Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Following in their Father's Footsteps October 22, 2008 Article in The Vanguard (Yarmouth NS) By Michael Gorman More   than   60   years   ago   a   young   man   named   Bill   West,   barely   old   enough   to   be   considered   a   man,   walked   the   streets   of Yarmouth in   his   navy   uniform.   He   spent   nine   months   in Yarmouth   training   at   East   Camp   as   part   of   the Telegraphist Air   Gunners   (TAG)   before heading back home to England to fight in the Second World War. Today   West   and   his   family   reside   in   Australia,   where   he and   his   wife   Gwen   moved   after   the   war.   He's   never   since returned   to   Yarmouth.   But   last   week   his   daughters   walked the   same   streets,   sat   in   the   same   parks   and   toured   the same areas their father did so long ago. War   has   a   lasting   effect   on   people;   why   they   are   the   way they   are,   why   they   do   the   things   they   do.   But   as   is   typical of   many   people   who   were   involved   in   the   Second   World War,   it   took   West   a   very   long   time   before   he   talked   openly and freely about his experiences. Marilynne   Darroch,   Annette   Moulds   and   Judi   Trent   all   say their   father   was   strict   with   them   when   they   were   growing up   and   that   he   liked   things   done   a   certain   way.   For   years they   couldn't   quite   understand   why   —   then   they   learned about his involvement in the war as a gunner so many years ago. Darroch   says   their   decision   to   come   to   Yarmouth   has   a   lot   to   do   with   a   different   connection   their   father   has   with   the   area   —   the one   between   him   and   the   Wartime   Heritage   Association.   West   was   a   regular   visitor   at   the   family   home   of   the   association's director,   George   Egan,   during   his   months   in   Yarmouth.   Years   later,   it   was   a   wedding   photo   of   West   and   his   wife   that   provided Egan with inspiration for one of his many productions. "My   grandmother   used   to   write   to   Bill's   mother   in   England   during   the   war,"   says   Egan.   "My   mother   and   her   sisters   knew   Bill.   Then when we started doing this, I made the connection." It   wasn't   until   Egan   started   contacting   her   dad   via   e-mail   for   information   about   his   stories,   says   Darroch   that   her   father   started to open up to the family about his experiences. "Dad   had   never   spoken   about   very   much   to   do   with   the   war   before   (he   was   contacted   by   Egan),"   she   says.   "We   started   to   find   out quite a lot about it." The   three   have   visited   Shearwater   and   seen   the   restored   Swordfish.   Seeing   that   plane   and   thinking   about   their   father   inside   it was   enough   to   give   them   a   new   appreciation   for   what   he   did.   But   the   more   they   learned   about   the   connection   between   their dad   and   Egan,   and   when   they   saw   videos   of   the   productions,   some   of   which   featured   stories   about   their   father   and   mother,   they knew they had to see Yarmouth. The   Wartime   Heritage Association   (WHA),   formerly   known   as   440   Productions,   is   known   not   only   in   Yarmouth   but   also   throughout the   province   and   beyond   —   especially   in   England   —   for   the   work   it   does   telling   the   stories   and   preserving   the   memories   of   those involved in the Second World War, particularly those with a connection to Yarmouth. During   the   war,   thousands   of   young   men   passed   through Yarmouth   to   train   at   East   Camp,   West   Camp   and   Camp   6o. The   WHA   is   in the   midst   of   a   new   production   run,   already   having   performed   in   Chester   and   with   upcoming   shows   in   Truro   and   a   four   show   run at Th'YARC, Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16. West's daughters are amazed by the work the program does and the stories it tells. "It   makes   you   feel   really   proud,"   says   Trent.   "I   think   dad   —   like   many   of   the   men   and   women   were   told   after   the   war   to   just   go home   and   get   on   with   your   lives   and   forget   about   it,   but   that   shouldn't   have   happened,   I   don't   think   at   all.   And   he's   bottled   all the   things   up   and   I'm   sure   there   are   lots   of   things   that   have   affected   his   life   during   that   time   and   I   think   that   we   can   now understand." Beyond   learning   about   their   father's   experiences   during   his   time   in   the   service,   Moulds   says   hearing   him   speak   and   watching   the WHA   performances   also   affords   them   a   glimpse   of   what   their   father   was   like   as   a   young   man.   Growing   up,   the   three   never   had the   chance   to   meet   any   of   their   father's   family   in   England   until   much   later   in   life.   And   because   none   of   their   father's   friends from his youth are in Australia they've always had to rely on the stories from their mother and maternal grandmother. "I   think   we   realized   that   we   weren't   dealing   with   our   father   as   sort   of   a   50-   or   60-year-old   man;   he'd   been   young   (when   he served) and I think that was what really kind of caught me up. I was just trying to figure out what I would have felt like." "We   all   see   him   as   a   young   man,   which   we've   not   had   the   perspective   any   other   way   before,"   says   Darroch.   "I   think   we're   a   bit gentler with him." The   visit   was   an   emotional   one   for   the   three   of   them.   Trips   to   East   Camp   and   throughout   the   town   brought   many   of   the   stories their dad started telling them to life. "Now   that   we've   seen   where   East   Camp   was   we'll   probably   know   a   lot   more   about   what   he's   talking   about,   we'll   actually understand," says Moulds. During   their   visit   to   the   East   Camp   memorial   by   the   Yarmouth   cenotaph,   the   three   became   emotional.   Things   were   starting   to become very real. "I'm   just   so   impressed   with   what   (Egan)   and   others   have   done   to   unearth   so   much   information   and   the   connections   and   the human   side   of   these   individuals   that   were   here   and   dad's   just   one   of   those   individuals,"   says   Trent.   "It's   really   good   to   have   come to see it, to walk on the same ground and think, 'well this is where all that happened.'"  
Marilynne Darroch (left), Annette Moulds and Judi Trent. (Michael Gorman photo)
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