BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Remembrance Day means many things to different people but carries a special weight for those directly involved in war – our veterans and currently active soldiers.
William ‘Bill’ Bale, 93, is an English World War II veteran, called to serve in the Bomber Command, Royal Air Force in 1942.
He served three years in Bomber Command before his regulatory discharge in 1945 as the war ended.
“At 18, I was called up from the Home Guard. They asked me if I wanted to join the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. You didn’t want to join the Army, because they were getting shot at by the Germans and running around in the desert. I didn’t want to join the Navy, because the battleships are too small for a six foot, six inch man. So, the fool that I was, I joined the Air Force,” Bale said of his military start.
Upon graduating high school, Bale participated in the mandatory registration for the Home Guard, which is something of a volunteer army.
He said his father – a World War I veteran – did not particularly want his son to join, and kept Bale out for as long as possible.
Bale was trained on the air crew ground support, slowly moving through training ranks as men above him fell. He recalled that in March 1942, his path was redirected via a telegram by request of King George VI, stating Bale was to meet at the local cricket grounds at nine a.m. on a Monday morning.
“I went to the grounds with half a dozen other guys from the town. When we arrived there, they opened the great big gates, and we walked in. A sergeant said, ‘Take your last look ‘round at freedom, lads’,” Bale recounted with a slight laugh.
Bale was quickly trained in his role of navigator before he joined six other young men in a bomber plane carrying ammunition to be dropped on German cities.
He explained his role as navigator was to get their plane over their specific German destination by tracking wind patterns and other factors to direct the pilot’s flight.
“It was all done on maps and charts. You had to find the wind at particular heights, add in what your bomb load was, figure out where to turn – all done at a small, cramped desk inside the plane,” he said.
“If the bomber could see the ground and tell you where you where flying, that was a plus. If not, you’d really go by guessing, more or less,” Bale added.
No role in the wars is a glorious one, and bomber crews, navy ships and foot soldiers all ran high risks with each day they worked. Bale said it was common to lose around 40 planes a night, which equated to 218 men a night lost from Bomber Command alone.
“Once the plane dropped their bomb, we’d turn around and go back to base – if you could find it. Imagine something like 600 planes, piloted by a dead-tired crew, trying to land between here and Calgary with 10 air drones milling around in the dark trying to find the base,” Bale explained.
“It was bloody crazy, and we used to lose planes every night just crashing into each other trying to land.”
Bale’s first and only bomber plane experience was successful in that his crew managed to drop their bomb – only to end with an unsuccessful landing that killed the majority of Bale’s crew with a post-collision explosion.
“Myself and one other man got out and I woke up in the hospital. I was found unconscious on the ground and I don’t remember how I got out of the plane. They tell me the rest of the crew were in the plane when it blew up,” he said slowly.
Following his crash and rehabilitation at a hospital, he was kept on for Ground Duty. He attended a radar-wireless course, to learn how to repair and make radios. After that, he was transferred to a bomb dump as a medical orderly.
“By that time, in January 1945, I was discharged. They didn’t need me anymore.”
Following his contributions to the War, Bale returned home for a short time to his hometown where he worked as a local librarian. His father worked as a<s