Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
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Memories of Yarmouth by Alex Hughes Telegraphist Air Gunner (East Camp WWII) Yarmouth was perhaps a dangerous place. I remember the old Avro Anson used for training two TAGs when the weather conditions were extreme. Winter in Nova Scotia could be 20 below and was a bit chilly in the old Stringbags. One cold winter morning I was allocated the Anson, no heater but at least one was out of the slipstream. The other TAG was aboard when I arrived with the pilot, a Canadian civilian. By the time I had exchanged signal strength with the ground station we were taking off. As I did not have to call in for 20 minutes I went and sat on the co-pilot’s seat. The pilot looked surprised as it seamed the TAGs usually sat by their radios. The pilot then say, “If you are sitting there you might as well fly the thing”. I was delighted and took over. We levelled out just below the clouds, after 20 minutes I asked him to take it back so I could make my first call. It was a dull day, ten/ten clouds and the Pilot said, “I’ll take her up through the clouds into the sunshine”. As I got to my seat the sun came streaming through the windscreen. As I finished my contact call the Pilot shouted, “Can you come back here, we are in trouble”. When I got to the front I could see the windscreen was covered in ice and the wings had about an inch of ice on them. He had gone too high into the cold and he said, the controls are frozen solid as well”. Flying over forests made bailing out a no-no and the ice was still building up. Before joining up I had served three years as an apprentice engineer and when I tried the column there was a little play in it. Working it back and forth and after a while it broke free and we could get below the clouds. We stopped making ice but did not lose what we had. Heading back to the airfield the pilot said, “When we reach base I am going to try and land by switching one engine off to reduce landing speed but it is dangerous and it might be better if you bail out”. As the chutes we had then had no control I said, “I am staying” and started to work on the throttles. I managed to get both free as as we neared the airfield the Pilot had a bright idea; he told me to take the controls again, stood up and with his gauntlet on scraped a hole in the windscreen ice. With that we made a normal landing and as we taxied back to the hangers he said. “Sorry about that. I was going to let you try a landing”. When I got out and looked at the plane I could see we had thick ice on top of the fuselage as well and realized how lucky we had been. Strangely the other TAG in the aircraft, not on my course, never left his seat or said a word during the whole episode. Source: Article “Memories of Yarmouth” (Journal of the Telegraphist Air Gunners Association - April 2009)
Avro Ansons in Flight