Bill Hillman Presents
Forces: Land ~ Air ~ Sea ~ Home
Compiled by Bill Hillman
FLASH. . . Editor and Webmaster: Bill Hillman:
STAR WEEKLY magazine cover
Toronto February 24, 1940

(If anyone has specifications of the Whitley or flew in this machine, please drop a line to the Editor of this Page.
Note the price of the magazine.)

The “Chuck” Singer Revival 
Here is how it started.  The following letter was received from Bob Singer:

Hi John,
I am trying to find some information to the unit my father flew with in WW2. He was a crew member on a Sunderland Flying boat shot down over Ireland during the war.

His name is Charles Singer. The call sign was eyeglass eagle.

Any information on this available.

Bob Singer


As this took place in Ireland the members of 422 Sunderland Squadron Association were contacted.
The book, LIFE AND TIMES of 422 Squadron page 64, sets out the particulars of the crash.

It will be noted that “Chuck Singer died later of injuries."

When Bob Singer received this information he replied expressing his appreciation, and  added that his Dad, Charles Singer, was alive and well in Florida.

Charles Singer sent the following:

John, Got so much to tell you, don't know where to begin. First of all I am glad to be with the living, raised five great kids, one of you have been in touch with, Bob. George Colborn had both legs broken at the knees, the tail section landed on him and he was pinned under it. When I was trying to free myself from the wreck I heard him scream for help, blood was running down my face, my left arm was broken and I was in shock. The second scream made me go back to try to help. In pulling him free with my right arm I did some damage to my shoulder, after dragging him clear I passed out. and laid there for some time, like all the others waiting for help. The next day the Americans came across the border to southern Ireland, put us all on stretchers, rushed us across the border and flew us to the hospital in England in a .D C 3.

Can't say enough about our fine treatment in the hospital in London. An R.A.F. doctor who took care of me couldn't make my break knit, as it was so clean a break, so he came up with the idea of using more than one blade in the saw and cut the cast around the break area, pushed the cast together, sealed it and sent me back to my bed. The idea was for me to stay awake for 48 hours and push with everything I had to close the bones together. With the help of the Drs and nurses I stayed awake, they took me for an x-ray and what do you know, it worked saving me from having my leg cut open to do a bone graft to my humorus bone.

My rehab in Divadale in North Toronto was just as rewarding, the nurses had me in the pool every day, pushing my forearm back against the pool wall, after a few weeks I got a lot of my extension back, not all but later was able to strengthen up that side of my body so I could get a job on my discharge. At present I am on a ten percent pension, helps a little, right?

Please try to have any of my crew members that are still with us, to contact me, that is if it is possible.

F/S Chuck Singer
3055 Lucerne Pk. Dr.
Greenacres, Florida.
USA 33467 2030
Hoping to hear from you,
Chuck Singer.

Chuck graduated from #9 Mont Joli. He said that he never told his family the particulars of his WW11 experiences and has never talked about the war years. 


The Bristol Bombay – Jack-of-all-Trades 
Never one of the glamorous aircraft of WWII – the Bristol Bombay was ugly, slow, virtually unarmed, few in number and out of sight in the vast desert for most of their operational career. But the unique usefulness of the Bombay lay in its capability, in spite of its size to land very short, on extremely rough ground, thanks to its high wing and nose as well as its huge rugged, non-collapsible undercarriage and big fat tires. Bombays were go-anywhere, do-anything, land-anyhow, Jack-of-all-trades. This multi purpose versatility saw them tackle a gamut of specialized roles during the four years of the desert campaign.

In 1940 when Mussolini attacked  British forces in the North African desert, 24 Bombays and Vickers Valencia biplanes were the only ‘heavy’ bombers in the Middle East. As a result Bombays were the first to bomb Axis Mediterranean ports, Tobruk, Derna, Benghazi, Tripoli, etc. Throughout the successive campaigns, as battles moved back and forth, up and down the desert, the Bombays kept the battle area supplied with ammunition. The crews were in the vanguard of para-dropping – they also pioneered landing and unloading large heavy loads on rough, unprepared ground – where angels and prettier aircraft, feared to tread.

Bombays were in at the birth of the Special Air Service (SAS) offspring of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and assisted with behind-the-enemy forays of destruction. They were in the air every day regardless of conditions – a typical days work included taking bombs and ammunition, oxygen or medical supplies, to the fighting area and returning with the wounded. The multi purpose interior, looking rather like the inside of a tramcar of the same period, could be converted in minutes to take stretchers suspended in two tiers along the fuselage as soon as the outward cargo had been unloaded. Techniques for in-flight casualty care were developed to incorporate blood transfusion facilities and drips. In four years, thousands of Eight Army casualties were evacuated from battle areas by Bombays.

