ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ENQUIRING MINDS MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
AS ASKED BY OUR MOM (ELIZABETH BODALY)
JB Note: These questions were asked in 2004 by Stan Bodaly's wife Elizabeth, whom he affectionately referred to as Mum, and transcribed by Stan Bodaly's daughter, Susan Little. We thank the family for making the wonderful effort to preserve his story, and his memories.
Susan Little adds, " This was an oral communication and not a written transcript, as Stanley Bodaly was, at this point in his life, legally blind. I transcribed these questions plus other writings from tapes as Dad had spoken, therefore continuity and grammer with the spoken word are not always as they should be with the written word."
And the family has this final comment: "'60 years had passed when these questions were asked, so some answers might need to be clarified as memories fade in time...We hope it might help people understand a bit more about what these men and women went through at such a young age..It is of vital importance to all of us to keep these memories alive so hopefully it will never happen again." The Stan Bodaly Family
Now comes the questions and answers. Mum’s going to ask some questions and I’m going to try and answer them. Go ahead and shoot Mum. Go ahead and question me.
Q1: When did you go to Skipton? When did you leave?
A: I went in March and started my first op on the 9th of April.
Q2: What year?
A: In 1944 and I was finished the 25th of September in 1944.
Q3: How many Canadian stations were there in England?
A: I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think there was 12 in Sixth Group. Canadians were in lots of other RAF squadrons too.
Q4: How many squadrons would there be in each station and how many Cdn. 6th group stations were there?
A: Usually 2. There were 2 in Skipton, 433, which I was part of and 424. We were the Porcupine Squadron and they were the Tiger squadron. There were 2 squadrons in each station and there were about 12 squadrons.
Q5: How many planes and how many men would be in a squadron?
A: Air crew…maybe over a hundred air crew. And the ground crew servicing each plane, oh there was probably 4 engine and a couple air frame mechanics and then there were the armourers. They generally serviced all the planes. Of course there had to be people in the kitchen. There were probably 1200 people in each squadron. Pardon me, every station.
Muster, depending if the planes were damaged or needed repairs, they generally mustered 15 per squadron, in other words, 433 would put up 15 and of course there were 7 crew on each plane. So if you lost 3 planes, you lost 21 men.
Q6: Now if a crew and a plane were lost, was it replaced right away or how did they work that?
A: Planes were coming in all the time. They were being manufactured. They’d ship them in because the losses were so heavy and just how they did this, I don’t know.
Q7: Would you always have spare planes than those actually being flown at that moment?
A: There were planes in the hangers that were being serviced all the time and being upgraded, any repairs being made, patches or whatever .
Q8: What was your daily routine? What would you do ordinarily on the squadron?
A: Well, if we weren’t on ops we’d get up and have a shave and do whatever you do after you just get up and of course, get dressed. Washrooms were generally not in the same Nissen hut so you’d have to walk in your night clothes, you might say, maybe put on a pair of pants and go over and have a shave and get ready, get dressed. Then go down to the mess.
Q9: What is flak?
A: It is ani-aircraft fire.
Q10: What did you eat? Like you went to the mess, did you have a different mess when you were an officer than when you were sergeant? What kind of food did they give you?
A: For breakfast, I guess, toast and jam, scrambled eggs, you got powered eggs on the squadron. I imagine all of England probably got powered eggs. I don’t know. Tea and the tea was terrible because it had powered milk in it. It settled to the bottom and if you got the last cup of tea, it was terrible.
Q11: Did you eat in a different mess after you got your commission?
A: Yes, commissioned officers had their own mess, the sergeants had their own mess and the airmen had their own mess.
Q12: If you weren’t flying on a certain day, what did you do that day? How did you put your time in?
A: Oh! Depends on the weather. If we had nice weather, we might go for a walk, we might have a game of ball, go out and check out the aircraft. If it was a dirty day we’d maybe play pool, guys shot craps, they played poker. Some of them drank, of course. It depended if there was a chance we might be on ops then you didn’t drink. There were numerous guys who wrote letters, let’s face it, if you expected to get a letter you had to write one.
Q13: If you were flying, how did you know, when did you know and who would tell you about this?
