RCAF Station Torbay, January 3, 1944 revisited – Update

Remember this picture of a prang...?


Click on the image for a larger view.


And what was written on the back…?



This was not Walter Neil Dove’s prang…

Someone had written me about it…

Pierre,

Find attached an excerpt from 128’s diary telling about F/O Dove’s prang on 3 January 1944. Before the arrival of 128 at Torbay, 125 Squadron handled fighter defence duties. No. 125’s diary for 29 January 1943 tells how Hurricane 5501 nosed up in a deep snow bank at the edge of the runway. The aircraft ground looped to the right due to a strong crosswind. The aircraft suffered damaged prop and undercarriage. The pilot was P/O W.O. Young.

Darrell

Darrell had sent me this to prove that I was wrong.

Update

Chris Charland has confirmed once more what did happen.

Salut Pierre

According to official R.C.A.F. documentation, the Hurricane in the photo s/n 5501 was with No. 125 (F) Squadron at R.C.A.F. Station Torbay, Newfoundland. I have the squadron’s Operational Record Books and a copy of the crash card.

Although Hurricane 5501 did serve with No. 128 (F) Squadron, it had no accidents during the winter. The only accident was when 5501 jumped off the tow bar while being towed at Torbay on the 5th of July 1943 damaging the rudder. The aircraft was repaired.

Having said that, Dove was actually flying Hurricane s/n 5705. I have attached a page from the No. 128 Squadron’s O.R.B. that shows what was recorded. I also have the crash cards as well.

Cheers…

Chris

I just saw the light!

I never realised before that the serial number was not the same!

5501 versus 5705.

I guess everything was due to too much excitement on my part.

 

Such a beautiful picture.

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A Time to Remember Gibby

I got a few comment from readers who are related to Gibby.

One from Patricia…

This information is remarkable and historic. I never met my uncle, Bill Gibbs, but my dad, his brother, always struggled with the fact that the body was never recovered and therefore there was no grave site or memorial in memory of Bill Gibbs. I only wish my dad were alive to see that there was something to honour his brother.

One from Roy…

I got a picture I could share with you.  How can I post it?

This pilot was with No. 128 Squadron is mentioned in this book.

All the Fine Young Eagles

by David L. Bashow ISBN; 0-7737-2976-3

Pages 248-249.

After a few rounds from the bar, a discussion developed regarding the merits of the Wildcat versus the Hurricane. It continued until the American issued a challenge they would have four Wildcats at Torbay the following morning. The tactics were simple. Four pairs, each consisting of a Wildcat and a Hurricane, would meet at an agreed upon altitude, in each of the four quadrants of the sky, North. West. South and East of the airport. They would meet, fly in formation for a minute or two, then break up and approach each other head on. From then on it was a straight dogfight, with each pilot trying to get on the other fellow’s tail. Flight Commanders were not allowed to fly on either side. We were part of the large audience assembled on the ground to see the show. Everything went according to plan. The aircraft met, flew in formation for a minute or two, and then began dog fighting. In a couple of minutes there were four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats, and they stayed there, to great applause and shouts from the audience below.

After landing, everyone adjourned to the hangar to hash over the situation. The Americans seemed completely nonplused by the turn of events. They could not understand how things could have turned out the way they had. It must have been some kind of aberration that could never happen again, so they issued another challenge for the following afternoon. This time, they announced. Flight Commanders could fly, so I decided to get in on the fun in Hurricane 5485. That afternoon the two readiness aircraft: equipped with depth charges**, were sitting on the tarmac.

“Butch” Washburn and “Gibby” Gibbs were the readiness pilots that day and Butch said to me. “You know Bill, I think we can take on these buggers with those readiness aircraft.” “Why not?” I replied … “Have a go.” We lined up a fourth pilot and the exercise was carried out all over again with four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats once again. Butch Washburn was so keen that he stayed on the Wildcat’s tail until it landed on the runway.

