Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
Creating the Tragedy and Triumph Script Over the years, hundreds of stories, many told b y Veterans, and endless research have formed the basis for creating dialogue scenes to blend with the music of the wartime stage productions. Limited by performance time, the writing of narration, reflection, and dialogue for Tragedy and Triumph was both frustrating and difficult. Many stories for the current script were collected during the past three years from individual Telegraphist Air Gunners. Eric May of Maidstone, Kent, shared not only his wartime experiences of training in Yarmouth, but the story of “Moonlight Serenade”. Bill and Gwen West of Sydney, Australia, wrote of their wartime experiences. Bill was a young Telegraphist Air Gunner from Manchester, England, who trained in Yarmouth during the war. Curiosity of a faded photo in an old family album led to the re-establishment of a lost contact and eventually to the re-telling of wartime stories about this British TAG and his Australian war-bride. Fred Good, Roy Gibbs, Bob “Windy” Geale (a Canadian born TAG, now living in Australia), Leon Dunmore, Reg Harrison, Stewart Crawford, Les Sayer and Ken Davies, all shared stories of wartime TAG experiences. Roland Spiller of Maidstone, Kent, passed along a collection of TAGA Magazines which added valuable information. So Far Away From Home, the story of four TAGs killed during training in Yarmouth, was first inspired by the four gravestones located in Mountain Cemetery, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Eric May had been part of the honour guard at the burial sixty years ago. During his visit to Yarmouth in 2005 he shared the story. The short dialogue of the army scenes came from two different sources. The chicken tale was told to me by an uncle, a Canadian veteran, Andre Goyer, many years ago while reminiscing about his time in England at the beginning of the war. The story of the little boy and the Canadian soldiers was told to me following a performance in Deal, Kent. After recalling the story, the man asked where we obtained the anecdotes for the script. A friend standing with him remarked, “likely they came from people like you”. I recall smiling. The letter of John to his wife came from a student researching her family’s wartime experiences. Her project included several hundred letters written by her grandfather, John Woodruff, during the war to her grandmother. Found in an attic box, they provided endless hours of reading and an appreciation of the longing for home and loved ones. The letter used in the script seemed to sum up best the feelings of one soldier. A member of the Royal British Legion, Deal, Walmer and District Branch, sent me the book, Harvest of Messerschmitts. The book is based upon a diary kept by Mary Smith of Elham, Kent, during the war. This provided endless information on the Battle of Britain and opened the door to many ideas for the script. The story of the Channel Dash resulted from information passed along by Ted Powell of the Kent Fleet Air Arm Association. Perhaps the most intriguing and most difficult story to be told was that of the attack at Palambang. I felt this story needed to be told, as it related vividly the terrible tragedy of war. To summarize the events at Palambang and those at Changi was difficult, as the temptation was to re-tell every detail of what happened to these young men. The Kenneth Buchanan story originated from an article on the BBC WWII People’s War Website. After some searching, we located Gwen Buchanan and her daughter Lindsay, who provided photos, letters, and details, which we were able to incorporate into the script. Lindsay travelled from Spain in October 2006 to attend a performance of Tragedy and Triumph in Truro, Nova Scotia, the hometown of Kenneth Buchanan. The memories of the wooded area between Dover and Deal were passed on by Wilbert Billard, a Veteran living in Sackville, Nova Scotia. He attended a performance of Tragedy and Triumph in Halifax in the fall of 2006. “They’re talking about all the places near where I was stationed,” he told his wife. During the intermission he approached us and we were able to arrange a time to visit him at home. Having searched for some three years, finally we found a Veteran who was camped in the wooded area near Deal, Kent. Perhaps the sad part of writing is that every story cannot be told on stage. Newspapers of the era, old wartime scrapbooks, and recollections written by Veterans, have endless material that can be interwoven throughout the script. Lines here or there referring to specific events that shaped the men and women who fought for the cause of freedom add realism to the dialogue. Every civilian, nurse, war bride, and every child who experienced the events of war some sixty years ago also have stories to tell. The sharing of stories with a younger generation by those who lived in the era of World War II ensures their memories will not be forgotten. This is important. These stories are not, for the most part, of history books but of the heart. To re-tell such memories has been the goal. George Egan Director/Writer
Tyler and Danielle review the script.