Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Digital World War Wednesdays: Fatalities at No. 4 B&G, Fingal

     Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a nice relaxing Christmas spent with loved ones. I also hope you were lucky enough to get in some conversations with older relatives and hear some family histories and "news of the past"! If there's one thing we do all have in common it's a connection to history.

     For this week's post I thought I'd share with you all a little something I made as part of my final project for a course in Digital History this past semester. The assignment was to use a digital tool to interpret history and create an online exhibition for it to be shared with others. If you haven't already noticed, I'm pretty obsessed with the No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School in Fingal, so I decided that using that topic for my project would be a good first foray into what I'll be doing in grad school. After trying out some interesting options that were way too sophisticated for my capabilities and comfort zone (once a Dunwich gal, always a Dunwich gal), I decided that StoryMap, a project by Knight Lab at Northwestern University was the best format. Basically, I took information about the eight fatal accidents that occurred during the operation of the school and layered it with geographical data to map where the accidents happened in relation to the places as we know them today. Visitors can navigate through the map and read about how the accidents happened as well as biographical information on the victims involved. It's pretty cool on a computer, but I think it works best on iPad or mobile if you have that option available! Thanks so much for checking it out, and I'd love to hear what you think!

Thanks for reading (and clicking),

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Seedy Saturdays- The Norway Spruce

Happy Saturday Everyone and for those who celebrate the holiday, a belated Merry Christmas!  I think this tree is fitting for today's blog.

This species of spruce is native to Central and Eastern Europe, though it does grow here in southeastern Canada.  It can grow up to 55 m tall and is widely planted for its wood and to be used as the main Christmas tree in several cities around the world.  Every Christmas Oslo, the capital of Norway, provides the cities of New York, London, Edinburgh and Washington D.C. with a Norway spruce to be placed in their central square as a thank you for the aid these countries gave during WWII.  The Norway spruce is also an economically important tree in Europe as they are grown to be ornamental trees in parks and gardens, and as mentioned before, as Christmas trees.

The Norway spruce has been reported in the northern US and Canada as invasive in some areas, but are still a benefit in many ways.  They are used in forestry for timber and paper production, are the source of spruce beer which was used once to prevent and even cure scurvy, and are esteemed as a source of tonewood by stringed-instrument makers.  This tree is also a great support to a wide variety of wildlife, as winter cover for deer and small game, and as a roosting tree for hawks and owls.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

World War Wednesdays: Christmases 1942-1944 at No. 4 B&G, Fingal

    Merry Christmas to readers old and new of World War Wednesdays! For the past two weeks, we've been discussing the first festive celebrations at No. 4 B&G, Fingal thanks to Winston B. St. Clair. This week will be an extra holiday feature with three years in one post, from 1942-1944. So, take a break from all the preparations and get comfy!

Christmas #3, 1942
     Christmas of 1942 took much the same format as that of 1941. Committees were more experienced and improvements had been made to the physical plant. Aside from the water pipeline from Port Stanley, the biggest changes during 1942 were  systemic. In January and February 1942, a high level training conference was held in the United Kingdom to discuss changes to the Empire Air Training Plan. In the future the greatest stress would be placed on the quality of the graduates of the various training schemes instead of their numbers. Allied to this change was the decision, in March, to restructure the composition of aircrews of Royal Air Force heavy and medium bombers. Both events would add significantly to the load placed on the BCATP in Canada, especially at Air Observer Schools and Bombing and Gunnery Schools. The end result was a training conference at Ottawa in May 1942 that formalized what had been decided earlier. Another very important change took place in May when members of the RCAF (Women's Division) arrived at Fingal, adding many more capable minds and willing hands to the strength of the social fabric of the school. The arrival of the young women was also given credit for effecting a marked improvement in the appearance of the airmen. It was reported that the sales of hair tonic and aftershave lotion rose to record levels after the WDs arrived.

