"Well, that was a concentration camp where the Nazis, you know, kept all the prisoners and that. So we were sent in there to de-lice all the prisoners and the victims of it. It was a bad scene."
I joined up in 1942 with the air force. When my dad joined up in 1939, that’s when the war was declared [September 10, 1939 for Canada]. Well, like everyone else, you know, we went over there to kind of free out the country over there and the Nazis, they were horrible. All our buddies on our street, there was Tommy Dunlevy, he joined the army, and Gordie Burns, he joined the army, and Eddie Comartin, he joined the army, and Ace McGuire, he joined the air force.
Well, I was in love with the aircraft and I admired the [Supermarine] Spitfire and the [Hawker] Typhoons and that. LAC [Leading Aircraftsman] at the start and then I landed up 31 years later, the Chief Warrant Officer [CWO]. You did everything that they asked you to do and you know, reconnaissance and the, looking after the aircraft and flying them and things like that nature. You know, you were involved in attacking these convoys, bridges, railroads and the launching pads. That was all inclusive with that.
They called it sorties. Sorties was that when you took off, you had a mission to accomplish and you carried it out to the best of your ability. And I came back from overseas in 1946 on the [RMS] Queen Elizabeth, her last trip carrying troops home. I served at Manning Depot in Toronto. Then I was transferred to Camp Borden [Ontario] and then from Camp Borden, I was transferred overseas in December 1943, yeah, 1943. Landed in Liverpool [England], transferred from Liverpool down to Bournemouth, where all the air force were stationed in Bournemouth, and from there, you were transferred to various other locations in England. And myself and nine other fellows, we were transferred up to a place called Sculthorpe, RAF [Royal Air Force] station, where we were introduced to Spitfires and things like that. And we spent most of the time there and then when we were gathering for the invasion of Normandy, we were transferred down to the marshalling area where we went into tents and we lived in tents from then on for a year, year and a half under canvas.
We landed in Normandy on D+4 [meaning the fourth day after the invasion on June 6, 1944], which is the tenth of June, because the army engineers cut a swathe in an apple orchard up in Bény-sur-Mer, just in off the shore of Juno, Normandy. And from there, we went on through France, Belgium, Holland, and into Germany. That’s quite a trip, operational.
There was a few times, like on the first of January, 1945, we had our airfield, we moved into Eindhoven, Holland, and we were attacked at 0900 hours on the 1st of January and we lost all our aircraft. We were attacked by Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs and they were there for about three quarters of an hour, and when they left, we’d lost 13 aircraft and it was quite a morning, lost some friends.
Day to day, there was always something coming up and, you know, it was fine sometimes and there was good times and there was bad times. Belgium was a bad one. The concentration camp [in Breendonk]. Well, that was a concentration camp where the Nazis, you know, kept all the prisoners and that. So we were sent in there to de-lice all the prisoners and the victims of it. It was a bad scene.
And in this book here, these two little magazines that I’ll send you, it’ll spell out pretty near everything in there, you know, and the time that we went into Paris three days after it was liberated, we went in there on R&R [rest and recuperation] for about three days leave and that was a very nice occasion. And then into Belgium, Brussels, Eindhoven. We had quite a tour in Europe.