Veteran Stories:
Russell Spencer “Russ” Earl

Air Force

  • L-R: Jack Johnson, Engineer; Vince (Harry) Vincent, Navigator; Jake Feist, Wireless Operator; Jim Kinnard, Bomb Aimer; Art Reishman, Mid-Upper Gunner; Russ Earl, Pilot; Larry Bucoviz, Rear Gunner.

    Russell Earl
  • Letter from the Minister of National Defence for Air to Russell Earl's parents, December 29, 1944.

    Russell Earl
  • Photo of Russell Earl's Medals (L-R): Distinguished Flying Cross, 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45); Unofficial Bomber Command Medal.

    Russell Earl
  • Copy of Russell Earl's Log Book, 1944.

    Russell Earl
  • Russell Earl's Badge; Portrait; and RAF Wings.

    Russell Earl
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"They were surprised that we were asked to go on that operation because only crews with 18 operations or more were scheduled to fly that trip. So we felt pretty good about that."

Transcript

When I was going to school, especially on weekends, when I didn’t have to go to school, if I heard an airplane, I would look around until I found it and followed it until it was out of sight. And at that time, I just felt, boy, would I love to be able to fly one of those.

When I was posted to Skipton [-on-Swale, England], the 424 Squadron, that was on the 30th of May of 1944. On the 7th of June, which was the day after D-Day, we were called over the station speaker system to report for a briefing. We were kind of surprised because we were a green crew and you didn’t put green crews on operations. But we went down there anyway and the briefing officer said, this is a very important trip for you. It was a mining trip or gardening they called it, to Lorient, France. Which is on the west coast of France. There was some U-boats in there getting recharged intended to go out into the Atlantic and up into the English Channel, to prey on the supply ships going across for the troops. We had to fly that trip with our bomb doors open because the mines are too big to get the bomb doors closed.

We made that trip and we had to use a GEE [Generalized Estimation Equation], which is a navigator’s instrument. But when we got to the English Channel, which we had to cross, the GEE went haywire and it was no good, so the bomb aimer and the navigator worked together to plot the course to an aiming point on the coast. Because below in the moonlit night, you could see the coast of Europe quite plain. We used that and then we, well, when it come to that at any point, we released the mines and we could close the bomb doors then, which everybody was happy about. Especially me, while I was flying that plane.

And we returned to briefing, to the station and we went in for debriefing. They were surprised that we were asked to go on that operation because only crews with 18 operations or more were scheduled to fly that trip. So we felt pretty good about that. And later on, my engineer was in the library looking for a book to read and he came across a book by a German submarine ace. And while he was leafing through the book, he’d come across a chapter by, on Lorient Harbour. And that’s that trip we made. So he found out in that section of a book that, those U-boats, did try to go out into the Atlantic and then up to the English Channel and one made it through the mines but was detected by a British frigate and it sunk. The rest of them were so badly damaged in the minefield, they returned to port at Lorient and never tried it again.

And we were very happy finding that out because its the only time we found out about one of our trips that we made.

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