A Blenheim fighter of the RAF Coastal Command set off from
a base in Northern Scotland to make a routine reconnaissance of a fortified
zone in South-west Norway. The aircraft had a crew of three – the pilot,
the observer, and the gunner, who also was the wireless operator. The patrol
had been in progress for one hour forty minutes. It was then 3:50 p.m.,
the time of the last entry in the log book.
At that moment, the Blenheim had sighted a Heinkel 111 counter-patrolling
the Norwegian coast. The British pilot went into attack from the rear.
He got in the first burst, a heavy one from fairly close range. It must
have been very effective. The Heinkel immediately fled to cloud for safety,
with only one gun firing as it turned for home. But six bullets entered
the front part of the pursuing Blenheim,
For the next hour and one-half nothing was heard from the Blenheim
at its base in Scotland. Then at 5:15 p.m., the Squadron Commander was
told – “A signal has just been received, Sir, from J for Johnny, but it
is incomplete.” The signal was just three words, “pilot and observer”.
At irregular intervals, J for Johnnie’s wireless spoke again. It
was obvious that someone in the aircraft was trying to tell something about
the pilot and the observer, but there was no coherence or substance in
any of the signals.
A message with real meaning came however, at 6 p.m., three quarters
of an hour later. It read, “J for Johnnie pilot and observer require urgent
medical attention.” That was four hours after the Blenheim had taken off,
and none of the unfinished signals, nor the last indefinite one, had given
any indication of the Blenheim’s position.
Other aircraft of the Squadron went out to search for J. An hour
later a sister Blenheim found it flying steadily westward. The second aircraft
formated on J and guided it into the Shetland Islands 70 miles further
on. Both Blenheims made perfect landings.
All three of the crew of J were then found to have been severely
wounded by the Heinkel’s parting shots. The pilot had a bullet wound in
his head, and the observer and the gunner-wireless operator had both
been hit in the chest. Only the pilot could speak. The observer had been
unconscious ever since the combat and the air gunner had been conscious
only for a few moments at a time all the way home.
It was during each of these few moments of consciousness, the pilot
explained, that the gunner had reached over to the wireless set and tapped
out the signals which broke off only when he collapsed again and again.
In none of the signals had the gunner indicated that he was injured. But
in the little hospital in the Shetlands to which this aircrew had been
removed the surgeon found that the gunner was the most gravely wounded
of the three.
It was on the way back from a raid in the Ruhr when we were
picked up by searchlights. They held us right across the town of Wesel,
then the pilot finally got out of them.
There was no anti-aircraft fire, so I was keeping a particularly
sharp lookout for fighters. Suddenly tracer bullets started flying past
the turret, and I saw three fighters coming in at us from the rear. One
was coming in from the starboard quarter, and below us. A second
was above and practically to astern.; and the third was five or six degrees
to port and he – like the one on the other side – was also attacking from
below. To me it seemed that all three were converging on the rear turret.
The one on the starboard quarter seemed to be pretty close, so I
had first shot at him. The first burst seemed to hit. If you can get your
first burst in alright, you can usually guarantee to get your following
ones in to, unless things are particularly awkward; so I just kept pumping
quick bursts into him – six or seven altogether. He was hitting us too.
Some of his shots went through the tailplane, the rudder and the wireless
mast, and an explosive shell from his cannon hit the armour plating of
my turret. I didn’t realize at the time that the shell had actually hit
us. I thought it had exploded just outside. Anyway, I know the bang deafened
me for thirty-six hours afterwards.
The fighter got to within about a hundred to one hundred and fifty
yards of the rear turret; then he pulled up like an aircraft pulling out
of a dive. He seemed to hang there for a bit, and I got in a few more bursts
right into the belly of the aircraft. I saw him turn over and then I swung
the turret to the second fighter, which had been closing in all this time,
firing his four guns. I could see four streams of tracer coming at us.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the first fighter go down in flames.
He exploded in the air or when he hit the deck – I couldn’t say which.
The second aircraft was the one which was flying slightly to port.
I missed him with first three bursts, because I was misjudging his speed,
but the fourth burst hit him alright, and after that I just kept repeating
the performance. He was pretty deadly too, and did further damage to our
plane. The Navigator got hit in the leg – not badly though – but nobody
else was hurt. Then the fighter curled away out of the field of fire, and
that was the last I saw of him, but the second Pilot said he saw it go
down out of control.
After this, the third enemy fighter came down on us. He closed into
about three hundred yards, but would come no closer. I got a bit fed up
with this, so I fired a good long burst in his direction and he sheered
off. We didn’t see him again.
Altogether I have done just over twenty raids over Germany, but that
was the most exciting one of the lot.
MACFIE was a WAG who kept a diary of every day of his service
in the RCAF.
Here is one of his tales of Ireland.
Getting Sam out of Ireland
On 423 Squadron Castle Archdale, Ireland, we had a ‘sometimes’ LAC
laundry man, Old Sam, as we aircrew used to call him. You see, Sam
was old, 54 years in fact, and him over where a real war was gong on. Five
miles over the border in the Free State, was his old home where his two
sisters still lived. Sam left this home to fight in WW1 and then he came
to a homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada. Now Sam had a great contempt for
authority as, on his chest, he wore more medal ribbons than all personnel
on the base put together. Even the Station Commander was only 32.
