Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Not unlike my internet connection bouncing on and off like a yo-yo, I couldn’t decide what to do for this week’s photo challenge, unique. I took photos of my hands and fingers with the idea of fingerprints. I have a rather amusing story about fingerprints and another that is rather emotional, but in the end I looked through photographs taken some time ago and this jumped out at me as the perfect example of unique.

Air Gunners

Most of you are probably wondering what is so unique about a museum display. This picture was taken within building 3 of the Yorkshire Air Museum which houses the Air Gunner’s display. I went to the Yorkshire Air Museum specifically to see this room as part of my research for my book. Many of you know my cousin, Bud, a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber during WWII, died doing his job. “The room, believed to be the only one of its type in the world, is dedicated to the memory of the 20,000 Air Gunners who lost their lives in WWII.” (Yorkshire Air Museum Allied Air Forces Memorial Visitors Guide, pg 8). That makes it pretty unique!

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The Curiousity of Research: Now You Know

I received an email from my editor on Remembrance day. Attached was the next section of manuscript edits. It felt right getting the edits on the day of days to remember. Sometimes it seems the boys keep pushing me on to finish.

For now the painting will go on hold so I can get this third section sorted. I think I am about half way through now. It is a hard section to edit though. I expect more than a few eyes would glaze over with the amount of information, so it it is time to painfully take out bits and pieces and smooth it out a little.

One thing that I have found curious in this whole process is the change from knowing little to knowing loads and how it has changed me forever. My editor often notes words that I need to add to my glossary or define within the text. In the beginning, I didn’t know many of the terms myself, but after so much research it seems odd now to think people don’t know what these words mean.

For example, if you were reading a book discussing the air force during WWII, would you know what was meant by dropping “window”? It is likely in the beginning of my research I didn’t know exactly what “window” was, but somehow my research has become so ingrained, it is like I have always known. It has become a part of my common vocabulary, a part of me. I actually struggle with the fact that others do not know what it means. It is curious to realise I have been assimilated…kind of like the Borg. That’s a bit scary really.

Anyway, for those of you now curious to know about “window”, this is what it looks like. Yes, that unassuming silvery foil stuff there that looks like stiff Christmas tinsel. By the way, this particular bit was dropped in Hilsenheim, France some time in 1944 or 1945.

For the more curious of you, here is a closer look.

Window was bundled strips of foil cut to the same wavelength as enemy radar. It was dropped from planes. The Axis relied on radar, with its electronic echoes, to locate the incoming bomber stream (hundreds of planes fully loaded with bombs and incendiaries headed for a target) and give warning and location details to Axis fighters to find them. Window created confusing, false electronic echoes, making it seem as though bombers were in one place when they were somewhere else instead.

So, now you know!

Now, I have to go edit!

A Tick on the Bucket List: A Remembrance Wish Comes True

Growing up, I was always fond of Remembrance Day. In school we always did poster and poetry competitions, and at home, on the day, I watched the Remembrance Day memorial service on television. Now, much older, I still love Remembrance Day. This year I’m ready. I have  my Canadian poppy pin, a miniature replica of the Air Crew Europe Star, and a mini bouquet of poppies.

These poppies stand for several things, but closest to my heart, the poppies represent seven specific airmen who died the night of March 15, 1944. I talked about them last year and earlier this week. They are: pilot: Norman “Norm” Andrew Lumgair, flight engineer: Douglas “Jock” Cruickshank, bomb aimer: William “Bill” Taylor, navigator: George Parker, wireless operator: William “Larry” Lawrence Doran, mid upper gunner: Robert “Bob” Henry Hudson, and tail gunner: Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt.

Through my research to bring their story to light, I made contact with a vast number of wonderful people. One of them was my second cousin, the brother of tail gunner Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt. Through our numerous emails it turned out we had the same two remembrance wishes, we both wanted Bud to be formally remembered and we both wanted to ride in a Lancaster bomber.

Bud

This year marks off one of those wishes (hopefully next year will mark off the other). We have now both officially taken a ride in a Lancaster bomber. Unfortunately, we did not end up getting to ride in a Lancaster together, which would have been great as we have never met in person, but we have now each made one of our wishes come true.

View from the mid upper turret

Some people go to see the machine, to marvel at the technology of the time, and to be one of the few who can say they have been in a Lancaster bomber. I went to gather an understanding of the men who flew in the machine. I wanted to immerse myself in the essence of the plane and its crew. I went half way around the world to ride in a Lancaster bomber to find remembrance.

In August 2010 I took my taxi ride, sitting in the tail gunner position in the Lancaster “Just Jane”, at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum in East Kikby, UK. It came with an unexpected emotional experience, bringing the realities of Bud’s last moments to the surface of my mind.

Tail turret

I shared my experience with my cousin through email and hoped he too would get a chance to ride in a Lancaster bomber.

This September 2012, my cousin took his one hour flight, in one of only two air-worthy Lancaster bombers in the world, when he visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. For safety reasons no one is allowed to ride in the tail gunner or the bomb aimer position, but it was an amazing experience all the same. It “was a thrill of a lifetime!”

Entering the Lancaster

For both of us the ride was “noisy as heck” but unlike my cousin, who was given earmuffs, which made it comfortable, I didn’t have any on my ride. To be honest, I loved the noise and I loved being able to sit where Bud would have been in the plane. Best of all, I found remembrance. Bud, and the rest of the boys, will always have a home in my heart, and that’s exactly where they belong.

