Veteran Stories:
Jack Gillingham

Air Force

  • Fire in the kitchen (they were frying fish) destroyed the unit in a camp in Nova Scotia, date unknown.

    Jack Gillingham
  • Camp in Nova Scotia.

    Jack Gillingham
  • Mr. Gillingham, date unknown.

    Jack Gillingham
  • A blanket Jack Gillingham crocheted using a toothbrush, from socks and sweaters while in POW camp Stalag 8B.

    Jack Gillingham
  • Jack Gillingham at a training unit with fellow Newfoundlanders, in Picton, Ontario, 1940.

    Jack Gillingham
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"I just put my number, name and rank on the top and lay the pencil down and that was it. He got ballistic then. He took his revolver out and started waving over his head."

Transcript

We started out in 1 March 1943. The flight in to Berlin wasn’t, it wasn’t that bad, I would say. Opposition wasn’t there; they left us alone. Anyhow, we got in over the target and we were making our run… when the search lights in Berlin came up and coned us. The master searchlights and then every searchlight in Berlin comes up, and lights the whole sky. You’re like a little tiny dory [fish] out in the middle of the ocean, so to speak. You’re all alone.

We just had gotten rid of our bomb, and the skipper told us to hang on; and he pointed the nose down and we went from 16,500 to 3,000 feet when he pulled her out. You could almost see the wings flapping. They weren’t made for that; and then we got struck by gunfire. Killed the mid-upper gunner right off, he never had a chance.

I was the last man to get out. I touched the skipper on the shoulder and told him I was going. He gave me the thumbs up and as soon as he let the wheel go, he just flipped over. We couldn’t put the automatic pilot in because the rudder control was all shattered. He got halfway out when it crashed; and I picked him up. He was dead. So there was three of them dead: mid-upper gunner, the navigator and the skipper.

We got in an interrogation centre there in Frankfurt and I was there for 10 days, 14 days. I can’t recall now. One minute they send in an officer, he’s supposed to be from the Red Cross; and he had a form about yay long, with all the questions on it. On the top, there was number, name and rank and then you were supposed to finish it all in. So what I done, I just put my number, name and rank on the top and lay the pencil down and that was it. He got ballistic then. He took his revolver out and started waving over his head, and I kept ducking underneath his hand.

Anyhow, he went out and the next thing I heard him tap something on the door. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what it was, so I knocked on the door and I got the guard to take me out to the lavatory. On the way back, I seen it was just a square; and on side of it, one colour and on the bottom, there was another colour. So I figured out, that’s got to be something. So I looked down the aisle and I seen several other doors had the same thing, so I was not alone in it.

We were in Stalag 8B [German prisoner of war camp]. There was different compounds. We had a compound; the air force had a compound in the centre of the camp. They kept us away from the fences. Now, right across from us was a compound with all the prisoners taken at Dieppe, when the Canadians went to Dieppe, they were there. What they used to give us on a daily basis? You get two or three potatoes and a piece of bread about like so. Quarter of brown bread, [knocks on the table] you could pave the walk with it.

Well, it wasn’t real harsh. It could have been harder, if they had taken the Red Cross parcels away. It was surprising what. They made a cake. Some of the army personnel there made a cake out of it and there was about as big around as this table almost … made the icing with it. But the cake itself was made of flour, I suppose, and prunes and grapes and all that sort of stuff. It was a masterpiece.

One of the personnel in the stalag took a Red Cross parcel box and made a camera out of it. He got lenses brought in from the outside because all the army fellows used to go on working parties [work release] and they managed to get a couple of them lenses smuggled in, and film. And that’s how those pictures are all made by that... It’s amazing the things that were done.

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