War Records

    Photos

    Biography

    Walter MacDougald

    Upon reaching the age of 18 on July 6, 1943, I was faced with the decision whether to volunteer to serve my country in the armed forces or apply for exemption to remain on the farm to produce food and train weekly for what was called home defense.

    My older brother John was classed as E category due to having had pleurisy at age 17.  My younger brother Jim was employed at Sky Harbour Airport training as a mechanic on the Tiger Moth by-planes.  Horace Salt who came to Dad’s farm as a Bernardo Boy in 1927 was hired to assist with Dad’s three farms.

    The allied air forces were suffering very heavy losses in the bombing of Germany, France, Belgium and Holland and the need for replacement air crews was daily requested on the radio and in newspapers.  My decision was to volunteer to serve in the RCAF provided I could be accepted to train for a position in air crew.

    I was intrigued by thoughts of flying at a very young age and had read all about the WWI Canadian Air Force aces, Billy Bishop, Barker, Collishaw and others.  I had one experience flying with what was called “Barn Storming” when the pilot was taking customers for a short air flight.  Dad and Jack Woodley paid their fee and as I was looking with longing to go too, the pilot said he had room for me too.

    I had built several airplanes of balsa wood and one that by winding the elastic rubber band with the propeller would fly about 30 feet and up to a foot high.

    My father Ormond, a WW1 veteran, accepted my decision without opposition so I went to No. 9 Recruitment Centre in London, Ontario to volunteer to serve in the RCAF.  After passing the very thorough physical examinations and tests and the required I.Q. test I was cleared to train as a member of air crew.

    When asked when I would be available to report for training I requested that I stay on the farm to help Dad with the harvest and silo filling and to report for training in October.  The interviewing officer stated “we sure like to see you farm boys come in to enlist because we know that you will work”.

    I received instructions to report to No. 1 Manning Depot (No. 1 M.D.) at the Agricultural Exhibition Buildings in Toronto on Oct. 27, 1943, so I boarded the air force train in London for Toronto.   I booked in and was allocated to an upper bunk in the “Sheep Pen”.  I learned to arise at 6 a.m. to the sound of the bugle and the tune of reveille, appear on the parade square, learn to decipher the drill Sergeants “SGT” commands, right turn, left turn, about turn, etc.  I soon learned to drill and to march.  I enjoyed the two mile route march each Sunday to Sunnyside and return to the tunes of a brass band and to see the sidewalks lined with civilians to cheer us on.

    Rifle shooting with the 303 caliber was fun for me but not so for most of the guys who had never fired a gun in their life.  I had many years of experience hunting with my 22 caliber single shot rifle bought for $8.60 from Eaton’s catalogue and also with our double barreled 12 gauge shot gun on organized “Belgian Hare” jack rabbit hunts.

    At meal time we proceeded past the arena to the “Blue Room” next to the “Horse Barn” where we were well fed three times daily.

    The first ‘to do’ after clambering out of our bunks in the morning was to wash, shave, read the DRO’s “Daily Routine Orders” and have breakfast.  On our first day there we were re-examined medically, physically from head to toe, given vaccination shots (for what we didn’t know), given a haircut to military length and I was told that I would train to be an air gunner.

    One of our educational processes was to place a group of 15 of us in a decompression chamber to observe the effects of lack of oxygen.  A guinea pig was chosen to remove his oxygen mask and to write answers on a pad to questions we would ask.  His ability to write deteriorated to the point that as he passed out it could only be described as an unintelligible scribble.  The instructor then put his mask on and we observed him as he revived.  The chamber was decompressed equal to an altitude of 25,000 feet.

    Much later at Poona, India we were required to go through this process and I volunteered as I wished to feel the effects of lack of oxygen.  I felt no symptoms and had no knowledge that I succumbed into unconsciousness.  My writing deteriorated into nothing more than a scribbled line.

    Soon after arriving at No. 1 M.D., I met Ron Sheppard who has been a life long friend, ‘Shep’ we called him.  We constantly only heard surnames on parade square so most of us ended up being known by a shortened version.  Because Neil MacKenzie was known as “Mac” I became known as “Dougie” a name that stayed with me throughout my time in the RCAF.

    Shep and I obtained aircraft recognition flash cards and practiced until we knew the silhouette of allied and enemy aircraft by their body shape, wing, tail plane or any part thereof.

    One night as I was doing guard duty on the graveyard shift, midnight to 8 a.m., at the north east entrance I carved my initials in the brick wall which could still be seen 30 years later.

    On Dec. 20, 1944 I was posted to No. 9 P.A.E.D. “Pre-Aircrew Education” at McGill University in Montreal to take a refresher course.  We were taught English, grammar, mathematics, aircraft recognition, the Morse Code to eight words per minute and the 303 Browning machine gun.

