Amica at Swan Lake
Royal Canadian Air Force – #424 Auxiliary Squadron – Served 15 years
In 1944, Ray joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as Sergeant, Wireless Air Gunner and from 1956 to 1959 was a Flyer Officer Fighter Controller in the 424 Auxiliary Squadron. After completing his training in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, Ray was posted to Canadian stations only.
When Ray looks back at his years of service, he remembers that “War is usually a horrible experience. The ‘real’ veterans are those who lived often in dirty, uncomfortable conditions, without proper food or drink, and faced a high risk of serious injury or death. The war had a very black and white enemy for those who went to combat.”
At 18 years of age, Jack volunteered for service because it sounded exciting and the right thing to do and he was ready to accept whatever might happen. Ray spent one year training as air crew as a Wireless Air Gunner and would have been deployed in the Pacific, but the Hiroshima Bomb was dropped during the final stage of the Second World War in 1945, ending the war.
During the Cold War in the 1950’s, Ray was stationed in the 424 Auxiliary Squadron Barrie. At this time, Canada, due to its proximity to the Soviet Union and remote wilderness, was one of the locations for the early warning radar stations, helping the West stay one step ahead of a potential Russian Army invasion. Ray served in Sudbury from 1955 to 1959, when the Squadron was disbanded without any invasion having taken place. In the end, Ray was never deployed outside of Canada.
“By pure luck, my service always involved living in comfortable quarters, with lots of good food, drink and companionship and doing interesting and challenging work. I was never in a situation where there was any significant risk of injury or death through combat. I look back on my years in the RCAF as some of my happiest and having a significant impact on my late life. I was very fortunate.
“My most memorable highlight was leaving high school in 1944 as a kid and travelling. It was all so exciting – but many of us were naïve to the dangers. There was a very sudden maturity, we had to grow up very fast.”
Ray’s service experience led him to study Engineering at University and his career took off in the 1960’s, working in Research and Development for Atomic Energy of Canada setting up Nuclear Generating Stations in Chalk River.