"As the war went on, we found ways of being able to change engines without it being a very big... mechanical job."
There was three of us that we thought of joining something. The army. But the army couldn’t take people at that, like they couldn’t put us through because of the numbers. We went to Fredericton, then to Saint John. We come through Sussex. One fellow joined the 8th [Canadian] Hussars [(Princess Louise’s)]; and we went on, and I went into [RCAF Station] Moncton to the air force; and they couldn’t take me, but they asked me if I’d go home, and they would call me, which they did. Well, shortly after they called me, they asked me, there’s a course and would I take the mechanics course; and I agreed, and I took that. And then I was inducted into the air force.
After I got away from Canada here, I worked on a lot of the older planes because that’s what we used mostly for training, but then when I was over there, I went from, as I said, the [Vickers] Wellington [British long-range medium bomber] through to the [Handley Page] Halifax [British heavy bomber], and to the [Avro] Lancaster [British heavy bomber]. But in each case, it was no change for me because I was still working on the same engine.
We had a very good reputation as a squadron from the start, it was all RAF [Royal Air Force] at the time except for a small number of Canadians; and they just kept working the Canadians in, and the RAF out. When they formed No. 6 [(RCAF) Bomber] Group, they selected a number of aerodromes [airfields] in England that were going to be the bases for No. 6 Group; and they told our CO [commanding officer] to go and pilot No. 6 Group, and select whichever drome he wanted because our CO was [Group Captain] Johnny [John Emilius] Fauquier, he was a well known bomber pilot.
We got to Aerodrome [RAF] Topcliffe, and we were only there a short while and there was an incident down on the south coast of Coastal Command [Consolidated B-24] Liberator [American heavy bomber] Squadron that couldn’t keep maintenance. They were having a very hard time, and so they quickly sent us because we had a very good record of good maintenance. We had aircraft ready.
Anyway, we went down there and we spent a winter down there, patrolled the Bay of Biscay down as far as Gib [Gibraltar] and out to the Azores in the Atlantic. When we finished that, we went back up into No. 6 Group at a place called [RAF] Leeming. We were very short time there; we were there just part of the summer, and all of a sudden, they wanted us in the Pathfinders [target location and demarcation]. So we were transferred to the RAF section there, No. 8 [(Pathfinder Force)] Group, as a Canadian Pathfinder squadron.
Well, on those was all Merlins [V-12 Rolls-Royce aero engine], all Rolls-Royce. Beautiful sounding good engine and as I say, it was a good reliable engine. As the war went on, we found ways of being able to change engines without it being a very big and, you know, mechanical job. By the end of the last of it, we just changed power plants, to speed up the job. A few hours and we’d have a plane back in the air. But I said a few minutes ago about this, the only problem with it was on long flights was to keep them from getting glycol [deicing chemical liquid] leaks because you had so many connections: radiators, header tanks, and hose couplings. That was the only real hardship with them. But they were, they lasted too, they were good engines.
Once they started leaking, if they go down too low, we had to shut them down. What we used to find is that was the first thing we used to look for when they landed. We’d walk under the engines. If anything fell on your head, you knew it was leaking. [laughs]