The Americans were forced to admit that the Hurricane was the better aircraft. Even when it was ladened with depth charges. We had a party in the Mess that night with the Americans becoming more generous and more lavish with their praise as the evening wore on. According to some of them, if 128 Squadron, complete with aircraft and personnel, could suddenly be transported to the Pacific Theater, we would make short work of the Japanese Air Force. Yes, it was a great party …

pages 245-46;

Flying at Torbay took on an operational atmosphere. The Cansos and Venturas were almost constantly on patrol, and they occasionally returned to base after encountering a German Submarine. These attacks bolstered everyone’s morale. Shortly after we reached Torbay, someone in our armament section devised a way to make bomb racks out of the angle iron used in the double bunks so familiar to all service personnel. The racks were okayed by Eastern Air Command Headquarters in Halifax, and for the rest of the time at Torbay we were able to carry a depth charge under each wing. Four of our Hurricanes were fitted with these racks, and two aircraft were kept on constant readiness. Also, with twelve machine guns on each aircraft, the Hurricanes constituted a very formidable weapon against an enemy submarine.

A British Major, an armament expert, arrived about this time from London. The purpose of his visit was to discuss with aircrew the latest tactics of German submarines. Instead of diving immediately on seeing a patrol aircraft, the subs were now armed with deck guns and were shooting back. Several patrol aircraft had been shot down. All available crew from the three Torbay squadrons were called together for a talk by the Major, who spent most of his time raving about the Hurricanes armed with depth charges that he had seen on the flight line. “In all my travels to squadrons around the worId,” he said, “I have never seen such a deadly combination. The Number One aircraft could clear the deck of all living things with one burst from his twelve machine guns, and Number Two could drop his depth charges at leisure. It’s marvelous!” After his talks, the Major visited our Squadron and talked with the pilots. He left an Air Ministry address with Squadron Leader Cannon, the CO, and made him promise to forward to him the results of any encounters a Hurricane might have with a German submarine. “No matter where I am in the world, I’ll get the message.” There was no message to pass on to the Major for two reasons. Firstly, we never did get to attack a German sub, and secondly, the same day as his visit, a Canso carrying the Major to Botwood, Newfoundland, crashed while landing on glassy water, killing everyone on board, including the Major.”

“Butch” Washburn did not return home after the war just like William Robert Gibbs.

Both were killed flying Typhoons.

This is taken from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

In memory of
Flying Officer

 WILLIAM ROBERT GIBBS

who died on February 28, 1945

Military Service:

  • Service Number: J/27239
  • Age: 21
  • Force: Air Force
  • Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Division: 440 Sqdn.

I sent all the pictures I had from Walter Neil Dove’s collection to the CVWM site and added Roy’s picture of Gibby.

billy gibbs Most people don’t know how dangerous flying Typhoons were. Click here for just a glimpse.

Flying Officer Dean Jerome Washburn, Service Number: J/29339

This pilot who was with No. 128 Squadron is also mentioned in this book.

He’s “Butch” Washburn.

All the Fine Young Eagles

by David L. Bashow ISBN; 0-7737-2976-3

Pages 248-249.

After a few rounds from the bar, a discussion developed regarding the merits of the Wildcat versus the Hurricane. It continued until the American issued a challenge they would have four Wildcats at Torbay the following morning. The tactics were simple. Four pairs, each consisting of a Wildcat and a Hurricane, would meet at an agreed upon altitude, in each of the four quadrants of the sky, North. West. South and East of the airport. They would meet, fly in formation for a minute or two, then break up and approach each other head on. From then on it was a straight dogfight, with each pilot trying to get on the other fellow’s tail. Flight Commanders were not allowed to fly on either side. We were part of the large audience assembled on the ground to see the show. Everything went according to plan. The aircraft met, flew in formation for a minute or two, and then began dog fighting. In a couple of minutes there were four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats, and they stayed there, to great applause and shouts from the audience below.

