Gunner Like It or Not
Issue #19- November 2001
John (Jack) W. Morris, D.F.C.
Morris of Windsor relates some of his Royal Canadian Air
Force training in World War II. Part of the challenge was
trying to stay warm!
war was declared, everyone thought it was going to be short.
In August of 1939 I had just turned sixteen and Grandmother
Layland told me that the war would be over by the time I
was old enough to enlist.
19, 1942 was a very sad and solemn day in Windsor, Ontario
when word started coming back of the losses that the Essex
Scottish Regiment had sustained at Dieppe. (The Essex Scottish
was a militia unit based in Windsor.) All the members were
residents of Essex County. The next day, I enlisted in the
Royal Canadian Air Force. I Left Windsor on September 4,
1942 for Hamilton, Ontario for three months of training
at #5 Manning Depot, Lachine P.Q.
had never seen so much snow nor endured such cold. The drill
halls were not large enough for the whole training wing
to do the marching that was necessary. The wing would form
up in the drill hall and the new flights would drill outside.
Friday morning we were subjected to the COs inspection.
The one inspection that stands out in my memory is of a
young man who was tapped on the shoulder and told to get
a hair cut. He then did the unpardonable act of questioning
an order given on a parade square. Then he removed his wedge
cap, put a hand to his head and removed a wig, which he
put in his great coat pocket.
Apparently he had had scarlet fever as a child and hadnt
a hair on his body. I met "Curly" overseas at
# 22 O.T.U. and asked him what he had done with his issue
shaving kit. The brush had been cut down and used to apply
shoe polish the razor had never been used. Later
I found out he had been quarantined for six weeks when members
of his unit came down with scarlet fever even though he
Christmas came and I got seven days leave. It was a great
holiday and was to be my last Christmas home until 1945.
we returned to the depot, the other half of the flight went
on leave for New Years. After we had completed 21
days of training, it was make work for us: the kitchen,
the boiler house and any other dirty job they could find.
One day our flight was in a rec hall waiting to get our
assignments for the day. A flight sergeant went to the stage
and asked everyone with a Quebec drivers license to
fall out and line up by the door. He handed everyone a broom.
Then, they all got to drive a broom around the drill hall
on Guard Duty
the end of January, the first half of our flight went to
Brandon, Manitoba. I was very fortunate as I was posted
to Mountain View, Ontario where there was a B&G School,
and that was cold enough for me! Mountain View was on an
island in the Bay of Quinte I was there until around the
end of March performing tarmac and security guard duties.
was a good station. We got a 48-hour pass every 10 days
and it was only a little over 300 miles to Windsor. But
we were anxious to leave for our next posting as it would
start us on our way to becoming Spitfire pilots. This was
the dream of every airman who was chosen for aircraft.
my time at Mountain View, three things stand out in my memory.
We flew Ansons, Bolingbrookes and Lysanders. When they landed,
the fitters would check the oil, and it always seemed that
they needed some. The oil was kept in 45-gallon drums on
the edge of the taxiway. We would wheel one out to the aircraft
and the fitter would climb up the ladder to the engine and
insert the nozzle in the filler spout of the engine. One
of us would be on the handle of a rotary pump. Aviation
oil is about a 60 grade. At 10 degrees above zero it requires
a great deal of effort to pump so after pumping about five
gallons of oil you worked up a sweat even at those temperatures.
was now considered experienced enough to direct the parking
of aircraft which leads to my next memorable experience.
One day an Anson came in and I went out to guide it to its
parking spot. I waved the pilot to turn it into the designated
area. As he came up to the line he stopped and waved me
off, so I took another look and waved him on. Fortunately
the aircraft beside him had a weak oleo strut and its wing
was lower than that of the aircraft I was directing
the wings overlapped by about three feet.
third memory occurred while I was on guard duty. We were
on the graveyard shift and it was about 3:00 in the morning.
It was bitterly cold with gale-force winds. Another guard
and I went into the washroom of a rec hall where it was
nice and warm. We had our parkas off and our guns were lying
in the corner. We had seen the Sergeant driving around,
but we didnt pay any attention to his truck because
we didnt think he would find us. Well he did and was
he angry! He had hot coffee in the truck for us and when
he couldnt find us he thought that something had happened
to us and maybe we were lying hurt in the snow some place.
you very much, Sir
was a special day when we left Mountain View near the end
of March. We were on our way to #6 I.T.S. in Toronto and
were nearing our dream of becoming pilots in the Royal Canadian
Air Force. There was not one airman at that school who didnt
believe that he was a future Spitfire pilot. Little did
we know that category aircrew comprises all the other trades
that are needed to fly a bomber and guess where they get
them from? The selection boards. All the I.T.S.s had their
quotas to fill.
was only one airman I knew who became a Spitfire pilot:
a young man (we were all young then), whose name was Bill
Pitt, from London, Ontario. We parted company at #6 I.T.S.
The next time I saw him was in England, when he came up
north to Yorkshire where Six Group was based. (Six Group
was an all-Canadian bomber group.) We only had a few hours
together as I was flying that evening. I never saw or heard
of him again.
went before the selection board. Rumour had it that there
was a shortage of air gunners. I knew that I wasnt
going to be an air gunner and I had all my reasons lined
up as to why. The board consisted of the wing C.O., the
chief ground instructor and my course officer.
first thing the wing C.O. asked me was why I thought I should
remain in Air Crew? You never heard such fast talking in
your life. I gave them every reason I could think of and
some I wasnt thinking of. Finally the wing C.O. said
that he liked my attitude and would recommend me for posting
to #1 Air Gunner Ground School at Trenton. I said, "Thank
you very much, Sir," and was dismissed. I walked out
of that room on my way to becoming an air gunner and had
even thanked them for it!
flew in 34 sorties, the last operation being his most memorable:
on October 14, 1944 his plane was one of 1,013 aircraft
flying over Duisburg, Germany. 957 bombers dropped 4,394
tons of high explosives and incendiaries on Duisburg.