Veteran Stories:
William Barrett

Air Force

  • William Barrett's flight log book and his Completion of Operational Tour certificate, dated October 5, 1944.

    William Barrett
  • William Barrett in uniform with his wings, 1944.

    William Barrett
  • William Barrett (2nd from left) is pictured here with his crew members standing in front of the Lancaster they flew during the war, 1944.

    William Barrett
  • Group portrait of No. 42 W.A.G. Course at RCAF Station Mountain View. William Barrett is in the front row, first on the left.

    William Barrett
  • Clipping from Canada's Weekly reporting on an RCAF raid on Stuttgart, Germany from October 29, 1943. William Barrett is pictured in the photograph on the right with his crew members, Paul Laflamme and Bill Frauts, as they waited to tell the Intelligence Officers about their raid on Stuttgart.

    William Barrett
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"he says, there’s going to be a cumulus cloud over Hamburg. And he says, if you see it, fly around it, don’t try to go through it. Well, somehow or other, our plane got into it."


We were posted in May 1943 to [RCAF No.] 408 [Bomber] Squadron, which at that time was at [RAF] Leeming in Yorkshire. We were waiting for operations. At that time, I had a very good friend who also was a wireless op [operator] by the name of Assaf from out west. He and I were due to go on leave the following day and his leave came through in the afternoon; and he says, I’ll see you down in Brighton, in the morning. My leave didn’t come through until the next morning when we got word back that he had been in the shower and the German plane had come over and strafed, and killed him. So here I am, and he’s gone.

We went on our first op [operation] to Aachen. Roughly we had four trips on Hamburg in six nights. So we figured that we were going to get through the tour rather quickly. But as it ended up, the pilot was promoted to a squadron leader and he became head of one of the flights, which meant that he didn’t go on ops every trip and the crew naturally didn’t go either.

During that winter, we had nine trips on Berlin, there were a total of 13 and one of our pilots, who is not around now, the late Doug Harvey, he had all 13 trips on Berlin that winter. We lost a lot of men, a lot of crews. And somehow or other, we managed to survive.

We had four trips as I mentioned, four trips on Hamburg in six nights. And we had nine trips on Berlin; and most of the other trips were all in the Ruhr Valley, like Essen and Friedrichshafen, Stuttgart, Gelkirch [Gelsenkirchen], Aachen. We had one French target which was a railway switching point to stop the German troops from going towards Italy.

We were going to Hamburg one night; and our wing commander of the squadron, ‘Tiny’ Ferris, Wing Commander Ferris, he briefed us; and he told us, he says, there’s going to be a cumulus cloud over Hamburg. And he says, if you see it, fly around it, don’t try to go through it. Well, somehow or other, our plane got into it. But, fortunately, we had our 2nd Dicky [a pilot still gaining experience] with us, who had been trained in Canada; and I can hear him yet saying, keep the nose down, Bill. Bill was our pilot. The plane iced up during that trip through the cumulus or into the cumulus, which meant that the plane was causing, it was causing the plane to lift; and if we hadn’t kept the nose down, it would have lifted to the point where the engines were no longer capable of lifting and we would have crashed.

So we have our friend, I think his first name was Winston, he and Bill were great friends in Training Command years before that; and it was great to hear his voice saying, keep the nose down. I think we lost an engine that night and flew home on three engines. But there were lots of nights that we always had, each of us always had a prayer before took off. My Psalm was always the 91st Psalm. And part of it is that a thousand shall fall besides thee, but shall not touch thee.

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