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Thread: RNZAF navigator in photograph, taken at VALLEY FORGE, USA

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    Default RNZAF navigator in photograph, taken at VALLEY FORGE, USA

    During the Empire Training Scheme aircrew were sent to Canada for training and I have a photograph of a RNZAF Sgt Navigator and his friend taken at Valley Forge in Philadelphia, some 1700 miles from his training depot in Winnipeg.

    This is likely to have been taken between 25th July and 4th of August 1943, possibly while he was on leave (recorded as "Embarkation (plus travelling time)" before heading to the UK, after which his service records show that he was at "No1 (Y) Unit, Halifax, Nova Scotia" from 3rd August to 25th August probably awaiting return to the UK.

    This photograph was taken positively after July '43, the date of his promotion.

    I've found that Valley Forge contained (or was wholly) a US Military Hospital, and I wonder if he was there as a visitor to a patient maybe the friend in the photo who also appears also to be RNZAF and similarly badged as an 'Observer', or someone else...................

    .........................OR, was Valley Forge where they were billeted for their Embarkation Leave?

    I've posted this elsewhere and had a few replies but cannot trace anyone who might also have trained or visited Valley Forge, or who can explain why Sgt Walter Watson RNZAF might have been there.

    His service records make no mention of him ever having been there but his niece has information that this WAS where the photograph was taken.

    If I could post the photo someone may recognise either of the men, or the location.

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    Jake,

    Walter Davis Watson's service record would make no mention of Valley Forge as RNZAF personnel training in Canada under EATS were never posted to the USA as part of their training, though many transited there on their way to the UK (embarking at New York) as did some who were bound for 111 OTU in Nassau to for conversion and training on Liberators.

    The dates you give are his pre-embarkation leave dates, when many such airmen took advantage of the time to visit the US as 'tourists' while en route to No.1 Y Depot at Halifax.

    He was not 'returning' to the UK, by the way but simply continuing his journey from New Zealand following training and graduation in Canada.

    Errol

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    Errol, as you say, Walter's records make no mention of Valley Forge and I'd assumed his posting to Halifax meant that he departed from there to the UK, but I've read elsewhere that some EATS crew left from New York.
    I thought that in his case if he'd left from the USA it would have been recorded, so the next assumption I made is that he was simply visiting Valley Forge to see someone who was based or was a patient there.

    It could be that the reference to Valley Forge is wrong, but the family member who supplied the photograph is sure that was the location.

    A bit of a mystery!

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    Jake,

    Many of the men who left from "Y" Depot in Halifax for the UK boarded trains there for New York.

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Jake,

    I'm fairly certain that Watson would have embarked at Halifax on 26 August 1943 and sailed from there for the UK. I have noted a fair number of RNZAF airmen so doing on that date.

    There was a New York embarkation of RNZAF men earlier, on 3 August, and the next on 8 October.

    Watson's service record may show a posting to TP or Trainees Pool on 25 August? The TP date, usually one day prior to embarkation, indicates a transfer from being attached to the RCAF to being attached to the RAF.

    Errol

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    Walter's records are on my desk but have a large, heavily shaded area down the page which makes reading them tricky. But, from what I can see his Departure Authority note shows "DRO#17", going from Winnipeg to Halifax on 3/8/43.
    The next entry is "DRO 216" from No.1 Y Depot to RAF 2P(or TP?) on 25/8/43,
    Then no 'from' entry but to "Emb Can" 26/8/43
    This is followed by from "Can" to "Dis UK" on 1/9/43

    I'm trying also to trace the Convoy number and possibly the ship he sailed on, and note (reading elsewhere) that after the USA entered the war convoys left from New York to Halifax, thence to the UK with Liverpool being the usual port but Greenock being used on occasion.
    Greenock could tie in with a recollection that Walter visited family his home town of Glasgow (from where he'd left for New Zealand a few years before) with some aircrew friends at one time, but Prestwick had been mentioned throwing my search towards a 'plane flight initially, though the timescale and all other information confirm that it was indeed a sailing.

    There are a few other questions about Walter's service career, which I hope I can find answers to, but I'll solve one at a time, with the help of those on the Forum of course!

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    Jake,

    Walter's record ties in neatly with the movements of over 20 other RNZAF men that I have postings for during his time.

    Seven were posted to No 1 (Y) Depot at Halifax on 4 August, the others on various dates.
    Only a few of the 20+ have a TP date, but for those that do it is the 25th
    All embarked on the 26th, disembarked 1 September, then No 12 (RNZAF) Personnel Despatch & Reception Centre at Bournemouth on 2nd.

    I have a ship name for just the one man - the Queen Mary. I think it likely that all of these airmen, including Walter, were on this ship. Given her speed, she would have crossed the Atlantic on her own and in about half or less of the time that a fast convoy would have taken. The disembarkation point was Greenock.

    Errol

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    Jake/Errol,

    Info on the "Queen Mary":

    http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/at/index.html?at.php?convoy=61!~atmain

    Unescorted!

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 25th April 2012 at 05:33.

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    Thanks for that Errol; your info confirms Walter's move to 12 PRC on the 2nd September, and I'll look up
    Col Bruggy's Queen Mary reference when I get home. (reply from work).

    This also ties in with Walter's visit to Glasgow, possibly while he was en route, so I'm assuming he managed to get time off to say hello to the old folks before heading to 12 PRC.

    P.S. A quick check shows this on http://ww2troopships.com/ships/q/queenmary/crossings1943.htm

    "Embarkation/Debarkation: New York, NY to Gourock, Scotland
    Units on Board: 15,116 troops & 937 crew
    Convoy Number: None known
    Source: S. Harding - Gray Ghost: The RMS Queen Mary at War"
    Last edited by Jake Drummond; 25th April 2012 at 08:49.

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    Jake,

    On disembarkation at Greenock the airmen boarded an overnight train for Bournemouth. There probably was not sufficient time to break away for a family visit at that point. More likely Walter returned north during leave later. While stationed at Bournemouth, for instance, and awaiting their first flying duty posting many airmen were given leave and took advantage of this to visit relatives in particular. In those days, of course, most New Zealanders had uncles, aunts or even grandparents who had remained in the UK but up until that time had never met with them.

    Errol
    Last edited by Errol Martyn; 25th April 2012 at 09:48.

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