Veteran Stories:
Edna Wilson

Air Force

  • Letter from Edna Wilson (nee Johnson) sent at the beginning of the VI and VII buzz-bombings, June 20, 1944.

  • Studio portrait of RCAF Airwoman Edna Johnson in her first uniform, borrowed from the WAAF, June 1942.

  • Edna Wilson's (nee Johnson) Discharge Certificate, outlining four years of active service with the RCAF, 1942-1946.

  • Edna Wilson's (nee Johnson) identification tags, including military particulars, religion and blood group, May, 1942.

  • One million people crowded outside of Buckingham Palace on VE day, May 8, 1945, to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.

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"I thought if I got in the Air Force maybe I could touch some airplanes…"""

Transcript

My name is Edna Wilson, I was born Edna Johnson in Saskatchewan. At the start of the war, like all good Saskatchewan people, I thought I would enlist. I was interested in airplanes. I thought if I got in the Air Force maybe I could touch some airplanes, which wasn't so. But anyway, I served two years in Ontario on a bombing and gunnery school, which was quite exciting because there was flying going on all the time.

Most females that joined the Air Force were just dying of adventure and wanted to do something drastic and everybody wanted to get an overseas posting. Well the RCAF only posted females to England. In England the girls were at a bombing group in Yorkshire and an Air Force headquarters in London. So it was quite a thrill to get to London; it was quite an adaptation to live in a big city and go to work by underground and bus. At this time there was a hiatus between the heavy bombing that London went through, and we had time to go around and look at all the damage.

After being there a short time, one evening guns and a motor and we ran out in the street to look and there was guns at the head of our street going off, and there was something flying overhead with a motor and a light, and it was going: "Buzz, buzz, buzz." Finally it came down with a terrible explosion and we all said: "Oh, they got it."

So to make a long story short, these things were like robots. The people of London didn't find out what they were until a couple of days later, and they were dubbed "flying gas mains" because one official explanation was they were gas mains exploding. But these things were like little planes with no pilot, with a tonne of explosives. The motor was set for a certain distance, which brought them down, mostly, around London area if they continued on as they were planned. They were planned to run out of fuel and head straight in with an impact, but many of them were flawed, and when they tipped to go in something happened to the motor or the fuel and it started up again. So they would start up again and they would go around, maybe go around in a circle. But this all added to the psychological effect, because you never knew where they were going to come in.

There were like 8000 of these sent off, and they were almost impossible to stop. They were too fast for fighter planes, and they were too low-flying and fast for the anti-aircraft guns. So they moved all the anti-aircraft guns to the coast, to try and get them there. They did have a psychological effect, and they did their 1000 pounds of damage. They finally ran out of flying bombs, and the German army conceded, and victory was declared - victory in Europe, that is.

They knew that the Germans were going to concede, so they said: "VE Day is going to be May 7." So it was wonderful. Everything closed, there was no work, and people just flowed out to the streets, and of course to the west end to Piccadilly and Green Park and Buckingham Palace. There were a million people there. Now that was the only time I've been in a crowd of a million. But it was a marvelous thing to say: "Here, I've done my little part, and here is the end of the war. Maybe I helped a little bit, but it was certainly a little."

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