June 11, 2011
As announced on May-11/11, Yorkville News releases an email at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of each month called "Yorkville Remembers". This monthly communication is in honour of Canadian armed forces personnel who have served Canada in armed conflict and have some connection with the Yorkville district. It recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who did not return home as well as those who did. There is strong emphasis on those who served during WWII.
The following story, is an excerpt from the full-length version published in "We Were Freedom, Canadian Stories of the Second World War", authored by The Historica-Dominion Institute and originally published by Key Porter Books (2010). This publication is part of The Memory Project Archive.
Veteran: Bob Farquharson
Born: Gleichen, Alberta
Branch: No. 435 (Chinthe) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Air-dropping supplies was extremely dangerous work at any time, but particularly in Burma—while contending with the Japanese military, monsoons, and cumulonimbus clouds. As Bob Farquharson, a pilot with No. 435 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force recounts,
"We flew in everything that the army needed. Because it was the only way...There were no roads at that time that joined any country to Burma. It was completely a mountain-locked country...
To make a drop, you have to fly the aircraft 'low and slow'—maybe three hundred feet above the ground....
We dropped absolutely everything. If somebody at the front had lost his eyeglasses or his false teeth, we flew in eyeglasses and false teeth. We flew in ammunition, clothing, rations—all rations, petrol, barbed wire, spare parts for their vehicles. We flew in everything that the army needed. Because it was the only way.
The Air Force always tells you do not fly into a cumulonimbus cloud. They are usually about forty thousand feet tall and they're roiling inside with turbulence of up to one hundred miles an hour.
But, when the whole sky is full of cloud....we used to say that meant it was ten-tenths cloud with intermingled mountaintops. There was just no way you could avoid it. I was caught in one. We were in cloud all around and all of it was looking pretty black...Then you'd get into it and find it closing in behind you—just blackness ahead of you and blackness behind you...There's nothing you could do, nothing I could do, to change the position of the aircraft. It was going down, that's all there was to it. The climb and glide indicator was spinning around, the altimeter was just falling away, and we knew nothing but mountains was beneath us. We didn't know how far they were and down and down we went at about three thousand feet a minute.
My second pilot and I—both of us with our feet on the dashboard and our hands on the wheel, pulling to try and pull the wheel back and get out of the dive—we couldn't move it. It was as though the controls were welded..."
Bob and his second pilot did survive. The story is continued in the book, "We Were Freedom, Canadian Stories of the Second World War". If you would like to read the rest of Bob's account and any of the other 64 stories in the book you are encouraged to get a copy. As of Friday, June 10th, there was only one copy left at the Indigo book store at Bay-Bloor in Yorkville. However, more copies are available on-line.
Mr. Farquharson is also the author of the book titled "For Your Tomorrow. Canadians and the Burma Campaign" published by Trafford Books. If you would like to learn more about this fascinating part of Canadian history, there were still a few copies of this book left at the Indigo book store at Bay-Bloor, as of June 10th.
Reprinted with the permission of The Historica-Dominion Institute.
Next article: July 11/11. - PF