    There were 120 of us in attendance on this course and our teacher kept us living under the threat of being relegated to general duties “G.D.” if we failed.  With that threat hanging over me I with my friends Ron Sheppard, Gerry Watson and Neil MacKenzie studied diligently together.  We four passed the exams with flying colours with more than 20% of the class weeded out.  Records show that I got 89.3%.  The work ethic obviously paid off.

    From Jan. 31 to Feb. 10 I was stationed at No. 6 B&GS “Bombing and Gunnery School” at Mountain View until course No. 76 became available at No. 9 B&GS.  We had been introduced and indoctrinated to G.D. so felt pleased that we were to continue air crew training.

    I was posted to No. 9 B&G at Mont Joli from Feb. 11 to May 5, 1944.  As I was getting initiated into Course No. 76, a mixed blessing occurred placing me in the hospital on Feb. 16 with German measles and kept under quarantine until Feb. 23.  Shep and Gerry Watson, both top students, tutored me until lights out each night and with exams a few days later I obtained good marks.  My gunnery instructor noted that I obtained, after eight days in the hospital, a mark of 24/25 and he used those marks to shame others into doing better.  He was a great teacher who taught by visual comparisons of each part of the gun to the female anatomy.  I can thank Shep and Gerry for their assistance which led to recommendations for Commissioned rank at the time of graduation.

    I enjoyed ground school and even more the flying in the plane “Fairey Battle” doing turret manipulation and shooting with the 303 machine gun.  My flying partner was Duke Forrest, a 28 year old school teacher.  We flew and fired a total of 22 times, 20 hours and 25 minutes with two designated as incomplete.  Each trip we were allocated 300 rounds each with different dye coloured bullets.  Duke had difficulty clearing a jammed gun so I proposed to him that as he would assuredly become an instructor I would do all the shooting with him attaching belts of 100 alternating throughout the 600 rounds.  It worked well and I obtained double the shooting experience.  We were each credited with firing 2100 rounds air to ground, 300 tracer demonstration and 1400 at 600 feet.  We fired 3500 rounds at a canvas drogue 13 feet in length and tapered and towed by another “Fairy Battle”, 600 from the Beam = 4.8% hits, 1200 at a moving target = 4.5% hits and 1700 quarter cross under deflection) = 4.9% hits.  At the wings parade Duke was credited with the highest marks in ground school and highest score in air firing marksmanship.  I was third in ground school at 82.9% in a graduating class of 84 and second in marksmanship officially rated at 88%.  Ron Sheppard at our 50th wedding anniversary gave me credit as being No. 1 and No. 2 in marksmanship.

    Four of us were commissioned upon graduation with the rank of Pilot Officer.  They were Joe Biernes, Duke Forrest, Dan Frame and me.  Dan was shot down and killed over Germany on Mar. 22, 1945. 

    Upon graduating from No. 9 B&GS on May 5, 1944 I was granted leave and after two weeks at home reported to a posting at No. 1 AGTS “Aircrew Ground Training School” on May 20 at Maitland, Nova Scotia for a four week Commando Training Course.  The Lieutenant suggested that this was not useful to aircrew so took us to secluded locations to sun ourselves, read a book, play cards or relax.  Only once did he put us over the training course.  This time period I realized was to pass time until Course No. 5 was ready for us at No. 5 “O.T.U.” Operational Training Unit” at Boundary Bay where I was posted to report on July 1, 1944.

    In addition to ground school at No. 5 O.T.U. the top priority was to be crewed up to fly a tour in the B24 Liberator bomber. Squadron Leader “S.L.” John Stewart sought me out and asked me to join his crew and to choose four air gunners.  For bomber operations we expected to fly with a tail, mid upper, front, belly and waist gunners.  We had a great crew and I would have completed a bombing operational tour on 355 Squadron into the Burma Theatre as they did but unfortunately I developed a chronic appendix pain and was hospitalized on July 31.  On Aug. 4 the doctor from Western Air Command visited me and removed it after a persuasive recommendation that better now than risk an attack in India so at 11:26 the operation commenced and was completed at 11:45 a total of 19 minutes.  I was anesthetized with a “spinal” so was awake for the operation.  The doctor showed me the appendix and it was quite blue on one half of it.

