Clinton Hayward sailed overseas aboard the RMS Aquitania in January 1944.Canadian Army Photo, From the Allan S. Tanner Collection
Clinton Hayward arrived back in Canada aboard the SS Ile de France on his 20th birthday, June 21, 1945.Allan S. Tanner Collection
427 (Lion) Squadron, RCAF, pictured here with a Lancaster Bomber, at end of war with Germany.Clinton Hayward
"He dusted off my shoulders and everything and I had the Canadian patch on my arm. He said, “I might have known, Canadians are hard to kill.”"
And they took us back by train, after we had our embarkation leave, we went up to Montreal. And from there, we were only there about four or five days and they took us by bus at night to New York and got us off of the bus at 22nd Street. I remember seeing that, that’s the only thing I saw about New York City. And we marched down to the [RMS] Aquitainia and they put us on the lower D deck, because the top decks were all filled with American Army troops. And we sailed from New York in the last morning and the last thing I saw was the Statue of Liberty standing in the harbour.
And then three days out, we ran into a terrific storm and where we were stationed, there was about a foot of water on the floor so we had to leave that station. We took our pillow and our two blankets with us and went up in the alleyways of the ship and we spent eight nights sleeping on the alleyways to the ship with just one blanket on the steel below us and one over us. And we took the pillows that we had down below.
And what we had down below, they had bunks that you just pulled down from the side that clipped up on the side and there was heavy pipes around, square pipes, and they had braces on them so they’d only go down horizontal. So you’d get in the bottom one and they were three high and then the fellow on the second one would step on yours and pull his down and get in it. And then the one on the third one would step on the two and go up and pull his down and get it in. And then when you get out of it, you had to wait until the top fellow come down, the second fellow come down and then you get out because the canvas come down so low to you that you didn’t have room to crawl out of the bunks. So we didn’t mind leaving them anyway.
And then we landed in Greenock, Scotland and they took us by ten there, it was a smaller boat, over to the pier and we got off the pier and we were standing there, waiting for a train. And there was a seagull went over us and let it go and it hit a fellow next to me and he was all over white scum all down his nose and his cap. And he said, “That’s a poor sign.” I said, “Why?” He said, “It’s a sign I’m not going to make it back.” And he didn’t.
We went to Bournemouth as soon as we landed in England, that’s where all the recruits went. And then they sent me to Leeming, Yorkshire and that was a Heavy Bomber Squadron. And at that time, we were flying [Handley Page] Halifaxes and they were four engine bomber, comparably to the [Avro] Lancaster [bomber] but the Lancaster was a better ship. And the Halifax would carry around 12,000 pounds of bombs, where the Lancaster, we got that just before the end of the European war, that would carry 15 to 22,000 pounds of bombs. So that was a lot of bombs let go.
When I was there, oh, about three weeks, they sent me to Manchester where they were making the Bomb Aimer’s Instrument, they call it the Mark 14 Jarrow bombsight. And I was a specialist on that and I had to check all the 427 Squadron bombsights, whenever they were finished with the mission, to make sure their bombsight worked well because the little cord ran from the bombsight over to the side of the plane and when you were coming in to bomb, the Bomb Aimer was in charge of the plane and telling the pilot where to go and turn left or turn right. The bombsight was always level with the earth, so the plane could do like this or this or dip any way and you’d still be on target. And there was a little cross, a little red cross on the clear plastic of the bombsight and it would go up and down like you’d put in your air speed and then the little bombsight would go the right way. So when you let your bombs go, it would hit where you’re looking in the ground. And it was a very secret bombsight. Just making sure that they were workable when they running the ship, so. If they weren’t in the ships, I’d have to disassemble them and put new ones in and have it ready for the next bomb run.
Well, they sent me to Manchester and I was there three weeks with them, where they made the bombsight. And followed all through those. It’s a big factory. And it was a very secret factory, they didn’t want the enemy to know where it was. I installed them in all the aircraft within 427 Squadron, which is 16 planes.
Four times, just to see how accurate it was. And that was enough. They didn’t want me taken prisoner because they knew all about the bombsight and it was a very secret weapon. And as I say, when I come down the stairs, I do a lot of talking, they know if I was a prisoner, I would tell them all about it.
I went to London on leave one time by myself and that’s when the V-2s are going over, those rockets they were sending. And I was walking back to the YMCA and one went off quite handy where I was walking. I never even heard the explosion, all I know, I was in the air, going backwards and then all the buildings in London that were bombed out and just had the cellars left, the basements left, they always build a wooden fence around them. And I hit this wooden fence and a big piece of it broke off and I just spun down around and landed down about 30 feet down in the bottom. Wasn’t even scratched where I hit it, just act like a big sail, just kept going down easy. And I was down there and I didn’t know how the devil I was ever going to get out, I’d have to wait until morning. And somebody up top hollered, “Are you alright?” And I said, “I think so.” He said, “Well, I’ll throw a rope down and do you know how to tie it?” I said, “Yes, I know that.” So he threw it down and I tied it around me and he pulled me up. When I got up there, it was a bobby they call them, they were policemen and they had to be six feet and they had to weigh so much before they’d even join the policemen there or they wouldn’t take them. He pulled me up just like he’d pull up a fish.
I had a lot of dust on me and everything. He dusted off my shoulders and everything and I had the Canadian patch on my arm. He said, “I might have known, Canadians are hard to kill.” And we come back on the [SS] Ile de France, it only took us five days coming back. I come back and I landed in Halifax on the 20th of June, 1945 and the 21st of June, we walked off the ship, it was my birthday, I was 20 years old.