Book 3, Commencing my Adventures Overseas

YGeachDG1394781v4.pdf

Title

Book 3, Commencing my Adventures Overseas

Description

Third of David Geach's diaries describing his service & personal life training as an Air Bomber in Canada. He describes his ground & flying training experiences, social life both in camp and in local Canadian towns and New York. He details train travel across Canada and the United States and his homeward voyage across the Atlantic in the troopship liner Queen Elizabeth. Covers the period from 10th October 1942 to 10th December 1942.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Contributor

Tricia Marshall
David Bloomfield

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

One handwritten diary

Language

Identifier

YGeachDG1394781v4

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

[underlined] R.C.A.F.16 [/underlined]
300M-2-42 (1686)
H.Q. 1062-13-15
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
NOTE BOOK
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[underlined] BOOK 3 [/underlined]
COMMENCING MY ADVENTURES OVERSEAS
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[underlined] Saturday Oct 10th [/underlined]
For my first entry in this book, I am settled on the rolling deck of the Queen Mary, somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. I should think our voyage is about half over, of course one hears bags of gen that various members of the crew let slip, which invariably turns out wrong. If the ship was travelling at her normal speed we would be almost there by now, on her previous trip, i.e. from America to England she only took 3 1/2 days. Unfortunately when she was near England an old ack ack cruiser attempted to cut across her bows. He misjudged the distance and was promptly cut in two by the “Queen Mary”, I don’t think there were many survivors. A huge chunk was torn out of the “Mary’s” bows, consequently reducing her speed, I understand that she is going into dock for repairs in the States and expects to be there for about 3 months or more. I believe her destination is Boston or New York, the latter, I hope.
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She certainly is a lovely ship and a hell of a size, too, she must have been lovely in peace time. Now her exterior is covered in a drab grey paint, and all her cabins have wooden bunks in, and the huge ornate dining hall, is the men’s mess. I am on ‘B’ deck in a cabin, which I should say would be a single second class cabin, there are twelve of us in it. There are four lots of wooden bunks in these tins, naturally quarters are rather cramped but we expected that. We have a bathroom attached & its rather a scramble in the morning. Now I generally awaken well before the hour for rising, owing to the fact, the time keeps going an hour back each night. The meals are pretty good, bags of butter, sugar, & cheese & other things, the only trouble is, most of the cooks are American, & they fry a lot of things in sweet oils, which taste very sickly to us. All of us have been assigned a duty, mine should be messing orderly in the sergeants mess, when I can manage to get there.
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Fortunately I haven’t been sea-sick (so far), a fair number of the fellows were on the first day or so, when we were travelling through the Irish Sea & the Eastern waters of the Atlantic. Our life on the whole is pretty easy just a parade in the morning, and hardly anything to do all day. Today, I was hoping to be at Don and Betty’s wedding, today, they are being married sometime this afternoon, in Broxbourne, ah! well I’m far away from there now.
One of the standing jokes on this ship I think is the forbiddance of gambling. There are lots of merchant seamen on board & most of them have just been paid £100 or more, & boy! they certainly gamble. The canteen in the evening looks worse than Monte Carlo, it is a solid mass of sweating bodies, packed tightly around the crown and anchor tables, there is a hell of a lot of money backed too. Only fruit drinks are sold on the ship, quite a wise precaution, too, I think.
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[underlined] Wednesday Oct 14th. [/underlined]
Today we dock at Boston, I am sorry it isn’t New York, as I would have liked to have seen the city. Still I might get the chance whilst I am over here. During the last couple of days we headed practically due South, and must have been fairly well down, because it became unbearably hot. In the troop decks we fairly lay and sweltered, upon going to bed I used to lay down in the nude, with no covering and still sweat with the heat. In the canteen it is almost impossible to breathe, the perspiration, simply streams off me, & the bankers in charge of the crown and anchor schools are literally exhausted. Their never ending flow of patter intrigues me, they have various slang phrases and names for the different squares. Such as “How about the old fireman’s friend?” this is the spade, or the old “sergeant-major”, being the crown, the “church window”, the diamond, or the “ships ‘ork” being the anchor. Then stock phrases such as, “I’m here to hide ‘em, you’re here to find ‘em”, “If you can’t find your way,
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on my board, you can’t find your way home”, their voices would crack & become hoarse, but they would never cease. It was fascinating but tiring to watch a cooler spot, was on ‘A’ deck, where two darkies would perform the old slight of hand with three jacks, & invite you to bet on which you fancied was the jack of clubs. The called him Joe Louis, (pronounced it Jo Loo), & would repeat unendingly, Who seen Joe?, Where’s Joe huh! “How about that gen’lman steppin’ & makin’ his lil’ bet?” Where the real money was lost swiftly was in the black jack schools, I hadn’t seen this game before, although I had played pontoon scores of times. This was very similar except that one betted blind on the first card, I watched a fellow place £5, on a blind card & lose, then £7 next time & lose, he lost £24 in four hands, some going. We spend quite a lot of time sitting on the darkened promenade deck and singing to the accompaniment of a mouth organ or anything, there isn’t much in the way of amusement though.
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It is lovely on deck however, in this weather, we just lounge in the sunshine and lazily watch the gun crews at drill. There certainly are a good few guns on board this ship. Everywhere we look one just sees nothing but water, not even another ship. For the Queen Mary being fast enough to out distance any U Boat, travels unescorted. One marvel in the canteen are the thousands of oranges, one can buy as many as they like, believe me, there’s some queue. When I think that the same number of oranges were sold going across I think it a shame. They could all be landed for the children at home , I wouldn’t mind going without them for a few days, nor would anyone else, so that the children could benefit.
Although this has been an easy and a pleasant voyage I am not sorry it is over, for I want to get on with the course. Well, I guess the next entry I make in here, will be on Canadian soil, at a place called Moncton, for I understand that is where we go first.
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[underlined] Sunday Oct 18th. [/underlined]
We are now in Canada, I am penning this entry in Moncton, New Brunswick, which is the big receiving and posting depot over here. We should return here upon completion of our course (whenever that might be) for posting back to England. I must say that Moncton itself is fairly deadly, it is commonly known as the (to put it politely) the parson’s nose of Canada. The actual camp is as big as the town I should say, not that the town is small, but this is a huge camp. However I’m rambling I’d better note down what happened since my last entry when I was on the boat.
