Fraser Muir's Crew, 1944.
Top: John Broscoe, Bomb Aimer; Ken Thompson, Wireless Operator; Kenny Parkinson, Engineer; Jack Paine, Navigator.
Bottom: Fraser Muir, Mid-Upper Gunner; Tommy Groves, Pilot; Blair McSwane, Tail Gunner.
Fraser Muir in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, November 9, 2009.Historica Canada
German Surrender Document, 1945.Fraser Muir
Fraser Muir, September-October 1944.Fraser Muir
Fraser Muir (on left) and Johnny Broscoe (on right), England, Autumn 1944.Fraser Muir
"And my most vivid memory are the ones above you. You’re looking up, I can still see it in my dreams, an aircraft above us."
I joined the air force because being the weight of 135 or 140 pounds, the army was not even in the, being considered. The navy, I had no great love for the ocean, so the air force was always my choice of what service I would join. So that’s how I ended up in the air force. I joined the air force in Halifax, when I was 18 and went on from there.
When it was, when our names, say our postings were put up on the board, I was devastated. Al LeBlanc and Johnnie McLay and Mel Orr were sent to 6 Group, which was the Canadian group [under Bomber Command] and lo and behold, I was sent to 5 Group. Now, as I say, I was literally devastated. I couldn’t believe that I was all by my lonesome, heading for 5 Group and the three of them were together, going to 6 Group. The irony of it all was that I was the only one that came back. I was posted to 5 Group.
I think it was Wigsley for OTU, which was the operations training unit. We went through the exercise of crewing up and then we were then posted to 50 Squadron. So I did a total of 35 [sorties] starting, my first trip was in September of 1944, Karelslautern, I think that, Kalerslautern [Kaiserslautern]. And my last trip was at Wesel, when Montgomery went across the Rhine in March of 1945.
[No.] 5 Group was a so-called special group, as you’ll find out as you interview different people. We did most of our trips, say, we did special trips. Bomber Command would go out, 800 of them would go out and then you’d see it in the paper the next day that Berlin was bombed by 800 aircraft, Bomber Command. And then down in the small print, you would see 200 aircraft bombed an oil refinery or a bridge or a dam or submarine pens. Well, that was us. We did most of our trips 200, 225 aircraft.
There was two scary parts of an operation. The first one was the takeoff, whether or not we were going to get off the ground with a full load of bombs and gas. And we’d go down the runway, everybody waving, be 100 or so people lining the runways to give you the thumbs up. Then you’d get off and then, you know, the aircraft would be shaking and you’re wondering if you’re going to get off or not. Then you’d realize, once you got up 100 feet or so, that you were okay and then it would be complete silence, almost silence and just a beautiful feeling of relief.
And you know, I used to say that being in the turret at the end of the aircraft, you don’t see anybody else. So the five guys up front see each other, so they’re, they had that company. But back in the tail, in the turret, I was sitting on sort of a canvas sling seat and I used to say it was the coldest, loneliest place in the world back there. You’d see the fins of the aircraft if you swing around. But the duty of an air gunner wasn’t to say shoot down other aircraft, we were the eyes of the crew. We couldn’t for a second stop searching the skies for enemy aircraft but also our own aircraft. We just flew out and we had no formation flying. We just took off and there was 200 other aircraft up there, doing the same thing as you’re doing. And we’d end up over the target, it was all dead reckoning [a method of navigation]. You would arrive over the target, dead reckoning. You were supposed to be there at such and such a time but you could be early, you could be late because of the navigation of the winds and everything else. But once you saw and heard the Master Bomber marking the target, and then the order to bomb, you’d all, everybody would start.
Mother of God, it was aircraft going up, cross over in front of you, above you, below you. And so the gunners had to warn the pilot if there was any other aircraft, no matter if they were enemy or friendly. And my most vivid memory are the ones above you. You’re looking up, I can still see it in my dreams, an aircraft above us, doing the same thing as our aircraft, trying to line up the target with flares. And he’s got his bomb bay open and you’re staring there with fourteen 1,000-pounders or if it’s the other raid, hundreds and hundreds of incendiaries and one huge 4,000-pounder. And I’m screaming. He’s right above us, he’s going to drop, he’s doing the same and here’s the pilot and the bomb aimer trying to concentrate and line up. And they’re yelling for me to shut up. And then the pilot would order me - Tom -, he would say, pull your plug, Red [Muir’s nickname], for God’s sake, shut up. Ah, the guys would give me shit afterwards, you know, you’re so goddamned loud, Muir, you know. But anyway, that’s the way it was.
And then the longest period I’m telling you, was after the bombs were gone. We had to stay straight and level because a couple of seconds after the bombs dropped, the flare went down and if you were at the right height, and everything was in line, the photo flash would go off when the bombs hit and the camera in the aircraft would take the picture where we bombed. And the bomb aimer would be counting 1,000, 2,000 and I’d be screaming to count faster. And but once the count was - the bomb aimer would say, that’s it and the skipper would peel off and we’d be on our way home. But it was always a scary moment and one that I remember, and I’ll remember to my dying day.