Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
East Camp RCAF Station Yarmouth Nova Scotia, 1942-1945 Telegraphist Air Gunner Training and Wartime Operations The training of Telegraphist Air Gunners at East Camp, RCAF Station Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, began in January 1943 with Course 45A. The TAG School in Canada was ‘fathered’ by the training establishment at Royal Naval Air Station, Worthy Down, Hampshire, England, where TAGs had been trained since 1939. Commander Mudie and many of the instructors moved to Yarmouth from Worthy Down. Other TAG courses continued at Worthy Down until early 1944 after which East Camp in Yarmouth became the main course. New courses began at one month intervals, and with courses lasting about nine months, some seven or eight would run concurrently. Courses 45 to 71 began at Yarmouth but early in 1945 when it began clear that the end of the war was in sight, courses were discontinued and Course 64 was the last to graduate. The disappointed trainees in subsequent groups were returned to general service. Some 570 TAGs graduated from East Camp, Yarmouth. Of these 53 appear in the TAG ‘In Memoriam’ List. It was late 1943 before the first Canadian trained TAGs appeared in operational squadrons. After passing through a Naval Operational Training Unit, the majority of TAGs were destined for Grumman Avenger aircraft, and the Pacific war theatre. Others went to Fairey Barracuda aircraft, the Navy’s other torpedo bomber. Several went to Fleet Requirement Units carrying out numerous roles including target towing for ship and anti-aircraft gunnery trials, radar test flights and air-sea rescue duties. Large pools of reserve aircrew were built up at Trincomalee in Ceylon and in Australia, awaiting the final assault on Japan. Many Canadians trained TAGs were in Barracuda squadrons engaged in various attacks upon the Tirpitz and other targets in Norway. Yet others joined 836 Squadron and flew in the venerated Swordfish. This squadron, large in numbers of aircraft but never acting in one unit, provided the planes which operated from MAC ships in the North Atlantic and Russian convoy operations. Finally, there were many Yarmouth trained TAGs in various Avenger squadrons which attacked Sumatra and the Japanese Islands over a prolonged period. The Instructors in Yarmouth included at least three survivors from the sinking of the carrier HMS Courageous; others were pre-war TAGs who were brought back from the Reserve to pass on their skills and knowledge. Course 68 and later courses had a large Canadian intake in preparation for the Royal Canadian Navy to man aircraft in HMCS Warrior. East Camp Yarmouth produced people with world wide connections and experience, a contribution to the war effort which should not be forgotten.
Photo: Yarmouth County Museum & Archives The first Certificate presentation to Air Gunners passing out from their course on September 19, 1944. A/LA Hawkins, the top of Course 58, and the first pupil ever to receive certificate recognition of the successful completion of his course in Telegraphist-Air-Gunnery.