After landing, everyone adjourned to the hangar to hash over the situation. The Americans seemed completely nonplused by the turn of events. They could not understand how things could have turned out the way they had. It must have been some kind of aberration that could never happen again, so they issued another challenge for the following afternoon. This time, they announced. Flight Commanders could fly, so I decided to get in on the fun in Hurricane 5485. That afternoon the two readiness aircraft: equipped with depth charges**, were sitting on the tarmac.

“Butch” Washburn and “Gibby” Gibbs were the readiness pilots that day and Butch said to me. “You know Bill, I think we can take on these buggers with those readiness aircraft.” “Why not?” I replied … “Have a go.” We lined up a fourth pilot and the exercise was carried out all over again with four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats once again. Butch Washburn was so keen that he stayed on the Wildcat’s tail until it landed on the runway.

The Americans were forced to admit that the Hurricane was the better aircraft. Even when it was ladened with depth charges. We had a party in the Mess that night with the Americans becoming more generous and more lavish with their praise as the evening wore on. According to some of them, if 128 Squadron, complete with aircraft and personnel, could suddenly be transported to the Pacific Theater, we would make short work of the Japanese Air Force. Yes, it was a great party …

pages 245-46;

Flying at Torbay took on an operational atmosphere. The Cansos and Venturas were almost constantly on patrol, and they occasionally returned to base after encountering a German Submarine. These attacks bolstered everyone’s morale. Shortly after we reached Torbay, someone in our armament section devised a way to make bomb racks out of the angle iron used in the double bunks so familiar to all service personnel. The racks were okayed by Eastern Air Command Headquarters in Halifax, and for the rest of the time at Torbay we were able to carry a depth charge under each wing. Four of our Hurricanes were fitted with these racks, and two aircraft were kept on constant readiness. Also, with twelve machine guns on each aircraft, the Hurricanes constituted a very formidable weapon against an enemy submarine.

A British Major, an armament expert, arrived about this time from London. The purpose of his visit was to discuss with aircrew the latest tactics of German submarines. Instead of diving immediately on seeing a patrol aircraft, the subs were now armed with deck guns and were shooting back. Several patrol aircraft had been shot down. All available crew from the three Torbay squadrons were called together for a talk by the Major, who spent most of his time raving about the Hurricanes armed with depth charges that he had seen on the flight line. “In all my travels to squadrons around the worId,” he said, “I have never seen such a deadly combination. The Number One aircraft could clear the deck of all living things with one burst from his twelve machine guns, and Number Two could drop his depth charges at leisure. It’s marvelous!” After his talks, the Major visited our Squadron and talked with the pilots. He left an Air Ministry address with Squadron Leader Cannon, the CO, and made him promise to forward to him the results of any encounters a Hurricane might have with a German submarine. “No matter where I am in the world, I’ll get the message.” There was no message to pass on to the Major for two reasons. Firstly, we never did get to attack a German sub, and secondly, the same day as his visit, a Canso carrying the Major to Botwood, Newfoundland, crashed while landing on glassy water, killing everyone on board, including the Major.”

“Butch” Washburn did not return home after the war just like William Robert Gibbs.

Both were killed flying Typhoons.

This is taken from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

In memory of
Flying Officer
 DEAN JEROME  WASHBURN 
who died on December 24, 1944 

Military Service:

Service Number: J/29339

Age: 23

Force: Air Force

Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force

Division: 438 Sqdn.

Additional Information:

Son of Lenox Francis and Teresa Louise Washburn, of Fernie, British Columbia, Canada.

RCAF Station Torbay, January 3, 1944 revisited

Remember this...


Click on the image for a larger view.


And what was written on the back of that picture…?



This is not Walter Neil Dove’s prang…

Someone wrote me about it…

Pierre,

Find attached an excerpt from 128’s diary telling about F/O Dove’s prang on 3 Jan 1944. Before the arrival of 128 at Torbay, 125 Squadron handled fighter defence duties. No. 125’s diary for 29 Jan 1943 tells how Hurricane 5501 nosed up in a deep snow bank at the edge of the runway. The aircraft ground looped to the right due to a strong crosswind. The aircraft suffered damaged prop and undercarriage. The pilot was P/O W.O. Young.

