At the beginning of August of 1942 Edward Hancock had enlisted in the RAF and began his training as Bomb Aimer at Penrhos, on the
island of Anglesey in Wales.
Unlike the wide open and enemy free skies of Canada, the RAF training even in far off Wales had an air of danger
about it. With the fall of France and the Lowlands the Luftwaffe now had bases as close as 30
miles from the coast of Britain. It would not be until 1943 that the skies were considered to be "safe" but
there still was the element of a surprise
The young men of the RAF were adventurous and thought little of the dangers about them, and Edward Hancock was no exception.
Ansons and Blenheims provided the airborne platforms for gunnery training, the excitement of being aloft and
being trained on the guns found on these aircraft provided the element that Hancock felt comfortable in.
His skills as a Bomb Aimer were also being finely honed, so much so that he would prove to be later selected himself as a
Bomb Aimer instructor.
By October 10th
his training as a gunner and bomb aimer was complete he and other members of Course 32 were ready for their next step towards life at
an operational squadron.
OTU and the Crewing Up
As it was for many airmen the crewing up was an uneasy mingling of different trades trying to hook up with a crew
looking for someone with their trade talents. When all was said and done Sgt. Hancock from London had found himself with a Canadian
crew captained by Charles McIntosh, known as "Chick" one of two slang names for Charles.
With a crew to train and build into a team
McIntosh put then through a series of exercises flying the twin engine Wellington cross country picking up the essentials needed
to have everyone feel comfortable with their fellow crew mates abilities at his trade.
On November 21st of 1942, Hancock was ready along with the others to meet
the Halifax. What some called the 'four engine monster" it's size awed many coming from the Wellington and
other smaller bombers used by some Operational Training Units.
It was here that Sgt. E.S. Mulholland would join them, as the crews Flight Engineer he would take some of the load off
the pilots shoulders by looking after the engine, fuel and throttle controls. And again the training exercises, bombing runs
navigation drills over set courses with the emphasis on timing. Each point had to be reached within a set time. All the dingy exercises
both dry and the dreaded wet exercise were gone over and over.
419 Moose Squadron
After completion of training on the Halifax at No. 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit the crew were posted to 419 Squadron on
March 11th 1943. No big introduction in the squadron's ORB just mention of F/O C.E. McIntosh and crew arriving from 1659 HCU.
The other members of the F/O Charles McIntosh crew were:
P/O Ken V. Harrold Navigator
Sgt. N.E. Davidson WAG
Sgt. E.S. Mulholland F/E
Sgt. A.J. Lemire MU/G
P/O W. Larry Noble R/G
That date could be incorrect in the ORB, for the very next night F/O Chick McIntosh and his crew were on their first sortie.
There is no listing of McIntosh taking sorties as 2nd. Pilot, normally a pilot would have to complete two sorties with
an experienced crew before taking his own crew out .
Sgt. Hancock's log for his first sortie shows his feelings about the first sortie,
" Funny feeling over Astar glad to be back" .
Combat Report March 12th- VR-T
The few words Sgt. Hancock wrote in his log book, never mentioned all that did happen on that operation to Essen
on March 12th. Here is a summary of the Combat Report for that night:
At 21.20 hours while flying at an height of 18,000 feet and nearing the target the rear gunner (P/O Noble)sighted a single engine aircraft, later
identified as an Me109 at 600 yards away at the port up location coming in very fast. The enemy aircraft opened fire
at the time it was sighted and continued to keep up the fire during it's attack run. Only stopping as it broke away to
starboard quarter while only 50 yards off from the Halifax.
P/O Noble opened fire as soon as he could bring his guns to bear and held his fire right up until the fighter
broke away, expending 150 rounds. Noble was sure he had directed his fire correctly with the correct deflection but no damage was
seen on the escaping fighter. VR-T also escaped damage.
Hancock's aircraft was then coned by three search lights which had up until now not been active. Even without the
search lights the night was clear and the moon shone brightly. The Halifax must have been visible to the attacking
Me109 before Noble saw it.
Combat Report April 8th - VR-D
Hancock and the crew completed their next operation over the heavily defended German capital of Berlin with Sgt. Hancock
writing in his log "seemed pretty quiet"
The very next operation was a different experience. April 8th while on an operation to Duisberg, the aircraft they
were flying in VR-D was attacked by two enemy aircraft.
Here is a summary of the Combat Report for that night:
While on the way to Duisberg Halifax DT672 VR-D was attacked by a Ju88 at 23.25 hours. At a height of 20,000 feet
F/O Noble the rear gunner sighted the enemy aircraft at about 500 yards coming in from the port quarter approximately 10 degrees of
dead astern and level. Nolan opened fire and gave the evasive action order for corkscrew to port.
With a deadly attacker coming at them Nolan could only get off 40 rounds before an electrical fault put his gun
out of action. The Ju88 never fired at VR-D and the Halifax climbed into the safety of the clouds. The rear gunner also mentioned in his report
that the twin engine fighter was showing a red light in it's nose as it came at them.
