Tommy Smith’s Diaries

RAF 23 Squadron

Yesterday Peter sent me some of his father’s diaries to read.

Tommy Smith 1


I have just started. 

It’s not easy to read because I stop all the time wanting to know all the names of unknown places and other kind of info I read.

Like Babbacombe… Never heard of it!

Diary excerpt…

We climbed aboard buses, and were taken up and down the long, tree-enclosed hills of Devon to Babbacombe, two or three miles North along the coast, and from the bus I saw my pal from home, who had been in the machine for a week or so; and that was the nearest I ever got to speaking with him, though we were neighbours for a fortnight.

and No. 2 I.T.W. Cambridge. What’s I.T.W?

Diary excerpt…

On arriving then at St John’s then we were issued with a white ‘peak’, a handbook, PT kit and a green-brown camouflaged…

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Nothing fell off, whizzo!

Great writing and great reading…

Flt Lt James Evans Jenkins

One of Dad’s favourite words was whizzo, although I often heard him say wizard (way before Harry Potter made his appearance). And in the next page of Dad’s logbook (March 1-12, 1943), he uses the whizzo word when referring to a plane – a Hurricane IIC.

During March 1943, he was still stationed with No.2 A.D.U. (Aircraft Delivery Unit) and seemed to be doing mostly what he was doing in February, 1943 – flying around delivering aircraft at different landing grounds in North Africa. At least this is what I’m presuming from his logbook and some research. I read somewhere that new aircraft and/or replacement planes were delivered from factories to the R.A.F.

If this is the case, then I’m not sure how Dad got back to wherever No 2 A.D.U. was stationed. You know, these are all the sorts of things you wish you’d asked when younger. I spent…

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No. 2 A.D.U.

The blog about Flt Lt James Evans Jenkins is back.

Flt Lt James Evans Jenkins

Okay so I’m back and ready to take up this blog and WWII adventures of my Dad again. For the dedicated reader (apart from Pierre and John!), I’ve been working in Rome, Italy for the last few months. Sounds exotic eh? I worked there for 2.5 months last year – for a specialised agency of the United Nations – and was asked back for a second stint.

So where were we? The last log entry focused on No. 1 Aircraft Delivery Unit (A.D.U.) where Dad was posted in January, 1943 following completion of his fighter pilot training with 71 Operational Training Unit (71 O.T.U) at the end of December 1942. Seems that Dad was at No.1 A.D.U. for the month of January, 1943 – well, not even one month because his first log entry is January 14th. He seems to have left 71 O.T.U. on December 23, 1942. So guess…

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Message From Someone Aboard HMCS Haida on April 29, 1944

Sherry Pringle wanted to help me. She is the author of this book.


She sent me the e-mail address of a sailor who was aboard HMCS Haida on April 29, 1944.

This is what he wrote about my wife’s uncle being rescued by HMCS Haida and not being on the “list”.

I am very sorry that I cannot help you.

When we got the survivors on board they were covered with dirty oil from head to foot and all we could do was to wash them down and give them our blankets to wrap themselves in.

Screwey things happened during that period. He could very well have been on the ship without a official record of him being maintained.

Source: Unlucky Lady

The more you learn, the more you want to find out… and share.


Another pilot someone is researching.

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

180th article about RCAF No. 403 Squadron, and it’s not over by all means…

Someone has written about another pilot, Charles Thornton.

He is in this picture.


That was the name file for this picture Peter Lecoq sent me a few months ago when he found my blog. He had some pictures that he had found on his hard disk.

In this picture, Charles Thornthon was just a face and a name…

Now, he is much much more because Francis in Belgium is writing something about Charles Thornton.

It’s going to be a great story that will pay homage to this pilot and to the Belgian man who helped him escaped from the Germans for a while before Charles Thornton was finally captured.

When Francis is all done, he is going to send me a copy in French, and I will translate it for you.

So you see, this…

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Checking the Pipes

In 2009, Pierre Bachant did not say much about the sinking, but he talked a little bit about the pipes.


How come my wife’s uncle would know about the pipes if he had made up a story about being in the engine room on April 29, 1944?

I took this picture in 2011 when I visited HMCS Haida in Hamilton to look for pipes.

Then I went searching the Internet for pipes and Admiralty Three-drum boiler…  and found these.



My wife’s uncle was telling us that they used to drop steel balls into the pipes to see if they were clogged.

How can someone make that up?

Hard to make up such a story. So even if his name is not on the “official” list of sailors on board that fateful day of April 29, 1944, just like Ernest Anderson’s name, now I can safely assume my wife’s uncle was on board HMCS Athabaskan on April 29, 1944, and that he never made that story up.

Of course I knew it all along that he was not making this story up back in 2009, but I just needed someone’s help to confirm his story.

Karen did, and without knowing it, was a great help.

My dad should be on the lists of men that survived the sinking, but he is not. I have his original records but they are almost unlegible now. Does anyone know if records are still available?

Lest We Forget: Looking for the Needle in the Haystack

Lest We Forget: Looking for the Needle in the Haystack

247th article on this blog since August 2009.

