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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. H F W Shead


Harold Frederick William Shead was born in Bow, London on 24th May 1920. He worked as a law clerk for a practice in Holborn and joined the RAFVR in March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He carried out his elementary flying training at 21 E&RFTS Stapleford Tawney.


Called up at the outbreak of war, Shead went to 3 ITW Hastings on 2nd October 1939, was posted to 5 EFTS Hanworth on 4th December and then 10 EFTS Yatesbury on 25th May 1940. His next posting was 3 FTS South Cerney until 23rd August followed by 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on the 31st.



After converting to Hurricanes he joined 32 Squadron at Acklington on 23rd September, moving to 257 Squadron at North Weald on 15th October. Shead was attached to 46 Squadron at Digby on 28th December and posted to 615 Squadron at Kenley on 20th February 1941.

He went to the recently-reformed 68 Squadron at High Ercall on 14th May but, with no twin-engine experience, he was sent to 54 OTU and after converting to Beaufighters joined 25 Squadron at Wittering on 18th July 1941.

In May 1942 Shead was posted to the Middle East. After a short spell at 9 ADU Takoradi, he joined 89 Squadron at Abu Sueir on 25th July as a Warrant Officer. Shead teamed up with F/Sgt. FW Curtis and they flew together for the first time on 16th October 1942.

During the night of 21st/22nd December they destroyed a He111, a Ju88 and probably another, on 8th/9th January 1943 they shot down a He111, on the 21st/22nd and 16th/17th March they destroyed Ju88s.

Shead was commissioned in March 1943. He crashed in the desert on 8th June, was badly injured and in hospital in Tripoli until 18th August.

Awarded the DFC (gazetted 3rd September 1943), he left 89 Squadron on 2nd October and was posted back to England on 4th November 1943. Shead was sent on a Pilot Gunnery Instructor course on 23rd December and posted to instruct at 551 Squadron at Twinwoods.

He went on a flying instructor's course at 2 FIS Montrose on 4th October 1944, was posted to 15(P)AFU Babdown on 3rd January 1945 and moved to 20 FTS Church Lawford on 3rd May.

Shead was released from the RAF in October 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant. He returned to his old firm and started a three year law course, qualifying at the end of 1948. He remained with the firm, becoming first a junior partner and later a senior one.

He died in September 1981 in Enfield.



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