The Wireless Platoon at Jericho Beach in 1940. Mr. Doughty is at the far left of the back row.
First "Flying Boat" off the Boeing production line in Vancouver, 1942.
An example of the pre-war "Flying Boat" sea plane c. 1939.
This aircraft was forced into an emergency landing on the coast, 1942.
"We were flying with outdated planes, what there were of them, and we flew every day – two patrols a day – with a limited number of people to do it."
I joined up in Fort William, Ontario. I was eighteen years old in 1939. After a couple of months in Toronto I was sent out to the west coast. I flew as a Corporal, and basically flew in a couple of pre-war Stranraers, looking for submarines off the north coast of Vancouver Island, until we had regular Sergeant Air Gunner / Radio Operators, and I went back to being ground crew.
There is a book called 'The Forgotten War', on the west coast, and that's really what it was. We never got good equipment. We were flying with outdated planes, what there were of them, and we flew every day – two patrols a day – with a limited number of people to do it.
One of the interesting highlights which is probably not known and may be of some interest to some people is that we did have a crew on two or three direction finding stations, who were trained in Japananese Kana Code, and they monitored Japanese shipping all the way from the northern Pacific down to the Panama Canal. Their readings were sent into San Diego by land line, so that none of the Japanese ships could pick up that traffic.
When we weren't working we would hang around the transmitter station, where you were out of everybody's way and nobody knew where you were. We had two transmitters and two receivers, and the transmitter station always on the same frequency – one on our radio silence frequency and one on our communications frequency, which was 2555. One night we were up there playing cards and our 5525 receiver burst into life, which we never used because it was a radio silence frequency. One Ron Toole recognized it instantly as Japanese characters because it was not Morse code. So Ron, who was very adventurous anyway, plugged in a key into the transmitter and ordered the two unknown ships out in the Pacific somewhere to stop communicating immediately with each other, and sure enough they went off the air. A rather bold and rather stupid thing to do perhaps, but I remember that night quite vividly.
Quite a while after I'd finished flying I got sent down to Vancouver as crewman on a PBY coming out of Ottawa and the aero engine mechanic went with me, and I think that someone in headquarters was saying, "These guys have been flying old Stranraers long enough, so let's put them on this first Catalina." The PBY was going to go back to the east coast because they needed them more there than we did. We didn't know anything about this PBY. We didn't even know how to start it. Didn't know the radio, didn't know anything about it. This was the first one off the line, so we went around Vancouver and landed at the airport there. The next morning, just before we were ready to take off, an air force Padre, and someone had told him that if he wanted to get to Ottawa in a hurry he should get down to where we were because we would be stopping in Ottawa for sure. So we took him on as the lone passenger. Half an hour out of Vancouver in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and not too bloody far above them, the skipper said, "The minister is cold. He has no flying suit on or anything and he's cold. Start the heaters up." Well, we had never flown in a plane that had heaters, so we get out the paperwork and we ran through the instructions on page one, pushed the buttons, and crawled around on the floor looking for the heat. We found the heat – one under the navigator's chair, one underneath the pilot's chair, and two others. So we thought, "Well, we've gone this far and he wants to be warm. We'll turn to page two and put the other four heaters on." When we pushed that button for the last four heaters, we filled up completely with a black cloud. You couldn't see in front of your face. He screamed back at us to shut it off, which we did. When we got to Winnipeg, the ground crew found a heater with an oily rag stuffed in it. Whether that was sabotage or just a sloppy worker, I can't imagine why anyone would have an oily rag inside the heater!