View Full Version : F/L Ian Richard HARVEY, No.106 Squadron - DFC, postwar George Med

12th April 2022, 11:19
HARVEY, Ian Richard, A/F/L (128903, RAFVR*) - No.106 No. - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 11 February 1944. Citation from Air Ministry Bulletin 12872.

This officer has at all times displayed skill, courage and determination of a high order as captain of aircraft. On one occasion when on his bombing run, his aircraft was attacked by two fighters. Displaying superb skill he avoided the fighters and bombed the target effectively. On another sortie, he enabled his gunners to engage an enemy aircraft and shoot it down. His coolness and courage have invariably been outstanding.
Following information from Spink auction catalogue, transcribed by Huguette Mondor Oates. .The recommendation, dated 18.12.1943, states:

: ‘Flight Lieutenant Harvey, as Captain of aircraft, has completed 22 successful operational sorties against some of the most heavily defended targets including Berlin four times. At all times, he has shown skill, courage, and determination of a high order. On one occasion when carrying out his bombing run, he was attacked by two fighters. His skill and airmanship enabled him to avoid the fighters and bomb the target successfully.

“On another occasion when attacked by a fighter, his skill and airmanship enabled his gunners to engage the enemy aircraft successfully and shoot it down. I consider the coolness, courage, and fine airmanship shown by Flight Lieutenant Harvey throughout his operational tour fully merits the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross’.

Awarded George Medaal as per :ondon Gazette dated 16 May 1950 as Captain .and Pilot, British European Airways Corporation (Pinner, Middlesex).

‘On the evening of the 13th April, 1950, Captain Harvey was in command of a B.E.A. Viking aircraft flying from Northolt to Paris with twenty-seven passengers. At 3,500 feet, 20 miles south of Hastings, over mid-channel, an explosion occurred in the rear lavatory compartment, extensively damaging the aft end of the aircraft and seriously injuring the stewardess. Both sides of the rear of the fuselage and the internal door to the control cabin were blown out and the lavatory compartment, pantry and neighbouring area were destroyed. All flying controls at the tail end were completely severed, except for the main elevator control which was badly crippled, and the elevators themselves were partly jammed. The resultant effect of the damage also made the aileron controls inefficient.

:With extreme coolness, Captain Harvey regained control of his aircraft and was able to turn the machine back to Northolt. When an attempt was made to alight in the darkness the damaged controls made necessary an overshoot procedure and a second circuit. In addition to the useless rudder, only partial elevator control could be secured and it required all the strength of the pilot coupled with superb skill before the Viking was landed successfully without injury to any of the passengers.

“In the face of this very grave emergency, the action of Captain Harvey is worthy of the highest praise. The complete loss of the aircraft and all its company was avoided only as a result of his courage and the high skill and presence of mind with which he handled the seriously damaged machine.”

Captain Ian Richard Harvey, D.F.C., G.M., was born in Bristol on 13th October, 1920, and was educated at Cotham Grammar School. On leaving school in 1938, he worked for Bristol City Council, and enlisted with the Royal Artillery, and in 1940 was posted to the British Expeditionary Force in France, where he saw action against the enemy before being evacuated with his unit at Dunkirk. The following year, he transferred to the Royal Air Force, and took to the skies for the first time on the 9th October, 1941. After training both in England and America, he gained his Wings on the 6th September 1942 at Turner Field, Georgia, and was commissioned Pilot Officer, returning to England to convert to Bombers.

Joining 106 Squadron (Lancasters), previously commanded by Guy Gibson, of Dambusters fame, Harvey’s first tour with 106 Squadron began with a mine-laying mission over the Terschelling Islands, 1.7.1943; followed by bombing raids over Cologne (2); Gelsenkirchen; Turin; Hamburg (3); Milan (2); Berlin (4); Munchen Glandbach; Munich; Hanover (3); Bochum; Kassell; and Modane. On the 23rd August, during his first raid over the German capital, he and his crew were attacked by an enemy Ju.88 fighter over Denmark, and it was through his skill and airmanship that he was able to manoeuvre the Lancaster so as to bring two of its turrets to bear, destroying the enemy fighter by sending it crashing down in flames. Recommended for the D.F.C., Harvey completed his tour with raids over Berlin (3); Frankfurt; Stettin; and Brunswick, the last on the 14th January 1944 – in the course of his tour he dropped a total of almost 130 tons of bombs on the enemy. After a brief posting to 617 Squadron towards the end of the War, and having been promoted Flight Lieutenant, Harvey was demobilized on the 18th December, 1945.