He had two sons in aircrew, one flying on the East Coast and one
on the West Coast. He would come around one day and collect laundry from
our hut and the next day bring it back nicely done up. He operated from
a Nisson hut which was his domain. His deliveries developed into personal
calls and he would tell tales of the ‘other’ war, and the awful times of
the dirty thirties. He had no respect for us Flt.Sgts, or WO1’s, but we
thought of him as as father and he filled a gap in our 19 and 20 yr. Old
lives. Oh yes, we got fatherly advice!
Sam’s weakness was Irish whiskey which kept him in continuous trouble
with the Service Police right u to the Station Adjutant. He made frequent
trips over the boarder getting quite loaded on the way and trying to cross
into Free State in his uniform and, conversely, trying to get back onto
the air base with a good supply on the inside and out and in civilian cloths.
He was well acquainted with the “digger”. At times he would arrive on his
laundry delivery in gum boots and mud up to the knees from having just
come from digging trenches away from the sanitary station.
Then came the time when my tour was up and lying around waiting for
a posting and getting to copy Sam. For example, driving my bicycle through
the station barrier at high speeds at night and throwing an SP into the
ditch. So I made more intimate contact with the Adjutant, Works and Bricks,
and found myself Orderly Officer on the night of a dance I was looking
My first duty was to visit the Digger to inspect the inmates, which
amounted to just Sam, complete with gum boots and mud to the knees. He
glared at me and his lower jaw protruded about an inch. I asked him if
the laundry was in and he said it was. I had him let go to continue with
The day I was posted, the Adjutant, in very strong language, advised
me that I would be taking Sam with me and that it was my job to make sure
he got to Liverpool and out of Ireland! When I found Sam he was at the
Station gate trying to get back on the station in civilian cloths and so
drunk that he could hardly stand. He had some choice Irish words for the
SPs. I managed to ‘pull rank’ and had Sam placed in my care, which seemed
to please the SPs.
I took Sam around the station getting clearances and helped him pack
his four kit bags. Due to truck problems we were half an hour late getting
to the train station but the train waited for us. It was an all day train
trip across Northern Ireland with many changes and a night trip by boat
from Belfast to Liverpool. At each station the kit bags – and Sam - had
to be reloaded, and, at each stop, Sam would have to have a final pint
at the local. The school kids across the country were late for school that
At Belfast we loaded the kit – and Sam – onto the boat, however at
the last moment, Sam just had to have one last pint on the ‘Old Sod’ and
he is off the boat to the peer pub. We finally found him and got back to
the boat just as the gangplank was starting to lift.
We rolled Sam into his bunk and propped his four kit bags around
him. Immediately he went into a deep sleep, snoring contentedly. It was
a very rough crossing and the rest of us got no sleep, but Sam snored on.
In the morning we docked at Liverpool and it was back again to hauling
kit. But looking at Sam’s kit, and him peacefully sleeping, I decided just
to leave him there.
I have often entertained myself by wondering, and hoping, that when
Sam did awake, the boat would be back again in Belfast, and that he spent
the rest of his life on the Old Sod.
FEATURING KEN HILL
President - Ex-Air Gunner’s Association, Southern Ontario Chapter
Ken served as an Air Gunner with 425 Squadron and is one
of the early members of our Association having Membership #0070.
DECEASED AGA MEMBERS: SEPTEMBER
BELL, K. J. #0460, PORT COCQUITLAM, BC: Keith passed away June
10th, Enlisted in Toronto October '42. Attended #2 Wireless
School, Calgary and received his WAG Brevet at #6 B&G Mountain View.
Served overseas with Coastal Command at Tenby, So. Wales, Hooten Park and
Blackpool from Oct. '43 to June '44. Posted to Bomber Command and
served with #431 Squadron at Croft, Yorkshire from Sept. '44 to May '45.
LARSON, W. J. #0942, MEDICINE HAT, AB: Wilfred passed away August
10th. Enlisted Dec. 11, 1942 in Calgary at age 21 and assigned to
#3 Manning Depot at Edmonton where he was classified at General Duties.
Posted to 14X Depot, Regina packing practice Bombs for about six months
then remustered to Aircrew for Air Gunner Training. Posted to McGill
University in Montreal for PAED and earned his Air Gunner Brevet at #9
B&G at Mont Jolie. After partaking some Commando Training at
Valleyfield, Wilf was sent overseas on the Empress of Scotland. After
attending OTU and HCU he arrived at Leemington Yorkshire to join 427 Squadron
on Nov. 3, 1944 completing 27 Ops - half on Hallies and the rest on Lancs.
LAPOINT, LONDON, ON: Harold LaPointe wishes to inform that
his wife BETTY JEAN passed away August 19th after a very lengthy illness.
Many of you or your Spouse may remember Betty attending a couple of our
Reunions. You will certainly remember Harold who attended most if
not all of our Reunions - and he sends his best regards to you all!