Veteran Stories:
Doug Wurtele

Air Force

  • Air Force trainees marching at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in February, 1940. Mr. Wurtele is in the third row.

  • A Spitfire similar to the one Mr. Wurtele flew at Grangemouth in Scotland.

  • The Harvard airplane used primarily for training.

  • A Fleet airplane used primarily for training.

  • A Fairey Battle plane. This was used at the start of the war but was not very successful. It was later used just for training.

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"One did not have flying speed by the time we reached the cliff, so one sank towards the water but always reached flying speed before hitting it."


My name is Doug Wurtele, and I was in the RCAF during the war. I joined the RCAF from the Royal Military College and began my flying training on the 1st of October 1939. After completing my initial course, I was sent to Camp Borden for my Service Flying Training on Harvard MKIs. The first night after our arrival at Camp Borden we were called out on parade and given flashlights and sent out into the bush to look for an airplane that had crashed during night flying training. A friend of mine and I found it hanging up in the trees undamaged except the canopy, and the head of the pilot was missing, and he was still strapped to his cockpit. It was certainly an eerie sight which certainly had an effect on the care with which I did my night flying from then on.

On completion of the course we were posted to England, but before leaving it was cancelled, owing to the need for instructors. For the next two years, I instructed on various airdromes in Canada. In the autumn of '42 I was sent to an OTU to fly Hurricanes, and then converted to Spitfires at Grangemouth in Scotland.

In 1943 I was posted to 412 Squadron at Staplehurst in southern England in Kent. From here we escorted bombers over France and did fighter sweeps, searching for German aircraft. We also did some attacks on trains, fortifications, and French coast and road traffic.

In late '43 we were sent to Biggin Hill, just outside London. Here we escorted bombers and attacked German raids on London and went towards their bases when possible. Our own airdrome was attacked several times but we had no casualties. In order to extend our range into France we often took off early, about six o'clock in the morning, and flew to a little place called Ford on the south coast of England, where we had breakfast, refueled, and took off from a very short grass field which went over a cliff to the sea. One did not have flying speed by the time we reached the cliff, so one sank towards the water but always reached flying speed before hitting it. It was quite exciting.

On one occasion we had a tough time, and I was hit by Focke-Wulf 190, which put my radio and oxygen out of action and seriously damaged the tail so that I had great difficulty controlling the aircraft. However, I did manage to get back but I must say I contemplated bailing out, but managed to get control by using my knee and hands. When we got near the coast I saw the bombers returning, and went underneath them because I couldn't fight. This put me out of action for about four months, when I was in hospital.

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