Darrell

Darrell sent me this.


RCAF Station Torbay, January 3, 1944

Now what about  the pictures taken at RCAF Station Torbay in Walter Neil Dove’s collection…?

Look at this picture again.


Click on the image for a larger view.

Never been seen before.

This is what pilots call a prang!

There are all sorts of prangs.

This one was not that bad after all.

The caption in white says JAN 43… but the logbook says JAN 44!

Honest mistake when you change from one year to another.

It does not tell much about the pilot in that prang or how it happened.

Look at that logbook page.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Now we know how it happened.

Finally, what was written on the back of that picture…?


I have learned about Walter Neil Dove’s  sense of humour by reading the captions he wrote.

I did it…


RCAF Station Torbay

Up to now, little is found on the Internet about Torbay during WWII.

Now thanks to Greg, we are going to learn more with the pictures he has been scanning and his grandfather’s logbook. I am now processing all that information. Before posting more, here is what I found about RCAF Station Torbay.

Source: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/torbay_base.html

RCAF Station Torbay

The first official landing at RCAF Station Torbay occurred unexpectedly on October 31, 1941, before runway construction was complete. A sudden snowstorm prevented a British aircraft from landing at the Gander airbase as scheduled, and had also closed all airports from New York to Montreal. Officials decided that the plane, which had flown from Scotland and was running out of fuel, should land on an unfinished runway at Torbay. However, landing aids were not yet available, so the pilot had to use a local radio station, VONF, as a homing beacon. The aircraft was slightly damaged upon touch-down, but its five crewmembers and 15 passengers escaped uninjured.

When the first RCAF squadron arrived at the base the following month, it faced difficult circumstances. Permanent accommodations were not yet available, so the airmen had temporarily to share small wooden shacks. Washroom facilities consisted of outhouses and washbasins, and airmen drove to St. John’s each Saturday for a weekly bath. The winter was particularly trying – when the men woke each morning, it was not uncommon to discover a snowdrift had completely blocked the front door. They had to exit their huts through the back window until the snow was cleared.

Flying out of Torbay was also hazardous for the first few weeks of operation. Radio ranges, direction finding equipment, and naval beacons were not yet fully installed, and the base’s first meteorologist, or ‘met’ man, did not arrive until after two full weeks of flying. As a result, Torbay pilots were forced to make do with brief and often inaccurate weather reports.

However, construction progressed rapidly and conditions soon improved. Workers installed permanent buildings, completed another runway, and built a radio outpost. Additional RCAF squadrons were stationed at Torbay, including fighters, surveillance and weather aircraft. Americans were given free use of the base for military purposes, as were the British.

Although less air traffic passed through Torbay than at other Allied airfields at Gander, Stephenville, Argentia, and Goose Bay, the base played an important role in hemispheric defence. For the duration of the war, Torbay helped provide air cover for convoys and was used as a bad weather alternative for Canadian and American military aircraft.

In 1942, Canada and Newfoundland agreed to provide a commercial air service out of Torbay. The first flight occurred on May 1 and was operated by Trans-Canada Airlines (later Air Canada). On board were five passengers and a three-member crew. The airport’s first terminal building, a small wooden structure, was built in 1943 and upgraded in 1958.

RCAF pilots at Torbay, 2 October 1942 Pilots of No.125(F) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), with a Hawker Hurricane XII aircraft at the Torbay air base. During peak war years, the RCAF stationed more than 2,000 men at the base.
Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada (PA-133271), Ottawa, Ontario.

About some pictures from Walter Neil Dove collection…?

Look at this picture.

The caption in white says JAN 43… but the logbook says JAN 44!

Honest mistake when you change from one year to another.

About what is written on the back of the picture…?

You will have to get back later this week to learn Walter Neil Dove’s sense of humour.

A little anecdote found

Taken from a forum that took this from…

All the Fine Young Eagles

by David L. Bashow ISBN; 0-7737-2976-3

Pages 248-249.

