"Once I gazed out the window at nighttime, just to see what was going on, when I seen the explosion. Aircraft had been hit by flak, just the back of us. So that’s how quickly it could happen; like that."
In 1940, my dad received his full American citizenship papers so my mother in Cape Breton decided we’d all go to the U.S. to live with my dad. When we arrived at the border, being eighteen, all Immigration said to me was, are you trying to avoid the draft? And that was the end of the conversation and he wouldn’t, refused me admission to follow my family. Returned to Halifax one evening, I was quite depressed, I didn’t know exactly what to do when I met a chap from my place, captain of a coal barge, leaving for Bermuda the next morning to supply coal to the [SS] Foundation Franklin ocean tug. So he just told me that once we arrived in Bermuda, I would have to change over to the Franklin.
We had a rough trip going, being towed by the Franklin, arrived in St. George’s, Bermuda, and then I traded over to change over to the Franklin. And from then on, we were at sea mostly every day, answering SOSs or alert distress calls. So it gets quite, actually, I never did see St. George’s or Hamilton very much on account of always being on standby to proceed with the ship.
I joined the Air Force, air crew, as a wireless operator in 1941. I went to college or to a class for about six months for a wireless course. After I passed, I was sent to a gunnery school at Dafoe, Saskatchewan, for one month so I learned something about guns; in case our gunners got hurt while on Bomber Command, I would relieve them.
So I finished, then I came to Greenwood [Nova Scotia] then crewed up on the [Lockheed] Hudsons for about three months, then transferred overseas. And I was transferred to a Halifax bomber squadron at [Royal Air Force Station] Leeming and trained for about three months on Halifax bombers and then we were up doing our night bombing of Germany. Our trips were always quite scary on account of the Messerschmitts and the Focke Wulf were plentiful and they were trying to stop us from bombing their cities.
But our biggest threat was a city in the Ruhr. We left the early morning at five-thirty or six o’clock, went to bomb a place, I won’t mention the place but in, in the Ruhr. And after we got home, that same evening, we were called back to bomb again but it was the same place. And we could see the fires from about a hundred miles away. So to me, I don’t understand why we went to the same place but just to give advice to Hitler, presumably, that if you want to save people, you’d better stop the war, more or less, that’s my opinion of course. Because being a wireless operator, I didn’t listen to the crews talk about it, because I was obviously listening to the radio for call backs or diversions. So I’m not fully aware of what went on in regards to the second bombing.
So eventually, I finished my 31 trips and that was my tour of duty with Bomber Command. You didn’t know when you could be hit by flak or attacked by fighters. I know once I gazed out the window at nighttime, just to see what was going on, when I seen the explosion. Aircraft had been hit by flak, just the back of us. So that’s how quickly it could happen; like that.
Oh yeah , the Jerries were determined to stop us from bombing their cities, which was normal I imagine. But well, plain luck I presume got me back to Canada.