A TAG Called "Canada"Robert (Bob) "Windy" Geale (Telegraphist Air Gunner, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy)Bob Geale at East Camp in Yarmouth, 1943Windy GealeSome of the Telegraphist Air Gunners in the UK called him “Canada”; there weren’t many Canadians among the TAGs of the Fleet Air Arm so this nickname was the only natural. He was also fondly referred to as “Windy” since his last name is Geale (pronounced ‘gale’).Robert Norman Edward "Windy” Geale was born in Welland, Ontario March 19th, 1925 and lived in Port Colbourne on the southern side of the Welland Ship Canal.His father was an engineer on the Canal, later becoming the Engineer of the southern end of the Canal. “My father was the ninth Canadian to become a pilot being trained on Toronto Island and joined the Royal Naval Air Service in World War One”.In his last year at high school, Windy made his way to Hamilton, HMCS STAR, in 1943, to join up (he says there was not much offered by the RCNVR). When he said he wanted to join the Fleet Air Arm everything happened and in late May he went to Kingston to appear before a naval board at 31 SFTS. An hour later he was given a railroad ticket to Halifax, that afternoon, to go overseas to the Royal Navy.His goal at that time was to become a Pilot. Reporting in to HMS CANADA in Halifax, he was sent to the Naval Fleet AIR Arm section at RCAF Dartmouth, where he joined a number of other Canadians who had also joined the Fleet Air Arm.They sailed a few days later in the Troopship Empress of Scotland. As he had been a Sea Cadet and later an Air Cadet he had no trouble adapting to service life. Arriving in England he saw bombing, and was bombed before he even arrived at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Lee-on-Solent to await his pilot’s course.There he had a problem with his ‘medical’ for a pilot and was recommended as an Observer. He says there would have been a ‘longish’ wait to become an Observer so he opted to become a Telegraphist Air Gunner and was soon off to HMS ST. VINCENT to start his TAG training. At the end of three months he found out that he was in the top half of the course and drafted to Canada. “Frankly”, says Windy, “at the time I was not impressed”.His first impression of East Camp, was “this isn’t a naval base it’s an air force base”. The Fleet Air Arm was essentially the “Air force of the Navy” so this impression is understandable. He moved into the bottom floor of a block, which fronted onto the raised parade ground with a road running alongside. Situated on one side of the parade ground was a large Hangar used for PT and basketball. The TAG School was across from his hut where he soon ‘’got back into the Navy”.Asked about memories of East Camp, Windy remembers one day looking out as a blimp came in for a landing and suddenly but slowly it folded up in a lump on the Tarmac (This incident was the crash of a US Naval Blimp). He remembers that the Swordfish were great aircraft and you could always tell the amount of experience your pilot had. Junior pilots wound up the wheels, all 167 turns themselves while more experienced called for the student TAG do this for them.After gaining his ‘wings’ in Yarmouth, training at East Camp, he went back to the UK via New York and Le Havre, France. He remembers seeing a bit of the residue of the battered ports of France and German POWs unloading allied ships.“Then it was off to the Operational Training Unit to work up in a FAIREY Barracudas, a great dive Bomber with horrible PR, for the Pacific”, says Windy. “My pilot was a Chief Petty Officer Pilot, one of the very best I have ever flown with”.“When the war came to a sudden end the Observer disappeared back to Canada and my pilot, Ray Carter and I finished to OFT with another Observer. At the beginning of 1946 I joined the Fleet Carrier HMS Formidable, in Portsmouth and left it in Colombo, Ceylon to wait for my Squadron, 827, a Barracuda squadron to return from South Africa in HMS COLOSSUS a Light Fleet Carrier. In my career I was to fly from 5 Light Fleet Carriers, the last being HMAS MELBOURNE. Joined the squadron up country in Ceylon at RNAS Katakarunda and it was back to flying in Barracudas.”After a long and fascinating Naval carrier of forty-three years, Bob “Windy” Geale went on to become Honorary Curator of the Australian Museum of Flight in Nowra, New South Wales, Australia where he also resides.UPDATE: Sadly, Windy passed away December 6, 2009 and will be missed by everyone with the Wartime Heritage Association. Our sincere condolences go out to all his friends and family. The news items regarding his passing can be located in the News Archive on this site for 2009.
Bob Geale at East Camp in Yarmouth, 1943Windy Geale