Cape Bauld – Wartime Isolation – R.CA.F.
(Originally published in Canadian Military Biography, November 1989.)
During the Second World War our East Coast Air Defence Radar coverage was comprised of twenty low powered units deployed in a chain of overlapping arcs. Several sites were constructed in Newfoundland, which at the time was not yet Canadian territory. As such, it was considered an “Overseas” posting for those R.C.A.F. personnel assigned to the Radar Units (R.U.s).
Bill Lloyd was an airforce meteorologist who was “banished” to one of the more severely isolated stations, No. 30 RU, Cape Bauld, Nfld. In this memoir piece he describes the impact of living in a desolate and unforgiving environment of rock and muskeg, where drift-ice interrupted the fishing and wind velocities which could reach 120 m.p.h., stranded men at their posts.
The reader should bear in mind that during those dark days of 1942-43 Cape Bauld was no ‘safe berth’. Allied shipping was being sunk in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the landing of raiding parties from German U-Boats was considered a very real possibility. Demolition charges were standard issue at all of the secret radar sites in the chain.
My posting to Cape Bauld in the spring of 1943 came as a direct result of knocking a Squadron Leader on his derriere while riding a bicycle and carrying a rifle. Recent D.R.O.S had stipulated two things: first – that all personnel who worked shifts and were not required to parade to duty each morning were to keep their rifles and tin hats where they performed their duties; second – rifles were not to be carried while riding a bicycle. Being scheduled to work the midnight to eight shift in the Weather Office of the R.C.A.F. station at Yarmouth, N.S. one night, I figured I would take a chance and kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I picked up my rifle and tin hat, hopped on my bicycle and headed down the road from the barracks towards the Administration building where the Meteorological Office was located. Picking up speed on the downhill, I zoomed round the corner where the “accident” occurred and that’s where theS/L said “I’m getting rid of you if it’s the last thing I do.” as he picked himself up. It so happened that he was O.I.C. of the operations roomand the Met. Office and staff came under his realm of responsibility. In very short order word came through that L.A.C., L.W. Lloyd wasposted to No. 30 Detachment Overseas, situated at Cape Bauld, Newfoundland. Let the punishment fit the crime. The S/L had kept his word.
I had no idea where Cape Bauld was. For eighteen months I had been plotting weather information on maps and I knew the location of every Weather Station on the North American continent. Cape Bauld was not one of them. After a few inquiries and a good look at a map of Newfoundland, I discovered where I was bound. Cape Bauld is located on Quirpon Island off the northern tip of Newfoundland, approximately twenty miles south of Belle Isle and forty miles north of St. Anthony.
I was granted two weeks embarkation leave and told to report to Moncton for briefing, northern clothing issue, medical and dental checkups and transportation to Gander. At Moncton I joined two other Met. types, Stan Buchans and Ken Wilmer. We were to be flown to Gander by DCS and remain there for a few days beforeproceeding to Botwood by “Newfy Bullet”, the narrow guage railway of those days. At Botwood we were to join up with other personnel and proceed by R.C.A.F. crash-boat to Cape Bauld. While at Botwood we had the good fortune to take in the Edgar Bergen Show with Charlie, Mortimer and the girls.
It was at Gander that we learned we would be joined by a civilian Meteorological Officer, John Mokler, and under his direction, dismantle the Weather Station at Canada Bay and take the equipment to Cape Bauld to set up a new Weather Observing site and join the Radar and Wireless relay facilities already there.
