I was posted from the Holding Unit to an O.T.U. at Wellesbourne which was a
few miles from Stratford-on-Avon. It was probably March when I got there. I
thought the countryside was beautiful with the rhodedendrams in flower. Fruit
trees and hedges blossoming, the country roads and quaint villages. Where I grew
up there were no fruit trees and if planted always were winter killed. And with
no TV and few movies, I had never seen, much less been, in such scenic places.
Stratford was largely uncommercialized and located on the Avon river, with
thatched cottages and the whole bit.
At Wellesbourne we were assigned to a crew. We were training on Wellingtons (Wimpeys), they were a two engine heavy bomber and had been the workhorse of the R.A.F. until the four engine planes came. The Wellington had the famous geodetic construction and even if the fuselage was badly shot up it could still fly as long as the engines were working. Our pilot was Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Hall Porter, R.A.F., an Englishman. He was a peace time pilot and had been in Training Command. He was twenty-nine years old and we called him "Pops" . He was an excellent pilot and I was lucky to be in his crew. Our Navigator Jack Patterson from Ontario, W.O.G. Frank Linklatter from Ontario. Our Tail Gunner Ken Wilmans was in the R.A.F. and he was from Rhodesia, he had survived a couple of training command crashes so he knew what it was like to have "sprogue pilots. At O.T.U. there were numerous accidents and crashes, mostly caused by the inexperience of the pilots getting used to flying operational aircraft. I recall coming in from one training flight and seeing two planes tangled together and both burning.
Pop came to Wellesbourne along with five other R.A.F. officers who had all been in Training Command since the beginning of the war and they were all very keen to get into action. After a few months the other five crews had all been killed and we were POWs. So this gives you an idea of the casualty rate.
With an experienced and very capable pilot our O.T.U. training went along very smoothly. Our training flights generally followed a path flying over the Vale of Evesham and Cotswolds to Caernaveon Castle then we turned North over the Irish Sea and back to Wellesbourne. Any bombing practice runs were over the Irish Sea. I was in the front turret and most of the time I was learning to get our location by map reading. When we flew near cities like Birmingham there was always an "Industrial Haze" over them. We would call it "smog" today.
While at Wellesbourne Gordon Dunbar came to visit me and we went to see Coventry. The bomb damage was massive and widespread, and it instilled the desire in you to give back the same to German cities.
Go Back to Chapter