Re­mem­brance Day

A cen­tury af­ter WWI, sto­ries still need telling

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL

Sit­ting com­fort­ably in a chair at his Grand Falls-Wind­sor home where he raised 15 chil­dren, Harry Pin­sent holds the Cana­dian pass­port from when he served a nav­i­ga­tor as a part of Ferry Command in the Sec­ond World War.

While it was no laugh­ing mat­ter, the 96-year-old can’t help but smile as he opens the small book­let.

“There was a lot of bad that came with the war, but you try and re­mem­ber some of the good too,” he says.

In be­tween the pro­tec­tive cas­ing of the pass­port are his short snorters.

Ac­cord­ing to the short­snorter­pro­, the tra­di­tion of sign­ing ban­knotes by var­i­ous peo­ple trav­el­ling to­gether or meet­ing at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, was started by bush pi­lots in Alaska dur­ing the 1920s. The pop­u­lar­ity of the prac­tice was adopted by the mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial avi­a­tion.

“If you signed a short snorter and that per­son could not pro­duce it upon re­quest, they owed you a dol­lar or a drink (a ‘short snort’, avi­a­tion and al­co­hol do not mix!),” states the web­site.

“I never had to buy a round,” Pin­sent said, as he al­ways had the ban­knotes on him.

The Grand Falls-Wind­sor na­tive en­listed when he was 18, join­ing the Royal Air Force (RAF), as New­found­land and Labrador was still a Bri­tish do­min­ion, and would be sta­tioned in Que­bec as a wire­less op­er­a­tor/air gunner – largely de­ci­pher­ing Morse code. In early 1942 he would go on to be­come an avi­a­tion nav­i­ga­tor for the re­main­der of the war.

His mis­sions would take him all over the world, in­clud­ing Africa, South Amer­ica, Egypt, and the United King­dom, de­liv­er­ing air force air­craft as a part of the RAF Ferry Command, which was de­signed to im­prove the de­liv­ery of air­craft be­tween U.S. fac­to­ries and Bri­tain.

Pin­sent said he re­grets not keep­ing track of all his flights.

“At the time, we were just do­ing a job,” he said. But he was al­ways for­tu­nate to have never taken en­emy fire dur­ing his trav­els.

Ferry Command

Ferry Command was es­tab­lished be­cause ship­ping things over­seas by ship was too slow and they were of­ten needed for other cargo, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian En­cy­clo­pe­dia.

While tran­sat­lantic flights were still deemed dan­ger­ous, Win­ston Churchill’s war-time Min­is­ter of Air­craft Pro­duc­tion backed the idea and even though it was highly ridiculed, on Nov. 10, 1940, the seven Hud­son air­craft (bombers) de­parted Gan­der. All seven would ar­rive safely in Ire­land.

The es­tab­lish­ment of Ferry Command would see Amer­i­can­built air­craft trans­ported to Dor­val, QC, then flown to Gan­der for the tran­sat­lantic jour­ney.

Pin­sent him­self passed through Gan­der a few times. He re­mem­bers the air­port be­ing up and run­ning, and it be­ing a busy place.

“One trip we had to come back, af­ter car­bu­re­tor ic­ing 600 miles out, so we had to turn back and spend a cou­ple of nights in Gan­der be­fore we took off for Scot­land,” he said. “But, be­cause we were so busy, back then Gan­der was just a stop like any other place.”

In to­tal, the Cana­dian en­cy­clo­pe­dia states, “The CP Air Ser­vices Depart­ment, es­tab­lished in July 1940, and its suc­ces­sors, the RAF Ferry Command and No 45 Group of RAF Trans­port Command, de­liv­ered more than 9,000 war­planes - los­ing only about 100.”

The last flight of the planes for the war ef­fort de­parted Gan­der in Septem­ber 1946.


Grand Falls-Wind­sor na­tive Harry Pin­sent served in the Sec­ond World War as a wire­less op­er­a­tor/air gunner and nav­i­ga­tor with Ferry Command.

In­side of Harry Pin­sent’s pass­port are his short snorters for the war.

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