Veteran Stories:
Robert Leo “Bob” Petersen

Air Force

  • Bob Petersen, circa 1943-45.

    Bob Petersen
  • Bob Petersen and his bomber crew from No. 100 Squadron, Royal Air Force, circa 1944-45.

    Bob Petersen
  • A 500-pound high explosive bomb being dropped from a Lancaster of No. 100 Squadron, Royal Air Force, circa 1944-45.

    Bob Petersen
  • Decorated pages from Bob Petersen's Royal Canadian Air Force Flying Log Book, showing his total flying hours with No. 100 Squadron, Royal Air Force at the end of the war with Germany, 1945.

    Bob Petersen
  • Bob Petersen and his crewmate Fred atop their No. 100 Squadron, Royal Air Force Lancaster, circa 1944-45.

    Bob Petersen
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"The one that stands out more than all is one where we were coned by searchlights and the light was so powerful that you couldn’t see anything inside the turret or outside the turret."

Transcript

There was lots of noise, particularly when you were in your aircraft and you were lined up on the perimeter track and maybe you got maybe 13 to 20 aircraft with four engines pounding away, waiting to take off at just the right time. That was quite noisy. The main role of the gunner was to protect the aircraft from attack. So you were being alert all the time, scanning the skies, watching everywhere to make sure that you weren’t going to be attacked as far as when you were on your mission. Prior to it, making sure that everything was in order in your turret, there was ammunition for the guns, that the guns were maintained properly, that the Perspex on the turret was clean so that even a speck of dust would appear like an aircraft in the dark. The turret itself was a very cramped space, it was cold. You had so little space that once you got in there, you were there. You had to make the best of your little place. You almost at times felt isolated from the rest of the crew because you were way at the end of the aircraft on a bomber. We had a lot of bad weather. It was interesting to be going through clouds sometimes when you were going off at dusk and you’d be going through clouds and they’d make contours and trails of the aircraft itself. And sometimes if it was kind of stormy, you’d see the various forms of lightening, St. Elmo’s Fire and things like that from the storm effect. The one that stands out more than all is one where we were coned by searchlights and the light was so powerful that you couldn’t see anything inside the turret or outside the turret. And I’m sure it was the same for all the other crew members in that type of experience. The pilot immediately put the aircraft through its corkscrew maneuver. You were diving and climbing and doing that corkscrew maneuver for what seemed a long time. Made you wonder if you were ever going to be able to break away from it because once you were locked on by one searchlight, the others locked on as well to form a cone of light that just made it almost impossible for you to fly the aircraft. So getting away from a coning was something that you dreaded because you heard about others that would experience this as well. One spectacular thing at the end of the war was bringing back prisoners of war. We made two trips to Brussels at the end of the war to bring back ex-POWs, to see their smiling faces when they got off the aircraft in England was something. They knew they were back home.
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