"And I was floating down to the ground and I’m hearing the cannons and machine guns going. And of all things, birds, the birds were chirping and singing like mad."
Norm Dawber. Well, I was born in Toronto, in July the 23rd, 1920. That put me in 89 years of age right now. It’s a long time since I was born but I had a very nice upbringing. It was a family of four. My brother, who was six years older than me, and my mother and dad. It wasn’t until World War II started that things opened up because money came, became available for so many things and they needed people for the armed forces. And both my brother and I served for the air force.
And we both got through the period, it was a six year period, we both got through without being killed, that’s for sure. And we have much to be thankful for for that. And I got a commission, as a flying officer. And they sent me, instead of sending me overseas where I wanted to go to fly Spitfires, they sent me to Alaska. And I was flying American fighters against the Japanese but the Japanese were too far away from us, so we were going after their submarines in case they were coming around Canada. And we had the equivalent of a Spitfire in this American thing. Beautiful airplane, built like a Cadillac. And it had five, six 50-millimetre canons. Which as a saying, a mouthful. (laughs) But certainly, knock off a submarine if, if one was on the surface. So we used to go looking for them, just in case there was any around.
But then the Japanese got out of the islands, they, the islands up there that they’d occupied and went back to Japan. So our squadron was sent back to Vancouver with the American aircraft. And we traded those in and we went as a group overseas to Great Britain and we operated from there from then on, between Great Britain and the continent, because we followed the army and supported the British army on everything that they wanted done by fighter pilots. And a lot of it was at low level and intense flight. We lost a lot of people but by the same token, we satisfied the army very well.
A lot of the army boys, if you say you flew Typhoons, they say, oh God, yeah, let me shake your hand. It’s a wonderful feeling. There was one operation we were doing, dive bombing a bridge that crossed the Rhine River. And the army was not particularly happy about the bridge going but by the same token, the, it stopped the Germans from coming back with all their tanks and everything across the river.
So we were to go and bomb this bridge and we were having an awful time with it. The flak was pretty heavy and on the third trip I was over there, I got hit by 88-millimetre tipped shells through the engine. And it started to fire and I had to drop the bombs that I had. We had on this fighter, we had 2,000 pound bombs. And that’s a big number of bombs, and big bombs, you know. So you could probably break the bridge if you could hit it enough.
But I had to get away from it after I dropped my bombs and I went eventually as far west as I could, hoping that I could come to the British, who were some distance away. And I got to an area that I could see the fighting going on, so I got the aircraft ready and got out of it and jumped and pulled the rip cord. And I was floating down to the ground and I’m hearing the cannons and machine guns going. And of all things, birds, the birds were chirping and singing like mad. I couldn’t believe it. But it’s true. That’s the one thing that makes me remember these things, you know, something like that. Which would, you wouldn’t expect.
But I, anyway, when I landed, two British soldiers came out from an advanced post and they signaled to me and I could see their helmet was British so I went running over to them and they gave me a good run back to their place where they were hiding and it was quite a distance. And I’d been, didn’t realize that I was being machine-gunned by German troops and they were missing me, thank God for that.