Veteran Stories:
Arthur Franklin

Air Force

  • Arthur Franklin in London, England, 1944.

    Arthur Franklin
  • Arthur Franklin's RCAF uniform jacket with Observer's Wings and service medal ribbons. Ribbons (left to right): Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 1939-1945 Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

    Arthur Franklin
  • Intelligence room of No. 418 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. RAF Ford, Sussex, England.

    Arthur Franklin
  • Arthur Franklin's de Havilland Mosquito. The caption reads, "This is Harold and I coming in to land after a trip."

    Arthur Franklin
  • Arthur Franklin and Harold Lisson following an operation. The caption reads, "Our operations room. We had just bombed the Paris-Orleans railway."

    Arthur Franklin
  • Arthur Franklin at air station RAF Ford, Sussex, England. The caption reads, "I won a pair of silk stockings in a hamper." Due to rationing during the Second World War, stockings were hard to find and highly valued.

    Arthur Franklin
  • Harold Lisson and Arthur Franklin with their de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.

    Arthur Franklin
  • de Havilland Mosquito multi-role aircraft.

    Arthur Franklin
  • Arthur Franklin at Bolton, Ontario, October 2013.

    Historica Canada
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"We saw that there was a train coming in. So there’s a huge, high bridge over the Loire River at that point. So we decided to wait until the train got in the center of the bridge then we could knock it out. So we did. And that was quite interesting."

Transcript

One day they said to us, “Okay.  Pack up, you’re going to go.”  So they packed us up, put us into a parade, with a band in front of us, and marched – a band!  “Loose lips,”* the band?  Couldn’t believe it.  They marched us down to the dock.  And there was a ship the size of the [RMS] Queen Mary or the [RMS] Queen Elizabeth and, “Oh, are we lucky!”  We heard they could get across in four or five days and they were faster than the U-boats.  They marched us right past that beautiful, big ship to a miserable little 10,000 tonne converted coal schooner at the end and marched us on board.  So, 150 air force officers were now in this little converted coal boat.  It was really something.  Well, then of course they had to make up the convoy.  And we heard later that the convoy that we were in had almost 250 ships and was one of the largest convoys to go across the Atlantic during the war.  And we went up around Iceland and then into England.

Then they sent us to [RAF] Cranwell in Lincolnshire [England] and we were there to learn how to use British equipment, we having been taught on training equipment.  And they had little single-engine aircraft, I forgot the name of the single-engine aircraft.  But it was just enough for a pilot.  But what they had done was to modify it so that we could sit back to back with the pilot, do our work and then tap them on the shoulder when it was time to go.  So that was fine.  But, one day, our plane crashed and killed the pilot and they had to saw me out.  [The instructors said] “If you’re ever in an accident, in a plane crash or something was wrong, please, try to go back into the air as soon as possible.”  So as soon as I could, I went back up for a flight.

Now, when we got to the squadron we found out that, of course, German aircraft were high on our list and we would often be sent – maybe I shouldn’t say “often” – but we were sometimes sent to a German airfield ahead of time, like, before the British bombers went over so that we could maybe inactivate that airfield, so they couldn’t get their fighters off to be a problem with our bombers.  So we did all our flying at night, everything was out at night.  We could attack anything that moved at night.  So that French, German - I mean French, Belgian, Dutch, Danish, to heck with the Germans, they were told not to go out at night because it was dangerous.  So any time we saw a train engine going along we’d fly up behind it and knock it out.  And we knocked out a good many trains like that.

And sometimes on short trips we would carry the bombs in the aircraft so we could drop them here and there and cause a bit of damage.  Like, for example, drop it on a train station, we could drop it at the foot of a bridge and make it bad.  One time, we dropped a bomb where two railways intersected and we saw all kinds of bright lights and we couldn’t figure that out at all.  Turned out they’d electrified them and we didn’t know it.  So we could do that.

And then, after we had a bit of experience, they asked to – well, they didn’t ask us, they told us – to drop a parcel.  So, of course, they gave it to me and said that I was to go south of Paris, find a farmer’s field – they told me where to find the farmer’s field – the corner of a farmer’s field, and a drop a parcel by parachute.  My goodness, in the dark, how was I going to do that?  And you identified them, for example, when the people on the ground heard our engine, they’d fire off three coloured lights.  Then they would use a flashlight or some light and give us three code letters.  And we would do the same thing back to them, then they’d do the same thing back to us.  But, each time, they were a different code.  So we wouldn’t drop unless we had this special code that we’d been told about ahead of time.  So then we would drop, and whatever it was dropped also with a parachute.  And they wouldn’t tell us when we were dropping it.  I didn’t keep a record of how many of those we did but we did quite a few.  Then we eventually, found out we were dropping money for the French underground.  And we dropped a transmitter, along with the money so that the people that picked it up could use the transmitter and tell England they got it.  And England would know they got the money before we got back.

Now, this didn’t happen every time.  One time we were dropping money down in the southeastern part of France, near the Swiss border where the Alps, the mountains, start.  And we dropped money there and apparently our parcel went down an icy slope, and it took them two or three days to get it.  They finally got it and let us know.

Another time, they said that they want us to drop a bomb near the Loire River [France].  They showed us where, so we went down.  When we dropped it, we saw that there was a train coming in.  So there’s a huge, high bridge over the Loire River at that point.  So we decided to wait until the train got in the center of the bridge then we could knock it out.  So we did.  And that was quite interesting.

Another time, they said that they wanted us to go on a trip with another squadron.  Turned out to be “The Dambusters.”**  They weren’t called Dambusters then, but they were the one eventually called Dambusters.  So we didn’t know what it was all about.  But we eventually found out they wanted us to go Dortmund–Ems Canal in Germany.  And the Lancasters wanted the Mosquitoes to fly information with them over there at tree-top level, low, to avoid radar and that sort of thing.  So we did.  And we were so fast and they were so slow, we had to fly with our wheels down.  Oh, we just hated that.  And then we got just onto the continent and the word came back that the target was fogged in and we had to turn around and go back home.  So we turned around to go back home and one of the Lancasters near us was shot out by a machine gun on top of a barn not very far from us.  So then we went back out the next night with Mosquitoes that said, “We’re not going to fly information anymore, we’ll meet you over the target.”  So we met them over the target.  When I say “we” I mean Harold [Lisson] and I.  We went after search lights to try and knock them out and we did.  Once we actually flew down, a search light, and knocked it out because there was a machine gun bunch at the bottom.  And we flew around and, apparently, it wasn’t a great success knocking out the dam.  Did some damage but didn’t knock it completely out.  So the Lancs all went home.  And I didn’t know until many, many years later that Harold and I were the last of Mosquitoes to leave the area.

While I was at Fighter Command Headquarters I got my DFC and then I did something strange.  I thought, “Oh, gosh, mother would be so pleased know I got a medal.”  So I went across and got to a telegraph office and asked them to telegraph this message that Harold and I had both been awarded the DFC, and that was fine.  My mother lived in Prince Rupert [British Columbia] at that point.  When she got the message – anyone that got a telegraph from England meant either dead or missing.  So mother said, “Don’t read it over the phone.  Send it home.”  She gathered up the whole family together and they were all together before she opened up the letter, then she found out what it really was.

*Reference to seeing a “Loose Lips Sink Ships” poster, cautioning the men to keep quiet about when they were shipping out

**Operation CHASTISE by No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, “The Dambusters”

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