Veteran Stories:
Ken Charles Hanna

Air Force

  • The first billet of the 181 Squadron after landing in Eindhoven, Holland on September 22nd, 1944. Of Ken Hanna (2nd from left) and the other 13 pilots, 7 were killed in combat.

  • The 181 Squadron sleeping area in an orchard close to the airfield in June 1944, surrounding a German searchlight located near their tents. Ken Hanna, a typhoon pilot, is pictured in front row center.

  • The boys head to one of the landing beaches in the English Channel for a relaxing swim in July of 1944. All nine pilots had driven in one jeep to the beach after being released from flying that afternoon.

  • Ken Hanna and the 181 Squadron in Normandy in July 1944. Of the 25 pilots in the photo, 5 were killed and 6 become POW's. There were 2 Canadians, 3 Aussies, 1 Trinadian and the balance of the Squadron were English.

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"...we took off, and the end result was I had to climb through about ten thousand feet of cloud before I came out on top and spotted what looked like a Junkers 188."

Transcript

My name is Kenneth Gerald Hanna. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force back in November of... I think it was November of 1941. I graduated as a pilot in December of 1942. Went overseas in February of 1943, and after doing operational training in England on Hurricanes, the I went to... was transferred to a squadron - 181 Squadron, RAF - in November of 1943.

I think the first thing to mention is that, you know, you spend a few hours getting accustomed to the aircraft which was the Typhoon. And the Typhoon at the time was sort of the fastest low-level, prop-driven aircraft in the business. On December the 2nd, I happened to be on runway readiness, and when we were scrambled - scrambled means that we took off immediately - and usually runway readiness was conducted because the weather was poor and this was when the enemy would do sorties. They'd drop out of cloud, and we used to call them rhubarbs. In this case, we took off, and the end result was I had to climb through about ten thousand feet of cloud before I came out on top and spotted what looked like a Junkers 188. And, subsequently, they were about a mile ahead of me, and they must have spotted me at the same time that I spotted them. And when they were diving for cloud, I fired a burst. As I closed, the right engine smoked, and that's the last I saw of them.

When I dropped down over... through the ten thousand feet of cloud, I came out about five hundred feet over the water with no land in sight. And at this point, I called up the heading to find my way home, because this was my first operation, and this was all a whole new experience for me. In any case, this person came on in perfect English, and directed me on a compass heading due south. Well, it didn't take much thinking on my part to recognize that something was amiss, because the courses that I'd been flying through cloud meant that I should be, if anything, going north rather than south, because I assumed that I was over the English Channel. After fifteen minutes, well, obviously I didn't acknowledge the person that came on in perfect English, turned north, and fifteen minutes of keeping the faith, as they say, I could see the English coastline coming up.

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