Veteran Stories:
James “Jim” Mackenzie

Air Force

  • Left: George Mann, Jimmy Mackenzie and Dong Sanson.
    Right: George Mann and Jimmy Mackenzie, Algiers, Algeria, 1944.

    James Mackenzie
  • Graduation of wireless operators ground course, Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, February 1942.
    James Mackenzie is in the back row, second from right and his best friend George Mann is in the first row, fourth from right.

    James Mackenzie
  • Portrait of James Mackenzie in Royal Canadian Air Force uniform, England, April 1944.

    James Mackenzie
  • Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick. James Mackenzie (on right) took the place of a wireless air gunner on trips in Anson training planes, flying over Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick while practicing sending Morse Code messages from aircraft to ground stations.

    James Mackenzie
  • James Mackenzie in uniform with helmet, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1942, on his way overseas.

    James Mackenzie
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I could see it in the fog coming across. And we knew then it was a German plane. So then we ducked down behind a stone fence."


Well, what motivated me to enlist, one time my brother and I, coming from the other side of the river, Holland Wood, and the planes flew up the river. And Gordon said, let’s go and join up. So we did. We went out to Chatham and joined up.

And up we went to Saint John, took wireless training in Saint John from April until December. And then from there, we went to Montreal, going to No. 1 Wireless School in Montreal and we finished our course there. And from there, we went down to Halifax to go overseas, but the ship we were supposed to go over on was torpedoed. So we were sent back to [RCAF Station] Pennfield Ridge. There was no wireless air gunners there, so we took the place of wireless air gunners: For learning our trade in the Morse Code, aircraft to ground.

From there, we went down to Halifax and went overseas, and landed in Glasgow. We were overnight in Glasgow and then went from there to Hastings on the coast of England.

Well, we stayed in the motel or hotel they called it. It was the tallest building in Hastings. But one morning we took a walk up the street and it was foggy. I remembered the two [British Supermarine] Spitfire [fighter] planes, they patrolled the coast. They went by. And then after awhile, we could hear another plane. We couldn’t tell where it was, but, all at once, I could see it in the fog coming across. And we knew then it was a German plane. So then we ducked down behind a stone fence. That’s what was around the houses, was stone walls. We ducked behind that and the thing went by us; and we don’t know if it got anybody shooting up above or not.

But then, the sirens sounded and we had to get back to our place where we stayed. Marine Court was the name of the place we stayed. Well, I was stationed in different stations. I was stationed in [RAF] Topcliffe Station in Digby and [RAF] Coleby Grange, and back to Topcliffe again. We were all Bomber Command, [Nos.] 426 and 425 Squadron, mostly we were with [them]. Well, sending messages, sending messages and receiving messages. Sometimes, if it comes in numbers, you write all in numbers. Or sometimes it’s all in letters. But then you give that to your officer and he puts it through a deciphering machine. And it deciphers the message. It’s supposed to be secret, you’re not supposed to be able to get into it.

All during the war, that’s what I was at. Yes, it’s stressful at times at night, when you’re trying to listen to the people sending the message and the signal varies. It’ll kind of go away and come back. Well, D-Day, we were on the coast; and there was a thousand planes in the air at once. The rumble, we were sleeping in tents at the time out on a field, but, about 4:00 in the morning, you could hear something, hear the rumble. And even the tents shaking [from] army tanks going towards the coast. And then after that, daylight, there was planes going. There was planes as far as you could see there and there was other ones coming this way. The air was full of planes. Well, it was quite an experience for to see that many airplanes all at once.

Well, the one place we didn’t like was Madame Tussauds in London, the wax museum. And they have guards, I suppose, at different levels. And some of them is really a real person and some of them is wax. So George Mann, he went by this fellow and I touched him. It was the dummy. So George Mann, the next one he comes, he says, here’s another dummy. No, he says, no, I’m not a dummy [laughs].

Follow us