Friday, 27 November 2020

Rabbit Buddy has turned white …!!!!


Our Rabbit Buddy who was first featured in a blog from June 1st, see ~ “You could set your clock by him …” at ~ 

…. has not been around for a few weeks. So, it was a surprise to see him this afternoon sporting his new colour winter scheme.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

HMCS Cormorant has now gone …

After 20 years, the former Canadian navy ship HNCS Cormorant has finally departed Bridgewater.

The vessel built in Cantiere Navale Apuania, Marine-Carrara in Italy, as a stern factory trawler was initially named Aspa Quarto. She was laid down on 8 December 1963 and launched 11 April 1965 and completed on 15 June 1965.

She was purchased in July 1975 and taken to Davie Shipbuilding at Lauzon, Quebec where the ship underwent conversion to a diving support vessel. After this refit, the ship was renamed HMCS Cormorant and commissioned into RCN Maritime Command on 10 November 1978, becoming the second Canadian naval unit to bear this name.

In naval service, between 23 August and 5 October 1989, HMCS Cormorant contributed to defence research as part of Operation Norploy 89, which took place in the Arctic region of Canada, mainly in Baffin Bay, Lancaster Sound and the Davis Strait. Using the submersible SDL-1 deployed from HMCS Cormorant, the sunken vessel Breadalbane was discovered, a ship not seen since its sinking in 1853. The Cormorant was also an integral part of the November 1994 expedition to recover the ship's bell from the wreck of SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.

She was decommissioned on 2 July 1997 and sold to United States owners for diving operations. The ship underwent conversion to an offshore support vessel in 1998 and later in 2000 was docked in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. In March 2015, due to the amount of ice on deck, the ship developed a severe list and partially sank.

For the locals, the ship has been a constant eyesore while docked in the Port of Bridgewater. Many legal battles have occurred over the vessel, between the Port of Bridgewater, a Texas based company and the Federal Government about who actually has ownership of the former navy ship and who should pay for clean-up from oil leakages.

In 2019 a risk assessment was prepared stating that the ship was now an imminent threat of pollution with an estimate of 6500 litres of oil and 8500 litres of oil-contaminated water in machinery spaces, bilges and other compartments.

Finally, under The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, it was planned that the former HMCS Cormorant would be removed from the Port of Bridgewater, at a cost to the tax-payers of between $1.8 and $2.4 million.

The removal was today, I got to view the ship as she left the LaHave River estuary on its way to Sheet Harbour on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, to be broken up for recycle at R.J. MacIsaac Construction Ltd.

I know for the folks of Bridgewater and the South Shore, the HMCS Cormorant was something that was ugly and very much an offensive nightmare to their town and region, but as I watched the ship go by me this afternoon under tow from two tugs, I was filled with sadness for the ship, she looked tired, extremely neglected and definitely derelict, while on her way to an appointment with the executioner.

Update from March 2021 ~

The photo below is of HMCS Cormorant at berth in Sheet Harbour on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. It appears the process of breaking the ship up has begun ~ Canadian tax dollars at work …!!!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Remembrance Day 2020 ~ Bridgewater

This morning, I attended the Remembrance Service in Bridgewater. I reckon out of the dozens of such events like this I have been to over the years in Scotland, Spain (done by the British Consulate in Bilbao, Vizcaya) and Canada, this was the warmest, in beautiful sunshine the temperature must have been 20°C or above.

This year the ceremony was very much scaled down due to the on-going Covid-19 situation, but that did not take anything away from the observance to the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country.

I recall last year in my blog about ...

"Remembrance Day 2019 ~ Bridgewater" ~

... I said “…. the best Remembrance Service I have ever attended.” Once again, for a town of its size (Pop. 8500), this year’s ceremony was well organised and very impressive ~ Well done to all those involved.


