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LangleyAdvance Your community newspaper since 1931 Thursday, November 8, 2012 New Bridal Collection LAYAWAY NOW FOR CHRISTMAS Your source for breaking news, sports, and entertainment: Remembrance Day Close calls on the home front Lest We Forget Audited circulation: 40,026 – 52 pages Ken Macgowan checks the logbook he kept in the 1940s, when he flew as a navigator on RCAF flying boats over the North Atlantic. Matthew Claxton Langley Advance A Langley veteran had a “calm war” that included wing-walking and Atlantic blizzards. by Matthew Claxton #370 - 20202 - 66th Ave. Langley 604-539-7720 A NATURAL SELECTION IN STOCK NOW! MADE BY TOYOTA. CUSTOMIZED BY YOU. SCION.CA LANGLEY SCION • D9497 20622 Langley Bypass, Langley 604-530-3156 SELLING LANGLEY ONE YARD AT A TIME Call KEITH SETTER for a FREE Market Evaluation 604-533-3491 Treeland Realty Ken Macgowan thought he had his life planned out on Sept. 10, 1939. His birthday was the following day, and the 18-year-old commerce student at UBC was planning to go into the same insurance firm his late father had worked for. He was a fourth-generation New Westminster resident who had never travelled widely. “I was walking up Sixth Street,” Macgowan remembered, and someone told him that Canada was at war. “It was foreign to me,” he said. For the next two years, he tried to keep going as normal, attending another two years at UBC, marching with the Canadian Officer Training Corps on weekends. But at the end of his third year, he ditched his studies and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. “I was losing so many friends, and I felt I had to get in there,” said Macgowan, now a resident of a Langley senior home. Macgowan picked the RCAF There were early radio beacons, because it appealed to him as and he was taught to use them. “the best service” and because “They helped when you were training didn’t mean quite as coming back from a patrol, espemuch marching about outside. cially over the Atlantic.” “I could have indoor lessons For someone who says he had on mathematics,” he said. “It a relatively calm war, the training appealed to me much more.” and patrols on both the East and However, he left it up to the West Coasts gave Macgowan a RCAF to determine his exact role. few brushes with death. He found himself in training to “We had one bad night there, become a navigator and observer, in May of 1943,” he said. first heading to Edmonton, then A number of aircraft went to Jarvis, Ont., for a bombing and up for a training flight, and gunnery course. Macgowan’s pilot, an experienced “I had never flown before that,” local bush pilot, decided that the Macgowan said. weather was too bad – fog was He and his felrolling in. low recruits pracHe landed, and “I climbed out and tised bombing and Macgowan was machine-gunning not happy. walked along the targets towed “I was very wing to the end of it, behind other planes. annoyed at him, By 1943, because it was hanging onto those Macgowan was an exercise that struts” in Chatham, New wouldn’t get Brunswick, learning logged,” he said. to navigate by the stars. Five planes crashed that night. The young officers studied “any An airplane with Polish officers particular bit of navigation that slammed into a mountain, more was around at the time, and there ditched in the ocean, and another wasn’t much,” said Macgowan. landed on the road to Bathurst. The pilot headed up, with After more classroom traina severely damaged set of left ing on P.E.I., where he manwings, and the left float almost aged to look up friends and torn free. relatives of his father’s family, As they came down towards Macgowan was shipped back Oak Bay to make an early landto Pat Bay on Vancouver Island ing, the pilot worried that, with to fly Supermarine Stranraers just one float, the – twin-engined, two-winged flying “I was losing so many plane would be unbalanced when boats that were friends, and I felt I had it hit the water. being phased out, It might skew except for trainees. to get in there.” around and crash. It was in one His solution? of those that Send Macgowan to walk out Macgowan almost died. along the wing to balance things The exercise was to crawl out while they came in and low around the southern end of taxied across the bay at 40 knots. Vancouver Island to the home “I climbed out and walked base. The pilot headed into a bay along the wing to the end of in heavy fog, and missed that he it, hanging onto those struts,” was now flying over land again. Macgowan said. The first clue for Macgowan They landed, Macgowan that something was wrong came survived his career as a wingwhen the 26-pound bomb sight walker, and the crew treated flew up and came down in his themselves to grilled cheese sandlap. He looked out the window wiches at the Dominion Hotel and saw the plane was doing a after tying up their battered flying high-speed tree topping, shearboat at the Oak Bay Yacht Club. ing eight to ten feet of the tops “That plane never flew again,” of the local foliage. Everything in Macgowan said. the plane was loose and moving, continued on page A8… including the carrier pigeon.

Langley Advance November 8 2012

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