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Thread: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

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    Default Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Hello everyone

    F/O Ronald Harpin was awarded the D.F.C., gazetted December 29th 1944, reported in the Newcastle Journal of December 30th 1944:

    Flying Officer Ronald Harpin, of Gateshead, has taken part in many missions supplying resistance workers in enemy-occupied territory in the Balkans, and yesterday it was announced he has been awarded the D.F.C.
    On 12 flights he has had to land on improvised landing strips in mountainous country, often in bad weather.


    Can anyone give me his unit for these Ops? Nothing listed in the LG entry, or on the CWGC website - he was killed on February 19th 1945 in the crash of Hudson VI FK608 of MATAF Comms Flt.:

    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...F-VR&styleid=3

    Many thanks

    Simon

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    Hello,

    Harpin's unit was the 10th Troop Carrier Squadron, USAAF. Operations (C-47s) - included airborne invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Greece; support of partisans in the Balkans; and transportation of personnel in the MTO during World War Two.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 23rd October 2019 at 15:42.

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    Simon,
    Just a guess, but we might have to start a sub-Forum on Flts/Sqns/Units that were engaged on ferrying, by air, Hooligans, 'Spooks', 'Agents', Arms/Ammo, Gold Sovereigns, Maria-Teresa Dollars, etc, etc(ad infinitum!) to/from places that could not be admitted then (or even now?!!!). Would, I would suspect make VERY interesting reading!
    "Air Min/Govt/MoD, etc were asked to comment - they declined to answer"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Interesting Col, thank you.

    Was this usual practice for R.A.F. personnel to serve in a U.S.A.A.F. unit like that, and be awarded the British D.F.C. and not the U.S. version.

    Also, is it possible to find their O.R.B. (or whatever the American equivalent is) anywhere? I'm not too familiar with researching U.S. units.

    And yes Peter, you're absolutely right...!

    Regards

    Simon

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Thanks Col and Simon: this is of interest to me.<br><br>Fl/Lt Harpin was my Uncle Ronnie, dead a few years before I was born. He was my mother's favourite and clever younger brother, and to the end of her life (<em>she</em> lived to be 94) she was always saddened and upset when she spoke of him.<br><br>His family had had a hard time growing up in depression-era Gateshead: his father was largely unemployed there (having served in the DLI on the Western Front in WWI) and the family moved down to London in 1936 in the hope of finding work there. So Ronnie finished his school education in July 1939 after three years at the Strand School in Tulse Hill (where his name was on the war memorial). When the war began just a month later he was just sixteen years old.<br><br>According to the later newspaper report in the Clapham Observer (reporting his DFC) he enlisted on the day after his eighteenth birthday, 17 April 1941: London had suffered a particularly heavy bombing attack on the previous night.<br><br>He went to the United States for his flight training. I believe he was at Pensecola for most of the time (this must have been a pleasant change from wartime Clapham): my sister has a small album of photographs from there, and a few pieces of his training material. He had hoped to qualify as a pilot but - for whatever reason - left as a navigator. I would think that his training in the States would explain why much or all of his subsequent service was with the USAAF rather than the RAF.<br><br>His family knew almost nothing about his war service or about his death at the age of 22. The details in this thread and in the link to the crash are very largely news to us. The Air Ministry told his parents and siblings <em>almost</em> nothing at the time, and <em>absolutely</em> nothing subsequently. So I had no idea he earned his DFC flying inherently dangerous supply missions to partisans in Yugoslavia. And I had always assumed that the crash occurred on a combat mission, and that the DFC was awarded posthumously (despite the date on the London Gazette). He didn't come back to England to tell his family about what he had been doing for those last months of his life.<br><br>Equally, we had no idea until now that the final flight was carrying passengers, who included senior US staff officers. They at least merited quite substantial tributes published in the US Congressional Record (in March 1945), with only a brief - 29 words - mention of the un-named British servicemen who also died, and no hint, for example, that poor Guy and Diana Manning were on their honeymoon.<br><br>So all of this was enlightening - as well as a real tragedy in its own right. Personally I would like to know where Ronnie Harpin had served after leaving Pensecola and before flying those Balkan missions, but perhaps I never will.<br><br>But please do believe that recording these lives is not in any way a wasted effort.<br><br>Den Childs

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Thanks Col and Simon: this is of interest to me.

    Fl/Lt Harpin was my Uncle Ronnie, dead a few years before I was born. He was my mother's favourite and clever younger brother, and to the end of her life (she lived to be 94) she was always saddened and upset when she spoke of him.

    His family had had a hard time growing up in depression-era Gateshead: his father was largely unemployed there (having served in the DLI on the Western Front in WWI) and the family moved down to London in 1936 in the hope of finding work there. So Ronnie finished his school education in July 1939 after three years at the Strand School in Tulse Hill (where his name was on the war memorial). When the war began just a month later he was just sixteen years old.

    According to the later newspaper report in the Clapham Observer (reporting his DFC) he enlisted on the day after his eighteenth birthday, 17 April 1941: London had suffered a particularly heavy bombing attack on the previous night.