    I was discharged from the base hospital on Aug. 16 to No. 6 C.H. “Convalescent Hospital” at Victoria, Vancouver Island at the Colwood Golf Club.  I proceeded to the dock at Vancouver and caught the ferry to Vancouver Island and found my way to the Convalescent Hospital.  One of my first encounters there was when a nurse sat down and asked me if I would like to play a game of rummy.  I agreed and we had many games thereafter.  Although I thought I was a good card player she consistently won more often than I did.  I remember her name because it was Burma Rhodes of Nile Street, Stratford, Ontario and as I expected to be associated with the Burma Road from Burma into China her name meant something to me. I soon was able to ride a bike, go hiking and swimming.  The doctor had me try the Harvard Step Test, stepping up and down off a chair for one full minute and then to have a satisfactory recovery of the heat beat.  He said I was fit to return to duty and I was released to return to Course No. 7 at Boundary Bay on Sept. 2.  I was placed in the crew of Bill Jackson who had been transferred from Course #5 due to having crashed (“pranged”) into the Bay and lost a gunner.  I liked the members of this crew but for an unknown reason Jackson didn’t act pleased to have me on his crew.  Going back to ground school after a five week absence was difficult but with the assistance of Bob Ingleton (Ingie) and Red Franklin I readjusted and passed the course (not with high marks, about 70% I believe although no record appears to have been made). We did skeet shooting many times as a means of learning deflection shooting at various distances from the skeet.  We even practiced within an indoor aircraft hanger with a 22 caliber rifle fitted with very small lead pellets.  This was a very exhilarating and enjoyable exercise for me and usually resulted in a high percentage of hits—a great sport to improve our deflection shooting.

    We transferred to No. 5 O.T.U at Abbotsford, 50 miles or so east of Boundary Bay to carry out more advanced training from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7, 1944.  To the northeast we had a great view of Mt. Baker.

    The training here was most interesting in that we flew many cross country excursions over the Rocky Mountains sometimes at altitudes as high as 28,000 feet.  Warm flying suits and oxygen masks were very necessary.  We wore oxygen masks at and above altitudes of 10,000 feet.  Our cross country over the mountains to Prince George was fantastic on one sunny day.  The farthest we flew was to Queen Charlotte Islands and return to base.  On returning one time when Patterson and I were at the waist guns a fire broke out near the tail turret.  I grabbed the fire extinguisher and Pat reported to Jackson.  I shut off the power switch to the tail turret and extinguished the fire quickly.

    On Nov. 7, 1944 we were given a special leave of three weeks to return home (three and a half days on the train), and then to report to RCAF Lachine near Dorval Airport at Montreal to await delivery of a B24 Liberator to fly to India by way of the Azores, Africa and the Middle East.

    The B24 was never delivered to us so after three weeks or more we were posted to Halifax to go by ship to the U.K.  We left Canada on Christmas Day and arrived in the U.K. on Dec. 31, 1944 to be stationed at the RCAF holding centre at Bournemouth on the south coast of England.

    After ten days initiation into the sunny south coast climate I was sent up to a Bed and Breakfast at Blackpool on the west coast of the Lake District bordering the Irish Sea.  The cold north winds blowing off the Irish Sea penetrated to our bones.  The house was heated with a fireplace with soft coal as its fuel.  We sat facing the heat of the fireplace then rotated to warm up our rear ends.  In spite of the climate we dressed and enjoyed the outdoors, even to riding the highest roller coaster I had ever been on.  At night our bed was warmed at the feet by a large clay brick.  Our hosts fed us as good as possible with total rationing in effect and were good hosts.

    Karl Merriam the bomb aimer on Stockie Stockwell’s crew, whom I met and became special friends with on board the ship to the UK, and I played cribbage and Chinese checkers together.

    From Blackpool we were posted to London to await transportation to India.  While there we heard the V1 Buzz bombs flying over and exploding in various parts of London.  We were told that they dropped and exploded when their fuel supply was used up and as long as we could hear them they would go beyond us.  The V2’s though were directed from their launching pad to a designated location and would be unknown to us.  All the inhabitants of the city appeared to proceed with normal activities.

    Karl and I planned day trips to see Buckingham Palace, Parliament Buildings, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Wax Works, etc and enjoyed every day in London as tourists would.  St. Paul’s Cathedral was only hit by one bomb at the time of the Blitz in 1940.  It came down through the left wing, blew a 30 foot crater in the floor and part of one wall.  For a block around it was sheer rubble of many buildings that were hit with bombs at the time of the Battle of Britain in 1940.

    Our next excursion was Feb. 4, 1945 to go to Poole on the south coast of England east of the Isle of Wight to board a R.A.F. Sunderland flying boat, piloted by Wing Commander “W.C.” Borlly to fly us to Jerba, Tunisia in North Africa.  Flying time was 8 hours 20 minutes.  We slept in tents that night with many jackals barking and howling for much of the night.

    The next day, Feb. 5, W.C. Borlly flew us to Cairo, Egypt flying time 8 hours 50 minutes.  We were lodged in the downtown Morandi Hotel, Room #56.  I have the key and a four inch brass disc with name and number as a souvenir.  We had an exciting evening.  First we went to see a floor show of acrobatic performances and “belly” dancers.  With my quiet secluded life at Fullarton I needed a show like this to broaden my education.  We also explored the street scenes until Joe Biernes knocked a turban from a man’s head (accidentally I wish).  We were immediately surrounded by angry, menacing men.  We pulled out our revolvers and with our backs together made our way back to our hotel.