A: If there was an “Op” on, usually the pilot told you, your own pilot. They would tell you as soon as they found out, you knew. It’d be posted and you’d find out if you’re on that night. Of course, you didn’t know where, you never knew where because we didn’t want people blabbing, you might say. Because they used to say the wall have ears, you know and there were spies in England. It would get back to Germany that they’re going to attack Berlin that night.
Q14: After your pilot told you that you were to fly that night, then what happened? Did you have a briefing somewhere, did you go to the briefing with him or what would happen then?
A: The pilots and navigators had their own briefing.
Q15: How did you get out to the aircraft?
A: They had transport and usually WAFS ( RCAF - Women’s Division) drove the transport. They were pretty busy when there was an op on because they maybe would take out two crews at a time. Then they would turn around and run back to, maybe a mile or two miles from your aircraft. You’d get out there and the aircrew are bustling around, rather the ground crew bustling around. You go out, it could be daylight, you just walk around the plane, checking things. Gunners would get in and check the turret. Before you go, the pilots really run over the engines and they’d check with the ground crew to make sure everything was alright. Of course, once they start them up, then they have umpteen checks and they had what they called an accumulator which they plugged into the side of the plane which saved the batteries in the plane. They would start the engines on the accumulator right on the ground and then they would unplug it and take it away. It was on wheels. They had wheel covers which they took off and covers for the motors too. Keep the weather off them. Of course, everyone would pile in the plane about 15 minutes before you were ready to go. Run through a number of other checks and before you got in everybody had a last nervous pee on the tail wheel. There was a little ladder that you climbed up into the plane.
Q16: When you got into the plane and then, I presume, you taxied to some place, how long from the time you got on that plane would it be before you would actually take off and then how did you take off? One at a time every minute or every ten minutes? Tell us about that.
A: Well, I’ll tell you, you’re loaded with gas, high octane gas so the idea was to, when you started up the motors, they generally revved them up and cleared them. You’re in what they called a dispersal. A little parking lot for each plane and then you go out on the perimeter track which ran all the way around the airport and then you’d take turns taxiing out to the take off area. When one plane took off, say you’re the next one, it’d be, oh, pretty fast, say one every minute. Maybe closer than that. I cannot really tell but you’d get out onto the runway and then the pilot really revs up the motors and clear them. Make sure that everything is operating perfect. As soon as he got an Aldis Lamp, a green light to go and I believe they told them from the tower too, OK F. Freddy, you’re on your way. Flack Happy Flapper. So the pilot would release the brakes and they would taxi forward and away you go. It’s one of those moments............
Q17: You hoped you got up in the air! Did you fly in formation?
A: Oh no! We’re flying at night. Therefore, most of my flights were at night. There’s no way you could fly in formation because you’re lucky to see one another. That was a big danger too. You might collide so you had to keep your eyes open. Another thing was going up through a cloud which we often did. England was a country where if you didn’t have cloud, there was something wrong. You had to go up through the cloud to gain your height and that was particularly dangerous as far as I was concerned. If any of you have driven in fog you know what it would be like.
Q18: How the heck did you know where to fly, did you just say there’s a sun over there, I’ll go see it, or were you told to fly at a certain height, a certain position or what?
A: The navigators and pilots had a separate briefing where they were briefed to what track to take. One time, we used to fly in circles and rendezvous, so that you weren’t going all in sporadically, you generally flew in a group though you weren’t in formation. You’re bombing time might be, you know, every half a minute so you were packing quite a few planes through there in a bombing raid. Matter of fact, they used to do a bombing raid in 20 minutes. It was unbelievable how many planes they could run through, but they were different heights and they’d go over at different times. Of course, the navigators, they’re the guys who told the pilots what track to take and what turns to take because you fly around flak, at strong points you’d fly around big cities because they were all protected by flak. You stuck to the safe points as much as possible. One other points I forgot to mention was, in mentioning my dress, was that on daylight raids they issued us with what they called daylight goggles because you got above the clouds on a sunny day, it’s pretty damn bright so you were always in the sun, you might say. Ha! Ha! Always getting the sunshine.
Q19: Get back to how you flew and how you knew where to fly and so on. Were there ever accidents up there, did somebody drop a bomb on another plane that was underneath him? Did things like that happen?
A: Oh Yes! They lost, I believe they estimated they lost 7% of all loses through collision. Now these other events......
Q20: What do you mean collision?
