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Gordon Diller

Major Gordon L. Diller, RCAF RetiredGordon L. Diller arrived in Calgary in September 1944, posted to No. 2 Wireless School (WS). By the time he received his Wings in March 1945, the war, along with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), was winding down. Germany surrendered before Diller had a chance to serve, and as he notes in his memoirs, "the Germans heard that we were coming to get them, so they gave up instead." Diller retired from service having attained the rank of Major. In the following excerpt, Diller explains some of the ins and outs of wireless training in the BCATP.

 

Our instructors were all Sergeants, well seasoned in dealing with raw material, and very competent and efficient. The same instructors were with us for the duration of the course and, generally, I look back on them with fondness. Naturally, most of them quickly had been nicknamed with endearing terms like "Eager-Beaver Percy-Procedure." The Commanding Officer, Group Captain Foss, being an older gentleman, was fondly known as "Father Foss." 

I recall that our Morse code instructor would talk back and forth at great speed, in Morse, with instructors in other class rooms, while we were supposed to be practicing on our own. As we became more proficient, we were able to understand more and more, so they would switch from Morse to railway code, which none of us could understand. We were required to be able to send and receive at a speed of 20 words a minute, by the time of graduation, and could try a test at 25, which most tried and passed, receiving an appropriate certificate. 

A good indication of the state of your Morse proficiency was when you were able to send and receive a message without having to consciously think about the process. I remember one Sergeant, in particular, although not for his instructing, as he was not one of ours, used to spend a lot of time in a small room at the back of our Morse practice room, from which various noise would emit. For a while we were quite puzzled as to what he was doing. It turned out that he was busily making heart-shaped, clear-plastic pendants with a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) crest imbedded inside, which he sold to the trainees eager to impress the girls. He had a pretty good business going, whether surreptitiously or with the tacit consent of the authorities!

Gordon L. DillerAs we progressed through the training program, gradually increasing our Morse speed and accuracy, learning the intricacies of procedure, and being able to recognize aircraft silhouettes at 1/50th of a second, the time finally came to introduce us to the actual equipment currently used on operations, how it was interconnected with its various peripherals and how to operate it. 

Once we had mastered this operation, it was time to progress to the "next-to-the-real-thing," the dreaded outstations. This involved a room filled with small, completely enclosed cubicles, into which the trainee (victim) crawled, and the door closed behind. Inside this dimly lit enclosure was crammed all the equipment that would normally be encountered in a typical wireless operator's position in an aircraft—transmitter, receiver, bathtub-type Morse key, direction-finding equipment, intercom, trailing antenna reel and J switch (used for antenna switching). 

Once inside, we carried out exercises simulating an actual mission, sending and receiving messages, taking bearings, logging each action and, responding to demands for the "colour of the day" (supposedly from allied ground forces), which we responded to in great haste. Being tardy to this demand or responding with the incorrect colour resulted in a blast of simulated, friendly (?) anti-aircraft fire, which took the form of a loud explosion up behind the student's head, emitted from a large firecracker-type device cunningly installed by the instruction staff, and detonated with great glee, filling the cubicle with smoke and the smell of gunpowder. 

Be assured that this was seldom done more than once to a student—we were quick learners. The noise from the detonation was certainly audible throughout the room and the other cubicles, and served to alert and motivate the other students to be speedy and accurate. This was probably one of the minor reasons for the dreaded label for outstations. But, the main reason was that if you didn't do well here, your further progress, or even continuance, was in some doubt. In spite of all these trials, outstations was a very valuable training lesson and prepared us very well for the flying portion of the program to come later.

In November 1944, we were taken out to the flying squadron at Shepard, and treated to a familiarization ride in a Norseman aircraft. Most fared well but, there were a few who made good use of the so-called "barf bag," and some experiencing a repeat of these problems later, during the flying portion of the course. While there was some attrition throughout the course, with individuals being CT'd (ceased training) for various reasons, such as conduct, lack of application, low grades, air sickness etc., the majority persevered through to the end.

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