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WAG remembers the Second World War
from the air

November 23rd, 2017

Gordon Cloake recently moved into Points West Living Peace River. At this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony, he, along with other veterans, was honoured for his service. Born on November 17, 1924 in Saskatchewan, Gordon was just 18 when he enlisted and began basic training at the Royal Canadian Air Force ‘Manning Depot’ in Edmonton. 

Here are some of Gordon’s recollections of his experiences in the RCAF, as relayed by PWL Peace River recreation coordinator Bernadette Harris:

Gordon was the team's WAG

After ten months’ basic training in Edmonton, Gordon was sent to Winnipeg to study Morse code, how to work the radio (the wireless), and how to operate the gun. The Winnipeg recruits were divided into crews consisting of a pilot, a navigator, a wireless air gunner (WAG), a mid upper gunner, a rear gunner, and a bomb aimer. Gordon was the team’s WAG. The crew would fly to a target area drop flares, and when communications would come to the WAG he would relay the messages to the gunners and/or bomber to fire or drop the bomb. Then they trusted the pilot to get them out of there ASAP! 

Mid-air salute

Gordon was stationed on a base at Croft, Durham in northeastern England. There were 15 squadrons on 7 bases including Gordon’s unit, the 434 Bluenose Squadron. Gordon recalls one time his airborne crew was approaching a bomb target from the west, when a Russian plane (at that point working with the Allied forces) approached the same target from the east. The two pilots waggled their wings to each other as a form of salute.

The war was finally over

On May 8, 1945 the Allied forces defeated Germany, and Gordon returned to Canada, went to Saskatchewan to visit with his folks, then he went back to his base in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Along with most of his squadron, Gordon had signed on to continue service with a tour of duty in Japan. Before they were deployed however, in August 1945 the US Air Force dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki n August 1945. Japan surrendered, and the war was finally over.

From there Gordon went to the University of Toronto to study optometry. Three years later he finished his studies in Waterloo, Ontario, and went to work in an optometry clinic by the name of Gordon’s Good Glasses; the owner was James Gordon. He worked there for a year and realized that he should go west and start his own optometry business.

West to a new life

He came west to the Peace, rented office space, started his business, and met the girl who would become his wife. Gordon and Ethel were married in 1948 and over the years, Gordon’s business grew and he and Ethel had a family of seven children; two boys and five girls.

Photo: Gordon Cloake, with a photo of his World War II bomber crew; he is in the lower left of the photo. Gordon, who feels lucky to have survived his 2-1/2 years of the war, just celebrated his 93rd birthday.

More photos of Remembrance Day at PWL Peace River at Flickr: WAG remembers the Second World War from the air

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