Veteran Stories: John Henry “Jack” Eaton

Jack talks about Black Friday…


Things were not too good on the Prairie in the 1930s and, I guess, all my friends were joining up, I think that’s one of the main reasons [I enlisted], and I got the urge, I wanted to go anyway. I wanted to see a little more of the world, I think. And so I joined up in November of 1941. The air force appealed to me more than the army, and the navy I didn’t want, because I got seasick. [laughs] I got an overseas posting. I was there for seven months, then I was sent to, moved to [Royal Air Force Station] Wick in Scotland to [No.] 404 Squadron [Royal Canadian Air Force]. And I moved around with them quite a lot, but that’s where I ended up the war was with 404 Squadron. We moved about every few months actually, to different stations in Scotland. I was in armament, that entailed guns and bombs, you know, servicing guns and bombs. The 404 Squadron carried 12 rockets under the wings and they had four 20 mm cannons, that was on [Bristol Type 156] Beaufighters [long-range heavy fighter], that was. We eventually converted to [De Havilland DH-98] Mosquitoes [fighter-bomber aircraft], which made all the pilots very happy; and they carried rockets and 20 mm guns. The Mosquito was easier to work on; the guns were easier to get out, take out and service. But they were big guns, of course. Took two men to get them out, take one out, service them and put them back in again. And then you had to load the ammunition. I didn’t mind it. It was interesting to a point of mechanical. When I joined up, they asked me what I wanted to do and what trade I wanted; and I said I didn’t want anything too fine. I’d like something mechanical. So that’s how I got into that. We were in Wick and there was a Canadian squadron, an Australian squadron and an English squadron; and they took turns leading, like the Canadian would lead one time, the English the next time, Australia the next time. And this time it happened to be the Australian was leading and they were flying off the coast of Norway, on anti-shipping. And usually, they would go in and fire their rocket at the shipping and get out because the Beaufighters weren’t very fast. And they had to get out because they had [German] fighters there. Well, this time, the Australian tried, decided to run in, take a look and then come around, and hit them on the second run. And it was too late. They got 11 out of 12 were shot down by German fighters. Only one plane came back. And some of the guys landed on ice floes and stuff in Norway; and there was a few of them came back after the war. But that was the worst incident we had. We didn’t lose too many of our groundcrew. There were very few accidents there. We lost a lot of pilots and aircrew. Well, after the war, I’m going to put this in there, after the war, there was nothing to do. So they put us all into any sports we wanted to go into. So I used to play a lot of horseshoes at home, so I took up horseshoes. And I got a partner from Ontario. And all we had to do was practice horseshoes. And we practiced every day and we got pretty good. And we had to go to London [England] for the playoffs. So we went to London and we, for the air force championship, and we won it. Then, they wanted me to go over to Holland to play the winner of the Canadian Army over there. And in the meantime, my repatriation papers came through. They said, well, we’ll put you on the next boat after that. But what if you lose that, those papers? Now, I didn’t go to Holland to play the army. I had stuck with what I had, I came home. And glad I was to do that.

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