Veteran Stories:
Sydney Roth

Air Force

  • Unidentified personnel with Supermarine Spitfire V aircraft R7143 of No.13(P) Squadron, R.C.A.F., Rockcliffe, Ontario, Canada, 14 January 1944.

    Unknown., Photographer Library and Archives Canada, Mikan Number: 3583113
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"Spitfires had a choice of either eight machine guns or four canon or two cannon and four machine guns. We all had a choice of which kind of guns we would use. I particularly liked the four canons."

Transcript

Well, I did all my tours, whatever tours there were, I did it on the Spitfires. That was an easy plane to fly, no problems flying them. The American planes were a little bit tougher to fly but the British planes were, they were made so that you could fly easily enough. The important thing is that you were there with, you had all your guns. And all the Spitfires had a choice of either eight machine guns or four canon or two cannon and four machine guns. We all had a choice of which kind of guns we would use. I particularly liked the four canons. Well, when we fired the canons, the plane was slowed down by about 30 or 40 miles an hour. In our squadron, every squadron had what they call a standby. That means a whole squadron was all, couldn’t leave the field. You had to be on the field for 24 hours. And out of the twelve pilots that you had there, you’d have two pilots who were on standby and I was on standby once which means you had to take off within fifteen seconds. So two pilots would be sitting in the Spitfires and beside you would be the fellow who would pull the chocks away. And another fellow would, to start the Spitfire, you had to have it hooked onto a battery. And one fellow would be unhooking it from the battery and another fellow, there were three guys around you all the time. And the minute the horn went off, a claxon horn, you’d have to take off within fifteen seconds. And the planes were all pointed into the wind. So you just sat there for, I think it was two or three hours at a time. And when the claxon went off, everybody got busy. They pulled the chocks, they started the motor and away we went. And we moved up the [English] Channel which there was a boat going up there and they were having trouble with German aircraft coming over them. So we went there and patrolled over this boat for about an hour, then we came back. But we never saw the Germans. When they saw the Spitfires, they always took off and went back to their camp. Well, on D-Day, which was June the 6th, 1944, they used us to patrol the beachhead. There were five beachheads [along the coast of Normandy] that the Allies landed on and we patrolled the beachheads to make sure that there were no enemy aircraft on the beach. Our wing commander was a chap by the name of Lloyd Chadburn and he was quite famous. Actually, he wrote a book on all his tours. You may have his book, I don’t know. He was from Oshawa I believe. When we were patrolling the beach, the Spitfire squadron of twelve planes, to make a turn, you need about five or ten miles, because everybody was in a line. So to turn, whoever was leading it would mention that everybody turns to the port or the starboard. And everyone would turn on their own axis. And by that way, you could fly up and down. However, on one of those turns, in a Spitfire, when you make a turn or make a sharp turn, you can’t see who’s beside you because the turn, you’re looking at the bottom of the plane. And you can’t see them, who is there. That’s Lloyd Chadburn, he hit another plane or they hit him and he got killed. Oh yeah, they were, everyone was pretty upset because he was pretty famous, Lloyd Chadburn. They used to call him ‘the Angel’.
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