Veteran Stories:
Harry “Herschel” Waisglass

Air Force

  • Harry Waisglass is standing in front of an Avro Anson. Photo taken at Rockliffe Airforce Station, Ontario, 1943.

    Harry Waisglass
  • Harry Waisglass in the cockpit of a Fairey Battle, 1942 or 1943.

    Harry Waisglass
  • Telegram sent to Harry Waisglass' family, alerting them to the fact that he had not arrived at his destination. This telegram was followed by 3 others, reporting the status of the search for Mr. Waisglass and his pilot.

    Harry Waisglass
  • Telegram alerting the family of Harry Waisglass that he had been spotted and presumed safe. There were two more telegrams sent to the family confirming he had been found and returned uninjured.

    Harry Waisglass
  • Harry Waiglass at an event for The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War, Toronto, Ontario, May 13th, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"So we can possibly come down on a frozen lake somewhere. Which we did, we crash landed with wheels up, okay. And we were there, lost in the bush for three days."

Transcript

My name is Harry Waisglass. I was born in Toronto, 29 December 1922. I was posted to [RCAF No. 1 Technical Training School] St. Thomas, Ontario, the [No.] 124th Ferry Squadron and our job at that time was to transfer planes from the stations they were built to the flying schools that needed the different type of aircraft. My job was also to fly with the pilots to different planes that were flying from schools where the aircraft had to be dismantled for parts, but we had to fly them to the stations that were dismantling the aircraft for parts. And I had to pick up many a log book at the flying station that’s stamped: not fit for flying. [laughs]

And so this was part of our job and I had a lot of experiences. The very first flight that I took from [RCAF Station] Rockcliffe, which I was stationed, was to the Toronto Island Airport, for picking up, there were three or four planes going out to Winnipeg. We had to stop at [RCAF Detachment] Kapuskasing for refueling in those days. These were brand new [Avro] Anson [air crew training] aircraft and my first flight, with the crew of three others, hit a snowstorm on the way to Kapuskasing. Our plane lost the other three in the snowstorm. Our radios that we had didn’t work at the time. They hadn’t been installed yet; they were going to be installed at the stations. We flew around trying to find the other aircraft, which we never did; and if you know what Kapuskasing is, it’s a mining town and it has a large, huge smokestack. Well, during the snowstorm, we saw a large smokestack, but it was Tudhope, it wasn’t Kapuskasing. We thought it was Kapuskasing.

We ran out of fuel and it got dark. My pilot said to me, just look for something long and white, so we can possibly come down on a frozen lake somewhere. Which we did, we crash landed with wheels up, okay. And we were there, lost in the bush for three days. The Anson were made out of fabric which was painted with what they called dope [a varnish-like product] which shrank the fabric into a body. And the navigation table had a little door at the bottom where the maps were kept. I went out and got some wood that was fairly dry, put it in the little basket, lit the thing. The plane caught on fire and that was the end of our place. [laughs] We put it out with the extinguishers that were on the plane. They found us three days later. It was cold, 10 below zero.

If you were to ask me today, what was the most memorable thing, what was the thing that you remember most during your lifetime? You know, a lot of people say, my marriage, which I’m very happily married for 64 years, with a beautiful family. And I’d say, you know what? My years in the service. That’s when I grew up, that’s when I learned how to get along with people, that’s how I learned how to live with people, whether they were good or whether they were bad. But I grew up during those years and had to look after myself, as a kid of eighteen and a half years of age.

And those were good, the adventures that I went through during my flying years, because there was more than just this one particular thing. Another one was an aircraft that blew all its engine oil while we were flying. We were flying back to Rockcliffe from, I think it was, Winnipeg. And the first thing I noticed, it was a Fairey Battle [light bomber], that was the name of the aircraft, Fairey Battle. That plane was used for gunnery practice at the different stations for pilots to use. We were flying it back to Rockcliffe for dismantling. And I was at the backseat and the pilot, of course, was the front, it was just a two seater. And then I saw his windshield get sprayed with oil all over. Okay. He couldn’t communicate with me in any way at all, but I’m sitting in the backseat and I’m looking at him and I say to myself, if he gets two inches off his seat, I’m over the side, okay. [laughs] I’m not staying. Okay, if he’s not going, he can’t tell me, there’s no communication. I said, if I ever see him get two inches off his seat, I’m over the side. But it would have been a stupid thing for me to do because it was all bush land up there. They’d never find me.

However, he did maneuver his wings to tell me that there’s a problem, which I understood, and I sat with him and finally we got to, where was it, just outside of Kingston. Okay. When he brought the airplane down with the wheels up landing and that was the end of that flight. The good Lord looked after me on quite a few occasions and I’m very thankful for that.

I’m not sorry for any of the years that I was in the service. Not sorry one little bit. I learned a lot. I learned how to grow up. I learned how to become a mensch [a good person]. And like I say, if somebody asked the most memorable years of your life ̶ my marriage was perfect, my wife is still around, thank God; we’ve got a beautiful family, but as far as the years that I remember the best were my service years. Not everybody’s going to tell you that, I can tell you.

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