Veteran Stories:
Graham David Kennedy

Air Force

  • Graham Kennedy's class at 57 Operational Training Unit (OTU), where they learned to fly Spitfires. July 5, 1944 - September 12, 1944. "Memories of many old friends."

    Graham Kennedy
  • Clipping from The Toronto Daily Star, September 12, 1942, announcing Graham Kennedy and his brother William both becoming pilots.

    Graham Kennedy
  • Graham Kennedy (far right) with his parents after graduating as a pilot on June 19, 1942. "A proud moment in my life."

    Graham Kennedy
  • Graham Kennedy's flight log book.

    Graham Kennedy
  • A selection from Graham Kennedy's flight log book. Note the entry on the bottom of the right-side page, where he notes enemy action and crash landing.

    Graham Kennedy
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"And I heard an English voice saying, “are you alright, sir?” And I replied, “bravo”, I said, “of course I am”, which of course wasn’t the case"

Transcript

My brother, he was a year and a half older, he had joined maybe six months before [in 1941]. In the early days, I followed him, I was probably a pain in the neck to him, I seemed to have followed behind everything he did. The fact that he went into the [Royal Canadian] Air Force, that probably contributed to my desire to do the same thing.

Anyway, he went overseas quite a bit earlier than I did, we were apart for a couple years but we ended up both flying out of Eindhoven [The Netherlands – also called Welschap; Allied airfield B.78]. He was on photographic reconnaissance Spitfires [with No. 400 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force] and actually, I was on Typhoons [with No. 137 Squadron, Royal Air Force]. We were on opposite ends of the aerodrome but we were able to visit back and forth at night, it was quite enjoyable. They had a very good cook. They had a fellow that was the pastry chef at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. We didn’t have such a cook. Anyway, one of those nights ended when a couple of us, as wingmates, I’d known quite a few of them, but you know, of their squadron, come back and visited me one night at our squadron and told me that Bill had not returned from a flight that afternoon. And he was declared missing in action.

We knew nothing about him for the next, you know, until the end of the war when my mother received word that he was buried in Holland in a place called Baak, BAAK [Steenderen (Baak) Roman Catholic Cemetery – please see the resources section for more information]. I guess she visited the grave on two occasions I believe. We didn’t know what had happened to him, whether it was anti-aircraft or fighters or whatever. You know, he was, as they say, flying photographic reconnaissance Spitfires. It wasn’t until about two years ago I received an email message from a research group in Holland, who had found that Bill had been shot down by Lieutenant Albert Schreiber, who was flying a Messerschmitt [Me]262 jet [the first operational jet fighter]. Lieutenant Schreiber had also, Bill was the sixth reconnaissance plane that he had shot down. So I guess his job, with his high speed and climbing ability, would cruise at modest elevation and watch for our high flying photographic reconnaissance planes, with his speed and climbing ability would come up underneath the reconnaissance planes and they probably never knew what hit them. So that was Albert Schreiber.

I had done 13 trips before I was clobbered. That happened in November 1944. Yeah, it was good weather. It was anti-aircraft fire. We had attacked a target, I forget what it was and I was hit with anti-aircraft fire. I guess it hit the gas tank, it was drained, engine conked out. I was too low to bail out, my engine stopped completely. I can remember gliding just over the tops of some trees. I found a flat field of course, which wasn’t too hard to do in Holland. And headed for this flat field, as I said, just skimmed over the tops of some trees and then I don’t remember anything until I woke up leaning forward in the cockpit. Everything was red in front of me and that was my blood. I had apparently hit my head on the gun sight, got a severe concussion. And I heard an English voice saying, “are you alright, sir?” And I replied, “bravo”, I said, “of course I am”, which of course wasn’t the case, I had a severe concussion and a compression fracture of lumbar one in my back.

I later woke up and I passed out after that. Apparently I’d argued with the soldiers about getting in the stretcher they brought out for me. I think they won. And I woke up in a field hospital and then they transported me to Eindhoven Hospital. I learned that I had skidded across the field okay, everything was fine until I hit a German slit trench and the nose of the aircraft, which hangs down quite a bit, the chin you might call it, caught the German slit trench and stopped in a hurry. I went forward and hit my head. And this was no man’s land. There was no activity there. The enemy had vacated that some time earlier.

That was the end of the war for me, I was in hospital and then a medical rehabilitation unit up until the war ended.

Interview date: 27 October 2010

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