Veteran Stories:
Ernie Whittle

Air Force

  • Mechanics, including Ernie Whittle in the first row at the Royal Canadian Air Force Technical Training School in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1941.

    Ernie Whittle
  • Pictured here are Ernie Whittle and his friend Cecil Wolfendon who both volunteered in 1943 for the Servicing Commando Unit, RAF being formed in Sussex, England. However, they were eventually recalled to No. 409 (Nighthawk) Squadron, RCAF.

    Ernie Whittle
  • Ernie Whittle (back row, middle) poses with friends Jim McNaule, Roger Demers (front row) and Walter Moore, Fred Williamson (back row) in wartime years.

    Ernie Whittle
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"Travelling about 400 ought miles an hour, we approached Vimy head on and pulled up over it. Next, we passed it on the right, then on the left. Not satisfied that we had seen everything, he turned the kite upside down so I had a final view of the memorial looking straight up."

Transcript

This is entitled, “Night Hawking.” Talk about flying high and low. Then there was a time I saw the world upside down. I don’t mean that is the only way I saw it, it was the only one of a variety of ways and at speeds of over 400 miles an hour. It all started quite innocently, and was just one more time that I answered a question without too much thought. It had been a busy day and most things had gone as expected, but I wasn’t too happy with the kite [aircraft] we had been working on ̶ nothing that hadn’t happened before, but puzzling nevertheless. We had rechecked and readjusted several times, but were not ready to sign the kite out. I made arrangements for a fight test and gathered the equipment I would require. As luck would have it, I drew the best pilot possible. I don’t know how it was decided, but the commanding officer of the squadron, Wing Commander J. D. (“Red”) Somerville was our test pilot. Somerville was a pre-war flyer; he brought to the air force a sound knowledge of flying conditions throughout the Dominion. After a start as a flight commander at [No.] 410 Squadron [Royal Canadian Air Force], he was appointed CO [commanding officer] of the Nighthawks, that’s [No.] 409 Squadron. Red, as he was popularly known, had a happy faculty of knowing each man by name yet commanding efficiency. "Let’s go, Whittle." We set off in the [De Havilland DH-98] Mosquito [fighter-bomber aircraft] requiring testing. When we arrived at the proper altitude, our testing began. I had set up the necessary testing gauges, etc., and after checking the settings, I pronounced that everything was ready. First, turn off the port engine, put down flaps, then undercarriage. All okay. Up flaps, undercarriage, restart the port engine. Breathing a sigh of relief, I told the "wing co" [wing commander], who hadn’t batted an eye, that everything was 100 percent. We did the same with the starboard engine, flaps and undercarriage, etc. He decided to do a little shakedown himself and threw the Mossie [Mosquito] in a few rough and tough maneuvers, then asked me if I had a chance to visit [Canadian National] Vimy Memorial. I told him that I had not yet, but that I expected to shortly. He said that he had been there, but not from the air, so how about going there now? Of course, I said that I would be glad of the opportunity. Well, the Mosquito and the pilot and the observer sit side-by-side and we have almost 100 percent visibility. Travelling about 400 ought miles an hour, we approached Vimy head on and pulled up over it. Next, we passed it on the right, then on the left. Not satisfied that we had seen everything, he turned the kite upside down so I had a final view of the memorial looking straight up. Somerville was our last CO I had with 409. I left the end of February [1945] as my time had expired.
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