Veteran Stories:
Jacques L. Richard

Air Force

  • Badge worn by Technicians of Base No. 1 from the General Reconnaissance School, December 1944.

    Jacques L. Richard
  • Badge worn by Technicians of Base No. 1 from the General Reconnaissance School, January 1946.

    Jacques L. Richard
  • Jacques Richard at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, , December 1944.

    Jacques L. Richard
  • Picture of the Cadets Technicians's Group, taken at the University of Montreal, Quebec, in October 1943. Jacques Richard is in top row, first on the right.

    Jacques L. Richard
  • Graduation Photo, May 1944. Jacques Richard is on top row, the 4th on the right.

    Jacques L. Richard
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"As mechanics, we were the pilots’ best friends because when they took off in their aircraft, they wanted to be sure to have enough gas and that their controls would hold up."

Transcript

I was part of the Air Cadets in those years. At one point, the war was really heating up. A lot of my friends were enlisting; one joined the navy and another joined the army. I told myself I would enlist in the air force, since I was in the Air Cadets. At that time, in 1942-43, the air force was all in English. There was no instruction in French like there is today. A lot of French Canadians, after they enlisted in Lachine, attended the School of English in Toronto.

I failed the test – it was all in English - despite the fact that I knew a bit of English. Unfortunately, I flunked the famous I.Q. test, so they offered me other positions in the air force. They suggested that I become an aero-engine mechanic or an airframe mechanic or an air gunner. I didn’t think I would have much of a future as an air gunner after the war. But if became an airframe or an aero-engine mechanic, I could maybe look for work as a mechanic after the war if I wanted to.

So I decided to become an airframe mechanic. They asked me what kind of posting I wanted and I said overseas because I had volunteered for active service when I enlisted. They sent me to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At that time, there wasn’t a bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth. We crossed over on a row boat. We couldn’t even smoke in the boat since the submarines could have come and sunk us. It was very strict.

Eventually, I was posted to Summerside [Prince Edward Island]. There was some action there because we were training the guys in the RAF [Royal Air Force]. The base was called No. 1 General Reconnaissance School RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force], Summerside, P.E.I. The base motto was "United We Serve to Win".

I practiced my profession as a mechanic on the planes. At that time, we were working on Avro Ansons. We had to inspect and repair the planes. After the plane was repaired, those who had worked on it, whether they were aero-engine mechanics or airframe mechanics or those who had checked the dials (since we often had problems with the dials and the heater), those who worked on the repairs had to go up with the test pilot to carry out tests to ensure that the plane was in good flying condition and that the repairs had been carried out properly.

After so many hours of flying, major or minor inspections would be scheduled depending on the hours in flight. We had to look at all of the controls to ensure that the wiring was adequate and to ensure that there were no holes anywhere in the plane and that all of the parts were intact. As mechanics, we were the pilots’ best friends because when they took off in their aircraft, they wanted to be sure to have enough gas and that their controls would hold up.

We flew somewhere north of Labrador in a Lockheed Hudson. That was a big metal plane with dual motors, very heavy. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. At one point, the pilot started having problems with his plane. He said it was bad. We were trying to get back to base. "Put on your parachutes!", he said. I had never parachuted out of a plane and I really didn’t want to. We kept losing altitude but we were still on course towards the airport. We were flying very low, but the pilot told us to wait; he thought that he could make it. Finally, we made it. We landed just in time, without having to eject. I will remember that moment my entire life. I had the shivers.

In May 1945, they transferred me to Goose Bay, Labrador. We were servicing all of the aircraft. A lot of planes were returning from Europe since the war was over. In the morning during winter, we had to put on our big parkas and our "piss pots" on our heads, big winter hats, to go to breakfast and then back to our barracks to wash up and return to the hangar. We were often outside. It’s not like it is today; people today are spoiled.

Around that time, at the beginning, they asked us if we wanted to go to the Pacific front. I signed up but I didn’t even have time to pack. By the time our papers came back from Ottawa, the war was over very quickly in Japan after both bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I didn’t serve in the Pacific but I did my part. I signed up for active service, I had volunteered, but fate decided that I stay in Canada instead of serving in Europe.

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