The superb and extremely well documented Second World War Bomber Command Halifax Bomber 578 Squadron Pilot’s 1944 42 operational sortie Distinguished Flying Cross group with the Iranian Coronation Medal 1967 and log book group awarded to Flight Li...

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The superb and extremely well documented Second World War Bomber Command Halifax Bomber 578 Squadron Pilot’s 1944 42 operational sortie Distinguished Flying Cross group with the Iranian Coronation Medal 1967 and log book group awarded to Flight Lieutenant J.H. Allen, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, later Royal Air Force, who completed 42 operational sorties over Europe, many against heavily defenced targets, personal accounts of which are supplied in the accompanying booklet titled ‘A Short Personal view of a bit of History’. Allen survived some hair-raising episodes, flying in the lead-up to, then during, and in the aftermath of the Normandy landings, attacking targets in France and Germany including Kiel and heavily defended targets in the Ruhr, and including dodging an act of sabotage. He subsequently flew VIP’s with 24 Squadron to and from India and across the Atlantic during the immediate post-war years, including Lord Mountbatten and his wife, and on another occasion the Burma Delegation. Having rejoined in the early 1950’s, he served on the ground with both Fighter Control Branch and the Secretarial Branch, and was awarded a rare confirmed Coronation Medal for His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran in 1967.

Distinguished Flying Cross, GVI 1st type cypher, reverse dated 1945; 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; War Medal; Kingdom of Iran: Coronation Medal for His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran 1967.

Mounted swing style as worn. First with Royal Mint fitted presentation case. Together with the following: Buckingham Palace forwarding letter for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, typed details for: ‘Flying Officer James H. Allen, D.F.C.’ Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot’s Flying Log Book, inscribed on front cover to: ‘J.H. Allen’ and on inside opening page to: ‘Allen J.H. Sgt.’, covering the period from September 1942 through to June 1947.

Original Arabic language Award Certificate for the Iranian Coronation Medal of His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran, this with remnants of the original envelope . English language translation for the award of the Iranian Coronation Medal of His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran, issued to: ‘Flt Lt J H Allen of England’, issued through the Head Office of all National Medals (of Iran), dated 24th October 1967. Buckingham Palace Unrestricted Permission for wear letter for the award of the Iranian Coronation Medal of His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran, typed details for: ‘Flight Lieutenant J.H. Allen’, and dated 14th March 1971. Ministry of Defence Letter forwarding the formal letter of authority for the unrestricted permission to wear of the Iranian award, dated 31st March 1971. Very useful 6 page typed personal set of answers to some questions on his service as posed to the recipient and titled ‘A Short Personal view of a bit of History’, this being followed up by more personal typed accounts, including those of other airmen. Two original photographs showing an aircraft which has crash-landed due to severe weather at Ottawa in 1946, this being the Prime Ministers personal aircraft, and the Minister of Food, J. Strachey had been aboard at the time, Allen being identified in the photograph. Another photograph dating from 1966 is belief to have been taken whilst he was working in Iran ‘during the rainy season’. There is also a copied image of the recipient in uniform wearing the ribbon of his DFC, and two more of him and his crew.

James Henry Allen was 16 years old on the outbreak of the Second World War and living in Romford, Essex, and when just about old enough went along to the RAF Recruiting Office on week before his 18th birthday at the end of July 1941. Called up on 30th March 1942, he reported to Lords Cricket Ground, this being the assembly point for aircrew. Posted to No.22 Elementary Flying Training School at Cambridge in September 1942, he began his flying training as a pilot in Tiger Moths in December 1942 and flew his first solo one 15th December 1942. In November 1942 he sailed for Canada to begin his advanced flying training, and was posted to No.34 Elementary Flying Training School at Assiniboia in Saskatchewan. Posted to No.38 Service Flying Training School at Estevan in Saskatchewan in February 1943, he flew his first solo in a twin engined aircraft, and Anson on 15th February 1943. Allen gained his Pilots flying wings on 28th May 1943 and was ranked as a Sergeant (No.1600903). Posted back across the Atlantic, he joined the Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington near to Chippingham in Wiltshire in August 1943 flying in Oxford aircraft, and was then posted to No.14 (Pilot’s) Auxiliary Flying Unit at Banff in Scotland in mid August 1943, flying in Oxford aircraft. Posted to No.1512 Beam Approach Training Flight at Banff in September 1943, this was a part of No.14 (Pilot’s) Auxiliary Flying Unit, and he was then posted to No.15 Operational Training Unit at Harwell in December 1943, flying in Wellington aircraft.

