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Bailing Out Over Holland

Heroes Remember

Bailing Out Over Holland

After about 100 attempts I eventually got the ailerons free and we were able to control the direction of the plane. And we were inside of, well into Germany, so it was, be almost fatal to go back through the way we came because there was all kinds of defenses and the main force had gone home. We were lone survivors as it were, so we went north to go around the Ruhr Valley and into Holland and at that point we started to see flares so we thought that night fighters were being put on us and before we had time to do anything, we realized that, that was the case. We were being fired on by a night fighter. Our machine gunners shot it down, but it knocked out both our port engines and a Halifax wouldn’t, couldn’t maintain its height for terribly long on two engines on one side at that time. And it would almost certainly be fatal to try to fly across the North Sea to England and besides that our aircraft was shot up so that our emergency floats were probably punctured and would be no good to us to keep us if we landed in the water. So I decided that it was best for the crew to bail out, so when we'd lost height to about 1,000 feet I had my crew ordering them to bail out, which they did, and then being the captain of course I was the last to parachute. When I went to dive out the hatch, of course in the excitement of the situation, as soon as I let go of the controls the airplane started to roll over because there was two engines on one side and none on the other and so I had to go back in the seat and close the engines down and then jump out the hatch and I was very low at this point.

Mr. MacLean continues his account of the bombing run to Essen, Germany that resulted in his plane being hit. He orders his men to bail out while he takes the plane several miles beyond their location and parachutes himself. It’s the beginning of his long and life-threatening journey back to England.

John Angus MacLean

Mr. MacLean’s father was a farmer in eastern Prince Edward Island. His grandfather came to Canada from Scotland in 1832. Mr. MacLean had three brothers and four sisters. Two of his brothers died, one at the age of fiveand the other at the age of about one year. For the first two years of his higher education, Mr. MacLean attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He went on to the University of British Columbia for his third year of study on a one-year scholarship, majoring in chemistry. In 1938, he returned to Mount Allison University to complete his studies and graduated in 1939. Following graduation, he answered a newspaper advertisement placed by the Royal Air Force for a short-term commission with the RAF. He was chosen as one of two successful Canadian candidates. But, before he could leave for England, the Second World War had started and he was offered a commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he accepted. Mr. MacLean’s bomber was brought down over Germany and he and his crew were forced to bail out. Mr. MacLean landed just inside occupied Holland and was moved along the Comet Line through Holland, Belgium and France to freedom in Spain. He’s an excellent story-teller with emphasis on detail. Mr. MacLean also had an outstanding post-war career as a politician. He served for 10 terms as a Member of Parliament and a term as Premier of his home province of Prince Edward Island.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Angus MacLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Bomber Command

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