Below are some photos taken at this mornings event ~

WWII RAF Ferry Command, Newfoundland

On this Remembrance Day, I would like to highlight a lesser known military service of WWII ~ RAF Ferry Command. Without their contributions and sacrifices, there is no doubt the eventual outcome of the war would have been much delayed

Often when I plan a holiday or a visit to some new location, I always check for a nearby Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery or memorial site to visit, I will then do research to learn of its war related history. When I visit such a place, I find it extremely rewarding to spend whatever time is required or available to pause and reflect at each gravestone or engraved inscription. I am often struck with much sadness, that many of those with whom I am honoured to be in the presence of, rest in a far off and sometimes remote locations from their homeland, which all too often are well beyond the reach of their families. Those thoughts however are tempered in the knowledge that out of the bitterness and horrors of war, they find perfect peace buried together as comrades, who all endured an equal and tragic loss, to rest in a place and location which will always be respected and eternally cared for.

On one of our past wanders across Canada’s east coast, we made a memorable visit to Newfoundland in June 2014. The province correctly known as Newfoundland and Labrador is geographically the most eastern part on the American continent. Many may not know or have simply forgotten, that Newfoundland was once a political extension of Britain and like their one-time home country, they drove on the left side of the road. In 1907, Newfoundland acquired Dominion status which allowed self-governing within the British Empire or British Commonwealth. This all changed as of the 31 March 1949, when after a referendum they officially became part of what was then The Dominion of Canada.

Our itinerary for the Newfoundland visit was to take us across the whole island. A visit to the fjords of Gros Morne on the province’s West Labrador coast, followed by an opportunity to absorb the culture of the north coast known as Iceberg Alley, with its remote rugged friendly fishing hamlets, then a final stop to the Avalon Peninsula and St Johns, with its rich history dating back to the first European settlements in 1610.

Before any of that, our first stop and priority for me was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery at Gander in the north eastern part of the island. The cemetery is located on the edge of the town, adjacent to the perimeter fence of the famous Gander International Airport, for decades an airport known by many as a refueling stopover for those flying commercially from Europe to North America.

Although Newfoundland offers many war grave locations particularly in the capital region of St Johns where many naval (Merchant, Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy) graves exist, it was Gander that got me most interested. All casualties in the cemetery were directly associated to the activities of the Royal Air Force Ferry Command, a lesser known service of the war, which generally does not get much coverage or recognition.

At this point, I would like to pick up on my line of ~ “a lesser known service of the war which generally does not get much coverage or recognition”. ~ All too often at moments of remembrance or times of significant anniversaries, we get steered or focused on the casualties and sacrifices of those who gave their life while in the direct sight of enemy guns or artillery, or in the air above occupied countries, or on the oceans dealing with the menace of the U-Boats. Indeed, they should always be remembered, but there were many others, who gave their life in the lesser known services of the war, who should also deserve our equal moments of reflection and remembrance. Without those other associated military services, the war could possibly not  have been won or at best been very much prolonged.

The RAF Ferry Command was set up on 20th July 1941 in response to the desperate need for Britain to be supplied with military aircraft from the far-off factories of Canada and the United States. Prior to Ferry Command, aircraft purchased in North America by Britain were flown to airports in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where they would be partially dis-assembled and then loaded on ships to be transported across the Atlantic to Britain. Upon arrival they were unloaded and re-assembled, a process which took several weeks, or even longer if repairs were required to damaged shipments. In addition to the huge disadvantage of the time required for sea shipment, there was also the constant threat from German U-Boat operations in the North Atlantic, a hazardous menace to the merchant fleets and conveys, who left Canada’s east coast during the what was known as the Battle of the Atlantic. Many aircraft and tons of other much needed and valuable supplies went down in vast numbers with the ships of the merchant fleet and their brave crews.

