Veteran Stories:
Cecil Edward Hancock

Air Force

  • The Crew getting ready to go on a raid. Taken at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire. Cecil Hancock is third on the right, back row. The ground crew took this photo, March 1944.

    Cecil E. Hancock
  • Left Side: Non commissioned officer after graduation - probably taken in Canada, July, 1943.
    Right Side: After receiving his commission - England, December, 1944.

    Cecil Hancock
  • Graduating class for Navigational School. Portage La Prairie, July, 1943.
    After this class, the men got their wings and were sent overseas.

    Cecil Hancock
  • Cecil Hancock's Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    Cecil Hancock
  • Cecil Hancock, Remembrance Day, November 11, 2008.

    Cecil Hancock
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"We didn’t officially know it was D-Day until we saw dawn breaking and there it was, right in front of us. I guess it’s a sight I’ll probably carry all my days."

Transcript

I’m Cecil Edward Hancock. I enlisted in Kenora, Ontario, in June 1942. My first station was Edmonton, Alberta. I spent a couple of months there. And then I went to the initial training school in Regina and I was there for three or four months. After graduating there, I went on to Seven AOS [No. 7 Air Observer School], Portage le Prairie, Manitoba.

I was a banking clerk in 1938, making $350 a year. Living at home and a dollar a day didn’t go very far. So I joined the air force, mainly to get an increase in salary but see a little bit of the world which I wouldn’t otherwise. I was patriotic too.

Working in the bank, I was good with figures and things like that and I knew they needed people with just mathematics in the flying trade and I knew I was good with figures, so you’re going to be a navigator. And that’s the area I was put into. Well, I was a little disappointed I couldn’t become a pilot but I realized we all can’t be in the number one position, so I was happy enough. I was a little worried I didn’t have the, my schooling to make it. I worked pretty hard.

Our last training trip, we went dropping leaflets over in France and that was our last trip at the training base. And then they sent us off to convert us into the bigger aircraft, the four engine one. Further on in our experience, we used to drop what we call “window.” It was tinfoil, all packaged up. It would mess up the radar. The Germans, they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to pick up what was the aircraft and what was not. That was a, we dropped them all the time. Even our other trips, so. It messed up their radar communication. It must have done a lot of good because it was used quite, quite a lengthy time.

Everybody was building up for this D-Day and we kept thinking every night we’d go out, this is it, this is it. And finally, I guess it was about the third or fourth trip, it was into Germany and we always went out at night in the dark. And we were coming back and we crossed the English Channel and that’s when we saw the ships in the sea and the landing aircraft. We didn’t officially know it was D-Day until we saw dawn breaking and there it was, right in front of us. I guess it’s a sight I’ll probably carry all my days. But they kept very secret when D-Day was going to play. We went out the night before, several hours before it actually happened. We caught it on the way back.

The scariest thing I always felt, being bombed by your own aircraft. Well, you had to go in different time zones and different layers. If any of your other fellow men were a little off in their timing, I’d seen bomb doors open and they’re ready to drop their bombs and you keep your fingers crossed that they’re not going to drop them on you.

I think you’re more scared before you start. Once you get in there and you’re doing your job, well, time goes pretty fast but we all would like to get back to base. And before you even get to bed, they [officers] interview you, they want to know what you hit and most of, you know, you have pictures taken of your target.

And my favourite was we’d get bacon and eggs. That was the only real eggs we’d ever see, usually when we came down from one of those trips. Other than that, it was powdered eggs.

There was some bad news there in D-Day, some of the boys got mixed up with the Canadian soldiers and bombed their own men and that was always a big stigma that stuck in your throat, that you’d killed some of your own men. But that happened a number of times anyway and mistakes were made. When you’re bombing from 20,000 feet (6096 metres), it’s pretty hard to be pretty accurate when the lines are so close.

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