But we flew during the monsoons over there and we were flying in cloud about half of the time over there. And that was pretty scary because planes are flying both ways, hundreds of planes flying back and forth and there was always the chance of whacking into one, you know. And a few times, we did come close.
Peter Whitehill enlisted with the RCAF in 1942. After completing his training, he was sent to England, where he was transferred to the RAF, and served with 194 Squadron in southeast Asia. There he flew Dakotas, which transported vital supplies to the British 14th Army.
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We went down to France. We were over in France in Marseilles, there’s a place called Istres nearby. And there we flew to Italy, from there down to North Africa, and across to a place called, we went to Egypt first and then we went to a place called [Al] Habbaniyah in Iraq and from there, down to Karachi in Pakistan. And from there, we flew across on [Short S.25] Sunderland flying boat [fixed wing seaplane with bombing capabilities] across to Calcutta [India] and from there, we were sent, we were there for a while and got sent to a placed called Imphal [India], just on the border of Burma. And from there, we flew into Burma on [Douglas C-47] Dakota aircraft. We were supplying the 14th [British] Army which was chasing the Japanese out of Burma.
The first load we took over in Burma was bombs, they had 250 pound bombs laying on each side of the aircraft. And when we got there, they opened the cargo doors and the guys would just take the bombs out, kicking them out onto the ground, whee. “What are they doing here,” you know? You would expect one of them to explode some time but then they told me there was no fuses in them so it was okay. So just kept on kicking them out there, just unloading them that way, just straight onto the ground.
We just got on the plane, it had already been loaded with, they had runways made of long steel pieces of metal, for making runways. And you had a hard time getting off the ground because they were always overloaded. That’s one of the things that scared us, and we carried barrels of gasoline for the aircraft and all kinds of supplies like that. Oh yeah, one of our aircraft went up with barrels of gasoline and it just took off, disappeared completely and we never did find it. But some of the parts of the plane washed up on the shore later on, so they knew which aircraft it was. It had gone missing. So anyways, they never found the guys that were killed and there was five people in it. Nice guys, the guys, really friendly with you. We were playing cards the night before and the next day, they’re dead, you know.
But we flew during the monsoons over there and we were flying in cloud about half of the time over there. And that was pretty scary because planes are flying both ways, hundreds of planes flying back and forth and there was always the chance of whacking into one, you know. And a few times, we did come close. You see a spot in the horizon, all of a sudden, bang, it’s right beside you and you had a method of turning off to the right and the other guy was supposed to turn off the right as well. And we flew over all the rice fields there and we saw elephants down there working in the jungle and oh, so many things.
And we were coming back to base and we got to near base, we got the word, “Orbit over the sea, orbit over the sea, there’s too many aircraft flying around here and the danger is too great, so go orbit over the sea.” So we went down and flying over just above the waterline because the clouds are right down almost on the surface. So we flew around and after a while and I got fed up with that and said, “Well, I’m going up,” so I flew up, I flew around two or three times and all of a sudden, a hole opened in the clouds. And all I could see was the little tip of this peninsula there, off the Burma coast, you can see it on the map there.
But anyways, I just spotted that and down I went. The guys were getting their parachutes on, they were getting ready to jump out and they were starting to panic so I says, “Hold on.” So anyways, I got lined up along this channel and we flew in the pitch dark and the wind was blowing and the rain was splashing on the … The only thing you could see was out the one side and out the other. It was darker and darker on this little side so I just kept flying down that corridor because I knew where we were. And the next thing you know, the ship’s masts that were in the harbour, they showed up and geez, the guys started patting me on the back and called me a hero and everything else.
Anyways, we fly right across our base, got permission to land and came down. I was quite proud of that.