As a last resort, I pulled the ripcord, the small parachute attached to the main chute and was spring-loaded. It sprung out, caught the slipstream and dragged me out.
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On joining the Royal Canadian Air Force, RCAF, on the 15th of January, 1943, I took my basic training at No. 1 Training Depot in Toronto. Following several and technical training assignments, I was posted to No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at Macdonald, Manitoba, where on November the 26th, 1943, I received my air gunner’s badge.
My first assignment after proceeding overseas was to No. 19 Operational Training Unit, OTU, at Kinloss, Scotland, reporting there in April 1944. At the OTU, I crewed up with flying officer Clif Wenzel, a pilot on his second operational tour. The second gunner on our tour was Flight Sergeant Charlie Goodman, who hailed from Windsor, Ontario.
After completing OTU training on Whitley aircraft, the crew proceeded to the heavy conversation unit, HCU, at Marston Moor, where we trained on the Halifax heavy bomber. Here we picked up our Royal Air Force flight engineer, Burt Oldham. Following conversion training, our crew was assigned to No. 78 Squadron, No. 4 RAF bombing group and was based Breighton, Yorkshire.
Our second operation on the 23rd of October was a night trip to Essen. A total of 1,055 aircraft carried out the heaviest raid on the city thus far in the war. From the mid upper turret located just back of the wings and which could be rotated through 360 degrees, I kept watch for enemy fighters, other aircraft and anything of interest to the skipper. Together with the rear gunner, we were the pilot’s extra eyes.
Over the well-defended cities like Essen, what one observed was terrifying, especially the final minutes of the bombing run. The bomb aimer wanted to obtain a good picture of the target at their least point of the bombs, while Wenzel endeavoured to keep the Halifax straight and level. There were many search lights roving the skies, trying to pin the aircraft for fighters. All the while, the anti-aircraft fire was intense.
The Germans also sent up flares which hung in the sky like molten lava. The crews called them scarecrows. Bombers were getting hit and some exploded, crews were often seen bailing out of stricken aircraft and coming down by parachute in the target area. My heart was in my mouth on every bombing run.
On our way home from our second trip, the port inner engine caught fire while we were over the North Sea. The aircraft had been hit by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft burst while we were in the target area. Wenzel somehow managed to control the fire as we headed for the crashed airfield at Woodbridge near Ipswich.
Next, a port wing caught fire and Wenzel, being assured by the navigator that we were over the English coast, gave the order to bail out. My mid-upper gunner’s parachute was kept in a rack near the side entrance. When I got there, our rear gunner was having difficulty exiting the aircraft. We had an engine and wing on fire, as well as a propeller which could not be fettered and was windmilling. One could barely stand up in the aircraft.
Having assisted the rear gunner to exit, I had problems with my chest pack. I had some difficulty in getting the pack unhooked to my parachute harness. Glancing up the fuselage, I noted that the rest of the crew had gone. The aircraft had been placed on automatic pilot and was going down. I was pinned at the rear exit and the situation was getting desperate.
As a last resort, I pulled the ripcord, the small parachute attached to the main chute and was spring-loaded. It sprung out, caught the slipstream and dragged me out. One buckle hit me in the jaw, the other on the side of the head near my eye. Luckily for me, Wenzel always made sure that our harness was buckled tight. It prevented one from being pulled out of his parachute harness. The exit caused some skin removal between my legs and the top of my shoulders. My feet hit the tail and I lost my flying boots.
Coming down, I watched as the aircraft exploded, with burning debris scattered over a large area. The next concern was whether I would come down in the middle of the wreckage but the wind carried me over the fires. I hit the ground so hard that I thought I had broken my back. Managing to get rid of my parachute, I waited to be rescued along with Charlie Goodman, who had come down a short distance away.
While waiting to be rescued, a V1 flying bomb headed for London fell short and exploded between Charlie’s position and mine. I had a whistle clamped to the collar of my battle dress and I blew it continuously. This assisted the rescuers to find me in what was a dark and wet night. I was taken to the United States Army Air Force Liberator base at Debach, Suffolk. Frank Sonoski, our wireless operator, joined me later and seeing him I said, what a place this is. Lots of American cigarettes and whisky.
Not wishing to worry my mother, I didn’t tell her about bailing out or being in hospital. In January 1945, she sent me an extract of the Lindsay Daily Post which stated, 20 of January 1945, with the Canadians overseas, the bailout of a useless bomber, then narrowly missed death from a flying bomb in the rainy and foggy English night, was the experience of Flight Sergeant Ed Green of Lindsay and Flight Sergeant Charles Goodman of Windsor, Ontario.