It was about dinner time last Wednesday when we first saw land, it was a low peninsular with a few towns, & it certainly was good to know we were nearly there. A few planes had been out to take a look at us, diving down low over the decks. Some types appeared very strange to us, they had a huge single float underneath, American Army machines.
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The water was as calm as a milk pond, and we were sliding through it smoothly when without warning a thick yellow fog closes in upon us. The ship slackened speed until she was just about under way, and sounded her siren every few minutes. I forgot to mention she had ceased her zig-zagging tactics, all throughout the journey, every five to ten minutes she would alter course one way and then back, & so on. This zig-zagging was so that no lurking U Boat would be able to take a good aim, at least that was what one of the sailors told me. After a couple of hours the fog became patchy and finally lifted. For a while before we had been hearing other ships sirens and now we were able to see them, there were a huge crowd of them, off our starboard bow, it was a good job we hadn’t run into them, and more funny looking boats on our port. This later turned out to be a small sized collier or something towing three huge barges, if they were barges, a devil of a size, a lot of American ships we have seen
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are types I haven’t seen before. After some further progress two fast motor gun boats or launches, came out, & travelled alongside, a sailing yacht appeared and hove to and rowed the pilot across, when he was on board, away we went again. Soon we began to pass the numerous islands that dot the water harbour of Boston, most of them had buildings on, and causeways joining them to the main dock.
At this moment we were ordered onto the promenade deck to be assembled in our various drafts, so we continued to watch out of the port holes. We were checked through and got up onto the boat deck just as we watched the boom defence that guards the harbour against U Boats. As we slowly moved our way through the boom, the tugs came out to meet us. They were larger but not so sturdy as the English ones, a lot of them had dough boys on board. Gradually we moved forward and inch by inch we slipped into the bend, parked and pulled by the tugs. At last we were wayed alongside the dock, and
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a realisation of the immense size of the ship was borne upon us. She towered way up above the wharves & buildings and we were able to look [underlined] down [/underlined] upon the city of Boston. The decks were packed with troops and alongside were the tugs, & on the other lots of women clustered at the doorways. There were some pretty hot numbers, typists, office girls etc. very smartly dressed too. We were throwing English coins down for them & the doughboys, a good few pounds sterling went I’ll guarantee. One thing that impressed me were the cars, or automobiles as they are referred to here, there were tons of them on the streets and all huge streamlined glittering models, certainly superior, in appearance at least to the British models.
We went down to tea and then began to get ready to leave the ship, at about 9 P.M. we marched down the gangway and onto the quayside. It was the first time I had seen the lights at night for three years and it was a grand sight. The Queen Mary was lit, & floodlights on her, everywhere both
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on the quay & on the ship, firemen patrolled, with portable fire extinguishers, dangling on their belts, they were taking no chances after the Normandie episode.
Our draft number was called and we fell in and marched round to the railway siding which was still inside the docks. After about 45 minutes waiting the train arrived, the coaches over here certainly are larger than ours. We managed to get into a nice one, with green plush double seats and chromium fittings, an interesting feature were the iced water containers, with cardboard cartons, in each coach. After a while the train moved off and we tried to doze. At one crossing where we pulled up an American jumped out from his car and came over and chatted to me. On again we rattled past little places with the streets lit and cars parked here and there, and once we roared past a huge night club, or road house, it was brilliantly decorated with neon lights & was well patronised, judging by the cars outside.
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Dawn came, & it gradually became lighter, and the sun began to pour down so much that we opened the large observation windows and sat in our shirt sleeves, it was great. The crossings were interesting to us, a black & white striped pole came down to stop the traffic and a bell kept ringing whilst we were passing. The stations intrigued me too, owing to the distances covered by the railways no fences bordered them. The railway ran straight into the town & there were no raised platforms, like at home, one stepped straight off the train onto the main road, all there [deleted] was [/deleted], happened to be, were the station & platform, & different stops we would stream across into the towns. The first place we set foot on Canadian soil was at McAdam. On and on we went through different little towns, until we finally arrived here at Moncton at 8.30 P.M. that day. Well, I have written far more that I intended this time so I guess I will continue the tale in my next entry, from where I’ve just left off.
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[underlined] Monday Oct 19th [/underlined]
The train didn’t stop in Moncton itself, but went straight on along a siding into the camp. We climbed out, with our personal kit [deleted] [indecipherable letter] [/deleted] bags & webbing & marched a fair to the brilliantly lit buildings of the camp. It was a large draft and we had to stand out there for a good while. Of all times they had to pick that for a mock air raid, the sirens wailed and hoarse voices bellowed for the lights to go out in the different buildings. Apparently nobody cared a cuss about us, we were just left standing there. Naturally we resented it and began to sing & shout to try & get things moving, our efforts succeeded in bringing an officers wrath upon us, but that was all. Luckily the lights came on again then, & shortly after we were in the drill hall filling in the age old realms of forms. From there we were marched to another drill hall & paid $11, and there we met “Swannie” for the first time.
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This was an affectionate nick-name for P/O Swanson, the best officer I have ever met in the R.A.F. He has a bubbling irrepressible sense of humour and really speaks to you man to man. Last night he came into the barrack block three quarters of an hour after the lights should have been out, and caught some of the boys playing pontoon. We sat tight & waited, but instead of a frantic outburst he asked what the stakes were. He remained for half an hour chatting, and cracking rank jokes, then calmly said, Well, lets have the lights out sometime eh, that ginger haired b- of a corporal keeps blowing his whistle, & we don’t want to disappoint him & away he bowled.
The camp is a fairly deadly place though, & one could get cheesed easily, luckily we haven’t got to worry about that. They split us up into two drafts and the one I am in, is leaving tomorrow, so we haven’t had long to wait. Our weekend was spent mainly in Moncton, in drug stores and
