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Bush Pilot

Heroes Remember

We had the navigation class and we also had, would you believe, radio operators taking the communication type of thing, see, which we weren’t really involved with at all as a navigator. But that was just part of the course. We had taken the study of the stars and this sort of thing for astronavigation and so forth But generally speaking it was just... I liked math in school and it was right up my alley. I really enjoyed every part of it. I was in pretty good shape, a lot better shape than I’m in now, I’ll tell ya! When I got out of the service I weighed 135 pounds and that’s about seventy pounds less than I weigh now so... there wasn’t an ounce of fat on you, you know, so I was in good shape. Our pilots were bush pilots that were civilians. Here's an example, we were all briefed to fly this day and I think there were about five planes from our station in Southern Manitoba. A snowstorm blew up and here we’re lost over Lake Winnipeg. Just couldn’t see anything and how we found our way home with no navigation at all... we found a grain elevator in the town and then we knew where we were ‘cause we read the name on the elevator and so we followed the railway track back to Portage La Prairie. On the way, I looked out the side and I said, “Jeepers, the clouds are sure ...” And all of a sudden the clouds lifted and it wasn’t clouds at all it was smoke from the train! And we were looking right through the dining car windows. That’s how low we were. We were the only plane from the station that got home that day. The rest crashed all around Southern Manitoba and our pilot got us home just because he was a bush pilot and knew... knew the type of weather to fly in, you know. So that was my first lucky, lucky time, you know.

Mr. Wickens talks about an experience he had with a bush pilot during a stormy day of training.

Donald Wickens

Mr. Wickens was born in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. Despite the scarcity of jobs during the depression, he took employment with the Bank of Montreal, where he worked for two years prior to enlisting. Although not initially eager to do so, Mr. Wickens decided to join his friends who had preceded him into the service. Unlike many of his friends, however, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force with the intention of becoming a navigator, and completed his training in Portage La Prairie. Once overseas, Mr. Wickens became a member of 434 Blue-Nose squadron and took part in 37 bombing and mine laying missions over Northern Europe. He and the rest of his aircrew were decorated after surviving two air attacks in which their aircraft was disabled. After leaving the service, Mr. Wickens returned to the Bank of Montreal. He currently resides in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Donald Wickens
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
434 Squadron
Flying Officer

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