A: Well, two planes, two Halifax’s colliding in the air. They were close enough, they wouldn’t see one another, maybe. Sometimes all you could see was the exhaust, on a real dark night all you saw was the exhaust from these darn things. This is one of the main jobs of a gunner. All he had to do was look and keep an eye open for fighters and other friendly planes. You didn’t want to collide. Of course, because I said that they might bomb a target that maybe 300 planes in 20 minutes. That means that they’re bombing from different heights. Sometimes a plane above would drop one on a plane below. Not on purpose, of course, that would be stupid. Just unavoidable and unfortunate. These things happen. I remember one time a plane came back, a Halifax. A bomb had hit his port wing and that’s where they get the dingy. The dingy was dragging out the back. The dingy was what you used if you came down in the ocean. There was a seven person dingy and when it was deployed automatically it inflated and all you had to do was hope you got out of the plane and got into it. It was well equipped. It had a radio and all the rest of it but take it from me, nobody wanted to go in there.
Q21: If a plane and a crew were lost was there a replacement, did you replace them right away and if you did, where did they come from?
A: They came from Canada, the planes, of course, the British manufactured them all the time and some of the heavy losses naturally they took a little while to replace. Of course, we never did see the people that transported them but usually it was an individual and a lot of times it was females flying these monsters in. Mom says how many people, the support staff, of course, was unbelievable. You’d have amourers, you had parachute packers,air engine mechanics and air frame mechanics.
A: Well certainly, we had to eat so had cooks, they even had clerks who knew how to use typewriters and every squadron was split into two flights, A and B, and a flight lieutenant in charge of each one of them. Take a while to tell you how we split it all up, but they seemed to function pretty good. One person that I forgot to mention was the MT (Motor Transport) that took us out to the planes, usually they were manned by females, too. So they were very important, I’ll tell you.
Q23: Hurray for the girls!! This is kind of a long question, has a lot of parts to it. Tell me how you spent your time on the Squadron. Now I’ll give you a bunch of little questions and you can give them to me one at a time. Did a bugler wake you up or an alarm clock or a feisty sergeant?
A: A feisty sergeant wouldn’t show their face around where the air crew was because we’re liable to come rolling in at any time, you know, the operation, we might take off at 11 pm and get back at 4 in the morning or something like that, so they didn’t bother us. It was the pilot's responsibility to get his crew ready for an operation, so if we were asleep at 12 noon and we had an operation that night, the pilot would come around and ‘Stan, come on, get up and go have your lunch, go have something to eat and briefing at 2.’
Q24: Did you sleep in a permanent building and how many men were in your bedroom? I trust they were all men.
A: Well if you call a Nissen hut a permanent building, just looked like a half a tin can with an opening both ends. Usually the one end was sealed off. To tell you the truth, I can’t tell you how many were in there. There were bunks down each side, fairly big, and right in the middle was a pot-bellied stove. These Nissen huts were tin, they were layered, two pieces of metal, one going one way and one the other. They were insulated in between. I think the mice must have eaten all the insulation out because they were cold. We had to feed the stove.
Q25: Did you have maid service or did you have to make your own bed?
A: Sergeants made their own bed. When I got promoted, I can’t remember. We were all supposed to have a bat man but I think they kind of threw that out the window because everyone was getting promoted, that’s the way the Canadians wanted it and I can’t remember. I probably made it, we got in the habit as an airman because it wasn’t hard just to pull a blanket up. All you had was one blanket and a sheet.
Q26: I’ve seen the way you make your bed today! Did you have a mess hall and what kind of food did they give you?
A: The airman had a mess hall, the sergeants had a mess hall and the officers had a mess hall. I was in the sergeants when I was a sergeant and I was in the officers when I was made an officer. The food was basic but it must have been good enough to keep us going and it was probably in some ways better than the civilians got. At least, we didn’t have to go shopping for it, it was done and put on our plates. There was potatoes, brussel sprouts, I can’t even remember meat. We must have had meat but I can’t remember.
Q27: What occupied your time on your non flying days, what did you do?
A: A lot depended on the weather if there was a chance of us flying cause we had to stay pretty close to the drome. Most of the time when it was bad weather, we would stay in the mess. Played games, drank beer or coffee as I said before. I can’t remember eating but I do remember Mars Bars. You could get them. We always had something to do. We had mess meetings, see what we were going to do with our money, used to cost us, a sergeant was a pound a month and an officer was five pounds a month or something like that. That bought extras like sauce for on the meat, pickles, etc. that was the idea. You would get new drapes for the windows. Surprising what they did with that money.
