Book of The Pocket Atlas of the World that Mr. Kutyn carried throughout the war.Michael Kutyn
Open page from The Pocket Atlas of the World, which Mr. Kutyn carried throughout the war.Michael Kutyn
Mr. Kutyn in December 2009.Historica Canada
"And you can look up and see the sky and you look below and you can see the water. See, in this eye of the monsoon, everything is clear."
When I was seven years old, while we were living in Wildwood, Alberta, on the Sunday afternoon, we heard this funny noise and it was an airplane just outside our house, flying above our house. And when I saw that airplane, that’s when I told my parents, boy, some day, I’m going to be a pilot in one of those.
Later on, when I was 12 years old, an airplane landed in the farmer’s field and they’d take people up for a little ride, to have a look at their place and when I was watching this airplane, I had a vision. And the vision was a lady holding a child behind this airplane. So I asked my friend that was with me, did he see anything different? And he said, no. So I didn’t bother saying anything either because they’d have thought I might have been a queer person. [laughs]
So nothing further was said at that instant. When we wrote our final exam, at [the Royal Air Force heavy] conversion unit [training for heavy bomber crews], I had 87 percent average in navigation. Well, that 87 percent was the top mark of all those people from Poland, France, British Commonwealth, that was the highest mark of any person that did that exam at that time. And that changed my whole life because with that, I got posted to the 1577 Research and Development unit in England. As a top navigator, because I had the highest marks of anybody and the Air Ministry in London, they weren’t going to pass me by to somebody else, they took advantage of that.
So I went from the bottom to the top and then getting to the top, I got to go to India on a special assignment. That’s how I got to India with 1577 Research and Development unit. And then when we were in India, we had people from their unit, we were just air corps, they had an experienced crew in the [Avro] Lancaster [heavy bomber] and they had two green crews in the Lancaster and a [Handley Page] Halifax [heavy bomber]; and I was one of the green crews in the Halifax. So we got posted to go to India and I have the distinction of flying the first Halifax to Persia and India. [laughs] And then in India, we had an accident. We were, we’d had flown to Bombay from, we were in the jungle at Salbani, this is northwest of Calcutta. And we were doing the tests because they tell us what to do and we just flew the airplanes. And then we, when we were in Bombay, we were going back to our base in Salbani and as we got to Calcutta, there was an aerial battle going on between the Japanese airplanes and the [Hawker] Hurricanes [British fighter aircraft] in Calcutta. They had a squadron of Hurricanes, fighter airplanes, in Calcutta. So we couldn’t land there.
So we went back to our base and as we approached our base… In India, there’s a lot of cross winds and a lot of winds. There was a terrible windstorm getting into Salbani, so we landed. And as we landed, the wind picked our airplane up, put it in a different course and we landed on the ground, but we were not on the runway anymore, we were going across the dirt, you know, via the runway. And we hit a gun emplacement [field defense structure] and, of course, it crashed the airplane. You know, we couldn’t fly it anymore, it was crashed so bad, but we never got seriously hurt or nothing. But the airplane was gone.
You know what a monsoon is? Well, I went in to search for a monsoon when we were in October of that year and we went in the Lancaster. And as we were flying into the monsoon area, the hatch of the Lancaster blew off. Monsoons are terrible storms. All the water came into the airplane and we found the eye of the, of this monsoon and we, as you go into the eye, everything is calm. The cloud is just like it’s shaven. And you can look up and see the sky and you look below and you can see the water. See, in this eye of the monsoon, everything is clear.
Now, the year before, they had a monsoon that went through this area and it was between Ceylon and the Bay of Bengal in Calcutta, but it was way south from where we were up in the north there. Anyway, they wanted to know which way this monsoon was moving because they lost a lot of airplanes the year before because when the airplanes were outside, the wind would just pick them up and throw them. So what happened there, we found out, we took sun shots and plotted it and then we had to get back into the storm. Well, when we got back into the storm, and the water’s coming into the airplane, and the water then went in the airplane, it’s not very good. And the propellers, as they were turning, everything was yellow. You know, the electricity, all these four propellers that were turning were all yellow. I’d never seen that before either.
Anyway, we got back without a problem, but I think the good Lord helped you there because water and airplanes, they don’t mix.