     In a sense the first event of the Christmas Season of 1942 took place on 27 November when the Christmas edition of the Fingal Observer went to press. This would inform the Fingalites of what events were scheduled to take place during the coming season. The Observer's nominal date of publication was 15 December, and it advised those people who wish to "let loose" over the holidays, to do their celebrating at the station.
Christmas #4, 1943
     Christmas of 1943 found No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School to be a thriving and nearly self-contained community of 1,500 people. The school was, based on the census figures of 1941, the fourth largest community in Elgin County. Its social structure was well developed and well managed, and morale appears to have been very high. The school's physical plant had just about reached the limits of its growth, and the long hours of hard work that had gone into station beautification projects had given the place a definite park-like appearance. Because of the poor bus service between No. 4 B&GS and St. Thomas, additional emphasis had been placed on developing the school's own recreational facilities. Year 1943 had been a particularly busy, exciting and rewarding time of change and accomplishment, and Fingalites, not being fully aware of the consequences of downsizing of the BCATP, expected no less in 1944.

     The Christmas activities at Fingal followed the general pattern that had evolved within the school. The basic parameters being a season of activities that lasted for about two weeks, with approximately one half of the school's personnel taking a short leave at Christmas, and the remainder being away for New Years.

     The Christmas 1943 issue of the Fingal Observer was released on 13 December, and it was full of all sorts of good stuff that could be considered as being gifts from the gnomes at AFHQ. For example, airmen were told that laundry tubs were to be installed in their barracks. In fact, four already had been! This was a luxury that their WD cohorts had enjoyed for some time, but one that would not, at least for the foreseeable future, be extended to male NCOs and officers. 

     Another article said that airwomen could  now wear silk stockings with their uniform while on leave or after duty hours, but they must be the same colour as the authorized lisle hose. Ottawa neglected to tell them, however, where these stockings could be purchased. The CO's gift was that he was made responsible for ensuring that only the approved colour of stockings were in fact worn. The Observer did not mention who was delegated to perform this awesome task.

     The WDs did not get all the goodies being given to the fair sex. Readers were reminded that a recent pay increase gave airmen's wives, with children, a $1.52 per month increase in their cost of living allowance, bringing the total up to $4.02. In spite of this bounty they still could not afford to compete with the WDs for the scarce supply of silk stockings. The latter had just had their pay adjusted from 67% to 80% of men's rates, and there were rumors of lots of back pay forthcoming. 

     Not all presents came from Ottawa. The editor of the Observer ran an article on the history of the coal pile, and he suggested that it be cut out and saved as a souvenir, "Something to show your children...", he said. The coal pile at Fingal was, it seems, more than its name implied. It was in addition to its intended purpose, I am told, a place where young lovers would meet and do whatever young lovers do. Whatever went on, the mere mention of "coal pile" today in the presence of former Fingalites frequently brings forth giggles, gales of laughter, or a quick change of subject. For those readers with over active imagination who find the picture of young love being played out on top of a 100 ton pile of soft coal a bit too much to take, I hasten to remind them that the coal compound included a building, No. 46, to be specific.

     The Christmas Season proper got off to a good start on Sunday, 19 December, with a party held at the YMCA Hostess House. The following day's St. Thomas Times-Journal reported that the place was beautifully decorated for the occasion, with the center-piece being a splendidly decorated Christmas tree, and that every available square foot of space was used to accommodate the 300 or so guests. I suspect the figure of "300" was an exaggeration, a bit of journalistic license, perhaps. It said that unlike other open house events where the guests came and stayed only for a short time, that on this occasion they came and stayed. The party lasted all afternoon and for most of the evening. A short sing-along movie of Christmas carols was shown that evening in the Recreation Hall.