Q28: How were you informed when you would be flying and what preparations did you have to do?
A: As I said it was the responsibility of the pilot to root us out and of course, he always had to know where we were, to find us. This is why you couldn’t really leave the station, you know. If you had a girlfriend in Leeds or someplace, you had to wail until leave before you met her. But he would come and inform you and we would find out what time the operation was likely to be. They generally would have, say take off time was 10 at night, they would have a briefing about 2 in the afternoon. So the regular briefing was at 2 o’clock and then you would go in briefing room, there’s a whole bunch of chairs and all the crews were there. They would put a great big map of Europe, but of course, the part of Europe you’d be going to. The target would be marked and they had a tape running to different check points to the target. You never flew in a straight line. You might fly in a straight line for half an hour and then they change it to another straight line for maybe another ½ hour to confuse the enemy. You wouldn’t really know where the hell you were going and they would let you know that the weather was going to be beautiful, there was no problem with the weather, there was going to be lots of cloud to hide in and all this stuff. Never turned out that way but they used to lie a lot. Anyhow, like they do now. Anyhow, another preparation was that you checked, if you had lots of time, you would check out the plane like in my case, the guns and make sure the shells were pulled up which the armourers did. They pull up the shells up to the plane, up to the guns rather and the turret. Sometimes, they had to change that, they, I don’t know whether I should describe this or not. The belt of ten shells and they go into the gun, they had different types of shells. There was armour piercing, there was incendiary, there was what they called ‘ball’ which was just ordinary. There was tracer (a bullet or shell whose course is made visible by a trail of flames or smoke, used to assist in aiming), of course, cause you had to see where the hell you were shootin’. That’s why we didn’t hit much cause you couldn’t see where you where shootin’. Anyhow, that was preparation for going. Course, the other crews like the wireless operators had to check his radios and pilot checks his instruments and on and on. Then, I suppose then you would have a last meal and usually it was pretty good because it could be your last meal too. So you go and have a last meal and then you go down to where you locker was, where you kept your flying outfit or flying suit and your helmet. Anything else like that. I can’t remember whether we picked it up separate and turned it in every time, because I know they re-parked them. Probably not every time but basically that’s the days preparation.
Q29: You speak of you flying suit. What was it comprised of, what sort of an outfit did you wear?
A: Well, Of course, the gunners, we all wore different things. Like the gunners were exposed to the elements more than the chaps at the front, I don’t know if they were heated or not but they didn’t wear the heavy flying suits we did. Maybe we’ll start with the socks and we wore the heavy grey socks like we normally wear. Underwear we just left what we wore everyday on and we wore silk Underwear and then over that we wore our battledress. After that came our heated suit, this was a canvas suit that had wires all through it. You had heated gauntlets that hooked to that and heated slippers that snapped onto it. It was plugged in the turret when we got into it. Over top of that was our flying suit and it was heavy canvas with a fur collar. For gloves, we had silk gloves and the heated gauntlets and then leather gauntlets. For flying boots, if they were fur lined, lambs wool and then heavy leather boots. The helmet was leather and it had a little mask that went over your face that kept on the helmet. It had your intercom and also your oxygen hooked up to that. Inside the ear gloves of your helmet was the earphones, that’s how we spoke. Now, that’s how we talked to one another. Over top of that a heavy flying suit which we called a Mae West. It was a life jacket which was not blown up, it was deflated because if it was blown up you couldn’t get your parachute harness on which came next and it was heavy canvas, real heavy canvas. It went over your shoulders, up between your legs and a four point snap right in the middle. The parachute, there were two little clips and your parachute you clipped onto that and bail out to use it. That’s about it. Any Questions?
Q30: I think so, we have seen the size of the turret. Can you imagine all this clothing on top of the size of the guy that was there already! How on earth did he get into the turret???!?
A: I weighed only 130 lbs.
Q31: Yeah, well it sounds like your clothes were another 130.
A: They were quite heavy.
Q32: Now, all of these clothes that you had, where were they, you didn’t have them hung up beside your bed, did you? Where did you keep them?
