NL GenWeb

Reproduced with permission from The Beacon Supplement July 31, 1991
Contributed by Carol Walsh.

From Merlin Engines To Cats; Ganderberries Brought Them In

To thousands of Canadians stationed with the RCAF in Newfoundland and Labrador in the early ‘40s, Ganderberries had special significance. They were the 164 Air Transport Squadron planes. Whether going on leave, posting, tour of duty, discharge, journey home or to a new station it began at an A.T.O. at Gander, Goose Bay or Torbay, and the first leg of the trip was a flip in a “Ganderberry” to Moncton.

A week of weather to keep the 164 Squadron grounded, was a grim week indeed. But Ganderberries gave more than passenger service. All extra messing was brought in by 164 and many times, passengers returned from leave sharing his accommodation with eggs, crates of oranges, lettuce and celery. Priority freight (urgently needed pieces of equipment or supplies) were carried on these aircraft. They once delivered two Merlin engines weighing 2,420 pounds and a crankshaft weighing 2000 pounds.

Squadron personnel often talked about the time when, in response to an urgent call from Gander, they rounded up and flew in a dozen or so cats. Pet dogs have been passengers a time or two and a load of pigs was once flown in to form the nucleus of the RCAF piggery. At least one of the pianos at the station was delivered by 164 and once, in an emergency, a Gander berry made a mercy flight to deliver penicillin to the Gander Hospital.

Half a million pounds of extra messing were delivered in December, 1944 and in the first six months of 1945, the squadron carried a total weight of 6,559,636 pounds of passengers and freight. Gander’s share of that was 977,164 pounds from Moncton to Gander and 671,501 from Gander to Moncton.

In the first six months of 1945, 15,854 passengers were carried from Moncton to Gander and 2,236 from Gander to Moncton. They included all ranks and all services though the majority were R.C.A.F. Entertainment troupes traveled by Ganderberry also including the Joe Boys and the All Clear Show.

Personnel of 164 swelled with pride when they mentioned the splendid safety record of their squadron during the two and a half years they ferried freight and passengers to other isolated stations. Ganderberries flew in the same weather as the more seasoned pilots and their record of long and hazardous trips safely made inspired confidence in even the most nervous passenger. All traffic in and out of Gander was handled through a little office in Hangar 5 by a staff of two, Cpl. J.D. Pye and LAC Lanteigne.

© 2004 Carol Walsh and NL GenWeb