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A Sitting Duck

Heroes Remember

Say navigator here. Skipper here. Here’s your new course and so on. Or say hey, we’re going too fast we have to alter our course and waste some time or speed up so that we can meet our... That's where my job came in. But we had no trouble communicating... no. Interviewer: Was it difficult to keep your papers and your different instruments steady? Well if you had to take evasive action as I mentioned to you a little earlier — naturally with the G forces — if you were all of a sudden to turn and... what do you say... “Corkscrew right”. Ok, down you’d go. Well all of a sudden the stuff on your table would be up here and you’d be scrambling to keep the papers and pencils and stuff from falling all over the place. Then when you pull out of course you’d just be glued to the table... you couldn’t move and you had the stuff there. So it was quite a chore but you weren’t doing evasive action all the time of course. But when you were it was a real problem. If they... what they called “cone you...” if there were two search lights and they get you in a cone between the two of them, you’re just a sitting duck. They can plot how high you are and with anti-aircraft fire they would have no trouble shooting you down. With anti-aircraft fire, usually what they did was just throw it up in a whole blanket. But if they had the wrong height you were okay. We would smell the cordite from the exploding shells but if they weren’t close enough at least we could smell the cordite rather than feel it. The mid-under gunner was wounded by flak from the exploding shell but that didn’t hurt the aircraft at all. So this is where you had to take that evasive action and if you didn’t get out of there you didn’t come home. They would be able to shoot you down. So we were, it wasn’t easy but if you did it right and got lucky then you got away. But sometimes it didn’t happen. A lot of times in that evasive action you may run into somebody and that’s something you have no control over either because you can’t see them. All of a sudden... bang and and that’s it! We lost our wing commander — squadron commander who was a wing commander — in a collision with a German fighter. But those were the things that were the luck of the draw really.

When the Germans “coned you” you were a sitting duck. Mr. Wickens explains why.

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
Bomber Command
434 Squadron
Flying Officer

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