After the introduction of RAF Ferry Command, aircraft were first transported to Dorval Airport in Montreal, then flown to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station at Gander. From there single engine aircraft would be flown via Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and onto Prestwick in Scotland. Larger multi-engine aircraft could be flown directly from Gander to airfields in Ireland, Scotland and England. This was certainly pioneering work when you consider that before Ferry Command, as few as a hundred aircraft had ever attempted a North Atlantic crossing in good weather, with only about half ever making it. Over the course of the war, more than 9000 aircraft were ferried across the ocean. By the end of the conflict, crossing the Atlantic had become a routine operation presaging the inauguration of regular scheduled commercial air services.

In preparation for my visit to Newfoundland I had obtained a complete casualty list with details of those buried at the CWGC Cemetery in Gander. The list contained a total of 100 names of which 75 were from the RCAF (including one American), 23 from Britain (18 from the RAF, 4 from BOAC and one Royal Engineer) and 2 Australians’ from the RAAF. Most of the men (69 in number) buried in the cemetery, were killed as a result of 17 aircraft crashes and accidents. Other deaths were attributed to natural causes, some to vehicle accidents. One soldier was accidentally shot and two were drowned while sailing on Gander Lake.

As I read through the list, I came across the name “Graeme” my name, which is the rare Scottish spelling of the more common “Graham”, but this one belonging to Graeme Hamilton Thomson. By further investigation, I learned that he was from Edinburgh and was in fact the only Scotsman on the list, a Pilot Officer with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve with service number 125886. Graeme was killed on 6th December 1942, aged 22, the son of Thomas and Marion Oliver Thomson of Edinburgh, Scotland. For no other reason than the coincidence of name and I suppose our shared culture, I was motivated to find out more about Graeme and the events and circumstances relating to his death. From the cemetery casualty list, I discovered that three others had the same date of death ~

Douglas Percy Charles Simmons, service number 1334966, aged 21, Pilot Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of Percy Charles Lancaster Simmons and Alice Violet Emma Simmons of 125 Hervey Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, England.

And the only two Australians on the list ~

Ronald George Stanley Burrows, service number 401898, aged 27, Flying Officer, Royal Australian Air Force. The son of George and Doris Burrows and husband of Adeline Grace Burrows of Moonee Ponds, Victoria, Australia.

Jack Eric Fazel, service number 405399, aged 25, Sergeant, Royal Australian Air Force. The son of Thomas Francis and Maria Fazel of Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia.

Further investigation found that the crew of four had been tasked with the delivery of a newly manufactured Lockheed Hudson Mk VI (Serial No. FK690) to Britain. The fateful flight took off from RCAF Station Gander at 3.51am on Sunday 6th December 1942, but unfortunately instantly crashed. The official accident reports states ~ “the aircraft stalled immediately after takeoff and crashed in flames, killing all aboard.” The following day, the 7th December 1942 at 5.00pm, a funeral service was held for the four casualties from Hudson FK690.

Lockheed Hudsons are prepared for their trans-Atlantic ferry flights at Gander, Newfoundland. At left, one is being refueled for the journey, while two aircraft facing the camera undergo engine checks. The five aircraft facing the runway are ready for the flight and a final Hudson can be seen about to land after flying from the main Ferry Command airport at Dorval, Montreal, Quebec

At that time of the FK690 incident, it was not uncommon for the wreckage of such aircraft to remain untouched, often due to their remote and difficult location or the crash site was viewed as a war grave and therefore should remain untouched. Today there is very little evidence of Hudson FK690 still visible at the location close to the end of the current Gander Airport runway, which is only a very short distance from the CWGC Cemetery. The main section of the wreckage was removed years after the crash to make way for the expansion of the Trans-Canada Highway. Below are photographs kindly provided by Newfoundland resident Lisa Daly of the Historic Aviation Committee and Memorial University of Newfoundland, of what remains of Hudson FK690 located adjacent to the lane that leads to the CWGC cemetery ~

The CWGC cemetery is located on the outskirts of Gander just off the Trans-Canada Highway and is accessed via a heavily wooded dirt track lane. The site is a well-kept and is in a sectioned off area within the shared ground of a civilian/public cemetery. The cemetery list identifies each grave by a row and grave number, the actual site has only a hint of organized rows and unlike most other CWGC sites throughout the world, it has little adherence to a disciplined or uniformed grave spacing, in fact it is very random in appearance. The gravestones are a standard GWGC size but cut from a heavy looking grey stone, with each having well-maintained black engravings.

