Served 14 August 1940 to 17 July 1945
Aircraft Flown in:
Tiger Moth Fortress B17|
Norseman Mitchell B25
Hudson Widgeon Commando 47
Liberator B24 DC 3
Anson Locheed 14
Fairey Battle Gruman Goose
Number of hours of daylight flying..................................................866.10
Number of hours of night flying.......................................................203.25
1. Brandon Manning Pool on joining up. 6:00A.M. wake up call to the sound of bugle -1/2 mile run, exercise, run back, showers - 10 bodies - drill work - played softball - I was a pitcher.
2. Posted to bombing the gunnery base at MacDonald, also in Manitoba, in -40 degrees, Fahrenheit weather. Station was not opened. Outside toilets and in the mornings , the snow outside of the doors was always peculiar shade of yellow. Marched a 1/2 mile to a Snack Shoppe for our meals. It was commissioned by the Government.
3. Posted to Calgary for Morse instruction - ground and air. Posted back to MacDonald for Morse and air to air firing from Fairey Battles on a drogue towed by another plane.
4. Posted to Debert, Nova Scotia for training on Hudsons. At on point, a training trip to Windsor. Weather closed in causing turn backs, 2 fatal crashes, and we were the only ones to make Windsor.
5. Posted to Dorval, Quebec for intensive training on the Morse code with the object of flying Hudsons to the U.K., reaching speeds of 35 words per minute. December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii and all deliveries of Hudsons were stopped. Before that the Hudsons had been flown to border points and towed across to maintain some semblance of neutrality.
6. In 1968, when son Ken was 14, we visited our farmer friends in MacDonald and were invited to attend an air show at the R.C.A.F. base in Portage La Prairie. Our friend was reeve of that district so we sat in the V.I.P. section of the stands. Next to us was Mart Kenny whose band was known as “The Western Gentlemen” and the theme song, “ A West, a Nest, and You Dear”. When I was introduced to him , I said that I attended his show at Brandon Manning Pool in 1940, and that Gracie Fields was with him. He said “ Yes, Gracie was with us many times as we visited various service bases in those years”.
7. From Dorval, Montreal we were finally posted to Halifax and joined a convoy of two merchant ships and two American destroyers on loan. Sleeping fully clothed in hammocks was the ritual then, and we had many submarine warnings on the way over going as far as the Canary Islands. We did lose one destroyer through enemy action. Trying to had a shower in salt water was very difficult. A daily meal of greasy fish and the roll of the ship made many of us quite sick. The toilet or “heads” as they were known aboard ships were always full, which led to using the outside of the ship- with the wind behind us.
8. Leaving Halifax in the dead of winter - January, we eventually arrived in Bournemouth in the south of England to very balmy weather with leaves on the trees and green grass. Posted to an Operational Training unit in northern England, we were crewed up as pilot, navigator and two wireless air gunners. When the pilots were told to pick their crews, our just turned around and said, “ I pick you and you”. Such is the path of fate. We all came through the war unharmed.
9. After much flying together as a crew, we were posted to #59 R.A.F. Squadron based in North Coates, near Grimsby.
10. Our first operational trip together was nearly our last. We were in on of three Hudsons to attack a German convoy of eight merchant ships and two destroyers. The policy was to dive 50 or so feet and drop four 250 pound bombs on whatever ship we could. Unfortunately the other two planes were shot down. On my stomach I was facing backward with a Lewis gun aimed through a hole in the floor. I could see the ships right below me, but due to the violent evasive action of the pilot, I had no target to shoot at. I could hear and feel the many shells which hit our aircraft. Passing the convoy, we were about 10 feet over the water, with the water well churned by enemy fire. What might have saved us was that our pilot had thought and practiced turning to the right if this ever came up when it was natural to turn to the left. This proved correct when the enemy fire concentrated to the left and we eventually got clear. I said in a speech I had given to my Masonic lodge, the hydraulics had been hit, causing the bomb bay doors to fall open and the wheels to hang down. An S.O.S. was sent. We were flying on one engine with the other one on fire. A built in fire extinguisher soon put it out and that engine started again as we were losing height. Getting back to base, we strapped the pilot to his seat and the rest of us took up crash positions with our backs against the wall, our knees up and heads bent down, but the landing on the grass was very smooth. We vacated the plane as quickly as possible because of danger of fire.
11. Because of the high casualty rate of these attacks, we flew at 4,000 feet on the future ones.
12. Taken off Hudsons and converted to Liberators at Throney Island in the south of England. While our pilots were being trained on these aircraft, we watched a Liberator come in one day and out stepped a slip of a girl. She was the pilot. It certainly brought our pilots down to earth. Christmas here was celebrated in the English way. We were all seated in the mess. The lights were turned out, and the chef and his staff marched from the kitchen and around the hall, carrying an English pudding on fire.
13. While stationed at Thorney Island, we took part in an escape exercise. We were taken way out into the country dropped off and were expected to get back to base without getting caught. People and police were advised to report us if they saw us. We were not to steal any transport, or bicycle. I was with fellow wireless air gunner and we did make it back to the Island, but there was only one bridge over. We sat in the reeds till time ran out at midnight.