"That was when I pulled up and away to my right, and the other fellow pulled up and away to his left, and I thought we were going to hit our wing tips…"
My name is Ian Thomson. Born in Winnipeg in 1922, the last day of the year. In '39, I was too young to get in. I wanted to get into the Air Force in the beginning of 1941, but my parents asked me to finish my grade 12, which I did, and got into the Air Force the 27th of June 1941.
From there, through the normal procedure. Went to manning pool at Brandon and learned how to march, which I already knew. Went from there to Regina to ITS – Initial Training School. Learned about Morse code and some navigation. From there to Goderich, Ontario, for my elementary flying school, and that was wonderful. We did that on aircraft called Fleet Finch MkII, made by Fleet Aircraft from Canada.
Following my graduation from EFTS, I went to Brantford to No. 5 Service Flying Training School, and graduated from there with my wings, at which time I was given two weeks' leave and told I'd be going overseas following that, but on the train on the way to the east coast, I was pulled off and spent the next fourteen months in Canada, and didn't get overseas until the beginning of September 1943, and one year later got onto 427 Squadron in No. 6 Group of Bomber Command. From there, I went on to do my tour.
I had thirty-four trips over enemy territory. Four or five of those trips lost an engine – got it shot out. On three of the trips, had my brake system shot away. One trip, controls for the rudder were shot away. I still had my rudders, but I couldn't use them. During that tour, there were a number of occasions where I had the greatest possible luck. On two occasions, I missed collision with another aircraft just by a hair; one so closely that, although we didn't get any flak damage at all, when we returned to base that night and checked the aircraft for damage, the only damage was that the glass on the port navigation light had been broken. That was when I pulled up and away to my right, and the other fellow pulled up and away to his left, and I thought we were going to hit our wing tips, but I guess we just touched – not enough that I could even feel it.
I am among the most fortunate of all men. I had more good luck than I could ever imagine. I tried to do my job properly. I wasn't a hero, but I just finished my tour.