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Thread: W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn., D of D 08/01/1945

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    Default W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn., D of D 08/01/1945

    Hi All

    Please can anyone supply further details (crew, target etc) regarding the above?

    Thanks in anticipation

    Regards,
    Aubrey

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    Aubrey

    I have had a look at the 199 ORB and the Squadron were providing Bomber Support by Mandrel Screens on 7/1/45 but there is no mention of W/O Biffen or any operational loss on 8 January 1945. A brief check of the ORB in late 1944 does not record a W/O Biffen being operational at that time.

    Unfortunately, I do not have access to the North Creake Operations Record Book and it may be possible that W/O Biffen’s was with 199 in a non-operational capacity.

    I have had a look at Bill Chorley’s Bomber Command War Losses Roll of Honour 1939-1947 and, currently, cannot see W/O Biffen recorded although he is recorded in the CWGC site. However, some non-operational personnel with 199 who lost their lives in 1943 are recorded in Bill Chorley's book so this is a bit of mystery.

    Can you confirm he was with 199?

    Regards

    Douglas

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    Default W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn

    Hi Douglas

    Thank you for your prompt response and I'm sorry that things are not as clear as they could be

    I was visiting a Care Home this afternoon where a lady spotted my tie and volunteered the information "My first husband was in the RAF" so, understandably, I asked some questions

    Name?........."Harold Biffen"

    Status?........."WOp/AG"

    Aircraft?......."Stirling bomber"

    I quite expected the answer to the next question to be "I don't know" but it came as readily as its predecessors

    Squadron?...."199"

    She then added that her second husband was a POW who was in a very poor condition when he came home

    Rank, Number and Status from the CWGC tallied but Date of Death seemed strange. As it was post-VE Day it's hardly feasible that a second husband could be a POW!

    The fact that W/O Biffen is buried in this country gives rise to the thought that his death could have been "accidental" or "due to natural causes"

    Alternatively, a Stirling Production list might record a 199 Sqdn loss either on or before 08/01/1945

    As you say ".....so this is a bit of a mystery" to which I would add a quote from Alice - "Curiouser and curiouser!"

    Regards,
    Aubrey


    PS Her name is Hazel which, again, tallies with the CWGC Casualty report

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    Aubrey

    Earlier in the War, wireless operators went through a gunnery course and were known as W.Op/AG. The brevet worn on the tunic was AG at that time and was not replaced until later in the War with "S" for signaller. In 1945, with 199 being part of 100 Group, there were two wireless operators in the aircraft : W/Op Air and W/Op Special. As far as I am aware, W/Op Air had similar duties to the Wireless Operators pre 1944 although they would not necessarily have been involved in AG training. The W/Op Special was more likely to have been involved in radio countermeasures.

    I will be interested to see how this thread develops.

    Regards

    Douglas

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    Default W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn

    Hi Douglas

    Thanks for those snippets of information

    This is certainly a case of "Watch this space"

    Regards,
    Aubrey

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    Aubrey

    Hats off to the lady you were speaking with today : F/Sgt. H. Biffen was a W.Op/Air in F/Lt. Catterall's crew at North Creake in 1944. Their last op would appear to be in August 1944 and I am working my way back through the ORB at the moment. If he was the Wireless Operator in the Catterall crew throughout their tour, this is almost certainly going to take them back to Lakenheath and 3 Group days. There is no evidence from the ORB that the last op in August was linked to an injury for F/Sgt. Biffen.

    I will keep you posted

    Douglas

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    Default W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn

    Hi Douglas

    I haven't visited this Forum for some time but my eye was drawn to the "Hanau 6/7 January 1945" thread

    As a result I now see that I have been guilty of a monumental error!

    When responding to your first post I stated "As it (08/01/1945) was pre-VE Day ......."

    My apologies to you, and other readers, for being a year out and the only reasons that I can give for the clang is that it is getting late and I am getting old!

    Regards,
    Aubrey

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    Killed onboard Anson EF935 of No.1 (O)AFU on Corney Fell near Millom.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    Default W/O H Biffen 1336043, 199 Sqdn

    Hi Al

    Thank you for that contribution

    I suppose the next step is to seek the ORBs of No 1 (O) AFU

    Meanwhile, for the sake of good order (and Douglas and any other interested readers) I give hereunder two references that I've found since reading your posting. I'm sure that you are already aware of them

    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?1631-Heart-Hill-Tebay-gorge
    http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=25230

    Regards,
    Aubrey

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    Aubrey

    I have had a look at the 199 ORB and Harold Biffen was the Wireless Operator with Sgt. Catterall’s crew who were posted from 1651 CU to 199 wef 4 September 1943. At the time, the Squadron were still part of the Main Force and within a month, the crew had taken part in eight bombing operations to Germany and France. As 1943 progressed, Stirlings were gradually removed from German targets and from late 1943 to early 1944, the crew were involved in mining operations, bombing targets in France and air sea searches. After the Squadron were transferred to 100 Group and North Creake in May 1944, the remainder of their operations until August 1944 were termed Special Missions, some of which were providing Mandrel screens for bomber support. During 1944, Catterall was commissioned and was latterly awarded the DFC in June 1944.

    As I cannot find any further record of them after 11 August 1944, it would appear that they had been screened some time after this date after a total of 36 operations. As a sad footnote, on 2-3 May 1945, F/O Robert Catterall DFC and his navigator F/Sgt. DJ Beadle, while operating with 169 Squadron in a Mosquito XIX, were shot down by flak. On the same day, F/O Catterall’s old squadron were to lose thirteen aircrew and two Halifaxes (thought to be the last four engine bomber operational losses of the Second World War) when the aircraft collided on the bombing run when operating to Kiel.

    Regards

    Douglas

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