Stop the press! The first readers’ comments about Bombing and Coastal Operations are already coming in from those receiving early copies. The first review comes from one of my sterner critics, Hugh A. Halliday. Hugh is a historian and noted author retired from the Canadian War Museum and a frequent, much appreciated, CANAV collaborator.
Hugh has posted these comments about the book on the busy internet forum rafcommands. Of note he writes (to my approval) that what the book may lack by way of a consistent narrative, “it makes up in anecdotes and insights from documents, personal recollections, contemporary letters and the contents of trunks and scrapbooks.”
Commenting about my coverage of Laird Jenning’s unique wartime career, Hugh finds that certain excerpts “make amusing and provocative reading, and some pointed remarks have relevance today”, then he generalizes how “There is plenty of drama, heroism and tragedy here (the reports of ‘sole survivors’ of downed bombers are striking). Larry does not skimp on indexes, paper quality, photo captions and clarity of reproduction.” Also commenting in advance of our official book launch this Saturday (October 8), RCAF history aficionado and aviation bibliophile, Ian Macdonald, observes, “Your new format with much larger pictures really is excellent … a wonderful addition to Canadian history.”
On October 18 one of the family members e-mailed about the coverage of her uncle as given in Bombing and Coastal Operations:
“Just wanted to let you know that the book arrived and I must say it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve really been enjoying reading all about the pilots, their crews, their missions. Most engaging! And the photographs! My goodness! The way you’ve designed the book really brings these stories to life. You do the airmen a great honour. If my Dad was here he’d be so pleased; he’d be pouring out the compliments to you. I know he really enjoyed the interview he shared with you and he would have really been touched by your telling of his brother’s story. I want to thank you so very much for all your dedication to the preservation of aviation history. As you say, so many stories would otherwise be slipping away with the passing of the old guard. For me, whenever I pick up the book and other books like it, it’s kind of like being near to my Dad again, which brings great comfort and keeps his memory alive and close to my heart. Thanks again, for documenting such a moving historical legacy.”
And now, back to “Turn-Around” … In August 2010 we posted “All in a Week’s Work” covering CANAV’s visit to Friesen’s in Manitoba for the printing of Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force. Well, we didn’t rest a minute since then, and here is my report about this year’s pilgrimage to Manitoba to print Bombing and Coastal Operations. Here we go …
September 18 and off I go again to sunny and always surprising Manitoba. WestJet did the job just beautifully. I sure find their website more user friendly than Air Canada’s, but to each their own, right. WestJet gets this plug, but not that it, Air Canada, etc. ever order a book from CANAV. Gotta really love the airlines for their support of Canada’s aviation heritage.
Alamo had my car ready at YWG and, better still, a very nice upgrade, so off to Selkirk on the usual country drive to see what’s new at Bob Polinuk’s float base and airstrip. Scads of airplanes as always, but not a soul anywhere, not a prop turning on a decent fall day for flying.
I wandered around snapping a couple of Norsemans, a Beaver, Beech 18, Luscombe, turbo Otter, etc. Then it was on to Lac du Bonnet. An easy drive as usual, but little on the aviation side at the end of the road– one MGAS turbo Otter guarded by a big, taciturn bald eagle.
It was a good day altogether, especially my stop at the Selkirk marine museum. Don’t miss it next time you’re in Manitoba.
Now it was time to get serious — go to Altona, old boy. So off I headed on a course of 1-8-0 pretty well and before long … Altona, that idyllic Southern Manitoba home of sunflowers to the horizon … and of Friesens, my printer for many a year. But there was quite the difference since 2010 — something like 65 massive windmills were churning away between Manitoba 75 and 30, the route into Altona. Last year these were just holes in the ground, but now … yikes! You have to see these monsters to believe them, then you really have to scratch your head.
Why is a province with a super-abundance of hydro power doing this to formerly beautiful, peaceful farmscape? Oh, well … what can one say or do about politicians and “green” hucksters? I toured around a bit, took a few pix, then settled in at the Altona Motor Inn. A fine meal was had at Bravo’s then, early next morning, it was breakfast at the Four Winds — the place for a good meal to get your wheels turning for the rest of the day. After checking in early at Friesens, I headed over to Winkler to see what was doing at Arty’s Air Service. By this time of year, the flying is fairly quiet, just a few final runs over the extensive local potato fields. Arty still had his three Air Tractor AT-402s from last year, but had added a new ‘502. His Weatherlys are long gone, but I was surprised to hear that there’s still a market for these weary old P&W-985-powered ag planes.
Arty had sold his off here and there to smaller operators from Manitoba to Mexico who could still make a go with them. Took a few photos and shot the breeze a bit with some of Arty’s excellent people. Found out that a couple of the pilots now work in Australia during Manitoba off season, so were gearing up to head down again to fly Dromaders. The pay’s less, but the flying’s always good.
Heading back to Altona for my appointment with the pressman, I spotted a potato sorting operation outside Winkler. This was too good to pass up, so I peeled off to grab a few pix. Trucks were coming in from the fields each with 15 tons of potatoes. The spuds were being fed onto a conveyor that split left into a truck for waste, and right for potatoes.
You wouldn’t believe it but two good ladies were standing either side of the
conveyor and sorting all those tons of potatoes. Their hands flew as they spotted duds and tossed them onto the tarmac. The rest continued into a 30-ton trailer. Quick as could be, I was back on Hwy 14 for Altona for 1100.
It was a slow start with a balky press — no big surprise in printing. At noon Mike Fehr and Jody Penner of Friesens treated me to a nutritious lunch at Altona’s best burger joint. Then I took a few minutes to walk Altona’s cemetery to see if Peter Engbrecht might be lying there. Peter had been a Bomber Command gunner ace from Boissevain, Manitoba. As I was almost finished my survey, Mike Fehr called to say that Peter was actually in Boissevain. How did he know this? He had called Peter’s widow, Ramona, who was still in Altona, and we had an appointment to see her. That proved to be just a super visit. Peter had remained in the postwar RCAF, then retired in Altona. All this was a bit amazing, as Peter is written up in my very book that was on press today!
I finally knocked it off early in the evening and headed back over the Bravo’s, after checking half or so of the forms going on press. It all looked good to me, so back to the inn it was. The pressman never called, so his snags must have
been cleared and he got his mighty KBA Rapida 130 churning smoothly.
Up at 0500 and on the road in the blackness and a heavy rain. Up Hwy 30 and east to 75 midst the eeriness of the windmills, whose presence was announced by a line of unseemly flashing red lights. Just weird and maybe a good advertisement for not necessarily having windmills in an electricity-swamped province.
It sure was a relief to gradually get some light, Hwy 75 being “under construction” (as it seems perpetually to be) and find YWG. Back I winged on a nifty WestJet 737-700. I was on the ground again by noon at YYZ, then home to start hammering away again on the hundred and one things that CANAV Books does to make its so-called living. Books were promised for delivery on Monday, October 3, but Friesen made up some time and they arrived at TTS in Aurora the previous Friday. Good going as usual, Friesens! And the final product looks just super, so if you’re a fan of RCAF history, you’ll totally enjoy a copy!
Click here to order your autographed copy of Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas 1939-1945.