For those of us who have had the enormous honour and privilege of visiting a CWGC site, we know from our experiences that time must be spent quietly with our thoughts. For me it has become customary as a mark of respect to pause at each gravestone, it is the very least I can do. I carefully read each and every inscription which evokes images of mothers and fathers lamenting lost sons, wives mourning their husbands and emotional thoughts of children growing up without their fathers. I am always struck by the tender ages of those I visit in CWGC cemeteries. I think about the responsibility and duty that was thrust upon them, the sacrifice they made and then I question, if at the same age, could I have done the same. No longer are they merely images on a grainy black and white newsreel film from a long time ago, they are here and the tremendous sense of loss is real. I will never allow myself to forget what each of them gave up, the missed years, the absent life experiences which we all take for granted, and the loved ones they left behind.

Below are photographs of the CWGC Cemetery showing some of the 100 CWGC graves ~

On 13th June 2014, in remembrance of the crew of Hudson FK690, I placed a poppy at each of their graves ~ Graeme Hamilton Thomson (RAF Volunteer Reserve) navigator on the flight, Douglas Percy Charles Simmons (RAF Volunteer Reserve) co-pilot on the flight, Ronald George Stanley Burrows (RAAF) pilot on the fight and Jack Eric Fazel (RAAF) radio operator on the flight.


Below is an early photograph sourced from the Australian National Archives showing the grave of Ronald George Stanley Burrows (RAAF) ~ 

Although their service does not often get a fair share of “coverage or recognition”, what they do share in equal abundance, with nearly two million other Commonwealth casualties from both WWI and WWII is their sacrifice, their lost years, their grieving families and their eternal hope that they will always be remembered.

Of the other 90 plus within the CWGC site at Gander, 15 RCAF lost their life as a result of a fire in St Johns on 12th December 1942. The only servicemen buried there who lost their lives as a result of direct enemy action were three members of the RCAF, they were aboard the SS Caribou which was sunk by a German U-Boat in the Cabot Strait on 14 October 1942. They are ~

Aircraftsman 2nd Class, Thomas Cummings, age 20, Toronto, Ontario

Cpl. Hebert Elkin, age 24, Hamilton, Ontario

Aircraftsman 2nd Class Lawrence Truesdale, age 22, Hamilton, Ontario


A grave of particular interest which stands out from the rest, is that of Lieutenant Colonel Lancelot Townley Grove who was killed 9 February 1943, aged 37. He is the only Royal Engineer buried at the Gander CWGC site. Born 22 August 1905, he was the son of Colonel Percy Lynes Grove and Lorina Harriette Grove of Tenterden, Kent, England, husband of Joan Blanche Grove, of Camberley, Surrey, England and father to David.

More can be read about Lancelot Townley Grove by hitting the following Wikipedia link ~

According to information from the Roll of Honour at his school, Charterhose in Godalming, Surrey, England, in January 1943 just a month before he was killed, Lancelot was a in the presence of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as a member of the secretariat at the Casablanca conference.

On the 7 February 1943, Lancelot Townley Grove departed Prestwick, Scotland, en route to Washington DC via Gander, Newfoundland. The flight with 21 on board, was in a Liberator (Serial number AL591) from the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Return Ferry Service. Due to severe headwinds over the Atlantic, the aircraft consumed much more fuel than expected. In addition to that, a snow storm at Gander had developed which severely restricted all air traffic. With the snow reducing visibility to almost zero, all expected aircraft were being advised and directed to divert to an alternate airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

After failing an initial approach to Gander and not having enough fuel for a diversion to Nova Scotia, the captain advised the crew and passengers that he would try one more approach and if he missed again, he would climb to 10,000ft and give the order to bail out. However, the fuel situation was even more critical than the captain realized and during a sharp turn to line up his second approach, two of the four engines cut out, sending the aircraft down to the frozen ground eight miles east of the airport.

