Victory Salute by aircraft of No.84 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force. Aircraft in foreground is a Supermarine 'Spitfire' photo-reconnaissance aircraft.Credit: Ken Bell/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-167603
"We were shot up badly every time, but on my last trip it was shot up so badly that the electrical system was gone, a few other things were gone, the plane was very sluggish and I knew it was going to be out of control soon, the engine, the port engine caught fire, and of course at that stage there’s nothing you can do but go down and try and save yourself, whatever way you could. "
I ended up in the 2nd Tactical Air Force, and we did all kinds of jobs, we were slated to do all kinds of jobs too that I could tell from our training. We were to drop paratroopers and spies and we were part of the SOE [Special Operations Executive] group that did all of these special things, special operations. During training we had one of the aeroplanes, well two of them hit head on beside us, this was actually at night time, and it was just a big fireball in the sky and of course that happens and everybody is dead instantly so they would probably never know what happened.
One thing we had to do of course is start taking trips to Norway to supply the underground in Norway because the Germans were building an atomic bomb and we took explosives and all the things that they wanted over to them, and it was a long ten hour flight from Southern England up to the middle of Norway. Well one of the times that we were going to cross the North Sea, we ran into a very strong electrical storm, and you couldn’t see anything, and the whole aeroplane started to glow with St. Elmo’s Fire, and the propellers were just bluish-green disks and the aerial, I could look back and see the aerial and it was trailing out a few hundred feet out the back and it just looked like a big long neon tube, we were of course a little concerned that it may affect some of the instruments, but we were lucky, I guess the plane was shielded well enough, and it didn’t affect the instruments.
We did make it across to Norway and did drop our supplies, and of course I made many other trips across to Norway too, the whole idea was that the Norwegians wanted to, and of course we wanted them to, slow down or stop the heavy water going back to Germany, because the heavy water was made in Norway, because they had the electrical power to do that. [Note: “Heavy water” refers to deuterium oxide, a central component in Nazi Germany’s effort to build a nuclear reactor and subsequent atomic bomb]
Now they actually did sink one of the ships carrying the heavy water back to Germany, in one of the fjords when they blew up the ship as it was, at the time, I guess it was a time bomb, and they blew up the ship right in the middle of the fjord so that it would sink right down, those fjords were usually about 3000 feet deep or something like that. So they couldn’t get the stuff up, and so that would end Germany’s heavy water program.
And of course then we came up to the business where we’re going to have the [Operation] Market Garden, and under [Field Marshall Bernard] Montgomery’s idea of dropping gliders, and troops, paratroopers on three or four main bridges leading up into Arnhem [Holland] and then they figured that if they got through to Arnhem then they could break out into Germany, and shorten the war. I guess a lot of little things went wrong, hindsight tells us that you know it wouldn’t have worked, but it was too late when they had already started it. The Germans brought up all kinds of guns around because they knew that the troops that were isolated now, had to be supplied, resupplied, by air, that was the only way they could get any supplies, and of course we were stuck with trying to supply them.
It was kind of like a shooting gallery, we could fly in about 2000 feet and of course they knew exactly when we were coming, what height we were going to fly at and where, and so on, so it was a real shooting gallery. We got shot up, oh very badly on every run, my second run I got shot up, and I did drop the supplies, and I made it back to England, and crash landed on an American airdrome, but then they rushed me back to go…you know keep doing it, keep taking supplies over with a different plane, then on about the…well as I said about my fourth or fifth trip, the plane had been shot up so badly, we were shot up badly every time, but on my last trip it was shot up so badly that the electrical system was gone, a few other things were gone, the plane was very sluggish and I knew it was going to be out of control soon, the engine, the port engine caught fire, and of course at that stage there’s nothing you can do but go down and try and save yourself, whatever way you could.
I got lost from my bomb aimer but Maxi and I, my navigator, we made it into some trenches and worked our way along a kind of protected area I guess you would call it, we were in no man’s land, till we got back, we knew roughly where our troops were trying to go up the road, because we’d been briefed on that, so we worked our way into where we thought they were, and made contact with them, you don’t stand up of course and say here I am, because you would be dead if you did that. You just could sort of yell at them and let them know that you weren’t German I guess, and we did that and we just got back and then the troops said they had a few Germans that they want to take back, and so they gave me a machine gun, called a Sten gun and I marched them back. And then from there we got to a local airport and then back to England again.