Veteran Stories:
Elmer John “Al” Trotter

  • Al Trotter's class at No. 12 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Brandon, Manitoba.1942.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • De Havilland Tiger Moth training aircraft. No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), Virden, Manitoba. 1942.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Al Trotter on graduation as a pilot. October 1942.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • A group of Canadian airmen in Montreal just prior to going overseas. From right to left: Al Trotter, Charlie James, unknown, Ken Bates, unknown. They departed New York on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for England. 1942.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • The crew of the aircraft known as "(F) for Freddy." Left to right: Flight Sergeant (F/S) Bernard Pullin, F/S Kenneth (Archie) Archibald, Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Al Trotter, F/S John Rawcliffe, F/S Walter Parfitt, F/S John Thomas Board. Not pictured: Squadron Leader (S/L) Barcroft (Bart) Mathers.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • No. 582 Pathfinder Squadron, Royal Air Force, based at Little Staughton, Bedfordshire, England. This squadron was formed 1 April, 1944 and Al Trotter and his crew became part of this unit.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Archie (Kenneth Archibald), Al Trotter's tail gunner. Archibald was killed in action in August 1944.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Pilot Officer Bernard (Bernie) Pullin, Al Trotter's Bomb Aimer. August 1944. Pullin was killed in action on the crew's last sortie in August 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously).

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Al Trotter's prisoner of war mug shot.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Al Trotter on his wedding day with his bride, Val. 1 September 1950.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
  • Al and Val Trotter in 2009.

    Leslie Zwingli. Against the Odds.
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Listen to this story

"He said, “I got the bastard! I got the bastard! Skip I got the bastard!” "

Transcript

We were on the run-up into the target, and just prior to that, Archie called, “There’s a Messerschmitt 110, tailing us, Skip.” “Keep a sharp eye on him, Archie. I gotta – you know, right now I’m getting on my bombing run.” And, he says, “Oh, he’s disappeared.” I says, “Watch for him, he may just get away from the target area.” So we’re on the run-up into the target and the bomb aimer says, “Bombs away!” And the aircraft makes a lurch, and wham! We got hit by a flak burst and it was a damn good near miss, I’ll tell you. It blew a hole right through the dinghy – which we didn’t know for some time – on the starboard side, just outside the fuselage. Blew our dinghy right out. We had no bleeding dinghy. We didn’t know that, at that stage. But the aircraft filled with burning cordite and we went out of control. The airplane just took off on me and starting diving down at the target.

I hollered, “Put parachutes on!” – of course, the only ones that really didn’t have them on would be the mid-upper – not the mid-upper – the front end navigator because a lot of him when he’s working, the chest pack, and the bomb aimer. And the [flight] engineer put his on as well, at this stage. And I […] how I got it back under control, but I got it back under control, but Jesus it wasn’t very secure, and give me impression of security, because I had the steering column over almost to 90 degrees and it was vibrating back and forth as if it was going to fall apart. And then, Jesus, they’re all five […]. We lost about 7 – 8,000 feet, I guess, in the dive which we had no control over. And all of a sudden Archie says, “Skip, that bastard Messerschmitt is back!” I says, “Archie watch him, because,” I says, “I’ve got a hell of a time here trying to keep this airplane level, even.” “Okay Skip.”

All of a sudden, all hell broke loose. Archie said, “He’s after us! He’s firing at us and I’m firing back!” And, the Messerschmitt 110 has six machine guns and four cannon, and all these have tracer bullets in them, which helps them aim at his target. Archie has four guns, firing back with tracers. So it’s quite a fireworks up aft in the airplane. And then all of a sudden next I hear – and I’m pretty well helpless to try to do anything in the way of evasion. I’d only go to the high part of the airplane because I didn’t dare go to the windows down there because I’d figure I’d just roll the damn thing. But anyway, he said, “I got the bastard! I got the bastard! Skip I got the bastard!” And, all excited and then, everything is quiet in the airplane and of course the en - he blew up when he hit it, when he attacked us, he blew up our oxygen bottles or some of them. They exploded in the airplane. There was a machine gun bullet went through between my legs, here, and hit the steering pedestal, just caromed plain up through the windshield. There was – machine gun bullets came up between the engineer and I, which we were only sitting about maybe ten inches apart, and went through.

So the first thing you do after that, is when you have everything more or less under control, you ask for a report from all stations. And that’s when, starting at the front end, the engineer says, “Okay Skip, I’m fine.” And then it’s the bomb aimer, “Okay Skip, I’m fine”; navigator, “Okay Skip, I’m fine.” And then the radio operator, “Okay Skip, I’m fine.” And then the upper turret, and there’s no answer. And so, I called in for the rear turret, no answer. And, I’m assuming now, of course, they’ve been hit or seriously wounded or dead. So, I told the engineer to put on the emergency [oxygen] bottle, which became available, I guess, taking oxygen back through the airplane. Well, the mid-upper was dead, and hanging out of his turret, and, but Archie was okay at the back. And it wasn’t until after we got back to home base – well, I better get back there first. So, we fought our way all the way back home and man, I was getting awful powerful tired at this part – the engineer tried to hold me, help me hold the stick, the control cone. The control cone in a bomber is a wheel, a half wheel. And, so we got back and I called ahead, and I told them that I was slightly shot up.

So she gave me a straight-in approach, the controller, and I was coming down and I didn’t like it, so I had to go around, and again I emphasize that I was slightly shot up, and had control problems. So I came around the second time and I didn’t do any climbing to speak of, just low-level type thing, came back in and tried to get in the straight-on runway, which was a bit of a problem because I had so little control. And, I was just coming in ready to flare, which is to cut back and cut power. I remember I had two and a half engines at this stage, because one had packed it in and the other one was running rough, before. And all of a sudden, she just says, “[B for Bravo,] you haven’t got your nav lights on.” And, I just blew my cork because I needed nobody talking to me at this point, [there was no] automatic talking, you know. And I went back and I said, “Silly fucking bitch. I told you I was slightly shot up.” And I got her onto the runway, but no brakes were working. Our hydraulics had been screwed up I guess as well. And so finally we got to the end of the runway and I hit the ground and stopped. And, of course the fire trucks were all there in seconds and they unloaded everybody, including the ambulance for the rear upper gunner. And we were taken back over to the debriefing rooms. Well in the meantime we got out and saw a little bit of the damage. There was four feet missing off of the port wing on the tip. That’s why she couldn’t see any nav lights because the damn nav lights were gone. And there was 48 square feet of the underside of the metal on the starboard wing, that was gone, had torn away from the blast, and there was this hole through, where our dinghy was [stored].  This is where the main blast had gone through.

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