He was part of Operation Market Garden
F/L Colton patrolled the front line in Normandy, and spoke about the dangers he and his fellow pilots faced every day when they were given a target to attack.
“We had a very high percentage of losses because we would start our dive at 6,000 feet … go down and we’re getting up to close to 600 miles per hour before we’d release our rockets and pull out.
“But going down we had the 88-millimetre [anti-aircraft guns firing at us] at five or six thousand feet, then 37-millimetre, 20-millimetre, nine-millimetre. Then coming out it was nine, 20, 37 and 88.
“So they didn’t have too hard a time picking off the boys.
“We would come out at a little over 600 miles per hour [and pull] up. Of course, we’d black out for two or three seconds and you’re going straight up. But we’d get back to base. The airframe mechanic comes up to me and he says, ‘You know the rivets are pulled in the wings here. What happened?’
“This happened quite often—the rivets would come loose from the G-force.
“The other operation I flew in was Market Garden.”
Operation Market Garden, fought from September 17 to 25, 1944, was famously portrayed in the film A Bridge Too Far. By dropping paratroopers from gliders to seize and hold key bridges on the route of advance, the Allies planned to break through German lines and end the war quickly. Resistance was stronger than anticipated, and the Allies could not hold the last bridge at Arnhem.
“This was supposed to shorten the war by four or five months,” explained F/L Colton. “But it didn’t work because the Germans had some forces on rest in that area [at Arnhem]. When the troops landed, coming down in parachutes, they were picking them off as they came down.
“The flak that we experienced there … you’ve heard the expression, it was so thick you could walk on it almost. It was just black, and we suffered quite a few losses on that operation.
“In fact, we were told … anyone [who] comes back maybe hasn’t done their job. This was part of our briefing, trying to emphasize how serious it was. Of course, quite some of us came back.
“I’m here anyway!”
F/L Colton flew Typhoon SF-K, shown on the airfield at Eindhoven, on July 10 and 11, 1944. On Dec. 31, 1944, his friend, Pilot Officer James ‘Paddy’ Shemeld, was killed while flying SF-K after it was hit by flak. P/O Shemeld has no known grave.
Photo Credit: © Imperial War Museum.
John Colton died on May 14th, 2013.
F/L John Colton, age 22.
Photo Credit: Courtesy John Colton.
Flight Lieutenant (retired) John Colton, age 89, from Sherbrooke, Que., is a survivor.
He was only 19 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in January 1942, and 20 when he received his wings and went overseas for further training. Flying single-seat Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers with Number 137 Squadron, Royal Air Force, during the Second World War, he carried out 104 operational sorties. It was an extraordinary feat, considering that Typhoon pilots flew an average of only 17…
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