"The first thing we heard was, ssshhhh, kaboom. What’s that? Oh, they’re just one of Hitler’s V-bombs landed not very far away. That was our introduction to England."
Martin Henry Porter, PORTER. I was born July the 1st, 1918, in Millville, Nova Scotia. So I was on the farm, farming in Nova Scotia, near Pictou, Nova Scotia, and I was about 21 I guess when the airplanes began to fly over the farm from Prince Edward Island Navigation School. And I used to see them flying over there and hear them running and wonder if I could do that too. Because I knew some people who were flying up there, I knew them, I knew that they’re just as smart as I am, I could do it too. So I left the farm, the dog and the horses and the cows and everything and hitchhiked to Moncton, New Brunswick, and joined the air force, in about August 1942 I guess it would be.
I went into the recruiting centre in, in Moncton, New Brunswick, and there was a Mr. Sandy was in interviewing me. And I asked him if he knew Douglator, my English teacher in Pictou Academy and he said they were brothers. So I had an in right there. So I was accepted immediately into the air force on that very day and I went on from there.
At the time they asked you, “What do you want to do in the service.” I said I’d like to be in the air force, and at that time, they had two choices, what they called PRO, Pilot Or Observer. So I said, I’d like to be a pilot, and I finally wound up in Oshawa, Ontario, at the elementary flying school, started flying there, tried to learn to fly in Oshawa. So one day, I was flying alone over Oshawa country and the engine quit, I had to do a forced landing.
I’d been flying for about an hour and that day, there was, it was kind of a strange day, there was no wind at all. And I come down for the land. And the aircraft didn’t seem to want to land, there was no wind to slow it down. And I kept going down and getting near the end of it, I thought I’d better do something quick or I’d be in the woods at the far end. So I applied the full throttle, and the aircraft took off again and just got over the city of Oshawa, right over the middle of Oshawa when the engine conked out. So I had no power. So I looked down and all I could see down there was the church steeples and the General Motors Oshawa plant there, and I got the aircraft turned around and I headed back for the airport, hoping to make the airport, gliding you know. And I was doing fine, everything was going fine, I was going down, down, down, all the time. And I got to the airport, I think I, I think I’m going to make it. Just as I got to the airport, there was a huge fence around there, eight feet high, and I thought wasn’t going to make, wasn’t going to clear that, the way they’d put it up, you know, clear the fence, and I lost my flying speed, and the aircraft just went gently nose into the ground and flipped over upside down, slowly. And here I was hanging upside down in the aircraft.
So I didn’t know what to do, I tried to open the thing to get out and I couldn’t, it wouldn’t open, it was jammed. So I let go of the seatbelt and I dropped down onto the roof of the aircraft and the coop top that you’re supposed to open, it was just a very flimsy Plexiglas, I just kicked a hole through that with my boots and dropped down through onto the grass below there. It was, there was a scratch from there, I’m bleeding, that’s all that happened.
And at that time, the commanding officer asked me if I wanted to keep on flying because I said, “Yes I do, I really love it.” So he said, “If you want to keep on flying, and you want to be a pilot, then I would advise you to change to something else because we have too many pilots and you might just be stuck in Canada for the rest of the war and never fly again.” So I said I will change from being a pilot to other than pilot air crew. So I choose bomb aimer. Bomb aimer is the guy who aims the bombs in the air force. And in my case, I sat in the co-pilot’s seat all the time, so I got to do some part-time flying with even another other pilot. And I loved that, that was really fun.
All the aircraft that I flew in were dual control. The pilot had controls and the seat beside the pilot had another set of controls. You could fly from there just as well. Bomb aimer, you were also sort of a co-pilot. On long trips, you flew the aircraft, and let the pilot have a little rest, and that was fun too, I really enjoyed that.
We went I believe it was Lachine, Quebec, to await our posting overseas, and when the day came, we just packed our kit bags up and took a train to Halifax and got the ship to go to England. I forget the name of the ship. It was quite a fast passenger rider. We went over to England without a convoy, just managed to dash for it and we didn’t see anything on the way over, there was no submarines, no airplanes, you made it safely and got to England without any trouble. And when we got there, we landed at Liverpool, England and when we just go ashore, the first thing we heard was, ssshhhh, kaboom. What’s that? Oh, they’re just one of Hitler’s V-bombs landed not very far away. That was our introduction to England. And the thing that people just thought there was no, that’s just an everyday occurrence, a bomb dropping here and there.
And we spent time in central England, and then we were converted to heavier bombers, [Vickers] Wellington aircraft later on. And they were quite a bit bigger in the engines, more bigger and heavier and clumsier to drive and all that. All the time you’re, you’re, you’re doing ground school as well as the flying. When you aren’t flying, you’re in ground school, learning all the ins and outs of bombing and flying and all that. I was ready to go into [Avro] Lancasters when the war ended, which we didn’t mind at all. Saw the airplanes coming back from their operations over in England, their wings torn apart and engines missing and holes in them, and a lot of them didn’t get back of course. So we, we were just as glad that it ended the way it did.
We wrote our final exams, that’s the day the war ended. But we didn’t care whether we passed the exams or not. You know, we never flew again in the air force, that was the end of your flying. And posted back to Canada and demobbed.