Veteran Stories:
Charles “Charlie” Kewen

Air Force

  • Charles Kewen in India, 1944 or 1945.

    Charles Kewen
  • Indian postcard (partially obscured).

    Charles Kewen
  • Royal Canadian Air Force Leave or Pass Form for Charles Kewen. Granted two weeks Embarkation Leave in August 1944.

    Charles Kewen
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"so they said, well, we’ll take you in as a mechanic and later on, you can remuster. But, that was a lie. When I tried to remuster, they said, we’ve trained you now as a mechanic,"

Transcript

My name Charles Carlson Kewen, K-E-W-E-N. I was born in England, I came to Canada with my family in 1925. My folks settled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I went to school there, I enlisted there. I wanted to go as a navigator. They said they had all the navigators they can use so I was going to Saskatoon Technical School, so they said, well, we’ll take you in as a mechanic and later on, you can remuster. But, that was a lie. When I tried to remuster, they said, we’ve trained you now as a mechanic, we’re not going to change you now. They sent me to Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Yorkton, Saskatchewan was designated as number 11 Service Flying Training. And we got there, it was a brand new station, no aircraft. We waited, I don’t know, it must have been a week, 10 days, I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, eventually, a bunch of Harvards come in, North American Harvards. So we, then we started flying and we started work and they flew 24 hours a day there. We had a night crew and a day crew and everything else. But I worked on those things, I don’t know, a couple of years anyway. And then they brought in a bunch of Cessna Cranes, which is a two-motor aircraft. They were now training for multi-engine air crew. So I had a young brother in 409 Squadron. He was a navigator. And I would love to have gone on it. He was in 409 Squadron, I would have love to have gone overseas. But as I’ll tell you later, it was a wasted effort and finally one day, they get fed up with me hollering all the time, so they sent me to Sea Island just out of Vancouver. And at that, all they had out there was Dakotas, DC-3s. And I didn’t know it then but I was, that was the only aircraft I’d ever see. After that, the only one I worked on. I was up in Whitehorse and I got a signal, they want you down there in Edmonton. I said, “Uh-oh, what’d I do now?” He says, “Well, you’re finally posted overseas.” That’s fine. He says, “Give me your parka, go and see the medical officer, get tropical shots, you’re posted.” So I went on an embarkation leave. At the time I was there, we got the telegram, your young brother’s been killed. Well, here I am on embarkation leave and my parents are grieving for him and they’ve put us in West Kirby, which is just out of Liverpool. We sat there for about a week. And finally they said, well, that we’ve got some aircraft going to Burma, or we’ve got some aircraft for you to take. They didn’t tell us where we were going. But we, we anyway, we went down, we took off from Land’s End down there through Rabat in the French Morocco and across North Africa and finally we, finally we landed in Karachi, in India. So we sat there for three weeks. We didn’t know what was going on but all this time we were on Dakotas, from the time I got to Sea Island until the time I was discharged, I was on nothing but Dakotas. One day they sent us for an old aircraft, or an old fighter squadron base, that was up in Gujarat and that’s where 436 Squadron, which is my squadron. I might explain here that it’s little known that 164 Squadron had Dakotas. They were servicing the east coast165 Squadron were servicing the west coast. Well, we got to Gujarat. And at Gujarat, they said, well, everybody was in 164 Squadron and you’ve formed the base for 435 Squadron. Everybody was doing 164, 65 Squadron, you will become 436 Squadron. We were the base personnel on, on the squad. That’s how the squadrons got formed. 164-- 435 as they called it. And they went out and the first day out, they sent out three aircraft together, two of them got shot down and one guy in the other plane got wounded but he got him back to camp. So we lost two aircraft there. And then, after that they said, only one can go into a drop zone alone.
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