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Hugh Bartley, RCAF retired, and I retired as a Colonel.
There are two things that I remember quite well—one of course was my marriage! I married a war bride, my Barbara, who has been married to me for 64 years. And this was a second attempt marriage. The first time I went missing. Barbara had to send back all the wedding gifts and so forth and announcement, and then I turned up.
We flew in the Mosquitoes, we flew above the heavy flak, that’s to say, the heavy ground defences. Um, pretty well above it. We could go up as high as 30,000 [ft] if necessary. And also, we were very fast, we didn’t have any guns. Nothing. Just relied on speed. And at that time, the only thing the Germans had that could catch us, would be the odd rocket fighter, which they had around about. But um, they couldn’t catch us at night anyway. So, our biggest worry was weather, in what we were doing.
We crashed in Belgium on the night of the 16th, anyway, went down because of weather. We went into a thunderstorm at the top, the weather inside there was violent. Our aircraft was a fine airplane but it was made of wood and it came apart. This was at night, at 25,000 feet. Mainly you’re so busy you don’t have time to get scared. You’re trying to get out of whatever kind of a problem you got into, and in this case the airplane made it simple for us. My navigator, unfortunately, got killed.
So then we came back, and I was in this convalescent hospital and I had got in touch with my, got in touch with my Barbara before then, and we rescheduled the marriage for the 10th of December, in Hull in England. And uh, we went through our marriage. The thing I remember in particular about our marriage was coming up the aisle, and I had a cane, and not very much hair, and a few cuts and bruises, and a limp, and my best man had his head swathed in bandages, and a cane and he limped. So, it was what you might say a real wartime wedding.
Sometimes people feel, well, you know, going and bombing all those places in Germany and such, was it really worthwhile, you know? What were we bombing anyways? Why were we bombing cities, you know? If you’re going to fight an all out war, you can’t be too…what’s the word…too discrete. And besides which, if you’re going to a place like the German Ruhr, which was heavily industrialized, whether you kill the workers, or the plant, where do you cut it off, you know? Where do you say, well we won’t go and bomb that plant because there’s a bunch of workers in it, you know? And besides which, we took the view, in many cases, and certainly the British population did, that as you sow, so shall you reap. And we had all been to London and places like that where the East End was all smashed to smithereens. So we didn’t have too damn much sympathy. And the Germans bombed Rotterdam and all those places, and without any compunction.