The trip from Botwood to Cape Bauld was routine. We stayed at Canada Bay overnight after stripping the Weather Office. Sighting our first iceberg was exciting for most of us but they were to become routine in the days to come. On arrival at our destination we entered a quiet cove and tied up next to an R.C.A.F. supply ship, the Eskimo, which was anchored there. Our first glimpse of the station, our new home, was unnerving to say the least. Not a tree in sight. Mostly low bushes and moss growing on rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes. The camp up the valley from the cove consisted of a cluster of Quonset huts, one of which was the mess hall, Officers’ Quarters, a small recreation hall and a a quiet cove and tied up next to an R.C.A.F. supply ship, the Eskimo, which was anchored there. Our first glimpse of the station, our new home, was unnerving to say the least. Not a tree in sight. Mostly lowbushes and moss growing on rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes. The camp up the valley from the cove consisted of a cluster of Quonset huts, one of which was the mess hall, Officers’ Quarters, a small recreation hall and a five holer outhouse. Half way up the hill east of camp was the diesel power house with the wireless transmitter buildings, the Radar shack with transmitter/receiver on high ground along the north cliffs of the island. On the extreme east point was a lighthouse and the keeper’s home and buildings. The only vehicles on the island were a small caterpillar tractor for station use and a small Model “A” truck the lighthouse keeper had.
After unloading the Met. equipment, the crash-boat departed and all hands were assigned to stevedore duties off-loading the supply ship which had our year’s supply of food, fuel and other requiresome parcels. The Christmas run was especially looked forward to and worried about as the weather could close in for days, even weeks at a time, making it impossible to find us from the air.
I remember one drop in particular because we had been “socked in” for a long time and everybody was anxious for mail, especially Cpl. Sullivan, wireless operator, who was expecting a special letter from his girl. He took off after a bag which bounced down the valley and out onto the ice of the cove with “Sully” in hot pursuit. He caught it as the ice gave way and he stood up waist deep in ice cold water yelling, “I got it, I got it!” What he got was a bag full of rubber boots and a very bad cold.
Another drop brought one chap a parcel in which his wife had packed a bottle of rum in a hollowed-out loaf of bread. The bottle had broken when the parcel hit the ground but the bread was still wet with rum so he ate it. Another chap had a little joke going with his girl back in Montreal. She wrote on a regular basis always with blue ink but each month she would write with red to signify “alls well”. He would wave it and say, “Look boys, red again.” When the mail no longer contained the letter written in red, the poor devil didn’t know how to handle it. It was actually worse than a “Dear John Letter”. One drop was entirely lamb carcasses and containers of hamburg as our freezer had broken down and we lost all our meat. They bounced and kerplunked and splat just like the mail, but there wasn’t as much enthusiasm shown in retrieving them. On one run it had been decided in Gander to try a new idea. Everything breakable was packed in canisters and attached to small parachutes to prevent damage. They never did it again as the aircraft had to stay much higher to give the chutes a chance to open when released. What adisaster! A lot of the chutes didn’t open and those that did drifted out of sight over the hills into the next valley and some drifted out into the ocean. We were a long time tracking them down and getting them back to camp. Some were never found.
Soon after arriving at camp and getting settled in, an effort was made to come up with some outdoor recreational activities. Near camp was a small flat area roughly forty paces square with a fairly large “Gibraltar” shaped rock at one corner sloping up and away from the flat area. Around the flat area the land was fairly rough and filled with small boulders, some tufts of grass indicating sinkholes one to two feet deep and the rest covered with a low tangle of brush about ankle deep. Imagine going after a fly ball in that. This became our ball diamond with the rock behind home plate. With bats, balls and mitts sent in by the “Sally-arm” at Gander, we had scrub games any day the weather permitted and everyone enjoyed it. Except “Chuck” Doyle who liked to catch. We had a catcher’s mitt but no mask and a tipped ball hit Chuck in the mouth and broke his upper denture in two. He had to “gum-it” for a few weeks until a new plate dropped from the sky with the mail.
Our ball diamond was put to another use just once. The C.O. decided to have a Saturday morning inspection with dress uniforms, webbing, tin hats, gas masks and rifles. All personnel not on duty were required to attend and so about thirty of us showed up all spit and polish ready for inspection. Fit. Sgt. McKay was picked as marker as he was too tall to hide among the rest of us and we lined up on his right when told to fall-in. It was obvious almost immediately that not too many of us had been exposed to much drill. But we ended up in three rows of about ten men each and were ordered to stand at ease and stand at attention a couple of times and then the inspection took place. Then the C.O. told Cpl. Spence to march us off. He gave the order Tarade – Right Face”. This put the parade on a collision course with the rock behind home plate. Spence gave the order “By the left, quick march”. We moved off smartly toward home plate. Not having much experience in these things, poor Cpl. Spence was tongue tied. Nobody veered, nobody yelled halt or turn or left incline or right incline. The lead men in the parade simply started up the rock with the rest of us ready to follow. Before someone, I think F/S McKay, yelled “Halt”, the first three men had disappeared over the rock and most of us were part way up. Everybody stopped dead and stood at attention. The order “Parade -Dismiss” ended the farce and there were no more inspections.
