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Second World War veteran reunited with Lancaster bomber in Greenwood

Second World War veterans Henry (Chick) Hewett, left, and Roy Morrison of Truro Heights were reunited in an Avro Lancaster bomber Oct. 6 for the first time since 1945. The pair were at the air force base in Greenwood for Hewett’s induction into the Lancaster Living Legends project, which involves the restoration of a Lancaster bomber. Morrison was inducted into the project last April.
Second World War veterans Henry (Chick) Hewett, left, and Roy Morrison of Truro Heights were reunited in an Avro Lancaster bomber Oct. 6 for the first time since 1945. The pair were at the air force base in Greenwood for Hewett’s induction into the Lancaster Living Legends project, which involves the restoration of a Lancaster bomber. Morrison was inducted into the project last April.

GREENWOOD - Flying Officer (ret.) Henry “Chick” Hewett’s smile grows more infectious as he inches closer to a Lancaster bomber on display in Greenwood.

Now 95, the Second World War veteran is determined to seize an opportunity to step foot in the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum’s restored Lancaster. Without hesitation, the Oshawa, Ont. resident hands his walking cane to a relative and carefully climbs the stairs leading into the cabin of the aircraft. 

He notices it’s stripped inside, but that doesn’t stop the familiar feelings from flooding back. He fondly remembers the days he lugged an armful of maps and charts to the position he occupied behind the pilot as the crew’s navigator.

“It brings back lots of memories, far more than just sitting down and talking about it with somebody,” said Hewett.

“It’s a feeling I can’t describe, a real thrill.”

He first thinks of his crewmates, and then lets his mind wander to some of the remarkable experiences they shared, remembering one close call as if it happened yesterday.

A close call

The crew’s Lancaster lost an engine mid-flight with a full bomb load during a trip across a channel leading into France.

“We couldn’t release our bomb load, which created a problem,” recalls Hewett, adding that they tried a few maneuvers but were not successful in shaking the load loose over the designated “wash area” while contending with icing conditions.  

“The procedure then was to either abandon the aircraft or try to land it, and you don’t want to try to land a thing like this on three engines and a full bomb load.”

Hewett said the Skipper advised the crew to bail, but they refused.

“We figured he’s such a good Skipper, he’ll get it down,” he said.

“We stayed aboard and he put it down just like a feather. I think that was probably our… most hazardous incident that we were aboard.”

A living legend

Henry (Chick) Hewett of Oshawa, Ont., is seen riveting a plaque bearing his signature and personal information from his service during the Second World War as a navigator on a Lancaster bomber. Hewett was inducted in the bomber restoration project Oct. 6.

Hewett was the guest of honour at the Lancaster Living Legends ceremony held at the aviation museum Oct. 6. He was joined by one of his former Avro Lancaster bomber crewmates, fellow Lancaster Living Legends inductee Warrant Officer Roy Morrison of Truro Heights, for the occasion.

The Gladiators flew 35 Lancaster missions during the Second World War, with Hewett serving between August 1942 and July 1945.

14 Wing Greenwood base commander Col. Michael Adamson commended both men for their bravery.

“The perils were great. For every 100 men who flew with bomber command, 56 were killed in the air or died of wounds,” said Adamson, delivering an address at the induction ceremony.

“Only 27 per cent of those in bomber command emerged from the war physically unscathed, a loss rate comparable to the trenches of World War I.”

A true honour

Hewett was honoured to become the 12th Lancaster Living Legends inductee.

“It’s sort of came out of the blue. I’ve only been aware of this the last three months. It’s just a total surprise and a very delightful surprise,” he said, noting that Truro Daily News reporter Harry Sullivan tracked him down to get the ball rolling on a reunion with Morrison.

Hewett admits there were many difficult days during his time in the service, but he’s proud to be counted among Canada’s Second World War veterans.

“A lot of us used to say after the war, ‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but wouldn’t do it again for a million bucks,’” he said.

“I don’t think you can go through life just riding on a cloud all the time. I don’t regret it one bit.”

Second World War veterans who are inducted into the Lancaster Living Legends project at CFB Greenwood are recognized with a plaque (that includes their signature) which is riveted to the hull of the restored bomber. Henry (Chick) Hewett flew a total of 35 bombing missions as a navigator, including 30 with tail gunner Roy Morrison of Truro Heights.

 

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