Ken Pask's First Day Flying in Cambridge, Ontario, 1941.Ken Pask
Ken Pask with his baby Cheetah in Burma, 1943. He bought it for a lot of money and then let it free after few days.Ken Pask
Ken Pask's Class at SFTS, Christmas 1941.Ken Pask
Ken Pask in Risalpur, India. Caption says: "Trying to learn meteorology", 1941.Ken Pask
Ken with 3 comrads: the first 4 men to make an offensive attack on a Japanese Airport, 1941.Ken Pask
"And in a moment of sheer foolishness, I decided to drive home pretty low down. What the heck. And suddenly flew over another Japanese group of soldiers, and, like, they had heard me coming obviously, and they were waiting for me."
I was in Britain at the time and most of my buddies all, we were all in the same age group more or less and the big discussion each night was, are we going to join up or shall we not. And finally, after about the third beer on one evening, we decided yes, we would, so we joined up. And that’s how I got into the RAF. I did tell the recruiting sergeant, I think he was, that I wished to become a pilot. He said, “Don’t they all.” So I said, “Yes, but this one intends to go through it.” And I did. This was in 1941, I think about May of 1941.
By the time I arrived on the squadron right up in the north of Burma, a place called Imphal, IMPHAL, the Japanese had pushed the Indian Army and the small number of Fourteenth Army, British Army that were there, pushed them north and north and north of Burma until they were right up on the border of Burma and Nepal. And essentially, Japan had captured Burma. And we were part of the plan to capture it back.
And so at, I joined the squadron. It was a [Supermarine] Spitfire squadron. Slowly but surely, we moved south down through Burma, until we got to just outside of Mandalay, it was roughly halfway down the country, and everything sort of came to an impasse at that point. And we were stationed about 12 or 15 miles outside of Mandalay, and our job changed because the Japanese air force at that particular point, this was 1944 now, that the Americans had joined in and they were concentrating on the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands, etc., etc., etc. And they of course had a lot of equipment. They had fighters, they had fighter bombers, they had bombers, they had sea planes and army, lots of strength, aircraft carriers, destroyers, they just zoomed in on the Pacific Islands, the Americans.
And so the Japanese pulled out their fighters, most of them, they had about two squadrons left, that was all, in Burma, they pulled out all the rest and sent them down to the South Pacific to deal with what was a much bigger problem there. I suspect that by this point, the Japanese had given up any hope of retaining Burma. But we were stalled, it was at an impasse at that point. And our job changed and we were for a period of time on call by the British Army. They would communicate with us to say that such and such a unit, I’m not familiar with army terms, troops, whatever, were being nailed down by ground fire from the Japanese and they’d give us, they gave us the map reference as to where the Japanese were. And then we would be given that reference, there maybe would be just two of us, in this particular instance, there was just the two of us, I was leading a formation of two. Told us the location and we headed down there and spotted them okay and left our calling card; created quite a bit of havoc down there, as a matter of fact. And a job well done, and now we’ll go back home.
And in a moment of sheer foolishness, I decided to drive home pretty low down. What the heck. And suddenly flew over another Japanese group of soldiers, and, like, they had heard me coming obviously, and they were waiting for me. And they were very, very unfriendly. I don’t understand that, but they were. And one of them, as a matter of fact, happened to hit me in the engine and started it on fire. Hot enough in Burma, you don’t need an engine on fire in front of you, you know. And I managed to get up to about 400 feet and it got to be pretty warm. And the engine was coughing and snarling and so forth, so I felt the time had come for us to part company.
So I went over the side and I landed on the outskirts of a little Burmese village. And walking towards me from the village was this quite well built man and then quite a lot of Burmese men who are quite smaller in stature than say the average Canadian or American or whatever. And I thought, oh dear, am I in even more trouble? Because we weren’t any more than a couple of miles from where we’d been creating a little havoc.
This man, as he got closer, spoke to me in very good English. And that gives you pause to think. And it turned out that he was an agriculturalist who had been sent to Britain before the war started to learn all about agriculture presumably, and involved in research that would help them to develop crops in Burma. That’s how come he was there. And you know, I said, “Well, where’s the closest Japanese.” He said, “About a mile and a half over there.” I said, “Well, I think I’m going to go that way.” And he said, “Well, there’s a trail that begins over there that will take you north.” And so I got on the trail and started to walk. And the next day, a couple of Gurkas in a Jeep who told me subsequently they’d been watching me for about two hours, and they rescued me and took me back to their army base who contacted the squadron. And the CO [Commanding Officer] himself, bless his heart, drove out and picked me up and took me back.