     The entertainment highlight of the season took place on the evening of 20 Dec., with the appearance of Mart Kenney's "Victory Parade of Canada's Spotlight Band." Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen were the foremost dance band in Canada, and arguably one of the finest in North America. The band's visit to Fingal coincided with its weekly Monday evening radio broadcast sponsored by Coca-Cola. These broadcasts originated from an armed force's establishment or a war production facility and took the form of a salute to the host establishment. 
Mart Kenney
     The "Salute to Fingal" broadcast was preceded by a short warm up concert and followed by a station dance. The next day's Times-Journal said that the Drill Hall was decorated and set-up in cabaret style, and there was a buffet lunch for the 1,000 people who attended the dance. Tickets to the dance cost $1.00 for a couple.

     On 21 Dec. the station got a splendid present with the opening of a four-lane bowling alley in one of the lean-tos recently added to the Drill Hall. A snack bar, to be operated by airwomen volunteers, was being built nearby, and would open in early January. A Christmas party was held for the children in the Recreation Hall on the same day with about 250 parents and children in attendance. Movies were shown and Christmas carols were sung to the accompaniment of the station orchestra. An interesting feature of the event was that a number of young men from several different countries went on the stage and told the children how Christmas was celebrated back home. Santa arrived by aircraft with presents and treats for the children. The candy was made at the school by Cpl. Van Buskirk because it was not available from outside sources in the quantities required.

     On 23 Dec., men of the Air Bomber Course #92, and Wireless Air Gunner Course #68 graduated, and were presented with their wings. That evening the airwomen held a party in the canteen, using the proceeds of a raffle to defray the costs of decorations and refreshments. Presents were exchanged by all the young women remaining on the station. The Daily Diary indicated that Christmas Eve was spent by many at an informal dance held in the Recreation Hall.

     On Christmas Day, Senior NCOs and Warrant Officers entertained the Officers in the Sergeants' Mess. At noon they all went to the Other Ranks mess hall where they served the Airwomen their Christmas dinner. Later, an informal dance and movie were enjoyed. Some personnel were the guests of local residents for Christmas dinner. 

     From 26 Dec. on, flying exercises took place whenever the weather permitted. Organized evening entertainment consisted mainly of movies supplied by the YMCA. The Daily Diary reported that on New Year's Eve 250 attended a dance in the Recreation Hall. 

The Last Noel: Christmas #5, 1944
     The Christmas Season of 1944 at Fingal differed in a number of ways from those of previous years. Perhaps the principal difference was that in spite of the German successes, in what we now call the "Battle of the Bulge", there was a general feeling that the war in Europe was just about over. This attitude was strengthened by the remarks of the Commanding Officer that put the future of Fingal in question. The RC Padre added to the uncertainty when he reminded the readers of the Observer "that this may well be the last Christmas that we RCAF people spend together as a uniformed family."

     In spite of the overall reduction in training, Fingal fared well as it was training Wireless Air Gunners, Air Bombers and Flight Engineers, categories of aircrew for which there was still a demand. In terms of Monthly Unit Strength this school reached its peak of 1,850 in July 1944. This was the result of an increase in the student population during the summer, combined with an increased intake of repatriated, tour expired, aircrew officers. For the latter, Fingal was a holding unit,- a warehouse- where they would stay and be prepared for release, or to wait for other service assignments. From September onward, there was a drop in the student population, and barrack blocks were closed or converted to other uses. 

     The festive season, that was definitely low-key compared to a year earlier, started off on 19 December with a Christmas Box Dance in the drill hall. Young women came from St. Thomas, with transportation provided free by Richards Coach Lines. On 21 Dec., a children's Christmas party was held at the school, and Richards again provided free transportation from St. Thomas. On Christmas Eve, a candlelight service was held in the Recreation Hall, and later a Midnight Mass was celebrated in the Catholic Chapel.

     Christmas Day followed the usual Fingal routine. The Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs entertained the Officers in the NCOs Mess, and then they went over to the Other Ranks Mess to to serve Christmas dinner to the airmen and airwomen. Various entertainments were provided between Christmas and New Years. On New Years Eve a dance was held in the Recreation Hall. Both the Senior NCOs and Officers Messes held an open house, but bad weather kept attendance to a low level. On New Year's Day, the Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs were entertained in the Officers Mess and then they served dinner to the airmen and airwomen, in the OR Mess Hall.

