Veteran Stories:
Robert Fletcher

Air Force

  • The operator's page of Robert Fletcher's logbook from 1943.

    Robert Fletcher
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"“What did you do in daddy’s crew?” And I never got to answer one of them. He always said, “I was the captain of the aircraft and he told me what to do.” So I think I was appreciated."

Transcript

My older brother was in the army, he went to Italy. The ship that took him there was sunk and there had been a publicity thing that said that I had ditched [been in a plane that had been flown down into the sea during an emergency] in the Mediterranean [Sea]. And I found out that he was in Italy because he had written a letter to our parents in which he said that he had a bath in the same tub as I had. I had no idea what it meant. Not until after I got home. And amazingly enough, it was a friend of mine who did the ditching.

And I thought flying a bomber was worse than driving a truck. And at least the course I took, it was pretty tough. And I selected that. I could have been a pilot but I chose not to be. The way I looked at it, anybody could fly an airplane and not just anybody could navigate one. And I found out much later that the pilot got all the credit for bombing this target, that target and the other. The navigator was inside the aircraft, couldn’t see out but he was the one who got them where they were going.

Well, much later in life, well, my pilot was married 50 years. He lived in Lindsay and I was down here. Somehow, and I don’t know how I found out about it, but I found out they were having a big do. So I went to Lindsay, went to the church and I found out where his, where the thing was. I was supposed to have an invite but I didn’t have one. And the priest said, “Oh well, since he was your pilot, follow me.” And he had seven offspring whom I met one by one. And each one asked me the same question; “What did you do in daddy’s crew?” And I never got to answer one of them. He always said, “I was the captain of the aircraft and he told me what to do.” So I think I was appreciated.

My whole war time was a comedy of errors. Besides I told you, I enlisted on Friday the 13th and officially, it was the 12th. I was commissioned on the 18th of December and my commissioning certificate said I was commissioned on the 18th day of 1900 and February. Now, they did identify the year because it was at least, I’ve forgotten, seventh year of King George’s reign or some such. And then when we finished our training, we went to Oxford [England] and picked up an aircraft. We were told verbally to fly it to an airport near Land’s End. From there, we were told verbally to take it to Fes, Morocco. We were told verbally to take it to an aerodrome in Tunisia, way out on the east side, at a place who’s named Temmar I think, TEMMAR. [likely Temara, Morocco which is east of Tunisia] And we didn’t have a squadron. We were posted to anywhere, really. And we were asked what we were doing there and we told them and they said, “Oh well, since you’re a bomber crew, there’s lots of Wellington Squadrons here, head down towards Zeus and when you see his squadron, land there and see if they want you.” And we were kept by a Royal Air Force squadron.

Later on, we visited one of the Canadian squadrons and my pilot was known to all the brass at the whole Canadian wing, so we had to move to a Canadian squadron. And well, a tour out there was duck soup. You flew over the Med[iterranean Sea], there are no arms, no fighters or anything there. So we’d fly to a target and we’d be over enemy territory for maybe 15 minutes on an operation. It was just like flying, training. When I was in Bournemouth [England], I met a family there, husband, wife and daughter, 10 years old or some such. And they made a business of adopting RCAF air crew. If they had a special do of any kind, if there was nobody staying with them at the time, they’d go downtown and find some Canadian air crew. And I was there in Christmas of 1943. And I was asked to go down and bring home five Canadian officers.

Bob drove me down. He was a greengrocer [a retail dealer in vegetables and fruit] and unfit for service. He drove me downtown and saw some uniforms that he’d never seen before. Asked me what they were and I told him they were the RCAF women’s division. And he stopped for a moment and he said, “I’m going to change your order, two of those and three of the others.” So he let me out and, well, the girls were all traveling in groups and it’s pretty hard to pick two out of 20, so I decided when I saw a pair, I’d ask them. And the thing that makes it memorable is I asked the first pair, the girl turned around and I’d known her all my life. That’s something you don’t forget.

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