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A Very Close Call

Heroes Remember

We also carried bombs towards the end. of the war on Spitfires and a lot of people don't know that but you could have one of five hundred-pounder under the center line and a two fifty under each wing. The closest episode I ever had to being killed was when we were dive bombing Calais and we were set to dive bomb and I was all set for the dive when there was a loud explosion under my port wing and a bit of sunshine came into the cockpit through a hole that wasn't there before. My leg felt as though it had been hit with a baseball bat and it was just sort of a shattering experience. But I collected my wits and I still had control of the airplane. Although I trimmed for the dive and it made it a bit awkward there. And I returned to base because I wasn't going to dive bomb this way. One of the reasons I was nervous about dive bombing that way, I dropped my bombs, just let them go. We found this, if the wing was damaged sometimes you might think, "Well, it's not too badly damaged. I'll carry out of the dive bombing." But when you pulled out with the G forces and the wing was subjected to a load of five or six times normal, if there'd' been a fracture there which you didn't know about, the wing would just break off. And in the Spitfire, the breaking off the wing would rotate...the aircraft would rotate so fast and then it would go down very slowly. Nobody ever bailed out and we often thought, "Why don't they get out?" You know, it's going down and nobody ever seemed to get out. But we found out with the somehow through a crash or something, the medical officers found that when you lost the wing in a Spitfire, and it might mean other airplanes too, I don't know, but when you lost a wing like that in a Spitfire, the initial rotation was so quick, it snapped your neck. Like a hangman's knot. You know like a hang, just the G forces throwing your head to one side just broke you off at the neck. And that's why nobody ever bailed out. Anyhow, I flew back to base and then I could smell something burning which was, I didn't know, "What's burning?" And when I landed, I found that a red hot piece of shrapnel had come up through my airplane, hit my D ring which and it just wrapped it up and ended up in a little tin box I carry here and had I not had that tin box in my pocket or hit the D ring, it might went off just right in my heart and it always reminded me of those stories you get about your mother would give you a bible you carry here and that'll stop the bullet, well this did!

Mr. Warren's Spitfire is struck by shrapnel or ack-ack, leaving a hole in the cockpit and him with a numb leg. He jettisons his bombs and returns to base. Smelling something burning, his investigation finds a piece of molten metal in a tin box in his tunic pocket. During this clip, Mr. Warren also explains why Spitfire pilots seldom ejected if their plane was shot down.

Douglas Warren

Douglas Warren was born on May 28, 1922 in Nanton, Alberta. His father, a farmer, was an isolationist emigrant from the United States. One of four children, Mr. Warren had an identical twin brother with whom he was very close. They had always wanted to fly, and enlisted in the Air Force in 1940. Mr. Warren completed his pilot training in High River, Alberta. Once overseas, he joined #165 Spitfire Squadron in Ayr, Scotland, and was involved in the air battle during the Dieppe Raid, as well as later flying cover on bombing raids. He then joined #66 Squadron at Falaise, France, flying the new SpitfireMK9B in ground attack operations. Mr. Warren was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, Mr. Warren's exemplary career continued after permanently joining the RCAF. He became Fighter Leader for Canada's Meteor Jet Squadron, served in the Korean War, was a NATO pilot instructor in Germany, and served time with NORAD. Mr. Warren eventually became Assistant Base Commander at Comox from where he retired with the rank of Wing Commander.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 7, 1999
Person Interviewed:
Douglas Warren
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
166 Squadron
Wing Commander

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