Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
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A Nineteenth Birthday Remembered by Jimmy Pitts Telegraphist Air Gunner (East Camp Course 49A - September 1943) On the 28th September 1943 I was on 49A TAGS Course at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. As it happened it was my 19th birthday and I was due that morning to fly in a Swordfish on a RT exercise. This involved sending back our positions in Morse using a low frequency and a trailing aerial. This had to be let out and wound back before landing. The Pilot was an RAF Sergeant seconded to duties of flying us around during exercises. Prior to taking off he had been boasting to an RCAF Sergeant from the Canadian side of the Yarmouth airfield about the manoeuvrability of the old Stringbag and had invited him along with us for a spin. A spin it certainly was as he put the plane through everything he could, including a tail spin, pulling out only a few hundred feet from the ground. He then decided to look the loop which meant enduring a 4 to 5 G force driving me right down into the cockpit. With only my G String attached to the floor I hung on for grim death. As he headed back to the airfield I suddenly noticed oil leaking from one of the pipes on the wing upright. On reporting this the Pilot said he had better look for a field to force land in. We came in to land but the field was marshy and the plane flipped over belly side up. My head hit the RT set smashing my goggles and as I tried to release my G String from my harness found that my weight prevented me. The Pilot and the other Sergeant had got out quickly and were standing some distance away. Suddenly I became aware of fuel pouring out of the tank and battery acid dripping down beside me. I emitted a piercing scream as my short life flashed before me and they rushed back and helped me to release myself and make a rapid exit. Several farm hands were standing around, one of whom was brandishing a shotgun and shouting what I thought was “look what I have bagged.” Later that afternoon a fellow TAG, Paul Thompson, whose birthday was the same as mine although he was a year older, joined me and we headed to town to celebrate. We had obtained a pint of whisky which we soon finished off and went in search of further supplies and finished on the wrong side of town where we eventually bought a bottle of bootleg hooch for 10 dollars; we finished this before I eventually blacked out. How I succeeded in getting back to camp I shall never know. One thing is definite, as I approach my 84th birthday, my 19th is one I shall never forget. Source: Article “A Nineteenth Birthday Remembered” (Journal of the Telegraphist Air Gunners Association - October 2008)