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cinemas, the latter have lovely wooden seats in the circle, when we sat, being L.A.C’s a good canteen, or restaurant is the Music Box, which is for the airmen. On this station we are allowed out till midnight each night & 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. There is a cinema on the camp but I haven’t bothered to go [deleted] any [/deleted] to it.
This is the first camp I’ve been on, where I have actually been in barracks, usually it has been in a room of a hotel or something. There [sic] long wooden huts are built pretty well, there are four barrack rooms, in each hut, with about 20 beds in each. These are arranged one above the other, one luxury over here we have mattresses, not the English “biscuits”. We have already sent off our first airgraphs to home, they told us they would be best as cables are generally delayed, ah! well we will see. I think I’ll go into town for our last night here, & see what films are on, then tomorrow we will be on our way West.
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[underlined] Thursday 22nd Oct. [/underlined]
Half our journey is behind us with the other still to come. On Tuesday we paraded in the morning and received the equivalent in dollars for the sterling bank notes we had handed in on the boat, then at midday we paraded again packed and ready to move off. The train was in the camp’s siding and we boarded it there, the coach wasn’t so good as the one we had from Boston. This was an old style tourist or something, with hard worn & black leather seats, we had a fair amount of room though. After the usual hanging around we were off, and how glad we were. The other half of our fellows, who were on another draft, are still in Moncton, I don’t know when they will leave. As night approached we played cards & read, & then pulled out the seats (they were in four collapsible sections) for beds, and also pulled down the wooden beds that folded up into the top of the carriage. We may not have slept comfortably “but we did” sleep.
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We rose pretty early yesterday morning, had breakfast in the dining car, and cleaned up for the day we were to have in Montreal. At 10 A.M. we drew in at the C.N.R. station, & marched up the road to the C.P.R. and dumped our kit, after that time was our own. Everyone [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] wandered around the various large stores Eaton’s especially, they are easily as large as Gamage’s or Selfridges I should say. The number of [inserted] the [/inserted] population who were French surprised me, I hadn’t thought it would be so many. In the afternoon we went up to the Lookout on Mount Royal and took some snaps of the city from there. Time wore on and it was now 7 P.M. and we had to report back to the station. Our kit was collected & we boarded our new train, & we certainly were crowded, twice the number in a carriage as there had been before. We left around 8 P.M. and dozed on and off until this morning, when we began another day. Tomorrow we will arrive at Winnipeg & spend a day there.
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One thing about the RCAF, they are far superior to the RAF in their treatment of men on railway journeys etc. The Canadians seem to realise that we are human beings, even though we all wear the same uniform, & they treat us accordingly. The meals we have in the dining car are really tip top, eggs, bacon etc, pork chops. I know they couldn’t possibly do that in England, but the meagre rations we used to get then when travelling were disgraceful I think. The scenery has been pleasing, it is mainly all timber, I never imagined there were so many trees. At this time of the year the leaves are multi coloured, cinnamon, brown, green, a really lovely sight. Now and again one flashes out alongside a lake of deep blue, with a few log cabins around the shore. Once we passed a lumbering camp with a huge raft of spruce logs floating in the river. There certainly is a lot of natural beauty in the country, & its vast size is borne more upon us, the farther we travel.
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[underlined] Sunday 25th Oct. [/underlined]
Our journey is over and we are now settled in at No 5 Bombing & Gunnery School Dafoe, where our first course takes place. To resume from where I left off in my last entry, we were pretty packed in the train, & it wasn’t very comfortable sleeping, but the food maintained its high standard. As we travelled West the forests began to grow less dense, and after the first day and night, we found ourselves in true prairie country. It seemed very odd to us to see the earth stretching away flat and unbroken mile upon mile.
We arrived in Winnipeg about 10 AM. on Friday 23rd. and had the day free in there. As we went upstairs from the track into the foyer of the station we were met by a brass band, and lots of women from the Airmen’s Club, who gave us cigs. chocolate & fruit. Hell! I thought for a moment the war was over, they paid such overwhelming attention to us that I felt embarrassed at
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times. They certainly do a lot of fine work for the airmen and go out of their way to make us welcome, it was a good show. Unfortunately the day was marred by the fact that we experienced our first snow out here, it was pretty consistent too. Most of the day was spent in touring the shops and large stores. We encountered our first bananas for God knows how long, and also saw the new octagonal ‘nickel’ that has just been produced it is very similar to our threepenny piece.
One thing that seemed unusual to me were the terrific amount of drug stores, grills’ restaurants etc. there is one every 50 yards or so. It isn’t too [sic] be wondered at I guess with the profusion of food out here. We certainly [deleted] are [/deleted] make the most of that, for it is good food & pretty cheap, too. The day finally came to a close and we assembled at the station at 10.30 P.M. for the last stage of our journey to Dafoe in Saskatchewan.
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Our party didn’t have sleepers like the rest of the airmen on the train, & it wasn’t a tourist coach when the seats could be converted into beds. Consequently we lifted the backs of the seats out, and made do that way. It was a fairly slow train and [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] ambled along coming to a halt with terrific jerks & crashes (I don’t know why they don’t have spring buffers like English trains) until we finally arrived at Dafoe at 1.30 P.M. yesterday. My God! we had been warned that it was small and quiet but I have never visualised it as it actually was. There were about 30 shacks or homes and that comprised the whole of Dafoe – and the camp was 14 miles from that. One fellow wittily remarked to the conductor, “When the war’s over don’t forget where you left us, old man.” A lorry took us out to the camp and we found ourselves on our first Canadian station (Moncton was RAF). All the buildings were wooden, and laid out in lines, I guess there isn’t much to describe a
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station like this. The barrack blocks or huts are one long room, with no upper storeys, there are about 70 – 80 fellows in each one.