We used our “Ball Park” into the fall season until cold weather set in. Once the temperature dropped below freezing, we switched to hockey with equipment again supplied by the Salvation Army. Our “arenas” were the many small ponds that dotted the island near camp. When the ice on a given pond became too cut up to skate on we moved to the next closest one until snow clearing became too difficult and by then the hills were sufficiently snow covered to turn to downhill skiing if you were brave enough and good enough to chance it. Most runs were steep and all were challenging slalom runs with rocks instead of stakes governing the course. After a few sprained ankles and bruised knees, most of us switched to cross-country skiing.
The long tedious winter closed in by mid-October and indoor activities became our main form of recreation. We had the inevitable poker games and craps for those who were avid gamblers, but cribbage and bridge became the most popular pastime. Radio was our only form of entertainment. We listened avidly to Armed Forces Radio programs like Hit Parade, Jack Benny, Glenn Miller, Edgar Bergen and many more. And, of course, the news with Lome Green, Walter Cronkite, etc.
At first, our living quarters were the Quonset huts. Most of us found them hot, airless and claustrophobic. The C.M.U. boys worked feverishly to construct two large buildings. The sooner they finished, the sooner they could pack up and get out of there. The new barracks were large enough to accommodate all personnel and we were pleased to move in and get settled. Large windows and high ceilings made for bright, cheerful surroundings. A system of fifty-gallon drums piped together was installed in the attic and piped down through two oil stoves and into hot water tanks giving us fairly modern bath facilities. Pumping the water from a large tank downstairs into the drums upstairs became a daily routine which everyone took turns at. Baths were taken according to a schedule to ensure equal opportunity. The chief diesel mechanic, Sgt. McCutcheon, used his plumbing skills to keep the system functioning despite frozen pipes, leaks, air locks, etc. Our barber was a chap named Dave from Saskatchewan. He had his own clippers and scissors and made pocket money in his spare time. I got my hair cut free because I cut his in return. There was a laundry room with two wringer washers and ironing facilities in each building.
It was very quiet in the barracks during the day as there were always a few people sleeping after working the midnight to eight shift but evenings were noisy and active. Bill Nicols, a radar technician, was a friendly active redhead and a superb dancer, jitterbug, etc. and he tried to teach some of us the steps but most of us had two left feet. Sometimes a crowd would gather in the recreation hall and the SgffMedical Orderly who played the piano would start a singsong. He had quite a repertoire of bawdy songs which we all enjoyed. He sang the verses and we joined in on the chorus.
Christmas was a very lonely time for most of us but we did what we could to make it as festive and cheerful as possible. The cooks put on a special dinner with turkey and plum pudding, etc. We found a poor excuse for a tree, a flattened down tangle of branches, and made decorations from silver paper, toilet paper and sea shells. One of the radar technicians was planning to become a minister after the war and he held a church service in the recreation hall. He was sometimes referred to as Reverend Desmond Ward. Our “Bawdy” song singer led us in singing hymns and Christmas songs, ‘White Christmas” being the favourite. We exchanged gifts by sharing what we had received from home in our own Christmas parcels.
There was no canteen on the base. Most personal needs like cigarettes, razor blades, soap, toothpaste, etc. were either supplied or received in parcels from home. Liquor was difficult to obtain. Some was brought in by special order on the Newfoundland supply vessel on its last trip just before Christmas. The only attempt to brew a batch resulted in the disappearance of all the raisins in the storeroom. LAC Corrigan, a diesel mechanic, had them brewing in five-gallon cans above the kitchen. He must have had the lids on too tight or something because they blew one day during dinner hour and started dripping through the ceiling of the mess hall. That was the end of Corrigan’s brewery and our raisin pies.
