Maurie O'Keefe - Training as a wireless operator

Running time
2 min 11 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Look, snippets will come out. Churchill said to England in one of his speeches one day, "You can never repay the debt you owe to the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders." 56 per cent of Bomber Command are English. 25 per cent Canadian, and they built their own aircraft and flew them across, deployed their own air crews and had their own group, which was about two or three squadrons, or four squadrons. The Poms couldn't tell 'em too much what to do. The Poms didn't like it. But we were with the Australians and the Poms paid our money.

And the funny thing was that if you had an RAF pilot, an Australian pilot doing the same job, the Australian got more than him. They didn't like it. The CO, Commander Fairbairn. He was a fighter pilot in the First World War, used to get the whiskey. His face, looking back now, I can see the strain on his face, the strain in his eyes, was his experience with fighting in the first war … Wing Commander Fairbairn, spit and polish, but, to train us, they had to get your Morse speed up 'cause it was all Morse code.

Every bit of operation over in England on the radio was all Morse code and that was the tough thing. They used to say the pilot's course was easiest and the wireless ops was the hardest, and it was too. Because with me, about 60 started and about 30 failed after about two or three months. They couldn't keep up with the Morse. Then they were given the choice of either being ground staff or tail gunner. That's where the tail gunners came from. There was never a category for a tail gunner. They come from fellows who couldn't keep up with the Morse at the radio schools. But I got through.

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