    He went to the United States for his flight training. I believe he was at Pensecola for most of the time (this must have been a pleasant change from wartime Clapham): my sister has a small album of photographs from there, and a few pieces of his training material. He had hoped to qualify as a pilot but - for whatever reason - left as a navigator. I would think that his training in the States would explain why much or all of his subsequent service was with the USAAF rather than the RAF.

    His family knew almost nothing about his war service or about his death at the age of 22. The details in this thread and in the link to the crash are very largely news to us. The Air Ministry told his parents and siblings almost nothing at the time, and absolutely nothing subsequently. So I had no idea he earned his DFC flying inherently dangerous supply missions to partisans in Yugoslavia. And I had always assumed that the crash occurred on a combat mission, and that the DFC was awarded posthumously (despite the date on the London Gazette). He didn't come back to England to tell his family about what he had been doing for those last months of his life.

    Equally, we had no idea until now that the final flight was carrying passengers, who included senior US staff officers. They at least merited quite substantial tributes published in the US Congressional Record (in March 1945), with only a brief - 29 words - mention of the un-named British servicemen who also died, and no hint, for example, that poor Guy and Diana Manning were on their honeymoon.

    So all of this was enlightening - as well as a real tragedy in its own right. Personally I would like to know where Ronnie Harpin had served after leaving Pensecola and before flying those Balkan missions, but perhaps I never will.

    But please do believe that recording these lives is not in any way a wasted effort.

    Den Childs

    [re-posted to get rid of awful formatting in original]

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Hello Den

    Welcome to the Forum, and many thanks for your post. It's interesting to hear about Ronald Harpin's background, as well as the fact the family were told so little about his wartime service, and the newspapers at the time seemed to know more than his family!

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Just as supporting info, really, but Manning was a Lysander pilot with another rather hush-hush unit, 148 (Special Duties) Sqdn based at Brindisi; the squadron was employed on supply drop operations to support partisans, agents, military missions, etc. in the Balkans. The squadron primarily employed the Halifax, but it had a number of other types including Lysanders for insertion ops (i.e. landing and delivering/picking up passengers behind enemy lines).

    Incidentally, my uncle Don (who flew with 148 at this time) also trained at Pensacola and then ended up on Stirlings initially (with 624 Special Duties Sqdn in the summer of 1944). I guess it's remotely possible Ronald Harpin also ended up in the Med with 624 before they were disbanded in summer 1944 - might be worth a look if you have no other leads at all? There's a well-informed FB group called 624squadron.org who might know.

    Anyway, good luck with your research.

    Pat

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    HARPIN, Ronald, F/O (138474, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) - No.10 (Troop Carrier) Unit - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 29 December 1944. RCAF AFRO 379/45 dated 2 March 1945 has citation under heading "RAF Trained in Canada" (attended No.1 CNS). See also Air Ministry Bulletin 16815

    Flying Officer Harpin has participated in many night missions in unarmed and unescorted aircraft over the enemy held Balkan states for the purpose of supplying allied personnel carry on guerilla warfare against the enemy. Twelve of these missions have been landing operations on improvised landing strips located in mountainous county and often covered by haze and cloud. He has displayed outstanding navigational skill flying through all types of weather. He has given valuable assistance to his pilot by successfully directing him around adverse weather lying in the flight path, often necessitating frequent alternations of course. The splendid efficiency, fortitude and devotion to duty shown by this officer are worthy of the highest praise.

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    Default Re: Ronald HARPIN DFC 138474 - unit?

    Hugh

    thank you for that. I did not know how to find the full citation.

    The "trained in Canada" has an element of truth. But he certainly did the majority of his training at Pensecola: there's photographic evidence. But I do remember he was also somewhere a lot colder than Florida. No 1 CNS was at Rivers in Manitoba, wasn't it? Cold enough I imagine. I believe the courses there were fairly short.

    And thanks also to Pat and Simon again.

    Should I be able to find details of his RAF career in some MoD archive? I would like to know when he came back from Canada to Europe, and where he was then. If he was flying with the USAAF, would there be US records of his deployments?

    It really wasn't any good asking my mother or my grandfather: they simply did not know what had been going on in Italy. And if the citation for his DFC was only published on 2 March 1945, it's possible they paid little attention to it as that would have been only a week after they were informed of his death (the telegram was dated 22 February).

    Florence in February 1945 (when he died) was a reasonable distance from the front line, and the flight was heading down south towards Naples, away from the action, so it was certainly very bad luck for all ten people on board.

    The letter from the air ministry notifying my grandfather of Ronnie's death says that the crash was "approximately seven miles north of Florence". This is slightly odd as Peretola is only a couple of miles NW of the city centre, and I'd imagine the Hudson would have gained more height than 400ft in the extra five or so miles. The turn to port (when the port engine failed) would be explained by the destination, of course. Could they have been flying low because of weather conditions? And at that distance from the airfield who would have seen what happened?

    Again, thanks for your help.

    Den

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