Veteran Stories:
Wendell Harper

Air Force

  • Sgt Wendell Harper, September 1942.

    Wendell Harper
  • Photo of a Halifax Bomber and Crew, 1944. Wendell Harper is 5th from right.

    Wendell Harper
  • Wendell Harper's Discharge Certificate, August 22nd 1945.

    Wendell Harper
  • Wendell Harper, January 29, 2010.

    Wendell Harper
  • An excerpt from Wendell Harper's log book, 1944.

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"The aircraft was carrying bomb markers. The sky lit up with green and red explosive markers. The crew had not much of a chance."

Transcript

I was the wireless operator and I crewed up with pilot Roy Meredith from Saskatchewan, navigator Bruce Jennery from Toronto, bombardier Al Murray from Nova Scotia, rear gunner Rocky Bower from British Columbia, mid upper gunner, George Bringham from Edmonton, and Marsden Boor, Yorkshire, England, we got furthered to train on the four engine [Handley Page] Halifax bomber. From there, we moved to Operational Squadron 158 at Lissett in Yorkshire. It was from here we did a total of 32 operations over Germany. I can recall a few things that happened on some of the bombing missions. Every night in approaching the target, we could see the shell burst call flak. They were shooting at us, trying to zero in on us with searchlights. On the night of October the 6th, 1944, over Stuttgart [Germany], the bomb aimer was hit by flak, nothing serious. On another occasion, the mid upper gunner received a gash in his head from flak. Bandage fixed him up. At the same time, the rear turret was hit, but there was no damage to the rear gunner. On the night of the 30th of October, 1944, our navigator, Bruce, was wounded on his head. We moved him to a makeshift pad. I sat beside him while he died. With no navigator, I was supposed to help the pilot get back to base. My radio was useless, so there was no contact with base. I was able to navigate a little bit, but the maps were covered in blood. We finally landed on an American air base somewhere in England, took the train back to Lissett. On the 18th of December, 1944, we returned before we arrived at the target because of damage from heavy icing on the plane. On the 7th of March, 1945, on the way home from bombing an oil refinery at Hemmingstedt [Germany], we were attacked by a German fighter Junker [Ju] 88. He missed except it tear a strip off the side of the aircraft. I can still hear the rear gunner. He was firing at the fighter. He said the bullets were flying off him like peas off a piss pot. I think that was what distracted the fighter pilot. We finished our tour with the last sortie over Hamburg [Germany]. Going in, I saw an aircraft on fire that was hit in the bomb bay. The aircraft was carrying bomb markers. The sky lit up with green and red explosive markers. The crew had not much of a chance. I returned to Canada in 1945, Isabel followed me more than a year later, standing on the [HMS] Queen Mary with her one year old son, James, in pier 21 in Halifax, then by train to Chesterville [Ontario]. She thought she had arrived at the end of the earth. Somehow we managed. We have two sons, James born in Scotland, Richard born in Canada.
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