"I’m not at all sure how much good we did but we tried, from 17 or 18,000 feet. Those things were invisible, hard, like hitting a matchstick from 100 yards out."
I joined the Air Force in August of 1941 and was shipped almost immediately to Brandon [Manitoba]. I often wondered why, when I was supposed to be training for flying, I had to learn so much about marching. And from ITS [Initial Training School] at Regina, I went for navigation training properly up to Edmonton and took my training there, number two AOS [Air Observers School] in Edmonton.
Well, you had to learn how to, when given a course for the airplane to fly, you had to work out, first of all, find out the wind with observations of some kind or other and then use the wind you found to find the proper course to steer. That was your whole thing. You and the wind were consciously, not opponents, but you had to find the wind and sometimes that was pretty hard to do.
So when I finished the navigation training in Edmonton, I don’t know, whether I had been a schoolteacher or not, whether that had anything to do with it, but I was kept on as an instructor. There were five others of us at the same time came in from various places in Canada and we were the, the idea was, we were to instruct for what might be around, somewhere around a year. And then after that, we were to do our stint overseas.
They put you, so many pilots, so many navigators, so many gunners and put you all in a big room, hangar like, you know. Said, “Alright, crew up.” How do you crew up here? I don’t know anybody. So I sat on a bench and smoked my pipe. Along came a fellow that was a pilot. He says, “Are you crewing up yet?” I said, “No.” “Well…”, he said. And he sat down and so we had a pilot and navigators to start. And this happened over in the gun drop. So pretty soon, I just sat on that bench and crewed up. Everybody came along! (laughing)
And we later found as time went on that the crew was a very good one. Although we had very little to do with choice then. And the pilot learned to fly heavier aircraft, the two engine aircraft. It was called a [Vickers] Wellington. So we did cross countries work and practice work and bombing work and this sort of thing and getting used to heavier aircraft. From there, we were posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit it was called - at Wombleton, Yorkshire. And there, we changed over to four engine plane and the pilot of course had to have practice. We called them circuits and bumps, he had to get used to this, flying this much larger plane. And we did more cross countries and more bombing practice and so on.
Then finally, we got to the Squadron 433. And after a few orientation trips, we started operating for real. The first few trips we had were quite short ones. The Germans had just started buzz bomb attacks [V-1 Rocket attacks] on London and they sent us down a few times to see if we could disrupt the, the takeoff areas for the buzz bombs. I’m not at all sure how much good we did but we tried, from 17 or 18,000 feet. Those things were invisible, hard, like hitting a matchstick from 100 yards out. Then we got onto German targets and carry it on from there.
We did 36 trips over German territory and we were very lucky. We were, the plane was holed several times quite heavily, but never in a spot that brought us down. And none of the crew were injured either at the same time. So finally came the day when we were screened. That was the end of the flying for us. And that was our, the end of our 36th trip. And the CO [Commanding Officer] to, to mark it met us when we parked the plane, he came out in a jeep with a big crate of quarts of beer and as we came down the stairs out of the plane, he handed each of us a quart bottle of beer, which we appreciated very much.