As there was very little to spend money on, there were no pay parades. Anyone wanting money could get it through their pay records from the orderly room but most of us never drew a cent for thirteen months. Personally, I went into isolation with forty dollars and came out with fifteen of it having bought a parka for my fiancée from the Grenfell Mission and a few stamps. Postage on a letter in those days was four to five cents. Consequently, most of us had a bundle of back pay when we arrived back in Canada.
As fishing was a way of life in that area, a few of us naturally had to try it. We had the use of the station landing scow and an outboard motor so we scrounged some line and hooks from local fishermen and off we went to the cod “Jiggin” grounds. When we reached a spot about half a mile from shore where the locals said we should fish, Sgt. McCutcheon killed the motor and we all lowered our lines until we felt bottom then pulled back about a fathom (approximately six feet) and sat cross legged or lay flat on our stomachs and proceeded to “Jig” for cod (pull the line up and down slowly). A sudden resistance meant you had hooked something and you simply pulled the line in hand over hand and brought the fish on board. Our catch was good and we fished and shot the bull contentedly until we felt a sudden bump and turned to find we had drifted into an iceberg which was grounded. It towered up and over us and seemed to fill the whole sky. It didn’t take much coaxing to get McCutcheon to start the motor and get us out of there. Our catch was enjoyed by the whole camp at supper that day.
Tom Stirling, a radio operator from southwest Manitoba, and I saw trout in a small stream near the camp one day so we decided to try our luck. Line and baited hook proved useless so we learned how to “knit” a fishnet from a fisherman we knew and when it was ready we set it across the stream. News of our exploit got around and we were told it was against the law and if the Newfoundland Rangers caught us at it, we could be in trouble. That put a stop to our trout fishing -before we had caught any.
Our food supply was mainly frozen mutton and lamb, dehydrated and canned vegetables and fruit but the cooking staff did a noble job of making meals as tasty and appetizing as possible. A change of diet, however, was always welcome. Lloyd Harries, a radar technician, and I came across such a change one day while exploring the island. South of camp about a mile was a fairly high range of hills and on topping them we discovered a shelter cove with one house, a fish shed, a pier, and Uncle Gus and Aunt Julie. They were both in their sixties and came to the island each summer to fish. He had a “one lunger” fishing boat and fished alone. Between them they cleaned the cod, extracted the oil from the liver and spread the fish out to dry in the sun. On talking to them, we were shocked to learnthat he threw salmon back when he caught any. We soon worked out a barter system of hardtack and canned butter for fresh Atlantic salmon. We would lug them back to camp where everyone enjoyed thick salmon steaks expertly prepared by the cooks. Aunt Julie also had a few laying hens and occasionally she would cook Harries and I a feed of bacon and eggs or a mess of deep fried cod tongues. A real treat. We kept this a secret, naturally. At camp it was powdered eggs, powdered milk, powdered everything.
During the winter our social contact with the local people increased as they were unable to do much fishing and those that did not go south for the winter traveled and visited, transportation being their dog teams pulling Komatiks. The nearest village was Quirpon, about five miles from camp. With the harbour frozen, the trip to our camp took very little time and we had almost daily visits from the local people. They came to see our living quarters and were intrigued by our modern conveniences, like running hot water, irons, washers and electric lights as power was not common up there in those days. They also liked to eat in our mess. They even thought our five holer was something special!
Nearly all of us took advantage of the many invitations we got to spend time at their homes as guests on our days off. I spent a number of very pleasant weekends at the home of Alf Finn and his wife. The local people were kind and generous and treated us like their own. Sybil and Hector Green were another special couple. She ran the general store at Quirpon and he ran the local freezer plant. The woman who ran the post office was also a special lady.
