It was May, 1940, and we had joined the Air Force in late September. At Halifax, we were given an intensive training course, because they needed us overseas, and to us young lads, the whole program was exciting.
We were grouped into squadrons, each of which consisted of six to ten planes, and each was trained to maneuver as a unit. Therefore about thirty to fifty men made up a squadron, along with the squadron leader who gave all the orders and kept the group functioning in unity.
In May, our squadron was told we were going overseas and would be in action at once. We would work on nightly missions over enemy territory until the war was over. We were waiting for our new squadron leader, due to arrive in two days on a 9:00 p.m. air-force flight. Being an officer, he would, we thought, go at once to the officers’ quarters.
We watched the plane, glimpsed him from the distance, and resigned ourselves to waiting until the next day to “size him up.” A couple of hours later, this squadron leader, Stan Fulton, in full uniform, entered our bunk house.
“Well men, we’re going to spend some dangerous hours together, but let’s hope we all meet back here when it’s over. Ah, there’s a free bunk and I am tired! I’ll meet each of you tomorrow.”
With that, he threw his bag on an upper bunk. Our squadron leader, an officer, sleeping here with us! We liked him at once and our liking and our admiration grew each day.
That first night he knelt on the floor and prayed his Rosary in silence. Astounded, we were struck dumb. When he finished, he looked at us with his friendly smile and said, “I hope you guys don’t mind a fellow saying some prayers because where we’re going, we’re going to need them.”
The next day our maneuver practice, under his command, assured us that Fulton was not just our military leader, but our friend. He was one of us; he never tried to intimidate us with his rank.
That night, he repeated his prayer session. Although our group had trained together for six months at least, I had never seen anyone kneel in prayer, and had no idea that any of our group was Catholic; but the third night three of our companions joined Fulton in saying the Rosary. The rest of us did not understand but we kept a respectful silence.
A few nights later — we were quick learners — we all answered the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Fulton looked pleased, and thus we ended each day in prayer.
On June 1, 1940, we were to leave Halifax to begin a series of night raids from England over Germany. The evening before, Fulton gave each of us a Rosary.
“We shall be in some tight situations, but then, if you agree, we’ll say the Rosary. If you will promise to keep the Rosary with you always throughout your life and to say it, I can promise you that Our Lady will bring you all back safe to Canada.”
We answered, “Sure thing.” Little did we dream we would be in action for four years, many times in dreadful danger with fire all around us. At such times, Fulton’s voice would ring through each plane, “Hail Mary…” How reverently and sincerely did we respond! How many hundreds of Rosaries we must have said.
Finally, the terrible war was over. During those years, we lost all sense of excitement and adventure. All that concerned us was survival! We did survive, too. All returned to Canada in 1945, fully convinced that Our Lady had taken care of us.
So I never forget to keep my Rosary with me and say it every day although I am not a Catholic. When I change my trousers, the first thing I transfer, even before my wallet, is my rosary.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.