Veteran Stories:
Mel Smith

Air Force

  • Medals left to right: 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe; Africa Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; Victory Medal. This framed collection also contains Mr. Smith's Air Gunner Wings.

  • This poster shows the crests of all bomber squadrons in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command.

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"I did my first four flying against Rommel in North Africa, and we kicked him out of North Africa"


I joined the RCAF. I tried to get in in 1939, and of course, you practically had to have a university background. After Hitler kicked everyone out of Europe in 1940, Churchill realized the only way the Allies could carry on any war against Europe was by air. So then they dropped the qualifications for aircrew, and I finally got into aircrew in 1941. After so many months of training I went overseas in early 1942. After so many months at OTU, I was posted to 427 Squadron in Yorkshire. Our pilot, he lost his arm, so the next morning the Tannoy system went and announced that Sergeant Russell's crew, report to headquarters. There a Flight Lieutenant there and he wanted a complete new crew. So he said, "Before you volunteer to fly with me, we'll go out and do some flying." As soon as he got in the cockpit and he called up the control tower for permission to take off, you could feel a voice of authority. We took off and we did some flying around: "And now," he said "we'll do some low flying." My God, I've never experienced such wonderful flying in my life! So I said, "Skipper, I want to be your gunner." He said, "We'll talk about it when we land." He said, "I hate war, but we're in it. I want to get out of this Air Force. I want to win the war and get back to Australia." We did just six or seven trips over Germany, and then Montgomery decided his campaign against Rommel in Africa. I did my first four flying against Rommel in North Africa, and we kicked him out of North Africa. Then we did some bombing runs over Sardinia and Sicily and Italy, because shortly after that, the invasion took place. Since the losses were so heavy in aircrew, the RCAF said, "Before you can do a second tour you will have a month's leave back in Canada." I was back overseas in June of '44 and joined 98 Squadron, and we flew Mitchell bombers out of southern England. We were close support to the British and Canadian Army. I did a total of sixty-nine or seventy trips. A full tour when I joined was thirty-five trips.
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