A trip by dog team was quite an experience. I made many to the village but I especially remember two trips. On one, Alf Finn took Tom Stirling and I to Cricket, a village fifteen miles south of Quirpon. The trail was fast and we were making good time when we topped a hill and ran into trouble. A spring beside the trail had flooded onto the downhill trail and it was solid ice. With three of us on the Komatik, sheer weight caused the sled to start catching up with the dogs. Alf yelled for us to jump off and we did but it was too late to brake enough and the sled ran over one dog and broke his two back legs. Alf had no choice but to take his rifle out of the box on the sled and shoot his best dog. He was heart broken but continued the trip and we spent a nice weekend with Ford Elms and his wife. They ran the general store in Cricket. On the way back, Alf picked up his dead dog and took him home for burial. On another trip Alf planned to take Corrigan and I west across the frozen bay to L’ans-eau-Meadow but we didn’t make it. Corrigan had taken on a load of the local “screech”. He insisted on sitting backwards on the box on the Komatik and each time Alf yelled “Look-at-the-bird”, the dogs would take off and jerk the sled out from under Corrigan or, if successfully away, he would forget to hang on and simply fall off. We finally gave up and took Corrigan back to camp to sleep it off. But we had enjoyed ourselves and planned to try again but bad weather and then melting ice cancelled any further attempts.
With so many dog teams coming to the station, often to stay overnight, we all became used to them around. They curled up in the snow outside and often became buried completely and early risers often tripped over them in the dark on the way to the mess for breakfast. A litter of pups was born at camp and one of them, a beautiful white male, was adopted as the camp mascot. He, of course, was well fed and became a real “butterball”. Everyone petted andplayed with him and he had the run of the camp. Our winter water supply for the mess was brought in fifty-gallon drums from a nearby spring by dog team. One day the pup wandered too close to the dogs bringing water and before anyone could get to him, a big husky grabbed him by the neck and tossed him in the air. The pup’s neck was broken and our pet was dead. The local people didn’t make pets of their dogs. They worked them all winter and kept them in pens all summer.
Winter storms were commonplace but one will always stand out in my memory. It started snowing and blowing in the morning and worsened with each passing hour. The wind was from the northeast and it was driving ocean spray up and over the cliffs causing ice to form on towers and buildings and the radar transmitter. I was scheduled to work the evening shift and left camp about three o’clock and fought my way into the wind and snow, hand over hand along the phone lines strung on posts about four feet above the ground up the hill to the weather office and radar shack. Having had some experience in these things, I knew we were in for a very bad storm.
The wind was increasing in speed and the barograph was showing an alarmingly fast decrease in pressure and the ice kept building up on all surfaces. The weather observation required that we go outside each hour to obtain temperatures, visibility, sky conditions and wind direction and speed. Each trip outside was more difficult than the last what with ice underfoot, the thermometer box (Stevenson Screen) door frozen shut and the wind tearing at me as well as the spray and snow in the air blinding me. By eight P.M. the barograph pen was at the bottom of the chart requiring a special adjustment to keep recording accurately. I had seen this happen once before when a hurricane passed near Yarmouth, N.S. and again a year later at Pennfield Ridge, N.B. in another hurricane. At ten o’clock when I went to take the weather observation I was knocked flat by the wind as soon as I stepped past the corner of the building and had to crawl back to safety. It had become obvious that any further attempts would be foolhardy so I sent a message to Gander shutting down operations until the storm lessened. Radar had already guyed the transmitter and shut down. Shortly after, the window glass and blackout boards came crashing in on me as I sat talking on the phone with the radio operator at camp in the valley below. I moved the weather record and equipment to another room and closed both doors to the weather office. I got into a sleeping bag, as the wind had blown out my oil stove, and crawled under a cot for protection and stayed there until morning when the storm began to subside and the wind lessened a little. By six A.M. the pressure was rising and the wind had backed to the northwest and slackened so I decided to start operations again. To my surprise, I could not open the door to go outside. The wind and ice buildup had caused the building to shift slightly and the square door was in an unsquare frame. Even the windows in the east and west walls were jammed and impossible to open. I crawled out of the broken window of the weather office and took the weather observation to restart operations. It took a lot of hand work to jack the building “square” again and guy it all round. The broken window was fixed and we were back in business.
