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The Airmen's Stories - P/O N P W Hancock


Norman Patrick Watkins Hancock was born on 4th August 1919 in Streatham, London and educated at Croydon High School and Wimbledon Technical School. After leaving he worked at British Rototherm as a laboratory assistant.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial flying training course on 6th February 1939 at 15 E&RFTS Redhill and finished it at 11 E&RFTS Perth.

Hancock went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge on 13th May for a short induction course. He moved to 9 FTS Hullavington on 28th May 1939 and after completing his training joined the recently-reformed 266 Squadron, operating the Fairey Battle at Sutton Bridge on 7th November 1939.



He was posted to No. 1 Squadron at Berry-au-Bac in France on 12th May 1940. After two days he was detached to 501 Squadron but did not fly, spending his days moving around in lorries. Hancock rejoined No. 1 on 18th May and on 6th June he probably destroyed a He111. The squadron was withdrawn from Nantes and took up residence at Northolt.

Flying from Northolt on 16th August 1940, he returned to base with two longerons of his Hurricane severed in an attack by a Me110 over the South Downs. On the 30th Hancock damaged a He111. He was posted away to 85 Squadron at Debden, moved to 615 Squadron at Kenley on 23rd January 1941 and rejoined No. 1 Squadron, also at Kenley, on 29th January.

On 7th April 1941 Hancock went to the RAF Depot at Uxbridge. On the 14th he embarked on HMS Argus at Greenock and sailed for Gibraltar where on the 24th pilots and aircraft were transferred on to HMS Ark Royal. Hancock led seven Hurricanes off to Malta on the 27th, to join 261 Squadron at Hal Far.

When the squadron was disbanded in May, Hancock joined the newly-reformed 185 Squadron on the 12th. He was appointed 'B' Flight Commander next day, when F/Lt. IB Westmacott was wounded.

Hancock made a crash-landing on 20th May after his engine failed due to a fuel-supply fault. He probably destroyed a He111 in the early hours of 6th June, shared a BR20 on 25th July and shared a SM79 on the 27th. Hancock received a Mention in Despatches for a dawn attack on Italian launches that were bringing frogmen to Valetta Harbour on 26th July.

He was posted away to Air HQ Cairo on 17th September 1941 and went to instruct at 71 OTU Gordons Tree, Sudan on 1st October. The unit moved to RAF Carthago at Port Sudan on 26th April 1942 and on 8th June Hancock was posted to Almaza.

He did a short refresher course at El Ballah, was attached to 5 (SAAF) Squadron on 1st July and then joined 250 Squadron at LG91 on 9th July as a Flight Commander. Hancock damaged a Ju88, a Me110 and a Mc202 on the ground in an attack on Fuka airfield on 20th July 1942, shot down a SM79 on the 27th and damaged a Mc202 on the 31st.

Hancock took command of the squadron on 28th November and on 15th December received an immediate award of the DFC (gazetted 29th December 1942). This award was for an operation flown on 17th November. Hancock led twelve Kittyhawks of 250 and six from 405 (RCAF) Squadron from Gazala to Benina airfield. Intelligence had reported that converted bombers from Crete were delivering petrol for the Afrika Korps.

After a flight through bad weather and low cloud, the Kittyhawks arrived as seven enemy bombers, He111's and SM79's, were still in the circuit and five others had already landed. 250 Squadron accounted for the bombers still in the air, Hancock destroying a He111. The Kittyhawks then strafed the airfield, destroying three SM79's on the ground and also a He111 destroyed by Hancock.

All the Kittyhawks returned safely and the squadron's score of enemy aircraft destroyed in the air passed the 100 mark. On 16th December Hancock probably destroyed a Ju88.

On 4th February 1943 he was posted away and in March he was seconded to the Turkish Air Force, as Liaison Officer to the TAF Kittyhawk Squadron and also giving fighter tactics training.

He returned to Egypt in January 1944, for a course at ABGS El Ballah. Hancock was then seconded to 2 Squadron of the Royal Egyptian Air Force as Liaison Officer and Instructor. Whilst serving with the squadron he was awarded a King's Commendation for Service in the Air.

He went to HQ 216 Group Transport Command, Heliopolis in February 1945 as an Air Staff Officer. He attended a course at Netheravon in June, his first visit to the UK since April 1941.

Hancock returned to the UK in January 1946 and became Station Commander at RAF Aberporth and CO of 595 Squadron.

He commanded 11 Squadron at Miho, Japan from 16th November 1946 until 1st January 1948, when he returned to the UK for a staff job in Regional Welfare. From January 1950 to September 1952 Hancock was SPSO at HQ 12 Group, Fighter Command, from November 1952 to April 1953 OC Flying at RAF Kuala Lumpur, from 1st September 1953 to March 1955 Hancock commanded 33 Squadron at Butterworth and was also OC Flying there.

From 25th July 1955 he was Air 1 at HQ Maintenance Command and his final posting was as CO RAF High Wycombe (HQ Bomber Command). Hancock retired from the RAF on 12th August 1958 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.

In 1978 he began a long stint as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association.

He was made OBE (gazetted 1st June 1991). After a long period of poor health Hancock died on 23rd February 2003.


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