Veteran Stories:
William Parfitt

Air Force

  • Lancaster bomber in flight, circa 1942-45. As flown by William Parfitt.

    Credit: Fred Joseph Moritz

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"I remember a wingman, a wing crew being shot down beside us. It was such high adventure I suppose. And so instantaneous that you really didn’t have time to think very much, just because of the tensions of the moment."

Transcript

My father was a veteran of the First [World] War. William Parfitt, who was born and raised in North Bay [Ontario] on a marginal farm. And it was Depression days, so people often worked off the farm to make a little extra money to survive the [Great] Depression, because I was born in 1924 and that was after the ‘Dirty Thirties’ as they say. So my father ended up being [bush] foreman of the, on the airport when they were building it. At that time, he had a nervous breakdown. I ended up going to Toronto. My mother had four other siblings and she was an ex- schoolteacher. She went back to teaching and I went to Toronto and then three years later, I got my call for the forces and I went and joined the [Royal] Canadian Air Force. My training was not too long. I had never gone to high school. I guess I was a bright enough kid to pass the selection board and I opted to go as an air gunner, which meant I got overseas. I joined up in August and in April the next year I was on my way to Britain. If I’d have opted at the time to go to ITSB [Initial Training School to receive advanced training for air trades] - which I could have because I was a good enough student - but I didn’t, I decided, they were short of air gunners so I just was told that I could go on and get more education and probably qualify to even be a pilot or a bomb aimer or something. But I said, oh, I’ll go as a straight air-g [air gunner]. You always flew after supper, always after dark, for obvious reasons. It’s harder to be seen after dark than it is in daylight. In our group, we flew some daylight raids because at that time, they had Mustang fighters with long range tanks. So we had fighter protection on daylight raids. Once you crossed the enemy coast. And then on, it was fighters or ack-ack. That’s anti-aircraft fire, of course. And of course, it was always intense over the target. When we were flying daylights of course, we were flying in loose formations. The fighters of course were there but they didn’t get involved in bombing, so they stayed high above you, watching for enemy fighters. I remember watching a V-2 [German rocket] leaving a vapour trail on its way to Britain. I remember a wingman, a wing crew being shot down beside us. It was such high adventure I suppose. And so instantaneous that you really didn’t have time to think very much, just because of the tensions of the moment. My real feeling is for those who didn’t get the chance. War is hell.
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