    On Feb. 6, Squadron Leader “S.L.” Jones flew us to Bahrain, Iraq (now Kuwait) on the Persian Gulf—flying time was 10 hours 45 minutes which included landing on the Dead Sea to refuel.  We arrived late but went out to explore the main street where the shops are located.  In the spooky darkness we felt uneasy so went back to the hotel for our flashlights and our 38’s.  It was interesting to see the shop keepers often playing cards at the back of their shop or working with their wares for sale.

    The next day, Feb. 7, 1945, S.L. Jones flew us to Karachi, India (now Pakistan).  Flying time was 7 hours 45 minutes.  Total flying hours Poole, U.K. to Karachi was 35 hours 40 minutes.

    Sightseeing in the City of Karachi gave us quite an insight into what life was like in India. Many so called sacred cows wandered or lay in the streets and we understood quite well to detour around the cows or be in trouble with the inhabitants of the country.  Many people were on the streets some sleeping, others appeared deceased.  Filth and poverty was prevalent everywhere.  Many were begging and held out their hand hoping for a few Annas from us.  Buckshee was the word when begging and I kept Annas available for the beautiful little children.  An Anna was worth much less than one cent Canadian.  A Rupee is the monetary unit of India.

    From Karachi I was transferred to Poona on Feb. 17, 1945, a town inland from Bombay and also near where Mahatma Gandhi lived. We went out to see his abode which was as we expected a very modest home in keeping with his life’s teachings.

    On Feb. 26 we boarded a train to embark on a six day journey that would take us east to Calcutta and then northeast to Jessore, India (now Bangledesh) to join our squadron #357.  We arrived on base on Mar. 4, 1945 and were soon advised that we were a special duty (S.D.) squadron along with #358 squadron.  We were also advised that as we would not be doing bombing operations we would fly with two air gunners, a mid upper and a tail.  With many surplus gunners I was fortunate to meet F.L. Geoffrey Smith who was in need of a tail gunner and to be transferred to his crew.  I was relieved to leave F.O. Jackson.

    The Special Duty (S.D.) of these two squadrons was to parachute up to six “agents” together with equipment to Force 136, a guerrilla force whose mandate and duty was to disrupt the Japanese supply lines.  These drops were delivered into Burma (now “Mynamar”), French Indo China (now Vietnam), Siam (Thailand) and Malaya.  The drop zones “DZ’s” were recognized by as an example, a letter D and a T of fires.

    I had an orientation period of nine days to acquaint myself with the 357 squadron Air Force Base before I would be flying my first operation “Op” with Geoff Smith and his crew.

    First I became settled in a room with two beds surrounded by mosquito netting with Art Diggins the WAG with Bill Jackson’s crew.  Being with him we two organized games of “Rap Rummy” on a regular basis and at his insistence we played for a half a cent a point “just to keep our interest in the game”.  I also became a friend and rap rummy player with F/L Art Coy and his crew members—no money—we played it as an enjoyable pastime.  Art and I have stayed in touch and in contact each Christmas.  His home is in North Vancouver.  My other card game friend was Karl Merriam.  We played two handed cribbage and Chinese checkers.

    We had a horseshoe pitch so played it with several other guys.  If boredom set in I played solitaire.  I also adopted a pet parrot and kept him housed in our room.  I regret not to have kept a daily diary as S.L. Tommy Lee did.  He spent many evening hours in the officer’s mess watching us card players, writing his diary and writing his wife and others.

    The officer’s mess served adequate meals, meat we understood was mostly from water buffalo and of course a bar for those who wished to partake, never to excess which was a British tradition and never to drink if flying the next morning.

    The weather was extremely hot and humid.  I perspired profusely—so much that my pillow and sheets were often dampened through by morning.  Joe Biernes had a reddish blonde complexion and constantly had prickly heat.  The only time he felt relief was when flying at a 10,000 foot altitude over Burma.  His nickname became “Itch”.

    We wondered if our medical doctor suffered mentally from his extended tour in India.  Two things I remember—one was when he appeared at the airfield at our B24 Lib. with a syringe in hand to give us all a needle for what we didn’t know.  I thought he must have a few screws loose to choose a time and place just as we were about to leave on an Op.  He did have a cute, interesting pet monkey though.  It would imbibe to the point of acting the part of an acrobat which was entertainment until one night he raced across the floor and climbed the wall to the ceiling and fell.  We felt sorry for our dear friend and the doctor was reprimanded.

    I wrote home in a letter dated April 29, 1945 I replied to my father’s question:

    “Well a jackal I believe is a lot like a coyote. They usually stay in the bush during the day and roam at night. I have managed to get several shots at them but with # 6 shells [very small lead pellets used for skeet shooting with a shot gun] it’s pretty hard to stop them. They have the habit of howling most of the night which is a nuisance when trying to sleep. If someone was slowly being tortured to death it would sound a lot like a jackal’s howl.”