Station defence consisted of sand-bagged machine gun pits at the radar shack, the weather/transmitter shack and the diesel shack. We had a WWI five inch field piece, a few Sten guns and, of course, the regular army rifle with bayonet. Gun crews were assigned to each gun pit and we fired the weapons a few times in the fall but it seemed rather unlikely that we would ever have to use them seriously. One spring evening about ten o’clock, I was on duty in the weather office when the phone rang. Answering it, I was informed by the Orderly Sgt. that radar had picked up a surface object moving slowly toward our position from the east. No naval vessels were reported working in the area and the C.O. put us on alert and all defence positions were to be manned and kept at the ready until further notice. At midnight I was finished my shift and as I was a member of the crew assigned to the machine gun near our office, I stayed up on the cliff all night. Word had come down that the object was still moving toward our position and the C.O. had decided it could possibly be a submarine and could prove hostile. I’m sure the whole camp prayed, as I did, that it was not a submarine or at least not a hostile one. It was a long, cold, scary night for everyone. As daylight began to brighten the eastern sky, all eyes were glued to the ocean surface. What a relief it was to discover that our submarine was a large iceberg being blown slowly toward us by a strong east wind. We all shouted and laughed and cheered for joy. We sure weren’t afraid of a big old iceberg. During the day it passed north of us and it was so high we could look straight out at its top from the cliffs we stood on, two hundred feet above the ocean. It ran aground to the west of us and slowly rolled over with a terrible roar and started to break up.
One spring morning dozens of sailing vessels were visible east and north of us. The sealing fleet had arrived. Men were landing on the larger ice floes to hunt and kill baby seals. This was before the days of Green Peace and other do-gooders. These men made their living from the sea the year round and that included sealing. A strong northeast gale forced the whole fleet to seek shelter in Quirpon harbor. They literally filled the harbor and with the ice filling the spaces between them and the shore, some of us simply walked out to the nearest ships and visited. The crews were tough, happy and sociable. They shared their food and grog with us. The grog was a thick rum tasting concoction that had to be spooned out of the cup like molasses. And what a wallop it packed. Most of us were not drinkers and it didn’t take much to lay us out. The hike back across the ice and over the long trail to camp saw many tumbles in the snow with the more sober helping the less sober make it back to camp. The ice moved out the next day and the sealing fleet went back to sea.
Two of our boys married girls from the area. A chap named Bill courted and married the lighthouse keeper’s daughter. They were married on the base and we had a lot of guests on the station that day and evening. After the ceremony we put on a buffet and dance in the recreation hall and later we sang songs like “Home on the Range” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. Later another chap. Allen Eilbeck, married a girl from the village. The last I heard, both couples were living in Winnipeg.
Almost every week brought some incident which is worthy of mention. Like the time Ray Porrier sprained his ankle jumping from one boulder to another. It swelled up so fast and was so painful, we had to get a stretcher to carry him back to camp. I was on the front end with Ken Wilmer carrying the rear. We had to stay on as flat a terrain as we could find so it meant walking through an area which was dotted with small diameter sink holes easily identified by taller grass. Ken misjudged one and his leg went down to his hip. Porrier let out a howl of pain as the stretcher was yanked from my grasp and hit the ground. Ken was a heavy man and his thigh was stuck in the hole and it took three of us to hoist him out onto dry ground. Or the morning I discovered my foot steps out on a snow cornice hanging out beyond the cliff edge where I had walked in the dark while going on shift at midnight the evening before. The wind had been stronger than I thought and I must have “tacked” into it less than I should have. I used the landline as a guide from then on. Or the time a bunch of us who had visited the sealing ships were stumbling our way back to camp and Scotty stepped off the path and sank hip deep into soft snow and got both feet tangled in the low bushes. He was trapped and we had to dig down to his feet with our hands to free him and get him back on the path. Or the warm summer day “Red” Nichols decided he was going to have a swim. Some of us were out on the scow in a quiet cove and “Red” stripped and jumped