Alex Hunter

I never thought of searching for Alex Hunter on The Memory Project.

http://www.thememoryproject.com/veterans/4893:Alexander hunter

I’m glad Tara did.

She sent me the above link.

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Transcript

Flying as a Fighter Pilot with No. 443 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force

While we were building up our experience and our abilities the favourite target was the bus bomb targets. We’d go over and bomb a patch of woods; that was all it was, that was all you could see. If you didn’t do anything else you hoped you scared the hell out of them with the bombs. When you carried bombs of course you didn’t carry auxiliary tanks so you had a limit as to how far you could go. You learned how to function as a unit, get into the target, get out, form up, keep a look out, and every time you crossed the coast, of course, they ‘ack-ack’ fired at you [anti-aircraft fire] and we usually went in and out around 12,000 feet.

We did limited escort on bombers, medium bombers primarily – we stayed with them more often to their target. They didn’t go as far as the heavies but we did, on occasion, escort Fortresses [the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, an American four-engine heavy bomber aircraft] from England. You were after anything that moved, tried to get their superiority. I don’t recall any bombers getting shot down when we were with them; they certainly were no enemy aircraft around. I think Jerry [nickname given to Germans] saw me flying one day and decided to stay out of the air when I was up there. We had little chance to run into them.

Of course, as you went down on the target you’re vulnerable; you had no idea of what… there was a target there, there was a convoy taking supplies, but you had no idea of what they had in the way of anti aircraft. They carried anti-aircraft guns on the trucks and they’d fold the sides down and then, bang. Now, they’re shooting at you as you’re coming in on them – we lost a lot of people that way. In the Battle of Britain [1940] they got shot down by aeroplanes; a lot of our people were shot down because of anti-aircraft fire.

It was hard to have friends; you lose friends so a good idea was not to be too friendly with anything… anybody. I had a guy, he was an instructor when I went through learning to fly at Aylmer (Quebec). When I got to the [No.] 127 Squadron [Mr. Hunter’s Squadron before being renumbered upon arriving for service in Europe in February 1944] on the east coast of Canada he was already in the squadron; I struck up an acquaintance with him there. Not too much of a bond but then he got posted overseas and we were all envious of him going – there was no talk or no suspicion that we were going to be stood down in a couple of months and go over ourselves.
So we got overseas and we were in France established on the beach head [in the context of the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944]; well established, and he came to the wing as a new pilot. So we struck up our acquaintanceship again, and in fact, we took our laundry… he could speak French and I couldn’t – I still can’t – so he negotiated to get our laundry done by a French lady near the airport. And he had to spend time getting familiar with the area and the aeroplanes, you know, before he would go on operations.

I saw him when he went… after he had done his first operations – they’d gone down on the target, there was anti-aircraft guns there apparently aplenty, and it was kind of a rough show. So we had lunch together and he was talking about how hot this anti-aircraft fire was – he went on a trip in the afternoon. That was two trips and he didn’t come back from the second one.

This was a fellow from Hamilton, Fred […]. I didn’t know he was from Hamilton; you didn’t always pry into family matters; you judged a person based on their ability to fly and, you know, could you depend on them in a […], were they sociable when you went out on leave or would they get mad drunk and wreck furniture and stuff like that, in which case you stayed away from them.

I couldn’t do anything for the guy. He was a nice guy. I didn’t know where he was from so I couldn’t write to his family and say we had this brief time together and I really enjoyed his company. Of course, when I got back the… how I found out he was from Hamilton is I looked up his name in the record book that they have there of everybody that was killed and for one reason or another they didn’t come back. If you started to worry about it or think about it then it could be kind of deadly.

Under enemy fire

I got caught once in a flak trap. They would put a target in the centre to entice people down and then they’d ring that with anti-aircraft guns, and they’d wait until you got down to a certain height and then they’d open up on you. Well, I got caught in one of these with another guy from the squadron, the two of us. I can’t imagine how the heck we got out of that without being hit because you can see the shells, they’re going every direction.

I had a guy on the beachhead – this is one of the stories I tell – and he was flying a Typhoon [the Hawker Typhoon, a British single-seat fighter-bomber]. I crossed in front of him and he let two rockets go right at me. And if you want to know the speed of the separation I had time to say, ‘Jesus H Christ’, and the rockets were on me. Now, one went below my aeroplane and the other one went above; it was the spread of the rockets that I fitted… somehow or other it got the Spitfire – yes, it was a Spitfire [the Supermarine Spitfire, a British single-seat fighter aircraft] in that case.

Yes, now what am I going to do? Go and shoot him? Maybe I was justified but, you know, I knew he was… this wasn’t intentional; he goofed. Instinctively, if you think about it for too long, you know, it’s too late. You wound up… you know, people would get in your way and things like that and put you at risk, but they’re not intending to do it. You might get mad at them.

I wasn’t bothered a lot; at least I didn’t feel it. I was getting jumpy; there is no doubt about that. If a sudden sound set me off I didn’t get violent but I would duck. A typical example of that kind of thing was I was in Eindhoven [Holland] and I was eating my lunch in their mess hall and… rather a P-47 Thunderbolt [the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, an American single-seat fighter aircraft] crashed on the runway and there was an explosion. Now, I was sitting here with my food in front of me but the next conscious thought I had I was under a table 20 feet away. How the heck I got there I don’t know. Just a sound triggers motion and you move. The same with the anti-personnel bomb; I dived for the ground. I thought it was somebody strafing rather than bombs.

The end of the war

My CO [Commanding Officer], when I finished my tour he wanted me to stay on and I wasn’t jumpy but I felt that I needed to get away from it all for a couple of weeks. Come back, yes. Now, I didn’t put it to him that way; he wanted me to take an extension and stay on because they were getting kind of skinny on experienced people. When I declined I said that I thought I could get a rest and come back, but instead of that, because I’d been an instructor they gave me another instructor’s job and that was how I finished up the war.

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