I will always remember this scene.

My wife’s uncle sitting on a sofa in my brother-in-law’s living room in Monkland, Ontario. Strangely enough I can’t remember if we were in July or August 2009.

What I remember though is what my wife’s uncle said when we started talking about WWII. The subject came up when we were talking about his brother Jean.

Jean was wounded on D-Day. These are D-Day pictures from Wayne Silver’s collection.

HMCS Iroquois G89

Who is Wayne Silver? Click here.

Getting back to this story… which started in 2009, I had little to go on. 

Only this picture of Pierre Bachant taken in 1947.

I have looked at the group picture over and over again since 2009 to find someone who would look like him.

I never could find him in.

Now, thanks to Karen’s comment last week, where she wanted some help, I think I found him…

This is a long shot I know, but just like Karen’s father who did not talk much about the war and who was also not on the “list” found in the book Unluck Lady, Pierre Bachant and Ernest Anderson lives intertwine in 2012.

My wife’s uncle told us he enlisted in the navy, but that he had lied on his age. He was only 16. He got second thoughts about it and told his father. His father told him he would go to prison, so he decided to stay in the navy.

Pierre Bachant, 16, would find himself in the engine room on that fateful day of April 29, 1944.

He was writing a letter when all hell broke loose.

Who is Sherry Pringle? Click here.


The Needle in the Haystack

I believe I have found my wife’s uncle in the group picture of the sailors of HMCS Athabaskan.

I had little to go on. This picture taken in 1947.

I have looked at the group picture over and over again since 2009 to find someone who would look like him.

I think this is him…

This is a long shot I know.

I will tell you how I came to this conclusion next time.

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

That is a fair comparison…

How to validate what my wife’s uncle said back in July 2009 at a family reunion?

His name was not in the Book.

I have looked at that picture a hundred times to find him.

The subject of WWII came up in the family reunion when my wife talked about another of her uncle, Jean Bachand, who was wounded on the beach of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

I was quite knowledgeable about WWII… so I thought!

HMCS Athabaskan did not participate in Operation Overlord. But I did not know that nor did I know anything about that ship, not even her name.

HMCS Athasbaskan G07

Jean Bachand, my wife’s uncle, died in 1964 from complications from his wounds he received on Juno Beach. He was a soldier with Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal regiment. Little is known in the family about his service record.

I knew very little about Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal regiment. What I have learned since then is that this regiment was not part of the invasion force on D-Day.

How could he have been on the beach?

I was told that most probably he had been temporarily transfered to another regiment that landed on Juno Beach.

Any how, he was wounded that’s for sure… You can’t make up such a story.

Pierre Bachant, Jean’s brother, was listening to all this quietly at the family reunion. He was the reason why we got together. Pierre wanted to see his three nieces and his nephew. He was 81 years-old in 2009 and he knew he had little time left.

I did not know that.

Pierre Bachant carried a secret buried deep inside.

I did not know that.

He dropped the name of a ship… Athabaskan.

To be continued…, but before I leave…

Where is Karen’s father?

Leading Seaman E. Anderson, number 3530, from Edmonton, Alberta

As a footnote to this… I think I have finally found my wife’s uncle in the picture.

Thanks for Getting Back to Me

I always take the time to write back when you post a comment on this blog. I have learned since 2009 that it always pays to answer back.

This blog is not about money. I don’t need money to be online.

This blog is more about paying homage to all who served their country in WWII. They have paid their fair share.

Men like Leading Seaman Ernest Anderson from Edmonton, Alberta. Before Karen wrote, I never knew Leading Seaman Anderson had ever existed except on a list in a book about an unlucky Canadian destroyer.

Karen wrote last week and she was asking for some help.

My dad should be on the lists of men that survived the sinking, but he is not. I have his original records but they are almost unlegible now. Does anyone know if records are still available?

Back in July 2009, I did not know that HMCS Athabaskan had ever existed until my wife’s uncle opened up when WWII was brought up. 

The story is here to be read.

Getting back to Karen, I did not know she had the Book!

Unlucky Lady… and some information about a sailor who was in point of fact  the one responsible for this blog.

Karen’s father was Ernest (Ernie) Anderson. He can be seen in a picture found in the Book the same picture sent by Herm’s Sulker’s son last year.

Karen told me that her father was on the picture with all the men in rows around the gun.

What is most interesting is that Ernest Anderson is also on a list in the Book as a sailor on the ship, but not on the list of those on the ship the night of the sinking.

Karen told me she felt her father was on the ship that night. He did talk briefly about it to her and a bit more to her mom. Her father didn’t like to talk about it, but he had a friend that talked about it, which confirmed that he was on it.

Her father said that since he was a strong swimmer, he was able to get to the rescue ship and his hands were terribly burned from the burning fuel on the water. He was part of one of the gun crews. She thinks he may have been the leader of a certain gun crew, but she is not sure.

All of the men in his gun crew were killed immediately and he was thrown into the water. These were details he told her mom.

Karen wishes more young people would appreciate how important that war was, and the direct impact it had on how wonderful our lives are today.

To be continued…