"So when he crashed and the aircraft caught fire, the bombs exploded from the fire. And 20 of our ground crew and four air crew were all killed at once."
My name is Allan Sunly. I was born on a farm north of Stenen, Saskatchewan. My mother got tuberculosis and went to the sanatorium in Fort Qu’Appelle [Saskatchewan], so I went to stay with my aunt, who was her sister and I lived with her until I went into the services.
First one of the many casualties we ran into was in heavy ones. We were in May of 1942. Twelve aircraft went out and one, this particular operation, and only four came back. Two days later, there was six aircraft went out and three came back. Practically over half the squadron air crew were gone, so they had to haul us back off operations to re-fit as they called it, train new air crew and so on.
Then we were supposed to be posted over to North Africa at that time. We were on the train en-route down to the south coast to catch a ship, going to South Africa and about ten miles away from our station, the train came to a stop and proceeded to back up. And it backed up back to our, where we had boarded, and everybody wondered what was going on. Commanding officer of the wing commander got out and went to the railway station and talking to them there. And we were all told to parade on the station outside. So we all paraded up there, and we could see their commanding officer was very irate. After we all assembled out there, he said, “Our posting has been cancelled.” “So what’s going on now?” I say. He said, “We’ll have further details. But as of now, we are no longer being posted to Africa.” And we’d already been issued our tropical kit and everything. So that had to be all handed back in again, and so forth.
Our aircraft had been sent to a station for going over there, and so we didn’t get them back. For about two weeks, we didn’t know what was going on. We were back to our old station doing nothing. We didn’t have any aircraft or anything else. And then they said, “Well, they’re refitting us to [Vickers] Wellingtons for sub-patrol work.” About two weeks later, we got three old Wellingtons for training the air crew to convert. From that station, we were posted up to northern Scotland, right up the very north, up to Wick, where we spent the winter, two months of the winter refitting onto Wellingtons. The ground crew had to be trained as well, and from there, we were posted down to Devon [England], an air crew sent on sub-patrols. And then for the rest of the war, we were on sub-patrols.
In February, an aircraft came back, one came back and had been shot up, had crash landed more or less. He couldn’t get his undercarriage down. And the wings were damaged. He hit fairly hard and caught fire. A lot of the ground crew, ones that were anywhere close to where he was hit down, raced over, there was 20 of them raced over to pull the air crew out. And 20 ground crew and the four air crew were all killed, didn’t know that their bombs had not dropped. So when he crashed and the aircraft caught fire, the bombs exploded from the fire. And 20 of our ground crew and four air crew were all killed at once.
Another time was when an aircraft from another squadron, one of them landed and smashed up on landing and the big torpedo went off. That was an exciting time too.