Larry Wulff's class of Radar and Radio Operator trainees at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Radio Training School in 1942.Larry Wulff
Newlyweds Larry and Gwen Wulff on their honeymoon in Knowlton, Quebec, July, 1945. They were married within seven days of meeting each other after the war.Larry Wulff
Larry Wulff (front right) with his Radio and Radar Section, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Bomber Command. Yorkshire, United Kingdom, February 1944.Larry Wulff
Larry Wulff (left) and a comrade on Special Duty, sitting on an aircraft bomb. 5 June 1944. The bomb was for use the following day, D-Day 1944.Larry Wulff
One of the Halifax bombers used in the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The small bombs painted on the side of the aircraft each represent a successful sortie. Leeming, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, 5 June 1944.Larry Wulff
"Well, obviously they were bombing the coast. And obviously, you wouldn’t have a mounted program like that without something big happening. So next morning [June 6, 1944], 6:00, an announcement was made ."
I was shipped overseas because they were building up the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force], what they called the No. 6 Bomber [Group]stationin northern England [Allerton Park, Yorkshire]. They had these, these were mostly flying Lancaster aircraft, four engine, big heavy, noisy engine that had a crew of six or eight [seven] I believe. And we serviced the planes with the various kinds of equipment they needed to fly safely out over, or relatively safely, over Europe and come back. You had to stay up all night of course to make sure they got back safely.
And we had to install a unique system of what they called IFF , it was an acronym for I-F-F or I think something like that, Identification, Friend or Foe. It was a radio system that was installed in the aircraft so that when you came back in over the coast, over the North Sea coming back from Europe on your bombing raid, you would send out a signal. And if the station on the ground received the right signal, the coded signal and reflected it back to the plane, I believe that’s how it worked, and we had to change those almost every night, then you knew it was safe to let that plane go by. Because sometimes Jerry [slang term for the Germans] would follow planes in when they would turn on their headlights at night to land, then they’d pick them off as they were coming into the station.
D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings of June 6, 1944] was a very well kept secret. Had to be. The exact day and where. But the day before D-Day, everybody on our station was alerted. We were all confined, nobody was allowed to leave the station that day or even a couple of days before, I can’t remember exactly. Because you had to do whatever job, if you, if you were, some people might have been commissioned to spend extra time cooking or cleaning up the kitchen. But as it turned out, when I wasn’t working on the radio and so forth, that we were commissioned to work on helping load bombs. Because the planes would fly in, they left I guess early in the morning and four hours later, they’d be back. Maybe five hours later. Well, obviously they hadn’t gone to Berlin [a much longer flight] but we could figure out when they came back, they just said that they were bombing the coast. So but they’d load up again and take off again. Now, that didn’t happen normally because normally we flew at night. But these were all daylight ops. And they were just softening up the coast before they knew.
The next day, the land people would be coming in, the infantry. And that’s what our planes were doing. So my job was to help the, what they called the armourers, the people who loaded bombs, to help bring the bombs out of storage. And by this time of course, they’d built up vast stocks of bombs, and load them into the planes and then pull the little carriers with a tractor back to get another load because there’d be more planes coming in, coming and going, all day long.
Well, obviously they were bombing the coast. And obviously, you wouldn’t have a mounted program like that without something big happening. So next morning [June 6, 1944], 6:00, an announcement was made .
In 1944, it must have been July or August [August 25, 1944], Paris was liberated by the American Army and the BritishAarmy too I think but mostly the American Army [Paris was liberated by 2nd French Armoured Division, the French Resistance, and elements of 4th United States Infantry Division]. But I wanted very much to get to Paris and see the continent of Europe, after all, why travel that far and not get to the continent of Europe? As most Canadian ground crew never did. But I determined I was going to do it.
I went down to Portsmouth and there was a long long lineup of soldiers getting ready to go onto the ships which were taking them over to Britain. By this time, the port of Le Havre [France] had been liberated by I think the Canadian Army [Le Havre was liberated by the United States Army]. So I managed to get myself onto a tank landing ship in the, in Britain with all Americans going on. And they just sweet talked them into, I’m a Canadian, I’m going to join my unit in France, nobody asked you any questions. There was no customs or anything like that, they weren’t investigating. So they said, sure, get on the boat.
So we landed in Le Havre. I got to within about, I don’t know, I can’t remember exactly, must have been about 50 or 60 kilometres, maybe even less, of Paris and they let me off there because they were going off to the front farther up and closer to Germany. And a guy picked me up in a wagon with, I don’t know what he had in the back of it but he had something I guess he was farming, turnips or something, maybe cabbages and he had two horses and I’m sitting up in the front with him and we got to chatting and now it’s nighttime. And we got chatting and he’s telling me that he had, and I told him I was Canadian, Canadian patches on my shoulder. And so, he said I lived in Canada, he said, I lived in a place near Sudbury, Copper Cliff [Ontario]; I said, that’s where I come from. This is too much of a coincidence for me, couldn’t believe it really. We got chatting, it turned out, the guy had actually worked for my father. It was unbelievable. Hair standing up, I had hair then, hair was standing up on the back of my head. So we chatted for a while and it was really an amazing experience. My father didn’t believe me. He even remembered him, he remembered this guy.
I got right downtown Paris, which is quite a large city and the subways were still running. I was there for I think two or three days and the service police picked me up. They realized I was from Canada and Canadians weren’t supposed to be there because it was out of bounds, out of bounds for virtually all soldiers. Because there was no food to feed people. Anyway, they picked me up and sent me right back to Britain under armed escort. And they interrogated me because they thought, couldn’t figure out how I could do that, how could just an ordinary guy with those skills and that kind of thing, except what I was doing back at the air force station. I think they thought I might have been a spy or something, you see. But they wanted to be sure of that so they sent me back to Britain under armed escort. And back I go to my station.