Veteran Stories:
John MacFarland

Air Force

  • Flying Officer John MacFarland.
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    John MacFarland
  • John MacFarland, and 428 (ghost) squadron crew. He is in back row, third from the left.

    John MacFarland
  • Aerial view of bombing over Germany, dated 25 april 1945.

    John MacFarland
  • John MacFarland on top of a Lancaster.

    John MacFarland
  • John MacFarland and member of his crew, next to a Lancaster, England.

    John MacFarland
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"There was searchlights going on, there was flashes of flak over, there was planes blowing up in the air you could see."

Transcript

We docked at Liverpool [England] and went down into the south of England and well, this was early February while there was roses in bloom at the hotel we were put up in Bournemouth. And it seemed so different to me to what we had just left. From there, I went to a holding depot at Innsworth Lane in Gloucestershire. And that’s where I met my wife, future wife, was when I was stationed there. We got going together and corresponding. We decided in mid-November, I think it was, in 1944 to get married and we set a June date. The war ended with Germany, come to an end about in April, and I found out that we were going to be posted back to Canada as soon as arrangements could be made for us to fly back. And that was before our wedding date, and it was very important for us to be married when we came back because then, because the country would bring her out. So we had the wedding advanced from June to May. Married in mid-May and about mid-June, or early June, I flew back to Canada. She had to get two references for me to give them and for them to approve the marriage and I didn’t have to give her any references. She didn’t think that was quite fair. From there, we went in to Yorkshire on [Avro] Lancasters where four to eight were stationed at Middleton, St. George and that was a sister squadron to 419, the ‘Moose’ Squadron. 428 was the ‘Ghost.’ And that’s where I did all my operating out of there, until the war ended… Was the first mission, and that was about a 300 plane endeavor on Nuremberg. As far as what I saw, it sticks out in my memory as I immediately thought of the first time I went to Regina [Saskatchewan] as a boy, at the Regina fair, I went to the farm boy’s camp, and I saw fireworks for the first time and horse races and what have you. When we came in over the target, it was about midnight and everything was alight. There was searchlights going on, there was flashes of flak over, there was planes blowing up in the air you could see. And I left my death’s grip I was in in the dark, and I just left it after that and went back to navigating, I’d seen enough. We went through and bombed the target and came home. But the vision of that sight reminded me of Regina fair fireworks, when I was a young boy. The close friends you made was with your crew and you were very, very close, and you were for the rest of your life. I assessed it after I came back. The fact that I’d been away for three or four years about, from the farm and I’d grew up in the farm and I left from the farm, and when I came back to the farm, it was just fantastic how farming had changed. I left an operation that was being still powered by horses. When I came back, they had a tractor. But we had a light plant on the farm with batteries and what have you, they had switched to a wind charger and stuff. The change was so great, wheat was selling for a good price. There was money to be made. Everybody was working. That work was really interesting in that I was dealing with veterans I’d served with. I knew the problems they’d had adjusting to get back into the feel of things and it was a feeling of success to see them getting ahead, to see their families growing. And for a long time after I left that, I would get letters from them at Christmas time with their Christmas card, kept on telling me how many children they had and that. It kept me associated with veterans though and how well they did. And it was particularly interesting to see how well many of the war brides fitted in on the farm. To me, that was the most gratifying period of my life, was to see helping these boys fit back in and make a go of it.
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