Amica at Swan Lake
Royal Canadian Air Force – #118 Kittyhawk Squadron – Served 4 years
Born in Borden, Saskatchewan in 1920, Walter joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was sent to Manning Pool on the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto for basic training, then on to St. Thomas, Ontario to be trained as a fitter to service and repair aircrafts.
After qualifying as an Air Mechanic, Walter was sent to 118 Kittyhawk Squadron stationed at Annette Island in the Pacific off the coast of A laska for 14-months of anti-submarine patrolling for Japanese submarines. Fortunately, he did not see action against the Japanese, but using his skills as an air mechanic, made a plane out of three old planes.
“The nearest town was Ketchikan, A laska. The only trip we had during our 14 months in isolation was to this Indian Fishing Village. A lthough I was transferred to A ir Crew, I had to remain in this isolated region until the tour was complete in 1942.”
Walter was then sent to McDonald, Manitoba for training as a Rear Gunner. He served in Lancaster, England with a crew of 6 when 118 Squadron was transferred to Britain. They completed 18 trips during the war as night fighters with 14 missions into enemy territory, and 4 trips to bring back prisoners of war from Brussels.
“During our training, we were taught that Germans had search lights that could reach 12,000 plus feet into the sky as well as Anti-Aircraft Guns which could show them the height and speed of an aircraft. If their search lights were on, they could shoot you down on the third shot.
“During one of our missions, we were coned in by German search lights and 2 shots practically blinded me. I hollered to the skipper ‘Hard to port!’ and by tipping the wing, he prevented our plane from crashing. A large chunk of flak (anti-aircraft gunfire) penetrated the aircraft and flew in between the pilot and the engineer, landing on the cockpit floor-just missing us! The skipper took it home after the war and kept it on top of his fireplace to remind him how close of a call it was for our crew.
“People were going down all around us, yet we never thought it could be our squadron. We had a very close call that was almost fatal and felt very lucky to be alive.”
One of Walter’s favourite memories was taking 4 trips post war to Brussels to pick up prisoners of war. “It was an amazing experience to see how excited the prisoners were to reach home after the war.”
After 4 years of service, Walter returned home in 1945.