Veteran Stories:
Jim Clarke

Air Force

  • Group photo of Jim Clarke and his fellow instructors, December 1942.

    Jim Clarke
  • Jim Clarke in army battledress after returning from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, May 1945.

    Jim Clarke
  • Jim Clarke and his Air crew at Peplow Station, 1944.

    Jim Clarke
  • Telegram advising Jim Clarke's uncle he was missing after an air operation, March 17, 1945. Jim Clarke's Lancastor Bomber was shot down over Nuremburg on March 16th, 1945.

    Jim Clarke
  • Telegram advising Jim clarke's family he was safe after being released from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, May 1945.

    Jim Clarke
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"There were more explosions and our intercom went dead, but not before our pilot had issued instructions to abandon aircraft."

Transcript

My name is Jim Clarke. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and I left the service after the war ended in 1945. When I was at initial training school in Toronto, because of my good marks, it was decided I was needed as a navigator, even though I wanted to be a pilot. I trained at air observer and bombing and gunnery schools in Canada. Upon graduation, I was granted a commission as a pilot officer and posted to a bombing and gunnery school to instruct in bombing. After a year at that school, I arranged a posting overseas where I wanted to be. So in early 1944, I left for England. I eventually crewed up with six others. After more operational training, we were posted to number 12 Squadron in Lincolnshire, a Royal Air Force squadron. Our first bombing raid was on Dusseldorf in the Ruhr on November 2, 1944. I can still remember that night as it was a clear moonlight and the flak over the target was severe. However, on our twenty-sixth trip we were briefed to attack Nuremberg on the evening of March 16th, 1945. At the briefing I did not like our route to the target which was to fly over Latouquee on the French coast and south to cross into Germany through the area known as the Stuttgart Gap where there were no ground defences. From there we were to fly on straight to Nuremberg. We did not like the fact that the German radar controllers would know we were heading for Nuremberg in advance. It was a clear night and we noticed several fighters who were shooting down a large number of our Lancasters. When we arrived a Nuremberg, a loud explosion beneath us shook the plane and set on fire the bundles of silver paper which the engineer would toss out to confuse the German radar. As I was already in the nose, I picked up the burning bundles and tossed them through the escape hatch at the front of the aircraft. There were more explosions and our intercom went dead, but not before our pilot had issued instructions to abandon aircraft. There was a certain order to abandon a Lancaster. I was the first to go and the engineer was to go next. I remember, though, that the engineer was right next to me when I jumped out of the Lancaster, but he did not survive. So I've always assumed that the airplane blew up just after I got out. All my crew were killed and when my chute opened it was with such a jerk that I thought I had really caught onto the Lancaster. I landed in the residential area of Nuremberg and was subsequently taken prisoner of war. After about a day or so around Nuremberg I was driven to Munich with several other air force personnel, a lot of them were Canadians. We travelled in a charcoal-burning bus as gasoline was scarce at that time. After several days in Munich for interrogation we were taken back again to Nuremberg and this time on a freight train which at one stage was fired upon by our fighters. We were not in Nuremberg prison camp too long before we got the order to march to the camp at Mussbeuer near Munich. As the American Army was fast approaching Nuremberg. We had very little food. The only thing we were able to get were Red Cross parcels which we certainly appreciated. We finally arrived into Mussbeuer which was a big prison camp and it contained 30,000 prisoners of war. And after about two weeks General Patton's army came in and eventually liberated us.
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