in the ocean. The water never got much warmer than about forty degrees and when he hit the water he let out a yelp and came up sputtering and clawing. We quickly dragged him back on board and covered him. His teeth were chattering and his “parts” were nonexistent. He never tried that again. Even wading in the water in rubber boots was a chilling experience. Or the time the C.O. proclaimed the area between the Rec. hall and his quarters as the attention area where all personnel were required to walk at attention and salute the flag. We meant no disrespect for the flag but as most of us wore fatigues and hip waders around camp, this was a bit too “pusser” for our liking so we soon beat a new path behind the recreation hall to get to the mess hall without going through the attention area. Or the time we laid our hands on some booze and were having a spontaneous party in the recreation hall one night. We were gathered around the piano with the medical orderly playing and us singing at the tops of our voices. It was good clean fun and when the C.O. came to the door and told us to quiet down, someone took offence and a bottle hit the door frame just above his head. He beat a hasty retreat and we went on with our party. Or the time I was downhill skiing through soft snow and my ski tips went under a low lying phone line hidden from sight in the snow. When the wire hit my ankles, the skis and my feet stopped dead but my body kept going resulting in a head first plunge to the ground with the ski tips hooking under my armpits and becoming entangled in my clothing. I was impaled, stretched out like an elastic, unable to move or get free of the skis. The boys with me came to my rescue and I was able to hobble back to camp but I had two badly sprained ankles and two badly bruised armpits. I swore off skiing for the duration. In fact, I have never tried skiing again to this day. Or the time a few of us decided to make our outhouse more homey. It was a five holer, one partitioned off for officer use and four for all other ranks. We had scrounged some seal skins and decided to pad our four seats with fur. It sure beat sitting on the cold wood but the medical sergeant put the kibosh on it saying disease and body lice and crabs could spread through the camp and he made us remove our handywork. It made our trips to the outhouse as infrequent and as short as we could make them. It was certainly no place to sit and contemplate your future.
In late June of 1944 rumors began to circulate that our replacements were being selected and mustered in Moncton and we all began to speculate on when we would move out. The normal routine was that those who were first in would be first out. As I was in this group, I began to plan on leaving with the first contingent. The fact that I was N.C.O. of the Weather Office could have some bearing on when I left so I was on pins and needles until the list of the first group was posted. There was my name along with twenty some odd others. We were to be taken to Corner Brook on the July run of the Newfoundland supply ship about the middle of the month.
Those of us scheduled to depart were told to pack our gear and be prepared to leave camp on one day’s notice. That day did finally arrive and after saying good-bye to our friends we were taken to Quirpon by the station scow. The ship arrived with some twenty-odd shiny faced replacements and with many “You’ll be sorry” greetings, we watched them come ashore. We then boarded the ship and it sailed within two hours and headed out of the harbor and turned northwest away from the rock we had called home for thirteen months almost to the day. There were no tears shed, believe me.
On board were six nurses on a holiday cruise so the trip was made more pleasant and interesting by their presence. The ship went as far north as Battle Harbor, Labrador, then headed back south down the coasts making supply stops at places like Red Bay and Forteau on the Labrador side of the St. of Belle Isle and Flowers Cove, Bartlett’s Harbor, Port Saunders, Daniel’s Harbor down the west coast of Newfoundland and so to Corner Brook. The ship stayed over night at Bartlett’s Harbor and the people immediately arranged a party for us airmen at the local church. Everyone had a good time including the nurses. To the end we found Newfoundlanders to be the kindest, most gentle and friendliest people we had ever met.
On arrival at Corner Brook we boarded the train for Port-aux-Basques, thence by ferry to North Sydney and on to Moncton for return of northern clothing issue, postings, leave forms, travel vouchers and pay parade. And what a pay parade. Most of us had more than twelve months back pay coming. We said our good-byes and went our separate ways but I am sure that most of us look back to this day with fond memories of the time we spent together at R.C.A.F. Station, Cape Bauld, Newfoundland.
by L.W. (Bill) Lloyd