"And there’s a funny thing, which any veteran would probably tell you, and that is that there’s something built into your mental or your body that guards you from fear."
Yeah, we sailed from Liverpool [England] on a troop ship in a convoy and went down through Gibraltar, through the Mediterranean Sea and past Egypt, I forget the main city there. But anyway, through the Red Sea, which is very hot, through the Gulf of Aden and then eastward towards India, landed at Bombay and Karachi [Pakistan], and from there, down to [RAF] Koggala, in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], where the 205 RAF [Royal Air Force] Squadron was located, on the southeast part of Ceylon. And that was the trip.
See, I’d be about 20 years old, no more than 21 at the time, and this was certainly of great interest to me, to see all these places and whatnot. Even though there was some danger involved, but it was interesting to see all these places. And my best friend, another navigator from Saint-Lambert in Quebec, he and I used to lie on the deck going through the Red Sea and looking at the stars and discussing all sorts of subjects, deep subjects, religion and everything else. And unfortunately, jumping ahead, that was one of the most eventful things in my time. He and the rest of his crew were killed in a crash into the ocean on May the 28th.
They went out on a reconnaissance, meteorological trip over the ocean. They were in flying boats. That is, they could land on the water. And their crew went out, my friend as the navigator and they didn’t return until late in the day, and so we were alerted and our airplane was the one who discovered what was bits of wreckage on the ocean surface, about a thousand miles southeast of Ceylon. And it was a case of putting two and two together. They had crashed accidentally and seven guys, including my best friend, died in the ocean. It was tragic because the war had ended in Europe on May the 8th and this was May the 28th and they all died. So it seemed silly, although it was in the Japanese theatre of war, you know.
And on the way back from that Cocos Island [also known as Keeling Islands, south-east of Sri Lanka] I was telling you about, to Ceylon, one time we ran into a terrible monsoon storm and the sky was just absolutely black and the pilot was trying very hard to find an opening in the sky, anywhere at all, to turn. He didn’t know where to go and we were at no point trying to navigate, it was just we were getting bounced all over the place. And the water was even coming in the seams of the aircraft and I thought we had had it, I really thought that was the end.
And there’s a funny thing, which any veteran I think would probably tell you, and that is that there’s something built into your mental or your body that guards you from fear. Because all I can remember is, even though it looked like we had a good chance of being killed, crashing and whatnot, I was just mad. I just remember being mad that the water was coming in and it was messing up my charts and everything and whatnot. It’s a strange sensation, and I think it applies probably in life. In other words, when you’re in a fearful situation, your body I think produces some kind of hormones or something, which takes some of the fear away.