Prairie Wings - Readers' Comments

From Gus Bacon

Hello David:

I have just spent several hours reading through your Prairie Wings. I think you have done a masterful job in compiling all the detailed activities that comprised the life and function of 34 SFTS. As you know I was intimately involved in the first two years of the unit's operation and your narration of those events was, to me, quite a revelation. I thought that after an interval of sixty years the memories of that significant portion of my life would be just a hazy memory, but now I feel that much of it happened only yesterday.

I was particularly alerted by the names of personnel and your descriptions of their activities. Purkiss-Ginn (we graduated from SFTS on the same course), Reg Nutter (I was an usher at his wedding), John Rhodes, Bob Sears, Ron Bartlett, A. MacLean, Peter Vincent, Ginger Shaw and many others.

I was pleased to read your reference to Chas. Grayson. We were quite close, possibly because his wife Toni and Doreen hit it off so well. Chas had joined the RAF, pre-war, and was serving in France in the early period prior to Dunkirque, flying Hurricanes. He was a Sgt. Pilot then. He was a quiet, modest person who rarely discussed his operational flying. But on one occasion when describing the German break-through and the advance on Paris he mentioned a hassle his section had with some German fighters. I asked him if he had shot down any aircraft. He told me that the pilots had been briefed on the importance of breaking off an attack immediately after firing a burst at the target a/c because that was when one was most vulnerable to attack from behind. He executed this maneuver three times and on each occasion on coming out of the very steep turn he found another enemy a/c in range. He said he did not have time to see the results of his shooting but when the fighting ceased there were several burning a/c on the ground. One can assume he was partially responsible, but he did not make any further claim.

I am looking forward to many more hours of nostalgic reading, David, and once again I would like to thank you, and compliment you on a job very well done.

Best Wishes

Gus Bacon R.C.A.F. - R.I.P. 2011

From John Rhodes

Dear David,

I have now finished reading Prairie Wings and it gave me a lot of pleasure and revived many memories. Once again I am full of admiration for the amount of hard work you must have put into such a task with all the research necessary and I would thank you again for letting me read it. I was also flattered that you felt some of my contributions were worthwhile

I have to say that I was amazed to find the number of flying casualties which occurred at No 34 SFTS. Either my memory is poor or, apart from my own friends, I was quite unaware of some those occurrences. Of course a number did happen after I left the Station.

I am also at a loss to understand the number of "wheels up landings", other than, of course, those which were deliberate. I had to land with one engine in a very small field near Edmonton and had my hand on the undercarriage lock ready to fold up the undercarriage had the grassy field proved to have been wet and swampy. However it was a cardinal rule during my time to follow a set procedure before landing at an airfield. On the downwind leg the pilot had to close the throttle(s) at which point a light shone and a horn blew. You then opened the throttle(s) and lowered the undercarriage. When down and locked you then closed the throttle(s) again and neither the light would show nor horn blow indicating that the u/c was safely down and locked.. When this procedure was carried out as ordered you could not land with u/c up. I saw that a wheels up landing was also carried out with an Instructor present. Oh dear!

With All Best wishes for the New Year.

John Rhodes R.A.F. - R.I.P. 2016