Veteran Stories:
Cliff White

Air Force

  • Portrait, Mr. Cliff White, circa 2005.

    Cliff White
  • Photo taken on the field of RAF Squadron 106 sometimes between September 1944 and March 1945.
    “The crew were all English except me. I'm the one in the left rear. Starting on the front left, is the mid-upper gunner, wireless operator, the navigator and the rear gunner. In the rear the tall one was the engineer and on the right rear was the Pilot, George Eakins hence the sign on the bomb bay door "Eakins Erks".

    Cliff White
  • Photo taken on the coast of the North Sea near Newcastle, England, in January or February of 1944.
    “The group of bomb aimers I trained within Canada were sent on a so called Commando training course. It was just a make work project to keep us busy. I can't even remember the names of the fellows with me. I was front left in the pic.”

    Cliff White
  • Cliff White's Crew in front of a Lancaster, sometimes between September 1944 and March 1945.

    Cliff White
  • Photo taken in early Summer of 1943.
    “I was in training for air crew, the white band in the cap was a marker for that. I was19 and thought I was going to be a Pilot. I was soon to learn I would never be a pilot, but there was room in the "Bomb Aimers" training group, so away I went.”

    Cliff White
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"The whole city was in flames and sticking out of the flames was two cathedral spires."

Transcript

I was in Prince George [British Columbia] at the time. And my father was very disgusted that the Germans had the nerve to start another war, so he tried to volunteer and of course, they wouldn’t take him because he was too old then. Well, I sort of felt that I should join. A lot of my friends had joined, older friends. So I tried to join when I was 18 but I was underweight and they wouldn’t accept me at that time, so I had to wait another year, until I was 19. I wasn’t near the ocean, I didn’t have any idea of that and I thought soldiers walked too much. I heard about all the mud in the First World War, so I didn’t want to get too muddy. So I joined the air force. I was a Canadian RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force]. I was paid by Canada and as a matter of fact, my wages were the same as my pilot. The pilot was a Flight Officer and I was an NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer]. So I got away with a lot of things there because I was a warrant officer, second class, and there was no such thing in the RAF [Royal Air Force]. So I didn’t have to do the officer of the day routine or sergeant of the day or whatever. So I got away with a lot of things. I was posted to England and there, I, we sat around the better part of a year, more or less trained as commandos for a while, six weeks and we trained, bombing practice at an aerodrome in Scotland, south of Scotland. And more or less put in time until the British were short of bomb aimers, so we were sent around as volunteers to work with the British, so I was farmed out to a crew and we spent the time with the RAF. We did 35 trips, what’s called a tour. And at the very end, they wanted us to wait and do the aircraft’s hundredth trip on the aircraft but we said no, we’d go as quick as we could. We did. In the training, you concentrated on what you were doing, you were busy all the time and you had a job to do, you didn’t think about being afraid. The only time I really stopped and thought about it was on the second trip to Harburg [Germany], across the river from Hamburg, that was more or less weird. We had a load of incendiaries [bombs]. Of course, that was a war against the civilians. And the city of Harburg turned out to be a firestorm, what they call a firestorm. And the whole city was in flames and sticking out of the flames was two cathedral spires. And on the other side of those was the target I was supposed to aim at, the coloured flare that I was supposed to aim at. That was the only one I ever really thought much about. I was sent back to Canada in March, late March and I was sent to Western Air Command and I was supposed to be training for the Japanese war but they put me driving a limousine and I drove a limousine to and from Boundary Bay [British Columbia] for two months, well, several months actually. And I got fed up, a fellow came in and asked who wants out, and I said, I do, and this was in July. And four days later, I was a civilian. And the war wasn’t over until August [1945]. So I was out really before the end of the war. I don’t know how they knew but they must have known what was going to happen. The crew I flew with turned out to be quite a likeable bunch and of course, there was six of them. So 35 years later, I went back and visited them all again. We had quite a reunion. We went there for a month, my wife and I, and she enjoyed it too.
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