished signals, nor the last indefinite one, had given any indication of the Blenheim’s position.

Other aircraft of the Squadron went out to search for J. An hour later a sister Blenheim found it flying steadily westward. The second aircraft formated on J and guided it into the Shetland Islands 70 miles further on. Both Blenheims made perfect landings.

All three of the crew of J were then found to have been severely wounded by the Heinkel’s parting shots. The pilot had a bullet wound in his head, and the observer and  the gunner-wireless operator had both been hit in the chest. Only the pilot could speak. The observer had been unconscious ever since the combat and the air gunner had been conscious only for a few moments at a time all the way home.

It was during each of these few moments of consciousness, the pilot explained, that the gunner had reached over to the wireless set and tapped out the signals which broke off only when he collapsed again and again. In none of the signals had the gunner indicated that he was injured. But in the little hospital in the Shetlands to which this aircrew had been removed the surgeon found that the gunner was the most gravely wounded of the three.

The Heinkel  HE 111B of 1936 was the first production version of this most famous type.
Note the ventral ‘dustbin’ gun position, which was soon replaced.
This type fought with the Condor Legion in Spain.

No. 600 (Regina) Wing Air Force Association of Canada will install a memorial marker at Caronport, Sask., to commemorate the existence of No. 33 SFTS on 26 September 2001. Ceremonies commence at 3 P.M. with the Lieutenant Governor in attendance and followed by a reception and tour of the Caronport Bible College facilities. Members of the AFAC are invited to dinner at 15 Wing (not hosted) in the evening. We are trying to arrange a fly past. Anyone attending the dinner should confirm by calling Weldy Moffatt (306) 522-9938 or Doug Mullen (306) 586-8794 one week before the event.

PAMPHLET 132 - December 1941 

Remarks that get one expelled from the Air Gunners’ Union
Training? No, you see, I’m at an Operational Squadron now…
You never see anything on these trips, so I always take a book into the turret…
How was I to know there was anything wrong with the turret: the D.I’s. always done by the armourer…
I couldn’t tell the range as it was a condor and we had only practiced with 109’s and 110’s…
I never make a testing burst – we have to clean our own guns…
Well, you see, nobody knew what it was, we were all having our sandwiches at the time…
We’d already sighted the coast, so I wasn’t in the turret…
I didn’t bother much about it, as it had RAF markings on it…
Sometimes I sits and thinks – and sometimes I just sits.

We haven’t come all this way to drop those!

A Bomber Engages Three Enemy Fighters
(From Gunnery Sense Pamphlet 132) 
It was on the way back from a raid in the Ruhr when we were picked up by searchlights. They held us right across the town of Wesel, then the pilot finally got out of them.

There was no anti-aircraft fire, so I was keeping a particularly sharp lookout for fighters. Suddenly tracer bullets started flying past the turret, and I saw three fighters coming in at us from the rear. One was coming in from the starboard quarter, and below us.  A second was above and practically to astern.; and the third was five or six degrees to port and he – like the one on the other side – was also attacking from below. To me it seemed that all three were converging on the rear turret.

The one on the starboard quarter seemed to be pretty close, so I had first shot at him. The first burst seemed to hit. If you can get your first burst in alright, you can usually guarantee to get your following ones in to, unless things are particularly awkward; so I just kept pumping quick bursts into him – six or seven altogether. He was hitting us too. Some of his shots went through the tailplane, the rudder and the wireless mast, and an explosive shell from his cannon hit the armour plating of my turret. I didn’t realize at the time that the shell had actually hit us. I thought it had exploded just outside. Anyway, I know the bang deafened me for thirty-six hours afterwards.

The fighter got to within about a hundred to one hundred and fifty yards of the rear turret; then he pulled up like an aircraft pulling out of a dive. He seemed to hang there for a bit, and I got in a few more bursts right into the belly of the aircraft. I saw him turn over and then I swung the turret to the second fighter, which had been closing in all this time, firing his four guns. I could see four streams of tracer coming at us. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the first fighter go down in flames. He exploded in the air or when he hit the deck – I couldn’t say which.