The war over, in 1946, Harvey joined the British European Airways Corporation, which had been formed that year to operate all Domestic, European, and North African flights (with B.O.A.C. operating the Empire, North American and Far East routes, flying almost exclusively the Vickers Viking, a twin-engine airline derived from the Wellington. Based at Northolt (until B.E.A. relocated to Heathrow in 1954), for the next four years, Harvey flew to destination throughout Britain and Europe (Civilian Log Book refers).

Explosion in Mid-Air

‘Thursday 13th April, 1950 began for me like any other day, but before it was over, it was to be a day which I and thirty-one others would remember to the end of our lives. On that day, it was my duty to fly to Paris and back again, and return to Paris in the evening. The afternoon return trip had been normal except that the weather had not been too kind and we had spent our time dodging thunderstorms and heavy showers. For the evening trip, my crew consisted of my Second Pilot, Frank “Dusty” Miller, my Radio Officer Mike Holmes, and the stewardess Sue Cramsie. We were due to leave Northolt at 7:45 p.m. and before starting, we completed the necessary details such as making out our flight plan, checking the weather, and most importantly thoroughly checking the aeroplane – a Viking – inside and out.

We departed on time with a full load – 27 passengers and a 3-month-old baby. It was a very dark night with no moon and the “Met” men had forecast a clear trip except that there might be one or two storms over the Channel. For the first thirty minutes all went well – no bumps and a starry sky. Our two Bristol Hercules engines were roaring away steadily and in the warm, brightly lit cabin the stewardess was serving the passengers with dinner. Below we could see the lights of the towns in Kent and Sussex and beyond, the blackness of the English Channel. We crossed the coast at Hastings whilst flying at 3,500 feet and headed for Dieppe on the French coast. After a few minutes, I noticed a few flashes of lightning away to the east and almost immediately Frank drew my attention to a large diffused mass ahead of us. As it was so dark, it was impossible to tell whether or not it was a thunder cloud, but safety first being the motto, I decided to steer round it. We were almost clear when suddenly there was a loud explosion and a vivid flash. The aircraft rocked and there was an acrid smell of burning. My immediate reaction was that we had been struck by lightning. I had been struck before, and while it is a most unpleasant experience, it does not usually cause much damage. However, it was quickly apparent that something much more serious had happened, because apart from the door into the cabin having been blown from its hinges and having hit Mike on the head – luckily without serious damage, I could feel that the controls no longer responded as they should.

I sent Frank back to the cabin to check that all was well there while I checked the flying controls. The rudder control was completely severed as I could feel the rudder bar swinging loosely under my feet. The elevators which control the up and down movement of the aircraft were very stiff and restricted in movement and caused the aircraft to tend to climb al the time. The trimmers for these controls were also severed. I found that the best way to keep the aircraft on an even keel was to wedge my knee behind the control column and thus relieve the load on my arms. Frank now returned, and with bad news. The back of the cabin was very badly damaged, with two holes, one on each side of the fuselage, each approximately 8 feet long by 5 feet high. The stewardess too was in a bad way – she was unconscious and appeared to be badly injured. Frank with the assistance of a couple of the male passengers, moved her from the vicinity of one of the holes and made her as comfortable as possible with blankets and the crew’s raincoats. On hearing this information, I immediately decided to return to London which was nearer than Paris. Mike sent urgent radio messages giving all the details and Air Traffic Control gave us a direct clearance back to Northolt and kept all other aircraft away from us. Speed was now reduced to relieve the strain on the airframe and we flew slowly back at 135 knots. When we had settled down, Frank took over the controls and I went back to the cabin to see for myself the extent of the damage and to try and reassure the passengers and the stewardess. The passengers were all outwardly calm and even the small baby was still asleep. One or two asked me if we were going to be alright and I assured them that we should be, although I did not feel the confidence that I tried to show. The sight of the stewardess shook me, because she was lying there, her face a mask of blood, and obviously in great pain. She was now conscious and when I spoke to her, merely asked if I could get her the morphine. This was impossible, as the morphine was in the First Aid kit attached to the inside of the main passenger door, and this was hanging out in space!

