Aldergrove resident and Second World War Veteran Jack Airone. (Courtesy Airone family)

Aldergrove resident and Second World War Veteran Jack Airone. (Courtesy Airone family)

‘They used to tell us that if we weren’t down here, they wouldn’t be up there’

Aldergrove resident Jack Airone served as a mechanic for the Air Force during the Second World War

Ninety-seven-year-old Aldergrove resident Jack Airone didn’t see any action during his six years with the Royal Air Force, but he knew his presence was appreciated by those who did.

“They used to tell us that if we weren’t down here, they wouldn’t be up there,” he recalled.

Airone served as a mechanic during the Second World War, spending most of his time overhauling aircraft engines.

Born in Hastings, England – Airone was just 16 when he decided to enlist in the Home Guard. During this time, he witnessed bombing of the southeast corner of Britain.

“I was working in a factory before enlisting with the RAF, making gearboxes, and this just seemed more exciting,” he said.

Airone hoped to take to the skies and actually fly the air crafts himself but was deemed ineligible – the Veteran is colourblind.

At 18 years of age he enlisted, trained and was shipped off to East Asia aboard the SS Argentina with several thousand other men.

“We couldn’t get through the Mediterranean – it was too dangerous, so we had to go all the way around the Cape,” Airone explained. “We were bombed on the way to South Africa, but they missed and have turned around and just gone right back to Germany.”

He said the journey took months before they reached Bombay, India. He served much of his time in Cawnpore and Comilla as part of the British Fourteenth Army – a multi-national force of Commonwealth countries, often referred to as the “Forgotten Army.”

Airone recalled the 110 Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) heat and the many journeys he had while not repairing air crafts.

“The best things weren’t to do with the war,” he assured. “We would go out on leave and trek the Himalayas – we could see Everest in the distance.”

While the war came to an end in September of 1945, the Veteran said his demobilization took more than a year; he returned to England in May of 1946 and was demobbed in January, 1947.

“They learned from the First World War that if they let them all out at once, there’d be no employment back home,” Airone explained.

It was at that time he met Minnie, his first and last girlfriend; they have been together for 72 years and are still married to this day.

Airone came to Canada in 1948, noting his reasoning to move west was because “I wanted adventure and didn’t want to settle,” he said, ending up in Whitby, Ont. where he supported himself with farm work.

The couple had five children as they moved to Manitoba. He was employed with a civilian company overhauling engines for the Canadian Air Force in Winnipeg for another 11 years. Eventually he moved to Cloverdale.

He would retire in his sixties due to arthritis.

The Veteran told the Aldergrove Star that he still remembers wartime all very clearly.

“A German bomber came so low I can still see the face of the rear gunner,” he said, adding that he also recalls the more “shocking” times. “I lost my best school friend in that time – he was 20-years-old and served with the aircrew.”

He called the Second World War “frightening,” but said his youth and yearning for adventure served him well.

“I can say that because I didn’t see any action,” he noted, something Airone and his family are all thankful for.

Nearing 100, he attributed his longevity to strict discipline.

“I got that from school. If the headmaster saw that your shoes were only a little bit brushed, you’d get hit,” he remembered. “They wouldn’t do that nowadays.”

He playfully added that staying away from alcohol and cigarettes served him well too.

Airone still marches in Remembrance Day ceremonies, though this year he looks forward to taking it off and watching the Ottawa ceremony on television.

He has not been back to Southeast Asia but said he has gone to visit England on numerous occasions.


Is there more to this story?


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter


AldergroveRemembrance DayVeterans

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)
Judge hears Langley development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted out of council

The conflict of interest case was launched by local voters a year ago

More than 2,300 BC Hydro customers in Langley were without power as a windstorm moved through the community on Nov. 30, 2020. (BC Hydro)
UPDATE: Power restored to 2,300 hydro customers caused by windstorm Langley

Three separate outages were reported related to weather

Stacey Wakelin is running for a seat on the Langley school board left vacant by Megan Dykeman’s election as MLA (special to Langley Advance Times)
Wakelin announces run for Langley school board

Activist seeks seat left vacant by Megan Dykeman’s election as MLA

The South Surrey ‘Underground House’ includes skylights and just one side ‘window’ – this glass door that leads out to a patio. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey ‘underground house’ set to go up for sale

‘Unassuming’ John Kay-designed home include skylights, just one window

Langley RCMP attended a three-car collision on Saturday, Nov. 28 on 200th Street at 72nd Avenue. They have launched an impaired driving investigation. (Black Press Media files)
Langley driver goes into wrong lane, ends up hitting Jetta, Hummer and median

Saturday’s crash was on the first weekend of the CounterAttack campaign to catch impaired drivers

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Fatty Legs co-author responds to Abbotsford class assignment on residential schools

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Harbour seals rest on log booms at Flavelle Mill in Port Hardy. With recent announcements the mill will be getting rid of the log booms, Dr. David Rosen sees an opportunity to study how the disappearance of this highly-frequented refuge for the seals will alter their behaviour in Burrard Inlet. (Photo supplied by David Rosen)
What the heck is going on with marine mamals in Vancouver waterways?

UBC researcher asks why they’re returning, and what role we’re playing

Most Read