Veteran Stories:
Ralph Charad

Air Force

  • Ralph Charad (left) and his pilot John Bristow in Greece, 1944.

    Ralph Charad
  • Ralph Charad's Squadron included Australians, South Africans, British, New Zealanders and one Canadian, 1942.

    Ralph Charad
  • Ralph Charad and his crew on Boxing Day, near Suez, Egypt, December 26th, 1942..

    Ralph Charad
  • The official insignia and 221 Squadron. It was approved by King George VI in 1944.

    Ralph Charad
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"It was only when years and years and years have gone by that you start wondering how the heck you ever managed to escape in one piece"


Basically, I was born in Montreal. Enlisted when I was twenty-four years of age. Was a 'Saturday night soldier' before that. Did my training all in Canada and out west. Then, when I went overseas, basically what I can remember is – when you were assigned to flying operations, you prayed that you would survive the first three operational trips, and then when you were coming towards tour expired, you prayed you would survive the last three trips so you could enjoy your being tour expired. Between the first prayer and the last prayer, you did a lot of hard work. It was hard and lonesome work. The important thing was never to panic, try to keep a cool head in every emergency, try to recall what you had learned from other people's experiences, and you managed to make a go of it. Then, when I went tour expired, I was assigned to a teaching job in, what was then called, British Palestine. All my crew, being Brits, were sent back home for reassignment. Me, too far to send me home, so they sent me to Palestine. And then, I learned another important lesson. A Commanding Officer, whoever he may be, as people have a responsibility to others. When you send out a crew, or several crews, doing navigation exercises, you were biting your fingernails, waiting for them all to come back, and if by any chance any one of them was a little bit late, you practically went out of your mind worried about what might have happened. So there, I learned to sympathize with the officers commanding squadrons or flights, or anything. The strain they must have been under, waiting for their boys to come back. As far as exciting experiences are concerned on operations, or even in training, they all fit into the category of part of a day's work. It was only when years and years and years have gone by that you start wondering how the heck you ever managed to escape in one piece. And yet, you managed to do your job. You weren't the only one – there were a lot who did their job week in, week out; year in, year out – and we always had an empty place in our hearts and in our stomachs for the guys who didn't come back.
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