Veteran Stories:
John Colton

Air Force

  • John Colton (2nd row, 4th from left) with his 137 Squadron, RAF in Normandy, France, August 1944.

    John Colton
  • John Colton and his Hawker Typhoon, Manston, England, July 1944.

    John Colton
  • John Colton (left) and Oscar Boesch at the Sherbrooke Airport (Quebec) in 1987 where Mr. Boesch performed a glider aerobatic demonstration. This was the first time they had met since Operation Bodenplatte, January 1, 1945, when Mr. Boesch, flying for the Luftwaffe, was straffing the air base where John Colton and his squadron were stationed. After this initial reunion, the men became good friends and speak to each other every January 1 in honour of that day in 1945.

    John Colton
  • Pictured here is John Colton standing in front of the Tiger Moth 8922 in which he flew while in training during the war in 1942. This photo was taken at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Hanger in Hamilton, Ontario, 2005.

    John Colton
  • Page from John Colton`s flight log book dated from September 25, 1942 where an entry states that he flew in the Tiger Moth 8922 during training with his instructor, Rush Chambers, at the No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School in Windsor Mills, Quebec.

    John Colton
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"But finally, we went and had a beer together. And since that day, every 1st of January, Oscar Bosch calls me from Toronto and he calls and he says, “John, I’m here again.” So we’ve got over it and we’re good friends today."

Transcript

We got through it okay and finally I got through my training course there at Windsor Mills [Quebec; present-day Windsor, Quebec, site of No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)], although I did have one hot experience there. I was sent out to do aerobatics by myself and it was a pretty windy day and I got blown quite a ways from the base. And, after a while, I said, well, I’d better start going back to the base. And I looked down and I couldn’t recognize anything on the ground. I said, “well, where am I?” I checked the gas and the gas tank was pretty low, so I said, “well, I guess the only thing I can do is find a field here,” so I did find a field and I landed in this field. And, of course, all the people from the area had to come out and see this airplane, this warplane, and of course, they guarded it for me while I phoned my base and told them where I was. So then they said, well, we’ll be out there in the morning to pick you up but you sit in the airplane at night, you’ve got to protect the airplane, so you sleep in the airplane, which I did.

And then, many years later, after the war, I was wondering just where was that field. I was back in Sherbrooke [Quebec] and I was just wondering, where was that field I landed in. So I went around, scrounging around the countryside and finally I found the field, found the farm and got acquainted with the people there. And I got acquainted with a family in the area and would you believe it, I married one of the daughters of that family that had come out and seen my airplane. And I’m talking the year is 1976 and I landed there in 1942. So that was, it was a Tiger Moth, what goes around comes around with the Tiger Moth.

And I was posted to [No.] 137 Squadron [Royal Air Force] in Manston in Kent, down in the south coast of England. And our main job there was to go out every morning around 4:00 and look for the German torpedo boats [Schnellboot or E-boats] that had been out all night attacking our convoys in the [English] Channel. And by 4:00, 4:30, they were going back home so we were out there to wait for them going back home. So they did have quite a few sunken torpedo boats there.

And going along with that story, I happened to be in the Army/Navy/Air Force [Veterans] Unit here in Sherbrooke about 10 years ago and there was a gentlemen there sitting at the table and he was having a beer and I noticed he had a bit of a German accent and I said to him, I says, “were you in the German forces during the war?” He said, “yeah, I was in the navy.” I said, “oh, what were you doing?” He says, “I was on the torpedo boats.” I said, “oh, where?” He says, “in the Channel.” I said, “well, so was I.” He says, “you were the one, he says, you were the one that was shooting at us all the time.” And I says, “you shot back, too.” So that was, he and I became very good friends and, unfortunately, he died two years ago, but still we were great friends and we always sat down and had a beer together and talked about our experiences.

Then came the 1st of January 1945. And this was Operation Bodenplatte. This is when the German Air Force decided that they were going to take one major attack on all the Allied aerodromes in operation on the 1st of January, 1945 [this action is also known by the Allied slang term “the hangover raid”]. They were going to catch us on the ground. Well, they did catch us, some of us, on the ground, because New Year’s Eve is a party night. So some of us weren’t feeling that well. Anyway, at 9:00, 10:00 in the morning, these German airplanes appeared over the base [Airfield B. 78 at Eindhoven (Welschap), The Netherlands] and they just caused more havoc. They were shooting up anything that moved, anything that was, airplanes that were taken off on operations, any of our airplanes that were, some of them were taken off, they were shot down. One member of our squadron was landing and he was shot and killed while he was landing. And he happened to be one of my good friends and they had created quite a lot of damage. Not just to our aerodromes but they attacked many aerodromes, but their losses were extremely high. And that was the last major operation done by the German Air Force.

And just to go a little further on this story, it happened, I think it was probably 1985/86, somewhere in there, I was at an air show in Sherbrooke and there was a gentlemen there doing a show in a glider. He was doing aerobatics in a glider as part of the air show. And they introduced him as being a pilot of the Focke-Wulf 190, which was a German airplane during the war. And I had been involved against them quite a bit so I said, “I’d like to talk to this fellow.” So anyway, it got arranged that I met him when he came down and I told him that I had been flying [Hawker] Typhoons [a British fighter-bomber] during the war. He said, “where were you the 1st of January 1945?” I said, “I was in Eindhoven.” He said, “so was I.” So he was attacking us that day. So I tensed up for a few seconds and didn’t know just what to do, whether to, thinking of my friend that got killed there, didn’t know whether to go at him or what. But finally, we went and had a beer together. And since that day, every 1st of January, Oscar Bosch calls me from Toronto and he calls and he says, “John, I’m here again.” So we’ve got over it and we’re good friends today.

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