"I looked back and all of a sudden a fire broke out where one of the hot engines was laying in a pool of gasoline…"
My name is Frank Hynes. I was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I joined up before the war, and was in an auxiliary squadron - 115 Fighter Squadron in Montreal. The day war was declared, the squadron was activated, so I was on my way.
I re-mustered to air crew when I was overseas from mechanic... they wanted flight engineers in a hurry, because the squadrons were coming back from North Africa, after bombing Italy and Sicily and [?], and they had flown Wellingtons. When they came back, they were being converted to Halifax bombers, which were four-engine and had a couple of extra crew members. They needed an extra gunner, and they needed a flight engineer, which a Wellington didn't have. So a bunch of us people that were NCOs were asked, would we re-muster to flight engineer. So I said I would, and about a dozen of us had to take some tests, and then they gave us a course for fourteen days. About a week on engine and about a week on the airframe and systems, and the guy threw a wing at me and said, "Congratulations, you're now a flight engineer."
I was crewed up with one crew. They didn't like the Halifax, or maybe the pilot thought they were too much for him, so he wanted out, and they went back to their squadron. Then I was crewed up with a second crew, and they had been in North Africa a couple of years... or eighteen months, about. And the navigator had jaundice and then dysentery, so he was kind of sickly and he went sick, so I had to go with a third crew. And about our second flight, we were on a cross-country, and I was what's called a "bull's eye," and we had engine trouble. We lost an engine, and then another engine, and then we eventually crashed. Two of the crew were killed outright, and the rest were badly injured. I was thrown out, and landed on my feet running, but I couldn't keep up with the speed I was going, so I landed flat on my face in a plowed field in the middle of the night. It was black as the inside of a cow. Then I stood up, and I couldn't see anything. I was wrapped up in some wire off the heating hoses, and I got rid of them. I got rid of my parachute, and I just stood there dazed.
The pieces were in three fields, so I looked back and all of a sudden a fire broke out where one of the hot engines was laying in a pool of gasoline, I guess, and it suddenly flared up. And I went back and I started to work on getting the crew out. I got just about everybody out when one of the gunners must have come to - the mid-upper gunner - he helped me. We got everybody out... we got everybody out but the tail gunner, and he was conscious. We talked to him, but every time we tried to do anything with access to free him, he couldn't stand the pain, so we had to wait.
An ambulance took me up to the sick bay, and they taped me up from under the armpits down to my waist with three-inch tape. And then they had an investigation and they sent me on leave for nine days, and I came back. They took the tape off and put a new set of tape on. And I thought, "Good, I'll get another nine days leave," and they said, "Like heck you will." They put me on flight status, and I was flying the next day.