A: We had a locker down in, I am not sure just where they were, it was probably in what we call flights. That’s where the crews all kept their clothes in these lockers and that’s where we went to get information on how many more trips we had, if we wanted to ask the Flight Lieutenant in charge of gunners, ask him a question. That’s where we kept these clothes, by and large. The parachute was kept in a different place. It was kept because they had a schedule where they re-packed ‘em, every once in a while. This section was run by females, women packed those parachutes and if they didn’t work....(funny face)
Q33: He says I’m spoiled because I have an electric blanket, he had an electric suit!! With electric slippers!! Did they sometimes schedule a flight and then cancel it?
A: Yes they did and that was particularly hard on fellas because, of course, you can’t go back to bed and they stand you down to go in another 5 hours or something like that. Then they’d so it again and you’d stand down again. You know, air crew had it pretty jammy, they got well paid but there were times when they had their problems too. Trying to keep awake for one thing.
Q34: Did you take pills?
A: Yes, we took what they called ‘wakey,wakey’ pills to keep you awake on a long trip. But we found out the hard way that you didn’t take those ‘wakey, wakey’ pills till you were well into the raid, well on your way to the target because if they did cancel it, they did turn you back, and you had taken those and they said we’re not going today or tonight and you wanted to go back to bed to sleep, you wouldn’t be able to. So we learned not to take them right at take off.
Q35: I know it’s hard to say how long the flights were because you went to different places but on average about how long would you be up in the air?
A: Well, I was lucky in that a lot of my trips were French and of course, France isn’t as far as Germany. You are flying over friendly territory for a great deal of the time. But most of those trips, cause we did a lot of trips to the northern part of France, where they were shooting off buzz bombs. We were bombing the sites, they’d be a 4 hour trip, maybe. Some of those mining trips were 5 or 6 hours so I guess on average about 4-1/2 hours.
Q36: How did you get into the turret? Having looked at one of those, it looks pretty difficult to get in and out, How did you get into it and how did you get out of it, either the upper or the rear?
A: Well, they’re both different. The rear turret, there were doors, of course, when you were in that turret, you were contained. You were in there all yourself and you were contained like you were in a big ball with doors that you had to open to get out. You closed them with your elbows and you went down the length of the fuselage of the plane, you passed by a housing that kept the rear wheel. The rear wheel in the Halifax retracted. You had to go by that and it was a tight squeeze. Then you’d open up the doors to the turret and you’d put your two feet first, I just got my feet in that damn turret. Fortunately, I don’t have big feet. The hole where they tuck down into wasn’t very big either and of course, you had fly boots on which were pretty heavy. Then you just sat down, the rear turret had armour plating underneath the seat. The one place they didn’t want you to get shot was in the bum. Ha! Ha! Ha! To get into the mid-upper turret was a little different. It had a seat that swung down and to get out of the way, naturally. You just climbed right up into it and then swung the seat up and then it swung up underneath your backside. It wasn’t as hard to get into.
Q37: Did you wear your parachute?
A: No. You couldn’t wear your parachute. It was too tight in there. Too close, where your controls were, directly in front of you, you just couldn’t wear your parachute. Your parachute was stored in the aircraft, just inside on the port side of the plane. Handy but you still had to open the doors to get it and some fella, slim guys like myself, we could put it in the turret and I had done that on occasion. It depended where we were going, thinking you might need it. But anyhow, never did.
Q38: How many guns did you have?
A: the Halifax had 9 guns, 4 in the tail turret and 4 in the mid-upper and one in the nose. The Bombardier operated that and I don’t think they ever fired a shot.
Q39: If you had to bail out, who ordered it and how did you do it?
A: The correct way to bail out is to wait for the order from the pilot, of course, he’s the boss and he would determine whether it was necessary. Now what happens when a pilot gets shot, I don’t know, I guess a guy just uses his own common sense. Of course, a plane going down, it’s not always easy, but there again, I didn’t have to use a parachute so I don’t know.
Q40: Did you have a seatbelt?
A: Yes we had seatbelts and I neglected to say that. When you got into the plane and got settled away, you get up your seat belt because you didn’t load the guns till you got up in the air. That’s so you didn’t have any accident on the ground.
Q41: Did I hear you say one time that if you had to go that you peed in a bottle and then you opened a window and threw it out?
A: Yeah, fortunately I was only 19, 20 years old so I didn’t have to go as often as I do now that I’ve reached 80. We generally had a bottle handy and for that purpose.
