Veteran Stories:
Douglas Allan “Al” Roberts

Navy

  • Douglas Roberts's Flight log book. Page 1 is First flight, July 16, 1943.
    Purpose of the flight was familiarization with the aircraft.

    Al Roberts
  • Certificate of Discharge, September 23, 1942.

    Al Roberts
  • "Contract" for flying - inside the cover of the Flight Log Book.
    Signed in 1943 for the first time.

    Al Roberts
  • Inside Al Roberts' log book, a photograph of a Fairchild Cornell, an American built plane, used for the early stages of pilot training.

    Al Roberts
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Listen to this story

"The idea was that we were going onboard an aircraft carrier and be sent out into the East for the war against Japan."

Transcript

I’m Douglas Alan Roberts, born in Toronto, March the 7th, 1923. Well, it was the first time I went night flying and I had no idea that flames would be coming out of the exhaust of the engine. There was an instructor in the back seat and I was in the front seat and the engines were just a little bit further up ahead of me. But there’s exhaust from an engine, just as there is in a car. But at night, these things look, are quite red and they, they would be maybe a foot or more in length so these red air and particles maybe are coming out. And I really thought for a minute that the airplane was on fire. I was a student and there was an instructor sitting in the seat behind me but they never told you about this, you found out on your own that, or saw the flames apparently come right out of the engine. We had a letter come around saying that the, that they were allowing people to transfer to the Royal Navy if they wanted to. So I got an application form and a number of us ended up transferring. And the transfer itself was that we were sent to Halifax. And that’s where our last few days in the air force and the first few days in the navy, we were really living at, I guess it was Dartmouth Naval Station there. It was on the motor vessel, [HMS] Britannica. And we arrived in Liverpool on April the 27th. The thing that was interesting on that trip was that there were a lot of young boys and girls who had been sent from England to Canada [for the duration of the war], going back to England. Obviously, even though this was before VE-Day [Victory in Europe], the decision to move them back took place. But I remember seeing these kids and a lot of them would be 10, 11, 12 by that time. And the thing that I noticed was that so many of them smoked. And I never smoked in my life. And that was really very amazing to me, how so many young kids were smoking. They were single-engine planes or single-seat planes that were also single-engine. First time you were in them, you were by yourself of course but they were a very nice aircraft to fly, there was lots of power and they handled well. You could do all sorts of aerobatics and whatnot and really you had the plane well under control. So no, we were flying and we took training too and the idea was that we were going onboard an aircraft carrier and be sent out into the East for the war against Japan. But of course, that all ended very quickly in August [1945]. And so we had just about finished our training in October when we decided or they decided that we could go home. And so I think early December, we were put on the [RMS] Queen Elizabeth. My time in all the services was a pleasant time by and large. And not being in action or fighting and whatever problems that would involve never happened to me. So I’m feeling in a way that I was sort of lucky. I saw a lot and did a lot of things and I never got a scratch out of it.
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