Veteran Stories:
Stephen Zabarowsky

Air Force

  • Mr. Stephen Zabarowsky poses next to a Havilland Tiger Moth in Brantford, Ontario in 1942.

    Stephen Zabarowsky
  • Mr. Stephen Zabarowsky (top left) with other Air Gunners studying at Bombing and Gunnery School in Mountain View, Ontario in 1942.

    Stephen Zabarowsky
  • Mr. Stephen Zabarowsky in Malta, 1943.

    Stephen Zabarowsky
  • Mr. Stephen Zabarowsky in Malta, 1943.

    Stephen Zabarowsky
  • Group portrait of 221 Squadron, RAF in Shallufa, Egypt in 1943.

    Stephen Zabarowsky
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"As soon as the flare was dropped. They fired everything they had at us. I happened to be in the tail turret at that time, but our pilot took such violent evasive action that it took us about an hour afterwards to find the ships again."

Transcript

We went to our squadron, which was on Malta, and I was assigned to [Royal Air Force No.] 221 Squadron, which was a night flying squadron. We used to fly usually every other night; and we never had our own aircraft, so we didn’t have that luxury like some of the squadrons had. We would usually go to the airport in the afternoon of the night we were flying and check out an aircraft, which we took out that night.

Mostly, it was the supply ships and convoys carrying, they might be carrying troops, they might be carrying supplies and what our squadron did was pretty well the area from Malta to the toe of Sicily; it’s about 400 miles. And that’s what our squadron did and, as I mentioned, always at night; and mind you, we did take off sometimes in the daytime and come back at night or vice versa, take off in the daytime and come back at night. All the trips were in around eight hour trips and the brunt of them were convoy escorts circling around the convoys, just to make sure that no submarine showed up. There was always an escort for all the convoys. And I know when we left, somebody took our place and vice versa.

On our eleventh trip, we were sent out to shadow a major unit of the Italian fleet, that’s pretty well the same fleet that we deployed, that was supposed to come out of Taranto, which never did. And these were two battleships and three cruisers that were supposedly heading from Taranto to surrender at Malta. This trip was, of course, at night. It was a dark night and we had to make sure these were the ships we went out to shadow. So our pilot decided, well, first of all, we picked this up on radar. We found the five blips on radar, but we weren’t sure that these were the ships that we were supposed to pick up. So our pilot decided that he would fly overtop and drop a flare so that our navigator, who was the expert on ships, could identify the ships, which we did.

As soon as the flare was dropped. They fired everything they had at us. I happened to be in the tail turret at that time, but our pilot took such violent evasive action that it took us about an hour afterwards to find the ships again. Anyway, we did an hour later and then we stayed with those ships until we were relieved at dawn by another aircraft.

Possibly the most rewarding of about all these trips was our last one, where we went out on an air-sea rescue mission. Apparently a glider was being towed and it had broken free from the aircraft that was towing it. So we got to the wreckage just about dark, and we spotted two dinghies with two survivors; and we stayed with it. We illuminated the dinghies by dropping flame floats [small incendiary devices that would float on the water’s surface] and flares, and we stayed with them until an air-sea rescue launch arrived and picked them up. And that was pretty well our last trip.

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