Identity Card of Glen Heisler, 1944.Glen Heisler
Navigation log used by Glen Heisler's crew for a raid on Hamburg, 31 March 1945.Glen Heisler
A piece of fabric from the starboard stabilizer of Glen Heisler's Lancaster that was torn loose by a 20mm shell.Glen Heisler
Target map for the raid on Chemnitz that Glen Heisler's crew participated in.Glen Heisler
Aerial map of the flightpath Glen Heisler's crew followed on a raid across the English Channel,1944.Glen Heisler
"We had just unloaded our bomb load and up came another Lank directly underneath of us. We didn’t even see it until it had come in contact with our rear turret."
I joined the air force in June of 1943 and selected for air gunner training. I took my Manning Depot at Brandon and did general duties at Souris, Manitoba, which was a service flying and training school, then got posted to ground gunnery in Quebec City. Where we took ground gunnery and then on that completion, was posted at Portage la Prairie. And then from there, went to commando training base at Three Rivers [Trois-Rivières], Quebec.
But from there, we went over to Britain on a posting and by the way, it was the [RMS] Empress of Scotland. And prior to the war, it was known as [RMS] Princess [Empress] of Japan. It was one of the Cunard Steamship lines. Went to 434 Croft, which was known as Bluenose Squadron, along with our compatriot squadron was 431 Iroquois, which is now known as the snowbirds. And that’s where we ended up the war. 434 was sponsored by the city of Halifax but the most memorable was one of the trips we went to Chemnitz [Germany]. It was a night fight. It occurred on March 5th and 6th. That was a long flight. It took 10 hours and 55 minutes. But that’s where we had a midair collision with one of our own aircraft, right directly over the target. And we had just unloaded our bomb load and up came another lank [Lancaster] directly underneath of us. We didn’t even see it until it had come in contact with our rear turret. It put that turret out of whack. You could still fire it but it couldn’t rotate.
And at that point in time, I find out now who the pilot was of that particular, it was a chap by the name of Charlie Rouse, he’s from Milden, Saskatchewan. But I’ve got to honour that chap. I would strongly recommend that he’s given the Victoria Cross for the simple reason the way he handled that aircraft in such dire straits that I believe that he was in at that particular time. I don’t think he had a living member inside of that aircraft with him at the time he was flying it. By the way, the pilot that was in that aircraft that flew it was from Milden, Saskatchewan. He lost his whole crew. Everyone perished. That’s sort of weird that all this occurred in my estimation, it probably took a matter of 15 seconds from the time that he struck the rear of our aircraft, right below the rear turret.
And I, at that point in time, my pilot, John Kitchen from Ponoka, Alberta, asked very quickly, what’s going on behind the aircraft. And at that point in time, I was looking down at Krouse’s [Rouse’s] aircraft going down below us and I noticed out of my peripheral vision, I seen something coming up very quickly and he parked his fighter right off about 200 or 300 yards off of our starboard wingtip. So I replied to John, I said, just hold it. Then I had set my turret up to get a better shot at it, delayed telling him to corkscrew starboard, which I eventually told him to, but I had a good shot at the Junkers 88 [German aircraft]. Other aircraft that they seen a night fighter going down, well, they just assumed that I knew. And after the collision, and then the German fighter probably thinking, well, boy, I’ve got an easy sitting duck here now, that rear gunner, he’s dead. So he just parked himself right off of our starboard wingtip and then he finally made his move and come in on us. By that time, I had told John of course to corkscrew starboard and which he did violently. But he still got a couple of shells in. One of the shells, the armour piercing, hit the oleo landing starboard. Like it didn’t blow the tire but it jammed the hydraulic ram. So it only come down part way, that’s the reason why our home base wouldn’t allow us to land there. They, they figured that we would foul up their runway on taking their home bombers back. So they diverted us to a crash drome which we went to.