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Surviving the Crash

Heroes Remember

The port outer engine caught fire. We found that the hydraulics had been shot away. You couldn’t close the bomb doors. We were heading out to sea and I thought the pilot, we should be turning around. We were losing height, of course, and I went back to the pilot and he was sitting there not doing anything at the point and I sort of said, you know, what’s wrong and I got behind him to take the controls, the cables had been shot so there were no control. So it was just going out to sea slowly losing height, port engine on fire and then the inner engine caught fire and, of course, there’s gas tanks in the wings, and the crew had bailed out when I went back to the pilot and they were POW’s as a matter of fact. But we were in the aircraft and he didn’t’ have his chute on so I put his chute on and I had my harness and chute on and I went down because the port engine and the port inner were on fire and everything was in smoke in the cabin. And I went down to the escape hatch and I was going out the escape hatch and he was coming down behind me but the wing tanks blew up in the aircraft and of course it just flipped completely out of control, spinning. And I was lucky, either I got out or was thrown out and when I pulled my rip cord it was supposed to be here, well I knew that I was over the water and I was ready to push the release on my harness but it wasn’t there when I went to reach for it and I found it over my head because my chute was too big, I didn’t have my Mae West on, I’d been too casual about being a Veteran in the flight and when the chute opened, of course, it was too big and I fell that little bit of distance and crossing under your legs, there’s sort of a hook arrangement in which in the old days they used to be able to hook it to the floor if they had an open cockpit and when this thing opened, of course, it hit me in the crotch and the pain just went through to the top of my head but it immediately, it just disappeared because I was too involved in the basis of the escape and I knew I couldn’t see the water because it was dark. My chute had opened and I was sort of dropping but I saw the aircraft, what was left of it in flames. It just hit the water and disappeared. And I am in the middle of a black sort of area and all of a sudden my chute, I started to swing, oscillate, very severely oscillating and I was concerned thinking, goodness I am gonna sort of, the chute is gonna sort of collapse sort of thing so I reached up for the harness to kind of control it. Well, of course, having sort of had my hand ready to release I am now up here like this and that’s when I hit the water and, of course, the thing is water is just like lead, it’s just like concrete when you hit it and I went to reach and I found this thing over my head and I released the harness and it was just perfect in a sense because I was at the bottom of my penetration, the harness just kept going and I fought my way back up to the surface.

Caught in search lights and hit, Mr. Watts provides details to the steps taken for survival after crashing at sea.

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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