Veteran Stories:
William “Bill” Gélineau

Air Force

  • Graduation Class in Saint-Hubert, 1942. Pilote wings graduation banquet.

    William Gélineau
  • William Gélineau on Squadron in York Eastmore, England, 1944

    William Gélineau
  • William Gélineau, 40 years later with Philip Neville.

    William Gélineau
  • Photo of William Gélineau with aircraft mid upper gunner, 1944.

    William Gélineau
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"When you’re there, you’re along with a whole bunch of others. Sure, some of them are going to be shot down. But not you, no, no, no. You are not going to be shot down."


We landed in Liverpool. We weren’t very good. Real dirty. I got fleas on the boat, the dirty old boat. That was when I first learned of what those poor sailors had to live in. My name is William, Bill, Gelineau. The war came up and I joined up. My father, my uncles, are all in the service in the army before, in the First World War. What the army was like in the mud, I didn’t want any part of that. And I saw what the navy was like with the up and the down and the up and the down. I didn’t want at that. That’s two out of three services. The only ones left was the air force. And that’s me. So I joined the air force. I was never more than 90 miles away from Montreal, from my home, until I went overseas. The first place was the Lachine. So Lachine was brand new. So out we went to Lachine. And from Lachine, I went to a number of different places. Arnprior was the farthest away I went. That was a holding unit. We serviced aircraft. And then starting... I went to Victoriaville and then I went to Cap-de-la-Madeleine, then went to, got my wings at Saint-Hubert. And then I, they sent it back to Lachine, which was a depot, to send them overseas. But we didn’t go overseas. We went up to, to Three Rivers [Trois-Rivières]. I don’t know why but, but that was a holding unit before you got on the boat. And there we had, we started a mutiny. We had a mutiny there. We were sergeants and they asked us to pay sergeant’s messing fees. Well, messing fees? We were only there a couple of days. The whole station said no. Oh, the guards came out and they closed down the gates and wouldn’t let anybody move. So the CO got on the station, he says, well, why don’t you pay your messing fees? We said, we spent the money. Well, we weren’t out of the station, how could we spend the money? But anyway, he said, you spent the money? Well, we’ll have an extra pay for you then. So we had to pay our messing fees but we darn near closed down that station for good. In all the three services, all the fellows in active service had their, their problems. The navy with it being torpedoes, the army with the enemy tanks coming after them. In the air force, we had ours too. We had the German fighter planes, we had the guns shooting up at us and we had one bad thing also was the weather. Well you, people here in Canada nowadays have the weather forecast on your television or radio because there was no, no forecasting of weather. You just about had to use a wet finger to find out. Anyways, you’d go out on a mission over Germany and if you remember on your maps that the wind goes from the west to the east. Now, mostly it does. So we’d go over Germany and we’d turn to, to come back. We’d had no idea what the weather was like. Most of the time, you’d get ice on the aircraft, you’d get what you call carburetor icing, that’s ice inside the motors. So you had a very shady, hairy, scary trip to come back. And often times, you go out, you’re supposed to go on a trip, you had no idea if the clouds would be over the target. So you didn’t know if you were going to drop them in the right place or not. Well, one time I was coming back and my plane started getting icing on it, so I thought, well, I’ll let down, go lower. As I went lower, more icing come on. Oh boy, that’s bad. So I put on my power and I decided, well, I’ll go up, I’ll go above it. I couldn’t go up. I went up and more icing up there. So I had to stay in the middle. And that’s where I learned how to pray. Yep. Many times the bombs come very close. But one of the scariest trips I went on was we took off and we started climbing. And we just barely started and we went through clouds. Well, doesn’t bother us, whether going through clouds. When we come out of the clouds, there was aircraft. But they weren’t mine. They were different aircraft. And now where are these guys going? So there was a, a choice – do we ask them, which is a no-no, or follow along? They were Lancasters and we were Halifaxes. Our aircraft had less range, less distance, we couldn’t go as far as they could. They might have been going miles past where we went. Anyway, we stuck with them. We were fortunate, they were going to the same places we were, otherwise, we would have been in trouble. We would, all by ourselves and be shot down for sure. But we were okay. When you’re there, you’re along with a whole bunch of others. Sure, some of them are going to be shot down. But not you, no, no, no. You are not going to be shot down. Fortunately, here I am back again, I wasn’t shot down. But I’ve come back to the station and the notice board showed where one or two aircraft didn’t get, didn’t get through. Well, it was sort of a, oh well, too bad, they didn’t make it. Went on from there.
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