Veteran Stories:
Russel Hubley

Air Force

  • Russell Hubley's wedding photograph.

    Russell Hubley
  • Letter to Russell Hubley from Office of the High Commisioner for Canada (London), congratulating him on the decorations he had received (not specified). Letter dated 1945.

    Russell Hubley
  • Certificate awarding Flying Officer R. F. Hubley a Bar to the Operational Wings of the Royal Canadian Air Force, for his second tour of duty. Certificate awarded July 8th, 1945.

    Russell Hubley
  • Certificate awarding Flying Officer R.F. Hubley a Path Finder Force Badge. Issued April 13th, 1945 by the Path Finder Force, RAF.

    Russell Hubley
  • Russell Hubley with his medals.

    Russell Hubley
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"And when we got over the target, I could look down, and I could pick out the houses, I could pick out the streets, see the fires burning in that place. "

Transcript

One of my trips was on D-Day [6 June 1944], and the tie I'm wearing, is the D-Day tie, and that's the tie that was created for D-Day veterans only.  It's a one-day tie and only a D-Day veteran can wear it.  And you had to prove you were a D-Day veteran to get it.  Now, if you were there the next day after D-Day, they brought out another tie, which was the Normandy Campaign, and it was a dark blue tie, with the two lines of France on it – or the two lines up here had France.  That, well, that became it.

Well, during this time we were there, we were involved in D-Day.  We bombed a heavy gun emplacement in France and we bombed 10 minutes after D-Day.  So I always considered myself an original D-Day veteran.

So after those 11 trips, we were then sent from there to a conversion unit to fly on Lancasters [heavy bombers].  After we completed our conversion on Lancasters, we were sent to 405 Squadron, which was the Pathfinder Squadron.  Now, 405 Squadron was the only Pathfinder Squadron that Canada had and we were attached to the RAF [Royal Air Force]; we come under RAF command.  And, at 405 Squadron, we completed two tours of operation; I completed 60 operations over France and Germany.

Some of those trips were very interesting.  Now, for instance, the Ruhr Valley, which was all the industrial area [of Germany], we called “Happy Valley.”  When you were flying over that in the night, the searchlights would be on you.  There would be nothing there and all of a sudden they had one main searchlight and it was blue.  And if that come up and hits your aircraft, the next time that come around at the aircraft, you'd probably be coned in about 30 or 50 searchlights.  You couldn't see; you were completely blinded.  And the only thing the pilot could do, was to dive the plane straight down – and if you can imagine diving a four-engine Lancaster straight down – and had to get out of them.  And that’s the way we got out of them, many of them.  We also – if we had the bomb, then we bombed and dropped our target indicators.

But, just going back a little bit, our first trip on Pathfinders was in the daytime.  And we didn't know it at the time, but normally your first trip, they sent you over with a Master Bomber, who was in control of the whole thing, and you were sent over a few thousand feet lower.  And the aim of that was so that you would draw the flak [anti-aircraft fire].  (laughs) I'm telling you.  We accomplished our aim. (laughs) We come back with a pretty shot up plane, but we got back, which is the main thing.  And from then on we've – we're mixed in.

But the nice thing about being in the Pathfinders, you didn't fly in with a bunch of the other planes.  You did in some cases, but most cases we'd be at 40 or 50 miles out on our own all by ourself, and, they didn't bother with that.  They didn't send fighters up after you or shoot flak guns at you in most cases because they didn't want to give away their positions.  And we'd go in and the Master Bomber would go in in front, would probably be a Mosquito [multi-role aircraft] who went in and dropped the target indicators, red indicators on the ground, and then would tell you to come in and drop yours, so many seconds – before that red one, so many seconds after, or exactly where to drop your indicator.  So, we would drop it there along with our bombs on it.  And that was quite the thing.  We were allowed, I think, 30 seconds, earlier than 30 seconds late on target.

And, one of the other interesting targets is – a lot of them – but one of the other interesting ones was, we done Dresden [Germany].  And on Dresden, the planes went in in the daytime, roughly about 400, some 500 planes, and they dropped incendiaries and bombs.  And we went back that evening, coming on towards dark.  And when I turned the mid-upper turret forward to look where we were going from a hundred miles away, the sky was bright red.  It just looked like the sun coming up.  And when we got over the target, I could look down, and I could pick out the houses, I could pick out the streets, see the fires burning in that place.  And that was the night, that they say now in the papers, 25,000 people were killed.  At that time they said 50,000 people.  If – the book I showed you this morning, will give it around 50,000 people were killed.  And I told you earlier on I was very surprised because after I joined the Halifax Rifles, I used to have lunches for the Aircrew Association at Scotia Legion.  And during one of these lunches one of the aircrew members brought in this young man, and introduced me to him.  And, I come to find out he was a boy in that raid.  And him and his mother hid in a hole in the ground and they did not come out of that hole until after the Russian Army went through.  Then they came out of the hole.  He told me what it was like, being in that raid, and what happened.  Now, the next night we went back to Chemnitz, which would be just a little south of that, and the fires in Dresden were still burning.

And the funny little part of that, I had one chap in the Aircrew Association with us, who was a prisoner of war just below Dresden.  And he told me that during that evening while we were bombing they were all out in the yard all cheering us on.  So – (laughs) so you can – you can imagine what that was like for him.

But we did take one raid and we were shot up very badly.  In fact, the hydraulic lines come up, for operating the turret, between my legs – the mid-upper turret.  And, I had them shot out between my legs by a piece of flak.  There's the piece of flak from the 88mm [anti-aircraft gun] that done it.  That's it.

Small piece of flak.  And behind my turret, towards the tail, there was a hole I could have crawled out of.  We lost part of our tail plane.  Big holes in the aircraft.  We lost one of our motors.  And we got back, and when we come back we were all in the dispersal area, they wrote the plane off and gave us a brand new plane the next day.  Sent that plane back to get repaired and let people train on it.  But there's always been one thing I've always been very, very sorry for, that I never ever did get the name of my ground crew.  I knew – knew them there, eh, but I never got their names or their addresses.  So when I come home after the war, I could never ever communicate with them.  I could never knew where to write to them, or anything of that nature.  But, you know, the aircrew got the medals and the decorations and so forth, but really it was the ground crew that deserved them, because that ground crew, when you come back in the night, they were out there to meet you; they wanted to know if anything was wrong; they worked all night to fix it.  And, when you go out the next morning, you took the aircraft up for a test.  And, if anything wasn’t just right, you'd come down, you told them, and they fixed it.  And when you left in the night, they were on the runaway [sic], they waved goodbye to you.  And when you come back, they were there to welcome you.

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