     The Christmas Season, then, as now, served as a time of reflection, anticipation and resolve; but at that particular time there was also a deep sense of nostalgia that permeated events. The men and women at Fingal celebrated the season with many familiar faces missing, but that in itself was not unusual. What was different, was that a significant number of those absent had been retired from the Air Force: their services were no longer required. They had gone home!

     This was to be the last Christmas held at No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, for on 11 January 1945, Organization Order 509 was signed authorizing the disbanding of the school, effective 17 February 1945. There would be other Christmases celebrated at Fingal but not of the magnitude of the five celebrated during the war years.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Seedy Saturdays- Cutleaf Toothwort

Happy Saturday Everyone!  This week is about this interesting plant.

This member of the mustard family, unlike its siblings, has a rare and fleeting beauty.  This plant is a true ephemeral species, which means that it only appears aboveground briefly to reproduce and then goes dormant again, its entire growth and reproductive cycle lasting not much more than a month.  Cutleaf toothwort is a spring ephemeral and appears in late April or early May. 

This plant can be found in deciduous forests and wooded slopes that have a deep cover of leaf litter and soils that are high in organic matter.  When it appears, the stem rises from 8-15 inches, the leaves in groups of 3 with each one coarsely toothed and dissected.  The flowers of the cutleaf toothwort are white, sometimes pink, and are in clusters with the small black seeds contained in a long erect pod.  “Toothwort” in the name is in reference to the rootstalk with segments that are teeth-like and look like a string of beads. 

Fun fact:  The Native Americans loved the root for its peppery taste, as do many people still today. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

World War Wednesdays: The Second Christmas at No. 4 B&G, Fingal, 1941

     This week we're back at it again with holiday reminisces from the No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, Fingal, courtesy of Winston B. St. Clair! If you recall back to last week's account of the first Christmas there in 1940, things had just gotten off to a rocky (or should I say muddy) start, and holiday celebrations were quite restrained for a number of reasons. Here's the account for the next year to see if things had turned around:

     The Christmas Season at Fingal was celebrated in a much more pleasant environment than that of a year earlier. The mud problem was well on its way to being solved by paving the roads and the parade square, and by grassing over construction scars. The heating problems were overcome to a great extent but were never completely solved. A half mile long cinder track with sports field had been built in the spring, and a farm house had been converted to a YWCA Hostess House. A fire hall and a Works and Buildings compound had been constructed, and the hospital was enlarged.
     To improve the overall living environment an ongoing program of station beautification was put in place, and the land for a water pipe line to Port Stanley was expropriated in early December. In addition to being home to No. 4 B&GS, Fingal station was also home to No. 4 Personnel Holding Unit, alias, the Fingal Manning Depot. Hangar No. 1 had been turned into a 500 bed barrack block to accommodate these men and its apron was turned into tennis courts. In spite of the transient nature of the personnel of this unit it provided large numbers of self motivated go-getters who kept the entertainment pot at Fingal boiling.

     Two of the major factors that distinguished the Christmas of 1941 from the previous year were the generous holiday leave policy of the Air Force, and the degree of planning that went into the festivities. Undoubtedly the large scale AWOLS (away without leave) of the previous Christmas at the Technical Training School, at St. Thomas, and to a lesser extent at No. 1 Wireless School at Montreal had been a bitter lesson to the Air Force on the relative merits of morale and training schedules. Also of importance was that by now the social organization of the new schools were fairly well established, and a number of committees had been put in place to keep things moving smoothly.