Q42: Did you throw it out the window?
A: Yeah, there was a little panel you could slide to the side.
Q42a: Maybe some poor German on the ground go hit in the head with the bottle.
A: Well, piss on em’. Ha! Ha! Ha! (By both)
Q43: Did you take off and land in the turret?
A: When I flew in the tail turret, I took off and landed in the turret. They discouraged that because accidents happened where gunners got killed by planes taxiing from behind. There was a rest position in the middle of the plane as you came up the ladder to get in and it had a bench, a cushioned bench and there was seatbelts, enough for six people. The mid-upper gunner, which I flew 17, I took off in that rest position because it was pretty well the safest place on take off and landing.
Q44: How did the bullets get to your turret, who put them into the turret, did you load the guns and was it done before you took off, how did you load them and how were the guns fired? Did you have a trigger like you do on a ordinary gun?
A: The bullets as they’re called, the shells were loaded by the armourers and they had an endless belt, you might say, from inside the aircraft and it went through a channel up into the turret and they’d bring them up close to the gun, but it was the gunners responsibility to load those guns. We used to load them after take off, after we were settled down in our turret, Because they didn’t want any accidents. It was fairly complicated to do it. You had to pull them up through a space and then there was........ I forget all the names. Mom’s question was ‘How did we fire them?’ There were a number of safety precautions, there was a safety on the gun, there was a fire safe just down to one side, you didn’t put it on until you wanted to fire that gun. You were awful careful. The guns were all loadedand they were on fire but the final firing was done by a button on top of your control handle in the turret. That’s how you controlled the turret.
Q45: What do you mean a control handle?
A: Well, the turret was manipulated and the guns were manipulated by the central column, the central joystick. You turn the joy-stick to the left, the turret went to the left, you put it to the right, the turret went to the right, put it forward and the guns depressed. You pulled it back and the guns went off. So you had complete control.
Q46: Did you talk to each other on the intercom? I have been told that the gunner was responsible for warning the pilot of any danger, for example, enemy planes or possibly a friendly plane overhead with his bomb bay doors open.
A: Yes, we definitely talked to one another but only when necessary because unnecessary talk you might be saying something when something important had to be said so you just talked the important talk and yes the gunners, everybody actually, was their responsibility to keep an eye for other aircraft. Friendlys as well as enemy. The gunners, of course, were looking mostly above and behind. You’d be awful careful looking out for friendlys because going over the target especially, you’re bunched up fairly tight. We did have occasion where, we had close calls. There were collisions like they estimated 7% of losses through collision.
Q47: You mean collision right in the air when you were on your way to target?
A: Could be anywhere, anywhere in the air, yes.
Q48: Did you ever have occasion to look up and say ‘Oh, my goodness, he has his bomb bay doors open and he’s right over top of us’?
A: One time I looked up, I was in the mid-upper, so, Hamilton McVeigh was the pilot and I warned Ham. I said ‘down port’. I just said it quickly and it maybe was not the right thing to say cause you might skim into some other plane but this guy was so high, so close rather, I think I could have touched him. You could almost hear the motors. The thing is that it is so darn dark until you get over the target where it’s all lit up, you don’t see anybody and you might be taking your run in to the target. Maybe 5 miles away and it’s still pretty dark out there. So the best way to spy another plane is far as we were concerned, especially the pilot, was exhaust from the plane in front of you. You’d see the exhaust from his motors.
Q49: I see in your logbook numerous places where you say you were diverted to Ford or diverted to someplace else. What does that mean, what was a diversion and why were you diverted?
A: There were probably a number of cases but the main reason was your own aerodrome was socked in with the weather. Weather was so bad they would try to find one reasonably close place for you because your gas would only last so long. And they would divert to another aerodrome where it was safe to land and then if you were fairly close to your own aerodrome, they would come and pick you up in a truck or vehicle. If it was a fair distance, like Mom mentioned, Ford, one time we were diverted to Ford because we had a problem with an engine and we waited there 3 days. Waiting for the part. We stayed right at Ford, ate their bad food. It was an aerodrome where they had Typhoons and Beaufighters. Fairly close to the coast.
Q50: Did you carry a pistol?