    At other times while riding to the airport at daybreak I took many shots at the jackals with my 38 cal. revolver while standing on the back of the lorry. I didn’t expect to get many hits but it was good deflection shooting practice.

    While at Jessore I was appointed to carry out duties as a RAF CENSORING officer, which entailed reading letters that were to be sent to parents, girlfriends and others. Sometimes prohibited subject matter was stated and I would be obliged to stamp it out with a black ink pad. Other times very personal information was written that was embarrassing to read. After the war when reading censored letters written by me to my parents and seeing no “blacked out” areas, I concluded I must have been overly conscientious to not include some potentially classified information, attempting to tell what type of operations we were carrying out.

    We enjoyed our life on base but had one interesting outing into Calcutta.  Art Diggins organized a trip by lorry “truck” to see what was named the “Black Hole” of Calcutta and instructed the driver to take us there. Many, many girls were housed in cages at the front of each building, very colourfully dressed and obviously looking for customers. Art stopped the driver and went in behind the displayed girls to investigate and check on the cost and then roared back and all of us went on our way.  This was quite the adventure but we couldn’t see much of the city as it was darkened due to the threat of the Japanese armed forces.

    While our group played cards, F.L. Stockie Stockwell and his cronies played craps with enthusiasm in throwing the dice and calling loudly for the number of the dice they wished and hoped for.  Many times there was a huge pile of money to be won or lost.

    I would be remiss if I failed to recount a potentially serious charge that was laid against Karl Merriam and myself several days after we arrived on 357 squadron.  Karl and I kept our cameras in our great coat pockets when leaving the U.K. and took pictures en route to India and in Karachi and Poona.  Upon arrival at Jessore we entered a reputable looking camera shop and arranged to have our films developed.  They were subject to censorship and without knowledge of the reasons why they were forwarded to the base administration office and a charge laid against us.  We were each instructed to write a letter of explanation without having been advised of what the photos contained that disturbed the upper brass so much.

    Karl was a member of F/L Stockwell’s crew and was killed on Apr. 1, 1945.  All eight crew members and six agents were killed when the B24 crashed near the end of the runway after takeoff.  No official cause was given for the accident.  We had flown that plane on its previous Op and Geoff had reported sluggishness in control responses which may have been a factor as well as the fact that the gross weight limit may have been exceeded or the six agents not correctly placed for takeoff.

    Geoff and I were part of the burial detail the next evening.  Rough box type caskets were brought in from Calcutta and with two ropes placed near the end of each casket and four men one on each end of the ropes lowered them into their graves.  After V.J. day they were re-interred in the War Memorial Cemetery at Chittagong.

    Soon after Karl’s death I was summoned to the station adjutant’s office and advised that the charge against me had been withdrawn.  They kept us flying on ops so obviously knew we were not subversive Japanese sympathizers.  I inquired as to what our pictures showed that created such a reaction towards us.  He said “you took pictures of Karachi Harbour”.  I then inquired if I could see them.  His answer was “no, you may not”.  I then knew enough to quietly retire from his office.

    Each day from Mar. 6th to Mar. 12th we flew local orientation flights of one to two hours.  Circuits and bumps were practice take offs and landings, some at night, one was a cross country trip of 8 hours 55 minutes.

    We did our first Op on Mar. 13 into Burma with a flight time of 9 hours and 10 minutes with a rating of Duty Carried Out “DCO”.  From then until VE Day (Victory in Europe) we did seventeen Ops, three into French Indo China, three to Malaya, ten into Burma and one recalled due to weather conditions.  From May 9th to May 15th we completed three more Ops, two more to Malaya and one to Siam where we dropped American Agents.

    An interesting debriefing record of our Op to French Indo China on Mar. 22, 1945, was obtained as well as 23 others by our pilot Geoff Smith and our navigator George Smith from the military archives in London, England.  I think it quite amazing that they several years ago after several days of research found record of most of our Ops of more than sixty years ago.

    Quoted:  “Successful, A/C was over DZ at 1540 hrs and reception was being laid out there.  The reception was laid out in a village and the load was dropped in a clear area just outside the village, 11 containers and six packages were dropped in two runs from 500’ AGL and all chutes were seen to open correctly.  The French tri-colour was laid out on the ground near SCH-LA”.

    Flying time is recorded as 11 hours and 50 minutes D.C.O.  This was our 4th Op.  The debriefing report of our Op No. 8 into Burma on April 3, 1945 is as follows, “Successful A/C was over DZ at 0142 hours and “T” of flashes and long flashes by Celtis as briefed were seen, five agents, seven containers and seven packages were dropped in four runs from 700 to 800’ AGL.  The DZ is very good—suitable for non-moon drops, 16 packets of nickels were dropped on KUNG YUNCO at 0245 hours.   At 2000’ weather en route slight haze at DZ—slight haze-visible 10 miles”.  Nickels were pamphlets that hopefully would update and influence local inhabitants.

