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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. F V Howell


Francis Vincent Howell was born at Herne Hill, London on 29th May 1915 and educated at St. Paul's School and Dorking & Redhill Technical College.

He joined the RAF on 1st September 1931 as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton. After three weeks he was sent to the Electrical and Wireless School at Cranwell.

Howell passed out in September 1934 as a Wireless Mechanic and was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch as an AC1.

He became a WOp/AG on Hawker Demons, making his first flight as an air gunner on 5th October 1934. He did a gunnery course at Leuchars in May 1935 and returned to the squadron on 28th May.

In early September 1935 the squadron went by sea to Malta because Italy was on a war footing with Ethiopia. It returned to Hornchurch a year later.



Howell had applied for pilot training and in May 1937 he began flying at 3 E&RFTS Hamble. In July he went to 2 FTS Brize Norton and having qualified he joined 3 Squadron, equipped with Gladiators, at Kenley in May 1938.

On 10th September 1939 Howell was coming in to land at Croydon when he had to make a forced-landing in a field due to poor visibility. The field was too small to take off again.

At the end of September he was posted to 87 Squadron in France. On 9th December he made a forced-landing in a Hurricane in Belgium, in bad visibility and approaching darkness. He just managed to get back over the French frontier before the police arrived, he would have been interned.

On 10th May 1940 Howell probably destroyed two He111s. On the 13th he was jumped by Me109s in Hurricane L1630 west of Maastricht and his aircraft was badly damaged.

He baled out and landed in Belgium, was taken to Brussels General Hospital and then transferred to Ghent. He rejoined the squadron at Lille on the 18th.

Unfit for flying duties, he spent the last days of May trying to get out of France. He finally commandeered a big van from a local garage, filled it with airmen and drove to Boulogne from where they all managed to board a ship for Dover next day.

The squadron reformed at Church Fenton and began day and night patrols in early June. On 25th August Howell was credited with a Me110 probably destroyed.

In February 1941 Howell was posted to No. 2 Aircraft Delivery Flight and in May he was sent to CFS Upavon for an instructor's course, after which he went to 9 FTS, Hullavington.

Commissioned from Warrant Officer in January 1942, Howell was posted to 9(P)AFU at Errol, near Dundee.

He remained there until December 1944 when he volunteered for a Officers Signal Course at Cranwell. He passed out in late 1946 and went to 110 Wing at Croydon, then preparing for civil airlines.

In January 1947 Howell moved to RAF Abingdon in Transport Command.

In May he was offered a civilian post as an Experimental Officer at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, which he accepted. In late 1950 he became a Senior Experimental Officer and an established civil servant.

Howell died on 5th March 1984.



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