RAF Pocklington veteran dies, aged 96

RAF veteran Harry Brabin was assigned to a Halifax bomber at Pocklington.
RAF veteran Harry Brabin was assigned to a Halifax bomber at Pocklington.

An RAF veteran who was assigned to the 102 (Ceylon) Squadron at Pocklington during the second world war has died, aged 96.

Bomber Command veteran Harry Brabin, who with his crew flew 43 missions over France and Germany, died in Sydney in December.

He was given the French award of Chevalier in the Legion of Honour and last year attended the new international Bomber Command memorial in Lincoln.

On Anzac Day 1942, when Brabin was 18, he joined the air force. He had always been intrigued with single-engine planes flying overhead.

He wanted to be a wireless operator and gunner.

After training in Australia and Canada he was assigned to the Halifax bomber N for Nan.

Mr Brabin’s 19th mission on July 28, 1944 to Foret de Nieppe was one of the more eventful.

Brabin’s crew, being the most experienced, had the honour of leading 1,000 bombers. As soon as they reached the French coast they became the main targets.

He said: “We were hit repeatedly and many of the holes in the fuselage were big enough to jump through. In fact Don was thinking just that, and had picked up his parachute and was strapping it on when Bas told him ‘You’ve got it on upside down’.

“Just then Bas was hit in the leg by a piece of flak. I tore open his trousers and held my thumbs near the wound to try and stop the bleeding.

“We were near the target, so we hurriedly dropped our bombs, as did two aircraft behind us who had been told to bomb when we did. Because of the injury to Bas and the badly damaged aircraft, we wagged our wings and headed home.

“Upon inspection after an emergency landing at Great Ashfield the plane had 80 holes in it; some of them huge.

“We had to refuel and with Don navigating managed to fly back to Pocklington where our beloved ‘N’ for Nan was repaired.

“Fifteen aircraft from our squadron had to be repaired.

“Several had to land away due to flak damage.”

On the 70th anniversary of World War II, France honoured veterans who had participated in D-Day by awarding them the rank of Chevalier in the Legion of Honour.

Mr Brabin was so proud of this award that, at the age of 94, he started learning French.

Mr Brabin is survived by his three children, Lesley, Ian and Nancy (named after his aircraft), 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.