Veteran Stories:
Jack W. Townsend

Air Force

  • J.W. Townsend's dog tags, worn until May 1944, when he was commissioned as an officer. His number changed from R206358 to J45095.

  • Programme for Townsend's graduation dinner in Winnipeg from No. 7 A.O.S., Course 91, Navigators, at Portage la Prairie. April 29, 1943.

  • 435 Chinthe Transport Squadron, 1945. The crew flew a 700 hour operational tour in Burma between 1944 and 1945.

  • Townsend's Certificate of Service in the R.C.A.F. from November, 1942 to February, 1946, showing particulars of service and decorations.

  • Flying Officer J. W. Townsend, Navigator, 435 (Chinthe) Squadron, 1945.

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"War is full of mistakes and disasters and this was one."

Transcript

My name is Jack Townsend and I served in the RCAF from 1942 to 1946. I served overseas in India-Burma with 435 Squadron and our main function was to fly supplies of all types to 14th Army, which is a British Army that moved from India to recapture Burma. The Japanese had captured all of Burma and 1943 was the beginning of recapturing Burma from the Japanese. In terms of excitement, I guess maybe it might be worthwhile if I just sort of listed the life-threatening concerns in order of importance. Believe it or not, number one was disease. There's so much disease in India that I really had a great concern about that. I got dysentery in my early days and was lucky that it wasn't the amoebic, which returns. I would still be getting that annually if I'd got that. Well, I also was lucky enough to arrive there about a year after they discovered Atabrine which stops you from getting malaria. Many of the fellows that arrived the year before had malaria and that's another disease that haunts you for the rest of your life. So I missed out on that, too. The second concern really was the weather and that was primarily the monsoons which really didn't start until May; they run through 'til about October. And the build up of the cloud in the monsoons is something to behold. It starts early in the morning and by mid-afternoon they've grown to over 20,000 feet and with a DC-3, we were limited to about 12,000 feet, we had no oxygen and they wouldn't fly much higher than that. The last concern really was the Japanese and they really only appeared on one occasion and that was at Shwebo. I was lucky enough that I was not involved. I flew into Shwebo the day before and the day after. But, we were not bothered by the Japanese. The one thing, though, that occurred as a direct result of the zeros coming in and destroying two of our aircraft, and seriously damaging another one, was that we attempted to fly with escort and they gave us a squadron of Spitfires. This turned out to be a disaster. War is full of mistakes and disasters and this was one. We were so slow getting into formation and so slow flying that the Spitfires, literally, could not fly that slow and that just didn't work. By the time we got formed up they were almost out of gas, so that was given up. They decided that the better way for us to do it was to fly at night and/or fly just above treetops. So that presented a bit of a challenge, particularly to the navigator 'cause we went from flying at about 6,000 to 7,000 feet, which made navigation very easy, to flying at tree top height; and although we didn't fly very fast - 150 miles an hour - if you kind of imagine yourself driving in a car at 150 miles an hour and keeping track of where you are, that was the challenge to the navigator.
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