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Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Stars Of Stage, Screen November 9, 2005 Article in The Manly Daily (Australia) By Marj Belessis FEW couples can boast of having their wartime love story feature in a musical 60 years later on the other side of the world. Bill and Gwen West of Bayview have had that honour and a DVD of one of the scenes from the "Bill and Gwen" story in the Canadian production Time to Remember - A Tribute to the Men and Women of World War II was screened at the Wests' 60th wedding anniversary lunch at Palm Beach Golf Club on Saturday. How their story came to be told can be traced back to the time when, in 1943, the 17-year-old Bill applied to join the Royal Navy as air crew in the Fleet Air Arm and was sent to Canada to train at the RCAF station at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, as a telegraphist air gunner (TAG). Several years back George Egan, now a Yarmouth schoolteacher whose family had made Bill welcome as a young trainee, began running a course at his school in which students researched people and events associated with the wartime TAG camp. The project was embraced with such enthusiasm the material uncovered by the students was used as the basis for a series of musical productions which have played to audiences both in Nova Scotia and in Bill's homeland, England. The production company, 440 Productions, of which George Egan is a director, has developed into an entity outside the school and school curriculum. Judi West said she and her sisters Marilynne and Annette heard about the production and wanted to turn on a special celebration for their parents' 60th wedding anniversary. They contacted Mr Egan and, as Judi said, he became a very willing conspirator. The internet did the rest. The Bill and Gwen story began in Sydney when young Gwenneth Jamieson answered a request posted on a notice board at work for young women to go to the British Service Club to help welcome young English servicemen. On her first night at the club she met William West, a member of the 829 Squadron on HMS Indefatigable. He was in Sydney recuperating from an injury. After that first meeting in early 1945 romance soon blossomed and they were married at Hurlstone Park Baptist Church on November 2, 1945, before he returned to England on his ship. Gwen followed nine months later, along with other Australian brides of British servicemen. The couple returned to Australia to live 12 months later, living at Ashfield, Chester Hill, Collaroy Plateau, Canberra and most recently Bayview. Gwen said Saturday's anniversary celebration was a great surprise. "I thought it was going to be just a small family get-together but unbeknown to me the girls had been plotting something much grander for more than two months." Among those who helped them celebrate were their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Gwen's sisters Betty and Marie, who attended her at her wedding, and friends they have made through church, sport and community involvement.
Bill and Gwen West got a big surprise on their 60th Wedding Anniversary