In Canada, Gerry spent his first six months training at No. 3 Wireless School, RCAF in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a Wireless Air Gunner (WAG).
WAG’s were primarily wireless operators (W/Ops), but were trained in various other back up other roles. Wireless Operators were responsible for direct communications between aircraft and base, as well as with other aircraft in the area and their own bases. Wireless bearings played a critical part in the aircraft’s navigation and weather reports were received and transmitted by wireless. Other duties could include assisting in bomb aiming, assisting with casualties on board and assisting the gunners, and if necessary with navigation to get home should the navigator be out of action.
23 March – 25 September 1943: No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, 65 Squadron.
As part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BACTP), a massive, joint military aircrew training program, an agreement between the countries of the Commonwealth had been reached whereby New Zealand would supply the RAF with Pilots, Navigators, Bomb Aimers, Wireless Operators and Gunners.
Elementary training would take place in New Zealand, and advanced training in Canada, where a network of training schools had been set up, and where the climate and geography were ideal for year-round flying training.
Wireless School provided a 28-week training programme; theoretical technical training, followed by 32 hours of flying. Training included air experience, list watch, two-way communications, channel change, D/F (Direction Finder), bearing requests, and synth-QDM.
No. 3 Wireless School used two Canadian-designed, single engined aircraft for training, the Noorduyn Norseman and the Fleet Fort.
This photo of Gerry and one of his mates shows the WW1 style flying suit and boots worn by the trainees:
Gerry’s graduation class photo shows him sitting front and centre. As well as Lou Bartlett, the photo shows Tapua “Tap” Heperi (far right, back row, who also ended up as a Wireless Operator on 75 (NZ) Squadron), Rex Furey and Ernest Armstrong (more about them later).
Gerry graduated from No. 3 Wireless School on October 1, 1943.