Bombay crews spent much of lives on detachment. Frequently a lone aircraft, or two or three, would be detached ‘up the blue’ (as distant reaches of the desert were called)  for some days at a time. Then the aircraft became a flying caravan, the crew living, sleeping, eating on board, organizing their own life support provisioning. Sometime a day or two would become a week or two. A 14 gallon water tank was mounted behind the midships bulkhead and topped up every opportunity. The crews became adept at self - sufficiency, equipping and supplying themselves for the nomadic life style, while getting on with whatever operational task they had been sent out to do. Base being some hundreds of miles behind them. An evening meal would be cooked over a petrol tin with its top cut off, half filled with sand – of which there was never a shortage – petrol was then poured over the top and it would be lit by throwing a match into it. The cooking pot would sit on top. In windy weather the a/c door was removed and used as a windscreen or sometimes as a table top.

Bombay A/C  216 Squadron

Much of the Bombay’s work was dropping supplies by parachute.

By Keith Campbell
John: Ted Hackett said that I should send you a bit about Met. flights. I flew with 1402 Met. Flight in Aldergrove, Northern Ireland in Hudsons, then on 518 Met. Sqdn., Isle of Tiree, Western Scotland, and finally on  520 Met. Sqdn., Gibraltar. We had Merlin powered Halifaxes on the squadrons.

(Information purloined from my late Met. Observer, Jim Yates.)

Understandably, weather is an important factor in flying. Initially, local Royal Air Force stations made hourly weather observations which were sent to a central command for compilation into a general forecast. However, the vast majority of northwestern Europe's weather develops over the Atlantic Ocean Naval ships sailing the Atlantic were aware of their weather, but had to maintain radio silence for safety and security reasons. So their observations remained "on board" until the ships docked.  In 1940, the Royal Air Force provided twin engine aircraft to carry out long range weather observations over Atlantic waters. The various weather observations were made at sea level "stations", which were 50 nautical miles apart. After the ninth station, the aircraft climbed, with observations made with every drop of 50 millibars in air pressure, until, if possible, a pressure of 500 millibars was reached (about 5.5 km above sea level). The weather observations were put into coded groups which were transmitted by the wireless operator to a central command.

The aircraft then returned to near sea-level and began the return to base; the "met" observer continuing to make and record observations. The unsent weather information was transmitted from home base to the central command. ( The crew of the twin engine aircraft was a pilot, a navigator/met. observer, and two wireless operator/air gunners, one at the wireless set, and the other in the gun turret.)  Longer range flights began in September 1943, after several squadrons of four-engine Halifax aircraft were formed, and the crews trained. A crew of 8 was made up of two pilots, one navigator, one met. observer, one flight engineer, and three "WAGs", one at the wireless set, the others in the two gun turrets. The range was extended to 14 stations before the "boxed" ascent to 500 millibars was begun. The prepared coded information was then transmitted to the central command. The flight continued at 500 millibar height, toward home base, for 5 stations.

After a boxed descent to near sea level, the met. observer continued the observations of weather conditions. Flight duration was about 10 hours.  Weather was considered so vital that radio silence was not kept. Also, the daily flights took off regardless of the weather, I know of no flight that was ever cancelled because of bad weather.


Dear sir,
I was wondering if any of your members have any recollections of Sumburgh or Sullom voe with a view to writing a book regarding Shetland military aviation,
Thank you,
Iain Morrison.

In the December 2001 Page, Sandy Sanderson told us about two teachers in Belgium, whose hobby is excavating WWI and WWII aircraft crash sites,  and how they found the .50 caliber mid-under gun which Sandy was manning when their Halifax  crashed in Belgium.

The following is a letter from one of these men.

Dear Mr Moyles,
Thank you very much for your most welcome letter. I apologize for my late reaction, but exams at school and holidays with the family immediately afterwards prevented me from keeping up to date with my correspondence. Wim Huyghe and I were very grateful for the help Sandy Sanderson and 3 other crewmembers of the ill fated Halifax LW394 gave us in our research of what had happened on February 9, 1945 in Voormezele.

I am writing an article in English on this event and the recovery of LW394 which I will send to everyone interested. So, I will certainly send a copy of it to your address as well. I would like to finish the text by the end of January, or close to the memorable date of 9 February.

I have downloaded your very interesting website on the Internet and read Sandy's newsletter. Yes, the finding of the .50 cal. mid-under gun was really the pick of the bunch. At the end of August this year it was to be seen on a display about WWI an WWII in Flanders together with other pieces of wreckage of LW394 (amongst others one of the three motors that we could dig up) & other aircraft that crashed in our country during the war.

