CREW: Edward James Carter, Guy Ernest Dunning, Ronald John Conley, Herbert William Rieger, Henry William Edward Jeffery, Albert Chambers, Frank Raymond Watson, Martin Bryan-Smith
97 Squadron Aircrew after Bourn - CONINGSBY
BY IAN GOODALL
Harry WE 'Hank' Jeffery was born in Walthamstow but his family moved to Southall, Middlesex when he was about 13. They lived at 74 Ascot Gardens and Harry attended Southall County School in Villiers Avenue.
He joined the engineering firm AEC in Southall after school. AEC were most famous for building Routemaster buses but it appears that they were also involved in aircraft production as Harry was described as an Aircraft Inspector before the war.
He enlisted with the RAFVR as No 1321661 Aircraftman 2nd Class/Aircrafthand/Observer on 10.7.1941. Promoted to Leading Aircraftman 11.2.42, temporary Sergeant 31.10.43. Appointed to a Commission 10.10.43. Promoted to Flying Officer 11.4.44.
He attended No 1 Empire Air Observers School in South Africa from 28.2.42 to 18.5.42 as well as other Aircrew Schools before disembarking back in the UK on 8.8.42. He then attended various Conversion Units before joining 9 Squadron at Bardney on 30.4.43.
For many of the operations on his first tour of duty his aircraft was piloted by the Australian Flight Sergeant JHS 'Tiger' Lyon. And they often flew one of the most famous Lancasters of the war - B111 EE136 WS-R for Robert, named Spirit of Russia by Lyon in recognition of the heroic struggle of the Russian people.
Spirit of Russia was one of only 35 of the 7,700 Lancasters built to survive more than 100 operations, ending up on 109 operations when the war ended.
Lyon in the pilot's seat, Hank Jeffery at the back of the cockpit.
At 9 Squadron: crew members Clegg and Fielding (L-R) with Hank, and on the far right an unknown navigator, probably from this crew.
In May, June and July 1943 the crew were bombing German cities on a regular basis, including 4 visits to Cologne, before turning their attentions to Italy with two raids on Milan. On the way back from Dusseldorf they reported that the area around the Target Indicators was a dense mass of fires. These could still be seen from the Dutch coast on the homeward journey.
On 17/18 August they were involved in the famous and important raid on the German rocket development base at Peenemunde - taking off at 21.26, bombing from 5,000 feet at 0013 hours before landing back at base at 04.07. The log records the operation as follows:
Primary attacked 0044 hrs. 5,000ft. Red spot fires at the island, then flares and red and green Target Indicators over the target. Timed run made from the island. Green Target Indicator in centre of concentration of greens in sights. Greens were then thought to be right over the target, which was visible at the time. Results seemed very promising. An exceptional concentration of aircraft and good and accurate fires. Buildings could be seen burning.
It is estimated that this successful raid set the V1 and V2 rocket programme back by at least 6 months.
Hank, Tiger and their comrades were then involved in the bitter Battle of Berlin.
Lyon was tragically killed in a training accident when his aircraft was struck by Sterling ... returning from its first operation. The aircraft crashed near Quainton in Leicestershire, with Lyon apparently fighting with the controls to avoid crashing on the cottage where his pregnant wife was sleeping.
On October 22nd 1943 Hank recorded the 5 hour 45 minute operation to Kassel which completed his tour of 30 operations, writing TOUT FINIS ! in bold black letters on his Operational Record Book.
In recognition of his devotion to duty Hank was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in December 1943.
After No 1661 Conversion Unit at Winthorpe, Harry, or Hank as he was now calling himself signed up for a second tour. He told his mother Madeline that he had just volunteered for one last flight, but he was clearly flying regularly with 97 Squadron at Conningsby from 4.5.44.
On the fateful morning of D Day Hank's aircraft took off from Conningsby at 0256 hours , one of the 1,038 bombers despatched to pave the way for the invasion troops of Operation Overlord. They were instructed to bomb a gun emplacement near the village of St Pierre de Mont, which, on the top of the cliffs of Pointe de Hoc, guarded both Utah and Omaha beaches. Sadly they were one of only 8 aircraft shot down that day. The pilot Sqn Leader Edward Carter was last heard on the wireless transmitter at 0504. His was one of the most highly decorated crews of the Second World War.
Although another pilot on the same operation, Charles Owen, recorded Hank's aircraft as being shot down by a Ju88 a recent - 2009 - book (Luftwaffe Hit and Run Raiders 1943-1944 by Chris Goss) has now been identified as an Fw 190 of 3/SKG piloted by Feldwebel Kurt Eisel, later himself to die when his plane crash landed later in the war.
For some strange reason Hank's name was left off the memorial honours board at his old school. This omission was rectified when Ian Goodall had his name added in 1987. Hank's mother was pleased to see her son's name in its rightful place, albeit 43 years too late. And now, thanks to Jennie Grey and her wonderful website for 97 Squadron, Hank's photo has been placed with his comrades on that final flight.
With thanks to Ian Goodall and Bruce Blanche for the photographs of Hank with his first crew.
R-Roger "Spirit of Russia and Crew, Bardney 1943.
L-R, Clegg (R/G), Corkill (Nav), Jeffery (B/A), Lyon (Pilot), Pack (F/E), Fielding (W/Op), Denyer (MU/G)