I was 17

Norm never expected his 15 seconds of fame…

He said this on my new Facebook page on No. 7 B&G

Like this photo.

I can spot the barracks I slept in and the hangar I worked in…. and the canteen we drank beer in.

I was 17.

 I told Norm I would give him 15 minutes of fame when his scanner is all fixed up.

I hope I won’t have to wait 67 years.

Meeting Norm is just like going back in time with Eugene whom I never met and about whom I  knew nothing until I started conducting research of that unsung hero… a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot who flew for 23 Squadron.

Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

LAC Norm Pringle was there…

I got an e-mail from Norm Pringle.

Norm Pringle was a LAC at No.7 Bombing and Gunnery School.

It took him 67 years to hear from someone who knew something about No. 7 B&G in Paulson, Manitoba.

I have been only waiting since 2010 to meet someone who had met Eugene Gagnon when he was a staff pilot over there.

Flight Sergeant Eugene Gagnon

He most certainly met Eugene Gagnon when he was a dispatcher.

LAC Norm Pringle

This was on  Norm Pringle’s Website…


As told to: Hobart K. Kistler, Sept. 2010 – (69 years later)
By: Norm “Crash” Pringle

A native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Mr. Pringle was born there on December 9, 1923. “I flunked out of the first grade of high school,” he says, “and the chance to get a job was rare. Well, my dad had been in World War I, and he always said I’d be in the next one to come around.”

With the Dominion of Canada involved in the Second World War since 1939, Mr. Pringle was well aware that there was a war on. American ‘bush pilots’, eager to get in on the fighting, were a common sight at airfields along the Canadian border; many Canadian men had already joined up as well. As such, in the summer of 1941, Mr. Pringle determined to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. “It was more to get paid and get three squares a day than out of patriotism,” he remarks of his decision to enlist.

Mr. Pringle was first ordered to report to #2 Manning Depot, Winnipeg, Manitoba. The 1,000-mile journey from Alberta was quite an adventure for a seventeen-year-old who had never strayed far from home. For a week, “they sorted things out,” Mr. Pringle remembers. “It was basic training in a sense, but nothing really serious. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was just getting underway, and they needed people to man the training facilities. Since I had no established trade, they asked me if I knew how to work with Railroad Time. I said ‘yes’, and so they made me a dispatcher.”

Mr. Pringle was assigned to duty at #7 Bombing and Gunnery School, at Paulson, Manitoba. The airfield serviced about 25 aircraft which were used by pilots and airmen to acquire the skills necessary for combat. “A plane would be sent up, flying a sort of drogue 600 yards behind, and the practicing gunners tried to shoot that target.” Mr. Pringle’s work involved mainly “assigning the pilots and gunners to planes, and getting the necessary signatures to see that the towing had been serviced. It was a big responsibility for a kid without a high school diploma.” He remained at #7 for nearly three years, facilitating the training of numerous pilots and gunners, perhaps half of whom were Americans. “It was all very much like the motion picture Captains of the Clouds,” he observes. (The movie referenced was a 1942 film starring James Cagney as a middle aged ‘bush pilot’ training at a BCATP base.)

“It was a good assignment,” Mr. Pringle says of his time at #7. “We didn’t have much to do, except go into this little town (Dauphin) and go to dances and get drunk. The men often sang songs, such as the British servicemen’s favorite, Bless ‘Em All, into which Mr. Pringle admits he and his cohorts often substituted a more colorful verb for ‘bless’! The chorus went:

Bless ’em all, bless ’em all
The long and the short and the tall
Bless all the sergeants and W.O. Ones
Bless all the corp’rals and their blinking sons
For we’re saying good-bye to them all
As back to their billets they crawl
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads Bless ’em all!

One day an aviator accidentally walked into a spinning propeller directly in front of Mr. Pringle’s office. The man was killed instantly, reminding the men that although not on the front lines, no one was guaranteed to come out of the war alive. For Mr. Pringle, another accident nearly cost him his life.

“We had a kid with appendicitis who needed to be flown down to Winnipeg for surgery,” he relates. “Since I had to dispatch the plane, I thought, ‘I’ll take a ride myself.’ In the end there were about seven or eight people jammed into that little Cessna; it was a terrible day, snowing very hard.” Things didn’t really start to go sour until the plane was in transit to Winnipeg. Mr. Pringle remembers exactly what transpired that day: “The pilot lost his way; he couldn’t find the airport in all that snow. To make matters worse, we were running out of gas just flying around in circles trying to find the airport. Finally, he saw it, but as we were getting ready to land, the engine conked out. The pilot said, ‘Hang on boys; we’re gonna make a rough landing!’. We crashed on a roadway near the airport, and the plane ended up upside down. We got out of the wreck ran like hell to get away before the fuel caught on fire and it exploded. Just then, we realized that the patient, who had been the only one wearing a seatbelt, was still in the plane. We ran back and found him hanging upside down inside. When we unhooked him he fell to the bottom of the plane, and we got him out. Amazingly, no one was hurt except one guy who had gotten the hook on his parachute jammed into his head; it was bleeding all over, bud he didn’t die. Fortunately the ground crew from the airport had seen us go down, and they were there to help us.” Resultant from his surviving the wreck, Mr. Pringle was given the nickname ‘Crash’ Pringle, an appellation that has stuck with him for over 65 years.