This morning we paraded, and had the usual addresses filled in the necessary pro formas and were allotted to our various classes. Our course is No 66 and there are three classes, 16 of the 19 are in one class, under our instructor F/Sgt Oliver, we meet him tomorrow. Most of us spent the afternoon in the YMCA reading & writing room, sending off Airgraphs with our new addresses, I wonder when we will receive some mail from home. The YMCA is a very nice place, ever so cosy and I guess I’ll spend quite an amount of time in here. There is a cinema show every night in the Recreation Hall, except Friday, & it is very good so I hear, they charge 20 cents. So far it hasn’t snowed but I bet it won’t be long before it does, I understand it gets hellish cold out here. Ah! well, I guess I’ll turn in and see what the course is like tomorrow.
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[underlined] Wednesday Oct 28th. [/underlined]
Three days are all that have elapsed and already we are up to our eyes in the theory of bombing and binding more than we did at I.T.W. The hours on this station certainly startled us, parade is at 7.30 AM. and classes commence promptly at 8-0 AM till 12 noon, an hour for dinner then classes again from 1 – 5 P.M. that is eight hours a day solid classes. Our instructor is a really decent fellow, he bowled into the classroom Monday introduced himself and immediately handed out the précis. For there is so much theory to get through in such a short time on this course, that any notes that are wanted are all typed out in this (in my opinion) far too bulky précis. This should eliminate all note writing and save lots of time.
F/Sgt Oliver certainly is a go getter he has whizzed through the précis at an enormous rate, and we have found it necessary to come over to the class room
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each night and bind. Our heads are swimming with the “Principles of an Ideal & Real Bomb”, “Bombing Errors & Analysis”, & heaven knows what else. All the chaps who were in ‘F’ flight at Manchester, & then left Hastings a fortnight before us, are here on 65 course, naturally they proceeded to shout some b- wicked lines. Surprisingly enough the food isn’t so good here, a Canadian station too, I thought it would be pretty good. There is hardly any bull though and that’s a blessing.
As we expected it has begun to snow, and winter is setting in, I guess we came over to this country at the wrong time. I can quite understand the authorities putting a training station out in the wilds, for there is absolutely nowhere for us to go outside the camp, except a couple of snack bars in Boom Town (a collection of wooden houses that have sprung up round the camp, consequently we have to bind on the course for the want of something better to do. I have been to the Camp Cinema and
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the shows are very good, the films are new ones too.
Tomorrow we are trying our hand at finding a wind on the bombing tracker. This is a mechanical device that syntheticaly [sic] produces the same effect as flying and bombing from an aeroplane. As our first exercise in the air when we go up will be to find four 3 course winds we want to get a good bit of practise in on the ground. This coming weekend we have a 48 hr pass, our instructor told us, that practically everyone goes into Saskatoon for the weekend. A special train is run on Friday evening and reaches Saskatoon, about 100 miles away, at 8.30 P.M. or so. Then it leaves on Sunday evening around 9.30 P.M. and reaches the camp about midnight. The Y.M.C.A. told us to go to the Airmen’s Club and we will be given an address of a family, who are willing to have airmen for the weekend. Ah! well, I’m getting cheesed with this writing, so I’ll close & dive over to the canteen.
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[underlined] Sunday 1st [deleted] Sept [/deleted] Nov. [/underlined]
I am writing this in the United Services Club in Saskatoon, we are in here on our 48 hr pass. We got through the weeks work, satisfactorily for our minds certainly were on this 48, on Friday morning we were due for a progress test but “Chirpy” Oliver put it off till the beginning of next week, an act to be commended. Dashing off after classes on Friday evening, we hastily changed and cleaned up, then rushed off to the gate to catch the lorry. Anxiety to procure a seat on the train getting the better of prudence we climbed into an open lorry and were soon wishing we hadn’t. We were standing up exposed to a vicious wind that was sweeping across the prairies, and the country being so hellishly flat and devoid of trees there was nothing to counteract the blast. By the time we reached the station we were wishing we hadn’t been so dim, but we managed to totter down & grab a seat in the train which was waiting there, and then dash over to a café for a cup of coffee to put some warmth in our bones.
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The journey took about 2 1/2 hours and around 8.30 we reached Saskatoon, we found our way to the United Services Club, where we were to meet the people who were taking us for the weekend. Everything had been arranged and we met the lady who was letting Taffy & I stay with her. We caught a street car, I think they are pretty deadly efforts, and reached 6th Street where we are staying. She put us ease immediately & very soon we were settled in cosy and comfortable. Yesterday morning we meandered around the different stores and shops, buying things here and there. Saskatoon is quite a pleasant little town, although I guess it isn’t so little over here. This and Regina are the two biggest cities in Saskatchewan, Saskatoon being the educational centre, having a very fine University, & Regina is the Government Centre. One of the Saskatchewan Rivers (I believe it’s the South) runs through the City here, although at present it is partly frozen. Yesterday afternoon we went to the cinema and saw “The Moon & Sixpence”, there was some very good
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acting by George Saunders. In the evening we went to another cinema, then after that visited the ice rink.
One of the things that surprises me is the late hour everything goes on till, dances start at 8.30 & 9 PM. things finish a lot later than in England. There are no cinemas at all on Sundays but a show starts at one minute past midnight for its Monday then, I guess some people do go at that hour. We are taking full advantage of the eating facilities and are certainly getting through some meals. Yesterday we had a lovely dinner at [blank] it’s a nice hotel, so is the Berrborough. Last night was Halloween & there was lots of dances, kids running around with blackened faces, it is kept up quite a lot over here. This morning we met Mr. Guild with whom we are staying he travels around a lot being in the wheat business, some of the figures he told us of the amount of wheat grown amazed me. Ah! well work again tomorrow and a fortnight before we are able to get out here again, such is life.
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[underlined] Wednesday 4th Nov. [/underlined]
Back at the grind again, we certainly felt shaky on Monday, on ordinary days I find it hard enough to keep awake in class, let alone then. The train reached Dafoe around midnight & we piled in lorries, I made sure I entered a closed one this time, and off we went. By the time we queued up to sign in at the Guard house, then reached the barrack block, made our beds etc. it was around 1.30 AM, then one has to rise fairly early at this place – still I’ll catch up with some sleep tonight.
We had our progress test and our class did remarkably well, easily the best out of the 3 classes that comprise 66 course. “Chirpy” was pretty bucked, the lowest mark being about 85%, this looks like turning out to be a “gen” class. I wonder when we will commence our flying, 65 course have only done Wind Finding so far, apparently the courses are a bit behind on account of the weather breaking I guess. All we
