Veteran Stories:
François Savard

Air Force

  • Leading Aircraftman F. G. Savard, age 18, 1943, at No. 4 Air Observer School, London, Ontario.

  • A page from Savard's log book, showing an incident that won his skipper the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM).

  • Pilot Officer F.G. Savard. Age 18 years, 9 months. Spring, 1944.

  • F. G. Savard's Navigator's Wings, awarded May 5, 1944, at No. 4 Air Observers School, London, Ontario.

  • Flying Officer F. G. Savard and crew of the 425 Alouette Squadron at Tholthorpe, England. April 1945.

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"I ended up in the navigation school and nine months after I enlisted, I was a pilot officer. I was still 18 years old."

Transcript

My name is François Savard. I joined the Air Force in 1943 and I trained as a navigator. And the school I went to was for pilots, navigators and bomb aimers. For pilot you had a ride in a little link trainer, which is a little airplane which is tethered to the ground and to simulate what it's like to control an airplane. Now, in my case, I was a complete dud. I... I would have killed myself, I'm sure, if I'd been piloting an airplane for real. So that left the choice between navigator and bomb aimer. Now, if your marks in navigation were high enough, you were selected for navigator. Otherwise you went to the bombing school. In my case I went... I ended up in the navigation school and nine months after I enlisted, I was a pilot officer. I was still 18 years old. And after many months of training in England, we ended up on a bomber squadron in Yorkshire. Out first raid was to Leipzig in daylight. Leipzig was a very long trip, over eight hours. As we approached the target, you know, we were getting, what we referred to in those days as "predicted flak." It was a flack attracted by radar and airplanes were going down behind us and the tail gunner was reporting all this to me. "One Lancaster going down 500 yards, 300 yards..." And then, all of a sudden there was a huge explosion in my compartment and, all of a sudden, I found myself completely covered with dust and one parachute had been blown open and there was silk all over. I was shaking like a leaf, petrified with fear. But it only lasted a few seconds. I looked through the hole right beside my back. The flack missed me by a few inches and had gone out the other side and taken out the radio equipment and there was quite a mess. Then we discovered that this thing had severed our oxygen line and we were at 20,000 feet, so we had to go down then to 10,000 feet in order to breathe without fainting. And we came back like this under the formation. But fortunately we were well escorted by fighters and we made it back safely to England. We were glad to get home. A few nights later we went to Kiel and there we were hit near the tail of the airplane. And the tail gunner discovered all of a sudden that he couldn't get out of his turret. His turret was jammed and he was trapped in there. And if we'd had to bail out, he would have gone down with the plane. However, we made it back. The three hours over the North Sea were interminable for him. And I can say he prayed a lot. (laughter) We were quite happy when the war ended not long after that and to realize that I was going to live to be 20 years old. I tried to stay in the Air Force after the war. I... I volunteered for the Pacific and we flew home in June of 1945 when the war was hardly a month over and we were back in Canada. Unlike a lot of others who stayed over there for a long time. And then the war ended in Japan, so we never did get to go to the Pacific. And in early 1946, I was released. And that was my wartime experience.
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