102 (Ceylon) Squadron

Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)

Flight Lieutenant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE

Sergeant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE 102 Squadron
Sergeant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE 102 Squadron

Harry Huges is thankfully still very much with us as of today (31st Oct 2011).

Harry was a navigator with 102 squadron (amongst others) and most of his time was spent with the same pilot and crew.
His story has been told in a book entitled, 'Five of the Many' by Steve Darlow . Please click the photo's to make them enlarge.

The following was written and sent to the BBC's 'WW2 People's War', Harry has given us permission to use it here.

I arrived at Pocklington in Yorkshire to join 102 Squadron in February 1943. Of course I did not know then that 102 was destined to sustain the 2nd highest loss rate in Bomber Command , although the losses were running high at that time (6 out of 8 on a recent Flensburg raid.)

We expected to start with an easy gardening (mine laying) trip but we were sent to Essen which was the most heavily defended City in the Ruhr Valley.When I saw the flak over the target it looked Impossible to get through . However the danger to us came from above when another Halifax dropped its incendiaries on us. Fortunately they did not ignite but they did on another occasion over Wuppertal and then we were also hit by a 1000 lb bomb taking away our port rudder and part of the port tailplane much to the consternation of Ken Lazenby our rear gunner.

Sergeant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE 102 Squadron
Sergeant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE 102 Squadron

Out of a total of 76 operations I only did 3 outside Germany ie in occupied Countries. One of these was to Pilzen to bomb the Skoda works. It was a long trip . My log book shows a time of 10 hours and 45 minutes flying time having landed at Harwell, on the way home to refuel and repair some flak damage which was down to me. About another 80 aircraft were also diverted there.

It was our third trip and it was a moonlit night we were flying at about 10000ft. My bomb aimer,Harry Hooper gave me a pin point on the Moselle which put us 6 miles north of track . After about 8 minutes we were coned and got some flak . There was nothing north of our track but Saarbrucken was south so I drew a track from the pinpoint and extended it beyond Saarbruckeen to find that we would go over Karlsruhr, which we did . On extending it further I found that we would hit Stuttgart. I told Sam Hartley our Pilot that as soon as we saw the first searchlights to go on to a NW course until I calculated that we were back on our original track .
By this time I was able to calculate the wind velocity. It must be borne in mind that I was still new to operations (a sprog) and as a navigator the most important thing was to know where you were. Well we carried on to our next turning point which was to the South of Pilzen but about 7 minutes before my ETA the Pathfinder flares went down and Harry insisted that he could see the Skoda works so we bombed along with everyone else and despite my protestations. On the way home we were routed North of Mannheim which was also being bombed that night .

Sergeant W. Harry Hughes DFC, DFM, AE 102 Squadron
Harry Hughes on the rgt & Roy Montrowe in front of their 692 Sqd Mosquito, Graveley, 1944
We could see the fires but we were to the South which confirmed that I was right. Having landed at Harwell we did not get back to base until 1330 hours the following day having had to repair the flak holes in the ailerons and the tailplane. We finally got to bed but I was awoken after two hours to go to the Operations Room where I found everyone pouring over my log and chart It had been confirmed by the PR Spit that we had not bombed Pilzen and I was the only navigator to have insisted that we had not.

Well we completed our tour and after a period of instructing I returned to operations with 8 Group Pathfinders on 692 Squadron, which was part of the Light Night Striking Force . We were based across the A1 from Bedford at Gravely. On our Mosquito aircraft we carried a 4000lb bomb with just 2 crew, mainly to Berlin. This was more than a B17 (Flying Fortress) could carry with 12 crew. We often carried out window opening for the first wave of Pathfinders and in addition we shot our 4000lb bomb into the railway tunnels during the Ardennes push. The mining of the Kiel canal in moonlight at low level was another of our tasks.

I finished my second tour in February 45 and was then posted to India to ferry Mosquitoes and Beaufighters down to Burma but that is another story.

The losses in Bomber Command were high (Over 50% killed) During the 7 months I was on 102 we lost 50 aircraft and in fact the chances of completing a tour of 30 operations was about one in seven. In two nights in January 44 102 lost 11 out of 29 sorties. On 692 our losses were quite low in comparison.

W.H.Hughes DFC DFM AE*

 

2012 Reunion

Joe Wilson (his daughter to the left of him) Harry Hughes

Joe Wilson - Graham Horton - Tom sayer - Mr Sayer (Tom's Brother) Harry Hughes

In the photo above:
Joe Wilson (his daughter to the left of him) - Graham Horton - Tom Sayer - Mr Sayer (Tom's Brother) - Harry Hughes

 

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