- Contributed by
- Dunstable Town Centre
- People in story:
- Ulric Craig Carpenter
- Location of story:
- Dunstable, Bedfordshire
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 January 2005
Ulric Craig Carpenter Sergeant -RCAF
This story was submitted to the People's War Website by the 'Dunstable At War' Team, on behalf of Ulric Carpenter and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
At the age of 12 I moved with my parents and four siblings from Canada to Britain in the spring of 1938. My father was an ‘Old Boy’ (former pupil of Dunstable Grammar School) and I was enrolled as a boarder in the same school commencing the Fall term of 1938. I was a very proud member of ‘Brown House’ and I produced a fair number of points in all of the sports and cadet company endeavours.
1939 saw the outbreak of the Second World War. We had all seen the graphic pictures in such magazines as The London Illustrated News, of the German bombers striking at cities in Spain. I remember sitting in the ‘air raid shelters’ behind the main school building and wondering when we might make the Illustrated News. Soon we saw the names of ‘Old Boys’ appearing on the school honour roll, some were known recent graduates. I had six brothers and sisters in the Canadian Forces and by September 1940 my brother Jack, a Hurricane pilot in the Battle if Britain was killed in action. I could hardly wait to join-up.
In the summer of 1943 I travelled to London, a letter from my father to the Canadian High Commissioner in my hand and was sworn in as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I was instructed that I would be notified when and where to report for duty.
I received my posting notice — report to the RAF AirCrew Receiving Centre in London at 0800 hrs the following Monday morning. I also received my first taste of ‘military discipline’. The night train from Holyhead to London was held up due to the tracks being bombed. We had to detrain and take a bus to complete the trip. I arrived at 1030 hrs at the RAF AirCrew Receiving Centre in Regent’s Park for the three-week selection process and was promptly charged for being late for duty!! At the end of the course a group of teenagers were selected for transfer to Canada for pilot training. Not wishing to return to Canada for fear of missing the entire war, I requested other aircrew training being conducted in England. My posting notice was for Air Gunner training. Off to war I went. However, before leaving London I managed to make a two-day trip to Dunstable Grammar School to attend a dance at the Priory. I was very proud of my new RCAF uniform. It was great seeing and talking with members of the Cadet Corp and the many boarders with whom I shared happy memories.
I was transferred to Bridgenorth for Ground Training then onto Dal Cross for Aircrew Training. So much training in so short a time. At RAF Station Dal Cross, in the heart of Scotland I found myself the only Canadian (Colonial) in a mixed bag of Czechoslovakians, French North Africans and Polish along with a large contingent of young British airmen. I was assigned as an air gunner trainee with a crew of French North Africans with a Czechoslovakian pilot (who incidentally won the Iron Cross when flying for the Germans against Spain). I was the tail gunner and the only one that spoke English.
When my tour was up at RAF Dal Cross I had received my wings and the rank of Sergeant. I had requested a transfer to a Canadian Air Force squadron and was subsequently posted to RAF Wellsbourne. The first day on site I was picked as Tail Gunner in an all-Canadian crew; and a first rate crew we became. We flew day and night becoming ready for Operations very quickly. However, the Lancaster as the Bomber of choice had now superseded the Wellington aircraft. We, as a crew, were posted to RAF Topcliffe to join number 6 Group Bomber Command.
Flying this huge four-engine bomber was a delight. Our ‘corkscrew’ to evade German fighters did a first rate evasion manoeuvre. Our first cross-channel dodge run did not end as smoothly as expected as we landed in a farmer’s field wheels-up and out of fuel. Various scrapes and bumps had us off flying for sometime. I ended up as the Fire Chief for the Base, the town of Thirsk and RAF Dolton. We came together again as a crew at the end of the war to empty the ‘Bomb Dumps’. This day and night flying saw us dropping bombs in the North Sea until the dumps were empty.
I returned to Canada, obtained my release and returned to college to finish off my education specializing in Public Relations. Subsequently returned to the RCAF Air Defence Command during the ‘Cold War’. Transferred from the air force to Public Service and ended my career on the staff of the Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
My last memory of Dunstable was in 1991. The Headmaster/mistress took me on a tour. When we entered one classroom, I was introduced as a former student. I was quite a hit during their break as they surrounded me and fired questions about life in ancient times during 1938.
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