On returning to the cockpit, we commenced our preparations for landing. Mike was sent back to the cabin to assume his emergency landing position and to cheer and give confidence to the passengers. This he did most successfully, while Frank and I strapped ourselves in as tightly as possible and maintained radio contact with Northolt. In view of the lack of workable flying controls, I decided to make as flat an approach as possible and thus relieve strain on the elevators. I was able to turn the aircraft by banking in either direction and with Frank briefed to give assistance if required, we started our approach. Clearance to land was given and with fire and crash services standing by we neared the runway. Everything seemed normal except for the heaviness and lack of movement on the elevators, so I controlled the rate of descent solely by use of engine power.

All went well until I attempted to level out for the actual landing. We were now no more that 20-30 feet from the ground, and when I tried to pull back the control column – and at the same time close the throttles – I found I was unable to move it sufficiently, I called to Frank for assistance and between us we overcorrected, with the result that the aircraft, instead of flying level with the ground and sinking, was now pointed upwards and was sinking. I did the only thing possible – opened the throttles fully and pushed the control column forward. This had the effect of levelling the aircraft and stopping the downward sink. For a moment the speed dropped sickeningly and then began to pick up. We slowly gained height to about 800 feet and went around the circuit to try another approach. During all this, while not consciously aware of it, I was confident that we would land safely. Again, we received clearance to land, and again commenced our approach. This time I tried to make it flatter still, and for the actual landing was able to lower the aeroplane onto the runway by careful reduction of engine power than by use of the controls. In the words of the first officer, it was the best landing I had made that day – it was also by far the luckiest, as we were to discover next day when we were able to examine the aircraft in daylight.’ (Recipient’s own account refers).

The “Infernal Machine”

Having served the passengers on the flight dinner and coffee, the stewardess Sue Cramsie, the cover-girl of a contemporary B.E.A. magazine and a former British Red Cross nurse, was sitting in the pantry waiting to take around a selection of duty-free cigarettes. Suddenly she became conscious of a faint but unfamiliar smell. It was not a smell that she was at all familiar with, being neither oil, petrol, burning dust from the heaters, coffee, or tobacco smoke. To her mind it smelt of acid. Thinking the smell came from the direction of the passengers’ compartment, she rose from her seat and looked around the side of the pantry. Everything seemed normal, and facing that direction the smell seemed to have disappeared. She then turned to the rear of the plane to fetch the cigarettes, and it was then that the explosion occurred. She was blown off her feet and lost consciousness. ‘Miss Cramsie’s injuries were severe and included the severance of the triceps muscle off the left arm and a number of minor wounds in the left shoulder, left arm and hand, and left cheek. Many of these wounds contained small metal particles. On the port side of the aircraft, opposite the lavatory, a ragged hole measuring about 5 feet by 5 feet 7 inches had been torn in the rear fuselage, and on the starboard side, next to the lavatory compartment, a similar hole had been blasted measuring about 5 feet 2 inches by 8 feet 2 inches. The whole of the lavatory and pantry compartments were shattered and the main entrance door had been blown open.’ (Accidents Investigation Branch Official Report refers).

Following a thorough investigation on the ground it was deduced that the explosion must have been caused by a bomb placed in the waste towel box in the lavatory compartment. However, no part of the explosive charge, its detonator, or timing device was found. Harvey altered the entry in his Log Book, crossing out ‘hit by Lightning’ and substituting ‘Bomb Explosion’.

For his extreme coolness and superb skill in landing the Viking successfully without injury to any of the passengers, Harvey was awarded the George Medal. Amongst the large number of letters of congratulations that flowed in was one from Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, G.C.B., M.C., D.F.C., Chairman of the British European Airways Corporation, who wrote: ‘Dear Captain Harvey, may I add my congratulations to the many you must have already received; how very relieved I was to hear that you were all safe, and that Miss Cramsie would be alright. As you know, a great friend of ours, Mr. R. Strauss [Ralph Strauss, the Marshall Plan assistant] was one of your passengers, so we owe you an added debt of gratitude’.

Captain Harvey continued working for B.E.A. for another twenty-five years, later flying Viscounts, Comet 4Bs and Tridents. He retired in 1975, and died on the 11th July, 2004.

The subsequent Scotland Yard Investigation failed to bring any charges, although numerous theories were put forward, and the file is still open.