Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Yarmouth - Wartime History RCAF Station Yarmouth EAST CAMP 1942-1946 Telegraphist Air Gunners (From the Air to Destroy the Beast) (photo courtesy Yarmouth County Museum and Archives) East Camp was a part of the World War II RCAF Station, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The Camp was located on a twenty acre area of the airport with a main entrance from the Chebogue Road in the Arcadia area of Yarmouth County The Camp included forty buildings,including aircraft hangars, messes, and quarters for the men. The building were arranged on a sloping hill upward to the hangars and main runways. Construction Construction began in 1941 by an Ontario construction Company using local men British Columbian fir were used to construct the hangars Messes and quarters were built from wood cut and milled in south western Nova Scotia. Metal parts used in the construction were machined at the Hebron Shoe Factory Approximately ten teams of carpenters, consisting of fifteen to twenty men with a foreman. Local carpenters were used from Yarmouth, Wedgeport, Carleton, Port Maitland, and the Work was carried out on one building at a time until completed Construction Salaries .35/hr labourers .55/hr for carpenters .75/hr for foreman Water When first occupied there was no running water First attempts at drilling were unsuccessful Eventually water was found below 300 feet. Three wells drilled in total to supply the entire base. When first occupied East Camp trainees used the facilities at West Camp and carried water from there to East Camp. Heating A problem in the first year of operation Buildings were too far apart East Camp was home to: # 34 OTU (Operational Training Unit) Royal Air Force (1942) The Camp was used as a temporary training base until the unit moved to Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick in the spring of 1942. # 1 Naval Air Gunnery School - Royal Navy (1942-1945) The base was used for training Telegraphist Air Gunners, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was a unique multi-service school with both ground and air training by the Royal Navy and administration by the Royal Canadian Air Force. The main base for Telegraphist Air Gunners was located at Worthy Downs, Portsmouth, England. British recruits in England were divided into two groups fifty percent to be trained in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and the second fifty percent trained at Worthy Downs. Ground school and in-flight training took about ten months. Ground training was supervised by Royal Navy Petty Officers in the School Training Centre. The TAGs received training in Morse code Radio Operations Discipline Gunnery Naval regulations Flight Experience In-flight air experience included proper sending and receiving communication techniques and air gunnery training while flying as crew in Fairey Swordfish and Avro Anson aircraft. The pilots were from the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, RCAF, RNZNVR and the RNZAF. The goal of training was to produce air gunners for use on British aircraft carriers. Trained in wireless communication and gunnery, their role was to maintain communication between planes and ships and to act as rear gunners on various types of aircraft. Having learned proficiency in Morse code, wireless theory, gunnery, and procedures to communicate with other airborne aircraft and with the fleet, the TAGs served on carrier ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific and participated in many of the important campaigns during World War II. The first group of TAGs (Course 45A) arrived in Yarmouth on Christmas Eve, 1942. (All Class Photos) Camp Administration was under the command of the RCAF and included hospital services, motor transport, general reports, security, payroll, supplies and food. East Camp, Yarmouth, and the Telegraphist Air Gunners Aside from the training East Camp becomes the host of many social activities, dinners, dances, and opportunities to socialize with the people of Yarmouth. Many socials are also held in Yarmouth. The YMCA and local churches put on dances and friendly get-togethers between the people of Yarmouth and the men at East Camp. Sports Sports became an important part of life at East Camp. The servicemen played soccer and baseball in summer. A large work party soon cleared a large playing field on the base and East Camp put on 'Sports Days' with a variety of competition activities between the men including races and tugs of war. Competitive sports was also carried on between Cornwallis and East Camp. The East Camp trainees had many off base activities that included hockey, skating, baseball, boating, and golf. Winter indoor sports were played on base to pass the free time in winter months. East Camp rented Braemar Lodge, located outside of Yarmouth on Braemar Lake for summer activities to provide a location away from the base for relaxation from training. Canteens Canteens were added to the base to save trainees the journey into town. However, despite the .25 fare many continued to go into Yarmouth. Romance Many romances between East Camp trainees and the Yarmouth town girls. There were more than twenty marriages following the war. Aircraft and Training Experiences East and West Camps at RCAF Station Yarmouth experienced a number of aircraft and training accidents. Not all accidents were fatal for the crews. In one instance a Ventura aircraft ended up with extensive damage to it belly when the pilot ran over a wheelbarrow on the runway. In another a Lysander crashed into Barrio Lake. On one training mission a Telegraphist Air Gunner shot through the wings of a swordfish forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. A Ventura aircraft did crash during a supply flight and the crew was killed in the incident and a mid-air crash between two Swordfish resulted in the death of four TAGs After a period of routine training, the number of swordfish accidents began to increase. Unofficially, the reason was bored pilots who began to attempt low flying manoeuvres or dog fights over Digby. This ended when the base commander stepped in. Rumours that Lake Rossignal was being used as a landing strip during the winter ended after an Anson landed there breaking off the prop tips. Winter flying in open swordfish was extremely cold and the cockpits were eventually closed in for winter use. Dress Parades Dress parades were common at East Camp and included regular base inspections, parades into town, Victory bond parades and November 11th Ceremonies. Many TAGs relaxed at the homes of Yarmouth people while others pursued female acquaintances. Others spent time at the YMCA, Milo Boat Club, Braemar or the Snackerie in Dayton, just outside of Yarmouth. Telegraphist Air Gunners (TAGS) operated in Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm aircraft from 1922. The very last TAG served until 1950. 3,000 TAGS were trained over a 28 year life span. 495 were lost through enemy action and/or flying accidents and 69 became Prisoners of War. Most TAGS served only for the period of WW2 returning to their civilian occupations in 1945 and 1946.
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