     Typical of the committees at Fingal were; Canteen Committee; Airmen's Mess Committee; Entertainment Committee; Sports Committee; General Fund Committee; and Fire Committee. On 5 November the entertainment committee met to set plans for the 1941/42 winter season, and a week later it discussed the details of the two weeks of entertainment for the coming Christmas season. On 28 November the editorial board of the Fingal Observer met to plan a special Christmas edition of the magazine.
     The Christmas season of 1941 not only found the Air Force better organized, but so too was the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce. Considerable advertisement had been directed towards RCAF personnel through the year, and the merchants of St. Thomas again held a special Christmas shopping night just for airmen on 16 December. The Times-Journal of the following day described the event as being very successful. By this time another RCAF school, No. 14 Service Flying Training School was in operation in nearby Aylmer. The Air Force was now big business in Elgin County as about 7,500 service and civilian personnel a month drew pay cheques from one or another of these schools. 

     The Christmas Season of 1941 took on a form that would be followed at Fingal for the remainder of the school's existence. The season was also much happier at the nearby Technical Training School. In contrast to 1940's one day holiday which created many AWOLs and other disciplinary problems, airmen in 1941 were given 5 days leave and special rail cars from three major railroads loaded holiday bound airmen at the London and Port Stanley Railway stop at the Technical Training School in St. Thomas. In addition to the organized transportation out of St. Thomas, over 1,500 young men made their own travel arrangements. 

     The second year at Fingal was thus a marked improvement from the first, and its success set the standard for Christmas celebrations there in the years to come. Stay tuned next week to see how things changed by 1942, when the gals of the Women's Division joined in the festivities!

     Thanks for reading, 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seedy Saturdays- Sunflowers

Happy Saturday Everyone!  Today, I decided to bring a little sunshine into your December with my favourite flower!

Out of the 70 species of sunflower, all but 3 are native to North America, the others being from South America.  This plant has had many uses over the decades and centuries, especially to the various Native American tribes that called North America home.  The seeds were ground or pounded into flour and then used for mush, bread or cakes, as well as being cracked and eaten for a snack.  Some mixed the meal of the sunflower plant with other vegetables, such as corn, beans and squash as well.

Though originating in North America, much like a variety of plants, sunflower seeds were taken across the ocean to both Europe, by those who explored and discovered the New World, and to Russia by Peter the Great.  By the early 1800s, over 2 million acres of sunflowers were being grown in Russia, during which time 2 specific types had been identified: oil-type and those for direct human consumption.  Though they were used mostly as an ornamental plant, there is a record of a patent in England in 1716 for squeezing the oil out of sunflower.

Interesting fact: The sunflowers we see today are not in fact what the original plants looked like.  Over the generations of growing them, the plants were encouraged to produce bigger seeds and many more of them as well, so the original characteristics have been interfered with for thousands of years.

Take care! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

World War Wednesdays: The First Christmas at No. 4 B&G, Fingal, 1940

     For the next few weeks I thought it would be interesting to post a festive feature about the four Christmas celebrations that took place during the operation of the No. 4 B&G school in Fingal. I really cannot imagine not being able to return home to celebrate with family, and instead having to stay at a remote little Air Force school in the middle of nowhere, but these folks certainly made the best of their circumstances. All information comes from Winston B. St. Clair, who published a series  in the St. Thomas Times-Journal in the early 1990s to bring people's attention to the important part the RCAF played in their local history. Here's the first, about the School's very first Christmas celebration:
    One of the features of the Christmas Season of 1940 was that the men at the RCAF schools were given less time off than were the members of the Army. The reason stated by AFHQ for this decision was that the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schedules were too important to be compromised. This caused considerable resentment in the lower ranks of the Air Force. One should not be too critical of the Air Force, however, as the decision was made more for political reasons rather than military. The Mackenzie King government was under sever criticism from many sources for its lackluster war policies and it would not have been politically prudent to reduce the output of the high profile BCATP schools at that time.

     When the Christmas Season of 1940 arrived, No. 4 B&GS, Fingal had been in operation for about a month, and all was not well. The primitive coal fired space heaters in many of the drafty temporary wooden buildings were not working properly, and and it was only a slight exaggeration to say that if the coal fumes did not kill you, chances were good you would freeze to death. The attempt to heat the Recreation Hall with a small portable kerosene heater was an exercise in futility, making greatcoats mandatory attire for all recreational activities. Walking on the roadways had to be executed with caution, as a thick gooey clay based mud was everywhere. Only a freeze-up or drought could make walking safe.