Two days later early on 11 February, when rescuers located the aircraft wreckage, they found of the 21 on board, 18 were dead including the 5 crew members. The three who survived the crash were Capt. King Parker, F/O Paul Ableson and Pilot-Sergeant Graham Pollard. Tragically Pilot-Sergeant Pollard died in hospital two days later on 13 February.

The dead included 11 from Great Britain, 5 from Canada and 3 from the United States of America. Of them, 12 were civilians who flew aircraft for Ferry Command, 5 were members of the RAF, 2 were members of the RCAF and one was a British Army officer (Lieutenant Colonel Lancelot Townley Grove). Included in the 12 civilians were four crew members of BOAC.

The crash of Liberator AL591 on 9 February, 1943, was the largest loss of life at Gander during the war. Initially the 19 who died were all buried in the CWGC site, later after the war the three American personnel were disinterred, with their remains being returned to the USA. The 16 who rest in Gander including Lancelot Townley Grove are ~

The Crew ~

F/O Frederick Brown, Navigator, RAF

G.P.M. Eves, Captain, BOAC

T.R. Harmes, Pilot, BOAC

J.D. Jones, Radio Operator, BOAC

J.B. Merriman, Flight Engineer, BOAC

The Passengers ~

L/Col Lancelot Townley Grove, Royal Engineers, UK.

Sgt-P James Elding, Pilot, RAF

Sgt Wilton Kyle, Navigator, RCAF

P/O Howel Lewis, Pilot, RAF

Ernest Longley, Civilian Flight Engineer, Ferry Command

P/O David Owen, Pilot, RAF

Sgt-P Graham Pollard, Pilot, RAF

F/O Robert Scott, Navigator, RCAF

Frederick Scrafton, RAF Radio Operator, Ferry Command

Reginald Wadsworth, Civilian Radio Operator, Ferry Command

Wilmot Wilson, Civilian Flight Engineer, Ferry Command

The following are entries from the Gander RCAF Station Diary relating to the Liberator AL591 incident ~

9 February ~

"An RAF Ferry Command Liberator AL591 from the United Kingdom arrived over the station at 2200 hrs. The ceiling was 200 feet with visibility zero owing to a heavy fall of sleet. The pilot of the aircraft was in contact with the tower and reported that his gasoline gauge had stuck and he did not know how much fuel he had left. Owing to the long crossing caused by strong head winds, the pilot stated he could not reach Sydney (Nova Scotia) and was going to land. The last message was received at 2315 hrs, after the Liberator had passed over the station at 100 ft. during an attempt to land. Contact was suddenly lost and it is feared the aircraft was forced down. A search will be organized immediately if weather permits."

11 February ~ 

"Clear weather with all aircraft out at dawn on a search for Liberator AL591. The crashed aircraft was found early in the morning by a Harvard. It was about eight miles from the station, upon aircraft on skis landing in the vicinity, three men were found alive and were immediately given medical aid and brought to the Station Hospital. One of the three survivors, Sgt G.P. Pollard, later died in the hospital, which brought the total casualties in this crash to nineteen. The two men who are in the hospital do not appear to be suffering any serious injuries."


The following is a Latin phrase meaning "Through Adversity to the Stars", which is the official motto of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force ~



Below are words taken from a plaque located within the Imperial War Museum in London ~

1940 ~ 1946














Other related blogs ~


Hugh Wright


Remembered 100 years on


The Lost Voices of WWII RAF/RCAF Greenwood


The Lost Voices of WWI Middleton and District


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth ..


One of many, remembered today …

Remembrance Day 2016 ~ Halifax


Remembrance Day 2017 ~ Lunenburg


Remembrance Day 2019 ~ Bridgewater


Remembrance Day 2020 ~ Bridgewater