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Operational Squadron Assignment, 101 Squadron RAF
In 1942, the RAF ran all bombing operations under the leadership of Sir Arthur Harris, RAF.
It did not matter if the airman was a Canadian, an Australian or from any other country, he was assigned to a bomber squadron needing his skills. Harrower was assigned to 101 Squadron RAF and stationed at Holme-inSpalding Moor, East Yorkshire, the only Canadian on his crew.
101 Squadron received new Lancaster Bombers about the same time it received Harrower. The squadron flew their first sortie from Holme-in-Spalding Moor on the night of Nov. 20-21, 1942. Harrower would have been part of this first raid.
101 Squadron RAF operational records for Harrower
Operational records were notes collected by the Intelligence Officer after a Bombing Operation. They contain information about Flak, icing, the raid and the crew. Researchers have posted many of these on the Internet for other researchers.
According to operational records, on the night of Jan. 21, 1943, Harrower and crew, flying Lancaster Mark III, ED374 took off from Holme-in-Spalding Moor at 16:05. The target was Essen.
“The bomber was carrying the following bombs; 1 x 4,000 pound, 12 S.B.C.s at 4 pounds each (Small Bomb Containers – incendiary bombs). Bombs were dropped from 20,000 feet — heading was 197 through haze and 3/10th Clouds on E.T.A. — from red warning flair – considerable icing — good trip — returned at 22:20,” it read.
Harrower was one of four Bombers from B flight on the raid — two returned early because of mechanical problems.
The crash of Lancaster ED374, SR-Z Feb. 16-17, 1943
According to Squadron 101 RAF operational notes: “Feb. 16-17, 1943, B flight consisting of seven bombers took off for their target at Lorient, France, the huge NAZI Keroman Submarine Base at Lorient, France, a base vital to the enemy.”
Lancaster ED374 left Holme on Spalding Moor at 18.30, and was over the target by 20.50 at an altitude of 11,000. This was Operational Flight 22 (Sortie) for Harrower, quite an accomplishment considering the bomber command loss rate of about 50%.
All aircraft returned from the Operation but there was a problem. Harrower, pilot of Lancaster ED374, Code SR-Z, had his controls badly damaged by flak over target and when trying to land, crashed just before the runway. The aircraft caught fire but six of the crew got out unaided. The flight engineer needed help being extracted, and this was done so by RAF personnel on the ground led by Squadron Leader G.W.O. Fisher.
Based on information obtained later by an East Yorkshire researcher, Harrower’s Lancaster was hit by a heavy bomb from an aircraft flying above his. The results are agreed – the controls were damaged. The rudder and elevator controls did not work properly.
Harrower was able to nurse the bomber back to the RAF Station at Holme on Spalding Moor. It would be one approach, and one approach only. The aircraft controls were too badly damaged for a go-around.
Harrower made his approach to the runway at 01:10. He didn’t make it. The big aircraft landed just short of the runway, but close to a dispersal area.
As it skidded down short of the runway, it slid to a stop. There was a pause, and then the damage Lancaster caught fire. Six of the seven-man crew made it out on their own.
The men hurried out of the burning aircraft. Flight Engineer W.W. Hughes, who had broken his femur, had made it up onto the pilot’s seat and halfway out the pilot’s window on the left or port side of the Lancaster but could go no further. The injury was severe and painful. Rescuers found him hanging out the window.
The injured crewmen were Hughes and Harrower. The others escaped injury.
Harrower was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the events on the night of Feb. 16-17, 1943. The DFC Citation from the Gazette reads:
“One night in February this officer’s aircraft was hit by a heavy shell and severely damaged.
By superb airmanship he flew the bomber back and effected a masterly crash landing, causing only minor injuries to himself and one member of the crew.
At all times his devotion to duty has been worthy of the highest praise.”
Post Second World War
Many returning airmen had a difficult time adjusting to life immediately after the war. Programs were available to those interested in attending university. Housing was tight — jobs were scarce and adjustment to civilian life was difficult.
The men who fought in the Second World War went from home to military life. Their needs were taken care of at home and in the military. Suddenly they were cast out — on their own, searching for a career, companionship and a completely different life.
Harrower made his way to Vancouver where he settled for a few years and connected with a woman. He was a printer by trade and must have found some work in the field.
The relationship didn’t flourish and Harrower returned with his son to Moose Jaw in 1950. He and his son moved in with his parents for a time at their place on Stadacona Street West.
He settled back in the printing business with his dad George at the Moose Jaw Printing Company where he remained and completed his career.
In 1955 Howard was the assistant manager of Moose Jaw Printing. He bought a house on Grace Street in the new Palliser subdivision where he, his two sons, a daughter and his wife lived out their years. He passed away in 2006.
Howard’s father, George, reached the rank of captain in the Army. Howard reached the rank of flight lieutenant, today classified as captain.
George was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for bravery while serving in the army in the Second World War.
As we’ve seen, Howard was awarded the RCAF Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for bravery in bringing his damaged aircraft and crew back to base. The MC and the DFC are equivalent.
Like father – like son. His Dad must have been proud.
Harrower was a strong supporter of the Moose Jaw Legion Branch. He rarely talked about the war or bomber command.
As time went on the war and the experiences became a distant memory — memories finally brought back in this little essay.
Howard in the right seat of a Cessna Crane. He’s wearing a heavy flying suit. Airmen thought the suits made them look like big teddy bears.
Based on the comments on the back of the photo, “My Ops Aircraft” and the added note, “the painting is the Winged Victory”, this is Lancaster Mark III Bomber, s/n ED374, Code SR-Z that Howard and the crew crashed on the night of Feb. 1617, 1943. The...