Veteran Stories:
Michael Nelligan

Air Force

  • Photo of Airman J. Michael Nelligan shortly after receiving his Wings.

  • A British aircraft preparing for take-off.

  • Number 408 Squadron of the Number 6 Group Bomber Command of the R.C.A.F.

  • Certificate of Service of Airman J. Michael Nelligan, outlining operations overseas and decorations.

  • Operational wings certificate, recognizing that J. Michael Nelligan had successfully completed a tour of operational duty "in action against the enemy".

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"…we came back and didn’t have any particular problem. There were more than 90 bombers that were shot down over Germany that night."


This is Michael Nelligan. And I want to talk a little bit about World War II in which I served with the RCAF overseas. We were specifically assigned to Number 408 Squadron which was under Number 6 Group Bomber Command. And ours was among the top squadrons. We all did, of course, our share of bombing on mostly, German targets. In fact, exclusively in my particular case, targets right into the industrial zone of Germany: Frankfurt, Berlin. One memorable trip was to Nuremberg. And the exception to the rule, we might say, was that it was a full moon. And why it was chosen, of course (laughter) I'm not in the position to say but, we tried to persuade Sir Arthur Harris, who was Chief of Bomber Command, to forego this particular raid. However, away we went. Although we came back and didn't have any particular problem. More than 90 bombers that were shot down over Germany that night. On a raid to Berlin, we had no trouble getting there. We dropped out bombs and on the way back of course, still over Germany, we were coned. That means a number of searchlights would form a cone and you were in the centre of it and it was just like broad daylight up there where we were. So we were a prime target for any fighters that might be around. We were able to get out of it though. The pilot we had was very, very skilful and we were fortunate in getting away from that situation. We bombed a number of other industrial cities in Germany. One of the last raids was to Caen - C-A-E-N. Caen, France. And that's very notable because the Canadians and Americans and British had landed at Normandy the day before. And so we were sent off to Caen to bomb German troops that were concentrated there. And this, I might add, was our only daylight operation. So I was able to, along with our crew, complete 23 missions, which was considered an operational tour. So it was a great experience and I was very, very happy to have come through it all.
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