Veteran Stories:
Harold Frank Ward

Air Force

  • Harold Ward's Identity Card, September 9, 1944.

    Harold Frank Ward
  • Harold Ward's Log Book, showing operations in August 1945.

    Harold Frank Ward
  • Harold Ward's Crew [Left to Right]: Kelly, Wireless Air Gunner; M.B. McLeod, Pilot; Larry Asoon, Navigator; Harold Ward, Wireless Air Gunner.

    Harold Frank Ward
  • Dancing Girl, India, November 5, 1945.

    Harold Frank Ward
  • Graduating Class from No. 34 Wireless Air Gunner School. Harold Ward is second from left in the front row.

    Harold Frank Ward
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I said, “Well, what do I do in these clouds, you can’t see anything.” He said, “You got us in here, you get us out.”"

Transcript

I signed up in Vancouver, 1941, August. And, well, I was working in a mill, shingle mill, and the boss kind of didn’t like it when I told him I was joining the air force. Well, I joined the army in 1940, but I went to reserves to New Westminster Machine Gun Regiment and I didn’t like that, so I gave my uniform and boots to a friend of mine, he was in there too, and told him to take them and give them back, I was going to join the air force. And the officer in charge of us, he was a fighter pilot in the First [World] War, so he was encouraging everybody to go to the air force.

There was 106 in my group and I was kind of worried because I’d been out of school and I was working in the bush and I thought that these young people would be way ahead of me. They were still in high school probably. But anyway, of 106, I stood sixth, so I did pretty good. I was 24 and then we moved up to Newfie [Newfoundland] somewhere.

They lost a convoy, it was coming from England back and they had two planes that already looked for it and couldn’t find it and we went out and I was sure I picked it up on the radar, but when we got there, there was no ships around there, but there was a thunder and lightning storm. Lightning was coming down all around us. And they [the convoy] turned up a couple days later.

And then we went over to England and took a couple more courses and went to Burma and that’s where I finished out the war there. We left on the 3rd of January, 1945 and flying the Dakotas [Douglas C-47 Skytrains] trip to India. First went to 436, but three days later, they moved three of us to 435. So that’s what I did the rest out there, 435 Squadron, Transport Command. I was a dispatcher and it’s not like today. The stuff was piled on the floor and we had to pick it up and carry it to the door. We flew with the door off all the time and stacked it up, just so it would clear the roof when we pushed it out. And then the pilot would ring a bell when it was a good spot to drop it. And when the bell stopped, we had to stop dropping stuff out.

We had a load of drums of gas, that was the worst, you could only do one at a time so it took a long time. And then we had ammunition once, we had three tank gun barrels, 2100 pounds each. And we had to figure out a way to drag them out. So we did it, used a timberman hitch [a type of knot].

We weren’t supposed to, but after we dropped our load, the other crews would get a navigator to give them a course to fly in and we’d fly the plane back to the base. And the last time I did it, got lost in the clouds and I knew we were close to our base, but we had to go through a pass in the mountains. So I banged on the side and the pilot come up and he said, “What’s the matter.” I said, “Well, what do I do in these clouds, you can’t see anything.” He said, “You got us in here, you get us out.”

So anywhere you have clouds, there’s a hole somewhere. So I turned to the right and made a circle and just about completed it, there was a hole in the clouds, I went down through it and the station was straight ahead of me. He said, “Well, you got us here, you might as well land it too.” So I said, “You’d better sit in the co-pilot seat then.” So as far as I know, I landed it myself.

Out in India, in Burma there, you couldn’t get [tobacco] rollings because it was so humid that you couldn’t roll it after two days of it being open. Couldn’t roll a cigarette out of it. And they had a fire in the camp in the personnel shack, those grass shacks, there wasn’t a nail in them, but the wind would blow and ours was so long, it would be weaving. We were sitting on the edge of the bed, about ready to duck under the bed if it fell down. Because they used grass and bamboo and they could slice the bamboo when it’s green and just twist it and it dries that way and it’s real hard to get apart. So that’s what they used instead of nails.

Well the Japs pretty near got us twice. This one place, we weren’t supposed to go after 5:00 and it was 5:10 and they needed the supplies, it was a British Army base. And they had a big barbed wire enclosure to put the stuff in. So 5:10, we landed, we weren’t supposed to go there after 5:00 because the Japs came in on the runway. And when we took off, the Japs were off the end of the runway, we just threw the supplies out the door, kicked the pail aside. The first guy took off, they hit him three times, small arms fire, but he made it back to base. And we were second off and they took a strip out of our tail about four inches wide.

We did a good job and didn’t get killed.

Follow us