|Your "Enduring" Monument|
It took Robert Bracken years to complete his fine books Spitfire: The Canadians. The project sapped Bob's energy and cost him his last penny. Most of the pilots featured appreciated Bob's mission to permanently record their deeds as brave young men in the RCAF. Some even bought a book. In a later note to the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association, Bob wondered about overall support for such publications, compared to the CFPA plan to raise money to buy a plastic Spitfire replica. Some took umbrage at Bob's questions, which really weren't much more than asking, "Gee, if the fellows can collect so much money for a Spitfire monument, I wonder why so few ever buy a book? If a few more would, maybe I could afford to finish Vol.3." The CFPA's retort included a stern reprimand from Gibb Coons: "To imply that his books may be a more appropriate part of air force history, rather than the memorial monument to our fallen comrades, is not only reprehensible, but the ultimate in poor taste."
Reprehensible? Now, that's a bit dramatic, so give us a break, Gibb! Is it too much of an intellectual stretch to realize that a book is a superb monument? I'd have thought that the CFPA at least would think seriously about a parallel campaign to put books like Bob's about the Spitfire or Hugh Halliday's about the Typhoon into Canadian school libraries. What a way to really memorialize the RCAF fighter pilot! Imagine ... every young Canadian with a chance to learn all the details, rather than being exposed year after year to The Valour and the Horror, which is in Canadian schools everywhere! Then, if the kids ever do get to see the CFPA monument in Trenton, wouldn't it have infinitely more meaning? Then you'd have some worthwhile results — a double whammy in paper and plastic! Our great memorializer of RCAF Spitfire pilots died in 2008 after years of ill health and poverty.
|Go Nuts ... Buy a Magazine or Book|
Many aviation trade magazines have come and gone since Canadian Aviation appeared in 1928. Typical was Airborne (1979-80) — down the drain after a few issues, even though it had lots to offer any reader. To this day it's a battle to survive for the publishers of our present trade "mags" — Aviation Canada, Aviator and Wings. Advertisers are loathe to advertise, publishers fight to get on the news stands, go on hands and knees for subscriptions (which they have to pry from the readers) and must kowtow to their advertisers. They pretty well have to give away their print runs, there's so little support. What a shame, when we see how most European nations produce several superb mags, the likes of Aeroplane Monthly, Air Pictorial, Aircraft Illustrated, Flypast and Air Forces Monthly in the UK alone. Even little Norway's Flynytt sets an editorial standard not seen in Canada, and is reader (not advertiser) driven. Canadian book publishers face similar obstacles. At most, 5% of those in or retired from aviation would ever dream of buying a general aviation book. Most, however, agree that RCAF or airline history must be written — they're extremely vocal about this. Many a vet or retired airline captain complains to me, "Whoapos;s ever going to write a book about such and such? Nobody ever does this, nobody ever does that. How are young Canadians ever going to know what the RCAF has accomplished? Yakkety, yakkety, yak." CANAV puts out those very books, but do the big yakkers ever buy a copy? Fat chance! What am I talking about? Well ... if you're a retired airline pilot, do you have a copy of Air Transport in Canada. Unlikely. If asked why not, most would answer something like this: "Sorry, I'm a destitute pensioner. Anyway, I don't buy books, too busy to read, getting too old, no more room in the house, the wife'll kill me if I buy another book." You supply the next dozen lame excuses.
|Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story|
This item is excerpted from CANAV's Winter 1994 Newsletter: Compared to the glitsy autumn book launches and "author tours" put on by the big publishers and subsidized by the Canada Council (i.e. by you — hope you don't mind), CANAV's  kick-off for Hugh Halliday's Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story last December was low key. No limos at the door, no stars from stage, screen or politics, but a good time was had by all at the Metro Police Association in Willowdale, and 410 Wing (RCAFA, Rockcliffe) in Ottawa, where we gathered. As to limos? Well, nothing so common for CANAV — one of our Typhoon pilots arrived by helicopter right at the door!
Our evening brought together the usual aviation buffs, bolstered by numerous wartime types. Ed McKay rustled up a "squadron" of former Typhoon people for Toronto, and the local CAHS chapters in both cities spread the word ... cheap beer, cheese and crackers, carrot sticks ... how can we go wrong! Author Halliday arrived in Toronto just in time, swooshing in to Buttonville Airport in a Beech 1900 (CANAV's corporate plane, of course). He spent most of the evening doing what his big-spending publisher had dragged him away from Ottawa for — he signed books. If the evening belonged to anyone it was, naturally, to Halliday. And the autographs were free. Big deal, you say? Well, don't scoff. A bargain is a bargain these days. For his recent grand, cross-country book tour, Pierre Trudeau was charging $15 for an autograph! As to the Ottawa launch, sad to say we were pretty well weathered out by one of those great Ottawa blizzards. More great book biz fun — even the weather'll try to screw you!
Since Typhoon and Tempest appeared, there have been many calls and letters. Gordon W. Bruce of Beaconsfield, Quebec wrote: "Obviously the work of a dedicated author with incredible research energy." Added Johnny Allred of Provo, Utah, "Pass on to Mr. Halliday my joy in reading his book. I say magnificent!" Doug Norrie in NSW, Australia wrote, "I would like to congratulate Mr. Halliday on a fantastic book." André Lord was one in the crowd at the Ottawa launch. The weather was the pits, but a tough gang still turned out. What else would you expect of 2 TAF people! Lord, a 440 Sqn Typhoon pilot and, at the time, 438's Honourary Colonel, arrived in style, flying in from St. Hubert in a 438 Kiowa. He later wrote to us, "If you see Mr. Halliday, tell him that his Typhoon book is just great." J.G.E. "Ernie" Savard of 440 Sqn wrote from Florida to clarify some details of the famous New Year's Day raid"
Ernie added some welcomed corrigenda. The "Joe Savard" in the top photo on p.64 is really Art Simard (so is "Art Simond" on p.64). Ernie noted that "unknown" in the top photo on p.64 is pilot Don Barber. Wally Ward then identified the unknown in the bottom photo on p.64 — Doug Gordon. The "Bill" McKay on p.115 is Ed McKay.
