James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
Click on picture for enlargement

War service

Gwyn Owen, 'Yeoveney' Gwyn worked for the National Trust Company for five years before, on 19 May 1941, on his third attempt, he was accepted to enlist in the RCAF for radio and electronic skills training; he had hoped to become a pilot but was wrongly diagnosed with colour-blindness. After a three-month intensive training course at Queens University in radio engineering he was one of only six of the original one hundred and thirty airmen who started the course to be commissioned from the ranks for tops in the exams. It would have counted as a first year credit had he subsequently studied for a degree. After several weeks at home Gwyn was posted to Bournmouth in UK via Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Gourock near Glasgow, before being posted to a CH early warning station at Warren, South Wales, for further training in Radio Location; he was there when Pearl Harbour was attacked. He then spent some leave with my grandfather Reginald Owen and family at 'Yeoveney' in Watford - my mother recalled he would play Eine Kleine Nacht Musike on the gramophone in the back garden – before being posted as CO of South Stack station, Holyhead, Anglesey, his first command and a daunting prospect as he had been given no officer training. As far as I am aware there was then little or no contact between the Canadian and English branches of the family until 2001 when I traced Gwyn through the RCAF.

Canadian airmen were in the SE Asia theatre even before the initial Japanese attacks of December 1941. When war broke out in 1939, few skills had been in greater demand among the Allied armed forces than those associated with radio operation and maintenance, skills which were valuable not only for their own sake, but which could be readily be applied to the new and still mysterious arts of Radio Detection Finding ('radar'). By the end of 1940, Canada had hurriedly enlisted several hundred trained radiomen in the RCAF and sent them to England for courses which qualified them as radar operators and mechanics to help strengthen the Royal Air Force. A number of graduates in electrical engineering had also been commissioned and loaned to the RAF to command or administer the stream of radar and signals units that were constantly being formed. Many of these Canadians were then posted overseas, to the Middle or Far East and by December 1941, about 350 RCAF other ranks and 50 officers were serving in the RAF's Far Eastern Command. The arrival of Allied fighter squadrons and the erection of radar installations immediately helped to curtail the Japanese fighter reconnaissance missions as well as reducing bomber activity.   >>