    As we advanced through the month of April the threat of the monsoon storms embraced us.  One day the rain fell in huge drops to the point of obliterating our view of anything beyond a few feet.  It continued unabated for about an hour and ceased as suddenly as it started.

    As we progressed into the month of May the turbulence of the storms increased to the point they could and did disintegrate a B24 caught in the eye of a storm when returning from a bombing run to a neighbouring air station.  In one instance we instantly changed altitude by more then 1000 feet.  Another time when returning to base over Burma we altered course to avoid a turbulent storm and broke out of a cloud into beautiful sunshine only to have anti-aircraft (AA) shell bursts immediately in front of our plane.  We were over the Burma oil fields.  The Jap had calculated our altitude accurately but misjudged our air speed.  The smoke from the first shell bursts rushed past both sides of me in the tail turret.  Geoff took instant evasive action “corkscrew” and from then on shell bursts were either side, above or below us and we escaped without being hit.  The monsoon storms were a greater danger to us than the Japanese.

    On May 20 we were transferred to the Minneryia air station near Trincomalee on China Bay on the east coast of Ceylon.  Flying time from Jessore was 8 hours 5 minutes.  All Ops from here would be to Malaya which would permit us to fly at sea level, about 500 feet to avoid the turbulence of the monsoon storms.

    The climate here was more comfortable, closer to the equator, but less humidity and a temperature moderated by the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.  We were one of three crews transferred here but other crews soon joined us including my rap rummy card playing friends.

    Our first Op to Malaya from here was June 5 with a flight time of 20 hours and 10 minutes DCO.  The night before this Op Bill Reeve a member of F/L Timmerman’s crew looked me up.  He had heard that someone from Mitchell, Ontario was stationed here and having lived in Monkton 10 miles north of Mitchell and had worked in Thompson’s mill at Mitchell before enlisting was anxious to meet me.  We had a great talk about our Mitchell connections for a couple of hours.  As he was also flying the next morning we agreed to meet after returning to base and a night’s sleep.

    After return from my Op and a night’s sleep I discovered that he with Timmerman’s crew had failed to return and were listed as missing in action.

    In August after VJ (‘Victory over Japan’) Day I learned that they had been shot down off the coast of Sumatra.  The Japs had a radar station and a fighter squadron there but our understanding was that we would not be at risk at an altitude of 500 feet.  We will never know if it was bad luck to be spotted by the enemy or perhaps too high an altitude or perhaps too close to Sumatra.  One crew member survived the crash but succumbed to his injuries weeks later.

    We felt reasonably secure flying between Sumatra and Malaya down the Strait of Malacca.  I even enjoyed and appreciated a couple of beautiful sunsets from my vantage point in the tail turret before turning eastward into Malaya to our rendezvous DZ.

    We had been given an understanding that 300 operational hours was a full tour, however we were now told that due to the length of an Op to Malaya of 20 to 22 hours the length of a tour would be extended to 400 hours.  We were now at about 260 Op hours.

    On June 7 we were given four weeks leave to rest, relax and I suppose to adjust ourselves mentally to fly another 140 hours.

    Our first excursion was a trip to see Sigiriya Rock, a huge rock that protrudes over 600 feet above the surrounding jungle.  It was a landmark when leaving and returning to the island.  It is described as a mass of granite and on its summit are the ruins of the citadel of King Kassapa. The famous Frescoes are painted on the walls of a cavern located halfway up the rock.  I have seven post cards that show the seven paintings at that location.

    Our next excursion was a two week stay at a beautiful seafront hotel in Colombo, the capital of Ceylon on the west side of the island.  It was a great opportunity to become acquainted as a crew under a relaxing holiday atmosphere.  The social time together was swimming and eating small peeled pineapples held by the stem much as we would eat an ice cream cone at home.  They were being sold by locals up and down the beach.  Just to sit, talk and sun ourselves was a rejuvenating activity as well as at least three sessions around the dinner table each day.  Without these two weeks together I suspect we may not have maintained the comradeship that has kept us in communication and to have planned reunions together for these more than sixty years.  There are three of us now left to carry on that comradeship.

    We now returned to Trincomalee and to 357 squadron to continue our tour of Ops to Malaya on July 7 D.C.O.  Our next Op on July 10 was one to remember.  After more than nine hours of flight time as we neared the coast of Malaya the left inside motor shuddered dangerously and was shut down and the propeller was feathered.  We fortunately didn’t have Agents on this Op so we were able to ditch our total weight by ejecting the canisters from the bomb bay and cartons that were scheduled to be parachuted to Force 136.  The B24 Lib is capable of normal flight on three engines albeit by increasing their fuel intake to generate the necessary power.  We returned to base with flight time of nine hours 25 minutes on three engines.

    Our Op of July 19 was successfully carried out but not without a risk to the 5th agent due to having very slightly overshot the drop zone.