The second aircraft was the one which was flying slightly to port. I missed him with first three bursts, because I was misjudging his speed, but the fourth burst hit him alright, and after that I just kept repeating the performance. He was pretty deadly too, and did further damage to our plane. The Navigator got hit in the leg – not badly though – but nobody else was hurt. Then the fighter curled away out of the field of fire, and that was the last I saw of him, but the second Pilot said he saw it go down out of control.

After this, the third enemy fighter came down on us. He closed into about three hundred yards, but would come no closer. I got a bit fed up with this, so I fired a good long burst in his direction and he sheered off. We didn’t see him again.

Altogether I have done just over twenty raids over Germany, but that was the most exciting one of the lot.

DON MACFIE was a WAG who kept a diary of every day of his service in the RCAF.
Here is one of his tales of Ireland. 

Getting Sam out of Ireland

On 423 Squadron Castle Archdale, Ireland, we had a ‘sometimes’ LAC laundry man, Old Sam, as we aircrew used to call him.  You see, Sam was old, 54 years in fact, and him over where a real war was gong on. Five miles over the border in the Free State, was his old home where his two sisters still lived. Sam left this home to fight in WW1 and then he came to a homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada. Now Sam had a great contempt for authority as, on his chest, he wore more medal ribbons than all personnel on the base put together. Even the Station Commander was only 32.

He had two sons in aircrew, one flying on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. He would come around one day and collect laundry from our hut and the next day bring it back nicely done up. He operated from a Nisson hut which was his domain. His deliveries developed into personal calls and he would tell tales of the ‘other’ war, and the awful times of the dirty thirties. He had no respect for us Flt.Sgts, or WO1’s, but we thought of him as as father and he filled a gap in our 19 and 20 yr. Old lives. Oh yes, we got fatherly advice!

Sam’s weakness was Irish whiskey which kept him in continuous trouble with the Service Police right u to the Station Adjutant. He made frequent trips over the boarder getting quite loaded on the way and trying to cross into Free State in his uniform and, conversely, trying to get back onto the air base with a good supply on the inside and out and in civilian cloths. He was well acquainted with the “digger”. At times he would arrive on his laundry delivery in gum boots and mud up to the knees from having just come from digging trenches away from the sanitary station.

Then came the time when my tour was up and lying around waiting for a posting and getting to copy Sam. For example, driving my bicycle through the station barrier at high speeds at night and throwing an SP into the ditch. So I made more intimate contact with the Adjutant, Works and Bricks, and found myself Orderly Officer on the night of a dance I was looking forward to.

My first duty was to visit the Digger to inspect the inmates, which amounted to just Sam, complete with gum boots and mud to the knees. He glared at me and his lower jaw protruded about an inch. I asked him if the laundry was in and he said it was. I had him let go to continue with this job.

The day I was posted, the Adjutant, in very strong language, advised me that I would be taking Sam with me and that it was my job to make sure he got to Liverpool and out of Ireland! When I found Sam he was at the Station gate trying to get back on the station in civilian cloths and so drunk that he could hardly stand. He had some choice Irish words for the SPs. I managed to ‘pull rank’ and had Sam placed in my care, which seemed to please the SPs.

I took Sam around the station getting clearances and helped him pack his four kit bags. Due to truck problems we were half an hour late getting to the train station but the train waited for us. It was an all day train trip across Northern Ireland with many changes and a night trip by boat from Belfast to Liverpool. At each station the kit bags – and Sam - had to be reloaded, and, at each stop, Sam would have to have a final pint at the local. The school kids across the country were late for school that day.

At Belfast we loaded the kit – and Sam – onto the boat, however at the last moment, Sam just had to have one last pint on the ‘Old Sod’ and he is off the boat to the peer pub. We finally found him and got back to the boat just as the gangplank was starting to lift.

