Stephen Boczar's log book (from RAF 9 Squadron), showing bombing raids to Berlin, Essen, St Nazaire, and Duisburg.Stephen Boczar
Stephen Boczar's log book (continued), showing the number of raids flown and flight hours accumulated. Berlin, Essen, St Nazaire, and Duisburg were his 11th to14th missions respectively. Mr Boczar flew a total of 30 missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.Stephen Boczar
Stephen Boczar is pictured here with his crew in front of his Lancaster, he is standing second from the right.Stephen Boczar
Stephen Boczar is pictured here with his crew, he is standing third from the right.Stephen Boczar
"As it was happening, you didn’t worry about it. But once it was over, you kind of realize exactly how bad it could have been."
Well, I’m Steven Boczar, I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941. After my training, I went overseas, did some more training and then I went onto Number 9 Squadron, RAF, where I did my tour.
And there I did 31 trips. The first three trips, we were attacked by fighters. And I was lucky enough not to get hit, but they came awful close. During the tour, I did four trips to Berlin and most of the others were to the Ruhr Valley, which was heavily defended. We were actually hit, my aircraft was hit three times by ack-ack fire [anti-aircraft fire], by shrapnel.
During the trip, tours I should say, we would weave, and one of the big things I remember is that when I was weaving to the right, somebody was weaving to the left and we came very close to hitting each other. And we found out when I got back to the station that the other aircraft that came awful close to hitting me was also from that same station. So other than that, one trip to Berlin, when we came in north edge of Berlin, we were picked up by the searchlights. And I could not shake the searchlights until I got right through the south end of Berlin. I don’t know how many minutes I was, but it seemed like hours but … And also, being held by the searchlights and ack-ack coming close, I believe I started to run at about 22,000 feet, when I finished at the south end of Berlin, I was only about 12,000 feet. So it was one of the worst trips during the whole tour, except for the fighters and that.
The searchlights were very bright there, especially Berlin. And they really, when you get out of the range of one, another one would pick you up right away. In other words, they passed you on from one to the other. And they had an awful lot of them there in Berlin.
Well, you could see the exploding all around you. As I said, I was hit with flack three times, but not that trip. I was lucky that trip, I got away with it. A lot of the other trips too were shaky, they were all shaky, but because they were well defended, like the Ruhr Valley was very well defended.
The mid-upper gunner saw this aircraft coming at us and of course, he give the instructions where it was coming from. So I would, if he was coming from the left say, I’d go left also, so, try and get away from him. And that time, when he opened up, you could see the tracer between the inner engine and where I was sitting. It was right close it was. And there was only, well, the aircraft, I don’t know how many feet there is between the engine and the cockpit, but there’s not very much space there. And you could actually see the tracer going through there, and as you’re looking at the tracer, it doesn’t seem to bother you. It’s after the break-off and he disappears that you start wondering, that came awful close.
As it was happening, you sort of didn’t worry about it. But once it was over, you kind of realize exactly how bad it could have been. Why it was only attacked the first three trips, nobody seems to know except that we sort of guess maybe they, the German fighter pilots realized who was brand new at the game and who wasn’t, and they’d go after the ones that were the first trips. Because there were quite a few crews, especially in our squadron and that was like in the beginning of 1943, that were shot down or missing on the first few trips of their tour. And the other thing, like a tour consisted of 30 trips. On my 30th trip, we bombed Friedrichshafen in Germany [Operation Bellicose] and carried on from there to North Africa, where we landed in North Africa. And we were there, I think it was three or four days, refueling and re-bombing and bombed a target in Italy on the way back. So I actually did one extra trip, but we, we had the opportunity of going home via the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and North Sea, but we figured it’s shorter the other way and might as well do that instead of taking the roundabout trip.
It was one of the nicest aircraft to fly, the [Avro] Lancaster was. Like I had such a long haul also on the [Handley Page] Halifax and flew it, but I preferred the Lancaster. And it was a big aircraft, we had a heavy load but … Well, we did take, had a scary thing once. We had such a heavy load that, well, on takeoff, we took off, we had a part of the wire fence that we took with us all the way there on the undercarriage. Because as I was taking off, we broke the fence at the end of the runway.
It was faster than the Halifax or [Short] Stirling, which were the other two bombing aircraft. And it went good height. It was well maneuverable. Really nice to fly that way, you could really throw it around, shall we say. (laughs) Which you had to do over some of those targets. I was one of the fortunate ones, partly good luck and partly ability and I had a real good crew. They all knew their work and that, so that helped a lot. And especially the mid-upper gunner, he really cut his eyes wide open so well, so did the rear gunner, but by having a real good crew, that helps.