Note to editors: Book Excerpt - Grandpa's War in Bomber Command
OTTAWA, Nov. 8, 2012 /CNW/ -The late Jack W. Singer of Ottawa joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at age 19. Leaving his family and fiancée behind, he continued his training in England and was assigned to No. 9 Squadron, RAF on June 29, 1944.
Grandpa's War in Bomber Command is a memoir he wrote for his grandchildren in 1998. Now, following his wish, it has been published for a wider audience to help people understand how it really was in World War II.
As part of its award-winning Military Heritage Series, The War Amps is making the book available at a cost recovery price of $15 at 1 800 250-3030 or at waramps.ca
To commemorate Remembrance Day, The War Amps is releasing this chapter excerpt. Please feel free to publish it free-of-charge.
Part 3, Chapter 1 - The First Four Sorties
It was 2200 hours, and we were on our first sortie. We climbed to height, which took a while with a bomb load on board. We crossed the English coast,
and then we were heading for France, the enemy-occupied coast. Would the German fighters be there to meet us? I didn't know, but we did not see any as we flew closer to Paris. It was a deeply dark, sinister, and foreboding night on that first sortie. A ground black-out existed all over Europe during the war, which helped to create that threatening night. There were no lights on any of the Lancasters in the bomber stream, and there was not another aircraft visible to us. Were we in the bomber stream, or were we lost out there by ourselves, easy prey to the German fighters and flak guns from the ground? If we were in the bomber stream, good. But were we too close to other aircraft, with the possibility of collision, making us just another Bomber Command casualty statistic?
Suddenly, the aircraft fell out of control, but our pilot quickly recovered. We had been caught in another bomber's slip stream. This happened a few
times on a night sortie. It was a little scary when it happened, but it was also comforting because we knew we were in the bomber stream. We were not somewhere out there, lost.
When we approached the target area, I could easily identify the target markers that the Pathfinders had dropped, so we started our bombing run. The
raid was already in full force, with flak coming up all around the bombers ahead of us. The sky and the ground were now lit up from the flak explosions in the sky and the bomb bursts on the ground. As the bombers jockeyed for position, I could see how very easily mid-air collisions could occur, but I saw none that night. I would witness my share on future night raids. There was another hazard that could not be seen at night but became evident on daylight raids, and that was the dropping of bombs on another bomber.
I dropped our bombs with my aim being right in the centre of the target markers. We continued through the target to take our bomb impact photograph. I didn't know whether we had experienced a heavy amount of flak or not. I later learned from experience that this had been a moderate amount. In other words, we ain't seen nothin' yet. Despite all the training, I don't think one is ever really prepared for one's first sortie, when the enemy is firing real live shells at you. It seemed like an unreal world.
The official results indicated that the railway yards had been hit, though much of the bombing fell to the east of the target. We turned off the target and
headed for home. Once out of the target area, things seemed calm in comparison. We were always watchful that enemy fighters could be on us at any minute, but they never appeared. There were two other Bomber Command raids that night, so perhaps all the German fighters had concentrated on those. In any case, seven Lancasters were lost over our target.
We arrived back over our base around 0500 hours—about seven hours after leaving. We had completed our first sortie, only 29 more to go.
It was not unusual for crews to have only a few sorties and then "go for the chop." This was the expression used for being shot down. We got the next
day off, not even a practice bombing exercise. The following day, we were off to war again.
I think that most aircrew had a feeling in them to a greater or lesser degree that, sure, a lot of people are getting killed, but that won't happen to me. I,
too, had some of this feeling, but always my intellect kicked into my thinking. It is not possible to do 30 sorties and survive. With the odds we face, I will be dead soon. I just had my 22nd birthday. God! Dead at 22 years of age—how awful, but I was seeing it every day.
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