"I later learned they had been shot down over the target, and it never occurred to me that my brother was going to be killed."
I thought I’d like the navy, actually, and I went and they didn’t have anything to offer except a sick berth attendant and I really didn’t want that, and they didn’t appeal to me. The uniforms were nice but anyway, then I didn’t contact the army at all, I decided on the air force, perhaps because my brother was in it. I wasn’t thinking about Japan, I was thinking about Europe and I thought, if I can go overseas, maybe if this lasts for a while, I might get over sooner or later. I wanted to go overseas of course, most people did, but I was only 18, so there was no way I was going to get there.
I trained as a wireless operator ground. Normally, signed as a WOG [Watch Officer Guide]. After a leave over Christmas, I left for a long training trip to Manning Depot in Halifax, then across the harbour to RCAF station, Dartmouth [Nova Scotia] on Eastern Passage [Nova Scotia]. It was a nice huge operational station with many sections. Ours was Headquarter Signals. There was a code room where a sergeant, a WD [Women’s Division] came in, locked herself in for the day. The teletype room was there and a wireless room with frequencies to be monitored. We monitored CAW, Convoy Aerial Wave, and we couldn’t send, only record and regular signals from places around the Atlantic. We had a local frequency with a key to contact local squadrons going out on submarine patrol in [PBY Catalina] Cansos, they’re large ungainly looking things that could land on the water or on land.
At one point one time, I didn’t hear a signal too well and I said, I’ve had an S [for submarine] in there, whatever it was, and it wasn’t an S. And everybody descended on me, the officers ran out of their office and everybody turned the earphones and they were all listening, and I hadn’t heard it clearly and I had copied the wrong thing and they thought it was a submarine. That was the only exciting thing that happened on the airwave.
After a couple of weeks, I was told, pilot officer, WD, wanted to see me. She told me my father had sent a telegram: my brother, a navigator in P for Peter, 434 Squadron, the ‘Blue Nose,’ was posted as missing on a raid over Berlin on January the 29th, 1944. I later learned they had been shot down over the target, and it never occurred to me that my brother was going to be killed. When you’re that young, you don’t really take it in, and when it happens, it happens. I know that it was very hard on my mother and dad, but I didn’t get home for quite a while. And they, that was the war, it was just, you know.