A: That was kind of a thing that they would issue you one but it wasn’t too long before they took it off me, off of all of us, because they found you couldn’t fight the whole German Army with a little pistol. A 38 Smith & Wesson pistol wasn’t adequate and they took them off us. They found out that there were guys getting shot, if they hadn’t pulled a gun, they wouldn’t have gotten shot.
Q51: You told me one time something about the army on the ground shooting tracers up into the air to give you an avenue to bomb. I don’t quite understand that. Would you explain it please?
A: They shot the tracers, parallel to the ground and of course, they don’t bend, they go straight. That was to give you a marking of where to bomb. Instead of bombing where the tracer started you maybe bombed 400 yds. Beyond. I don’t think it was a safe way to do it and I think possibly you would use those markings for, to show that the enemy was in that area straight ahead but you probably had to use a time from when you first saw it to when you dropped your bombs. I had no idea really how that worked. I know they were very uptight because we had bombed our own troops, not us personally, but the RAF, RCAF had bombed our own troops. The Americans had dropped bombs on their own troops and our troops but I don’t know there’s got to be a reason. There generally was a reason for that happening.
Q52: What were your thoughts, did you think that if any member of your crew failed to do his job, could be the end of all of you?
A: Oh, certainly! We’re all the same way. We all trusted one another. So I don’t know what’s gone on before but we really relied on each other and like, we just said, the pilot and navigator and wireless operator were probably the key members of that crew when you’re going home. You want to know where that bloody island is and you want to be able to land someplace.
Q53: Did you ever feel that maybe you wouldn’t come back and wonder how you might react in an emergency?
A: I always wondered about that. You don’t know whether you will chicken out or what. But, yes, when you climb in the plane to takeoff, you’ll wonder whether you’ll get back and I’ve often stated that my big aim was to make the next leave.
Q54: What was the routine as you neared the target? Could you see the flak or hear it? Could you see where your bombs had landed?
A: Speaking as a gunner, which I have to do ‘cause I never was anything else, the gunners were trained not to look at the target. The target area would be all lit up, the pathfinder forces would drop flares and lit up the target. Of course, as Mom says there’s flak and they used to have what they called fighter flares. They’d go above the bombers and drop these flares and honest to God it’d light up the night. You’d be a sitting duck. But anyways, it never affected us cause we’re here.
Q55: Could you see the flak or hear it and could you see where your bombs had landed?
A: You could certainly see the flak, daytime maybe different because they were just puffs of smoke in maybe red, blue, green. That let the German’s know which puffs were closest to the plane. Always thinking these guys. Yes, we used to see the flak. And you could hear it if it hit the plane, we never got hit seriously. Other than that, you had to be very close to hear flak. A gunner couldn’t see where the bombs landed cause he was facing the wrong way and the plane, really those bombs when they let loose, their going as fast as the plane so the plane is roughly over top of the bombs when they explode. No, we didn’t see them. You could see other guys bombs but we were trained not to look at the fires and the light because that would ruin our night vision.
Q56: Did you turn around and head for home as soon as you released your bombs?
A: They had a camera on board and as soon as the bombs were released, soon as bombardier said ‘bombs gone’, this camera was activated and the pilot was supposed to fly straight and level for one minute. I don’t say he always did it but that’s how they knew how close they were to the target and whether we were effective or not. Believe me, that was a long minute.
Q57: Did any unusual things happen while the planes were returning to base, like do you have any stories about things that happened to your plane or other planes along the way?
A: Certainly, there’s always some darn thing happening. Like we used to get diverted a lot, an awful lot because the weather was always bad up in Yorkshire. That’s why they gave it to the Canadians. Kept them out of mischief and give them the worst spot. After all we’re just Colonials. But, anyhow, we had things. One time our RT (Radio to contact ground) wasn’t working so, they couldn’t hear us but we could hear them. So they’re all uptight, we got one of the guys working the Aldis Lamp, I believe, Norm Crook, the navigator. He’s giving them an SOS so we get a priority, we land right away. We thought to ourselves, this is good, we’ll have to bung up the radio every time. Ha! Ha! Ha! There were all kinds of situations like that, planes that have been shot up and have trouble landing.
Q58: When we went to. England in 1984, I believe it was, for the re-union of 433 Squadron, they put up a Carin in the village and they put it on the spot where the tree had been and this plane had landed. They planted a maple tree with it there, they brought it from here and planted it. It was quite touching. There was a commemoration of the particular crash that landed in the town of Skipton.
