Veteran Stories:
Norman Currell

Air Force

  • No. 31 Squadron (Royal Air Force) Badge in which Mr. Currell served in World War Two in the Southeastern Asian Theater.

    Royal Air Force
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"And then the Japanese gave the Indonesians their nominal independence and so they were very much aghast at the idea of us coming in or the Indonesians were aghast the idea of us coming in and holding the territory to see if the Dutch came back. We lost more people in Indonesia after the war than we did during the war."

Transcript

When I finished my two years, I was posted to Comox [British Columbia] and to the conversion course from normal flying or flying training the aircraft and then expedited to Dakotas [Douglas C-47 Skytrain, a military transport aircraft, developed from the Douglas DC-3]. And then we did the long range transport course which was over the ocean and back and had several rather tough incidents there whereby we came back from being over the Pacific Ocean, the area between Vancouver Island and the Rockies was socked right in and we had to make a steady approach through on the beam. I remember starting, going down through dense cloud at 7,500 feet and it wasn’t until we were down to 2,500 feet, there lying right straight ahead of us was the city of Comox and the airport, exactly where it should be. My air crew was standing behind me, breathing heavily and all three of us gave a sigh of relief when we broke cloud and saw Comox. In Comox, I was posted back to Britain and we were then transferred long-range transport to the transport close to port, which involved glider-towing, supply dropping and so forth. The day after VE Day [May 1945], they go out to Burma via Karachi [Pakistan], Calcutta [India], and then up to Imphal [India], and then from there, we were picked up by an aircraft by the 31 Squadron [Royal Air Force], which was located at Ramree Island [island off the coast of Burma]. We were started operations there, I was in operations as from May and almost as soon as I had started, the monsoons rolled in where there were a lot of blind flying, and the weather, I don’t mind telling you, was bloody awful. The monsoon, the southwest monsoon in Southeast Asia, really was terrific. The rainfall at the peak of the centre of the problem was 400 inches of rain a year. And most of that 400 inches fell in the four months. The weather was really just too fierce for anything but we kept on flying. We did about, we did used to do three trips a day from Ramree Island into somewhere from various stations along the Irrawaddy [a river that flows north to south through Burma]. Canadian crews who were with us were called back to New Delhi [India] and back home once Japan had quit after two big bombs [the atomic bombs] being dropped on them, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But we were we reformed in Rangoon [or Yangon, Burma] as I had been up to New Delhi to discuss with the wing commander MacNamara, what our operation was to be we not aware of course of these atom bomb being dropped. So we had gone through a desperately dangerous feat of beating the Japanese back to their homeland. But as is now well known of course, the two atom bombs convinced the Japanese military that there was no use in putting up any further resistance and so the war then was over. But for us, in the RAF [Royal Air Force] we re-formed in Rangoon, went on down to Singapore and operating out of Singapore, ferrying supplies to various places and picking up internees, and then they got over in Indonesia, the squadron was moved across to Batavia [now called Jakarta]. It was a strange set of circumstances really whereby we come to liberate Burma and Southeast Asia. But the Indonesians didn’t want us there, they’d been under the Dutch rule for some 400 years before Japan had attacked them and occupied it. And then the Japanese gave the Indonesians their nominal independence and so they were very much aghast at the idea of us coming in or the Indonesians were aghast the idea of us coming in and holding the territory to see if the Dutch came back. We lost more people in Indonesia after the war than we did during the war. I was with the squadron doing these various trips then from Batavia on the coast of Semarang and lots of other places and they were mainly across to a little hill station about 70 miles inland from Batavia. The name doesn’t come to right now. But we used to do about four trips a day. And then toward the end of my, for some reason, the things worked out right and we put in five trips. The Indian major in charge of defenses in Batavia, or the hill station were so astounded that he invited us back to his cabin for a drink. Unfortunately, he brought out a great big bottle of brandy and my crew and I, they cleaned up this bottle of brandy. By the time I got back out to the airport, aircraft, I was then loaded up and we taxied out to the end of the runway and lined up and sure enough, half a dozen aircraft ahead of us. So I got on the blower to the control officer and I asked, what was the holdup. And they said, “Oh, it was too low of cloud.” So I guess I looked out in my somewhat boozy state and said, “I don’t see any damn clouds,” and they said, “Okay, if you want to takeoff, you can do so.” So I took off and at 200 feet, we did hit cloud. I realize what a clown I’d been so I had to then do some steep climbing turns to get over and make sure I was clear of the hill between Bondoon and Batavia. And then I set off back. It wasn’t too long after that that I got my papers to leave the squadron and come back to England. So then that’s where I was discharged and I was very fortunate in running across an old fellow who knew of a certain little office for those of us who wished to go back to Canada to make application and get ahead of most of those who were still waiting to get back. And I got back to Canada in June of 1946, exactly four years to the day that landed in the first place.
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