"“I think it’s a German.” And it turned out to be Messerschmitt [Bf] 109, and he just came to our level and flew along beside us for about five minutes. And then he saluted and peeled off."
During the 1930s when I was a kid, I was interested in aircraft. And we lived close to an airport, and I built model airplanes and went to the local armoury on Saturday morning and we were able to fly them. And as I got older, I became interested in electronics, and when war came, I thought, well, I’m not old enough to get in the air force yet, but I will when I am old enough.
And of course, I built electronic devices, amplifiers and radio receiver and such. And well, they wanted me to be a pilot, I thought, well, there’s an awful lot of unemployed pilots and they don’t get paid very much when they do work. And I thought if I went to communications, I might learn something I can use after the war. And I talked my way into wireless school rather than take pilot training.
I went to No. 3 Wireless School in Winnipeg. And I learned the Morse Code and a little bit of electronics and then took my gunnery training in Mossbank, Saskatchewan and was posted to Lachine [Quebec] and went overseas. We were dispersed a little bit to different Operational Training Units where we met the people we would be crewed up with, which was just sort of a procedure where they put you in an empty hangar and there’s pilots and navigators and bomb aimers and wireless operators and gunners, and they sort of team up together. A pilot walked up to me, he had three rings on his jacket and I thought, well, I hope he asks me and he did and that turned out pretty good because he already had 3000 hours flying. And I figured he isn’t just some new guy out of flying school. If I’m going to be flying, I’m with a pilot that knows something and has survived this long.
So it went on. We finished that. We went to a conversion unit and went to heavy bombers and started our tour. We started operations. The first operation was on New Year’s Day of 1945 and when we were coming back home, it was an easy trip. It was just on the border, a place called St. Vith [Belgium], right on the border between France and Germany. So we didn’t actually get into an area where there was any fighting, and on returning we were diverted up to the top, our normal place, our home field was in North Yorkshire, and because of the weather conditions there, we went up to Scotland, and it was a well known airport to the people in coastal command. I was amazed when we got there. There were all these [B-24] Liberators there. And of course, I didn’t know much about what was going on, but they had all been, they were retired aircraft and it was a bone yard.
Anyway, first thing in the morning, we got the weather broadcast or the weather forecast and we couldn’t go home that day, so we stayed up there for three days before we were able to go home. It was interesting. The place was named Tain, and there’s a whiskey distillery there. But we didn’t get to sample the product. I only looked out twice, only looked outside twice on the bomber operations. Well, I didn’t have a window. There was a provision for a window, but both sides of the glass were painted over with black.
I’d be watching my radar for what the aircraft around us were doing and if I saw something strange, if I saw an aircraft approaching us, well, I would just mention it to the rest of the crew and they would try and find it visually. Now, on one occasion, and this was in April 1945, just before the end of the war, I saw this spot coming in close to us and I didn’t think it was one of ours because there was only six of us went on that mission. And I didn’t think it was ours, one of our aircraft, and I told gunners, “Hey, I’ve been watching him from five miles out and he’s getting close.” And finally one of the mid-upper gunners said, “I can see that.” And he said, “I think it’s a German.” And it turned out to be Messerschmitt [Bf] 109, and he just came to our level and flew along beside us for about five minutes. And then he saluted and peeled off. Well, two weeks later, the war was over. He probably didn’t want us firing at him.