Veteran Stories:
Willard Milton “Will” Sawyer

Air Force

  • Willard Sawyer, shortly after earning his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) commission, 1944.

    Willard Sawyer
  • Document certifying that Flying Officer Willard Sawyer has been awarded Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Operational Wings, May 8, 1945.

    Willard Sawyer
  • Willard Sawyer's No. 101 Squadron, Royal Air Force Lancaster Bomber crew.
    From left to right: F/O Bill Dane, Navigator; F/Sgt Bernie O'Hallaran, Mid-Upper Gunner; Sgt Wally Gill, Wireless Operator; F/L Wilfred Schenk, Pilot; F/Sgt George Skuce, Rear Gunner; Sgt. Fred Davies, Flight Engineer; F/O Willard Sawyer, Bomb Aimer.

    Willard Sawyer
  • Map showing bombing targets within range of No. 101 Squadron, RAF's home station at RAF Ludford Magna, near Ludford, Lincolnshire, England.

    Willard Sawyer
  • Pages from Flying Officer Willard Sawyer's Royal Canadian Air Force Log Book, detailing No. 101 Squadron, RAF bombing operations against Dresden, Chemnitz, and Dortmund, Germany, February 13-20, 1945.

    Willard Sawyer
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Listen to this story

"I was lying flat on my stomach, but after the bombing, I could stand up in the bubble that I was in and had two machine guns, as did the mid-upper gunner."

Transcript

There were 13 different training stations before I reached my operational squadron, which was [RAF] Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire [England]. It was an RAF [Royal Air Force] squadron, No. 101. I was a bomb aimer and front gunner because in my position, when I was bombing, I was lying flat on my stomach, but after the bombing, I could stand up in the bubble that I was in and had two machine guns, as did the mid-upper gunner. The rear gunner had four guns. So I was a bomber and a gunner; and I was trained for navigation as well. I guess in every case, if something happened to one of the crew members, someone was trained to take his place. The first one I was on was in Stuttgart [Germany] and we were attacked by an ME [Messerschmitt Bf] 109 [German fighter aircraft]. And that’s the only time during our tour that we were attacked, but on one other trip, we were coned and that means that one searchlight spotted us and immediately, other searchlights in the surrounding area joined in and formed a cone. And that’s very difficult to get out of. The only way is to dive and take circular motions, which we were able to do. But for the rest of our tours, nothing happened. Now, of the 29 though, some of them were, toward the very end of the war, and we dropped food in Rotterdam [The Netherlands]. And there was a standing agreement between Britain and Germany [Operation Manna] that if we were to go to Rotterdam to drop food, we would be safe, we wouldn’t get shot at. And that was, I don’t know if it was unusual, but that was the agreement. So we flew low and dropped the food, but no bombs, of course. One other thing I’d like to mention is that, again, without consulting my logbook, I even forget the target, but on the way back, I was watching my H2S [airborne ground scanning radar] equipment, which really is, reflects back up the ground contours. And I noticed that we were heading for Lake Constance in Switzerland. Now, Switzerland was a neutral country, but it was, the borders of it were heavily fortified with anti-aircraft guns. When I noticed that, I notified the pilot and the navigator that we were obviously, for some reason, off track. So they altered course. I often thought that the H2S paid for itself right there because we were certainly heading towards Switzerland. I guess it’s not likely that you’re going to hit the target directly, but we did in a few cases. But generally, no, we weren’t that accurate. We were close enough that it did damage I would think, but we didn’t hit the target directly. Naturally, we had to set, as far as the bomb aimer is concerned, we had to set the altitude and the speed, and the direction of the aircraft, as well as the direction and the speed of the wind. And they could all be set, but the wind could change or, I guess, could be a number of other reasons. What we felt was accurate settings could have changed the operation. I enjoyed it, maybe not so much enjoying the bombing as much as just being with the crew and doing what we were asked to do.
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