Veteran Stories:
Clarence Sutherland

Air Force

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"Anyway, the next trip I did, I shot down a fighter; I shot another fighter and the sparks fly like that and he was just gone."


When we left [London, after two weeks’ leave, in May 1943,] to go back to Bournemouth [England], we were on a train. So we were playing cards, we were nearly to Bournemouth, so we’re playing cards and all of a sudden, one guy looks out the window. And there’s a Focke-Wulf 190 [German fighter aircraft], it was about 200 feet away, and he’s flying the same … height as the train. And I said, that’s a Focke-Wulf 190, man, get down, everybody. You never know, there might be another guy.

So anyway, what happened was, there were three of them come over and they bombed the place where all the people stayed [the hotel that housed a Royal Air Force Personnel Despatch and Receiving Centre], the people who looked after the air force. They bombed that and they killed, oh, it was a lot of people. They went down the mess hall and through, the big cannon shells went through the mess hall. So they chased them but I don’t think they ever caught them. So there were just gone. But I said, geez, that’s quite the … the fighters usually get us [when we’re] in the plane.

But first trip I did was as a spare, you know, with someone else. We’d just got over, going into Holland and all of a sudden the guy says, well, we just crossed the last of the coast there, skipper. Jesus, then the fighter came and I blasted away at the fighter. And the guns broke right off at the handles. And here I am with the guns broke off. Well, I didn’t say anything. We went to Berlin, we came back and it’s all fogged in, you can’t land so the guy finally goes along and he said, what the hell’s that other plane doing? And there’s another plane right next to us. He was the guy who had the runway, so we crowded him out and we landed and he went around again. Finally landed. And I said, this is not our aerodrome. And the guy [said], oh God, we’re really in trouble now.

So he went in there and handled the whole thing and I stayed out, I wasn’t going to go in there. And we got on a truck and went back to our own squadron. So there was our Dennis Dear, our bomb aimer - he didn’t go - with other crew, he’s by the bed chewing his fingernails, waiting for us to come back. So we all came back, which was pretty good.

Anyway, the next trip I did, I shot down a fighter; I shot another fighter and the sparks fly like that and he was just gone. But the one eventually fighter, my mid-upper gunner says, “Lanc [Lancaster] on fire,” he says, “on port side.” And I whipped around like that and this [German] fighter was coming right towards me. So I just blasted him and he went down and we finally, this here [German] fighter pilot… he went back on ops [operations], they bailed out and he went back on ops. But the Lanc he shot down was from our squadron. And the guy lives right here in Florida now who was the [Lancaster] pilot there. And he eventually was in the prisoner-of-war camp.

Later on [during that same trip], I fought another Focke-Wulf 190 and I just put damage because the sparks were flying. Well the Zero, when you’d hit them, when the bullets hit at night, they go like that and there’ll be like sparks. So anyway, didn’t get anything like that. So the guy that was in the, the other plane that got shot down, he was the wing commander’s rear gunner. So I think that’s why he got mad and everything like that but the gunner later recommended me for a DFM, which is Distinguished Flying Medal [Mr. Sutherland was however awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar during his wartime service with 207 Squadron, Royal Air Force before being shot down during his last trip over France in September 1944].

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