Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette –  070 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Mapreading by Moonlight - some RCAF fiction
​  From the August 1972  issue of  Legion Magazine, we offer the following short story:

Mapreading by Moonlight by J.C. Kesson

The Blitz Bar, this side of Guy Street in Montreal, is now a tourist attraction but, during the late forties, the place was full of young veterans adrift in a world of peace. Perched on a stool at the corner of the bar, a solemn-faced individual sat night after night,a glass
of ginger ale in one hand, a manual of air navigation in the other. His name was Duncan Campbell but his buddies called him Moonlight.
One night he opened the pages of the manual, pointed to a short paragraph bearing the title "Mapreading at Night", and began as follows:

I was responsible for this milestone in navigation history. I not only know the man who wrote that. I made' him write it! His name was Samson and he and I were in war-time Britain. We both were experienced navigators, but l had just been promoted and put in charge of all navigation at Mindow, an Air Force operational training base that wasn't
six weeks old.

Our pupils were recent graduates from elementary navigation schools located on those vast Canadian prairies where a significant landmark is a wooden grain silo alongside a single-track railroad. As Samson pointed out, a navigator trained there has seen all the farmland he ever needs to look at, but he has seen little, if any, of thriving industrial regions. So I 

​The Navigator
​RCAF Navigator Badge
plannd faniliarization flights that went as near as we dared to the heavy defended midlands of Britain.

Anybpdy who has ever been in command, well knows that day-to-day routine can be a full-time job in itself, Yet as soon as I had the Mindow training program operating better than the C.O. expected, the Air Force decided that the middle of a war was the best time to rewrite the manual of air navigation.

As officer in charge of navigation at Mindow, I took a critical look at the manual we were using, and I immediately noticed one glaring omission. There we were trying to teach guys how to find their way at night over a blacked-out continent, yet the book we were supposed to use for instruction was silent about the vital skill of mapreading at night.

To be in command is to issue orders, so I picked Samson to write a comprehensive chapter on the subject of mapreading at night, and I told him to be quick about it. He and I had been together at Montreal High, so l expected hlm to try and take advantage of our friendship. He tried.

Whem he argued that discipline would have to be relaxed before he could get himself into the mood for operative and constructive thinking, I was fair. I took him off normal duties, leaving him free to concentrate on the assignment I had delegated to him.

Once each week for five whole weeks I asked him about the progress of our project, and each time I received the same reply, a promise that next week without fail, I would have in my possession the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about mapreading at night during a blackout.

A few days before I was due to submit my report and recommendations for changes to the existing manual of air nagtvation, I did what I should have done first. I asked every student navigator at Mindow to write an account of the difficulties he encountered when mapreading at night.

When every pupil had obeyed my order, I sent for Samson. I started to tell him what I thought of his promises, but while I was reprimanding him he fished in his tunic pocket and brought out a piece of notepaper. Without my permission he took an envelope !rom a drawer in my desk, placed his piece of notepaper in the envelope and sealed the flap.

``On the piece of paper in that envelope’’ he said as he handed me the sealed envelope, "I have sunmed up the whole truth and nothing but the truth about mapreading at night, Now I am going to take and read the pupils' accounts of their difficulties and if there is an instance which is different from the one described on that piece of paper, you can put me on night flying until the end of this war."

The following day Samson swaggered into my office. Without my permission, he tore open the envelope he had left with me. After pausing long enough to show who was in command, I read what was written on his piece of paper.

"When mapreading at. night, always look toward some source of light such as the moon or a flare. As a surface of water can act as a mirror, the Iooation of a river or lake will be revealed when the light from the moon or flare strikes the water and is reflected into the eyes of the mapreader."

The piece of notepaper was a bit dog-eared, as it would be if it had been weeks in Samson's tunic pocket.
"I believe what you have written" I told him when I read his paragraph, "But just in case .I am wrong and you have missed something important, I am assigning you to constant night flying. For the next four months you will be up in the night sky just as often as regulations permit."

I copied his paragraph, word for word, and it appeared with only minor changes when the new navigation manual was published.

After I put Samson on constant night flying, I felt sorry for the girl he had been dating every evening. I contacted her to explain why I had ruined her social life. She was an understanding girl, sympathetic to me and my duties. We grew very fond of each other while Samson was up in the night sky, so fond of each other that we were married, and we now have three children.

She and I both wish that we could find some way to repay Samson for bringing us together. He is one friend I will never forget.