CALL TO DUTY THE DAILY COURIER, TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012
Dr. Alan France received the distinguished flying cross, awarded for bravery, after flying 26 bomber missions during the Second World War.
A SALUTE TO THE OKANAGAN’S WAR VETERANS
Daily Courier Photos by GARY NYLANDER
Flying in the 1940s meant you were sub- ject to the elements. When you flew above 10,000 feet, you needed an oxygen mask at all times and you needed a heated flying suit because it got cold, like 30 below.Th
e flying suits were in constant use by various people and suffered unusual wear.We did not have our own suits. I found that I could get the best deal by wearing suit #13 since many of the crew members had their superstitions. That one never bothered me. One day I was listed for a 9 a.m., which meant 9 a.m exactly, not 8:59 or 9:01. My worst nightmare happened, and I overslept. I got there in time to see my plane start its take off run. When it reached 800 feet, the wing fell off, and the plan plunged to the ground killing all 12 members. I was imme- diately saddled with the nickname ‘Lucky’. Only one of every two Canadians who
served in Bomber Command returned to Canada after the war.
Isabell and Wallace MacPherson met during the Second World War and were married on Dec. 14, 1946. Both served in the RCAF. In the photo, Isabell holds a picture of her graduating class from the Women’s Division.
Love bloomed on the home front
Military couple shared life in air force and armaments
By RON SEYMOUR The Daily Courier
Ed Dickins I joined the army on the 27th of July, 1940,
right here in Kelowna.An
d we did our basic training in Camp Vernon. In Italy, our Sherman tanks were much
faster moving around than the German Panzers.Th
ey were very slow but they were heavily armed and deadly when they got their bead on you. We lost a lot of tanks in those battles. I was
very fortunate. I had an excellent driver and he could take a hull-down position and so I could just peek over knolls or things of that nature.We didn’t get hit at all during any of those combats. Later, we were in the northern part of Holland when got word that the Germans were surrendering.We had to get out of the tanks and become the infantry, do the house clearing and that sort of thing.
he Royal Canadian Air Force was so keen to put Isabell MacPherson to work she didn’t have time to say a proper goodbye to her parents. She’d first tried to enlist in the fall of 1943 when was a 17-year-old farmgirl in Northern Alberta, after seeing a recruit- ment ad playing before a movie. She was told the air force would call her when she turned 18.
They did so, and the day she showed up for duty was also the day she was dis- patched for training in Ottawa. “I joined up and I was gone,” MacPherson recalls. “I left on the 10:30 p.m. train, with $10 in my pocket... I didn’t see my parents again until the spring of ’44.”
Despite her hasty introduction to mili- tary life, MacPherson, now 87, remembers her three years in the air force as some of the best times of her life.
Before she joined, she’d never even seen a
typewriter. After basic training, she be- came a stenographer-secretary, and her many duties included compiling log books for pilots-in-training, keeping track of air- craft movements from the control tower, and maintaining service records. “I loved the air force life,” she says. “I got to see so many places, and do things I never thought as a girl I’d ever be doing.” It was during her time in the RCAF that she also met her husband, Wallace, while the two of them were posted to Calgary. He had joined up during the Second World War hoping to become a pilot, but vision problems scuttled that dream and he went on to a 27-year-career in armaments. “I’d hoped, as almost all of us chaps hoped, to be a pilot, but that wasn’t to be,” says Wallace, 86. “But I really enjoyed the variety of the job, working with all differ- ent kinds of armaments.
“It was bombs, guns, explosive ordi- nances, and I even trained a little with nu- clear weapons when I spent some time with the U.S. Air Force,” Wallace says. “We lived at bases all across Canada and Europe,” he says. “And Bell and I raised five wonderful sons together.”
Alan France One of my hairiest trips, we were south-
west of Berlin and we got hit in the rear end of the aircraft. Towards the Dutch border, we’re lost. I’ve got close to 2,000 hours flying at this point, so I have a lot of experience. And I had a hell of a job getting back to believing my instruments. We saw this bright light, a brilliant light, coming up from the ground. My rear gun- ner said, ‘Jesus, Skip, that’s a V2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2 long distance rocket).’ It was heading towards London. Well, that really sort of saved the day be- cause it told us more or less where we were because we knew they were firing V2 rock- ets from close to the Zuider Zee. And the Zuider Zee’s a good landmark for the bomb aimer to pick it up on radar. From then on, we got out of cloud and about another 10 minutes, we were home free with no other problems the rest of the way.
We zig-zagged across the Atlantic chang- ing course every 15 minutes, to prevent en- emy attacks from submarines. At night we had to sail in complete darkness.Portholes were closed so as not to be visible by sub- marines or aircraft. No one was allowed to smoke out on the deck after dark. I was involved in the
firing of all the guns. If there happened to be a submarine, depth charges would be dropped off the back of the ship. There was a setting, making it go down to a certain depth before it would explode, so the ship had to get out of the way before it exploded.
In London, the destruction everywhere
was unbelievable. There was nothing but rubble. Everything was blown to rubble. Many people were walking around like in a daze. I was born in Thompson, North Dakota, and my family had moved to Saskatchewan when I was three years old. After the war when I returned home, I had to apply for Canadian citizenship, as I was only consid- ered a Canadian while in service.
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