Profile of service: Llewellyn William Lloyd – meteorology technician

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Biography / September 13, 2013

By Dominique Boily

Dog sled teams, Quonset huts, icebergs and the Newfy Bullet…

These are things Llewellyn William "Bill" Lloyd got to know intimately during his posting to Cape Bauld, Newfoundland, as the Royal Canadian Air Force corporal-in-charge of the weather station and the meteorological technicians posted there in support of Second World War efforts.

The importance of weather forecasting during the war is often taken for granted. So important was it that an edict was sent out by the Canadian government in November 1941 that forbade newspapers to publish any weather stories.  Even the Germans had set up a weather station on the northern tip of Labrador that measured temperature, pressure, and wind speed and direction in the north Atlantic. 

Situated on Quirpon Island off the northern tip of Newfoundland, 20 miles south of Belle Isle and 40 miles north of St. Anthony, Cape Bauld was about as desolate a place as could be. For the some 18 long months, Lloyd would become one of the lucky RCAF personnel to be posted to No. 30 Detachment Overseas. "Overseas" because Newfoundland was still a British colony in 1943.

Cape Bauld weather reports would be encrypted in case they fell into enemy hands and then sent to Gander, Newfoundland, every hour, year round. Once in Gander, they were deciphered and the end result would be put into the North American network of weather information and shared all over the world, except with enemy countries. 

It needed to be processed to help patrolling ships and aircraft, which were there to detect submarines or other enemy air or watercraft, as well as to escort convoys out of Halifax who were headed to Europe to resupply allies during the war effort.

“There was a big base at Yarmouth and another at Saint John. They had squadrons that would go out to sea and patrol for submarines …a number of squadrons went through, I was indirectly attached to them because we supplied information on weather for their flight when they went out to sea and to carry out surveillance, patrol and escorting convoys out of Halifax as they went overseas.

“They used the [PBY-5A Canso amphibious aircraft that] could land either on land or in the water. That aircraft was used for patrol work over the ocean.  As the war went on, aircraft could stay on longer; they could be airborne for over 12 hours, could go a long way out over the ocean before turning back, so we had to supply weather information for their whole flight,” he explained.

When they arrived on site, the first order of business was to dismantle the weather station at Canada Bay and transfer it to Cape Bauld to set up a new weather observing site to join the radar and wireless relay facilities that existed there already.

The facilities and equipment consisted of a diesel power house with the wireless transmitter buildings, and a radar shack with a transmitter/receiver on high ground. Once back to the site, they were provided with their supplies for the year and a slew of building materials to build their new barracks buildings.

The set up was basic because the environment made work extremely difficult.  The solid rock of the area made it a challenge to anchor outdoor equipment such as the Stevenson Screen (a shelter that protects meteorological instruments against the weather while still allowing air to flow freely around the instruments), wind mast, and more. 

For the most part, life at Cape Bauld was bleak and lonely. Other than the job at hand, which was important in itself and keeping aircraft such as the Canso flying safely in all weather conditions while they performed their duties as the patrollers or escorts over the Atlantic Ocean, not much else happened.

The main attractions for personnel were the monthly mail and supply drops, fresh salmon steaks sneaked in from a friendly resident couple – which, by comparison, made their daily rations of powdered potatoes and eggs seem like sand – improvised sports, sing-along nights, and the occasional iceberg sighting.

But there were times when the war seemed to be very real and very near. On one of these occasions, an alert came about a possible hostile submarine headed straight for their coast. RCAF personnel stayed up all night, patrolling in shifts, only to find out the next morning, to their great relief, that the alert had detected an iceberg floating toward them.

Lloyd found out only recently that there were dynamite charges set up under the radio shack and radar installations. If in fact an enemy submarine had landed, those charges would have been set off.

The weather itself was the central character, of course, in Cpl Lloyd’s story. During the winter there was a blizzard that engulfed the weather station so violently that he had to close up operations and seek refuge in one of the inside rooms as the snow and wind had broken windows.

After Cape Bauld, Cpl Lloyd was posted to RCAF Station Pennfield Ridge, a training base for pilots near Saint John, New Brunswick.  

During the rest of his military career, while posted in Yarmouth, N.S., his job consisted of to plotting weather information to create a synoptic map (a map that charts weather systems) of the North American continent – and this, every six hours. He was medically released in 1945.

 “My job made it a good life. No regrets. I spent 20 years as an instructor in Halifax, Winnipeg, hired to teach weather observers, radio operators and air traffic controllers.”

He married a girl from Yarmouth – Jennie Rogers – and they were married for 47 years. They had four children, followed by nine grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.

 “I think some people don’t realize that war is a real thing and service is real,” he said about the importance of commemorating events such as the Battle of Britain. “I always take pride when I see these cadets when they’re on the street selling poppies or tags’’.

One of his inspirations is Flight Lieutenant David Hornell, from Mimico, Ontario.  “He was with 162 Squadron out of Yarmouth.  [On June 24, 1944, while on a patrol near Iceland] he and his crew sank a submarine, but the sub had put their aircraft on fire. One of their auto-inflating rubber dinghies exploded, so they only had one five-man raft for seven men. They had to alternate, in north Atlantic, in very cold water.  He died of overexposure because he wanted his men to stay out of the water more than him.”

F/L Hornell was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, which is presented for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

“I knew him – because I had put the weather together for him. He’s my hero.”

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