Thank you very much for contacting me and I would like to keep in touch.
Meanwhile I wish you a Happy New Year.

Sincerely Yours,
Dirk Decuypere
tel. 056 51 56 25 

A quick note John to let you know I've had a number of responses to
my query about mid-under guns. I really appreciate the effort you guys have
made on my behalf. I especially can't say enough about Phil Dubois who has
gone out of his way to help including sending me a photo of a mid-under gun as
well as a hand-drawn sketch. Great guy! Hope to meet him one day.
Jay Hammond
Nelson, BC

Doug Linder, a games designer with Mad Doc Software is developing a video game involving WW 11 aircraft and in the December issue he requested information on the mechanism that prevented the mid-upper gunner from shooting his tail off.

Ted Hackett replied:

I have some information that I hope will be of help to you. The Fraser-Nash mid-upper turret was surrounded by a raised portion of the aircraft fuselage, it looked like it was sitting in a well from some angles.  At the front of the turret were two rods and rollers called "the operating levers and rollers".  The rollers rode on the fuselage and when the guns came in line with a portion of the aircraft they would ride up on a raised portion and deflect the gun(s) upwards. There were two levers and rollers so I presume each one operated one gun.  The diagram that I have is from an Air Ministry Publication and it does refer to a "gun fire interrupter" that is described in another publication.  I spoke to several members of the ex-Air Gunners at our last luncheon but most of them seem to have been rear gunners or flew in the Halifax or the Stirling, and memory does fade after 50 odd years. I have a couple of photographs that show the levers and rollers, although not too well, but I have been having a problem with my scanner.  One of my grandchildren, who are more at home with computers than I am, is going to come up and help me  and, when he does, I will send the photos to you, hopefully before too long.

Hope you had a good Christmas and that the New Year will be good to you.
Cheers, Ted Hackett. 

Doug Linder’s reply:
Hi Ted,
Thanks so much for the detailed information.  I'm sure it will be a lot of help to the artists making the model of the aircraft.  Photos are nice, but if it's a lot of trouble, please don't feel as if you have to go through a lot of effort to get them.  It's not critically important - I just wanted to make sure that we programmed the gun to work the way it actually did.

Again, we appreciate you taking the time to clear this up for us.  If you want to take a look at what the game will be when it's finished, please fell free to visit the web page for the game here:

Doug Linder
(Ed. Check this game out for your Grandchildren)

by Ralph Keefer
McGill-Queen’s University Press 2001  ISBN 0-7735-1142-3
Hard cover – 263 pages.
Ralph Keefer has given us a vivid, detailed, well documented account of his Father’s temporary internment in Ireland during WWII.

From the Author’s Note.

“As a Royal (Canadian) Air Force Pilot during the Second World War my father (Bobby Keefer) commanded over eighty missions from September 1940 to April 1945. He served in Bomber Command, Coastal Command, and Ferry Command. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.

You can’t experience all of that without picking up a few stories along the way. One of my Father’s best  - an unlikely story if there ever was one – involved a botched mission to Frankfurt where he and his friend, Jack Calder, who had been a reporter before the war and was now his navigator, somehow landed up in an Irish prison camp.”

As the book unfolds we share the experiences of these Canadians in the internment camp. The inmates were RCAF, RAF, Polish, Free French, American, and on the other side of a high wall, German internees. What made the camp so different from the POW camps in Germany was that the inmates were given Day Parole whenever they wanted it. They signed a declaration at the gate promising not to escape while on parole, if they did there were dire consequences. However, on returning to camp and surrendering the document they were free to plan and attempt to escape as it was their duty so to do. We read of their experiences on parole e.g. golfing, fishing, enjoying the hospitality of upper class society in the County, and frequenting the local pubs. On a number of occasions P/O Keefer took part in fox hunting - riding with the hounds with a charming Irish girl instructing him on the etiquette of the occasion. The German’s were given the same privileges leading to interesting results. The Officer’s Mess on the camp even had a well stocked bar!

The book tells of the numerous escape attempts, some successful, some not. In all cases the Germans were cheering for the guards.

The story is well documented with pictures of the area, some taken during the internment, and many  official memos and letters from government officials. The book gives the reader some insight into Irish history.

I’m not going to tell you if Bobby Keefer and his friends escaped, you will have to read that for yourself.  I found  GROUNDED IN EIRE a very interesting, humorous read. It is one of the “theaters of war” we seldom hear about, I recommend it highly for your WW 11 library.

John Moyles

Reports have been coming in advising that the November 2001 Page is not in the archives. Our Web Master, Bill Hillman, has the answer:

“Greetings, John:
I've checked out the November archive issue... the problem appears to be that CATP has exceeded their amount of allowable storage space on the WAVE server.

