Douglas Petrie is pictured here sitting in a Handley Paige Halifax bomber in Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, 1945.Douglas Petrie
Mr. Petrie's Discharge Certificate, 1945.Douglas Petrie
Douglas Petrie's service medals dated from 1939-1945, from L-R: France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal (1939-45).Douglas Petrie
Douglas Petrie, June 27, 2010.Historica Canada
"So altogether, you’re more than ten hours, which is a little long for some people, because that’s ten hours without eating, drinking or going to the bathroom."
Your first run, you have to go with another crew, one trip, and then you go with your own crew. And that’s all. They just send you out, they tell you, they have a briefing and they tell you where you’re going to bomb, your exact time over target and what the weather is, all the details they know. And then it takes you over two hours or more to get the thing off the ground. You’ve got to run up four engines separately until they’re warm and check them and then shut them down and, and so on. So it’s not fast and it’s an eight-hour run we did, eight hours up there. So altogether, you’re more than ten hours, which is a little long for some people, because that’s ten hours without eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. There is no bathroom. Besides, it wouldn’t do you any good with one pilot, you can’t leave the plane. You can’t walk under your … But that was the only thing you have to, it’s only for people that can last long times. It’s only for very calm people.
The last route we [425 Squadron] did was a kind of tragic one, that. It was on a daylight [run], not a night one, and it was a little island called Wangerooge [in the North Sea]. And we were, I think there were just gun emplacements that they had there. And that was our last flight, broad daylight [on April 25, 1945] and there was a lot of slipstream from one plane to another. You can’t see it though. So two planes ahead of me collided and of course, then they were lost, there’s seven [crew members] in each, so you lose all of them. They parachute out some of them but they were just going to end up in the ocean. And that was kind of tragic for the end when it was the very last run. But after I came back, a long time later, I found out that two other planes had collided on the same trip. There was no Germans anywhere near there, nobody shooting at us or anything, it was just collisions. That’s the main trouble we had. It wasn’t, in a movie, you see fighters, bombers chasing one another around. In actual fact, most of it is just collisions at night or something accidental, this is what happens to most people.
But we flew a box formation that was very difficult for them. You’d have to go through three or four or five bombers on the way through. So he [the enemy] isn’t going to make it likely going through to, attacking us. We didn’t fly the popular V formation, which is what the Americans did. And we did short raids. All our raids were ten minutes. But you were supposed to go over the exact minute they tell you, like H-hour plus three minutes or H plus three. You’re not supposed to go over any other time. And we had, a camera under the plane that took pictures, showed pictures of the bombs dropping, you could count them. And it showed the target, what was below. So they’d know from the trajectory of a bomb exactly where it would land. That’s before it landed. So next day, your plane, your number, G for George, would be shown on a map to show how many feet you missed, so they knew exactly how accurate we were. So it was done, it’s very exactly done. It wasn’t a random thing where you do just throw things out.
What you do is, the bomb aimer out the nose takes over. He tells you, you’re just about in line with the target and they all always said left twice -the word - so we didn’t mix it with right. So he’d say “left left steady, steady, then right, steady. A little farther to the right, steady”. And then he was the one that had an automatic bomb site with all the junk on it and he would say “bombs away”. Then you’d got to stay straight and level for just a few seconds while the cameras take the pictures and such. And then you’d dive out of there, that’s all. You’d never go over the target. First thing you do is jump up 300 feet, when you drop the bombs, your plane leaps up. Then the first thing you do is dive out of there at full speed, go as fast as you get out of there, and then pick your own height. Everybody flew at a different height so then they couldn’t find us on the way home; we were wandering all over the place, everybody would pick a different height.
And then some of them were in a hurry to go home and some of us used to slow them right down and go as slow as you could, on purpose. Because you were more likely to get there. You don’t want to burn up engines. Once you got there, there’s no hurry going home. That’s about all. So you’d coast them home.