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Nursery Raid Over Tobruk

Heroes Remember

Nursery Raid Over Tobruk

First raid we did was a nursery raid. A nursery raid is when you have little penetration, you do generally a coastal target so in a sense it’s a navigation aspect at night, it’s a bombing raid but there’s not too much of the enemy action, do you know what I mean? It’s not making a deep penetration, it’s an initial phase as they say, a nursery raid and we did our nursery raid and then we had done another, we were on our forth trip and we ended up having to do a forced landing in the sea. We were fortunate that everybody was able to get out and get in the dinghy, it was just about dawn. And the misfortune aspect was that I stayed up with the pilot at the front, we had no co-pilot and by the time I was lying on the floor and he was in his cockpit flying the aircraft, as soon as you hit the water, it was a good landing but of course the nose crushes in the aircraft, the water comes in just like a force of gravity in pushing in so by the time I got to my feet, and shooken, his harness had broken and he had gone forward and hit his head on the instrument panel so he was bleeding somewhat and he thought I’d already escaped and was up top but I was pushing him up to get him up on top and when he got up on the fuselage of the aircraft, he was looking for me so kind of turned around and then he slipped down between the fuselage and the engine cell and of course it’s a metal aircraft and he can’t climb back up, it’s too slippery so by the time I got up and got out, I got down on the wing to give him a hand, to get him back up and as we walked down the fuselage, the water, the ship was just sinking and the water just came slowly up our legs and my flying boots just peeled off, they were suede type flying boots and you could see I had my flashlight tucked in my boot and you could see the flashlight with the boot going down in the water. And the three, four members of the crew were sort of with the dinghy but the dinghy is on a lanyard and you throw the dinghy out and when it reaches the end of the lanyard, it pulls and starts the high pressure bottle which blows the dinghy up. In this particular instance, it reached the end of the lanyard and just dropped in the sea. It did not pull the bottle and when we got there fortunately the wireless operator had a knife available and he’d cut the lanyard so the ship was sinking but it didn’t pull the dinghy down, but the dinghy was just floating there all wrapped up. And we reached in and you have to sort of break the seal on the bottle and then it opened up. Well, of course, when it opened up it was upside down and, of course, all the ropes and stuff were all mixed up so we struggled like hell to turn it over. We turned it over, of course, there’s a little bit of water in the dinghy. Well then, we are all wearing what we then was the Irving air shoot harness and it’s got hooks at the front where you put your parachute on the hooks and they’re like spring loaded type thing and when you try to climb in, you kept getting caught on the ropes and nobody could actually get in the dinghy, it was just physically impossible. So we just got united and we got one man up part way and then the rest of us got behind and unhooked him and then shoved him in and then he just helped the rest to get in after. And when we got in there, of course, we then were sitting in this wet thing as it went up the water would swish from one side to the other. It was October on the sea, North Sea, it was cold as hell. It was unpleasant.

Mr. Watts describes “nursery raids” and tells us about his first raid over Tobruk which resulted in a forced landing at sea in the Halifax.

Jack Watts

Jack Vincent Watts was born on November 10, 1920, and was raised in Hamilton, Ontario, where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on July 2, 1940. He flew on Royal Air Force squadrons throughout his wartime service, serving with squadrons 10, 462, 109 and 105. He finished the war as a squadron leader and received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Bar. He retired as a brigadier-general in 1975. On his return to Canada after the war, he played in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tigers and the Wildcats. He moved to Ottawa for his service career, and resided there with his war bride, Norma Zelia, formerly of Coventry, England.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
June 1, 2012
Person Interviewed:
Jack Watts
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Bomber Command

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