England had a radar system but below a thousand feet, it was easy for the fighter planes to go undetected by the radar.
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Our training involved firing at Fairey Battles [training aircraft] like the ones I had in my hand earlier. There was a drogue, that's what it was called in English; a big sock that was about 30 feet long and that's what we fired at. When the exercise was over, they studied it to see what percentage of shots we made. So it started like that. We did our ground school, they called it, in Québec City and after that, the air school, which was in Mont-Joli. No. 9 B and G school, because everything was in English at the time, was the ''Bombing and Gunnery School''. So we did our air training at Mont-Joli before receiving our wings. I was a gunner, so I had a gunner wing. It was on September 17, 1943 that I received my wings.
In Bournemouth, there was a meeting point where we went before being transferred to our respective posts. There weren't just Canadians in Bournemouth; there were Australians and New Zealanders, etc. It's there that I became aware that the war had really started because obviously the meal service lasted a very, very long time [which shed light on just how many airmen were stationed there, ready to join the fight]. There was a park in Bournemouth, by the seaside, and the first people who were done would sometimes go and sit there because we didn't have anything to read, it was a meeting point. During one lunch hour, as France was occupied at that time by Germany, there were one or two planes - they claimed that there were only two but there may have been more, that killed 20-25 people in the park. They called it ''ground strafing''. England had a radar system but below a thousand feet, it was easy for the fighter planes to go undetected by the radar. By the time the planes took off, they had already done a fair bit of damage. So that was my first experience with the war.
There was an aviation minister who was a member of parliament in Québec City by the name of C.G. Power. Obviously, as there were a lot of Quebecers and Canadians, they put pressure on him to organise a French-Canadian, or Canadian, squadron. So, after a certain while, the idea was accepted and the ‘Alouettes’, 425 Squadron was founded in 1942 at Dishforth, in Yorkshire. I was there. The first people to enlist went to fight the war in Tunisia and in Italy; there were a lot of planes. I didn't go, I met up with the squadron after the battle in Italy, at El Alamein... I met up with them in England and we started bombing France, Belgium, Holland, Germany. We bombed mostly strategic points; oil wells, and rail hubs because we didn't want their munitions to reach France, because France was occupied at that time. When we dropped bombs, there were seven crew members. The 'bomb aimer would open the doors about 10 minutes before the objective. It was very dangerous because there were incendiaries that weighed 500 pounds each. Anyway, during those ten minutes, we had a fire below that would rise 85 metres, which was pretty close. On top of that, we had enemy planes and our bomb cargo that we had to drop at the right locations. People would say, you could have dropped that before or after. No, because there was a camera secured in the plane. The camera was used by special officers when we got back - we were never allowed to touch it -to study where the bombs were dropped and how much damage was done.