Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 13 to 18
- Grade: 8 to 12
Reginald Harrison grew up on a Saskatchewan farm during the Dirty Thirties. His interest in flying was sparked even before he watched fighter plane pilots do loops in the sky above his family’s farm as they trained for the Second World War. Seeking adventure, Reg became a bomber pilot in England. He survived four crashes – none of which were his fault – and several close calls. He became one of the few Canadians to join the famed “Guinea Pig Club” after receiving wartime reconstructive skin graft surgery. A fellow airman nicknamed him “Crash” one day and the name stuck. After the war, Reg moved to Saskatoon and helped war veterans obtain farms and other assistance via the federal Veteran’s Land Administration department. Reg was named an “Honorary Snowbird” by the renowned Canadian Forces’ aerobatics display team and is a celebrated war veteran whose stories will captivate and educate readers from teens to seniors. This book, written in Reg’s voice, shares his experiences of growing up on the dusty Prairies during the Great Depression, then going off to war, and surviving crashes and intense combat.
About the author
Deana (pronounced dee-na) Driver was a journalist and correspondent for more than 30 years and has had 2,300 articles published in over 25 Canadian magazines and newspapers. As an editor and book publisher, she has worked with over 60 Prairie authors on more than 90 books since she founded her book publishing company, DriverWorks Ink, in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2008. Crash Harrison is Deana’s sixth book as the sole author. She has been a contributing writer to more than a dozen other books, including the Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation series.
Excerpt: Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death (by (author) Deana Driver)
Bit by the Flying Bug
I had just turned 17 and I was threshing grain for our neighbours, the Walkingtons, with my brother John and my dad. They owned a radio and Mrs. Walkington came out of their house to bring us lunch and said, “War has just broken out. Britain has declared war on Germany.” I was excited and said, “Oh boy. I hope it lasts long enough because I want to fly!” My dad said, “It won’t last more than a year or two.” I hoped my dad was wrong about that. Germany’s dictator, Adolf Hitler, wanted to take over Europe and the world with the help of Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini. Hitler wanted to eliminate Jewish people and anyone who got in his way. After Hitler’s forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3rd. Canada declared war on Germany a week later, on September 10th, 1939. I thought it would be fun to become a pilot. The young men in our area had been talking about leaving and going to war. Some of them had already gone overseas and gone missing. That didn’t scare me though. My uncles and my dad had all been in the British armed forces. I wanted to go too. It would be exciting and different from working on the farm – and important! Sure, I’d heard horror stories and I knew some people died in wars, but I never thought it would happen to me – especially if I was a pilot in control of my own plane. Young men often think they are indestructible anyway. My dad survived the First World War, which was a terrible war, so I felt I should be able to survive this one.
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was created in 1939 because of the Second World War. They started building flying training stations in Commonwealth countries like Canada in early 1940. They hired big contractor companies to build the stations on large blocks of flat land, which is why the airport at Yorkton, not far from our farm, was built. The Service Flying Training School in Yorkton opened in April 1941 and was one of about 100 BCATP flying training schools across Canada during the Second World War. So almost two years went by from the start of the war to when I began seeing fighter pilots flying over our farm every day. These pilots were training in Harvards – single-engine aircraft that are 28 feet long with a 42-foot wingspan. Our farm was only 60 miles from Yorkton the way the crow flies, so it only took them 15 to 20 minutes to get over our farm after they left the Yorkton flying school. Harvards make a lot of noise, so I could hear them coming. We didn’t have a tractor then, so we were using work horses to pull our farm implements. (It would take us two weeks to plow a field with our mouldboard, two-furrow plow.) When I was sitting on the seat of the plow and I heard the planes coming, I would stop the horses. When the Harvards flew over, I’d sit there to watch them practise their aerobatics. It wasn’t long before the horses automatically stopped as soon as they heard those planes coming! When I went off to war a couple years later, my dad commented that although he didn’t want to see his oldest son go to war, he was sure they’d get more work done on the farm because the horses wouldn’t be stopping anymore. The funny thing is the horses were in a routine by then and they stopped just as often for my brother as they had for me! That still makes me smile. All those times I was watching those planes flying over our farm – that’s when I really got the urge to fly! I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for the war. The war changed millions of people’s lives, including mine.
Other titles by Deana Driver
See You in See You in Le Touquet
A Memoir of War and Destiny
Don't They Kick When You Do That? Vol. 2
More Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian
Tunnels of Tyranny
Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #4
You Are Enough
Activate Your Angels and Magnetize a Soul-Full Life
Tunnels of Treachery
Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #3
Don't They Kick When You Do That?
Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian
Tunnels of Terror
Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #2
Fun On The Farm 3
True Tales of Farm Life
Rebuilding a Brick Wall
Tunnels of Time
Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #1