3 Wireless School, Winnipeg

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 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 might include assisting in bomb aiming, assisting with casualties on board, manning a gun turret and, should the navigator be out of action, assisting with navigation to get home.

23 March – 1 October 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.

No. 3 Wireless School was located in Winnipeg, in the very nice old buildings previously used by the Manitoba School for the Deaf in Tuxedo Park (photo above). Gerry’s intake was Squadron 65, 116 WAG trainees, mostly New Zealanders. To give an idea of the split of nationalities at the School, in the month of April 1943 it hosted 581 RCAF trainees, 203 RNZAF, 75 RAAF and 1 RAF.

Wireless School provided a 28-week training programme; theoretical technical training, followed by two weeks of flying. So other than one 40-minute “Air Experience” flight on the 4th of May, the first five months were spent mostly in the classroom.

Gerry (left) with Wireless School classmates, Lou Bartlett and Quigley
– David Newey collection.
“Cameron, Lou and Quigley”
Ivan Cameron and Lou Bartlett had both sailed to Canada with Gerry on the Matsonia.
Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey. 
No. 3 Wireless School barracks
– Air Force Museum of NZ, ref. MUS0604812_1

The Wireless trainees were granted Mid-Term Leave from the 19th to the 27th of June.  

This is probably when Gerry and his mates visited Devil’s Gap Lodge, Kenora, a Canadian Pacific Railway Company holiday resort about 130 miles West of Winnipeg.

Devil’s Gap Lodge, Lake of the Woods, Kenora, Ontario.
– David Newey collection.
Gerry (right) on leave with Wireless School mates and boats, Devil’s Gap Lodge, Kenora, Ontario.
Lou Bartlett at left and possibly Quigley next to Gerry.
– David Newey collection.
Norseman Transporter, Kenora, Ontario.
– David Newey collection.

“Air Operations” didn’t get underway until the first week of September.

32 hours of flying training included air experience, list watch, two-way communications, channel change, D/F (Direction Finder), bearing requests, and synth-QDM. The School used two Canadian-designed, single engined aircraft for airborne training, the Noorduyn Norseman and the Fleet Fort, with 30 aircraft on strength.

From Gerry’s logbook, he flew in Noorduyn Norseman 2471, (left) on 14 Sep 1943 , and in Fleet Fort 3622 (right) on 24 Sep 1943 .

This photo of Gerry shows the early war Sidcot flying suit and fur-lined boots worn by the trainees:

Gerry in Sidcot flying suit and flying boots, Wireless School, Winnipeg.
– David Newey collection.
Gerry and Lou Bartlett, Winnipeg 1943.  “L.L. Bartlett” is listed in Gerry’s No. 3 Wireless School graduation class photo shown below.
Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey. 
Lou Bartlett.
Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey. 

On September 16th all New Zealanders at the School took part in the New Zealand general election.

Squadron 65’s air training was completed on September 24th and the following day the course ended. Of the original 116, 92 trainees graduated.

Gerry’s Wireless School class photo shows him sitting front and centre. As well as Lou Bartlett, the photo shows Ivan Cameron, Rex Furey and Ernest Armstrong (more about them later). I haven’t been able to identify “Quigley”.

The Squadron 65 class also included Tapua “Tap” Heperi (far right, back row), who ended up with Gerry as a Wireless Operator at 75 (NZ) Squadron.

Next Graduating Squadron – No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65, Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 1943. Gerry seated centre front.
– “W.A.G. Mag”, September 1943 issue

Gerry graduated from No. 3 Wireless School on September 28th and a Graduation Dinner was held that night.

Graduation Dinner 65th Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 28th of September 1943.
Gerry fourth from left, this side of nearest table. Ernest Armstrong fourth from right, far side of table.
Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey. 

A Squadron Graduation Parade was held on September 28th and Gerry qualified as a Wireless Operator, effective from October 1st, 1943.

He was one of 14 graduates posted to complete their WAG training at No.2 Bombing & Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan.