2 B&GS, Mossbank

1 October – 21 November 1943: No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School, RCAF Mossbank.

He was then posted to No 2 Bombing And Gunnery School (2 B&GS or 2 BAGS), in Mossbank, Saskatchewan, Canada, 43 miles southwest of Moose Jaw.

The base was as large as a small town and featured five aircraft hangars, barracks and other living quarters for several hundred men and women, a parade square, administrative buildings as well as an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, a tennis court, theatre, an open-air skating rink and two ball diamonds. The students frequently made trips into Mossbank where they frequented “the Hostess Club,” which was set up in the local Masonic Lodge.

Wireless operator / air gunners (WAGS) undertook a six-week course where they learned to operate machine-guns and hydraulic turrets.

Air training included Gunnery (air-to-air drogue, air-to-air tracer demonstration and air-to-ground), Bombing and Photography training.

2 B&GS operated twin-engined Bristol Bolingbroke IVT’s for air-to-air and air-to-ground gunnery training, each equipped with two Browning machine guns in an electro-hydraulic powered Boulton Paul Type C dorsal turret.

Photo above: On the 19th and 20th of November 1943, Gerry flew in this Bristol Bolingbroke IVT serial no. 10106, with BACTP all-yellow colour scheme.

On 15 Nov 1943 Gerry flew in Bristol Bolingbroke Type 149 IVT serial number 10121.
This aircraft is currently under restoration with the Montreal Aviation Museum, Quebec, painted to represent RCAF Bolingbroke serial no. 9120.
– abpic.co.uk

Air to air gunnery involved target drogues towed by Westland Lysanders.  The windsock-type drogue was towed 300 feet behind the tug while the student gunner would fire at the drogue from the turret of the other aircraft, the Bolingbroke, flying parallel to it. Usually three trainees would go up at a time, each using bullets coated with a different coloured wax. On inspecting the target this enabled ground crew
to determine who was hitting or missing.

Air-to-ground gunnery and bombing practice was carried out over nearby Old Wives Lake which had targets representing German submarines.

Gerry graduated from No. 2 B&GS as a qualified Wireless Operator-Air Gunner on 22nd November 1943.

He was also awarded his 1st G.C. (Good Conduct) Badge on 7 November 1943 on completion of 3 years’ regular service.

Gerry was promoted and re-mustered as a Sergeant (WO/AG Spec) on 22 November 1943, the day he graduated.

RNZAF Wireless Air Gunner brevet

Gerry and his fellow course graduates were granted pre-embarkation leave in the week of 23-29 November 1943, just before heading up to Halifax to sail for England.

Like most of the Kiwis who trained in Canada, this was an unmissable opportunity to experience the bright lights of New York.

“Allan Walkington (Aust) & myself at the Primrose House, New York”.
– David Newey collection.

Sergeant Allan Oliver Walkington RAAF was a fellow WAG, hailing from Kensington, South Australia. Presumably he and Gerry trained together.

Primrose House was a famous, upmarket cosmetics company, and the “Salon” was it’s headquarters on Park Avenue. Perhaps Gerry took the photo to impress his sisters back in NZ?

Sadly Allan Walkington was killed in a Dakota flying accident in Burma in June 1945, right at the end of the war.

Gerry Newey, Rex Furey and Ernest Armstrong, November 1943.
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey.

The photo above was probably taken during this same leave; Gerry with two “Newzie” WAG mates, Rex Furey and Ernest Armstrong, proudly wearing their new Sergeant’s stripes and RNZAF WAG brevets (half-wing badges).

Sadly, within a year, both had been killed – Rex on his final training flight, and Ernest on one of his first operations.

F/S Rex Patrick Furey, NZ428189 R.N.Z.A.F. Wireless Operator, age 21.

18/19 October 1944: Stirling III LK488, QQ-E, 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF Wratting Common, on a low-level cross country navigation exercise, their last training flight before being posted to an operational squadron. Off-track and in poor visibility (widespread fog) the Stirling collided with the top of Mickle Fell, the highest mountain in County Durham (2,585 ft) and some seven miles ENE of Appleby-in-Westmoreland. Rear Gunner W/O Alan G Small of Takaka, New Zealand, was the only survivor.

When Gerry would eventually hear about Rex Furey’s death, it would have an extra tragic twist.

More about Rex’s crash here.

F/S Ernest Robert Armstrong, NZ427084, R.N.Z.A.F. Wireless Operator, age 20. 16/17 November 1944: 214 Sqdn Flying Fortress Mark II HB787 BU-J 214 Sqdn was engaged in radio counter-measures (detection and jamming of enemy radio and radar equipment). On a night that foul weather had meant the scrubbing of main force bomber operations, five 214 Sqdn RCM Fortresses carried out a Window dropping “spoof” operation over Germany, designed to fool German radar into thinking that a large scale attack was underway and force the wasteful deployment of defenses in the Ruhr area. On return to England, the bad weather continued and BU-J was diverted from Oulton to RAF Foulsham which, by the time they reached it, was category red “completely unusable” with 9/10 cloud at 300 ft. After an unsuccessful attempt to land, partly due to a confused radio message, the Fortress returned to the circuit but apparently became disoriented in low cloud, ending up at right angles to the landing “funnel”.

According to the 214 (FMS) Squadron website, “On approach at 04:36hrs the visibility was still poor, with cloud down to 100ft, a faulty radio transmitter and not being forewarned of a crosswind, the aircraft struck the ground 1 1/2 miles South West of the centre of the airfield, bounced and climbed into the cloud then stalled and crashed into a wheat stubble field farmed by Mr Seaman of Twyford. All ten crewmen died.”

Unbelievably, before Gerry had even completed his training in the UK, both of his mates would be gone.

Gerry was transferred to No. 1 Y Depot (holding unit), Halifax, on 3 December, and embarked to England on 14 December 1943, probably from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and probably as part of a high-speed North Atlantic convoy.

One final intriguing detail from his time in Canada – on one of the forms he filled out when transferring to the RAF as he embarked, there was a box asking for “Name and address of person to be notified in case of casualty (other than next of kin)” – Gerry wrote:

“Miss M. Reilly, 803 Nassau St, Winnipeg, Manitoba”