After a few rounds from the bar, a discussion developed regarding the merits of the Wildcat versus the Hurricane. It continued until the American issued a challenge they would have four Wildcats at Torbay the following morning. The tactics were simple. Four pairs, each consisting of a Wildcat and a Hurricane, would meet at an agreed upon altitude, in each of the four quadrants of the sky, North. West. South and East of the airport. They would meet, fly in formation for a minute or two, then break up and approach each other head on. From then on it was a straight dogfight, with each pilot trying to get on the other fellow’s tail. Flight Commanders were not allowed to fly on either side. We were part of the large audience assembled on the ground to see the show. Everything went according to plan. The aircraft met, flew in formation for a minute or two, and then began dog fighting. In a couple of minutes there were four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats, and they stayed there, to great applause and shouts from the audience below.

After landing, everyone adjourned to the hangar to hash over the situation. The Americans seemed completely nonplused by the turn of events. They could not understand how things could have turned out the way they had. It must have been some kind of aberration that could never happen again, so they issued another challenge for the following afternoon. This time, they announced. Flight Commanders could fly, so I decided to get in on the fun in Hurricane 5485. That afternoon the two readiness aircraft: equipped with depth charges**, were sitting on the tarmac. “Butch” Washburn and “Gibby” Gibbs were the readiness pilots that day and Butch said to me. “You know Bill, I think we can take on these buggers with those readiness aircraft.” “Why not?” I replied … “Have a go.” We lined up a fourth pilot and the exercise was carried out all over again with four Hurricanes on the tails of four Wildcats once again. Butch Washburn was so keen that he stayed on the Wildcat’s tail until it landed on the runway. The Americans were forced to admit that the Hurricane was the better aircraft. Even when it was ladened with depth charges. We had a party in the Mess that night with the Americans becoming more generous and more lavish with their praise as the evening wore on. According to some of them, if 128 Squadron, complete with aircraft and personnel, could suddenly be transported to the Pacific Theater, we would make short work of the Japanese Air Force. Yes, it was a great party …

pages 245-46;

Flying at Torbay took on an operational atmosphere. The Cansos and Venturas were almost constantly on patrol, and they occasionally returned to base after encountering a German Submarine. These attacks bolstered everyone’s morale. Shortly after we reached Torbay, someone in our armament section devised a way to make bomb racks out of the angle iron used in the double bunks so familiar to all service personnel. The racks were okayed by Eastern Air Command Headquarters in Halifax, and for the rest of the time at Torbay we were able to carry a depth charge under each wing. Four of our Hurricanes were fitted with these racks, and two aircraft were kept on constant readiness. Also, with twelve machine guns on each aircraft, the Hurricanes constituted a very formidable weapon against an enemy submarine.

A British Major, an armament expert, arrived about this time from London. The purpose of his visit was to discuss with aircrew the latest tactics of German submarines. Instead of diving immediately on seeing a patrol aircraft, the subs were now armed with deck guns and were shooting back. Several patrol aircraft had been shot down. All available crew from the three Torbay squadrons were called together for a talk by the Major, who spent most of his time raving about the Hurricanes armed with depth charges that he had seen on the flight line. “In all my travels to squadrons around the worId,” he said, “I have never seen such a deadly combination. The Number One aircraft could clear the deck of all living things with one burst from his twelve machine guns, and Number Two could drop his depth charges at leisure. It’s marvelous!” After his talks, the Major visited our Squadron and talked with the pilots. He left an Air Ministry address with Squadron Leader Cannon, the CO, and made him promise to forward to him the results of any encounters a Hurricane might have with a German submarine. “No matter where I am in the world, I’ll get the message.” There was no message to pass on to the Major for two reasons. Firstly, we never did get to attack a German sub, and secondly, the same day as his visit, a Canso carrying the Major to Botwood, Newfoundland, crashed while landing on glassy water, killing everyone on board, including the Major.” 

As a footnote…

“Gibby” Gibbs

Collection Walter Neil Dove

You know how Walter Neil Dove felt about him…

Collection Walter Neil Dove

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

— W. Somerset Maugham