Mr. Pringle returned to duty at #7 for a time, before being ordered to “a secret new radar station being established at Spring Cove on Vancouver Island. It was in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t even know what radar was, but I thought it was rather like going on a vacation to the seashore!

“I don’t know why they sent me, a dispatcher, to a base with no planes,” he continues, “and they wouldn’t tell us anything about the radar, so I had to get creative to find a job for myself. The base had no PX (Post Exchange) or even anything where the 100 guys there could buy cokes or cigarettes, so I started a canteen. I sold beer, cigarettes, coke—whatever they wanted, and since I knew how to run a 16mm movie projector, I made up a little theater and showed one movie a week.

“There wasn’t much else to do on that rugged coast,” Mr. Pringle explains. “Sometimes we went on hikes, but it rained a lot, and there was only one boat a week to the fishing village of Ucluelet, where we got supplies. Oh, and they had a motor transport garage on the post, but seeing as there were no roads and they only had one truck, there wasn’t much reason for it. That just goes to show how the military wastes a lot of resources!”
Adjacent to the outpost was a group of abandoned houses that had been inhabited by Japanese fishermen before the war; however, as in America, they were quickly removed to internment camps following Pearl Harbor. The extra housing allowed for the wives of several of the soldiers to travel to Vancouver and stay near their husbands.

In the war’s final year, Mr. Pringle was sent up to Port Hardy, on the island’s northern end, where he was stationed for two months before the imminent conclusion of hostilities precipitated another transfer to #2 Wireless School in his hometown of Calgary. There, as at Spring Cove, he showed movies at the base’s PX.

Just prior to VJ Day, Cpl. Pringle was discharged and allowed to return home, which he did. Of his activities after the war, he says, “In those days you were allowed to wear your uniform for a year after you were discharged, so I put mine back on and hitchhiked to Hollywood. It was so easy, being in uniform; everybody treated me very well. The Hollywood USO Canteen put me up for a month, while I hobnobbed with all kinds of famous people. Among others, I met (then-Lt. Col.) Jack Warner, of WarnerBrothers, who later became my boss.

Mr. Pringle returned to Calgary to work as a radio announcer for station CJCJ. One day a man walked in and asked if there was an opening for an announcer. Mr. Pringle interviewed the man and gave him a job. The man’s name was Leslie Nielsen, and he was very glad to have been given a start in the entertainment business by a fellow RCAF veteran. Mr. Pringle later worked as an audio engineer in Hollywood, on movies and television shows such as The Waltons. He retired in 1983. As to his days in the RCAF, he remarks that “I can’t say I won the war; it was just one big party really (running the canteen at Spring Cove). I never wanted a rifle in my hands, so I guess you might call me ‘chicken’, but I feel that I did my part.”

67 years later, Norm is doing his part in paying homage to these brave men.


Kenneth G. Roberts DFC, CD

Little is known about Squadron Leader Ken Roberts.

I looked him up on Google.

Not much.

But since he received a DFC, I knew where to look.

 Click here…

ROBERTS, P/O Kenneth Godfrey (J89779)

– Distinguished Flying Cross

No.158 Squadron

– Award effective 15 March 1945 as per London Gazette dated 27 March 1945 and AFRO 1085/45 dated 29 June 1945.

Born 1922 in Toronto; home there (student); enlisted there 6 May 1942.  Trained at No.5 ITS (graduated 10 October 1942), No.5 BGS (graduated 28 May 1943) and No.1 CNS (graduated 9 July 1943).  Commissioned August 1944.

Postwar he was a Public Relations staff officer, prolific writer and ardent canoist.  Died in Ottawa, 10 July 1997.

This officer has taken part in a large number of operational sorties as air bomber.  He has done excellent work and in the face of the enemy he has always displayed coolness and resolution.  In October 1944 he was detailed to attack Sterkrade in daylight.  As the aircraft neared the target it was hit by anti-aircraft fire and a splinter pierced the windscreen, narrowing missing this officer.  Other pieces damaged the oil tanks, fuselage and mainplane. Undeterred, however, Pilot Officer Roberts coolly completed his allotted tasks.

NOTE: Public Records Office Air 2/9050 has recommendation dated 15 December 1944 with sortie list and a more detailed text than that which was published.