As soon as I can find a free day I'll take each of the archived Gunner pages and files off the WAVE server... I'll then register for an account with that offer free space and move all the archived sites over to there. I'll then change all the links throughout the pages to accommodate this change. and we'll bypass the CATP Wave account.

Meanwhile November will have to stay inactive for awhile...until the move is complete. Hope this meets with your approval.”

Readers will see from this page that the Members have been responding to the questions and requests for information which have been received. If you can throw some light on any query we receive please don’t hesitate to contact the party. Don’t take the attitude, “let Joe do it”, it is better to get two or three answers, even though they might duplicate, than none at all. It is encouraging to see that the younger generation are interested in our history.

Regarding the content of this Page I would like some feed-back as to the type of content you would like to see. If you wanted it more Air Gunner related, we could use material from old SHORT BUTSTS. The Bombay article is taken from the Commemorative Issue – Short Burst 1983 – 1993. We have a few copies of this 190 page, soft cover, book on hand if anyone is interested.

I just spoke to Ellen Penny on the phone and she advised that Doug is 'hanging in there', no changes and he is feeling pretty good. Doug Penny was our Association President for 12 years and he did  great PR work for our Association.

As mentioned in the December Issue we will be publishing a new Page every two months.
The next issue will be on the web April 2002. Your contributions would be appreciated.

See you in April,  Keep well.    Cheers,  John Moyles.


Northern Alberta

The Christmas luncheon was held on December 12 at the Norwood Legion  with 51 in attendance, not bad for a poor day.  The condition of the roads outside of Edmonton kept a number of members from attending.  The Legion staff did a fine job of providing a great lunch, turkey and ham with all the trimmings and, since it is a Ukranian Legion, cabbage rolls etc.  The music was supplied by a versatile two-piece band courtesy of one of the members and a number of members actually got up and danced.  The bank balance is pretty healthy so $200 worth of door prizes were given away.

The first meeting of the new year was held at the Norwood Legion on January 3.  The members voted to send $35 to John Moyles to be forwarded to the Brandon Museum to help defray the cost of producing Shortbursts. At the December meeting we voted to support a local Air Cadet Squadron and forwarded a cheque for $150 to them, we also renewed our membership in the Edmonton Aviation Heritage Museum.  The members also voted to renew our membership in the Nanton Lancaster Society and a cheque for $100 was forwarded to them.  We look forward to a good summer and our President, Svend Jensen, is busy looking for ways to keep us busy.  We hope everyone had a good Christmas and will have a healthy and happy New Year.

Northern Saskatchewan

Dear John!
On December 10, 2001 we held our Ex A.G.'s & W.A.G.'s Christmas Supper at the Lynx Wing. There were 30 people in attendance. Harry Thompson said grace and at the conclusion of grace we kept our heads bowed in memory of Howard Hitchcock and Shirley Corbett. Special guests in attendance were Les Kell and his wife. The meal was a traditional Christmas supper.  Harry Thompson introduced the entertainment, an RCAF film re Pilot training.

On January 21/02, at noon, 26 of our Members sat down to a delicious lunch of soup, sandwiches, and dessert.

It was god to see Jack Scarfe in attendance and improving in health.

We will meet again on Monday, Feb. 3rd.

C. A. “Smokey” Robson.

1944 Foggia India
1944 Foggia India
L to R – Pilot Peter Judd Australian
Navigator Stev. McCann
Bomb aimer Fergus Mennie
Wop/AG Ted Rainer
Rear Gunner Dick Farley
Picture submitted by Ted Rainer

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 Cockburn  ~  Secretary ~  416.492.1024

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

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

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

Southern Alberta
Location - Royal Canadian Legion  #264 
Kensington, Calgary
Date: Second Monday of each month.
Time - 11:30 hours.
Contact Member: Dave Biggs Ph: (403)236-7895
or Doug Penny Ph: (403)242-7048.
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 12 noon, 
Canadian Legion, 4896 Delta, Ladner, B.C. (no 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 Moyles
Box 6 
Kenosee Lake 
SK   S0C 2S0 

Members are requested to send their experiences, articles, anecdotes, pictures, etc., to John Moyles and I will forward them to our Web Master in Brandon. Articles and Last Post items will be deleted from the page each month after the designated Member in each region has had an opportunity to copy the material for their Members. Notices of deceased Members are to be sent to Charlie Yule who is still our 'Keeper of the Rolls'. This is your SHORT BURSTS with no printing or mailing costs, and no deadlines! 
We thank our Web Master, Bill Hillman, for his volunteer time and expertise.

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