At the beginning of WWII, Frank Poole was a grade nine student in New Aberdeen, Nova Scotia. By the summer of 1943, Frank enlisted with the Royal Canadian Airforce. He was sworn in and selected for gunner training at the No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School on Prince Edward Island. Following training he made his way to Liverpool, England aboard the SS Andes.
A mid-upper gunner with the No. 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron of the RCAF Bomber Command, Frank, along with his 6 group, flew a Halifax V11 Heavy Bomber and were stationed in Tholthorpe, Yorkshire. On the night of January 16, 1945, Frank and his crew found themselves under fire 18,000 feet over Hannover, Germany. It was a German night flyer that crept undetected below the plane. With extensive damage, just as the crew received the orders to bail out, the gas tank ignited. “The fireball blew off the wings and tail section of the plane. I bailed out but was knocked unconscious. I fell through the air a couple of miles but luckily the cold air revived me,” remembers Frank. “I finally realized, as I was tumbling in midair, that these big white spots I could see passing before my eyes were actually the snow banks on the ground. I hadn’t pulled the ripcord on my parachute. I managed to grab it and pull it, and the next thing I was sitting in a snow bank and the temperature was freezing, about -41 Fahrenheit.
Frank spent two days trying to walk to safety through German territory. He’d lost a boot during the explosion, and was soaked and freezing. After seeking shelter in a nearby house of an elderly couple, who provided warmth and hot drink, Frank was eventually turned over to German soldiers and taken to an interrogation centre in Frankfurt. The Germans used solitary confinement without heating in an effort to get him to reveal secrets about Allied bombing missions. Unsuccessful in their interrogation, Frank was then moved to Germany’s largest Prisoner of War Camp in Moosburg, Bavaria. Thankfully, he spent less than 10 weeks at Stalag VII-A before being liberated in April of that year.
Frank returned home after spending two months in the seaside town of Bournemouth, England, at the No 3 Personnel Reception Centre for the Royal Air Force. The months after the war were the hardest for him, and says he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “There were only two of us who escaped the plane wreck that day, and it was a miracle that I survived both the crash and the POW camp. But the question I couldn’t get out of my mind was, How come I was so lucky, and what was I being saved for? The guilt hung heavily because I had survived my ordeal and the war, while so many others had died.”
Released from Air Force in September of 1945, and despite his ordeal during WWII, Frank re-enlisted when war was declared in Korea, this time with the Canadian Armed Forces, completing an 18-month deployment as a Battle Instructor. His service in Korea earned him a Victory Medal. In 1971, after 25 years of service, Frank retired as a Captain, and moved to Victoria. In 2017 Frank was awarded the Légion d’honneur (the Legion of Honour) by the French Government for his role in the liberation of France.
At 97 years old, Frank and his wife, Melody, are both still active in the community. Frank attends the Veterans Health Centre once a week, and enjoys the comradery with his fellow vets.
Like all Canadian veterans, Frank gave up so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today, and now it’s our privilege to support them. You can help support veterans like Frank to live in their own homes, and participate in Veterans Health Centre programs by making a donation today.