"Nobody ever told you how to do it, you just were... used your best judgment, whatever that was."
Milton Jowsey. I've served in the RCAF. Fighter Squadrons in north Africa were generally composed of about half RCAF pilots and about a third Brits and the others, mixture of South Africans and Australians and New Zealanders with a few Americans in there. When I went back over again and joined 442 Squadron, flying Spitfires on the continent, I joined them in Belgium. We were there just a couple of days and then moved into Holland. Four weeks after I joined the squadron, I became a flight commander and then about another six weeks later, I became a commanding officer. I was aged 22 at the time. We were a very successful wing and we flew in ... battledress, not blue. We were quite nervous when we went down into the American sector to the south of us. We didn't think the Yanks could tell the difference between Air Force blue and Vermacht field grey. So we just literally wouldn't fly in Air Force blue, which later saved my life.
Early in 1945, we had a senior British intelligence officer coming around, reminding us that we might find civilian population pretty emotional and hostile if we came down in their area after we'd been doing some strafing of motor transport or trains or dive bombing. At that time we carried three bombs on the Spitfire. And you generally were bombing railway cuts or junctions and then you were strafing any motor transport or trains that you could find. And in the process, of course, buildings get clobbered. At any rate, we were well advised to find somebody in uniform to surrender to if we were being confronted by civilians. They even suggested that because of the German recognition of authority, that a postman would be good enough. I don't know whether I wanted to try a postman. At any rate, on this sunny February afternoon, I was leading eight Spitfires. We had done our bombing and we were attacking some motor transport that was near the edge of a small community. And I was the first one in. We strafed about 420 miles an hour on the theory that if you got hit and you lost your engine power, you had enough speed to climb up high enough to bail out, which turned out to be the case 'cause suddenly there was a big crunch and I had no engine power. And I was climbing but my cockpit became full of glycol smoke and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see what direction I was going. Nobody ever told you how to do it, you just were... used your best judgment, whatever that was. At any rate, I was successful in getting out and pulled my parachute and it worked fine and everything was good.
As I floated down, I think it was maybe around 1200 feet, the wind was blowing me fast enough that I could see this group of civilians that were taking off from this little hamlet. And I know that they were going to do something. But they couldn't run quite as fast as I was getting blown and I landed in this field. And all I did was leave my parachute in the field and I ran in and lay down on these leaves. And sort of covered myself up as best I could. They looked for me until dusk. I had this escape map sewn in the waistband of your battledress jacket. There's no zippers on your trouser fly, in those days they were buttons. But two of them were metal and you put them together and they formed a compass. So you took those off and then your flying boots, which were black leather, the tops, you cut them off with a penknife that was in a pocket with them, so that you were left with, what looked like black Oxford lace shoes. But I couldn't take off because I discovered that all these farmers were now out in the field. They couldn't go out in the daylight, we wouldn't let them. Literally nothing moved in Germany at that time. Not a thing. And they were out with their cattle and their horses and watering things and lanterns and running around and so, I was... I was stuck. I couldn't go anywhere. They all kind of went to bed around midnight or... so I then set course for Holland.