"All our poppies and remembrance services, all about that, remembering that we don’t want that to happen again. And that’s what the young people must strive for."
I was born November the 10th of 1924 in Calgary, Alberta. I had two older sisters and myself. Did all my schooling in Calgary. When the war broke out, I can recall when the war broke out, my family was in Banff, which everybody knows is just west of Calgary. My dad had to be back at work, so we drove back home on a Sunday night, in the middle of the night, which would be really Monday morning, paper boy came around, shouting War, War, the war is on. And that was my introduction to the World War II.
So when I was old enough, which was November of 1942, I turned 18. First thing I did, I had to go to a recruiting station. The officers in there said, look, you’ve only got six months to finish school, get finished your high school. Finish, and then come back. And so that’s what I did and so that’s the reason probably I didn’t get overseas.
But in the long term, they wanted you to finish high school, they considered that a high school diploma - senior matriculation as some provinces call it - was important if you wanted to be a pilot, which I obviously wanted to be, because I’d been an airplane nut since the day I was born I think. We would run miles to see an airplane in the 1920s, you know, late 1920s and early 1930s.
So on July the 1st, there I am at the recruiting office and off I go to [Royal Canadian Air Force Station] Manning Pool in Edmonton, Alberta. Because of that background, I was only there a month. Normally, they keep you about two months but within a month, I’m off to [the] university [of Alberta] in Edmonton where they had the Initial Training School. So that was the introduction. That’s where you got to know whether you’re going to be a pilot or you’re not going to be a pilot, depending on your abilities with certain skills.
So that was fine, we got through that without any trouble and then went to High River, just south of Calgary for Elementary Flying School. And we had, at that time, they were flying [Fairchild] Cornells, which was just a single winged airplane, like the old Tiger Moth. Good airplane, great little airplane, great for aerobatics.
I always remember the first time I was up with the instructor and these are the kind of things that stick in your mind forever. At any rate, we were flying along, just above the clouds, just like you were walking on top of a carpet, just like Aladdin and the rug and all that stuff. So any rate, he said, one thing I didn’t mention, make sure when you’re in the aircraft, you know, your harness is all tightened up. I say, oh yeah, it’s tight, you’ll tighten it up, cinch it up. And about two or three minutes later, we’re flying along these clouds and he said, gee, it’s getting kind of warm in here, let’s pull back the canopy. So we pull back the canopy, fine, the canopy goes back and then, he flipped it right upside down, just like that, bang. (laughs) And we’re, ahhh, and I grabbed the … Grabbed the side of the airplane and he kind of looked. I thought you said you were really all harnessed in there, you shouldn’t have to do that. Well, right about then, you’re about an eighth of an inch high, you know, just you feel like a dork. So, at any rate, that was the first time. Then after that of course, learning aerobatics was, that was great fun. I had a lot of fun.
If you become a fighter pilot, that’s your life. You know, if you can’t do that stuff, you know, you’d never get to that position in the service because that’s how they separate those who are more adept at aerobatics and flying fighters, like a Spitfire for example or the bombers. You’re not going to do aerobatics with a bomber. So that’s how they separate the two. If you were proficient at aerobatics, you wind up at an operational training unit with fighter aircraft. If not, you’d go to a bomber station.
After elementary, went to [Fort] Macleod, which is on the south part of Alberta, for Service Flying [Training] School, No. 7 SFTS. And graduated from that in September of 1944. The next posting was down in Three-Rivers [Trois-Rivières] in Quebec. And they had an Air Graduate Training School. Essentially, it was just a commando course. So at the end of that month-long course, we felt that we were now ready to be, you know, sent to operational training, where you could go from that step, which is the next step in becoming a full-fledged pilot for active service. Well, instead of that, we got sent back home. So on Christmas of 1944, I got a notice to report to the demobilization centre. Well, I’m telling you, I was some ticked off about that. It wasn’t the end of the war, it was still quite a way away. They didn’t know how long. It turned out to be, you know, roughly six months. But there was a surplus of pilots already in the stream and already overseas. So they felt they had enough people so they just turfed you out.
So anyway, I guess there were two people in my life that were happy. One was my mother and the other was my girlfriend, who I eventually married and we lived a wonderful life with four children. And I think we all, every veteran and every serviceperson would not want to see war. You do everything you can to prevent it. But there comes a time, and that’s what happened during the start of the Second World War, you know. Commonwealth nations and all the people that had to meet the Hitler regime head on, had to do it. There wasn’t no alternative. Otherwise, there would be no freedom. There’d be nothing. We’d have been under dictatorship and that wasn’t going to happen.
So I think that the big thing for young people today is to learn about what happened, why it happened and can we prevent it. Can we ever not have that happen again and that’s what they have to do is think about that. All our poppies and remembrance services, all about that, remembering that we don’t want that to happen again. And that’s what the young people must strive for.