Veteran Stories:
A.J. Knight

Air Force

  • The wreckage of Tim Knight's Anson EF 909. Knight's crew crashed into Foel Grach, a mountain in the Snowdonia area of Wales, during a training operation in 1943.

  • Tim Knight served in the Canadian Forces from 1941-1946, and again from 1956-1967. He was honourably discharged with the rank of Corporal.

  • Cecilia Wise returned to Canada with Tim Knight. Tim and Cecilia celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2005.

  • A page from Tim Knight's flight logbook, showing details of the crash in Wales. Sgt. Gilbert and LACs Reid and Thomson were the other crew members.

  • Tim Knight's membership badge for the Wartime Pilots and Observers Association.

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"I was still in the cockpit, but it had crashed in around me, it was like wakening from a bad dream…"

Transcript

Hello, my name is Knight, AJ Knight, but I prefer to be called Tim. I graduated as a Pilot in Moncton, New Brunswick in March 1943,and was posted overseas to Bournemouth England right after graduation. Bournemouth is situated on the South coast of England, and was a holding unit for Canadian Airmen who had finished their basic training. There was a lot of Canadians in Bournemouth and the German propagandist, Lord Haw-Haw, used to say, "There's twenty thousand Canadians in Bournemouth, but there's no need to bomb them because they're drinking themselves to death". Well some of us lived through it! After a few postings I was stationed on the Isle of Man as a staff pilot, flying and training student navigators who had finished their basic training, and were now learning to navigate from the air. On November the 30,1943 I was flying a night exercise with two students LAC's (Leading Air Cadets) Reid and Thompson. My wireless operator was Sgt. Gilbert. The trip was to be to Worcester and return. The first leg went well but on the return, the course I was given took us well north of our intended track. When shells started to burst in front of us I knew we were approaching Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the largest ports in England, and no unauthorized aircraft can fly near it. I started the proper procedure to avoid it, but Reid -the acting navigator- asked me to hold my initial avoiding course much longer then I knew I should. Suddenly we ran into heavy cloud and began to pick up ice, which was making the aircraft lose altitude. I told Reid I could hold the course no longer, and was going out to the coast, lose altitude and get rid of the ice. Too late. We crashed into the side of a mountain called, Fael Grach. Undetermined hours later I became aware I no longer could hear engines running, but could hear water running somewhere close by. I was still in the cockpit, but it had crashed in around me, it was like wakening from a bad dream, hemmed in by bedclothes. After freeing myself, I started looking around for the others, this wasn't easy as it was still very dark and it was difficult to make contact. I eventually found Gilbert and Reid who were as dazed as I was. We then realized we were missing Thompson, we found him -after much floundering in the dark- on the ground out-side of the aircraft alive, but with a badly crushed foot. We carried him back into the aircraft, as it was still dark and cold, we huddled together for warmth, undid our parachutes, wrapped them around us and waited for daylight. When it became light although we were still in heavy cloud we could at least see one another. We took stock of the condition and found we were all mobile except for Thompson. We opened the emergency kit, but there was nothing there except a bottle of iodine, this we used profusely, we all had many cuts and had a lot of blood on our clothes, my nose had been pulled to the side of my face, we were a sorry looking bunch. As Reid and Thompson were friends, we decided to leave them together while Gilbert and I went for help. We climbed to the top of the ridge but could see nothing. We heard water running below us so decided to slide down the mountain and follow the river down stream, thinking eventually we would find someone to help us. If the river had run in a straight line we would probably walked about ten miles, as it was by following its bend and curves it was late after-noon when we finally heard voices ahead of us. We had been warned about surrendering to civilians if we landed on the Continent, and these voices were certainly foreign to us. As they ran toward us we threw up our arms and yelled, "Friends." When they answered in English we knew we were in Wales. They took us to a house in Gerlan - a small village near Bethesda. When a woman answered the door she screamed in horror - our yellow safety jackets were covered in blood, and mixed with moisture made it look worse, with no noticeable nose on my face that didn't help either. The old English cure-all sure tasted good - a cup of tea. An ambulance soon arrived and took us to a hospital in LLangerwrog. The mountain rescue service then went into action. We gave them as much help as we could in regard to direction, but I don't think it helped much. The rescue party searched until it got to dark, and they had to wait for daylight. They had a very difficult time, as told in a book called, "No landing place" written by Edward Doylerush. They found Reid who had left for help and was able to tell them which mountain to search on. They now worked faster as they knew there was one more still alive. Just as it became to dark too proceed, the fog suddenly cleared and there was the wreck in a small ravine. Thompson was still alive, asleep wrapped in his parachute. They had great difficulty getting him down the mountain to an ambulance. Meanwhile I had been taken to a Hospital near Warwick for plastic surgery, so I never saw Reid or Thompson again. They probably didn't want to see me again anyway. After convalescing, I returned to the Isle of Man and met Gilbert, and we keep in touch. True to air-force tradition, if you were stupid enough to run into a mountain as a Sgt, you deserve a commission, so I finished the war as F/O Knight. The highlights of my air force life therefore were serving overseas, flying Lancasters, running into a mountain, and best of all marrying an English girl and in February next year we celebrate together our 60th wedding anniversary.
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