Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Fallen Comrades Remembered 61 Years Later September 6, 2005 Article in the Yarmouth Vanguard By Tina Comeau Nearly 61 years ago 19-year-old Eric Ronald May - who just days earlier had wrapped up his training at East Camp in Yarmouth - served as part of an honour guard at the burial of four leading airmen from East Camp who died during training when two aircraft collided on Oct. 20, 1944. Sixty-one-years later, at the age of 80, May kneeled at their graves in the Mountain Town Cemetery and placed crosses at their headstones. He came here from England to do so. "I thought, nobody is going to remember them, so I'll go," he says about why he made the journey. So there he was on Aug. 23, at the graves of leading airmen Albert Brooks, Henry Taylor, John Bennett and Raymond Stanier. It was May's first trip to Yarmouth since leaving in the fall of 1944 after he had completed nine months of training during the Second World War with the Telegraphist Air Gunners (TAGS) at East Camp. "I came here in January 1944, God it was cold," he recalls. "They gave us funny hats with flaps. You come here from England and you think, I'm not wearing those hats but when we got up in the morning we were glad we had those and anything else we could put on." May always toyed with the idea of coming back to visit. But when his wife of 50 years became ill the journey was no longer a priority and after she died it took him a long time to find his own way again. Then something unique happened a couple of years ago. May was invited to a reunion of the Telegraphist Air Gunners Association in England where a group of young people from Yarmouth called 440 Productions, under the direction of Yarmouth high school teacher George Egan, was to perform. " I thought if those kids have gone to all that trouble just for people like me, even if I'm half dead I've got to get there," he says. He and the other TAGS laughed and sang and cried as they watched the teenagers perform. You can still hear the astonishment in May's voice when he describes the accuracy of their wardrobes, right down to the girls' dresses. "The adrenalin was in all of us. We were ready to get back in the aircraft again," he says. That's when his thoughts of coming to Yarmouth were revived. During his visit May stayed with Egan, who he commends for the work he has done with the young people involved in 440 Productions. "He's shown them they can do things that they never thought they could ever do or aspire to do," says May. "That's something quite great I think." Asked about his recollections of being in Yarmouth as a young TAG, May pauses to find the right adjective than says simply, "It was nice." But it was also very different. Before coming overseas May was a fire service messenger boy, a time he calls the most dangerous period in his life. "They didn't play fair, the Germans," he says. "They used to come across the channel…straight down our road and I would be standing there and they would open fire. I always felt it was my reward to come here. "When I came here one of the seniors said to me, Everything all right back home?" he recalls. "I thought, Oh God if you only knew." Asked more about his time at East Camp, May's words are choked with emotion. "I was so shy but the people of Yarmouth, when I reflect back, they were the most generous people you could find," he says. "Up on the notice board there were names, addresses, telephone numbers of people inviting you to contact them to go stay for a weekend and I never did. I didn't have the courage." He says that is one of his biggest regrets. Another would have been never coming back.
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Eric Ronald May