    The debriefing record is quoted as follows:

    This operation was carried out for Inter-Services Liaison Department, although the reception and field arrangements were in the hands of the usual Force 136 ground party.  This operation was successfully completed, and both the outward and return flights were uneventful.  After making a D.R. run from BATU PAHAT the correct reception of a T of fires and a flashing letter D was found in the correct position (O1.45’N 103.44’E) at 1414hrs.  The load of 5 agents and 6 packages were dropped successfully in 3 dropping runs, and the D.Z. was left at 1427hrs, when the aircraft set course for base.  The aircraft was airborne for 21 hours 58 minutes and covered 3620 air miles, the weight of load dropped being 1571 lbs.  The following report has been received from the field concerning this, and two other operations, one of which is reported below.  (The other aircraft was operating from Minneryia): “3 planes OK last night.  Thank R.A.F. for stout effort”.

    The following message has been received from the field concerning the drop:  “All arrived safely—congratulations to pilot for perfect dropping.  Worked 10 hours to get one body down from very high tree.  (This report also applies to SERGENT 17).

    As I watched from my vantage location in the tail turret I saw the parachute of the fifth agent blossom over the left side of the top of a very large dead tree and left him hanging about 40 feet off the ground.  The tree was totally denuded of small limbs.  The last I saw of him he was attempting to swing to the tree trunk.  I was relieved to later see the report that he was rescued ten hours later and that the Japs were without knowledge of the DZ drop.

    I was able to provide a navigational aid to George Smith our navigator.  My turret was calibrated to read wind drifts. Harry Smith our dispatcher would drop a flare; I would focus my gun sights on it for a fixed length of time and report the reading to George.  We would be flying at 500 feet under heavy cloud and rain and on one Op he was unable to get a star shot or other navigational aid.  One time he called back and asked “are you sure of that Dougie, it’s the opposite of the last wind drift.”  So I got Harry to drop another flare and yes it was correct.  We had passed from one weather front to another.  We all were very dependent on George’s ability and his accuracy.  Oh to have had G.P.S. then.

    We flew our 26th Op on Aug. 5 leaving base for Malaya at 7:15 a.m. and returning to base at China Bay at 5:11 p.m. on Aug. 6, 1945.  As we were nearing Ceylon on the return flight our WAG Les Powell picked up the very startling news on the radio that an atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.  We of course had no concept of the horrific damage and loss of human life until days later.

    The debriefing record of this Op is quoted as follows:

    “After map-reading from Cape Richardo to the DZ (02.40’30”N 102.59’E) a letter H in panels was seen with no fires.  The surrounding area was searched, and on returning at 1056hrs a T of fires was seen in addition to the letter H.  No flashing letter G, which had been given at briefing, was seen but the passengers were quite willing to accept this reception, so the drop was made.  Three dropping runs were made to release the load of 4 bodies, 1 container and 8 packages, and all the parachutes were seen on the DZ after the last run.  The DZ was left at 1108hrs, and the aircraft set course for base via Cape Richardo.  On the outward flight a small patrol vessel had been sighted in position 02.2’N 101.58’E, apparently at anchor.  It had been painted grey and 1 gun was visible on the bows.  On the return flight, therefore, preparations were made to “shoot it up” but by the time the aircraft had reached the original position the vessel had moved on and could not be seen, much to the annoyance of the crew. The aircraft landed at China Bay after being airborne for 21 hours 54 minutes, during which 3392 air miles were flown.  The weight of stores dropped was 920 lbs.  No report has been received from the field concerning this operation.”

    This Op depicts the difficulty arising when the DZ signals were not given in accordance with briefing given us before leaving the base.  The fact that these four agents expressed their willingness to face the risk certainly shows their dedication to their duty in disrupting the Japanese supply lines and in the support of the ground forces 136.

    Our last and 27th Op was flown on Aug 9.  We left base at 9:15 a.m. headed for a DZ a few miles north of Singapore.  The debriefing report is as follows:

    “This operation was completely successful.  The briefed reception of a T of fires and a flashing letter K was easily found.  The load of 4 containers and 4 packages were dropped in one run at 1357 hours and Captain Geoff Smith set course for base immediately after the drop, landing at China Bay after being airborne for 22 hours and 28 minutes.  3340 air miles were flown and the weight of stores dropped was 1702 lbs.”

    It was quite dark when we made this drop and we arrived back at base after sunrise on Aug 10 and our WAG picked up the report that a second atom bomb had been dropped–this time on Nagasaki.

    VJ day came a few days later on August 15, 1945 with the unconditional surrender of all its armed forces.  We were advised that we had been granted a full operational tour and would be awarded the “Operational Wing”.  I was credited with 374 hours and 55 minutes of Op hours and total of 529 hours and 40 minutes of flying time.

    In addition to pleasant hours playing cards in the officer’s mess I enjoyed swimming in the salt water off the bay.  It required less effort than in hard water and I often swam to the buoys in the harbour, have a rest and swim back.

