Jack Gould’s Air Force Memories
June 6, 2022
D.J. (Jack) Gould
Jack Gould grew up at 29 Oak Street, Fenelon Falls. His father was Alvin Gould, a well-known local pharmacist, who once backstopped the village’s Stratton Cup Championship Hockey Team (back when there was more than one silver challenge bowl named after a donor-politician). Jack’s grandfather was a Fenelon Falls Physician.
As a teenager, Jack opened a business repairing radios in Fenelon Falls (in the 1930s families would gather to listen to a show on the radio) before a falling out with his father prompted him to move to Hamilton, then Toronto. While he was living in Toronto, the Second World War broke out, and before long news spread of the Fall of France and the perilous situation that Great Britain faced during the Battle of Britain– “Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” as Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons.
Jack enlisted to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and trained in Gaspe, before being shipped overseas. Deployed to Coastal Command, his squadron became known as the ‘Demons’ as they raided German shipping, and tried to help defend allied shipments. Later in the war he was redeployed to Canada to serve in the North Atlantic Patrol. As German U-Boats threatened to strangle Great Britain during the Battle of the Atlantic, Jack did what he could to protect Allied convoys.
A lot of Canadian youth enlisted to serve their country, but few of them took the time to scrapbook their experience serving overseas. Jack Gould kept detailed records that provide a fascinating glimpse into the high-flying life of a Second World War Air Force Flight Sergeant.
As he served in Gaspe, he photographed the town’s main street, harbour and the Canadian and American planes training there, including his Canadian Digby bomber. He was shipped across the Atlantic on the Holland-America’s Pennland from Halifax to Grenock, Scotland.
Life in the Air Force was anything but dull. At one moment the crews would be flying their perilous missions and the next evening they would be headed to the theatre. Not only did they have to deal with enemy planes and anti-aircraft fire, crews had to navigate whatever storms blew across the Atlantic. A majority of Air Force personnel died before their tour of duty ended, but for the fortunate few that survived unscathed like Jack Gould, no other profession combined the adrenaline pumping action of aerial combat with pleasant outings to the Beaver Club.
Going to the Active Service Canteen was in many ways like visiting a contemporary restaurant. It offered seven choices of soup with crackers for a nickel, a plate of baked beans for a dime, soda, pie, ice cream, milk shakes and waffles. For Christmas the Air Force put on a special dinner that included turkey, ham, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, plum pudding, mince pies, oranges, apples, nuts, beer and cigarettes.
There was plenty of entertainment in wartime Britain, attending dances, watching a movie at the cinema, going on a cruise, or attending a ragtime performance Black Vanities at Victoria Palace—complete with fully licenced bars. Though it was rarely explicitly acknowledged, the crews knew that tomorrow’s flight might well be their last and there was a culture of living life to the fullest.
The men were expected to be in their barracks at 10:15 pm, and lights out was strictly enforced to mitigate the danger of night-time German bombing. Of course, their own bombers would soon flying missions over enemy territory, including dropping leaflets “Ein Peinliches Versprechen” (An Embarrassing Promise), on the days that they were not sinking German shipping.
After he was transferred back to Canada, the servicemen even found time to play the odd game of hockey. Many enjoyed having the chance to see former Boston Bruin star Bobby Bauer score 5 goals as the Halifax Airmen defeated the Picton Shipyards men. For the fortunate few who made it through it good health, their time in the Air Force was an absolutely unforgettable adventure—though one that most were hesitant to discuss in detail with their families once they resumed civilian life.
Jack Gould’s Scrapbook and Photo Album are available online: