Veteran Stories:
Louis Swimmer

Air Force

  • Louis Swimmer (second from left) with his three brothers, all of whom served in the Canadian Army.

    Louis Swimmer
  • LAC Louis Swimmer's Royal Canadian Air Force identification card.

    Louis Swimmer
  • Louis Swimmer with his Coastal Command squadron comrades in Newfoundland, 1943.

    Louis Swimmer
  • Louis Swimmer while still in the Canadian Army. In 1942, he transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

    Louis Swimmer
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"I took my coat and we were getting the girls and guys out of the windows and put them on that – about six of them - and put them in the trucks to take them to the hospital."

Transcript

I landed in Newfoundland; there was nothing there but a bunch of wooden shacks. We were lucky to have a place to sleep. And there was about, on that station [RCAF Torbay], we only had two hangars when I landed. And of course, they built up some more while I was there. We were four or five miles outside of St. John’s, that’s where the station was, called Torbay. We had a dance Friday night [December 12, 1942] and we went out there [to the Knights of Columbus Hostel in St. John’s], some of the boys and myself. And it was sabotaged by the Germans and they set the place on fire. When we got back, the place was on fire, the whole hut, burning like crazy and we tried to get the soldiers and the girls out. We broke the windows and we had them crawling out. We’d catch them. It was wintertime. The amazing thing was, getting only 100 killed or burned to death. At that time, it was cold, it was wintertime. I had my winter coat, the Air Force winter coat. And we ran out of the stretchers. I took my coat and we were getting the girls and guys out of the windows and put them on that – about six of them - and put them in the trucks to take them to the hospital. And I was there with just my uniform until we were able to get the fire out. And I was able to get back to my station. The sergeant says to me, "where’s your coat?" I says, "I don’t know." "What do you mean, you don’t know?" "I was at the fire last night, where the hell do you think it would be? They didn’t have any stretchers, we ran out of stretchers and they used my coat as a stretcher." Oh, hmm. The sergeant major comes over and says, "I’ll get you another coat." Huh, that was it. But it was a hell of a, hell of a night.
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