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seem to do is practise on the Bombing Tracker. This is a fairly good device, one lays on a platform, with a bombsight mounted, as it is in a plane then a moving film of the ground from 10,000 ft is projected onto a screen below. The slide can be made to turn, thus giving the appearance that one is in an aircraft and that is turning, by another fellow using a rudder bar. It is a quite useful piece of machinery, but there are a good few things that go wrong with it, causing conditions that never [indecipherable word] in the air.
It snows on and off frequently, the winter certainly has arrived. The snow looks a great deal prettier (if the term can be applied) than it does back home, for there it rapidly goes a dirty grey, or turns to slush. Here it stays really white and is a lot crisper and driven than I have experienced before. When a fine day arrives, too, with a blue sky and the sun shining down on the snow, one feels really great, and its perfect bombing weather, too.
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All the class regularly binds at night, it appears necessary in view of the amount of work we have to cope with, and the speed at which “Chirpy” hurtles through it, he sure moves, that boy. Either before or after binding, usually after we dive in the canteen, it is a pleasant one, modern chromium tubular chairs in crimson leather, one can get grand fruit pies etc. but no tea or coffee, apparently no canteens on the stations in Canada function like the NAAFI, in respect of tea & hot meals.
There was a good laugh the other night, a chap up on night bombing, couldn’t see the target when the pilot turned on his bombing run. Suddenly he saw the white light of the target, or so he thought, & headed the pilot there and let go the bomb, it was a good one about 10 yards. Imagine his surprise when the “target”, shot away at a helluva speed, it later turned out to be a fellow & his girl who had parked in his car, for a little love making and had forgotten to put his head lights off. Good job it was only a 11 1/2 lb practice bomb, I bet it shook him though.
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[underlined] Saturday Nov 7th. [/underlined]
For the first time, since I’ve been in the RAF I believe I shall be working on Sunday. This unfortunate happening occurs tomorrow, it appears that the weekend we are not on classes we work right on without a break, how deadly. That makes it a fortnight without a stop, it made us quite indignant, we always look forward to Sunday as a day of relaxation, and a lay in if possible in the morning. This is positively sordid getting up and continuing classes on a day that means so much to us, sacrificing our rights & privileges, all that bunk y’know. Still in the service the words “Ours not to reason why”, comes to apply in so many cases, that one understands the true significance behind the phrase.
Life still drags uneventfully on here, each day practically a repetition of the former, I can see myself disappearing in a rut. I seem to have struck a bad spell for binding, in class I can’t concentrate and constantly fall asleep, Pat Kinsella, who sits next to me is constantly prodding me into wakefulness. In the evenings I glance idly
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through the précis for about 5 minutes and then sling it, I really must snap out of it. We visit the cinema every other night for each film runs two nights, they continue to have decent films. The food here also continues to be fairly poor, the Canadians with us complain as well, so evidently it is just an isolated case, this camp. I think the term isolated describes the camp quite amply, too, I have never been anywhere quite so remote in all my life. All we can do outside the gate is to have a meal in the lunch bar or take our laundry. It surprised me that Canadian stations have no full laundry facilities, like they do on English stations it came quite a blow. The water here is deadly, it is an evil sooty looking colour they say it is caused, by the nature of the ground which is thick with alkali, anyway it tastes lousy. Damn! I’m beginning to get cheesed with writing this now, I’ll have a drink in the canteen & then go to the show I guess.
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[underlined] Wednesday 11th Nov. [/underlined]
Armistice Day – it seems to have lost the significance that it held pre war, I wonder if they will have another Armistice Day for this war. It was the first time I have been anywhere when two minutes silence was observed for in England the practise is discontinued I was in the Boulton Paul Turret on turret manipulation at the time. We get quite a lot of turret manipulation in the Frazer Nash, Boulton Paul, & Bristol Turrets, the latter we will never handle after we leave this station. Being as we fire from Blenheim IVs or Bolingbrokes as they are called in Canada, we are required to know them, I don’t think much of them as a turret though.
A fortnight remains before our bombing exams and the first vestiges of panic are beginning to show. Some of the stuff really is deadly and can only be learnt parrot fashion, quite an amount of it we shall never touch after we leave here, the majority of it in fact.
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I’m beginning to wonder when we will start on flying the time is ticking by and there are no signs of it yet – 65 course have done a couple of bombing trips, and naturally short, heaven knows how many times. This is quite an intensive course when one thinks of it, we take Theory of Bombing, which includes tons of different subjects such as Bomb barriers, Pyrotechnics etc. Then Theory of Gunnery, including Theory of Sighting & Air Firing, Signals (8 w.p.m. Aldis) and Aircraft Rec – they are surprisingly keen on the latter. We have a fair number of lessons and in the test we have about 70 slides and 30 photographs, and 10 wingspans, we have to know the wing spans of all enemy aircraft. 90% must be obtained for a pass mark in Aircraft Rec. Besides all these we have the practical side of our training to worry about. Tonight we are belting ammunition down the 25 yd. range, this is making it into belts ready for firing by the different Brownings on the station. Its a bit of a bind at
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times, but theres [sic] nothing hard on strenuous about it.
There’s a dance on in the WAAF’s canteen tonight but after two dances over here I have abandoned the idea of being able to learn the Canadian style of dancing. They seem to jog around with any steps they please, paying no attention to the orchestra, which rarely plays in dance tempo anyhow, so! I’ll wait till I arrive back in England before I go dancing again.
I’m beginning to feel a little washed out, & so are the others, a fortnights binding all day & most of the evening, without a break soon makes one stale. “Chirpy” is mad ‘cos there is a delay on flying schedules and we are unable to relieve the monotony of our lectures with actual flying. Its a good job we have a 48 hr again this coming weekend, I am beginning to see why they have to give them every fortnight on a camp like this, I guess people would go mad if they were unable to get away.
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[underlined] Sunday Nov 15th. [/underlined]
