Veteran Stories:
Donald Murchie

Air Force

  • Donald Murchie standing in front of a V-2 rocket, which was shot down in the Netherlands, 1944-1945.

    Donald Murchie
  • A page from Donald Murchie's log book from late March 1944, which covers his time defending the Rhine bridgehead.

    Donald Murchie
  • Donald Muchie in front of a Hawker Hunter at a former Luftwaffe base in Germany, 1957.

    Donald Murchie
  • Donald Murchie piloting a Canadair Tutor, 1966.

    Donald Murchie
  • Donald Murchie in Edmonton, Alberta, May 2012.

    Historica Canada
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"We had what we call fighter sweeps and the squadrons would go up anywhere from four aircraft to 12 aircraft and we’d go over a certain area I guess and hope that we could find any German airplanes and sometimes we did and it was a real dogfight. "

Transcript

The operations were varied. We had what we call fighter sweeps and the squadrons would go up anywhere from four aircraft to 12 aircraft and we’d go over a certain area I guess and hope that we could find any German airplanes and sometimes we did and it was a real dogfight. And quite often we didn’t, as my log book will show. But many times we did get into dogfights. We did escort duties for these same [Boeing] Flying Fortresses, B17s. We did top cover, which was quite something. You could look down and see the flak [anti-aircraft fire]. We were safe because it didn’t detonate at your level which was a terrible thought but it was a terrible show too. That was 88mm [gun] flak usually. We did dive bombing. We dive bombed the V-1 [flying bomb] sites and then we dive bombed bridges and railway stations and anything that we could. We did what we called rhubarb which were low level flights. Usually you go up in a pair and strike anything you could find and nothing definite but anything was beyond was fair game behind what they called the bomb line, where the enemy was. We had what they called a cab rank which was sometimes our artillery had an observation point and we were supposed to fly back and forth and they’d spot something, their observer would spot something on the other side and give you the coordinates or directions to it and you’d go down and strafe it. We used to hit everything on the roads towards the end of the war. They wanted to stop all movement so anything that was on the road was fair ball to hit, so we did. Motorcycles, cars, trucks, trains. A few surprises along the way. Sometimes the trains, the sides would drop down and they’d have anti-aircraft guns inside there and give you a bit of a shock. I had an incident where I was with my wingman and was hit by flak. And I could see glycol [anti-freeze] was coming out of his airplane. And I told him to get out and finally he did. I could see the smoke coming out and he did get out of it. It was all right. In the meantime, when I got back to base, I had a couple of holes in my wing that I hadn’t really noticed. I was shooting trains up. It was very exciting. You were encouraged if you could to shoot up trains and one time my partner and I shot up a train and it went off the track and did a great damage to the town it was rolling through. Exciting, but very terrible actually. Some of the cars seemed to stay on the tracks and others went off. That one always stuck in my mind. Also in the Battle of the Bulge [16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, major German offensive into the Ardennes region, Belgium], we were involved with that which was a lot of injured. American and Brits were advancing and then retreating and you had to try to be careful that you weren’t shooting at your own people and in some cases it did happen and we were criticized for that, which was certainly unintentional. We lost four in one day which was a disaster. It turned out that they were all prisoners. None of them were killed. I guess while I was on the squadron we lost maybe 10 or 12 guys. It was kind of shaky and all when the guy you’re sleeping next to you doesn’t show up. It happened a couple of times. We had one fellow who was very popular, Bill Colin. He was from Lethbridge [Alberta]. He was in a different section than I was, I just forget. But I could hear him on the air and he got hit by flak and he said, “Well I’m going to bail out.” And the poor guy got out and he hit the tail plane and he was killed, which was kind of sad. The last operation that I did, I think it was maybe on – the war ended on May the 8th [1945] I believe and we did an evening patrol I think it was the night before. And we got a whole bunch – we did a low level. We were at a place called Fassberg [Germany] – Steinhuder Lake. We moved up to Fassberg and from there we were going to Hamburg [Germany] anyway. And on the way home, we were flying very low. I think there were four of us and all heck broke loose. All the light, and the light flak. We were tree top – maybe 100 feet and this flak started coming up. It was a bit of a surprise because we hadn’t seen anything before. We hadn’t seen any enemy aircraft which I don’t think there were any. And the only thing was there was a great fire back at…no I got it mixed up. That was another story. I was going to say they bombed our fuel dump. That was one story. That was earlier on. But that was a surprise. So they were still active right up until the last of the – at least as far as I was personally concerned. It was quite a shock. It was a surprise I should say. VE-Day was on May 8th [1945] and there was a terrific party in the mess that night and Hermann Göring was the boss of the German Luftwaffe and was known for swiping booze and art treasures and other things out of the conquered countries. And he had taken a bunch of champagne, 1923, which is a vintage year, and he stashed in cellars in Munster [Germany] where we were. And some of our more enterprising individuals knew where it was. So they had no qualms about going and taking it. There was tons of this champagne and I’m not a champagne taster or anything, I don’t drink it. That night – I’ve heard afterwards – that 1923 was one of the vintage years. That’s why he had it and they were popping champagne corks all over the places.
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