Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ferry Command Revisited

I was contacted again by Ted Beaudoin about his latest book, EARTH ANGELS RISING, which will be the second book in his aviation trilogy, Walking on Air. If you remember, this subject was covered in previous posts including this one. Ted wrote to share the latest on his book because he's heading into the homestretch on completing the manuscript, and is about to write up some details on Pembina's part in the story...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hi Trish – it really was heartening for me to have been able to speak with you for the first time last night since we unofficially “met” back in the summer of June 2008 through my good friend, James McClelland of Emerson, who first contacted you about my interest in the January 1940 moving of bombers across the border from Pembina into Emerson.

First all, thanks for the plug on Facebook this morning … I casually go through a lot of web sites in my morning routine, and Facebook is one of them … while there, I “found” the display cover of Pilot of Fortune besides your name … went back to it about half-an-hour later, only to discover it had disappeared … oh well, was nice to see it there for a few moments anyway …I really do enjoy reading your St. Vincent blog … not just for Ferry Command but for all the other good stuff that you maintain there … interesting to say the least, given that I am a history nut – for histories of all kinds, anywhere.

As I indicated to you yesterday, my main concern in the closing stages of my research – being done concurrently as I write different sections of the manuscript – is what took place in and around Pembina and Emerson between the summer of 1939 and the summer of 1940 …

This, the second book of my aviation trilogy is titled Earth Angels Rising, and is my tribute to the thousands of men and women from at least 23 countries who rose to the occasion between 1938 and 1945 to help set up what became Ferry Command … which alone was responsible for successfully delivering 9,516 bombers across six ocean bridges during World War II – starting with six small North American towns – Pembina and Emerson being but two of them.

These civilians have by and large been overlooked in “official” books and television documentaries about Ferry Command, and I am remedying this oversight. I also ask that you please remember that I can not afford to pay hardly anything for copyrights or permissions as I have funded this entire project from my own pockets … living modestly as I do on my government pensions. So I do need help – NOT money – but co-operation, leads, names, memorabilia … that sort of thing...and I need this help from miscellaneous sources.

For example, thanks to you and Lori, I have reason to believe that up to 600 bombers were expected to be delivered through the auspices of a farmer’s field near the border … you told me this during our first phone call not too long ago … and I have since asked Lockheed Corporation – whose PR people has been very co-operative to date – to confirm this piece of information …or at least let me know from their records exactly how many planes Great Britain ordered in 1939 and 1940/41 … and how many were delivered, by what routes, to Canada before Lend-Lease made possible other routes.

Then I need to know the first delivery date of these bombers and their being towed across by Mr. Wilson and his team of horses. Were any deliveries made in 1939? I think not … and on whose properties were these planes flown to, having come into Pembina at its airport (would be nice to know what the airport there consisted of in Jan., 1940.)

It seems, from your blog and from much writing I have on file from James, as if these shipments began for real on Monday, January 15, 1940 … and if I did it right, Associated Press photo archives in New York City will soon have for a copy of an aerial photo I found on the Internet … taken that day, showing two aircraft – one on either side of the border. So much for a “secret” operation … ?

If your Mom was involved in giving a helping hand, I’d certainly appreciate your memories, Trish, about her involvement … anything you can remember of her will be useful to me in the final manuscript.

Same with you, Lori … anything both of you can remember or recall will be useful and each of you will help enhance my final manuscript.

Either write to me about your own memories, or permit me to call you and conduct a telephone interview … I do not have a recorder but after 50 years of being a reporter, I got pretty darn good at taking notes with a pen and paper.

It is difficult to track down over what period of time these deliveries took place – like from January 15, 1940 to … when? … I do know this system had to end with the US/England Lend-Lease program early in 1941 when other arrangements had been made between the American, British and Canadian governments to shuttle American-made aircraft into Canada … by what routes I do not yet know and I still need to find that out out …so that they could quickly be moved to where they were needed to help defend England against the Nazi onslaught.

Until I get new information … throughout much of 1940, I can only surmise that bombers were flown from Emerson into what was the known as Stevenson Aerodrome in Winnipeg for storage as I do not think North Bay, Ontario, or Ottawa, Ontario or even St. Hubert, Québec were ready to receive such a large number as 600 bombers.

The first group of 28 bombers made the first “proving” North Atlantic flights from Gander, Newfoundland, starting in late November.

Until then, if I am not mistaken, most planes shipped into Canada had to be sent to the nearest major Canadian port, dis-assembled and placed on board ships heading for England … too many of them were lost to U-Boats in 1940 and 1941 to make this worth while … and when they did succeed in getting there, it often took 3 months to get a bomber from the US into England while Germany was pounding it mercilessly … a faster way had to be found, and it was ... Ferry Command.

These early 1940 aircraft moves were underway simultaneously also in two other “small town” locations on the Canada / USA border … would be nice to know who first “scouted” these small communities and decided that they were the idea way to get around the freshly-amended US Neutrality Act of 1939. These small communities, besides Pembina, included:

• Sweetgrass in Montana and Coutts, Alberta – involving mainly single-engine North American Harvards, at first being pushed downhill … letting gravity do the work initially …

and …

• Houlton in Maine, into New Brunswick, near the main border town of Woodstock a few miles east of Houlton ... I have tracked – again on the Internet - a photograph of a farmer using his John Deere tractor to haul a bi-pane across the border from Maine …and I have “found” (hopefully) a good lead in Houlton to try and get me more information as I continue my research through North America for this early movement of aircraft into Canada when the USA was facing the dilemma of neutrality and a divided country as to whether it should go to war with England over Germany or not.

As I indicated yesterday, Trish, I have attached a virus-free 2-page MS Word copy of my latest CV – or résumé …don’t know which word applies in the US for my “brag sheet” …

And to recap how I got this whole trilogy thing going, Welland Silver Dart Replica is the web site of AEA 2005 Inc., a non-profit group of dedicated aviation enthusiasts who built a flyable, full-scale replica of Canada’s and the Commonwealth’s most famous aircraft – the Silver Dart – in a home garage here in Welland.

They went on to fly it over Baddeck, Nova Scotia, on Sun., Feb. 22, 2009, capping 100 years of controlled, powered flight in Canada and the then British Empire … my association, as media services manager, with this group has inspired me to write my aviation trilogy – titled Walking on Air - it and the three books of the trilogy are well described in the web site, and can easily be accessed from the HOME page. Also, I appear on the CONTACTS page, as the white-haired Poppa Smurf figure bottom left of the contact page.

Wow this has gotten onto three screen pages … time to close it off and get it out to you … thanks again to both of you … look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience …

Sincerely … and the best to you … Ted (Beaudoin)