Rank & Name: P/O Herbert F. Tuckwood (Canada)
Date of Death: N/A

Herbert Tuckwood's rank at time of demobilisation is unconfirmed at this stage. His last known rank is Flight Sergeant but he has an officers cap on in one of his photos, so it's likely he rose to the rank of Warrant Officer, Pilot Officer or higher. Herbert joined 59 Squadron in April, 1942.

Herbert and crew - Lockheed Hudson (ww2images.com)
Herbert and crew - B17 Flying Fortress - B24 Liberator (Rob Stitt)

Herbert was born on April 14, 1912, at Madawaska, Ontario. He was educated to matriculation level at West Hill High School, Montreal. Took as special course for electrician.

Enlistment & Gunnery Training: Herbert enlisted in the RCAF on August 1940 at Montreal. His training included #2 Manning Depot, Brandon; #2 Wireless School, Calgary and #3 B&G School, Macdonald, Manitoba. He graduated from Macdonald as a WOP/AG on August 18, 1941. Herbert had some frustrating delays before getting into proper training. Because his records showed some electrical training, he was held back at Brandon as part of the instructional unit, missing several drafts out.

When he did get a posting, it was to the B&G School at Macdonald, on gurard duty. This B&G was not quite ready for training at the time. He remembers the cold, some frigid outdoor out houses, and a heightened sense of security with spies imagined behind every hangar. He was posted to Wireless School in Calgary where, in those days, very superficial training was given on antiquated wireless sets converted from army use (R1082-T1083). What flying took place was in Tiger or Fox Moths or Norseman aircraft. Morse code practice was the major part of the training. Back in Macdonald, Herb received his WOP/AG wing, lots of firing at drogues from Fairey Battles and more classroom work.

Operational Training: OTU began with a posting in fall of 1941 to #31 OTU (later #7) at Debert, Nova Scotia. This unit operated Hudson aircraft and training flights included the taking of radio bearings on maritime radio stations. Herb remembers one flight destined for Windsor, N.S. which scattered to various airports because of a sudden storm. Crews of two aircraft were killed in crashes. His next move was to Dorval, P.Q. for some intensive Morse training with the objective of joining crews flying Hudsons to the UK. On December 7, 1941, however with the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour, all such flights were suspended.

In the early spring of 1942, Herb left Halifax in a four-ship convoy - two troop ships (he was on S.S. Volendam) and two US destroyers. One destroyer was sunk by a U-Boat. The convoy landed at Greenoch. After the usual stint at Bournemouth, Herb was posted to #6 OTU, Thornaby, crewing up with a pilot, a navigator and another WOP/AG on the Hudson.

59 Squadron - Operational: In April, 1942 Herb joined # 59 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command at North Coats, near Grimsby. Canadian #407 “Demon” Squadron was there for a short time before moving to Bircham Newton. Herb recalls one day being called to the ops room to replace a crew which had cancelled out because of illness. His aircraft joined two others with the objective of attacking a German convoy off the coast of Holland. The convoy consisted of two destroyers and eight merchant vessels. Herb describes his position as being on his stomach, aiming a Lewis gun through and opening in the rear floor with the second gunner in the upper turret. The tactics of the time called for a low-level attack, often at 50 feet, and all three aircraft dived on the convoy. Flak was heavy and Herb recalls that he could hear and feel hits on the aircraft. They dropped four 250 lb. bombs and then took violent evasive action to clear the area. The other aircraft were not so lucky - they were shot down. Clear of the convoy, Herb reported to the pilot that they were losing fuel from a wing tank, one engine was on fire, the wheels were down and the bomb bay doors open. The pilot shut down the engine but they could not maintain height on a single engine so he took a chance and restarted the faulty engine - and it worked. On reaching base, they flew around trying to get the wheels locked down, even pouring coffee into the hydraulic system but no luck. The crew took up crash positions and the pilot made a smooth landing on grass. Subsequently, low-level attacks were abandoned because of the high casualty rate and bombing was done from 4,000 ft.

Another memorable event was the second 1,000 bomber raid on Bremen with 960 aircraft from Bomber Command, 102 from Coastal and and five from Army Co-op, a total of 1067 aircraft. Herb’s was given ten minutes over the target, to clear the area quickly because of the risk of being bombed from aircraft at a higher altitude. Herb was in the rear turret for this raid and says that he sat on his tin hat just in case. They found a hole in the heavy cloud, made one run, dropped their bombs and got out fast. His squadron sent out 12 aircraft without loss but Bomber Command lost 49, including 22 of their OTU crews.

Conversion to the B-24 Liberator: In late 1942 Herb’s squadron converted to B-24 Liberators for long-range anti-sub and convoy escort duties. They now had a crew of seven - pilot, co-pilot, navigator and four WOP/AGs. Their longest flight was 14 hours and 45 minutes meeting the Queen Mary with 20,000 troops on board.

"Meeting the Queen Mary on one of our patrols and to see some of the 20,000 American troops on board, was quite a sight. Our navigator Scotty said to tell them that they’re 50 miles off course. I was on the Aldis and flashed the signal. From then on no more communication. I guess they were insulted. Some time later in Londonberry, in a meeting of navy and air force brass, our pilot was there when the captain of the Queen Mary told of that incident. He had his navigator check and sure enough there were out that 50 miles. Seeing the smile on our pilot’s face, the captain said, “ and what you know about this?”. “Sir” said my pilot, “I was the captain of that aircraft."

They converted to B-17 Flying Fortresses in early 1943. On one trip they met a F.W. Condor (FW200). After an exchange of gunfire, the FW 200 escaped into cloud with one engine smoking. One of the shells from the FW 200 passed through the seat where the operator had been sitting minutes before. Most flights, Herb remembers, were monotonous without ever seeing a sub. After 43 operational flights, Herb ended up in Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, where his crew was taken off ops. His next posting represented hard duty ! To Nassau in the Bahamas, to train Czechoslovkian crews with flights to US bases in Cuba & Jamaica, with time spent on sunny beaches and in colonial-style clubs. For all this, they were paid an extra 7s 6p a day.

Herb was demobbed in July 1945.

Back on “civvy street” Herb resumed his training with further courses in electrical subjects. Following a period in construction, he joined General Foods, retiring as a foreman.

Herb lost his first wife after 35 years of marriage and re-married in 1983. He has one son from his first marriage. His second wife died in 1999.

Herb says that all four members of his Hudson crew survived the war but two members of his Fortress crew have subsequently died. Fifteen members of #59 Squadron are still accounted for, nine having shown up a few years ago at the Winnipeg reunion. January 28, 2002.

The above information was found saved from Toronto Air Gunners page of the World War Aircrew website (defunct).

Further Operational Records: (download - docx file)



Further Information

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Rest In Peace