Post Your Opinion
Into the Eye of a Hurricane
by Michael Kutyn

Michael Kutyn (born 1922 in Mundare, Alberta, currently residing in St. Albert)

I enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 at the age of nineteen. After graduating and receiving my Observer's Wings in August 1942 at #1 Central Navigation School in Rivers, Manitoba, I was posted to the RCAF Embarkation Depot in Halifax.

Stories were floating around that England was facing a food shortage, and we should consider taking some canned goods with us. When our draft was called, RCAF personnel were the last of the services to board the French liner, the Louis Pasteur. My kit bag was so heavy with the canned goods I had stuffed in it that I could not keep up with the group. This would actually prove to be a blessing.

The medical unit discovered that the ship was infested with bed bugs, stated that this created a health hazard, and requested the Senior Officer contact his superior for permission to leave the ship. Immediately, guards were stationed by the stairway to prevent anyone from leaving. As I was one of the last to arrive, I now faced the guards with their bayonets pointed at my stomach.

We eventually did make our way to Greenock, Scotland, that November-aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

In 1943, I was selected to take part in a special research and development assignment under the command of the Air Ministry in London. We were posted to Salbani, Bengal, a jungle area approximately eighty miles northwest of Calcutta. The crews were to conduct trials in India in order to develop a long-range bomber with the capability of supplying a heavy bomb load against the Japanese. I was the navigator on one of the Halifaxes. But on 3 January 1944, both Halifax bombers crashed on landing in Salbani after returning from Bombay. While my aircraft had damaged its gun emplacement, luckily, none of the crew had sustained any serious injuries. Unfortunately, the other Halifax bomber experienced major engine problems and landed upside down in the river after attempting an emergency landing. Four members of the crew were killed; three managed to survive. With the loss of both Halifaxes, we joined the Lancaster crew to continue the remaining tests.

We were billeted in bamboo huts, which had window and door openings but no hardware. Our first few nights in the jungle were very frightening. The thought of animals, of snakes, being able to explore our lodgings was very uncomfortable. Before going to bed, we would shine our flashlights towards the edge of the jungle only to be confronted with bright eyes staring back at us from all directions. Lucky for us, our flying work took us on long-range trips to Bombay, Karachi, and Delhi to give us a break from the jungle.

The washroom facilities were quite primitive. You would shower inside this huge, square building while a person outside would pump the water for you. We encountered many problems with this system. Primarily language. The bearer would be pumping, and you would be applying the soap freely when, all of a sudden, the water stopped because your bearer was tired. Then you would have to holler, "Jildi, jildi", which in Hindi, I understood, meant "Hurry, hurry." And, again, the water would start running.

In February 1944, we experienced a shower of a different sort. A hurricane was approaching over the Indian Ocean between Ceylon and Calcutta. We went up in a Lancaster to find the centre of the storm in order to plot the hurricane's course and inform the other planes so they could get out of the area. It was very rough. The hatch blew off and water kept coming in. But we proceeded towards the eye-and we found it. It was so calm and peaceful. We could see the Indian Ocean below.

We left Bombay in March 1944. That June, I was posted to #10 Squadron RAF. I participated in a sixteen-day lite raid as Lead Navigator, which included a 1,000-bomber raid on Essen, Germany. By the time it was over, I had completed an operational tour of thirty-two missions, with successes against heavily defended German targets such as Stuttgart, Brunswick, Duisburg, Essen, and Cologne.

I have to say that navigation work was tough back then. Now, all you have to do is look on the GPS system, press a button, and you get instant results. Then, it was mostly done at night because we had to study the winds and stars to know where we were. 


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us