I’m writing this in Saskatoon again, and another 48 is nearly over, worse luck, we really have enjoyed it. The train pulled in at the station here around the same time on Friday evening, and Taffy and I went straight out to the house we are staying at, for the people invited us again. They really are very kind to us, we have a nice room, and the food is great, our only complaint being perhaps that they press too much of it upon us. Our dinner today was a wonderful effort, and a cream pumpkin pie we had for sweet, made me feel like a bursting balloon. This afternoon we were taken out in the car and drove around the university, it is an extensive place, and a very fine one. They certainly give us a great time here. As usual yesterday we went shopping and then to a cinema, I saw Forest Rangers & liked it, good technicolour. Just before we left Dafoe on Friday a locker lid fell down on Harry Jamieson’s head, splitting a cyst he had, consequently he
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had to have a minor operation, which prevented him coming on this 48 hr – he was already packed and changed too, hard lines.
I shan’t mind going back to work next week, for its highly probable that we are starting our flying and its about time that came along. One gets cheesed with the bombing tracker time and time again, I only hope my bombing in the air is better that it is on that affair. We have to do turret manipulation in the evenings as well now so that lecture time wont be wasted. I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t take long but with two turrets & a whole class to have a [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] [inserted] turn [/inserted] on each, it takes around two hours to get everyone on each for five minutes or so. The Frazer Nash seems the easiest and best to handle, but I think that if one got really expert with the Boulton Paul it would be pretty accurate, for the centre column is very delicate and doesn’t require much pressure to deviate the direction of the turret.
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[underlined] Thursday 19th Nov. [/underlined]
Its getting pretty close to the exams now, they are next Tuesday or so, that is the Bombing Exams. “Chirpy” has been putting us through it just lately, but there is such an amount to learn that my brain doesn’t seem to be able to absorb it all at once. I know the others feel the same, in a while if we don’t get these exams over will be telling them what to do with them. We have been in the bombing room a lot lately on practise work, such as firing and loading a 250 lb bomb on a universal carrier. Loading light series carriers and working the automatic bomb distributors. The bombing oral is divided into four parts and four different officers take it. One takes Bombing Theory, another Bombs and Components, a third Bomb Carriers & practical stuff, and the last the Course Setting Bomb Sight & Bomb Errors. On the following day we should have the written exam, I would rather have that than the oral, some of the officers are bound to be binders.
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On Tuesday we went down to the 25 yd range for firing with the Browning Gun, we all belted 200 rounds each and fired them. It was quite a row when it fired and it was surprising the amount the gun vibrated. Chunks of casing and [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] pieces of links would fly backwards in to one’s face, so I guess it is necessary to wear goggles when flying. We do a couple of exercises on the Browning here and one on the 200 yd range. Also there are a required number of rifle exercises to get through, the only trouble is its ever so cold, I pity the Russians in the winter, though I guess they are used to it.
At last I have had some mail, the other night when we were belting ammo. down at the range when a couple of fellows came in with Airgraphs they had just received. So off I dashed, the Post Office unluckily being the other side of the camp. It was freezing cold and as I only had battle dress on it penetrated that pretty easily. Still it was worth it, I had an Airgraph from home and one from Mary,
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it was good to hear from them after this while. I had already had a letter from a friend but that was one that had been re-directed from Manchester. Airgraphs are fairly speedy about 12 – 15 days, they generally take around that, the trouble is they are so short, one hardly starts reading them, when the end is reached; I’ll be glad when a couple of letters come trickling along.
It is fairly definite we will start flying here the beginning of next week, and its none too soon, otherwise we will be here longer than we should. I wonder what it will really be like, one hears so many tales, that one can’t attach any truth to anything. Apparently it matters quite an amount, whether the pilot is a “binder’ or not, I hope mine isn’t. We have been polishing up our wind finding on the bombing tracker, so we won’t boob anything, somehow I think somebody will drop one though.
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[underlined] Sunday 22nd Nov. [/underlined]
True to schedule we worked today, but none of us minded in the least for at last we have commenced our flying here. We went up on Wind Speed & Direction Finding on the C.S.B.S. this afternoon, and I quite enjoyed it. Luckily I flew with P/O Witney the best pilot on the station, so everything was just dandy. I remembered all my ‘patter’ perfectly & didn’t make a mess of anything, and managed to get some pretty accurate winds. There certainly isn’t much room in the nose of an Anson, in the bomber’s position, and I found we had to become an expert contortionist, to slide in and out rapidly without hitting the dummy controls, the tail trim, or any other projecting gadgets.
The flatness of the prairies struck me many times from the train but it is not until one is up in the air that they can really see it. With the snow on the ground now, the landscape stretches miles
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away in all directions with just small clumps of trees here and there, looking for all the world, like a gigantic sheet of white cardboard that someone had laid down. The roads are all dead straight, unbroken ribbons, running either North to South, or East to West. There certainly was plenty to look at on our first trip up, for everything was vastly different from the English countryside that we had flown over before. Looking down the aerodrome looked like a lonely little outpost in a vast desert. We are supposed to do one more Wind S & D exercise and commence our bombing, bags of fun then. Our pilot didn’t take us over the targets today, some fellows did, there are 3 targets spaced out along the edge of Guill Lake. No 1 being at the North end near the aerodrome, and No 3 at the South End fairly near Dafoe itself (too near maybe with our bombing) then No 2 target in between, the latter is the most difficult to pick up.
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Our bombing exams are destined for Tuesday & Wednesday, but tomorrow we are scheduled to go down the 200 yd. range for the whole day. So that doesn’t give us much chance for last minute swotting I’m afraid. They have a Fraser Nash & a Boulton Paul Turret down there, and we have to wear full flying kit, so that we get into the way of climbing in and out of the turrets and operating the guns, as we will on ‘ops’.
As for the exams, I am suffering under the insane attack of last minute panic, and consider I know practically nothing, and franticy [sic] ‘gen’ up on any little thing I can think of. Funny how a way before the exam I am always confident of passing and yet when it approaches, fellows always seem to know different things I have never heard about, & this rapidly convinces me I haven’t a chance in the world. Ah! well when I make the next entry they will all be over and will I be glad. Being tired I lay this down with a thankful sigh & so to bed.
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[underlined] Wednesday 25th Nov [/underlined]
