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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R E Havercroft


Ralph Edward Havercroft was born on 4th June 1916 in Penzance, Cornwall. His mother, formerly Annie Hill Roberts, had married Edward Gibson Havercroft, a widower born in 1856.

Ralph Edward Havercroft’s eldest half brother was about 37 when Ralph Edward was born. Mr Havercroft was recorded in the 1881 and 1891 census documents as a merchant’s clerk. In 1901 he was an oil seed crusher’s manager. In 1922 he was secretary of Waterloo Mills Cake and Warehousing Co Ltd of Hull. He died in 1932.

RE Havercroft joined the RAFVR in April 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He trained at 4 E&RFTS Brough and had 250 hours flying by April 1939 when, being of suitable standard and experience, he took the opportunity to train with the regular RAF.

Havercroft was attached to 41 Squadron at Catterick from 1st May to 10th July for Spitfire instruction, after which he returned to his job with a Hull cement company.

Called up on 1st September 1939, Havercroft went to 11 Group Pool, St. Athan on the 2nd. He converted to Blenheims and was posted to 604 Squadron on the 13th. His short stature made flying the Blenheim difficult (he was nicknamed 'Titch' by his colleagues) and on 14th March 1940 Havercroft went to 92 Squadron at Croydon, operating Spitfires.


Above: 92 Squadron

L to R: FO Garland (Eng Off), FO T Weiss (Intell), PO R Mottram, Sgt RE Havercroft, FLt CBF Kingcombe, SLdr JA Kent, FO TBA Sherrington, PO CH Saunders, FO RH Holland, FO AR Wright, Sgt H Bowen-Morris, Sgt JW Lund.



On 23rd May Havercroft claimed a Me110 destroyed, another damaged and a Ju87 probably destroyed and on the 24th he got a probable Do17.

On 8th July Havercroft damaged a Do17 and on 13th August shared a Ju88. The next day he destroyed a Ju88 but during the action northwest of Cardiff the radiator of his Spitfire, N3285, was hit by return fire and he made an engineless forced-landing on Maerdy Mountain, near Aberdare.

On 8th September he damaged a Me109 and on 13th November shared in the probable destruction of a Do17.

Havercroft got a probable Me109 on 21st June 1941 and destroyed another on the 26th. On 15th July 1941, with 181 operational sorties completed, he was appointed test pilot to the Aircraft Gun Mounting Establishment at Duxford.

Commissioned in November 1941, Havercroft moved to Boscombe Down, when his unit was incorporated into the A&AEE on 18th January 1942. He was then with the Armament Testing Squadron for two years. In April 1944 Havercroft was selected to go to the newly-formed Test Pilots' School on Course No.2, after which he joined the team of test pilots at Vickers Supermarine, testing production Spitfires. He returned to Boscombe Down to the Performance Testing Squadron and in 1945 was appointed as test pilot to the British Air Commission at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

In 1946 Havercroft was granted an RAF Permanent Commission and returned as a tutor to the Test Pilots' School. He held a series of commands and appointments in the post-war RAF, including command of a V-bomber squadron.

Awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1949), he retired on 4th June 1963 as a Wing Commander. He then worked for Hunting Engineering until 1981.

Havercroft died in May 1995.



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