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Fernie Boys in Air Raid - The Free Press Turns 115 years Old

September 18 1940

Free Press Files

Jimmy Galloway writes from England of his recent experience in an air raid: “Things have been pretty quite today-only one air raid alarm so far- but sometimes they come at night and drop delayed action bombs that don’t explode for twelve or more hours. Every once in a while one goes off and they sure do some damage. I have a little camera that I took some snaps with but we can’t get these kind of pictures developed right now. Maybe later. There really isn’t much news so I’ll tell you about my first big air raid- that is, the first one that I was in the middle of and believe me I was scared. A concert party from London offered to come to our camp to entertain the boys, so a truck had to go to Sutton and pick them up on account of poor train connections. Alf. Thompson went to look after things, Tommy Biggs went for the ride, and I was driving a big 4-wheel drive ammunition truck. We picked them up alright and started back for camp about fifteen miles away. It’s all the suburbs of London around there anyway, just like a long main street, and when we got close to Croydon we could see all the people standing around and looking up in the air and then start running for shelter. Biggs looked up and there they were, about 25 big silver bombers about the size of our Trans-Canada mail planes, if not bigger. We made a run for it but got stopped by police and had to pull in. There were six or seven women in the party and we had to find shelter for them. We got a couple of guys under the truck and took the women to a deep ditch behind a garage and then lay back to watch the scrap. The air was full of planes twisting and maneuvering, machine guns clattering and the bursts of ack ack ground defenses. Several went down in smoke, and some of the pilots bailed out safely. One Jerry went down just over the trees with smoke coming out of his tail. I thought he was going to machine-gun us but he couldn’t have seen us. This was all dive-bombing. They carry big bombs of about half a ton and just dive at the target and kind of throw the bombs at it. It’s pretty accurate too. Well, they finally fought themselves away from us and when the “all clear” came we went to camp and had the concert just the same. I had to take them back to Sutton after but we decided to take each one home and there we were, all over London till five in the morning dropping actors and actresses at their homes with a three-ton truck. They were tickled pink too. We were the first Canadians they had met and we went in and had a drink with a couple of them and one place we had a tea about three o’clock in the morning. I had a couple of peroxide blondes in the front with me and it was ‘Thumbs up’ as we English say. We were invited especially to once place by the lady who managed the show. She had two nice daughters in it, one 11 and one about 20. They were sure fine people and had lots of nerve- they never said a word during the raid, not even the little girl, and I was plenty scared even though I couldn’t show it.

I better slow down on this it’s getting too gabby. Anyway we had another big raid a couple days later and one Jerry had the nerve to come down and machine-gun us. Nobody got hit me especially. When he came through the trees about fifty feet from the ground with his guns rattling and the two big yellow eyes in front looking straight at me I dived head first into a trench that was only big enough for one. There were two guys already in it but we managed comfortably. He was landing with his motor conked off and glided into a field not far from us. By the time he landed the machine gun had stopped as the rear gunner had gone west and the pilot got out with a Tommy gun. That was his final mistake. A Lewis gun makes an awful mess of a guy. Mike Stelliga came in a few minutes after this raid from some place and from where he described where one big bomb landed I thought it sounded familiar. Alf and I and Archie went that way next day and found that the place where we had taken shelter with the concert party on Thursday wasn’t there anymore. Where my truck was parked was a hole about twenty feet deep and about thirty or forty across. Well, and so ends the bedtime story. This is a dirty, dusty camp but we move again Monday for a new location and thank goodness. I just hope I can duck long enough to get another leave to Scotland, long and cheerio and hope to see you all soon.

Bandmaster Frank Vernon has enlisted most of the Fernie Band in the Canadian Army. Twenty-three of the boys have already been accepted. Full particulars will be published next week.

For more great stories that ran in The Free Press in the past 115 years http://issuu.com/thefreepress/docs/115_the_free_press/1

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