A premature feeling of relief and happiness prevails over 66K, the bombing exams being over and everyone reasonably sure they have passed, I shall think we ought to, after the work we put in. The Oral came first we had that, yesterday, in my opinion it was the worse of the two. We started off right into it, first thing in the morning and it was my misfortune to have to go in the Bombs & Components Room first. The officer in here was a real binding P/O, he had only been an LAC four weeks previous himself, yet he would bind about things like a fellow’s tie not straight, a button undone, as if we were on a pukka parade instead of an examination. It certainly is funny how some of these fellows let a commission go to their head, and think they’re heaven knows what. To return some of the questions he asked would have required a pharmacist to answer, the various ingredients in an incendiary mixture,
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stuff we had never touched. Anyway my encounter with him was brisk & lively, I got a trifle heated, & he got more so, which ended with me making my exit with very little marks to my credit I know. The next two rooms, the C.S.B.S. Bombing Errors, & Bombing Theory were cake, for I had that stuff all wrapped. I dropped a couple in the Bomb Carriers, trying to tug a 11 1/2 lb bomb off the carriers without having unscrewed the nose & tail switches, still he was a decent chap & it wasn’t so bad. On the whole I daresay I got through with about 70% a fair show.
The written exam was this morning, we had it in the lecture hall, it was a fairly tricky paper, & I made the usual mistakes through not reading the paper correctly. Its marvellous the times I do that, come [inserted] out [/inserted] of the exam room, & as usual discuss the questions with other fellows, & find I have given the wrong answer to a question just because I didn’t read it. Sheer carelessness, but still I think I got through O.K.
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On Monday we went to the 200 yd Range for turret firing, it wasn’t bad. We all wore flying kit and were taken out in a lorry, it was about 5 miles away. As we stayed out there all day we took a snack with us. It was fairly interesting, but for the small amount of ammunition we fired it really wasn’t worth it. We had to separate all the links and cones & push them into containers too. Being as it was the day before the exams we all took our précis, in the hope of getting some last minute binding in, but with the guns firing there wasn’t a lot of chance. A fair few photographs were taken as it was a fine day, & we had one hell of a snow ball fight at dinner time, it warmed us up. We walked out and took a look at the target, machine guns certainly chew wooden beams to pieces. A fellow firing wildly sent a bust up into the air just under the tail of a low flying Boley, did that boy climb, that was the only excitement of the day, though.
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[underlined] Tuesday 1st Dec. [/underlined]
Practically a week has passed since I last made an entry, but nothing, to speak of, has turned up. When one thinks of it practically every day here is a repetition of the former – with only something unusual happening to break the monotony. It is better now that we are cracking on our practical bombing, I have completed my Wind Speed & Direction Finding trips, & my 1 direction & 4 directions bombing exercises, yesterday I did my first High Level Application exercise and managed to get a decent blue of 84 yards. This was pretty good for that exercise at this station.
On the days that we fly, we only do so for half the day, either fly in the morning & lectures in the afternoon or vice versa. If we are flying in the morning we report at 8 A.M. & in the afternoon 12 P.M. going to lunch at 11 P.M. It always is a rush in lunch time,
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getting only an hour for lunch each day. The first thing upon reaching the Bombing Flight Crew Room is to draw our parachute, harness, & intercom from the stores, and clip our T 32’s on the boards. The T 32 is a form with a diagram of the target & rings round it a scale of 25 yds distance from each other, there are also spaces for gen, such as W/S & D, A/S, Mt. No of Bombs Dropped, etc. As we see the bombs burst on the ground we plot then in the diagram on the T 32. After all these preparations are completed we squat in the Crew Room drinking “Cokes” till our name is chalked up opposite a pilot, & an aircraft. Hastily collecting our gear out we go to begin the exercise.
Two Air Bombers fly in each aircraft & drop 6 bombs each, the 12 bombs are on the ground under the aircraft. One of the fellows [deleted] [indecipherable letter] [/deleted] climbs into the “kite” and wriggling into the nose gives the C.S.B.S. a visual inspection and tests the bomb switches. The other crawls under the
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aircraft and begins to load the bombs. These are 11 1/2 lb practise smoke bombs, and are loaded singly onto a Light Series Carrier. This is a hell of a job at times, after cocking & testing the carrier one chips on the bomb, & then lowers “steadies”, or catches which hold the bomb into place. The worst job is pulling the safety pin out, there are held in place with copper wire wound round the bomb, & which is often frozen. One sits there pulling, & cursing & desperately twisting the wire, with fingers absolutely frozen, the trouble is the engines are running all the time and we are directly in the slip stream. It will often whip up powdered snow which lashes into ones face, & before long all the skin on the face goes dead, I certainly hate bombing up at times.
At last its over, however, and into the aircraft we climb test our intercom with the pilots, then when all is O.K. away we go. It is not long before
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we near the target, and the first chap climbs into the bombing compartment, or squeezes is a better work in an Anson I think. If there is time he finds a 3 course wind, then comes out, & the other fellow climbs in and takes his 3 drifts & finds his wind (unofficially compares it with the other fellow, & takes what he considers is the most correct) and announces he is ready.
The pilot then calls up the quadrant shelter and announces he is commencing to bomb and what his heading will be. Next he generally informs the bomber of the heading & then the patter commences. “No 2 Bomb Fused & Selected”, the bomber does this & repeats the order, “Turning On”, & the pilot turns the aircraft and commences the bombing run. “Master Switch On”, pilot & bomber switch on their respective switches & observe if the Jettison Light lights. Then target comes into view and the bomber announces “Target” & then the pilot says “Attack”, which the bombadier repeats then the fun begins.
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If the pilot is a good one he will have put the aircraft accurately onto the target on the heading stated. Red will be almost on Red & only minor corrections will be necessary. Should the target be a good way off the drift wires, the bomber gives the necessary correction, “Left-Left”, or Right and the pilot turns the plane accordingly. When the target comes into the drift wires the bomber yells “Steady”, & the pilot flies straight & level again. The pilot may be flying left wing low, & the levels are all out, so the bomber hastily twiddles those. Next he notices Red isn’t on Red, turns the Bearing Plate so that this is O.K. finds the drift wires have moved off the target & gives a hasty last minute correction. He most probably drops the bomb while the ‘plane is turning and to his horror sees the white burst of smoke about 250 yds from the target. Sometimes one has a good run up with the little yellow [symbol] coming down the drift wires all the way, then when the target, back right & fore right
