Basil 'Harry' Harrington

Recollections of service life in the RAF.

Joining the RAF

Basil ‘Harry’ Harrington grew up on the Channel Island of Jersey and as a boy had always wanted to join the RAF. His mother, however, was against the idea as her first two children had died in a plane crash in South Africa. Harry was not deterred and in 1937 he went to the RAF recruitment office in London. Here he was given an educational test which he passed with ease before being sent to West Drayton for his initial training and then to Uxbridge for three months of recruit training and finally to a newly built RAF station in Wiltshire where he completed his training.

Bomber Command

When the war broke out on September 3rd 1939, Harry was in Bomber Command HQ in Uxbridge where he became an important member of the team although he still had ambitions to fly. On his third application for a flying course the department finally let him go and he was finally flying at the Operational Training Centre in Bicester.

Harry’s first posting was with the 226 squadron in Norfolk but things did not go to plan and there were several accidents before they could get going. Harry’s first job was to attend the funeral of a Canadian and whilst he and his team were being welcomed they received news of another crash and so had to go to an additional funeral.

Family in Jersey

During this time Harry’s family had managed to flee Jersey but his girlfriend was trapped there spending the next five years under German occupation.

Forty-two runs

Meanwhile Harry and his crew took up various compulsory as well as many voluntary operations as casualties in the crew were high. The crews were asked by the Air Marshall how many runs they had done with most crews claiming four or five however Harry’s crew had done forty-two! They were told to collect their money and rations and that they were to be off operations for a while. That night the crew looked forward to a dance. However, the Squadron Commander called Harry’s crew to lead an operation the next morning saying that he would “turn a blind eye” to the Air Marshall’s order. The operation into Northern Belgium was to be Harry’s final.

Men lost in training

Harry further talks of the men that were lost in training; he and another crew had set off on a training flight over the Welsh mountains but the other aircraft never returned, being found the next day crashed into a hillside.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 07/06/2012.