Trevor Anderson served as a radio operator in the Second World War, and worked with Americans aboard a B-25 bomber which crashed into the ocean. Anderson secretly took photos throughout the war to combat the censorship he saw around him. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

98-year-old Victoria veteran shot from the air, took secret photos, and sought adventure

Trevor Anderson survived 55 bombing missions when most Air Force recruits couldn’t get to 30

By the time Trevor Anderson was seven years old, he was already setting traps, driving cars and had his own gun. That’s what happens when you grow up in the rural area of Houston, B.C., he said.

Anderson, now 98, stopped going to school after Grade 8, opting instead to get a job. By the time the Second World War began, Anderson was 20 years old and ready to fight.

He signed up for the air force and was trained to be a radio operator and learned Morse code before being shipped to Northern Africa.

“They never told us anything,” Anderson recalled. “You just showed up everyday and did as ordered.”

One day Anderson was surprised to be dropped off at a location where the American squadron was just getting established.

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“Their radio operators were totally different than Canadians were,” Anderson said. “They couldn’t use Morse code, and that’s what we used all the time. We tried to teach them a little bit and then next thing you know we’re flying with them.”

Air Force recruits were told they could return home after running 30 bombing missions– a number only 15 per cent of the crews survived. Anderson completed 55 missions in his B-25 bomber, but not before being shot down.

Trevor Anderson served as a radio operator in the Second World War, and worked with Americans aboard a B-25 bomber when it was hit and crashed into the ocean. Anderson built a life-size model of his airborne work station in his basement in Victoria. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

“On number four we were shot down into the Mediterranean,” Anderson said. He had been pinched in a small section of the plane where his radio station and the gun turret were located. “When you’re going 100 miles an hour and then stop, the door slammed and it bent. I was knocked out and the cold water I guess helped bring me back. I tried to open the door, kicked it and punched it, but it wouldn’t budge.”

Anderson managed to escape through a window the size of a dinner plate, despite the fact that he was wearing an insulated bomber jacket and heavy steel boots. He later built an exact replica of his radio work space in his basement in Victoria to illustrate just how impressive the feat was.

He and six other members survived the crash and managed to get on a small dingy.

“We tried to get comfortable, but of course there was no such thing,” he said.

Trevor Anderson says some of his medals are the same ones everyone who served in WWII gets, but others are more special to him. One unofficial badge that shows a fish in the water, which represents Anderson’s three-day wait in a dingy after his aircraft was shot down. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

They stayed for three days with no supplies before they came to land at a rural village in Northern Egypt.

During his station in the desert, Anderson contracted malaria as well as blood poisoning, which he thinks he got from sliding into a makeshift, dusty base while playing baseball during his time off.

Anderson said he was good at keeping himself busy; he fixed up abandoned German motorcycles, and took photos to circumnavigate the censorship he saw from the Canadian Armed Forces. He said he and his friends stole some chemicals from the military hospital in order to develop the photos, and because they didn’t have a dark room they experimented with light exposure until they could get their photos to work.

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“After 55 missions, I was getting twitchy,” Anderson said. He asked to go back home, but it wasn’t easy to get back to North America. He had to fly into Brazil and travel north. When he got to Miami, all of his photos and records were confiscated for years.

Anderson moved back to Victoria, but didn’t stay out of the military for long– after all, he didn’t have training in anything else and there wasn’t other work available. He worked in and out of the Canadian Armed Forces for over 20 years, but when he tried to collect his pension he said he was denied because it wasn’t 20 years in a row.

Trevor Anderson (left) and his crew mates stand on a beach in Northern Africa after spending three days in a dingy on the Mediterranean Sea when their plane was shot down. (File submitted/Beth Cruise)

“They always say veterans are treated so well,” Anderson said. “That’s BS!”

When his hearing started to go after spending so much time in the plane without proper ear protection, he and his wife asked Veterans Affairs about covering the medical costs.

“They sat on their lush chairs, we sat on our hard chairs and they asked my wife if I could hear the baby cry,” Anderson said.

His hearing aids were not covered, but Anderson said a kind audiologist helped him out.

After leaving the Armed Forces for good, Anderson, his wife and their four children became lighthouse keepers. They spent 16 years living at Race Rocks, where Anderson built a 56-foot two-masted ketch called the Wawa Wild Goose.

After retiring from lighthouse duty, Anderson and his wife sailed around the world for 14 years, from New Zealand to Fiji to Samoa to Tonga and everywhere in between.

When asked about how he feels about Remembrance Day, Anderson said it was all fluff.

“It does nothing,” he said. ” It’s advertising about nothing.”

Instead, he advised people to just go with the flow of life and let it take you where it will.

”Just do it,” he said. “If you just kind of let life go along, you find that it’ll be easier. At least, I do.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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