    Being a country boy I liked to explore the countryside.  Two dry stream beds were a great way to see jungle animals and bird life.  I could explore and I enjoyed the adventure without the danger of getting lost.  On one occasion I was startled to find a Hurricane aircraft that must have been shot down when the Jap naval force attacked Ceylon in 1942.  The pilot was a casualty and although the body was gone his leg from the knee to ankle was still wedged in the aircraft.  I wished it could have been recognized as the Jap Zero fighter aircraft.

    With the war now behind me I could look forward to travelling to my home at Fullarton on the other side of the earth.

    The first step was to leave Ceylon on Sept 2, 1945 to fly to Cawnpore in my last flight in a B24 and Geoff Smith at the controls.  As I was sitting in the co-pilot seat Geoff offered me the opportunity to fly the plane.  It took me at least ten minutes to adjust to the 10,000 foot altitude and at one point our navigator George Smith called up asking what was going on.  My coordination soon gave me good control and I flew it for a couple of hours.  It was an exhilarating experience for me.

    After we arrived I said my farewells to my crewmates and was posted to join other Canadians to await my turn to leave Cawnpore.

    I was one of several who booked a train ride to Fort Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  To that time of my life I had never seen any structure that remotely would compare to the majestic beauty of this edifice.  I bought a small replica made of soap stone that is displayed in a place of prominence in our home.

    After a week stationed at Cawnpore located east of Fort Agra and New Delhi, I was posted along with other RCAF personal to arrive at the embarkation centre at Worli on September 11, 1945. From there we would board a ship for the UK. The train trip to Worli from Cawnpore was a high point because we were placed on the train car next to Pandit Nehru. Nehru was leading the movement for India to become an independent nation.

    He spoke to large groups of people at every train station and the photo shown is one I took of him at one of these stops. He accepted our invitation to join us in our train car and a most interesting discussion was carried on with him. We realized he felt a rapport with us because our countries were both colonies of the British Empire.

    India gained their independence in 1947 and Nehru was Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964.

    Worli was a few miles north of Bombay [now Mumbai], so we were able to make many trips into the city and see places of interest. Bombay was considered to be the nicest city in India and we had three weeks to play the part of tourist.

    On October 3rd we boarded a ship and sailed west across the Arabian Sea, into the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez and through the Suez Canal to Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea.

    During these several days it was so hot that I developed ‘prickly heat’ over most of my body. I was, however, able to enjoy sights of the beach and shore areas and in particular the Suez Canal, each side of which was piled high with barbwire to prevent access or espionage during the war era. When we arrived at Port Said we lay at anchor for a time to refuel and load supplies.

    We then headed west across the Mediterranean Sea and past the Rock of Gibraltar into the stormy Atlantic Ocean. As we passed the Rock of Gibraltar I was successful in taking pictures of it through the port hole.

    After a rough stormy few days we passed west of Wales through the St. George Channel, into the Irish Sea and docked in Liverpool harbour on October 26 for three days due to storms and gale winds.

    We were then posted to the Canadian Release Centre at Bournemouth to await our turn to embark to Canada. Here I reconnected with old friends Bob Ingleton, Red Franklin and Roger Herbert – the navigator in S/L John Stewart’s crew and others.

    On a one week leave I traveled to Glasgow to visit cousins and enjoyed time with Sandy McNiven and family, William McKellar and family and many other cousins.

    Upon return to Bournemouth I enrolled in several short courses – Agriculture, Business Management, Psychology of Selling, Forestry and Management of Small Businesses. I also saw every movie in town and in some cases several times like my favourite movie ‘State Fair’.

    With another one week leave I stayed on a farm in Worcestershire in the Midlands and owned by the Grovenor-Workman family. It was a large farm with about ten employees but was not the type of farming that I could relate to in Canada.

    On January 28, 1946 my number ‘105’ came up and I embarked for Canada on the Aquitania. The telegram sent home read:

    “Bournemouth Jan 28th/46 Mr. Ormond MacDougald R. No 1 Munro Ont. Sailing 28th Jan, Acquatania. The prodigal son is finally coming home. Love, Walter.”

    Six days later we docked in Halifax but not before enduring one of the worst storms in history. About 90% of the guys got seasick but as long as I played cards or read, the distraction was enough to keep my stomach settled. From Halifax we went by train to Lachine, Que, near Montreal and from there I was granted a one month leave to go home but then to report on March 8 to the Release Centre at the Exhibition grounds in Toronto.

    I was discharged from the RCAF but transferred to the RCAF Reserve Class E for a period of ten years. Total length of service was 28 months, twelve days of which 13 months was served overseas.

    Stories

    Bibliography

    My Life in the Royal Canadian Air Force: October 27, 1943 to March 8, 1946 by Walter O. MacDougald, R279309 and J45348