"Everybody could see that it was necessary to stop the problem that we had. Namely, Adolf Hitler. And it took half the world and six years to do that."
Well, I was born in a little village called Hansell, Ontario. I guess my childhood was typical of a small town, all over Ontario at that time. Probably by 19, or 19- and- a- half, would have been subject to a draft. If you enlisted, you got your choice of what service you went into and if you were drafted, you were in the army and that was it.
So I enlisted in the air force. I had to go to London to do that. Passed the medical and I failed the colour- vision test, so that finished it for air crew. I had to pick a ground crew job. So I became an air frame mechanic. Went to Galt aircraft school, ; Galt is now called Cambridge. After that, I went to technical training school in St. Thomas. At Manning Depot, you also learn to march or crush gravel, as we called it. So we crushed a lot of gravel along the lakeshore, I’ll tell you that.
And then I went to the technical training school at St. Thomas, which is was pretty good, not a bad place to be. Terrible food as was common throughout the air force. I was posted to a, a squadron which had been at Dartmouth but had gone to Newfoundland. So I was sent to Newfoundland to join them. And I stayed in that squadron until pretty near the end of the war. It was 11BR, the BR stood for bomber reconnaissance, but that meant coastal command.
Shortly after I got there, the higher- priced help of both the Canadian air force and the American army at Fort Pepperell, had arranged for a mock attack. I thought that I didn’t really want to go out and play silly bugger with the Americans that go out there in the snow banks to do that, so I looked around for a hidey- hole where I could conceal myself until it was all over. And I found one. It was under a boiler in the drying room. And I thought, if I rolled under the boiler, the curvature of the boiler would conceal me and I’d be fine.
I did that and one night I came back from St. John’s, Newfoundland, the alarm bell went that we were being attacked, so I headed for the boiler room. I got down on the floor and started to roll under the space I knew was there and there was another body in there. So I met the guy who would later become my best friend in the squadron and in the air force, George McDowell. And he came from a little town, it was near Davidson, Saskatchewan. And his history was about the same as mine, just different geographical location. Anyway, we became very good friends and we still are. And that’s a long friendship from 1943 until now. However, he’s been diagnosed with lung cancer and it’s terminal. So I had my name in for a Veteran’s Wish and my wish was to get up and see him one more time. Which has been arranged.
It was the first squadron in the RCAF to be equipped with Hudsons. And they’d been flying all that time, so that was about 1940, the early part of ’ 1940. And they were getting tired. So we were getting re-equipped with Liberators, and the Hudsons were put in storage. The Hudson was a good old airplane too, it did yeoman service. But we were trying to close the mid-Atlantic gap and make it on safe for submarines to be there. And the Hudsons just didn’t have the range to do that and the Liberators did. The Liberator was the farthest- ranging aircraft of any World War II aircraft up until the coming of the B29. So it had range and between Liberators flying from Great Britain and Liberators flying from the east coast to Canada, and Newfoundland, we were able to close that gap, fairly effectively I think.
If you want to know about the war, it’s something I wouldn’t want to do again. But I wouldn’t want to have missed it either. The Second World War was something that everybody was involved in, from the guy who was on the farm and had to give up his sons to the guys working in factories, everybody was behind it. Everybody could see that it was necessary to stop the problem that we had. Namely, Adolf Hitler. And it took half the world and six years to do that.