The Last Few Weeks

For the past while I have been pretty busy.  I have been lucky to find time to post a photo now and again.

As a few of you know, I have been sorting my manuscript to be sent to editor.

It finally went last week and so far I have had positive feedback regarding the story as a whole.

Of course I’m sure there will be many things to do once the full line by line edit is under way but I’m taking these last few days of peace and quiet to try to regroup and build myself up for serious edit mode.

I still feel like I have a long road ahead to get the manuscript to a 3D book but I’m happy, so far, just knowing it is moving ahead and the editor is enjoying the read.  With three years of research and writing behind me, I’m hoping I’m over the mountain and on my way down the other side, even if it is long and winding.

One more step forward for the boys!

ANZAC Day

Through my research for the story of the boys of Lancaster Mk II LL637 EQ-P, I have come across information on many crashes.  Two of these Lancaster crashes included an Australian and a New Zealander.  While in France I had the opportunity to visit the graves at Mussig and pay my respects to the crew of Lancaster Mk I ME558 SR-Q, including the Australian C.G. Arthur.  I did not make it to Choloy War Cemetery to visit the grave of J.F. Craig.  Although I have no photos of the men, I am posting their details today as a form of respect and remembrance on ANZAC Day.

F/S Cecil Glen Arthur 429902 (RAAF) Age 20

  • Lancaster Mk I, ME558, SR-Q of 101 Squadron
  • Flying on ABC duties
  • Crashed near Mussig
  • Buried in a collective grave at Mussig Cemetery, France

F/L James Fraser Craig DFC 402168 (RNZAF) Age 31 

  • on his second tour
  • Lancaster Mk I, LL852, BQ-X of 550 Squadron
  • Crashed near Appenwihr
  • Buried in a Collective Grave 4. A. 12-16 at Choloy War Cemetery, France

It’s a Privilege, Sir: Remembering on Remembrance Day

I have had the privilege to interview a few war veterans for my own research as well as for my volunteer work doing Oral History interviews for my local museum. I’m often surprised at how veterans can look back at war and still find humour and brightness amongst the dark. Perhaps it is the resilience of youth that got them through the rough times. Whatever the case, I have found each and every one of them inspiring men. It is not necessarily what they have done in war but their strength of character to carry on that intrigues me and captures my heart.

The men of EQ-P, whom I remember today, were not so lucky as to have survived the war but they too have captured my heart. Up until a couple of years ago I did not really know them. I only knew one by name, he being my cousin, the others were not even a name. They were unknown entities. I knew them as nothing more than six other men my relative served with and that is all. Today that is no longer the case. Each one is a person I can fondly remember.

In a time when few of us now remember the fallen through first hand knowledge it is more important than ever to do more than the obligatory respectful one or two minutes silence for those who died for our freedom. Why? It is hard to feel the emotional impact of each life lost if we do not know those we are standing silent for. A name does not mean much without putting something more substantial behind it. Let them not be just a name. Let the silence mean something more than just being respectful.

This year and in all my years to come, I will remember the boys of EQ-P. May they live once again through my research. 

Another year not forgotten. 

Another year remembered with love.

 

In Memory of the Boys of EQ-P of 408 ‘Goose’ Squadron

The boys of Lancaster Mk II LL637 EQ-P died on the night of March 15 1944, on an operation to Stuttgart, Germany. They are buried in Hilsenheim Communal Cemetery in Hilsenheim, France.

Norman Andrew Lumgair (Norm) was a Farm Lad from Manitoba, Canada. With nerves of steel he became the Pilot of the crew. Known for dressing up with a bow tie, even as a school boy, he loved to impress the girls. He died on his sixth Op at the age of 21.

 Douglas Cruickshank (Jock) was a RAF serviceman from Yorkshire, United Kingdom. He entered the RAF before the outbreak of war. After serving his country in South Africa he later returned to the UK to become a Flight Engineer. He died on his fifth Op at the age of 22.

 William Taylor (Bill) was a Farm Lad from Saskatchewan, Canada. Even before he left school he wanted to serve his country. Although he wished to be a pilot he was to become the Bomb Aimer of the crew. He died on his fifth Op at the age of 23.

 George Parker was a Teacher and Coal Truck Driver from Alberta, Canada. With his educational background he became the Navigator. A loving husband, he wrote his wife everyday he was overseas. He died on his fifth Op at the age of 28. He left behind his wife and two young children.

 William Lawrence Doran (Larry) was a Mucking Machine Operator from British Columbia, Canada. As a Wireless Operator he was the link to the outside world. He had a strong interest in Journalism and was well thought of within his local community. He died on his fifth Op at the age of 29. He left behind his wife.

 Robert Henry Hudson (Bob) worked for a surfacing company in Leicestershire, United Kingdom. He was always the boy with a smile on his face. As the Mid Upper Gunner he had a cold job. He died on his fifth Op at age 19.

 Robert George Alfred Burt (Bud) was a Machine Operator in a Shoe Factory in Ontario, Canada. As the Tail Gunner of the crew he had the coldest and most isolated position. He is fondly remembered as the teasing older brother. He died on his first Op at age 19.

They served together, they died together but they are remembered forever in our hearts.

 

The following poem was written by William Taylor’s sister.

The following are a few links to Remembrance Day videos on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq5hFrb7b_E

Bryan Adams – Remembrance Day

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kX_3y3u5Uo

Terry Kelly – A Pittance of Time