"”You’ve seen these war movies, haven’t you, of the fighter planes with the black and white stripes? Well, that’s when they were painted. The fourth of June, 1944."
I went to [RCAF Technical Training School] St. Thomas and took the airframe course. And on graduation, I was posted overseas. I departed Halifax on the 13 December, 1941; and I landed in Liverpool Harbour, Christmas Day, 1941. Santa Claus never showed up.
Well, what I’d do is I’d inspect the aircraft to see that everything relating to the airframe [the aircraft’s mechanical structure] was serviceable and was in good working order. And I was very critical. If I had any doubts about it, I wouldn’t pass it out. One time I was in England and our aircraft landed, our [Handley Page] Halifaxes [heavy bombers] landed at an RAF base; and when I went down there, our regulation was, once you have a tire, if there’s a cut through the first layer of fabric, you change the wheel assembly. So I found one that had a cut in it. So I asked this RAF corporal that I wanted a new wheel assembly.
The next thing I know is a little short RAF officer with flying orders came up and [asked] me if I was the engineering officer. I said, yes. He said, where is this tire? I said, right there. Oh, he said, I’ll get one of my blokes from the tire bay and he can put some rubber on it, and you can sign it out. I said, if you think it’s safe, you can sign it out. The poor son of a gun couldn’t write. Well, I assume he couldn’t write because he got me the tire assembly.
I started on torpedo [Handley Page] Hampdens [medium bombers] down at the south coast. I worked on [Vickers] Wellingtons [medium bombers]; I worked on [Fairey] Albacores [torpedo bombers], which were biplanes; and Halifaxes during the war.
What I can tell you is in, D-Day was June the sixth, wasn’t it? Now a couple, three months before D-Day, we had to go in paint lines on the airplanes, around the fuselage and around the wings. And they were 12 inches apart, these lines with chalk and in our dope store, there was two cans of dope [highly flammable plasticized lacquer], paintbrushes and thinners, so you’d wash your paintbrushes. And we weren’t allowed to touch it.
On the fourth of June, the order came through to paint those black and white stripes on the airplanes. So that’s like for “identify friend or foe.” You’ve seen these war movies, haven’t you, of the fighter planes with the black and white stripes? Well, that’s when they were painted. The fourth of June, 1944. And D-Day was delayed one day. And I think it was a good job it was delayed because [Field Marshal Erwin] Rommel wasn’t there, Rommel would have likely acted before, without calling Hitler. But the general in charge was afraid and didn’t, so the guys got a foothold in France before they could call up the German reserves.
Now I helped put in what they called an IFF [Identification, Friend or Foe], “indicate friend or foe,” which was a mechanical device that sent out a signal, so that the ground and the radar controllers could tell it was a friendly one coming in, not an enemy. I helped put those in the airplanes, Hampdens. And on top of it was what they called a sticky bomb [anti-tank hand grenade]. If they crash land in Europe, they put this bomb on top and melt it, so that they couldn’t figure out how it worked. I helped install those.
Went in all our airplanes, it was called IFF, indicate friend or foe. And that’s what I call the black and white stripes. They were visual IFF, indicate friend or foe. The Americans and the British, and the Canadians: all the fighter airplanes had it; and also [RAF] Coastal Command. See, what happened was, there was a bunch of [Douglas] Dakotas [military transport aircraft] going into Sicily and friendly fire shot down about 20 of them or more. They thought they were Germans coming in. And they were Dakotas. So they had to have a way of stop and preventing that.