Pilot Norm Dawber wrote that re. "procedures to follow once the Wing moved to the continent" (p.44): "The Wing didn't even know about the proposed invasion until June 5, 1944, four months hence." Dawber points out that in the Dewer- Doige photo on p.53, the names in the caption are transposed. As to the report (same page) of Pete Wilson crash landing, he notes: "Pete bailed out over the Channel and was fished out. He broke his arm on the tail of the aircraft." Re. the statement that Typhoons started rolling in to bomb from 5000 feet, Dawber says: "9000 feet was normally where we started" As to the claim (p.53) that 439 Sqn began moving to B.9 on June 25, he explains: "All squadrons moved to Normandy on June 27, with 438 staying overnight at B.6. It conducted an early morning operation on the 28th, landing at B.9 afterwards." Re. F/O Lew Park being hit by flak over the target, Dawber informs us that Lew's aircraft had blown up in level flight ... on the way to target. As to MN703 crashing (p.59): "My understanding is that he fell behind on takeoff and was blinded by the dense dust, causing him to swerve into 438's dispersal." As to the change of command referred to on p.81, Dawber recalls: "This took place in July 1944 and Jack Beirnes took Grant's place as CO of 438." Re. the attack of October 29 (p.82), Dawber led this and states that there was no Spitfire escort that day.
Murray Hallford let us know that "Boche Basher" was Johnny Carr's usual Typhoon, not his (p.173). From Jack Brown came these details. A typo on p.27 accords him 192 Typhoon ops. The correct number is 92. Sorry Jack! The statement on p.25 that Guy Plamondon was CO of 197 Sqn is wrong — it was 193 Sqn. Jack was on 193 and never heard the phrase "Plamondon's Ploughboys" or "Playboys" whichever it was supposed to be. In the photo on p.176 Ed McKay's squadron should read 193. Jack Brown wrote that he heard from the sister of George Langille (p.26): "I sent her the details of his death from Typhoon and Tempest. She later wrote and told of visiting the grave site in a village in Holland, where she was treated like royalty. She also sent a picture of the grave, which had been looked after by the villagers since the war."
Such issues arise any time a military history is published. Most details referred to in Typhoon and Tempest are from official records. Sometimes these conflict with how things were, or how they are recalled by participants. Most official historians select their data from such records, feeling that this is their assurance as to accuracy. That figures, since they're government employees, who never take a chance on anything — it's not in the nature of the beast. To the official fellow, interviewees can't be trusted with facts. Ironically, this becomes their own Achilles Heel — they are accused of putting out dull books, and so they do — dull but good, but not without their own imperfections.
Other authors prefer the candidness of first-hand recollections that flow from a face-to-face interviews, e.g. the pilot right there with his log book, photo album, diary, letters home, etc. If one does enough careful interviews, he can end with a solid piece of history. Log books often can be checked on the spot to verify details (not that logs are gospel, e.g. in some the names of people, towns, etc. are incorrectly spelled). Worse for misspellings are photo albums, but most such issues can be resolved.
Many old memories, happy and sad, have been stirred by Typhoon and Tempest. CANAV has heard from families who lost sons, brothers and husbands on those ever-dangerous tactical air operations. The families are pleased and, if anything, wish they could have contributed their own anecdotes or photos.
Typhoon Reviewers React: Writing in the Calgary Herald, reviewer Bill Musselwhite noted: "What Typhoon and Tempest does, and does well, is help the reader appreciate the contribution the pilots made ... it works as pure history, but it also is thoroughly readable. It does go to the technical and the tactical, but the book's backbone is made up of those who climbed into the cockpits to dodge flak and telephone wires, while taking out trains and tanks."
Yet Musselwhite fell into an well-known reviewer's trap — criticizing a book for what it isn't. He complains that, in spite of everything it offers, it lacks technical drawings. Of course it does! We had better things to do, and a tight budget, so were not about to rehash old material. Those drawings are in numerous books and magazines — we wanted something new.
In France's Air Action, Jean-Michel Guhl got the point and commented about earlier books: "All of them actually go in to describing the aircraft's history at great length and detail, but somehow leave aside the human touch ... Halliday, instead, has gone into the official RCAF records, visited numerous veterans ... and gathered the material necessary to provide as original a book as possible ... Halliday provides us with action from cover to cover ... One more "must" from CANAV Books!" In Aeroplane Monthly, a very satisfied reviewer concluded, "The former Typhoon pilot certainly has nothing to complain about with this book." Legion magazine, in its famous "Brown's Books" column, delivered one of the kindest comments of all: "Both planes and flyers are the book's heroes, and helpful appendices list units, personnel and planes ... published by the indispensable CANAV Books."
In a strange twist, Hugh Halliday (the ingrate) would take one of his kindly reviewers to task! In the Ottawa Citizen, James McDowell wrote that in 1944 the Allies "defeated an enemy superior to them in both numbers and materiel in France" Given the inaccuracy of the claim, Halliday suspected that McDowell forgot to read his book. The Citizen published Halliday's rebuttal. One might be surprised to hear that books can be reviewed by those who really haven't read a word from them. CANAV has had reviews with copy drawn straight from its own brochures or flap copy. These, of course, are the kinds of reviews for which a publisher would kill! (Copies of Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story still are available.)