Veteran Stories:
Fred Chittenden

Air Force

  • Photo taken from a Wellington bomber over Naples, Italy, as they bombed the marshalling yards. This was Chittenden's final bombing sortie, 02:02 hrs., July 20, 1943.

    Fred Chittenden
  • Members of the 424 Squadron at Kairouan, Tunisia, at the end of their second tour of operations. Left to Right: P/O J. McAllister (navigator), F/Lt. F. Chittenden (wireless operator) and S/Lt. Pilot and Captain W. Klassan.

    Fred Chittenden
  • Fred Chittenden at a Veteran's Day luncheon, November 11, 2002. The Wellington Bomber MKIII was the aircraft for his second tour of operations.

    Fred Chittenden
  • Fred Chittenden's Medals. Left to Right: Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC); 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Italy Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal 1939-1945; Bomber Command Medal.

    Fred Chittenden
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"My hope would be that our younger generation will stand up and be counted, if the need arises, as we did in the 1940s."

Transcript

My name is Fred Chittenden. I enlisted in the RCAF in June of 1940. I took training as a wireless air gunner and went overseas in February of 1941. Our crew was posted to Twelve Squadron on Wellington Mark II Bombers. I would like to describe the Wellington Bomber in some detail. It was developed in 1938. Production ceased in October of 1945. 11,461 were built. It was used mainly by bomber command, but some models were converted to use on coastal command to fight the U-boats. Altogether there were 16 versions. The Mark I was the first built. We trained on these before we were posted to squadrons. They had a crew of five. Captain, who was the pilot, navigator, wireless operator, the rear gunner and the front gunner. On my first tour there was no bomb aimer trade. The navigator had taken the bomb aimer course and did the bomb aiming. My first tour on number 12 Squadron RAF was on Wellington Mark II. It had the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. Very efficient, the same as the Spitfires had, but were liquid cooled. One shrapnel shell could puncture the line and the engine seized up. The remaining Wimpeys had air-cooled motors and they could take quite a lot of flak holes before stopping. On the second tour, 424 Squadron, we had the Mark III with a Hercules motor and the Mark Vs was a Platt and Whitney engines. The Wellington flew pretty well on one engine but no bomb load. So we came home twice from sorties with one engine. Remember in 1941 there was no radar, we had to keep radio silence so there was no way I could ask for bearings from England on the Marconi set. We could, though, receive signals from England. There was three stations giving out constant signals. One of these was in the south, one in the centre, one in the northern part of England or Scotland. I would tune into one of them on the radio set and immediately give the reading to the navigator. As fast as possible, I'd get the other two stations and give to navigator. He would plot these three readings on his map and where the three crossed, there we were. We did this as long as we got readable signals. On October 10th, 1941, target was Cologne in the Ruhr Valley. We took off at midnight and had an uneventful trip to the target. Just after we bombed the railway yards, up came the anti-aircraft fire. We could smell the shells bursting and knew they were very near. My oxygen tube was severed with some of the shell bedded in the navigators jacket. The pilot put the nose down and we got out of there in a hurry headed for home. Everything seemed to be working okay and we figured we had got away without any damage. We had taken off from home base at midnight so by the time we got back to Pembrooke it was near 5 o'clock in the morning and still dark. We were getting ready to land and the pilot said his light for lowering the landing gear would not go on. Sure enough, the wheels would not come down. Our hydraulics had been severed over Cologne. We had plenty of petrol so we circled aerodrome for two hours 'til it was light, then the pilot landed it on its belly right beside a hangar where it was dismantled. It had done nearly 50 sorties so they used it for parts. The unfortunate reality is, there will always be wars. There will always be people like Hitler or Mussolini. My hope would be that our younger generation will stand up and be counted, if the need arises, as we did in the 1940s.
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