Veteran Stories:
James McNiece Austin

Air Force

  • Postcard photo of the SS Île de France from the 1920's.

    James Austin traveled from Canada to England on the Île de France

    Source:ibiblio.org. This postcard photo is stated to be in the public domain; the Maritime Digital Archive Encyclopedia there is stated to use the GNU Free Documentation License

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"65 of us single engine pilots were shipped off to South Wales to become, without too much training, what would you call flying engineers... In February 1945, we were shipped up to Yorkshire and teamed up with groups of crews with pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, etc. "

Transcript

You learned to fly at [fifteen] down on the lake here in Sudbury [Ontario]. Eventually got to England in October of 1944. Île de France [French ocean liner] took 11,000 or something of us across [the Atlantic Ocean] and there were about 100 and something in my group I think, a large number of us were single engine pilots trained on [North American] Harvards [training aircraft]. And we’d sat around in [a] barn [near] Bournemouth [Dorset, England] for a matter of weeks and eventually they called a meeting and we were told that the sad feature was that the Air Force was not losing enough single engine pilots, so they didn’t know what they were going to do with us. There were enough on single engine aircraft so in other words, we were a problem.

And then in December [1944], the second week in December, 65 of us single engine pilots were shipped off to South Wales to become, without too much training, what would you call flying engineers [a Bomber Command aircrew trade]. Then we went to a squadron in two months, that would be February [1945], we were shipped up to Yorkshire [England] and teamed up with groups of crews with pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, etc. And that was that. We got to squadron in Yorkshire just before the end of the European war [on May 8, 1945] and didn’t get to drop any bombs. The senior officers were coming out of the woodwork, trying to get more trips [bombing missions] in because the end of the war was obvious, end of war in Europe. And that was that.

Follow us