Oct. 31, 1943
Well, I have been here quite a while now and I am sorry I neglected to write sooner. I just haven't been able to sit down and write anything, but when I did I just couldn't stop. I just finished an 18 page letter to Jim, answering his last to me on July 19th.
As you know, we left Hamilton on Wed. night at about 8:40 PM. We arrived in Prince Rupert on Sunday at midnight. The trip was the most wonderful experience I have ever had. The mountains, ravines, rivers, and huge trees were beautiful. The only big stop we made was 41/2 hours in Jasper Park. This spot surpasses anything I have ever seen in my life. I'll bet it is even better than the scenery that Jim has seen.
The boys going to Sea Island stayed on that train because it was going right through to Vancouver. The rest of us rented bikes and rode through Jasper Park. We saw a bear and deer and the Great Northwest Passage. When our 4 ½ hrs. were up, we got on the local train to Prince Rupert. It was a pretty rough trip, but the meals were excellent. There were about 10 of us together all the time and we had a wonderful time.
Arriving in Prince Rupert on Sunday night we waited for 2 days for either a plane or a boat to Alliford Bay. They soon made use of us on Monday. We worked in the kitchen, swept floors and anything else they had for us to do. We worked all morning and part of the afternoon. We then sneaked out to the town for the afternoon and evening. On Tuesday we did not even report for duty. We sneaked out early in the morning and toured the town all morning, saw a show in the afternoon.
Upon our return we found out from a fellow that were on charge so we stayed out behind the barracks watching a ball game. We found out that there was a boat leaving at 9 P.M., so we got our stuff together and when it was dark we threw it on the truck that was taking the list of men scheduled for the trip that night. We got to the docks all right, and put our stuff on the boat. It was called the "Snow Prince." Its limit was 15 men in the hold. Well, they started calling the list off, and luckily for us, 2 of the boys' names were on the list and there were some missing from the regular group, so the skipper let us stay on because once we got to Alliford Bay, they could not touch us.
It was a 100 mile trip which took 12 hours. Being a small boat, it rolled something awful. I laid down on my bags at the bottom of the hold and slept there, the bunks being full. I slept for nearly 6 hours when a wave come down the open hatch and soused me. I awoke half scared and suddenly felt sick. Making a run for the rail, I stumbled at the bottom of the ladder, hit my head on the wall and threw up right there. A fellow in one of the bunks yelled at me to use the bucket, but another fellow who was nearby had sat on it and I couldn't use it. I was almost too weak to crawl anyway.
After that, I dozed all the night off and on, sitting on the driveshaft housing. Guys were climbing over me all night trying to make the rail. (I will no longer laugh at that old joke of the man who crossed the ocean by rail.) Worse still, we had to clean the boat down in the morning.
Finally, at 9 A.M. Wednesday we arrived in Alliford Bay feeling quite tired, dirty and hungry.
The map of the Queen Charlotte Islands shows Graham Is. to the north and next to the south is Moresby Is. Alliford Bay is on the north coast of Moresby Is. Across the strait, on Graham Is., we can see Queen Charlotte City. It is a fishing village, composed of about half Indians and half white people. I think the Indians are the Haida tribe. Some call them Cloutches, but I think that is a nickname.
A lot of the officers & men have their wives over in the "City." They have some pretty nice little cottages there. There are five stores, a hotel, a dance hall, a school, a church, and a hospital. About 5 miles east along the coast from Charlotte, is a place called Skidegate Mission. There is New Skidegate around the dock and 2 miles further is the Indian mission. A lot of airmen and soldiers live there with their wives. An R.C.A.F. boat makes the trip at 5.30 P.M. to take the boys home from work and to take anybody who wants to go to the stores over there because they have just about everything there. The boat goes again at 9.30 P.M., taking anybody who worked late and bringing back boys who have visiting over there.
The boat goes again in the morning to bring the fellows to work. An R.C.A.S.E.
boat makes similar trips to Skidegate for the soldiers. There is another place called Sandspit, 14 miles east of Alliford Bay on Moresby Island. I have not been there yet but I have been told that there is an Indian village, a small R.C.A.F. station and an airfield which is not yet completed. There are also large fields of potatoes, planted, cared for and now being dug and brought back to our mess hall by boys from this station.
Alliford Bay is really modern for a bush station. Oil is used as fuel for power houses, steam boilers, etc. We have swell barracks, lots of good showers, basins and mirrors. We even have a number of washing machines. The food here is wonderful and plentiful. Even over at the villages, there seems to be plenty of everything.
