Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Len Weeks - Canadian Memories Telegraphist Air Gunner Len Weeks - Canadian Memories (Telegraphist Air Gunner) By Len Weeks (extract from personal family account to his grandson 2007) In   the   summer   of   1938   German   nationalism   had   reached   the   point   of   invading European   neighbours   and   because   Britain   had   treaties   with   one   of   them,   War   was becoming   even   closer   but   was   averted   for   a   year   only   to   become   a   reality   in early September 1939. When   the   second   World   War   was   declared,   I   was   just   15   years   old,   and   being unable   to   join   the   Forces   until   I   was   18,   I   joined   the   Air   Training   Corps   (A.T.C.) and   so   became   familiarised   with   military   customs   and   procedures.   There   were also   a   naval   Cadet   Corps   and   an   Army   Cadet   Corps.   Our   nearest   airfield   was Yeovilton and so we were taken on air trips from there at weekends. I    suppose    being    Navy,    I    felt    attracted    to    the    Fleet   Air   Arm    and    so    on    8th September   1942   I   joined   the   Navy.   I   was   sent   to   HMS   Royal Arthur   at   Skegness   in Lincolnshire,   a   pre-War   holiday   camp,   and   there   met   many   other   young   men,   one of   whom   was   my   friend   Arthur   Wells.   We   remained   there   for   6   weeks   before going to HMS St. Vincent at Gosport in Hampshire. It   was   about   the   middle   of   December   when   I   and   38   others   were   selected   to   go to   a   newly   opened   TAG   School   in   Yarmouth,   Nova   Scotia   in   Canada   to   undergo training   for   the   next   ten   months   (TAG   ~   Telegraphist   Air   Gunners).   We   left   the Clyde   on   the   troopship   HMS Andes   on   19th   December   and   arrived   at   Halifax,   Nova Scotia   on   Christmas   morning.   The   Canadian   dockers   were   on   Christmas   holiday   so we   had   to   unload   all   kitbags   etc   ourselves   using   the   ship’s   derricks,   onto   the quayside   and   this   was   a   very   slow process.   At   midday   it   was   lunchtime and   eventually   because   of   the   huge    numbers   of   men   involved,   it   was   our   turn   to   sit   down   to   a meal   of   a   lump   of   greasy   pork,   a   couple   of   boiled   potatoes   and   a   spoonful   of   greeny   stuff which could have started out as cabbage! Pudding was plum-duff and very runny custard. By   3   o’clock   in   the   afternoon   it   became   apparent   to   the   authorities   that   our   destination   at East   Camp, Yarmouth Air   Station,   was   not   ready   for   us   so   we   had   to   march   from   the   docks   with our   kitbags   on   our   shoulders,   frozen   packed   snow   underfoot,   for   what   seemed   like   hours, slipping   and   sliding   to   a   Knight   of   Columbus   hostel   in   the   city,   arriving   there   just   before   dark. We   were   greeted   by   our   Canadian   hosts   who   were   still   providing   for   the   resident   Christmas diners,   mostly   service   men   and   women   who   were   unable   to   go   home   for   the   Christmas   holiday because   of   sheer   distances   involved.   (Canada   is   a   very   large   country   -   some   3,000   miles   east to   west).   It   was   agreed   that   we   should   settle   into   the   dormitories,   have   a   bath   or   shower,   and rest   up   for   a   bit. At   around   6   o’clock   we   had   a   Christmas   Dinner   with   all   the   trimmings,   similar to   the   other   residents.   What   a   contrast   !!   Two   Christmas   dinners   in   one   day   -   one   horrible,   the other   wonderful!   It   was   then   I   first   heard   a   Bing   Crosby   record   on   the   Wurlitzer   playing   ‘White Christmas’   so   every   time   I   hear   that   tune,   even   now,   my   thoughts   flash   back   to   that   time   and place.   It   was   two   days   later   that   we   left   by   train   for   Yarmouth   arriving about   5   o’clock   and   Canadian Air   Force   lorries   took   us   the   3   miles   or so   to   West   Camp   for   a   cooked   meal   and   then   to   East   Camp,   our   final home for the next ten months. The   time   passed   quickly   and   it   was   mid April   before   we   had   our   first seven   days’   leave. Almost   all   of   my   course   mates   decided   to   explore the   large   cities   of   Toronto   and   Montreal   but   the   train   journey   from the Maritime Provinces where we were, took 24 hours each way.               Telegraphist Air Gunners, Course 45A at East Camp I   decided   to   stay   locally   and   was   fortunate   to   find   details   of   a   hunting   and   fishing   lodge   some   17   miles   in   the   country.   Unfortunately   it   was an   old   pre-war   brochure   and   the   couple   running   it   had   closed   down   through   lack   of   visitors   because   of the   war.   However,   they   invited   me   to   stay   with   them   for   the                     week   as   their   own   son,   who   was   in   the   Canadian   Air   Force,   was   stationed   in   Britain.   Their   names   were   Mr   and   Mrs   Trask   and   were   a   very   kind and   generous   couple.   I   spent   all   my   free   weekends   with   them   (we   had   one   a   month).   It   so   happened   I was   with   them   when   news   came   through   that   their   son’s   aircraft   was   missing   on   operations.   This   was   a sad   time   for   them   obviously   but   on   my   next   weekend   visit   he   had   been   reported   to   have   survived   the crash    and    taken    prisoner.    So    relief    and    joy    for    them    both,    and    how    fortunate    for    me    to    have experienced all these emotions of fear and exaltation on both occasions. After   that   until   we   returned   to   Britain   in   October   1943,   we   were   sent   from   Yarmouth   to   a   transit   camp in   Moncton,   New   Brunswick   for   3   days.   We   stayed   there   for   four   days   and   then   trained   down   to   New York,   USA   for   the   journey   home   to   Britain   on   the   liner   Queen   Mary,   which   was   used   as   a   troopship (mostly for American servicemen), as by then the USA had entered the war. We   arrived   in   Greenock,   Scotland   and   were   trained   down   to   Lee-on-Solent   Naval   Air   Base   for   drafting eventually   to   various   other   air   bases   in   the   UK,   but   not   before   receiving   10   days   foreign   service   leave at   the   family   home   in   Oborne.   My   parents,   Charlie   and   Rose,   and   my   sister   Muriel   as   well   as   an   evacuee called   Pauline,   all   made   a   great   fuss   as   you   can   imagine,   and   were   astounded   at   the   number   of presents I had managed to stuff into my kitbag!
The Trasks in Carleton, Yarmouth County
Len Weeks and Arthur Wells Telegraphist Air Gunners 60th Annual Memorial Weekend, May 2007
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