Canada in the Second World War

Arms & Weapons

F/L F.H.C. Reinke’s Diary

Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland, home of 422 and 423 Squadrons.

Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland, home of 422 and 423 Squadrons. National Defence Image Library, PMR 75-585.

9 Oct /44, Monday, Castle Archdale.

Just for a change, here we are over in north-west Ireland, on Lough Ewe, about 20 miles from the west coast. Sunderlands and Catalinas are the vehicles here. […]

On Saturday I slept in. Ultimately I walked around the station after visiting the maintenance and hangar site where I visited some squadron officers and viewed the flock of huge, white Sunderlands crowding the pavement, on their little trucks. Their size is almost overwhelming, close-up, on land, even after Lancs and Hallys. The fin is as high as a house.

The station is widely dispersed about the hill on which the castle stands dominantly. While S.H.Q. and a few officers are located in the castle, everything else is in nissen huts.

 

Short Sunderland “L” of 423 Squadron.

Short Sunderland “L” of 423 Squadron. National Defence Image Library, PL 41101.

The vegetation everywhere is almost tropical in its dense luxuriousness. Trees are covered with thick vines on their trunks, green with moss, while the rhododendrons and other shrubbery forms a dense undergrowth. The dampness produces tremendous ferns.

From the 100-foot hill on which the castle stands (It’s really just a big, square, three-storey stone house), one looks across the lake at tiers of haze-covered hills in the distance, with a jagged, 1100-foot promontory standing out threateningly on the west side. The lake is lined with trees, just now turning various warm russet shades, but no real reds, presumably because of the lack of sharp frost. Dotting the water are innumerable islands, matted with trees and mostly uninhabited. In the sheltered bays and channels near the main point are dozens of white aircraft moored, looking like strange ea birds with their white undersides and sea-blue tops. From the air they look like so many tiny gnats. The whole scene is something that only a color camera could do justice to. […]

11 Oct./44, Wednesday, Castle Archdale.

The remoteness from any large centre is the one thing which gets the lads down here—aside from the lack of excitement in their work. They invariably say they’d sooner be in Bomber Command, despite the much increased hazards there. A tour here means 800 hours or 18 months of pretty uneventful flying. Some complete a tour without seeing a submarine. The big thrill in their job apparently is to come upon a big convoy as they carry out a patrol far over the Atlantic.

Belfast and Dublin are the only large centres in Ireland, and a trip to England or Scotland is long and tedious.

14 Oct./44, Saturday, Castle Archdale.

It was Friday the Thirteenth yesterday but proved more than usually fortunate – for me, at least.
Up at six again; breakfast with two outgoing and one incoming crews at 6.30 in “ration stores”. We had one egg, chips (french fried potatoes), tea, bread butter and jam. After briefing in the ops room, the crew collected their gear, Mae Wests, headsets and so forth, and went to the pier to take a dinghy out to L-Love, of 423. It was full and threatening looking. The met. [Meteorological Service] man had been rather pessimistic and cited three or four alternate diversion points in case the weather closed in entirely here.

F/O Jack Ritchie, navigator, plotting course on a Sunderland.

F/O Jack Ritchie, navigator, plotting course on a Sunderland. National Defence Image Library, PL 22077.

Until we got well out into Donegal Bay it was quite rough going. Coming out of low light cloud would produce a noticeable bump. Then it smoothed down, without clearing. We proceeded at a norm of roughly 1,000 feet for an hour and a half, then got on course. After nearly another hour, and after five to ten minutes of quite rough going (I would not have liked being in the rear turret), we received instructions to cancel the operation and proceed to land at Oban, Scotland. It became quite cold before we made base. I wore pajama pants, plus two heavy sweaters, with sleeves, under my battle dress. Before we got orders to divert, the skipper and one AG sgt. [air gunner sergeant] had already peeled the potatoes down in the galley, for lunch. Mid-morning tea and cookies were timely.

The entire crew changes on one-hour watches. This is especially necessary for the nose-gunner, who occupies the coldest spot in the boat. Navigator alone gets no relief. In fact, he has no let-up whatever in his labours, plotting course, checking drift, taking fixes, logging everything on a split-second basis. He’s as busy as a CP wire-editor, merely grabbing a sandwich and cup of tea at his desk.

As we approached Oban, visibility improved and we had a fine view of some of the bleak and barren islands along the route, most bearing little but grass and some kind of fern turned brown. In flat, slightly sheltered saucers in the centre of some of these rugged islands were stone-walled fields and little white-washed stone farm houses and buildings. Certainly an isolated and hard-won way of life.

The hills became higher and more craggy towards Oban which we finally discovered very neatly tucked in at the foot of one long hill around a sheltered bay. We moored on this bay. Oban had previously been an operational site but now is a training station (boats) and is used by BOAC.