We rolled Sam into his bunk and propped his four kit bags around him. Immediately he went into a deep sleep, snoring contentedly. It was a very rough crossing and the rest of us got no sleep, but Sam snored on. In the morning we docked at Liverpool and it was back again to hauling kit. But looking at Sam’s kit, and him peacefully sleeping, I decided just to leave him there.

I have often entertained myself by wondering, and hoping, that when Sam did awake, the boat would be back again in Belfast, and that he spent the rest of his life on the Old Sod.

President - Ex-Air Gunner’s Association, Southern Ontario Chapter

Ken Hill
Our President in the “Galley” at the
Toronto Chapter’s Annual Sail at the Buffers Yacht Club
(August 2000)
Ken’s letter reads, in part,  “I’m enclosing a photo of yours truly sitting on top of his new mount. The bike resembles a Harley Davidson but, in fact, is a 2001 VL 800 K1 “Intruder Volusia” made by Suzuki. Since this picture was taken I’ve added a wind screen, saddle bags and, a back rest for the passenger seat. It looks real “niffty”. With the windscreen on it now looks like a cop’s bike. Guess I’ll have to get me a six shooter! . . ."

Ken Hill

Ken served as an Air Gunner with 425 Squadron and is one of the early members of our Association having Membership #0070.


BELL, K. J. #0460, PORT COCQUITLAM, BC:  Keith passed away June 10th,  Enlisted in Toronto October '42.  Attended #2 Wireless School, Calgary and received his WAG Brevet at #6 B&G Mountain View.  Served overseas with Coastal Command at Tenby, So. Wales, Hooten Park and Blackpool from Oct. '43 to June '44.  Posted to Bomber Command and served with #431 Squadron at Croft, Yorkshire from Sept. '44 to May '45.

LARSON, W. J. #0942, MEDICINE HAT, AB: Wilfred passed away August 10th.  Enlisted Dec. 11, 1942 in Calgary at age 21 and assigned to #3 Manning Depot at Edmonton where he was classified at General Duties.  Posted to 14X Depot, Regina packing practice Bombs for about six months then remustered to Aircrew for Air Gunner Training.  Posted to McGill University in Montreal for PAED and earned his Air Gunner Brevet at #9 B&G at Mont Jolie.  After partaking some Commando Training at Valleyfield, Wilf was sent overseas on the Empress of Scotland.  After attending OTU and HCU he arrived at Leemington Yorkshire to join 427 Squadron on Nov. 3, 1944 completing 27 Ops - half on Hallies and the rest on Lancs.

LAPOINT, LONDON, ON:  Harold LaPointe wishes to inform that his wife BETTY JEAN passed away August 19th after a very lengthy illness.  Many of you or your Spouse may remember Betty attending a couple of our Reunions.  You will certainly remember Harold who attended most if not all of our Reunions - and he sends his best regards to you all!

Doug Penny, our Ex-National Association President, informed me that he has to undergo another operation. As President of our Association Doug was a great PR man and made it a priority to meet as many members as possible. He was a driving force in keeping our Association active and viable. Doug, on behalf of all our Members I wish you a positive diagnosis and a speedy recovery. We are thinking of you.

Air Gunner’s Association (RAF) Newsletter THE TURRET, arrived in the mail. This newsletter is published twice a year, includes many interesting articles, and is well supported by the individual Branches of their Association.  I believe that the RAF AG’s Association got started in 1948. In 1949 their membership was 185. By 1984 the membership stood at 1600. In this Issue (#81 Summer 2001) the Association welcomes 20 new members!

If you are an Ex-Air Gunner interested in becoming a member of this Association and receive THE TURRET, drop a line to the Editor:

Ron Bramley,
35 Morley  Rd.,
Nottingham, NG3 6LL  U.K.
Tel. 0115 956 9266
Ron is one of our “Burma Boys” and will be attending the Burma Reunion in B.C. this fall.

Drop me a line for the October Page.
John Moyles -  Ed.


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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