Veteran Stories:
Nicholas Melnechuk

Air Force

  • Nicholas Melnechuk, 1943.

    Nicholas Melnechuk
  • John Mowers in his hockey gear, 1945.

    Nicholas Melnechuk
  • Photo of Team "Toronto". Mr Melnechuk is picturedin the first row, 3rd from the left.

    Nicholas Melnechuk
  • Mr. Melnechuk is pictured 2nd from the left in the 2nd last row. Photo taken in Trenton, Ontario, on December 23, 1942.

    Nicholas Melnechuk
  • Mr. Melnechuk in 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"And all of a sudden, I walked through a clearing and the German planes were over us and that’s what the guns were shooting at them. And the bomb exploded; and I beat them all to the dugout"

Transcript

… during the war and I got a call up from the army and I was working in Winnipeg as a medical attendant in the psychopathic department. And I said, I’m not going in the army and I saw the air force recruiting, so I walked into the office; and I said, I got a call from the army and I work in the Winnipeg General Hospital. Oh, we want you in the air force and give us your slip; and I gave it to him and he says and you can come and join the air force, we need you in the medical department. And I said, but I’d like to go home. You take a month’s leave and come back; and that’s what I did. That’s how I became a medical assistant in the RCAF. I attended the second course in Trenton, Ontario. As soon as I went to Camp Borden and training and got my uniform, and shots; and I hadn’t even had started the drill and exercise and all of a sudden they called out my name and they said, report to the orderly room and I did. We’re sending you to [RCAF Station] Trenton right away. And everybody said, how can you go when you haven’t done any training, [laughs] we need you in the medical service. So that’s when I went to Trenton. And from there, I went to a place called [RCAF Station] Pearce, Alberta, where they were training pilots and all that from Australia and New Zealand. And from there, I went overseas. Went over on the [HMS] Queen Mary and landed in Greenwich, Scotland and then by train we went to Bournemouth [RAF Hurn] in Southern England. And we took over two big twin hotels where we stayed. And I phoned my brother who was in Aldershot [Reinforcements Units headquarters] one of my older brothers told him I was there and he was going to come and see me and I’m walking down the street to go to the N.A.F.F.I. [Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes] what they call and I hear planes flying over; and I seen everyone running. I said, what are they running for? And all of a sudden, I walked through a clearing and the German planes were over us and that’s what the guns were shooting at them. And the bomb exploded; and I beat them all to the dugout [laughs]. I should have beaten the Olympics. [laughs] Oh my God, that scared the life out of me. That’s the first action I saw where the bomb dropped. And then after I got my transfer to Yorkshire, England, to what they call [RCAF No.] 6 Group Bomber Command, that’s where they did all the bombing runs over Germany. And I’d be playing ball with them during the day; and at night, they’d be shot up and you pick up the bodies after when they landed back in England. Tough. And by the time I got in from checking and I’d turn on the lights, everybody, we all slept in the same quarters, all the people from the hospital, all the males. Why’d you turn on the light? I just got in, I’m finished; and I say, I’m going to bed. And I’d go to bed and then I’d wake up and I says, there’s something wrong, there’s somebody under my bed and I’d have a vision that one of the bodies were under my bed. Oh boy. So I’d turn on the lights; and they said, what are you doing? And I said, I’m checking to see if there’s no body under my bed and you know, the shock. This all wore out, you get used to it after. Yeah, tough but, we survived. And then I got transferred to London, England because I played hockey and I was at a place called Base Post Office at Park Royal [Central Middlesex Hospital] in England. And I’d run the medical unit there and then I got transferred to the headquarters to running the medical unit in headquarters, and played hockey. And we won the RCAF overseas championship in Glasgow and I have pictures of the goalie. He was ex-Detroit Red Wings called Johnny Mowers. I have his picture and everything, all the pictures and the write-ups all that. So we won the overseas championship. Until the war is over, I stayed in London, England all the time. A lot of bombing going on and then the V[Vergeltungswaffe] 1s [flying bombs] and V[Vergeltungswaffe] 2s [long-range ballistic missile] started coming over. The V2s you could hear them because the motor would be running and you knew it was going over you; and when the motor quit, you knew it was coming down. And there all would be a big explosion. And the closest to me was a block away where one landed, but now the V1s, when they fired them from Germany, you never heard them until they exploded. But I was never close enough to any of them so. And then when the war ended, I got sent back to Winnipeg and took my discharge, but went back in the service again in 1951, the Korean War.
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