Ken Atkinson was born April 18, 1925 in Sunderland, England. His father was a veteran of the Great War who enrolled his son in the Air Cadet Corps between the two wars, and Ken’s father remained part of the Home Guard once the Second World War began, watching the skies for signs of the Luftwaffe. Ken was in the Home Guard during this time too, helping to put out the fires as the Blitz raged on. Ken joined the RAF himself when the time came, feeling that he was not doing enough for king and country. He began his training in Bomber Command, where he was chosen to be an air gunner. Part of that training took place in Canada, through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Ken spent part of that time in British Columbia, where he helped to monitor Japanese balloon bombs that were hitting the west coast. When he returned to England, he flew in many different types of aircraft, including Wellingtons and Lancasters; he was put on special assignment with the American 8th Air Force, where he flew on B-24 Liberators. In all cases, Ken flew missions against targets on the continent, braving anti-aircraft fire and German fighters, and he was able to make it back safely unlike so many men in RAF Bomber Command. Late in the war, Ken was on his way to Burma, but the atomic bombs cut his journey short, and he returned to England. With few opportunities available in England, Ken opted to emigrate to Canada, where he worked in the mining industry for a time. That work caused some health problems, so Ken joined the RCAF for a 20-year stint as a firefighter, followed by work with the Toronto Fire Department. Ken Atkinson was interviewed by Scott Masters at his home in Barrie in November 2021.
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