A: Yes, I remember it well because I had to go by it to get to my Nissen hut and service police were around there protecting the wreck. They didn’t want anybody getting hurt either but I managed to snafu some parachute silk from one of the parachutes. I made a box for Mom lined with it. Sad to see that, there was a turret went right into the bedroom of a house. Nobody was in there fortunately. I believe a little boy on the ground, a pilot and flight engineer were killed. They were lucky there was only three killed cause they do a lot of damage. It hit a tree, elm tree. I have a piece of that elm tree that was given to me by the man, Sanderson, who had the farm, that the aerodrome was on.
Q59: How long would it be before your next flight, were they regular intervals or did you just not know?
A: They weren’t regular intervals. I have, the month of May ten trips and that’s quite a few, when you think it took me six months to do it. If I had done 10 trips every month, that would have been 60 trips. As it is I did 36 trips so the month of May must have been good weather wise. Of course, coming into spring, mind you, spring over there comes earlier, beautiful in March and April too.
Q60: When we went to the D-Day celebration and the wonderful Lanc flew over the City of Lincoln and it was escorted by 2 Mustangs, one of them had funny stripes on it and they said that those were D-Day markings. Will you explain to us what D-Day markings are, what they look like, why they were there and how long they were on the planes?
A: First of all, I made a mistake about one of the escorts with the Lancaster, but Mom just made two. They were Spitfires. There were D-Day markings and that was , they put stripes on the plane, all those that were going to take part in the D-Day landings so we wouldn’t be shooting one another. The German’s, far as I can recollect, virtually made no appearance in the day time of the D-Day landing. Now they did at night apparently and probably did some damage but it was pretty risky cause we had air supremacy. That was the purpose of the stripes, black and white.
Q61: And did they just use them on the planes for that day and cover them right over?
A: No. They didn’t leave them on, I don’t recall just when they took them off. They probably took their time taking them off cause it wouldn’t matter but once we went back to bombing the cities, you wanted the black border camouflaged coverings that we had painted.
Q62: So this was when you were doing army co-op after D-Day?
A: At night.
Q63: Did you get leave at regular intervals and if so where did you go? (I hope you didn’t go down to see Miss Piggy!)
A: We got leave, I’m talking about the squadron. Bear in mind this is from April. On the squadron you got leave every six weeks. You get seven days. That’s pretty generous as far as I’m concerned but worthwhile cause after ten trips in May, I was ready. I usually went to Manchester. I did go to Manchester pretty well every time. You know, it was handy to get to Manchester, you go to Leeds and change there. I got a train from Baldersby which was a mile from Skipton and you could get transport down there but I’d usually walk. I was generally feeling pretty good. I got there and I think the train ran from about 9, you had lots of time. As I say, you go to Leeds and thenManchester, you’re in there in the early afternoon.
Q: How much time was there between your return and your discharge and when was your discharge?
A: Well, it was in early November when I got home. I can’t remember exactly, I have the date somewhere. Anyhow, early November (actually November 25) and then I was on leave till further notice. Geez, when you think of it. Anyhow, I was horsing around, bowling, roller skating etc. Sometime in January, I was roller skating and I met my only true love, Elizabeth Alma Heath. I didn’t know it at the time cause she was awful aloof, you might say. She made me work hard. Anyhow, then I know my 21st birthday on the 25th of February, Bet came over (your Mom) and had her first meal at our place and couldn’t believe how the pigs were at the trough there. She couldn’t believe how much we ate. Anyhow, that’s why we all got a Bodaly gut. But that was the 25th.
Q64: That was a Sunday and you were discharged on Tuesday, February 27th!
A: Oh, I’m going to have to make note of that, so discharged Tuesday, Feb. 27th in Toronto and given my ticket home. From then on I was cut loose and fancy free. I went back to work in April, I think it was April 11 which was about a few weeks longer than I should have.
COMMENT - Mom ‘That’s all the things that he did before he was 21 years old. Amazing, isn’t it. Bye Bye’
Final note from the family: Stan Bodaly was a Sergeant when he flew with the Mitchell crew, he was a Flight Sergeant when he flew with the Mcveigh crew. When he flew with Heathcote he was a P/O and he received his final commission of F/O after his last flight.
Source: Stan Bodaly Family
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