Veteran Stories:
Don P Garen

Air Force

  • Don Garen with his wife Dorothy in Canmore, Alberta on June 30, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • Don Garen, June 30, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"They were built because we were bigger men than the Brits. So they had to have a cockpit with a little more room."


I enlisted when I was eighteen. At the time, I had three brothers who were overseas. My oldest brother was in the Air Force, an instrument maker; served in Tunis and Great Britain. My second brother was Army Service Corps, he served in Britain. Also, he went through the Okinawan campaign [in the Far East, 1945] and later, the Korean War and he stayed in the Army until he retired. My third brother was the adjutant of the 12th Manitoba Dragoons. So there being eight years difference, I was the youngest, and I enlisted in 1942 but I wasn’t called into the Air Force until January of 1943. And I was stationed first at Manning Depot in Toronto and we had some time to waste and we did useless duties here and there. Then I went to ITS, the Initial Training School at No. 6 in Toronto. Completing that, we were posted to Elementary Flying School at No. 20 in Oshawa. And I flew Tiger Moths. We got in about 66 hours of flying time. After that, we did a couple of weeks of useless duties and then we were posted to No. 9 SFTS, that’s Service Flying [Training] School in Centralia, Ontario. And there, I flew Ansons. And we got in about close to 200 hours on Ansons. I got my wings in October of 1944 and I was quite fortunate. My brother who was in the Service Corps, was being moved from Britain to the Far East and he pinned my wings on me, so I was pleased with that. After our wings parade, we were posted to Trois-Rivières [Quebec] and we took an air/ground training course which would be a lighter version of an army commando course to get us in shape. And they got us in shape and sent us home until December of 1945. And in February of 1945, we were released into the E-class reserve [by 1944 the Royal Canadian Air Force had an excess of trained personnel to meet its overseas needs]. And then we were discharged in 1947. I had one experience on May the 30th, 1944, we were doing a practice precautionary landing; we had an engine failure and the Anson went through a tree, lost a wing and we crashed. But there was three of us aboard and everybody was fine. We had some minor injuries. The instructor had some facial injuries and he was taken away and I was left to guard the aircraft until midnight. During that time, I must have passed out at one point because I found myself laying in a ditch and an old lady in the area - we were in an area where there was a lot of dairy cattle and they were pretty displeased with us because we took the hydro out and they all had to milk by hand that night -but this lady brought me over a pot of tea and a salmon sandwich and that’s the last tea I drank at seven o’clock on May the 30th, 1944. Well, the Tiger Moth was a biplane. Seems pretty old today. But it was an aircraft you had to fly, it had all the flying characteristics but it was a very safe aircraft. You could do things in the Tiger Moth that you couldn’t do in another aircraft. They would break up. The Anson was also a safe aircraft and a good aircraft to learn on, twin engine. Most of the aircraft we had had twin props. The one I crashed in didn’t have a twin-speed prop so we couldn’t put it in a fine pitch to get a little extra speed. But they were a very safe aircraft and they were built in Canada. There were Mk II Ansons, and they were different from the Mk I, especially in the cockpit. They were built because we were bigger men than the Brits. So they had to have a cockpit with a little more room. Plus, we had hydraulics; the wheels come up hydraulically and the flaps were hydraulic. Whereas the Mk I’s that they flew at observer schools, you had to wind the wheels up and the flaps were manual. So I enjoyed flying the Anson.
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