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Dangers of close formation flying

Heroes Remember

Dangers of close formation flying

You can't imagine how many aircraft bumped into each other at night. In fact, we saw two one night as we were going across the North Sea at a thousand feet. That was a story in itself, because the thousand feet was a very dangerous height if you had two or three hundred aircraft concentrated at that level, you had a potential danger. And, however, the reason for doing so was all well and good because the enemy's radar would not detect us until we approached the coast. And by that time, we would climb and, but we would have them. They wouldn't be there waiting for us. But the losses were bad from collision. Y'know, there was lots of losses from collision over targets, too. But, we saw, we saw two go down that night, when we were flying at a thousand feet, just a short distance away. And that's a little bit scary.

During bombing runs, air craft would fly dangerously close to one another. Mr. West talks about the dangers of bumping into another plane while large groups of aircraft were flying together.

James West

Mr. West was born in June 1924, in the town of Hopewell, New Brunswick. He is he youngest of three children, one brother and one sister. Mr. West grew up on the family farm and attended school completing grade 11. In June 1942, he decided to leave school and enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Mr. West took his basic training in Lachine, Quebec. After basic training he spent the winter in Mont Joli, Quebec, where they had a bombing and gunnery school. Mr. West got his first taste of flying near Trois Rivieres, getting 8-12 hours of instruction before getting a chance to solo in a Tiger Moth, and a Finch Fleet. Unfortunately Mr. West washed out of flying school and was transferred back to Lachine, Quebec, for the purpose of being retrained as a bomb aimer. He then was transferred to Fingal, Ontario, to take up training as a bomber/gunner.

Mr. West left Canada for England, via Halifax, on board the vessel the Empress of Scotland, taking nearly six days to cross the Atlantic, arriving in Bournemouth, England. Not long after he was transfered near Stratford on Avon where he underwent updated training to the Wellington aircraft.

Mr. West completed his training and was assigned to serve with the 420 Squadron in the Yorkshire Valley. From December 1944 until May 1945 Mr. West took part in 31 missions. He completed his tour of service just before the end of the war in Europe. He signed up to serve in Japan but the war there ended while he was on route back in Canada.

After the war Mr. West married his girlfriend within a year of his discharge from the Air Force and attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. After graduation he got work in Scarborough, Ontario, with an Engineering firm as a technician and designer. Later he was able to transfer to Moncton where he retired next door to the farm that he grew up on.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James West
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Western Europe
Air Force
420 Squadron
Bomb Aimer/ Assistant Navigator
Bomb aimer/ Assistant Navigator

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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