Daily Archives: April 28, 2012

Match-Making on Chaleur Bay

Before I was stationed overseas, I was assigned to Summerside PEI, to patrol the area for German submarines.  This area, PEI was called the Garden of the Gulf.  There was pretty heavy war -time submarine activity around there.  The base was very active.  I wasn’t excited about my stint there – but I wasn’t disappointed either.

Several sightings of German submarines had been made in Chaleur Bay, New Brunswick over the course of a few weeks in 1942, 1943.  It was decided that they would institute several dawn patrols by putting a depth charge under each wing off 250 pounds.

I flew Ansons at that time.  Ansons were used in Britain and in Canada during the war.  There were four crew:  pilot (myself), student, navigator, and wireless air – gunner.  They were easy to fly – very forgiving craft.  You never had to worry about much when flying that craft.  It was very modern and had a lot of “automation”.   The 250 pounds of under-water bombs were mostly used by the navy – but we carried them too.   The weight of the weapons, however,  reduced the landing and take-off speed of the poor old Anson.

I will never forget this one particular day.  It was a very calm morning.  As we approached the bay, there lay right ahead of us a wake on the water which appeared exactly like the wake caused by the German submarines.

“Frank!”, I called.  “Arm the depth charges!”

Frank, my wireless air gunner, ran up to the nose and we began the “run-in”.  Seconds later I said, “abort, abort”.  The wake belonged to a tugboat towing logs.

The skipper of that tugboat never knew how close he had come to towing a load of toothpicks instead of logs.

Categories: World War II | 1 Comment

Lobster Air


When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked.  Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind.  Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said.   Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters.  Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans!  (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1238462–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)

“Oh, my goodness, Dad.  This is funny!”  I replied.  I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel.  After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged.  Enjoy!

Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)

Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II!   Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.

We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines.  The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier.  But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance.  Although there had never been sightings in the Straits,  Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal.  I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting.  Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs.  (Funny how some of my best friends today are German.  Was sure is a strange thing!)

The Straits were well known for lobster.  Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate!  During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them.  Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.

Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water.  This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft.  This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the  lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.

Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate.  When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft.  Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings.  This wasn’t really too much of a problem.  The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.

The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection.  The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft.  I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water.  No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.

Finally, the story emerged.  The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”.  I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments


This is the love of my life… my bride for 64 years.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Mumps

I attended flight school in St. Catharines  (EFTS)  Elementary Training School  before I went overseas.  I was 3/4 through my course when I became quite ill.  I didn’t know what I had, so I went to see the Medical Officer (MO).   He tested for mumps.  Imagine!  The test for mumps at that time was simply putting something sour in my mouth.  I could tell right away something was wrong because  it smarted.  The MO said to me, “Son, you have the mumps.”.  I was in my early 20s at that time.

I was given a bed in the hospital to get better.. I was the only one in the entire hospital.  I received very good care.

Once I had recovered, I had to make up for what I had missed.  I was most upset that this put me back enough that I was not able to graduate with my buddies with whom I had studied with.   I had already writen the exams, done all the flight test but my buddies went on to graduate and I had to stay behind.   Not only would I miss graduation, but I  would also miss the grad party to follow.  There was only one thing to do.   I asked the Co if I could join my group – old class for their graduation.

He said, ” no”…  so I went to graduation anyhow.

It was at Port Dalhousie.  Another fellow from my new class and I went to the party.  We met a couple of girls there who were from Toronto.  We didn’t want to send them home on their own and so we volunteered to escort them home across the lake to Toronto by ferry.  What we didn’t realize was that there would be no ferry to get us back where we needed to be at night.  So we had to stay the night in Toronto at my Aunt Sophie and Uncle Dan ‘s who lived at 140 Edwin Street.  Since nothing I did surpised them – they took our visit in stride.

The next morning we came back to St. Kits to realize we had been declared AWOL (Absent without Leave).  We were charged… it was like going to a court.  What a scare!  Fortunately the court  saw our record was clean and so I did end up getting my commission anyhow in spite of the Toronto incident.

What was nice too was that this “new” crew of guys ended up being really great guys.  those of us who graduated, received “our wings” is how the graduation was referred to.  To graduate didn’t mean you automatically received a commission.  Commissions were granted on the basis of marks.    I guess my new group had so much fun together, however, of the 25 % who did earn a commission – half of us got our commission in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and the other half got their commission in Moncton, New Brunswick.

The announcement of my commission was sent to my home rather than directly to me.  This procedure was the same for all graduates in an effort to prevent us from knowing who got a commission and who didn’t – this protected our dignity, privacy, and our parents from being disappointed or not.

All in all, our actions had been well worth the consequence I paid to be able to be with my buddies for a short while.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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