Veteran Stories:
Geoffrey Wasteneys

Air Force

  • Mr. Wasteneys received the Polish Cross of Valour for his service for Poland during the Second World War

  • A selection from Mr. Wasteneys's flight log book. Mr. Wasteneys flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force in a Lancaster bomber with a British crew

  • This page from Mr. Wasteneys' log book showing his qualifications. On December 20, 1942, he was qualified as an Air Bomber, on February 19, 1943 as a Navigator and on November 25, 1944 as an Air Bombing Instructor

  • Left to right: 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star, with France and Germany Bar; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; Victory Medal.

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"We went to Bournemouth, which was taken over by the Canadian Air Force. It was a delightful place"

Transcript

I'm Geoffrey Wasteneys, and I was born in September 1917. When the war came, the Canadian government was completely unprepared, as most governments were, and they organized what they called 'Conscription for Home Defence.' These people were not supposed to be sent overseas. The reason I had not volunteered was because, although I had been in Upper Canada and had cadet training, I had an aversion to the sort of discipline we had, but I was trying to make up my mind.

I served for eight months with the Canadian Army, and I concluded that the Canadian Army was not prepared really for anything. I had sent my name in to the Air Force and they called me up, and I went to Manning Pool in Toronto. The contrast between the way the Air Force people and the Army lived was incredible. The Army made it as rough as possible. Everything, including meals which were slopped onto your tin plate and the Air Force was providing very attractive meals. However, I was very glad I was in the Army, I learned a lot from them.

In those days they didn't know exactly what to do with us, so they sent us on security guard at various stations. It was quite unnecessary, but it was a way to keep us occupied. Everybody remembers this as sort of an irritating period. Then we went to No. 1 ITS [Initial Training School] in Toronto, where we had training on the basics of what the Air Force was like. Then I went to Crumlin, which was a navigation station. I certainly didn't like navigation – I was airsick all the time, and the smell of gasoline and that sort of thing was very difficult. I was not able to carry on, and I became a bomb aimer. I went to Trenton and from there to a bombing and gunnery school in Lethbridge, Alberta. We went from there to Winnipeg, where we had a final brushing up of our activity. Then we were posted to Halifax to go overseas.

We went to Bournemouth, which was taken over by the [Royal] Canadian Air Force. It was a delightful place. One of the incidents was, a British officer who was not a flyer, who was in charge of parade, he said, "You colonials don't know how to behave on parade!" One of the Sergeants went up and slugged him. He was immediately arrested, but he was not severely dealt with because everybody sympathized with him. Unfortunately, he just used the term 'colonial' because it was a generic term to cover us all.

We went then to a thing called an AFU, where we learned to navigate. From there we were sent to a flying unit, where we learned to fly Wellington [Bombers}, which was an operational plane that was being phased out. From the Wellington we went to another unit where we flew Stirlings. Most people don't know anything about the Stirling [Bomber]. It was the biggest aircraft in the war. It was a beautiful aircraft, but unfortunately it wouldn't fly over sixteen thousand feet, and it wouldn't carry some of our more advanced bombs. We were posted to a 15 Squadron, but while we were there they changed from Stirlings to Lancasters, and the Lancaster [Bomber] was a very satisfactory plane. It had very few problems, and could carry up to fifteen thousand pounds of bombs.

In 1943 and '44 we did thirty operations, after which they stopped us flying, and I then went to do instructing. A very prestigious thing – I'd become a Flight Lieutenant. Suddenly, when we were doing some of our training, I realized that the war was going to be over and the pupils I was training would not be involved. Then we were called in, and we were sent to a pool and then sent back to Canada. Now, the extraordinary thing about it all was that something like forty percent of everybody who flew was lost. Some of them, of course, were prisoners of war and came back.

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