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Bombing Hamburg - A Sickening Feeling

Heroes Remember

Bombing Hamburg - A Sickening Feeling

I guess I should say this because it really made us sick to our stomach. I have a map or at least I have one of our actual charts, I took it out of the intelligence room before I left the squadron and it’s to Hamburg. We were briefed to go to Hamburg, I forget the date now, and we said to the intelligence officer, “What on earth are we going to Hamburg for?” Apparently it had been bombed in that firestorm and the whole city was just a ball of fire. He said, “Well, during the First World War, that’s the area of Germany that mutinied against the government and wanted to end the war.” And he said, “To the right, along the coast or the docks of Hamburg, the only building left standing is the main post office and they’ve cleared the wreckage and what not away and built emergency shelters for... I forget the figure now ... either 40,000 or 60,000 civilians. That’s your target.” Now what do you think? You’re thinking just what we thought. We just closed our eyes and said “oh.” And they’re the bad guys? Here we were, the good guys going to do the... and we gotta do We had no choice. We went and did it. So that makes you stop and think and it stuck with me to this day. You’re the second person that I’ve told about it ‘cause you don’t talk about things like that. But that’s what happens in this world, that’s what war does to you and what war makes you have to do. And it’s not nice and it’s not a heroic thing and it’s a terrible thing and we were a part of it whether we like it or not. Mind you I was in London when the Blitz was on and it wasn’t nice there either. And we thought, well these terrible people doing this sort of thing, you know, we gotta go and fix things. We didn’t like to do it that way. But that’s what I say, the German air force people had the same job to do and they were hoping they’d break the back of the British people by bombing their cities. But this one was a little, I thought... we thought a a little different. ‘Cause we thought at all times we were going to stop their war efforts sort of thing, you see. But this way was to try and break their morale. You never saw a sicker bunch of young fellas when that chore was given to us. But that’s the way it was. So we’re not heroes really for that reason only. But we had no choice.

Mr. Wickens describes being ordered to bomb civilian targets in Hamburg, Germany, and the disgust of the crew at having to carry out the order

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
Air Force
434 Squadron
Flying Officer

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