Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Swinging the Lamp Tales of East Camp
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I Got Caught! Saunders: I got caught! Wood: You weren’t careful enough! Saunders: Listen, had I succeeded those Army boys at Camp 60 would have been surprised! Wood: Well, what happened? Saunders: The pilot noticed the bag of flour in the plane and made me take it out. We never did fly over the camp. He avoided it like the plague!
For the Birds! Wood: Some of these pilots are really for the birds! I was out yesterday somewhere over Pubnico when my pilot decided to try some aerobatics. We were above the clouds and into a loop we go and my strap breaks. I actually left the plane did a trapeze act and when he came out of the loop I re-entered the rear cockpit. A little scared but I told him I had done up my harness and to carry on! Saunders: You’re lucky! Remember last week that crash near Weymouth? The pilot was flying low over the trees. I guess he clipped the top of a tall one, landed in the woods. He broke his ankle, but the TAG didn’t even know they were crashing. He didn’t get hurt but the plane was a total write off Wood: After this place maybe a carrier in the Fleet Air Arm will be safer! Saunders: I don’t know. Landing on a pitching deck doesn’t excite me!
Dogfights and Low Flying! Wood: We were over the Tusket Islands where that old wreck of a freighter is and I was in on the low flying, the dogfighting and ... Saunders: Ah, that’s common knowledge! And your pilot left air tracks on the water. Wood: Well, an Anson came back yesterday with a seagull lodged in the port engine and there’s to be an enquiry. That will finish flying over that wreck! Saunders: Or, it will be like the US cigarette run from the Camp to that small airstrip in Eastport, Maine. Wood: Heard about that. The engine and props are left ticking at low revs. One fellow catches the bus into Eastport and purchases the cigarettes. Saunders: One of them came back with forty or fifty feet of telephone cable trailing from the rudder. Wood: But the story at the enquiry was somewhat different! They said they tired to land after becoming lost above the clouds and when they came down, the runway was too short and they somehow picked up the wire on their way back up!
Dit Gremlins! Wood: I remember one class were no one would admit to being the ‘dit gremlin’ and we all ended up on the parade square with chairs over our heads! Saunders: At least it helped when the Commander put an end to having the ‘dit gremlin’ prop a chair or boulder over their heads for thirty or forty minutes. Wood: I had one of the TAGs add a ‘dit’ here and there during one of my transmissions. That fellow only had to run twenty minutes on eh parade square! Saunders: Don’t forget that day we spent picking up rocks between the tarmac and the runways. We worked hard that day!
Picked by Size! Wood: They lined us up! Saunders: Tallest to the shortest! Wood: ‘You five at the short end. You’re going to the US!’ Saunders: If I had been two inches shorter I’d be heading there too. Wood: I’m off to the Pacific Fleet! Saunders: Shortest TAGs for those little US planes!
That Union Jack! Bennett: I didn’t make it to East Camp in Yarmouth. It was Worthy Down for me! Lots of nice girls in Yarmouth? Wood: There were, but I was a little shy. Saunders: Not me! Bet I got more kisses than any TAG at East Camp behind that huge ‘Union Jack’ hanging at the Milo Boat Club! Bennett: Whatever works!
Left Behind! Wood: We were flying along the coast of Nova Scotia when the two engines of the Anson malfunctioned! We were going down! Saunders: But just ahead was a long stretch of beach. The pilot figured it was worth a try and certainly better than the ocean. Wood: The pilot brought the plane down onto the sandy strip. The locals told us it was a place called Lockeport Saunders: As we came to a halt we were all stunned at our good-fortune. Wood: The locals helped us pull the plane out of the way of the rising tide. Saunders: East Camp sent the sea rescue plane to pick us up but the sea was too rough Wood: We awaited the arrival of a swordfish with replacements for the dead batteries that would help us repair the motors. Then, we’d be on our way back to East Camp. Saunders: The sandy runway was short and curved ahead. We had to get rid of as much weight as possible for a take-off. Wood: Us! Saunders: We watched the planes rise into the sky leaving two trainee TAGs with their parachutes and other gear to beg for a lift back home to the airfield! Wood: There was no traffic on the highway. We were going to walk for days! Saunders: But, luck was with us and after a short spell along came a bus heading for Yarmouth. Wood: We made it back to camp Saunders: Just imagine, left behind to make room for a load of lobsters!
Wouldn’t You Use it with the Gin? I was just about 18 when I got the approval letter from the Royal Navy and a train ticket to HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness, a former holiday centre with hut accommodations. Here we got the usual sailor’s uniform and lots of military drill. Then I was off to HMS Saint Vincent in Gosport, for air radio and aircrew regulation training and then to Lee-on-Solent. In 1943, I was aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious on my way to the Pacific. In preparation for attacks against the Japanese held islands and in the event we crashed the crews were dropped into the jungle for a little survival training and told to find our own way back. It really was a most unhappy experience but the greatest threat at that point were leeches, miserable creatures! They could penetrate through your clothing and suck your blood. ‘Don’t pull ‘em off’, they said, ‘a squeeze of lemon juice or the burning end of a cigarette will remove ‘em’. Now where do you get lemon juice in the jungle? And, if you did have it, wouldn’t you use it with the gin? Good thing we were all heavy smokers!