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are in line [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] presses the bit, and the bomb lands about 30 yds out, he eagerly plots this on the T 32. Quite often one gets in a flap, everything goes wrong, frantic corrections are screamed into the inter com, and then the words Dummy Run are heard. The pilot sighs and informs the quadrant shelter and round they go again. Most of these exercises are carried out at 5 or 6,000 ft. Eventually both fellows have bombed and the aircraft heads for home, and lands disgorging two bombadiers with mixed feelings depending upon how this exercise went.
A swift look at the Bomb Carriers to see if there were any hang ups, sign for the bombs dropped, have the flying time entered on the T 32 in the flight office then off to the Plotting Office. This is where Bombing Exercises are made and marred, I am biased of course, for there is always a feud between Air Bombers & the plotters in the Plotting Office. Apprehensively we hand in the T 32 and in a little while receive a large chart
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with a graph on it & the target in the centre and our bombs plotted as they saw them at the Quadrant Shelter. In different columns, errors are entered for each bomb, & then the average error converted to 10,000 ft. Should this be under 150 yds it is a ‘blue’ or pass, & if over 150 yds a ‘red’ or fail. The bombadier gazes aghast at a bomb he has plotted at 50 yds & which the Quadrant have at over 200 yds & raises an indignant moan. It rarely has any effect, nobody takes any notice of us & we have to make the best of what we are given. I must say its rather cheesing to see a bomb burst clearly inside the 100 yd. mark & for them to plot it double the distance out. It is easily done for the two Quadrant shelters take bearings on the smoke burst. They don’t stand with their eyes constantly glued to the window, & often don’t look out till the pilot calls over the radio telling them the bomb has been dropped. If there is a strong ground wind the smoke will have
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drifted a fair distance in this short while & consequently the bomb is plotted farther out than it should be. Sometimes there are errors owing to readings being incorrectly given over the phone but this can be checked. There certainly is a lot to be despised in the plotting, though I guess a good deal could be said for either sides point of view. Its binding to have a hell of a trip, frozen loading the bombs, cold as charity in the air, perspex iced up, yet manage to get some good bombs away, then return & find some guy in the quadrant shelter has spoilt the exercise in a minute with bad plotting. Their argument is that we can’t see as well as them for we are in the air – maybe they’ve never heard of serial reconnaissance. Still its like that on all B & G’s I guess.
The rest of our exams take place very shortly, Gunnery, Signals, Aircraft Rec. I think I had better pack up and get some binding in.
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[underlined] Sunday Dec 6th. [/underlined]
The Signals Exam is over, thats [sic] the first of the list, ticked off, we took it this afternoon. We are required to do 8’s on the lamp, as it is far too cold to go outside in the open with an Aldis we work in the classroom. The Signals Room is fitted with a small light let into the table at each man’s position, the lights are controlled & operated by the instructor operating an ordinary Morse key. Most of us got through the exam O.K. & a few failed, Norman amongst them, he never could master signals, he will get another try I believe, maybe he can do it with some practise.
Some time at the beginning of next week we take both our [deleted] signal [/deleted] Gunnery Exams these are very similar to the Bombing Exams, the Course divided between 3 or 4 instructors. The written will contain a question or two on Turrets we have had 3 or 4 lectures on the F.N, B.P.s and Bristol, and
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there being so much gen to swallow in a short time, well we just didn’t try, so are hoping for the best.
We haven’t flown for 5 days, owing to the bad weather it has been ‘washed’ every day, its delays like this that put the course behind when we are due to graduate. Either at Xmas or the New Year we will get 4 days leave, and as long as we don’t lose that I shan’t worry. Tomorrow night we are belting ammo, they are behind with their number of rounds & have to catch up, it’s a bind but can’t be helped. I hear that when we do air firing now we have to belt our own ammunition. We have this station completely wrapped, & can’t remember when we last went on a morning parade, we always twist off it with some excuse or other, things on this station are definitely looking up. Ah! well I think I’ll pop along to the cinema & relax, though that’s rather impossible on the wooden seats.
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[underlined] Thursday 10th December [/underlined]
We are gradually finishing the course now, those that had failed Signals took it again. Taffy passed O.K. but Norman didn’t stand a chance so ‘Butch’ Rogers took it for him, so everyone is through now. Today was our Gunnery Oral Exam and that was pretty straightforward, most of the instructors examining us were sprog P/O’s just passed put from LAC’s the same as us. They were decent chaps but we knew as much as them easily. On changing the feed of the Browning, there were quite a few points I mentioned, that one of them hadn’t heard of at all. Anyway I think we all got through without any trouble.
The cold is still as bad as ever, worse if anything, there hasn’t been much flying, owing to the snow storms and poor visibility. There is a Bolingbroke
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missing from a Gunnery trip yesterday. They have had no news of it at all, and have been organising a square search today. Lots of Ansons with crews came over from the Navigation School at Rivers to assist. I only hope they find the chaps O.K. they may have come down up north in the bush. The trouble with these Boleys is that they aren’t fitted with any radio. A farmer reported hearing a crash in the direction of Quill Lake yesterday, but they searched over there without any success. The pilot is a Canadian I believe, but the two pupils are English on 65 course, the chaps that were in ‘F’ flight at Manchester, I hope they are safe. They say these Boleys are pretty grim in cold weather and ice up in no time.
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I am not looking forward to our gunnery much it will be hellishly cold in those turrets I bet. We are looking forward to our leave very much after all this binding & swotting, I only wish I could get across to Vancouver to see my uncle but there isn’t time. Mr. & Mrs Guild have invited Taffy& I down to Saskatoon, for Xmas, still I dunno what will happen yet everything is very much in the air. Anyway I’ll think I’ll do one little bit more gunnery now as the Gunnery Written is tomorrow
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CONCLUDING BOOK 3
MY ADVENTURES IN CANADA ARE CONCLUDED IN BOOK 4

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Citation

David Geach, “Book 3, Commencing my Adventures Overseas,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 22, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18876.

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