     Of all the problems facing Fingal the most serious one was the shortage of potable water. There was lots of water for making mud, and there was an unlimited supply of available from the taps, but could not be used for cooking or drinking. Anyone who inadvertently drank the water found it to be a very moving experience!

     It was not only the physical conditions that threatened to make the first Christmas at the school something less than pleasant. As noted above, the RCAF would get very little time off at Christmas. To add to the general gloom, Fingal's training activities got off badly when the school lost an aircraft and three staff personnel in early December.

     There were, however, some positive signs: the official opening of the school took place on 17 December, without incident, and the first men to train at the school, Wireless Operator Air Gunner Course No. 3, graduated on 22 December. The next day, students for Air Observer Course No. 8, and Wireless Operator Air Gunners Course, No. 4, reported for duty. So in spite of an abundance of mud, a shortage of drinking water and a host of other problems, Fingal was in the bombing and gunnery business.

    On 24 December, Fingal played temporary host to some rather high priced political and military people, namely; Major C. G. "Chubby" Power, the Minister of National Defense for Air, Air Commodore C. H. Edwards, Air Member for Personnel; and Air Commodore G. E. Brooks, Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Training Command. These officials were enroute to the Technical Training School at St. Thomas in a futile attempt to quell the unrest at the school. Mitch Hepburn, the Premier of Ontario, was at Fingal to see the party off on their return trip to Toronto and Ottawa.

     The entry in the Daily Diary for 25 December indicated that most of the personnel took advantage of the Christmas Day holiday and were away from the school. To help compensate for the restrictive leave policy, the Air Force made extra messing funds available to the units so that the men could have a "bang up" dinner and an evening of entertainment. Christmas dinner consisted of turkey and all the trimmings, and was served to the men by Officers and Sr. NCOs. An Anglican Padre from the Technical Training School was on hand to assist with the celebrations. An article in the St. Thomas Times-Journal the following day said that 110 airmen were served Christmas dinner. This represented about twenty-five percent of the men who would normally eat in the Other Rank's Mess Hall at the time. The paper commented on the international composition of the event, with the men's national origins ranging from American to Welsh. The entertainment that followed the meal was wholly self made, with singing and other merriment.

     On Christmas Day, the Sr. NCOs were entertained in the Officer's Mess, and later that day, the Officers visited the Sergeant's Mess. In all, it was not a bad Christmas considering that the school had been in operation for such a short time, and that there were many rough edges in both the physical and human aspects of the school that had to be smoothed out.
    The first Christmas at Fingal was noticed by more than just the men who were stationed there. The Times-Journal of 16 December said that the Christmas trade in the city was the best it had been in several years and credited the employment created by the two nearby RCAF schools, and an upswing in the industrial activity, for this happy turn of events. The paper said that 300 men, many who were previously unemployed, now worked at the RCAF Technical Training School in St. Thomas, and the Bombing and Gunnery School at Fingal. This figure was a bit low as the unit diaries showed that there were 540 civilians employed at those two schools as of 31 December 1940.

     Although the paper had stressed the importance of civilian employment in the Air Force schools as a contributing factor in the expanding economy, the local merchants were also aware of the purchasing power of the airmen themselves as a factor in the city's improved retail trade business. They had targeted members of the RCAF with advertising ever since the Technical Training School  opened in late 1939, and considered the young men of the RCAF to be "good spenders". To give some idea of the size of the potential customer base in question, the monthly unit strength of that school alone topped 5,000 personnel in December, and was on its way up. Chances were, however, that Fingal was too new and too small to impact greatly on the retail trade that season.
     On 26 December it was business as usual, and it seemed that Fingal was doomed to be a hard luck station, for on that day a young man from the school died of pneumonia in the Technical Training School hospital. The year ended on a buoyant note with flying training starting on the 31 Dec. for the two new courses in residence. The Daily Diary of 1 January 1941 made no mention of a special New Year's dinner or inter-mess visitations, but it did give a Monthly Unit Strength for that date as 625 all ranks, plus 130 civilians. If anyone at Fingal was unhappy with the short Christmas leave period it appears that they did a good job of keeping it to themselves.

