Portait of Flight Sergeant Charles Hubbard, Royal Canadian Air Force, Circa 1944-1945.Charles Hubbard
Wireless Air Gunner (WAG) wing pin, Royal Canadian Air Force.Charles Hubbard
Crest of Royal Canadian Air Force "wings", encased in a heart-shaped locket.Charles Hubbard
Charles Hubbard in Ottawa, Ontario, November 8, 2010.Historica Canada
"I immediately opened fire with my machine gun. And they returned the fire and I don’t think either of us hit anybody or anything. But they submerged rather quickly."
I was a radio operator/air gunner, they call them WAGs, wireless air gunner. I would fly in, in large aircraft, where they had machine guns. I would operate; right, about the plane I flew in, there was the Canso, which is a flying boat. And it had blister compartments partway down the body and there were two of them and there were machine guns in them. And they had a machine gun in the nose. So I would be at one of those stations or operating the radio during a flight.
My first stint was in [RCAF Station] Botwood Bay [Newfoundland]. I went from there to Halifax, well Sydney, actually, Nova Scotia. And then from there to Gander, Newfoundland. And the rest of my time was spent there at Gander. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean, quite often closer to Europe than we were to Canada, looking for German submarines. Occasionally, we actually did see submarines.
On one occasion, one of the submarines, we were just flying and I was in the nose at the nose gun, I saw this submarine actually sitting on the surface. I don’t know whatever brought them up, but anyway, I immediately opened fire with my machine gun. And they returned the fire and I don’t think either of us hit anybody or anything. But they submerged rather quickly.
And now, the other thing that we would do is where they went down, we bracketed the area with depth charges. And we’d go down, when the pressure built up to a certain point, it would explode. And we watched them explode, but we don’t know whether that submarine was still there or whatever. I never to this day knew if it was successful.
And then another time, coming in for a landing – the wings had floats on them, which were retractable, and the floats were down, but he came in [the pilot] and somehow, he tipped it and one float buried itself under the water. And the aircraft just went, (noise), like that. Now, that aircraft had bunks because we’d be out 12, 13, 14 hours at a stretch. And I was asleep in a bunk when it happened. The sudden turn slammed me against the bulkhead and knocked me out. When I came to, I sat up in the bunk and realized I was up to my knees in water and so I got out. And I was a competitive swimmer when I was young and I started to swim. But I was confused and disoriented because of the blow to the head and I didn’t know I was doing it, but I was swimming out to sea.
The other chaps, a boat came out from the shore to rescue them, and everybody, they piled in and then realized I wasn’t there. They went back to the aircraft, which was in the process of sinking, and they looked and somebody went in actually, and of course they didn’t find me. So they figured, okay, he’s swimming, because they knew I was a good swimmer. And they made circles. When they found me, I was 300 yards out to sea. They dragged me out, I was still disoriented. That’s really as close as I ever came to being injured, you know. And it wasn’t serious, so if I hadn’t been a good swimmer, I very likely wouldn’t be here today.
Interview date: 8 November 2010