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  • Vermilion Voice

Life As An Air Gunner

WWII Veteran - Gage Pendleton Photo credit: The Weekly Review

Ninety-four-year-old Veteran, Gage Pendleton, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in December of 1942 as a Wireless/ Air gunner.

Born and raised on a farm 10 miles south of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, the 19-year-old had taken wireless training in Calgary and gunnery training in Lethbridge before going overseas in 1943 attached to the RAF.

“In 1944 the allies had bombed pretty near everything in Europe, so they decided they were going to plan an air invasion to get behind the German lines,” said Pendleton.

From his bomber command stationed in North Yorkshire, England, he along with a pilot, co-pilot, and a navigator were transferred to a Dakota DC-3 which was a transport command. He attended a British paratroop school training for six weeks, and as a Paratroop Jumpmaster, joined his crew on the Dakota’s where they were already committed to tow gliders.

“The invasion was into Arnhem, the Netherlands and we flew for three days to try and take the Arnhem Bridge and the allies didn’t get a foothold,” said Pendleton.

An Aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge over the Rhine River taken by the Royal Air Force on September 19, 1944. Photo supplied

According to Pendleton, there were then quite a few Canadians and Americans without a job so some Canadians were billeted homes in Blackpool, England and they were loaded on small PNO luxury liner boats and then converted over to troop ships.

Having sustained heavy fire, new clothing was issued because of all the holes in the existing ones.

They traveled by boat (under convoy until out in the middle of the Atlantic) to Bombay. The 33 day trip took them into Gibraltar, the Indian Ocean, and Bombay. There they were loaded on a train crossing India to Calcutta.

“The railroad cars were what we would transport stock in, here in Canada,” said Pendleton.

The train allowed them to stop for food and water a few times and Pendleton was transported by train up into the northern province of Assam. There they took a river raft for a long day’s paddle by Kenyan, African soldiers who were attached to the Indian Army where they were then transferred by truck into jungle aircraft to a northern province occupied by the Japanese.

Here Pendleton joined the four C-5 squadrons from Edmonton which was the first Canadian squadron he had been on since leaving Canada.

“By that time, the Japanese had practically all of Thailand and Northern India. If they had gotten Calcutta, they would have gotten all of India,” said Pendleton.

Here Pendleton served with the 14th Army delivering supplies dropped by parachute to mountaintop locations.

“The supplies included medical supplies, food, and ammunition; even three mules. Other times, the RAF had a Spitfire squadron ahead of the 14th Army that did a lot of bombing, so at times the aircraft was carrying a 500 pound bomb. Jungle airstrips weren’t quite adequate to carry such an aircraft, and the plane often cleared more jungle on either side,” said Pendleton.

According to Pendleton, the Asian conflict was not noted much until 1944, but in all of the services, over 55,000 Canadians took part in the southeast Asian theater.

Pendleton went on to say that much like ‘In Flander’s Fields’ representing the European conflict, that an epitaph was given to represent the Asian areas.

“When you go home, tell them of us; for we gave our today for their tomorrow,” said the epitaph.

Three weeks after the Japanese surrendered the squadron went back to England. Pendleton’s crew chose to go back to Canada instead of staying on occupationally in November of 1945.

Two years later, Pendleton rejoined the Canadian Armed Forces and served for another five years, stationed in the Yukon, Montreal, and Chatham, New Brunswick.

Pendleton had a daughter in 1947 and a son in 1949, so afterward headed out west where he purchased a garage and implement shop in Irma. In business until 1967, Pendleton sold and purchased farmland northeast of Irma where he stayed until losing his wife (who was 42 years old at the time).

From there, he moved to Edmonton and worked for the city in the Registration of Auto Repair Department for 17 years until his retirement. In his retirement, Pendleton continued to travel most of the world, and has since returned to Irma where he enjoys spending time with family and friends.

A badge for Wireless Air Gunners of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Photo supplied

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