In September of 2000, Hugh Elliott submitted an email specifically answering questions related to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum’s oral history project. It was thorough and interesting account in his time in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and RCAF operations overseas.
Flight Lieutenant Hewitt Elliott RCAF
Enlisted in 1941 at Hamilton
Home town and birth place was Hamilton.
My brother was also a pilot - F/L A. Elliott (deceased)
Manning Depot Brandon Manitoba,1941,one month.
It was a new experience and I didn't miss the family. We lived in "tent city" for a while which was rough but then moved to the exhibition buildings and things were much better. I made friends with Neil Depew while in Brandon and we stayed together and went overseas together. He was killed in action in 1943. The tent city and exhibition buildings he refers were located in what is known as the `Fair Grounds’
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 039 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
A World War II Memory
Hewitt Elliott - Pilot - Part 1 of 2
420 Buffalo Squadron Crest
to residents of Brandon. During World War II the fair grounds and a significant part of southern Brandon was home to the Canadian Army’s A4-Artillery School. Tents and exhibition buildings were temporary for No. 2 Manning Depot pending completion of renovations to the Wheat City Area which became home to the airmen.
Initial Training (No. 2 Initial Training School – Regina Saskatchewan)
ITS at Regina during the Winter of 1941 (not sure of dates, log book destroyed). Classes required were Navigation, Radio, Theory of Flight, Engine Theory, Morse Code, Aircraft Recognition. I wanted to be a pilot and during my initial training period i was selected to be a pilot. Some others were not so lucky and were selected as Navigators etc. Medical testing was rigorous - eyes for night vision, colour blindness, etc. Also Link training to see if you had the aptitude for flying.
(No. 15 Elementary Flying Training School – Regina Saskatchewan)
Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was done at Regina on Tiger Moths during the early spring of 1942 and lasted for about three months and about 50 hours of flying.
No. 11 Service Flying Training School – Yorkton Saskatchewan
Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was done at Yorkton Sask. on Cessna twin engine aircraft and lasted about four months and 150 hours. The instructors were excellent both at EFTS and SFTS and the morale of the men was good. They couldn't wait to get overseas, in fact a New Zealand pilot with the same name as mine who was selected to be an instructor wanted to change places with me, He wanted to go o'seas so bad, needless to say I refused. I got my wings in September 1942 and proceeded on embarkation leave in October. After leave we proceeded to Halifax and after 2 weeks we went aboard the QE 1 with 13,000 soldiers and airmen, After 4 days of calm seas we landed in Greenock Scotland and from there to holding depot at Bournemouth.
Specialized Advanced Training in Rugby.
AFS (Advanced Flying School) training was done on Oxford twin engine aircraft and was mainly to get in some more night and instrument flying and get accustomed to English weather and flying conditions. The living conditions were also different since we were living in Nissan huts with no central heating and in the winter the small Quebec heater would go out at night and the washing water would freeze until we got the stove going again. The night life was different and most nights were spent in the pubs playing darts or having a sing song. It was at this station that I received my commission as a P/0 (Pilot Officer) - from then on living conditions improved and it was also here that I met my future wife. From here we went to OTU, Operational Training Unit.
Operational Training Unit (OTU)
The OTU was at Wellsbourne Warwickshire, and the aircraft I flew was the Wellington. At the OTU we were teamed up with a crew consisting of a navigator, wireless op, bomb-aimer and a tail gunner. The Wellington was a good rugged aircraft and was the mainstay of bomber command in 1943 until it was gradually replaced by the Halifax and Lancaster. At the OTU we practiced day and night bombing (practice bombs) simulated raids, fighter avoidance and in general got to work efficiently as a crew. I later became a flying instructor on the Wimpy (Wellington) after I completed my tour of ops.
After OTU I was posted to an operational squadron 429 in April 1943 .My first raid was as second (dickey) pilot with another crew and was to Essen in the Rhur Valley, considered a hot target because of its location and defenses. I did my first raid with my own crew to Dusseldorf in the Rhur Valley witch wasn't very bad ``a piece of cake" as we called it partly due to the fact that the (dam busters) had broke the dams and flooded the Rhur Valley putting out most of the search lights, which were a big worry for us because once you were "coned" it was difficult to get out of let alone to see out of the cockpit. The weather cleared over Europe for a week or so and in order to keep our hand in we did some training "bullsyes" over London, These were simulated raids to give the search light crews and ack-ack gunners some exercise.
Then I was posted to North Africa with 425 Squadron to help with the invasion of Sicily and Italy. My earlier story (to be posted online in Canada 150 vignette No. 40) about The Flying Turtle details my flight to Africa and some of the conditions. We had one close call on one of our trips. We were flying one aircraft at a time over the Messina straights at 5000 feet when the search lights from both sides of the straights came on and coned us, We could feel the exploding shells right under our aircraft , We took evasive action and ended up close to the water and out of range of the guns. Some hydraulic lines had been severed and a number of holes in the fuselage but no one was hurt except the rear gunner who had a bump on his head from the violent evasive action. The rest of the flight was uneventful.
We returned to England by boat in October 1943 and I was reclassified as an instructor at an OTU on Wellingtons at RAF Station Gaydon. I remained at the OTU until my return to Canada in March 1945. My wife did not return with me and I did not see her again until July 1946.
On my return to Canada I went back to College until my wife joined me. I re-enlisted in 1949 in the RCAF and served until my retirement in 1964.
Hugh Elliott passed away on June 11 2011 in Guelph Ontario in his 92nd year. In the next Canada 150 Vignette we present Hugh’s story of the Flying Turtle.