22 December 2011

Growing Collection of Reference Material

Since 2007 I've read numerous books about the Bomber Command, British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), etc. as I continue my research on the former Pennfield Ridge Air Station. However among my most treasured possessions are those book written by (or about) former airmen who passed through "the Ridge". Below are two such books I recently acquired.

The first one, "Samuel Charles Stanley (The RAF Years)", was researched, compiled and written by Chis Stanley's son--in-law, E.F. Cox. "Eddie" had ten copies printed for Chis' family, including his six children, and I was very fortunate to obtain a copy.

he second book, "It's All Pensionable Time (25 Years in the Royal Canadian Air Force)", was a gift from the author himself, George Sweanor. As George remarked to me 10 October 2011: "From Pennfield Ridge I went on the fly Wellington and Halifaxes with 419 Squadron, marry an English girl who has now put up with me for 69 years, get shot down on my 17th operation to spend 800 days as a POW much of it in the North (Great Escape) Compound of Stalag Luft III which became my Alma Mater. After the war I remained in the RCAF with NORAD here in Colorado Springs my last transfer before reaching the then compulsory retirement age of 47 in 1966."

Inscription on inside cover: "To Christian with thanks for all your help." Edward F Cox 4-11-11

Excerpt from the book: "Chis' train got into Saint John Railway station around 6:00 am. on the 15th of January. He then took a forty mile bus journey and arrived at No.34 O.T.U. Pennfield Ridge for his three month operational training course. This included instruction and training of the numerous bombing techniques.

However, it soon transpired that the start of Chis' course was going to be delayed by a couple of weeks, and that he would be given some leave whilst preceding courses were completed. Chis was given RAF permission to visit New York (about eighteen hours away) and after some delay sorting out the neccessary paperwork (for customs), he finally got to New York. Chis eentually started his Pennfield Ridge course (No.30), on the 31st January 1944."

Inscription on inside cover: "To Christian Larsen with thanks for keeping alive the memory of all those who served at Pennfield Ridge." George Sweanor Dec. 2011

Excerpt from the book: "Our ANS training was a concentrated 4-week course on astronomical navigation, and I spent 36 hours in the air, mostly at night, navigating solely by celestial means. At first, my errors were immense - like 60 miles or more. Sticking one's head out of the Anson's top hatch into a bittery-cold March slip-stream was not conducive to the steady concentration required for accurate sextant work. Our freezing fingers turned dials to rotate a mirror to superimpose the image of a chosen star onto a bubble which we tried to manipulate into the centre of the view-piece in order to line up the sextant with the horizon. This air bubble would bounce about, subject to all the accelerations of a vibrating aircraft and a shivering navigator. The first week, astro navigation seemed an impossible dream, but slowly our accuracy increased. It was worrisome that errors of 20 miles persisted because we were beginning to realize that accounts of precision navigation and precision bombing had little validity. If we had to bomb Germany at night under adverse conditions of weather and enemy action, how would we ever find precise targets, let alone hit them?"

We will remember them!

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