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A Near Death Experience

Heroes Remember

A Near Death Experience

I was given a squadron, an RAF squadron from there, 274. But unfortunately, I had to go back to the other side of Italy and go back on older Spitfires. But I was happy. My own squadron and RAF, too, cause you don’t, they didn’t just give them to anybody outside of the RAF. Anyway, that was March the 17th and I was doing a show was the east side of the Adriatic side, anyway, of Italy, to go on a strafing show up near Rome and my Spitfire got a glycol leak over the mountains and I was going to bail out and I was too low for the peak. So, I decided to try and force land on this little spot and I was coming in to land and the engine blew up and I didn’t remember anything after that, see. And the guys that were with me, they circled and the air plane was burning. And so they went back and said that, some of them went on to finish OPS, the rest went back and told the commander of the base that “The poor guy’s had it, you know. His air plane’s burnt up.” Somehow, there was a Gurkhas, the Indian gun post in the mountains somewhere near there; one of those hills. And they were able to go over there and they took me down off the mountain. I don’t know how, you know, what they went through cause it was quite hilly, like thousands of feet. Hundreds anyway. Anyway, they took me down to a medical station and this was about 4:30 in the afternoon. I remember waking up about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I woke up and this nurse was bending over me. She had that, her white veil on, the air force type, and I thought it was an angel. And I thought, “Jeez, I’m in heaven.” you know. I really thought that. And she said to me, “Don’t worry.” I guess I must have got fidgety. “Don’t worry. You’re in friendly hands.” and then I got a needle and that was, I don’t know what happened. I had a big cut over my one eye and a bruise on my back and a few other things. And I don’t remember how long I was there, how I got there or anything cause they must have just been giving me needles eh. But anyway...or how many days it was before I woke up. When I woke up, jeez, I felt good. I got up on my feet and I felt good, and I thought “Jeez, no place for me around here.” I got my uniform, put it on, went downstairs and I said, “I would like to leave.” And they were quite friendly. They said, “Sure, you can go. Just sign here.” see. I just signed and I left. I went out and hitchhiked back to the squadron. There was an army truck going up to the front, went right by the squadron, I got off, walked up to the OPS trailer. The fellows were just briefing to go on a show. They all turned around and they just all went white. You know, they thought I was dead.

After being given his own RAF Spitfire Squadron, Mr. Edwards was shot down. He tells the incredible story of his survival.

James Francis Edwards

Mr. Edwards was born on a farm near Lockwood, Saskatchewan on June 5th 1921. His father, a First World War Veteran, kept horses until the depression forced him to move the family to Battleford where he became an insurance salesman. His mother had been a nurse during the First World War. In June 1940, Mr. Edwards enlisted in the Air Force. He was sent to the Brandon, Manitoba to do his Initial Training, then to Edmonton, Alberta for Flying School. After completing Flying School, Mr. Edwards was sent to overseas. He was assigned to 55 Operational Training Unit in Osworth, England where he flew Hurricanes. From there he was posted to Africa to take part in the Desert Campaign. Among many battles and operations, he took part in the El Alamein Battle (Egypt) and the Tunisian Campaign. In Egypt, he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. After a period in Cairo running a gunnery school, he was called back to combat in Italy. There he fought in the Battle of Ortona and Anzio and he was given his own squadron, the RAF 274. He was shot down on his first flight as squadron commander. Surviving, he and his crew were sent back to England to take part in D-Day. He would also fight in Holland and Germany. In total, Mr. Edwards served two tours of duty, flying over 360 missions. He had more than 19 confirmed kills. After the war was over he returned to Canada and continued service with the air force retiring as a wing commander.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Francis Edwards
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
RAF 274 Squadron
Flight Lieutenant

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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