"I was only about nineteen or so and, you know, when you're young, death is so distant to you."
My name is Milton Shefman. I was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. I was attached to the Medical Services [Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps]. Up 'til the time that I joined, the Medical Service was done by the Canadian Army. So, it was all brand new. And they taught us quite a bit and we were able to function quite well.
When I arrived overseas, it was still early in the war. The German air power was quite strong then and there was quite a lot of air raids. And life wasn't too pleasant for the people of Great Britain. Anyway, one Sunday morning, I was off duty and I had an aunt that lived about 8 miles from our station. And she had invited me for lunch. So I boarded a bus, went up to the top -the English buses had a top storey- at the top of the bus, I was on the main street of Bournemouth, when, all of a sudden, without an air raid warning or anything, German planes swooped down on us. Right on top of the bus. The reason why it didn't get on the air raid warning is, they flew across from the airfield very, very low. And when you fly low, the radar doesn't pick it up. They were so low I could see the pilots' heads. And they had their machine guns going full blast and they were dropping bombs and you could see the pavement being chipped away as the bullets struck the asphalt on the road. The bus driver stopped and told us to get in between buildings so that we wouldn't get hurt by any flying glass of the store windows. There was 14 planes... 14 Focke-Wulf  planes involved and this was in April of 1943. They flew in and just flew out of the town, blasting away. There was a little department store in town, with a flat roof, where the British Army had anti-aircraft guns and gunners on top. And us, Canadians, used to go by there and we'd sort of make fun with them. And those poor guys were killed. The whole building was flattened with one bomb. A terrible, terrible, terrible, morning.
And then, seeing that there's a lot of casualties, instead of going to my aunt's place, I went back to our station hospital, which was also bombed. But they gave me a driver and a big truck and I was to pick up casualties.
I was just a young kid then, and you know, like, I hadn't seen anything that far. It was a terrible, terrible experience. And we had to go into bombed houses and rip out their blackout curtains, that every house had, to wrap the bodies in. And we put the bodies... dead people, in the truck and we had that truck completely full of dead bodies. And I wanted to phone my aunt to tell her that I was okay because she was expecting me, but the telephone operator said, "All phones are for military purposes only." And I couldn't use the line. I was still worried, so I told my driver if he wouldn't mind driving down the street, you know, for that 8 miles. And we drove with the truck and with the bodies to my aunt's house. And I went in and she says, "Milton, you look so pale." So I says, "I just wanted to come here to tell you I'm okay." And I left and we went back to the main street of Bournemouth and a kid on a bike with an armband on was there so we told him he should go ahead and find out where there was an emergency morgue. He did, and he came back in about five minutes and he told us to follow him on his bike. And we got to a place and we unloaded all the bodies.
I was only about nineteen or so and, you know, when you're young, death is so distant to you, you know. It was a terrible experience. We got through it. But that's what war is I guess