Warrant Officer Morrison, now 94, served as tail gunner; Hewett, a month shy of 96, was an officer and the bomber’s navigator.
The last time they had bent an elbow and recalled tales of their harrowing Second World War adventures across a table, was in Florida, more than 30 years ago. Neither can recall the precise date but agree it would have been the early 1980s.
Thursday, when Morrison walked into Hewitt’s Truro hotel room, three decades ago may as well have been yesterday.
“It was very typical of their personalities,” said Hewett’s daughter, Wendy Barney, who travelled from her home in Connecticut to witness the reunion.
Morrison, of Truro Heights, and Hewett, of Oshawa, Ont., were the only Canadians among a seven-member crew. As far as they know, they are the only surviving members.
“It was very low key. A handshake, a little shoulder clap and, boom, the two of them were on the couch going back and forth as if they’d never been apart,” Barney said. “It was like no time had passed. It was like they had just seen each other last week or yesterday.”
It was the same for Morrison’s daughter, Debra Parker of Valley.
“It’s like they were never separated. They were like two little kids, chatting away,” Parker said. “He has his friend in contact again … and they will likely stay in contact.”
The two vets initially reconnected by telephone last April after Morrison was inducted into the Lancaster Living Legends project in Greenwood. During an interview with the Truro Daily News, Morrison mentioned how he had lost contact with Hewett since that gathering in Florida with their pilot Jack Barton.
A couple of days later, Morrison was presented with all of Hewett’s contact information. In no time, he was on the telephone with his old flying buddy.
Ralph Murphy, a retired Warrant Officer with the 102 Wing of Air Force Assoc., said when the group’s national office in Ottawa learned of the two veterans reconnecting, a funding effort began to get them together in person.
After many phone calls and emails, Hewett arrived in Truro Wednesday evening, along with his son, Glen Hewett, and his daughter.
The get-together in the hotel room was followed by an official reunion Thursday evening at the Air Force Association’s 102 Wing in Truro, which drew about 40 people.
“The men who served in Bomber Command faced some of the most difficult odds of anyone fighting in the war,” Murphy recited from a Veterans Affairs passage.
“For much of the conflict, the regular duration for a tour of duty was 30 combat sorties. The risks were so high, however, that almost half of all aircrew never made it to the end of their tour.”
Despite such heavy losses, however, Bomber Command was able to maintain a steady stream of aircraft flying over Germany during the war to counter the U-boats and other targets and sites in occupied Europe, from Norway to France, that were used against the Allied forces.
Between sips of beer, in their place of honour at the front of the room, both vets shared stories of their time together, with serious – and sometimes humourous – recollections.
“When it comes to being heroes and what not, that’s debatable, ain’t it Roy?” Hewett said, with a chuckle. “But if there is a hero, this is one of them,” he added of Morrison, whose precarious perch was in the tail gunner’s glass bubble.
“And the reason I say he’s the hero, he was out there and could see what was going on and everything else. I was tucked away in a little cubbyhole behind the skipper and I didn’t know what was going on. It was just as well, I likely would have died of fright anyway,” he said, as laughter filled the hall.
“Chick thinks I saw more than he did,” Morrison quickly countered. “I closed my eyes a lot.”
And, so it went, as two old war buddies renewed long-lost ties and warmed the hearts of their attentive audience.
“It was like a resurrection because both Dad and Roy didn’t know if the other was around, if they existed because they had lost contact,” Glen Hewett said, of when his father learned last April that Morrison would soon be calling him.
“He just came out of his seat with excitement.”
A bond that is difficult to describe
Henry (Chick) Hewett rubbed gently at his eyes as he tried to find the proper words to explain his feelings.
“It’s hard for me to describe and I think it would be for most people. So many things flash back… little minor things, incidents that occurred during our relationship back then,” he said, referring to Roy Morrison of Truro Heights, with whom he flew 30 bombings missions during the Second World War.
“I think when you get in a position like we were, the same with the rest of our crew, something brings you together, almost a part of you really,” he said.
What brought the two even closer during their flying time together, from November 1944 until March 1945, he said, was that they were the only two Canadians among their seven-member crew.
“You can’t measure it … you have to have been in that type of relationship,” continued Hewett, who said he has been eagerly looking forward to the night’s events.
It was tough to describe.
“It’s hard for me but it was just a joy. This is a thrill for me today to get back in his company after so many years,” he said. “I’ve looked forward to it since this thing started evolving. But just so anxious for October to come around.”
“It was great. I really enjoyed the whole session,” he said, of Thursday’s events. “I don’t know. You can’t explain what you feel but just a nice warm feeling comes over you.”