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The Airmen's Stories - P/O H Jacobs


Henry Jacobs was born on 15th April 1907 and was granted a direct-entry commission to the RAF as an Air Gunner in February 1940.

He completed his training at RAF Penrhos and joined 264 Squadron, operating Defiants, in June 1940. He moved soon afterwards to 600 Squadron, operating from Northolt with Blenheims in the night-fighting role.

During the night of 15th/16th September, flying with S/Ldr. CA Pritchard, Jacobs shot down a He111. The Heinkel had been caught by searchlights at 12000 ft., it went down in flames and crashed into the sea off Bexhill.

Jacobs was posted to 219 Squadron in early October 1940, with whom he gained operational experience in Beaufighters and trained as a Radio Observer. He flew at least 20 night sorties with them before being posted to Tangmere as a Fighter Controller in November 1941.

This posting did not last long, he was next appointed Chief Special Signals Instructor at 51 OTU Cranfield, being established there by early 1942.


Above: Jacobs (right) with Braham.


It was at Cranfield that he again encountered F/Lt. JRD ‘Bob’ Braham, also an instructor, they cooperated in developing radar interception techniques, sometimes flying operational sorties.

When Braham was next posted as Flight Commander at 29 Squadron, he found that his usual navigator, P/O WJ Gregory, was on extended leave. It was arranged that Jacobs should be attached to 29 Squadron to test the new Mk. VII radar operationally. Braham and Jacobs flew their first sortie on the night of 24th/25th August 1942 and claimed a probable Ju88.

A few nights later on 28th/29th August they flew two separate sorties, each time carrying a passenger in search of combat experience. On the first sortie they destroyed a Ju88 and damaged another on the second.

P/O Gregory returned to 29 Squadron resulting in Jacobs being reassigned back to 51 OTU. Strictly against orders, he continued to fly the odd sortie with 29 Squadron. Returning from one of these unauthorised operations at the end of September 1942 he was placed under close arrest.

After being given a severe reprimand he was then told that he was to be awarded the DFC (gazetted 9th October 1942).

In November 1942 Jacobs was posted to 488 (NZ) Squadron at Ayr. In January 1943 he attended a Navigator-Radio Leader’s course at Ford. He flew operationally with 488 Squadron, often with the CO, W/Cdr. Burton-Gyles. In August 1943 came his next posting, to 141 Special Duties Nightfighter Squadron. He teamed up once more with Braham.

Rather than intercepting incoming bombers, the squadron was using the new Serrate radar equipment to detect the enemy’s own night fighters and combat them over occupied Europe. This was an increase in risk for Jacobs who, being Jewish, could not be sure of fair treatment if taken prisoner.

Their first Serrate operation was on the night of 12th/13th August 1943. On the night of 17th/18th August they were in support of the bomber force attacking the rocket development site at Peenemunde. During this sortie they intercepted and destroyed two Me110s.

It was not known at the time but both were flown by experienced pilots of NJG1 - Fw. Heinz Vinke (54 victories) and Obfw. Georg Kraft (14 victories).

On the night of 23th/24th August they followed a contact into the target area without result but were thrown about by flak bursts.

Three nights later their Beaufighter’s starboard engine failed over enemy territory. They had brought the squadron’s IO along, strictly against regulations. They were able to return on one engine, making a forced-landing at an airfield in Essex.

On the night of 27th/28th September they destroyed a Do217 near Hanover but on the homeward journey were hit by flak near Texel.

The next night they destroyed a Me110 over the Zuider Zee after a ten minute dogfight. It was another experienced NJG1 pilot, Hptm. August Geiger (53 victories).

They engaged a Ju88 shortly afterwards but the Beaufighter’s guns jammed after just a few strikes, resulting in a damaged claim only.

Braham, long overdue for a rest, was then taken off operations for six months and posted to 2 Group in a staff role. Jacobs was awarded a Bar to his DFC (gazetted 5th November 1943 and presented by the King at an investiture ‘in the Field’ at Hartford Bridge in July 1944) and posted to 239 Squadron at Ayr.

In February 1944 he was transferred to 2 Group at Braham's request, to assist in the work of night interdiction.



In August 1944 Jacobs joined 1508 Radar Flight, the first of two or three instructional postings that culminated with his appointment to the Tactics Staff of the CFE in July 1945. In this posting he flew in all weather with over 60 different crews.

For this work Jacobs was awarded the AFC (gazetted 3rd April 1945).

He served post-war in the RAF, retiring on 29th December 1958 as a Squadron Leader.

Jacobs died on 9th October 1978.



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