     The true highlight of the first Christmas at Fingal had in fact little to do with the celebration of the holiday but everything to do with adhering to its eternal message. A short time before Christmas one of the school's officers learned that the young son of one of the airmen was seriously ill, and he and some others quickly collected a purse of about $80.00 so that the airman could spend Christmas with his wife and son in St. John, New Brunswick. The commanding Officer saw to it that the necessary leave was forthcoming.

     A bittersweet account of this first Christmas, but I think it is a great example of the spirit of the school and those who were there. Stay tuned next week to see if things improved by Winston St. Clair's next installment, Christmas 1941!
     Thanks for reading, 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Memory Mondays: Jubilee Tea

Today we are remembering the Jubilee Tea that was held here at the Backus-Page House museum in 2012 to celebrate the 60th year in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was held in a tent out on the grounds and was served in period costume by staff and volunteers.  Take care!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Seedy Saturdays- Wild Lupin

Happy Saturday Everyone!  Let's keep the reminiscing of warmer weather going shall we?

The lupin is a flowering plant from the legume family and has over 200 species.  The seeds of this plant, commonly called lupin beans, were cultivated by the Roman Empire, thus popular with the Romans to be used as a green manure, forage or for their seeds as a substitute for soybeans.  Lupin seeds are considered to be superior to soybeans in certain applications, as they have similar protein amounts, but less fat.  They are also gluten-free, high in dietary fiber, amino acids and antioxidants and are considered a prebiotic. 

Like other legumes, lupin is great for turning nitrogen into fertilizer for other plants. This adaption allows lupins to be tolerant of infertile soils and capable of pioneering change in barren and poor-quality soils. They can be good companion plants in gardens, because of their ability to increase the soil nitrogen for vegetables and other plants and are also used as ornamental plants in gardens.  

Have a great week!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

World War Wednesdays: The RCAF Women's Division at No. 4 B&G, Fingal

     "Women Serve That Men May Fly"-- fly to save-- to do or die,
Fly to make our world secure-- fly to keep our record pure.
We joined to do our bit, you know-- dull or exciting, fast or slow.
"Women Serve That Men May Fly"-- even as you? Even as I?

Men will fly and women serve, till the scrap is won--
Ne'er a Briton quits his post, till the job is done. 
Men will fly if we but serve with a willing grace--
Keep our chins up-- serve as they-- with a smiling face.

"Women Serve That Men May Fly"-- make it service with a smile;
'Tis the spirit in the job we do that makes it worth the while.
Then, when the peace is justly won, we'll turn with heads held high
To peace-time jobs and peace-time joys-- we helped to cast the die.

(Published in the February-March 1943 edition of the Fingal Observer)

     On 2 July 1941, an Order-in-Council authorized the formation of the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force, later re-designated the RCAF Women's Division ("WDs") on 3 February 1942. A training depot opened in October 1941 at Toronto's Havergal Girls' College, and became No. 6 Manning Depot on 11 April, 1942. A second depot, No. 7, followed at Rockcliffe. In January 1942, the WDs numbered 1,583, and by July there were over 5,000. On 22 February, 1943, a CBC Radio broadcast announced the enrollment of the 10,000th volunteer. In total, some 17,038 women enrolled before recruitment ended in the Spring of 1944.

     Both trades and pay for the women were limited at first, with the ladies earning only 80% of their male counterparts, but mechanical and electrical trades were eventually added. The WDs constituted about 8% of RCAF strength, and during the war 34 were killed or died on active service. Many also received awards and medals for their service.

