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Red Alert in Digby

Heroes Remember

Now the Battle of Britain was over, and that type of fighting had ceased, but the fighter squadrons that were coming on stream, were taking on the defensive and probably an offensive role as well. And 402, which was brand new, they converted from Lysanders to Hurricanes, you know it was quite a change in airplane and, and people adapt and just do their job. But I went to a place called Digby and Lincolnshire, that's where I joined the squadron, and again my job was, was maintaining the instruments as a technician. And the aircraft were dispersed as was the Lysander's, too. The aircraft were dispersed around the field, they weren't grouped in one group or anything like that. They were dispersed in bays so that they couldn't be strafed or all damaged. Once we had a chore to get back and forth around to, to these different airplanes. And our role was, it was, was partly defensive and partly offensive. We came more offensive later on. On the defensive side, we always had two or three aircraft ready to go, they were on red alert. The pilots were ready, the aircraft were ready, the ground crew, there were three people, one to help the pilot get strapped in, one to help start the engine, and one to throw the parachute on the, the pilot, they wore seat packs in those days. I had on occasion, on several occasions actually, to be assigned stand by, at the parachute thing, so when the pilots were alerted, their alert came in through whatever communication means they had. The pilots would leave the shack and would run to the airplanes, we'd slap the chute on them, get them buckled up, they'd jump in the cockpit, the next crew would make sure they were buckled in and they'd start the engine almost all simultaneously, and just wheel around and take off and go on wherever they had been assigned.

Mr.Snell talks about being sent to Digby after the Battle of Britain and the roles the ground crew played to get the flight crews ready for missions while on Red Alert.

John “Jock” Snell

John Snell was born in Calgary, in April 1920. He was the middle child of three, having an older sister and a younger brother. Mr. Snell's family lived through the depression where they survived on $85.00 a month, which had to support their family of five. After struggling as a farmer Snell's father took a job as a milkman. Mr. Snell remembers helping his father on the milk route on Saturday's so his father could join his friends in a game of cricket. Mr. Snell dropped out of school only months before finishing and pursued a career as a radio repair technician, which little to his knowledge would pave the way for his career as an instrument mechanic in the air force. He quickly rose through the ranks of the air force and at the age of twenty he became a commanding officer in charge of over thirty five men. Mr. Snell retired from the air force in December 1969, with just over 30 years of service.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John “Jock” Snell
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Flight Sergeant
Instrument Mechanic

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