Veteran hopes people remember what the pilots did for them

Harry Sullivan
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TRURO - What if?
Sitting with his bright, red poppy properly in place shortly before Remembrance Day, Doug Grant certainly has no problem recalling the horrors of the Second World War and the sacrifices made by many.
He was only 18 when he signed on with the Royal Canadian Air Force and he was in the thick of things in England, as a member of the ground crew, during the Nazi blitz in 1940 that became known as the Battle of Britain.
"How fortunate we are to be living like we do," said Grant, 88, a lifetime Truro resident. "All you have to do is talk to some of the people from Europe that were under German rule and think of 'what if?'
"It's hard for most people to realize that the German army marched through Europe; Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, right up to the channel and if they hadn't been stopped there, they would've kept coming. We wouldn't have the life we have today, that's for sure," he said. "It would be hard to appreciate the opposite."
In early April, 1940, Grant took the train from Truro to Halifax and after a "very short" interview, was accepted into the air force and handed a one-way ticket to Toronto.
He barely had time to contact his parents or his girlfriend (Doris McGowran) to say goodbye. The latter, however, only 17 at the time, promised to wait for him. True to her word, she was there when the war ended and the couple is still happily married today.
Grant had the distinction of being the first RCAF member from Truro to land overseas and he was fully in the midst of things when the Battle of Britain rained its horrors of destruction over the war-torn city.
At the time, Hitler believed England was on the verge of surrender and he began a full-scale air assault on the city in an effort to bring the masses to their knees.
The constant barrage of incoming planes that began in July 1940, prompted the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces and resulted in the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign up until that point.
"Very frightening," Grant recalled, of the screaming, exploding bombs and the shrill air-raid sirens that wailed throughout each night from about 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
"I'm one of these fellows that accept things quite easily but we had fellows who couldn't stand it," he said, of the combination of noise, danger and of having to take cover in small, claustrophobic, underground shelters.
"They went off their rockers," he said.
"You hate to brag, but I don't think that a lot of people understand what the citizens went through at that time in England."
Grant also hopes people remember and appreciate the sacrifices made by all those who never came home or of the memories that still remain with the dwindling number of veterans who remain today.
"I was telling my wife this morning, I can't think of a (living) soul (besides himself) who has first-hand experience with the Battle of Britain," he said. "I certainly hope they remember what the pilots did for them... had Hitler got across the channel, that would have been the end for all of us."

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Organizations: Canadian Air Force

Geographic location: TRURO, England, Britain Europe Poland Czechoslovakia Halifax Toronto

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