Veteran Stories:
Nancy Herbert (née Willcox)

Air Force

  • The de Havilland Mosquito was flown by the pilots Nancy Herbert (née Willcox) was in communication with.

    Canadian Forces
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"I did not like the idea that we had something to do with bombing. I had joined as a defence person and this was offense work."

Transcript

As the radar operator was, we had to sit in front of two PPI tubes they called planned position indicator and you had to watch all the time. You had a screen like that and little blips would go along when an airplane was in the vicinity and there was a map drawn on the screen and you could follow the trail of them. You could also get the identification. The blip, as we called it, was a little different if they had a good identification. If they had a bad one, which I never saw, a broad IF [intermediate frequency] they called it, that was an enemy plane, but I never did see one on there. We could plan the position, that’s what it was, a PPI tube, you could plan a position on the map and we had to transcribe that to the filter room and they did the other job there, made contact with planes there. We weren’t in contact with planes on that station. So, I spent 15 months doing that sort of work and then I was supposed to continue with my travels in Dorset [England], getting ready for D-Day. Dorset was right at the bottom, right opposite France. And that was quite a bit different. There you were partnered with a pilot in the plane. We played ‘cat and mouse’ actually. One station was ‘Cat’ and one station was ‘Mouse’ in two different areas of Britain and they went like that. And the pilot of the plane, we were dropping flares, not bombs, so that the bombers could come and drive through the flares. Each of the ‘Cat’ and the ‘Mouse’ stations went like that. The pilot of the plane, which was [de Havilland] Mosquito, I believe, with a single person in it, he had to stay between those two signals coming into him so that he would know where to drop the flares, when the flares were there for the bombers to fly through. It was to guide the planes over Germany and places like that. I did not like the idea that we had something to do with bombing. I had joined as a defence person and this was offense work. No, I didn’t see the future when I joined up. I didn’t like the idea of doing that kind of work. It had to be done, I suppose, I don’t know. And the one I remember the most was Flight Lieutenant Pereira, and he was the one that I almost always seemed in contact with. Only in contact with him to bring him on, to let him know that we were working down there and the track was ready for him. And the reason I remember his name as Flight Lieutenant Pereira was because his call sign was ‘Peter Rabbit’ in the Morse Code and the P and the R just gave me that, Pereira. So I have always remembered his name and I have often wondered wouldn’t it be wonderful to just meet him sometime because we never knew them, they were from different stations.
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