Diary of a WWII RCAF Armourer
For once, we are pausing to take a moment to recognize something that has absolutely nothing to do with furniture or design, but has such great importance to us.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day has made us very reflective of how fortunate we all are to have lived, for the most part, in a time of peace since the time of WWII.
A few years ago, while at an antique market, Jamie and I came across a diary written by an RCAF Armourer (someone responsible for loading bombs onto planes), who captured in great detail, his thoughts and experiences as a first-hand witness of the war. From a period of January 1, 1944 through to the end of the war in Europe in 1945, he wrote about his friendships with his brothers-in-arms, his growing frustrations, the highs and the lows shared by everyone at the base, the small events that tell the personal story and the big events that changed the course of history for all. The diary includes detailed and exceptionally written first-hand accounts of the bombing of Britain, various bombing campaigns over Berlin, the wait for and eventual arrival of D-Day, the death of Hitler and the end of the war in Europe. Not only are his diaries filled with pictures of his friends, soldiers, bombers ("Kites") and key news clippings, he was also a wartime tourist in the sense that he includes pictures of sites he saw on days off, the plays he went to and all that caught his interest while based in London. It is an authentic and primary view into what the world looked like back then and we are deeply grateful for the chance to have had a peek.
We don’t know his name, but he will always be timeless and special to us. We know he was from North Bay and that he was based in London, with RCAF Squadron #433, nicknamed the Porcupines. They were lucky to have each other in such a time.
The diary is one of the things we treasure the most in our home and it serves as a constant reminder of how lucky we are to live in this world, in this time, because of those who put their lives on hold to serve in WWII. The world would be a very different and ugly place had they not been successful in their cause. All time in the past where we’ve experienced any joy, wonder or pleasure would likely not have been possible. We are so deeply thankful for the man who wrote these words, for all those who served beside him and for those who serve today. Thank you.
On the anniversary of this incredible event, we are sharing some of his writing from 75 years ago with you now. The words are all his, as he wrote them. Our notes are highlighted in blue text and in brackets.
We hope you will appreciate them the way I do. They remind us how fortunate we are and of the critical importance of standing up to tyranny, wherever we see it, in any way within our means. Easier said than done sometimes, but thank goodness for the example left by those who came before. We must never forget.
Monday, June 5, 1944 (The Day Before D-Day)
To-day is my anniversary, for it is two years to-day since I stood in the Recruiting Centre at North Bay and took my oath of Service. Such a lot has happened since then!
It has been an eventful day. At breakfast, I heard that news that Rome has fallen, - very good news indeed – and surely a step nearer home for us.
Everything was normal this morning. I hoped for a standdown as I was to go on day-off to-morrow and had planned a cycling trip with David and James. David was keen on it and planned to close the pub for the day, and had arranged for old Fred to come on and milk his cows. About noon, ops came through – the usual load of H.Es. (heavy explosives), with every available kite (bomber plane). Our crew of four men had five kites to do, which is no piece of cake. We set to work, and I still had hopes of getting away early but about three o’clock we got the word that all days off were cancelled and shortly afterwards we were told to report to the section after bombing up for further instructions. Later we were told that the whole camp was C.B. (“Confined to Barracks”) – noboby allowed off the station. Back at the section we were told to be back at work at 5:00 in the morning, ready to bomb up as soon as our kites returned.
Everyone of course realises that this is something special. It may be a practice, but it may be the real thing. There is an atmosphere of tenseness all about. Rumours are dime a dozen.
Our kites marshalled and made a very awe inspiring sight – forty of them lined up – wing tip to wing tip. Even the conversion units are on to-night.
I ignored the C.B. and went down to Busby Stoop (Inn). About ten o’clock many squadrons took off and it was a tremendous sight. The sky was black with heavies. Our kites didn’t go until away after midnight, so they must have gone in waves.
Tuesday, June 6, 1944 (D-Day)
So this is “D-Day”!
I was the only one in my billet who had to get up early as I am the only armourer in the hut, but it was funny – the rest of the fellows kept waking up every fifteen minutes from about three o’clock onwards to make sure that I didn’t sleep in. I got up about 5:00am. All the senior NCOs (“Non-Commissioned Officers”) are eating in our mess so it was quite crowded for breakfast. I got up to the drone before our kites got in, and I stayed by the watch office to see them in. They did well, all kites returned, and no hangups. We started immediately to bomb up. About eight o’clock we got the big news of the Allied landings in France. The first news we got came from German Sources – Soon confirmed from General Eisenhowers H.Q.. Everyone was very happy and morale got a terrific boost. Our kites were about the last over the target and some could see the landing craft over the channel when they returned. One pilot told me “There were so many boats that you could walk across!”.
Everything is in an uproar but there is no panic and things here are well organized. Work is done quickly and smoothly. Everyone is happy, but there is no talk of celebrating the occasion.
We were all bombed up by 10:30 and were told to go and get some sleep and we would be called when we were needed. Take off was to be at noon, but it was changed to “readiness”. Actually, they didn’t take off until night, so I assume they weren’t needed.
Wednesday, June 7, 1944
Last night – the King spoke over the radio. His speech is above (news clipping was attached to the journal – I’ve inserted a photo of it below).
Our kites returned about six. They apparently encountered very little opposition, for they all came back and none are shot up. They say they couldn’t see much but a few fires.
Bennetto came and got me out of bed about six and we bombed up again. Apparently they want us bombed up at all times, ready for instant take off in an emergency. I would think it will be a bad sign if we see these kites take off in daylight. As far as we can gather from papers and newscasts, things are going well. I feel sorry for the boys who are there.
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