9 June 44  Laval (5.31)                          Bombed in cloud

12 June 44  Amiens (4.50)                      Successful attack

14 June 44  Evrecy (4.54)                        Bombed as ordered

16 June 44  Sterkrade (4.09)                  Attacked in cloud

17 June 44  St.Martin l’Hortier (3.30)      Bombed target

22 June 44  Siracourt (3.45)                    First daylight operation

23 June 44  Oisemont (3.25)                   Bombed aiming point

24 June 44  Le Grand Rossignol (3.27)                 do.

27 June 44  Marquise Mimoyecques (3.43)          do.

28 June 44  Wizernes (3.05)                                   do.

30 June 44  Villers Bocage (3.47)          Very concentrated bombing

18 July 44    Caen H.1 (3.58)                   Completed sortie

20 July 44    Ardouval II (4.02)                  Recalled by Master Bomber

23 July 44    Les Catelliers (3.41)            Successful attack

25 July 44    Wanne Eickel (4.33)            Bombed through cloud

29 July 44    Foret de Nieppe (3.52)       Successful attack

1 Aug 44      Chapelle Notre Dame (4.02)              Recalled by Master Bomber

3 Aug 44      Bois de Casson (4.37)        Successful attack

5 Aug 44      Foret de Nieppe (3.39)       Bombed as ordered

6 Aug 44      Foret de Nieppe (3.16)       Duty carried out

7 Aug 44      TOTALIZER 3 (4.35)           Bombed as ordered

9 Aug 44      Bois de la Haie (3.42)         Successful

11 Aug 44   Ferfay (3.50)                         Bombed aiming point; flak damage

14 Aug 44   TRACTABLE 21A (4.04)    Duty carried out

15 Aug 44   Eindhoven (3.30)                 Bombed airfield

16 Aug 44   Kiel (4.19)                             Bombed through cloud

18 Aug 44   Sterkrade (4.26)                 do.

25 Aug 44   Brest (Point des Espagnoles) (5.48)  Duty carried out

27 Aug 44   Homberg (4.22)                   Bombed target

3 Sept 44    Soesterburg (3.08)              Successful attack

25 Sept 44  Calais (2.39)                        Bombed in cloud

26 Sept 44  Calais (3.28)                        Successful

30 Sept 44  Bottrop (4.30)                       Bombed in cloud

6 Oct 44       Sterkrade (4.18)                  Bombed as ordered

7 Oct 44       Kleve (4.03)                          Successful

14 Oct 44    Duisburg (5.25)                    Bombed as ordered

15 Oct 44    Duisburg (5.25)                    Bombed in cloud

15 Oct 44    Wilhelmshaven (3.33)          Successful attack

23 Oct 44    Essen (5.17)                         Bombed in cloud

On 6th October 1944, Pilot Officer Roberts was Air Bomber in a Halifax III aircraft detailed from No.158 Squadron to attack Sterkrade in daylight. As the aircraft neared the target it was buffeted by shell bursts and then, as Pilot Officer Roberts started his course directions for the bombing run, another burst peppered the aircraft with shell splinters. One piece went through the perspex in the nose and narrowly missed this officer, and others damaged oil tanks, fuselage and main planes. In spite of this, however, Pilot Officer Roberts cooly continued to direct the bombing run, and his photograph proves that he straddled the aiming point.

On 11th August 1944, on a daylight attack on Ferfay, Pilot Officer Roberts again returned an aiming point photograph when bombing from an aircraft severely damaged by flak on the run up.

Throughout an eventual tour of 39 sorties this Air Bomber has done excellent work. His keen offensive spirit has been an inspiring influence in his crew and in his section.  On the ground and in the air he has been an asset to the squadron.  It is recommended that Pilot Officer Roberts’ excellent record of courage, bombing efficiency and unfailing devotion to duty be recognized by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

This struck me…

He was a Public Relations staff officer, prolific writer and ardent canoist.  

Died in Ottawa, 10 July 1997.

But this WWII veteran is almost unknown on the WWW…

To be continued…

Use it, or any part thereof, as you see fit…

Sometimes I undertake to write about something which leads me to uncharted areas. This is one of them.

I bought this book at the RCAF Trenton Museum.

I was on the return trip after going to Hamilton to pay a little visit to George Stewart and going to the RCAF Dunnville Museum before returning home.

This little book was just $2, but it is much more precious than that.

This is was in the book as an attached letter.

This is what Squadron Leader Ken Roberts wrote at the end of his letter… 

Use it, or any part thereof, as you see fit…

On the original letter it is written, answered 29 September 1993.

I figure Captain Earl Hewison wrote back.

This book is an answer to the documentary The Horror and the Glory.

Ken Roberts was probably thinking of The Valor and the Horror documentary series.

To be continued…