     The WDs of the No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School at Fingal played a major role in the function of the school, and assisted with the majority of ongoing operations at the station. They worked in places like the photo section, motor transport, tower operations, mail, and mess. These WDs basically did everything but fly, and it has been said that their unofficial motto became "We serve so men can fly".
Staff of the school's accounting station, February 1943

Memories of the Fingal WDs
     From Cpl. Harry Brown, RCAF Motor Boat Crewman at No. 4 B&G, Fingal:
"In late 1942, something new was added to the RCAF. The Women's Division was formed and a lot of people thought it would not work, but it did work well in spite of the predicted doom. The airwomen put the airmen to shame; they were neater and far surpassed the men at drill and marching. They relieved the men from duties that were not essential to the war effort. They ran the mess halls, performed the clerical duties in the headquarters, drove truck, refueled aircraft and did various other tasks in the hangers. It was an amazing phenomenon to see how quickly the airmen became more careful of their appearance. What a wonderful influence woman has over man. I salute the ladies for the superior job performed in spite of the odds against them and for the contribution they made to the war effort."

From Former Fingal WDs Margaret Davis and Dorothy Schick (Taylor) after being posted to Halifax, in a letter to the editor Fingal Observer February-March 1943:
     "Dear "Fingalites":
Greetings from two "Fingalites" in Halifax. We just received the January edition of the Fingal Observer and to two lonely WDs it sure hit the spot.It's been five months since we left No. 4 School and we can truthfully say the months we spent at Fingal were our happiest.
     Back in August four scared WDs passed through the gates of Fingal for the last time (with tearful eyes, I might add), and scared wasn't the word for what we were, terrified is better.
     When we heard we had been posted to Halifax (after all the things we had heard about it), the bottom fell out of our world (but not for long). There was "Smitty" from the plotting office, Germain from the logroom, Schick (pardon me, I mean Mrs. Taylor) from the library, and yours truly from Maintenance Control Room, but alas, the happy foursome has been broken up. Smitty and Germain have gone back to Rockcliffe for a course and they have left behind two lonely WDs in the "Gateway to Canada" (so they tell us).
     Since we have been here we have had the privilege of seeing a number of "Fingalites" as they waited to cross the pond-- F/Sgt. Reynolds, whom a lot of people will remember, F/L Lamb from Maintenance, Sgt. Observer "Tiny" Blake Merrick, now a P/O, F/O Sprinkle of the old BR Sqdrn, boys from the fire hall and ground crew from the different Hangars. Sgt. Bob Gray was on the station (although it was our misfortune not to see him), and we hear he was recently nabbed by Cupid and handed our very good friend her diamond ring. Congratulations, Givens. Latest additions to our station have been S/O Little and Ma'am Fulton. It sure feels like home to see a familiar face around town. 
     Dot Schick (Taylor) and myself enjoy our work very much, we're called Clerk Ops.-- meaning we work in operations. Dot works in the Filter Room and I struggle in Flying Control, which is all we can tell you about our work. You know the old saying, "military secret."
     We'd like to say hello to all our old friends at Fingal-- if they still remember us. In case they don't, we're enclosing a snapshot of us, taken in Halifax, to refresh their memories.
     We wonder (in our spare time) just how many of the original girls who arrived at Fingal on May 25th (just in time for a wings parade-- remember, kids?) are still at our favorite station. Not many is my guess.
     So long for now, Fingalites, and the best of luck to you all.
       Two faithful fans, 
Margaret Davis,
Dorothy Schick (Taylor)

     I hope this week's post sheds some light on the incredible group of gals who served at Fingal during the war, as well as the remarkable relationships that were formed between all who spent time there. Driving through the town today, it's hard to believe that such a large group of people have some of their best lifetime memories in Fingal, Ontario, but it really was a treasured place for students and employees from all over the world.
     Information for this post comes from local historian Blair Ferguson's book Southwold Remembers: The Fingal Observer, No. 4 B&G School as well as the February-March 1943 edition of the Fingal Observer. 
                   Thanks for reading,