Fate or his Guadian Angel? - page 54
Prior to going overseas, Dad unknowingly set his course to be in Coastal Command by his desire to learn all he could.
' When I got my wings, Norm Irwin, my Commanding Officer at Aylmer, he asked me if there were any other courses I'd like to have before going overseas?
I said, '"There sure is. I'd like to get a navigator's course."
"Oh," he said. "How come?"
I said, "Well, for a number of years I was up in the bush flying and lots of times I would be caught in snow squalls and line squalls and I wouldn't know where I was within 100 miles between James Bay and Lake Superior."
I figured I could learn a little navigation with the proper instruments.
All we had then (bush flying) was mainly dead-reckoning and a few radio beams that you could home in on.
So fortunately he said, "Well, I'll see what I can do." '
This desire to know more about aviation ultimately resulted in Dad becoming a fighter pilot flying Beaufighters. Had he not made this request he likely would have wound up piloting a 'Halifax' as 'Marty' did. Dad always felt his best friend's placement in a cumbersome bomber had been a colossal waste of the natural skills of an exceptional fighter pilot, considering 'Marty' shared a similar love of 'dogfighting' and had been an equal adversary during their training sessions.
Unknown to either of them, fate had intervened in two ways at this juncture to separate 'Marty' and Dad.
Firstly, Dad's request for the navigation course was made prior to his being able to discuss this choice with 'Marty.' Dad didn't have the opportunity to suggest he do the same.
And, secondly, the timing of this special request was coupled with the group being divided alphabetically for transport overseas.
'Marty' having 'Milligan' for his last name was right at the split point in the group and wound up in the first half. Dad with 'Wainman' for a last name was automatically in the second group.
This resulted in 'Marty' going overseas prior to Dad and being assigned to fly a 'Halifax Bomber.'
"'Jock' Labour and myself were two from Aylmer that were sent on that course (Navigation) at Charlottetown P.E.I..
When I had passed through that 'ok', I was set to go to England."
He commenced No. 31 General Reconnaissance Training September 3, 1942, and completed his last flight assignment with a SGT/Adams on October 20th.
Dad felt he had been,
"Lucky again! Because Coastal Command had requested 50 'pilot trained' navigators from Training Command. I was one of the ones picked for that."
Dad said Coastal Command had made this request because,
"They were losing too many planes when the pilot failed to recognize a navigational error while returning to landfall in Newfoundland or Iceland or Halifax after escorting convoys part way across the Atlantic.
Instead of returning, planes had
"just carried on in the wrong direction - out to sea - until they eventually ran out of gas and ended up in the 'the drink.' "
They had lost too many crews this way and felt that weighting the navigational aspect would minimize future losses.