Out here there is not much to do compared with what we used to do "back in Canada" but we have a beautiful Recreation Hall which is used as a church, theatre, dance hall, and a gymnasium. It also houses in another section, the coffee bar and lounge, the reading and writing room, the library, the tailor shop, the barber shop, the padre's office, and the Y.M.C.A. office & sports stuff. When they hold dances here, the boats go to the villages and pick up the airmen's wives and all the Indian women who wish to come. Some of them are pretty nice. They also come for the shows (as there is no show on Graham Island) and if the channel is not too rough.
There are about 500 men here. This includes of course, the Air Force, Army, and the Navy. We have quite a dock here, most of it floats on account of the tides. The marine section of the R.C.A.F. is quite large, having 12 boats, of different shapes and sizes. The Army & Navy also have boats here.
I am in the maintenance section of No. 6 Bombing and Reconnaissance Squadron. There are fitters, riggers, electricians, instrument mechanics, and armourers. The work is done in shifts. I am on the day shift, 8.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M.. The night shift works from 5.00 P.M. to 2.00 A.M. or until they are finished. The night shift is the one that does most of the work on account of flying in the day time. On the day shift we only get a few hrs. actual work on the aircraft. The rest of the time we have lectures, sweep floors, clean windows, work in the station workshops, or any job we happen to get hooked for.
The types of aircraft we have here are the Catalina twin-engined flying boat, the Canso twin-engined amphibian, and the Stranraer, also a twin-engined flying boat. Other types that stop here for re-fuelling or on official business are the Goose amphibian, the Shark and the Norseman which are small seaplanes. There are no runways here.
All the aircraft belonging here or visiting are seaplanes, amphibians, or flying boats. We have.2 large hangars, a tarmac and a huge concrete ramp running a considerable ways into the water because the tide has a variation of 22 feet.
When an aircraft lands in the channel, the crash boat goes out to meet it and takes off the crew. Another boat assists the aircraft in taxying to a mooring buoy or else brings it to the ramp. Then two of us are detailed to don rubber suits similar to diving suits with the exception of the helmets. The rest of the gang get out the beaching gear. This consists of three sets of wheels, one for each side of the aircraft and one for the tail. The waders take the wheels into the water and affix them to the aircraft. A tractor then hauls the aircraft up the ramp and into the hangar. The launching procedure is just the reverse.
We are glad to see an amphibian land because they have their own landing gear which they let down and taxi right up the ramp under their own power, all we have to do is direct them. They steer by the use of air brakes.
After work we have a number of things we can do. There are boxing & wrestling classes, volley-ball, basketball, table tennis, 3 shows a week, an occasional dance, weightlifting, exploring the mountains, following the rivers, or walking through the gigantic forests.
Some of the boys go fishing for trout in a nearby river. We can see salmon and other kinds of fish jumping in the bay all the time. When we were in Rupert, we went through a fish freezing plant - right out of the hot sun into a warehouse 7º below zero and then to 25º [?] zero. It sure felt swell.
We have 5 good dogs with which we run in the forest. We also have a pet doe named Kwana. She comes right into the mess hall for scraps. There are a few cats and kittens around too.
Sometimes we go with the boats to the other side. It is very invigorating. Before we came, we had the impression that there was nothing to do here but we found that there was plenty to do if one cared to move around a little.
As yet, I have not been up for a flip but I hope to very soon. I have learned plenty about seagoing aircraft. We were told nothing of them at T.T.S. They are wonderful to watch. The Catalina is so large you could almost hold a dance upon the wing.
On a bush station such as this you have to be an airman, a soldier, and a sailor. In spare time we become carpenters, machinists, welders, janitors, etc. Last week we received rifles, ammunition, full webbing equipment, packs, cartridge belts, steel helmets, gas masks, gas capes and helmet covers. We have 1 hour of gas attack each week. They drop tear gas bombs all over the place and we work in our masks until everything clears up.
We are getting a course in commando tactics and armaments. It is very interesting.
Yesterday we had to work for the marine section. Myself and one other fellow had to take a boat and go along the shore putting rubber bumpers on the mooring buoys. It was cold and rainy but we have wonderful parkas to wear in such weather. We were blown around a little bit but we got the job done. Once or twice we had to row like mad to keep the boat going in the direction we wanted to go. We were about half an hour away from the dock.
Well, we got back safely, but I was just climbing out of the boat when I put my foot on some oars lying on the dock and next thing I knew I was in the Pacific, overalls, parka and all. Boy! Was it cold! I grabbed a rope and was out as fast as I had gone in. I ran to the barracks, changed, had a hot shower, and suffered no ill effects.
I guess I have written quite a bit and its getting late so I had better roll into my sack, as we call our bunks. I am enjoying good health in this climate, it rains every day, but the sun also shines every day for a while.
Hope you are all well at home ----
So long for now.