Veteran Stories:
Eric Smith

Air Force

  • E.B. Smith taken in Sheffield, Eng in 1915

  • Photo from a practice bombing mission.

  • Nazi poker chips.

  • Pin in the shape of a Fortres aircraft made from metal from a Halifax bomber. 1945.

  • Operation Manna Medal given to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Allied mission to drop food over Dutch villages in 1945.

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"..the people in charge were commandos, some that had led the raids on Norway and all that. Very highly qualified."

Transcript

My name is Eric Smith. I'm from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force when I was seventeen in Winnipeg. We took enlistment, and it was on the north side of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, along with a whole stack of other guys. That was the 1st of September, and then on the 6th, we were in Edmonton at Manning Depot, along with a few thousand other guys. After we finished Manning Depot we got sent to Regina and had what they called a WETP – which is a War Emergency Training Plan.

We were there for just under three months, and then we went on Christmas leave and when we came back we went up to Dafoe, Saskatchewan, No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery school. We did useless employment for two days in a row. We worked for two hours in a bowling alley, and on the third day we worked three hours, and we just kept rotating like that. From Dafoe we went back to Regina, No. 2 ITS, and we got talking to all the different people. One of them was out in the bush cutting trees down, and he was figuring he'd go through for pilot training. We were potential navigators and all the rest of it, so I went in and asked how soon I could start training. They said, "If you're doing straight AG [air gunnery], then you could start pretty well right away." I said, "OK, how soon." So within a couple of days I was at MacDonald Bombing and Gunnery School, No. 3, and I was only sixteen miles from home.

I graduated from there, and we had leave and then went down to Three Rivers, Quebec, and it was a course… the people in charge were commandos, some that had led the raids on Norway and all that. Very highly qualified. They let us advance according to the way we felt like it. The same on route marches: if you wanted to schleff off, they were more interested in teaching rather than correcting because they figured it was up to you, it's your life. We learned how to use piano wire to cut throats and how to make people squeal and all the rest of it. Then we went from there to Lachine, and were there for about seven to ten days and we were waiting for another bunch to come in. We went over on the Aquitania, and according to what we were told, there were 15 500 personnel going over on the boat.

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