The Hell's Angels
Gander Connection

Hell’s Angels in Gander??

Some may be surprised to learn that Gander and the Hell’s Angels were closely associated in the 1940s.  But then again, it might not be the mtorcycle gang that immediately comes to mind!

In fact, the name “Hell’s Angels” was used by a number of military groups in both World War 1 and World War 2.  One group was the famous Flying Tigers which flew P40 piston-engined fighters in the Pacific against the Japanese.  The squadron colours were almost enough to scare off the enemy all by itself.

But the best known was the 303rd Heavy Bomber Group that flew missions against the Nazis in Europe in WW2.

The Gander connection is that the 303rd BG(H) Hell’s Angels ferried through Gander in the latter half of October 1942. They flew B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, as shown below in squadron colours.

Below are comments made by a
303rd BG(H) pilot who went through Gander on one of these October flights.  One can see from this account not only the purely military aspects of landing and takeoff but as well how they spent their time during a longer stay over.. Reader beware : not all comments are complimentary!

October 25 Sunday
 - Off at 0900 headed for Gander in Newfoundland. Landing gear horn blowing on take-off rather disconcerting, but later on OK. Landed 4:30 later at Gander after weather rain and sleet enroute, 3 hours instruments. Little icing, but everything OK. Gander sure is the last outpost. It is quite desolate here.

A few WAAC's here, but other than them, women are a premium. Oh! yes, Joan Blondell is here with USO troupe. She stays in our barracks. Shades of civilization. War atmosphere is getting more prevalent the closer we get to England. Not so very cold here yet. The "Newfies" (Newfoundlanders) all seem to have false teeth. Lack of fresh-milk, fruit and vegetables, they say. Lots of Canadians here. Have to get used to traffic driving on left hand side of street.

October 26 Monday - 
Rained almost all day today postponing our Atlantic hop. Saw "Across the Pacific" last nite. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor. It was the second time I had seen it, but then I had never seen a picture show in Newfoundland. Typical American Army post theater - very nice. Maybe we leave tomorrow. We have had all our briefings. Now we are waiting on favorable weather.

October 27 Tuesday
 - Winds blowing from North. Field was closed all morning. Ceiling and visibility zero. It was really socked in. Cleared a little in late afternoon. Hop again called on weather. Food here not so bad. We had Gander Turkey for lunch today. Somewhat like chicken. There is a strong Westwind tonight maybe tomorrow nites the hop. Fellas played pool and ping pong all day. Very nice Club here. Two pool tables and two ping pong tables. Lots of books and magazines and of course a bar.  Drinks are fair - beer isn't so hot. "Moontide" on tonite, but I had seen it so we just saw the Shorts prior to the main feature. Most of the fellas are buying parkas - look like ski troopers now rather than flyers.

October 28 Wednesday - 
It looked like we would leave today and Milt and I went over to the Canadian weather station and they said it looked pretty good. Later on word came that we couldn't be cleared on instruments so it looks like we may be here for some time. The weather gets worse as winter nears. It cleared up this afternoon and the sun was actually out. The sky was completely clear in the evening and I saw one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The Northern Lights. They stretched clear across the sky and all the fellas spent about an hour with necks craned. It was the first time for many of us. There is a lot of flying tonite, but I guess the weather over the ocean is not too good. I won eight dollars playing blackjack, but lost it all again this evening. Saw "Powder Town" at the theater. 427th Operations starts scheduling tomorrow.

October 29 Thursday
 -´Went on an 8 mile hike in the morning to Gander Lake and back. While there we had a trip on the Lake in an $18,000 cruiser. Coming back we stopped and operated some 3" anti-aircraft guns installed near the field. Ease and rapidity of operation was a surprise. Watched 40 mm. AA guns practice firing at sleeve towed by Westland Lysander, a slow Br. observation and sea rescue plane. Back at 1200. Meeting at 1400. Nothing new. May leave tomorrow. In evening saw "Saboteur" for second time. Oh! yes, won $10.00 playing blackjack in evening. Maybe tomorrow we leave. Women, who were first Haints, are now looking better. Fellas will probably be dating the Newfies soon. Haint, incidentally, is a girl who could jump over two parked cars and run up a thorn tree and never get a scratch. In other words a bag!

October 30 Friday
 - Had our usual briefing at 1400 o'clock and we will leave tonight. Went over the weather enroute and radio procedure and are ready. It is raining now, but the weather after leaving is good all the way with a 2000 ft. ceiling at Prestwick, Scotland. Went down to operations at 1945 for meeting. First plane take-off at 2030, a B-24. Take-off was postponed until 1200 due to R.A.F. pilot who was flying over the field trying to spot it to land. Finally landed and all. Planes were finally off by about 0100. Instrument take-offs were necessary. I sighted my plane down the runway in line with lights, zeroed by gyro and kept it straight by keeping gyro on zero. At 120 MPH I pulled ship off ground. My elevator trim tab was rolled back too far and my take-off was rather poor.

(A footnote : 
he and his crew were finally lost on January 22, 1943, during their seventh mission over Lorient, France.)

Here are two photos of a Hell's Angels B-17 at the end of the war: