"Holy smokes. I looked up and everybody heading out of there on a dead run."
We applied to join the Air Force and I went to Kingston, [Ontario] first and they told me I was going to be maybe an air gunner or a mid-up[per] gunner, in the aircraft, and they said that I had a bad one ear, it wasn’t really good and I should try for, for something else in the Air Force. So I said, well, my father is a mechanic, a car mechanic and my cousins are all car mechanics, so I might just as well go in for mechanics for the aircraft. They were Allison engines from the [United] States [of America] most of the time or they were made in Canada but they were an Allison American Engine [Allison Engine Company]. That was the Halifaxes and the [Rolls-Royce] Merlin engines was in the [Avro] Lancasters, the Englishmen used that, the Merlin. That was our main job was making sure the engines were properly looked after. We, they have all the, they have just like a car engine or anything else, they have all the spark plugs and you have to run up these engines every day to find out if they have full power or not. Most of them have two different systems on the spark plugs so you can change over, you turn off one and the, if they work all right, then you try the other one. That gives you a double bank of spark plugs to work on. If one gives out, the other ones will hold it and still run. But they’re done like that because if anything happens, they’ll get you home anyway. But they don’t recommend it all the time, them both running but whichever one, if they all work, that’s all you need to know.
So you have to run up like you’ve got a four-engine Halifax, you’ve got to run them four engines up if you’re going to be in flight for that evening, which most of the time, they did evening flights. They left at just about dark. They’re the best airplanes in the world, them both the Halifaxes and the Lancasters. Well, the Lancasters were a little better, the group liked them a little better. I guess they were a little better streamlined and you got a little bit more power from them. We were working on a Halifax, we were working on this air case and we were out checking it with the engines and the fellow that looks after the, filling up the tanks with gas, he was up on the top and the bomb aimers were ratcheting up the bombs down under the airplane. And that’s not supposed to happen. You’re not supposed to have the guys filling up the airplanes when they’re winching up the bombs. Mind you, they’re not close to each other but that don’t matter. So all of a sudden, I looked up and he, and the wing is about eight feet up the top of the wing, from the ground and he jumped right off the top of that wing and he was running off over the field, help, help, he says, she’s on fire. Holy smokes. I looked up and everybody heading out of there on a dead run.
So we all took across the field and I thought the bombs would blow up but the bombs didn’t but the tanks all blew up and the buzzer blew up. Nobody got hurt really. We run like hell and there’s a big mound of dirt up about ten feet there and we went up over that and laid down. And I think we got there far enough that most of it didn’t hit us or was over our heads, one of the two. Yeah, there was nobody killed but it was an awful-looking mess, I’ll tell you that.