Veteran Stories:
William A. “"Bill"” Robertson

Air Force

  • False Belgian identification card given to William A. Robertson while he was in hiding in Liege, Belgium

  • Flight Officer William A. "Robbie" Robertson at 22 years of age

  • Back Row, L-R: F/S Dick Colledge, Sgt. Doug Lloyd, F/O Danny Daniels, F/S Frank Tait. Front Row, L-R: Sgt. Les Board, F/Sgt. John "Taffy" Evans, F/O Bill "Robbie" Robertson.

  • Crest of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society (Canadian Branch). Bears the motto "Solitur Ambulando".

  • Sgt. Lloyd, F/O Robertson and F/S Evans with five Russians in hiding from the Nazis in Belgium.

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"And the order was, 'Jump. Jump. Jump.' Which means: No questions asked, just bail out."

Transcript

My name is William A. Robertson. In March, '42 I went down, enlisted, told them I wanted to be in Aircrew to be either a pilot or observer. Later on, after I joined up, they said pilots weren't needed. And they'd put me on an observer course. Then a little later on, they decided they were breaking the trades down to navigators and bomb aimers. And I had a choice and I said, "You know what bomb aimers do other than drop bombs?" And they said, "No. It's quite new." So I said, "I'll try that trade." So I graduated in March, '43 with my wings and a month later I was over in merry old England.

I had made a few operational flights, but on my twelfth operational flight, I was on raid to Hasselt, Belgium and our mission was to disrupt the railway marshalling yards so later on, troops or material could not be moved to the front. So we had just finished our bombing raid and were set to come home, when a fighter shot us down. Actually he... he set the starboard side of the fuselage on fire and also one of out starboard engines were on fire. And at that point, our pilot decided it was a good time to leave the aircraft. Specially as shells were coming through it. And the order was, "Jump. Jump. Jump." Which means: No questions asked, just bail out.

So I bailed out with the others and fortunately, I landed in a field and I was trained that the best thing to do was go in hiding as soon as possible, as the Nazis would only look for you for approximately 24 hours. So I found a spot to hide out and I hid there for about 18 hours, I think it was. And by this time, I was getting pretty thirsty and I headed into nearby woods. I met two young lads, about eight or nine years old. Told them I was with the Royal Air Force. They scooted off and came back with an uncle of theirs who brought an... a farmer's coverall to cover up my uniform, and took me to the farm. A little while later, two gentlemen came in to interview me. I found out later that they were actually with the Belgium [Resistance] Underground. And their job was to decide whether or not I was a genuine ally airman or whether I was infiltrator. The enemy often would disguise one of their men as an allied airman so he would get mixed in with the Underground and then he would turn in each one as he was passed along in the Underground. So in other words, if they decided I was an infiltrator, or the enemy in disguise, I would be dispatched or shot at that point. I passed with flying colours apparently and they decided I was genuine. And the next thing I was given was some wooden clogs as flying boots would be a dead giveaway that I was a pilot.

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