Although the crew reported a second incident with a fighter that night it appears as there is not a Combat Report on that
action. Since the filling out or not filling out a Combat Report is a choice of the Intelligence Officer, it would
appear he decided it was necessary for one to be done.
May 27th - A Near thing
By the end of May Halifax JD158 with it's triple headed dragon nose art had become Hancock and the crew's constant
But on the night of May 27th 1943 JD158, VR-D, Hancock and the other crew members were in for a rough night.
One which would earn F/O Charles Edward McIntosh his DFC.
A summary of the Combat Report tells it best:
(Although the C/R contains a typo on the serial number, the crew is listed as being on JD158, VR-D on this operation to
At 01.07 on the morning of the 28th, as the Halifax neared the last turning point the rear gunner F/O Nolan sighted a twin engine fighter at 700 yards on the
port quarter coming in fast to make the attack. The Me110 was observed carrying two red lights on it.
Evasive action was taken as the fighter came within 500 yards, VR-D corkscrewed to port as Noble opened up on the
fighter and kept firing as the night fighter slid across the starboard quarter and falling back to a range of 900
yards as it set up for a second run at the Halifax.
This time the corkscrew was to starboard, with Nolan opening fire on his target with a long burst.
The Me110 again fell back but this time to within 450 yards, on the port quarter. While preparing an attack
yet again. This time falling back to 800 yards then coming in on the port quarter. The Halifax corkscrewed to port
and Noble opened up when the fighter was with in 500 yards. The fighter broke away at 400 yards and was last seen
1,000 yards off the starboard quarter.
Noble had fired off 250 rounds during the three attacks, some tracer was seen entering the fighter but no results were
The Combat Report failed to mention that JD158 had lost both inner engines during the attacks. How that could have been
left out is a puzzle. Normally the reports mention any damage to the bomber in question.
McIntosh brought the Halifax back across the coast and they landed at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk. It wasn't a
smooth trip for the crew as for over an hour they stood by waiting for an order to bail out, which they hoped would not be
given and luckily was never ordered by the bomber's captain.
The crew needed to put the experience behind them and some how managed to get permission to leave the base and visit the
local pub. For Hancock the thoughts about having to bail out over enemy territory certainly could not have been appealing. His thoughts
having to bail out over the waters past the coast would certainly have brought back the memory of the search
operation he had been on shortly after arriving at 419. On that flight over the vast expanse of waters below trying to spot
a small dingy or a single airman Hancock knew was futile. The cold of the waters would have taken the lives of those
who were unfortunate enough to bail out into the waters around England.
But those thoughts were well behind them as the crew did themselves proud, the celebration left them with lifted spirits and it was decided by someone to return to the
comforts of their own base. They caught the train at the nearest station and proceeded on the way back to base, falling asleep
with the ale and tiredness taking over. The selection of which train seemed in the end to be a slight error, as the train
was South bound and eventually pulled into London, leaving their base in the North now even farther away.
By June 12th VR-D Dragon was back in action with her crew, although Sgt. Mulholland, McIntosh's original Flight Engineer
had left the crew in mid-April and joined on with P/O Jack McIntosh's crew. All the others along with the new F/E
Sgt. Joy completed their Tour with JD158 and F/O Chick McIntosh DFC.
Not that all the remaining operations were easy ones, F/S Hancock mentions a series of incidents and two operations in
he mentioned as being "a Shakey do". With the briefness of his log book entries in light of what the Combat Reports
spell out for at least three of those ops it leaves us to wonder what other things have been left out of F/S Hancock's time with 419 Squadron.
A Successful and Accurate Bomb Aimer
While his captain was presented with the DFC for his actions in bringing home the Halifax with it's crew after
loosing two engines. F/S Hancock had a triple tribute to his abilities as a Bomb Aimer.
A Target Token is presented to a crew who has accurately hit the target, some crews never receive one, others may have
been awarded one, but F/S Hancock brought three Target Tokens to his crew.
On August 18th F/S Edward Hancock left 419 Squadron, only a few short hours earlier the aircraft he knew so
well JD158 had been lost with all her crew. It must have been a shock to hear this, an aircraft
which had brought him home so often and after so many encounters with enemy defences, now lost with an experienced
and respected crew with it.Loss of JD158
As an airmen with the RAF
completing a Tour was not the end of F/S Hancock's war time activities.
His expertise as
a Bomb Aimer was not lost on the officers around him. On leaving 419 Squadron,
he was posted for training as an instructor in Bomb Aiming at Manby. He then passed on his skills and expertise
to new crews forming up at No. 20 O.T.U.
With newer bomb sites being developed he returned to Manby for upgrading before taking his newly acquired knowledge
and his wealth of experience to No. 1652 H.C.U.
He returned to active service with No. 51 Squadron and completed four operations before damage to his ear drums
kept him from flying duties.
His last entry date from his log was November 21st. 1944, over two years on active service.