Veteran Stories:
Edward E. Smith

Air Force

  • Edward E. Smith at seventeen years of age. This photo went along with his dog tags. February 26, 1943

  • Edward Smith's dog tags. They were made to be indestructible; one would float, the other would not burn. His future mother-in-law gave him a Lincoln Imp, a good luck charm from Lincolnshire, to wear with his dog tags.

  • Mr. Smith's indentification card from the Royal Canadian Air Force, issued June 21, 1944

  • Log book entry showing a bombing mission over a German oil refinery that took eight hours

  • Mr. Smith had this mini phrase book in his escape kit. The different phrases translated into Dutch and French would help downed airmen coverse with underground workers if they got the chance

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"Nothing worked on the aircraft, and there lied the balance of the three lives who were flying over the St. Lawrence River"

Transcript

My name is Edward Smith. I was with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. I joined up in Toronto – I'm a native Toronto boy. I eventually completed a tour of operations in the northwest European theatre of war. I wound up as an air gunner on Lancasters, and post-war I spent fifteen years with 400 City of Toronto Squadron, which is a Primary Reserve Squadron flying jet aircraft. I'd like to tell you a little story about my early training days in the Air Force. It was the 8th of November 1943 at No. 9 Bomber and Gunnery School at Mont-Jolie, Quebec. The pilot was one Pilot Officer Deskin, and most of these pilots at the bombing and gunnery schools were people who'd committed little errors in their career, and this was their punishment. In any case, an airman by the name of Jack Leaming and I were under training as gunners. We were airborne in a ferry battle aircraft – No. 125. This was at noon hour. Our duty was to complete training exercise D-3, which comprised of fitting two hundred round circular magazines on the aircraft's Vickers gas-operated machine guns. We then fired four hundred rounds at a tow aircraft with a drogue. I fired off my mags, and then Jack entered the Bristol gun turret to carry out his duty. Fortunately, Jack had trouble fitting the mag to the Vickers. Try as he may, the magazine seemed unserviceable. This is not unusual, as the Vickers gas-operated gun was highly unreliable and difficult to fix in the cramped quarters of a Bristol turret. We called them 'teeter-totters'. When the guns were depressed, the hydraulic seat would send you nearly through the Plexiglas at the top. Conversely, when the guns were elevated the seat shot to the very bowels of the very airplane. In any case, the gunnery equipment was not state-of-the-art. Nothing worked on the aircraft, and there lied the balance of the three lives who were flying over the St. Lawrence River. Since Jack could not carry out his duty, I crawled over the bomb hole, which had no cover on it, to poke the pilot three times in the back, signaling a return to base. As we descended into the base funnel, our engine quit. Landing short of the runway, Jack still in the turret, noted the red flares and assumed the bods [squadron personnel] were already coming to our rescue. That was not the case, as a matter of fact. All the flares and the general panic was due to the belated discovery on the ground that an unknown aircraft had departed without being refueled. When we were finally rescued… actually the aircraft undercarriage did not completely collapse so I and Jack squeezed out the bomb-bay hole with the pilot in normal procedure. It was determined that the under fueled aircraft was indeed our Ferry Battle No. 125. As mentioned earlier regarding the aircraft inadequacies, it was Jack Leaming's unserviceable magazines that allowed us to return to base on gas fumes, rather than be at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River. While this is the perfect example of even training flying, it was not as scary and stressful occasion as we were not aware of how close the Grim Reaper was until the engine died on landing
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