On 21st January 1944, when flying a Wellington (Serial No.LN487) in a solo cross country flight, his log noted ‘crashed 1910 hours 3ms. S.W. of York a/c written off’. The online site Aircraft accidents in Yorkshire has an account of the incident which was originally published in Martin Bownman’s book “Flying into the Flames of Hell”. The spring issue of the Royal Air Force Association Magazine also gives an account of the incident from the rear gunner’s perspective. ‘At around 18.00 hours on 21st January 1944 the crew of this 15 Operational Training Unit aircraft took off from Harwell airfield to undertake a night time cross country training flight. While over Yorkshire at 15,000 feet the aircraft went into an uncontrolled dive from which the pilot was only just able to regain control and pull the aircraft level again. Believing the aircraft was suffering from engine failure he attempted to force land the aircraft at 19.15 hours near Askham Bryan but crashed through small trees before coming to rest in a field. The impact with the trees broke off the starboard engine and wing tip and then most of the port wing with the port engine broke off then crashed in the field. As it swung round the rear gunner was thrown from his turret. The fuselage was also broken in three by the times it came to rest. The accident records state that the pilot may have thought that the engines had failed when it was actually the air speed indicator that had failed. After investigating the failure, it was found that the air speed indicator was fitted incorrectly and the fitter was held to blame. As the airspeed indicator was not working the pilot would not know how fast the aircraft was flying. It seems likely that just prior to the aircraft diving out of control it seems probable that the flying speed was so slow that it had stalled. Despite the aircraft appearing to be damaged beyond repair it was assessed as being Category B and was taken away for repair.’ Transferring to No.1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at Dishforth for training in Halifax bombers from March 1944, he was then posted operational in late April 1944 to join 578 Squadron at Burn, near Selby in North Yorkshire, and flying Halifax III bombers with ‘A’ Flight. Allen was promoted to Flight Sergeant.

Allen’s first operational sortie occurred on 1st May when he flew a the co-pilot to a Sergeant Harrison in a raid on Malines. Allen’s second sortie, and his first as the captain of the aircraft occurred on 8th May, a raid on Berneville, and then on 9th May he attacked Morsalines, but his bombs failed to release over the target and he had to jettison them in the sea. On 11th May he attacked Trouville, and on 22nd May attacked Orleans, during which some of his bombs once again failed to release over the target and he bough 6 back. On 24th May he attacked some coastal guns 25 miles to the south of Boulogne, and on 278th May he bombed Boug-Leopold in Belgium, landing at Silverstone on his return. Then on 31st May he attacked Trappes near to Paris. With the Normandy invasion, on 11th June he bombed Massy Pallaise to the south of Paris, and on 12th June bombed the railway yards at Amiens. Then on 14th June he bombed the railways and locomotive sheds at Douai, and on 17th June bombed the supply depot at St Martin l’Hortier. Up to now all of his sorties had been at night, however on 22nd June he bombed the flying bomb base at Siracourt in daylight. Returning to night ops, he bombed the flying bomb base at Osiemont on 23rd June, and the flying bomb base at Rosingal on 24th June. Then on 27th June he bombed Marquis-Mimoyecques in daylight - this being the V3 long range gun site, and similarly in daylight on 28th June bombed the construction works at Wizernes. Also in daylight on 30th June he attacked a concentration of three Panzer Divisions in the Villers-Bocage area, and notes in the log book the village of Villers-Bocage was wiped out in this attack, his aircraft alone having dropped 18 x 500 lb bombs. The next four raids were in daylight, and on 1st July he bombed the flying bomb base at Ouisemont, and on 4th July the flying bomb base at St Martin l’Hortier, during which his aircraft was hit by flak in the run up to the attack, however the bombs were dropped on the target area, and with looming technical difficulties owing to the flak damage, his aircraft had to land at Farnborough on its return. Then on 9th June he bombed the flying bomb base at Le Catelliers, and on 12th July bombed the flying bomb supply depot at Chivern near to Paris, in which his aircraft collected three flak holes in the fuselage. Back the night operations for the next two sorties, he bombed Kiel on the 23rd July and then Stuttgart on 24th July. These back to back sorties were his first to Germany. An account of the Stuttgart sortie however in the log book states: ‘M/Up oxygen U/S/ R/Turner U/S over target’. Research indicates that whilst in the air it was found that the mid upper gunner had no oxygen supply, which resulted in the flight engineer, Rob Stubbs, having to set up an emergency feed from the rest bay. In addition the D.R compass was found to be faulty and they were off course, also the rear turret failed to operate. Back at base the faults were reported. The oxygen feed to the turret had been found to have been severed out of sight behind some ammunition boxes and iron filings were found in the compass and the sump of the rear turret. Sabotage was strongly suspected as the aircraft had been air tested by the crew earlier that day and all systems were working fine. The dispersal point for the aircraft was adjacent to a public road so after this incident ground staff had their meals in relays so that the aircraft was never left unattended after an air test. Allen’s navigator, Colin Dudley, who would also being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, wrote his experiences down for the 578 Squadron Association website, and of the occasion of the sabotage incident, he wrote: ‘in 21 weeks 578 Squadron lost 75% off its strength. At least 40 aircrew losses were caused by sabotage. Of that he (Allen) and I are certain, and by whom. He had done his very best to get rid of our crew as well.’ Once again in daylight he bombed Foret de Niepe on both the 28th and 29th July, and on the later did not complete the operation due to technical difficulties and had to jettison the bombs in the sea. More daylight sorties then occurred, and on 3rd August he bombed L’isle Adam, on 5th August the Foret de Nieppe. and on 6th August the marshalling yards at Hazebrouck, which he notes as well pranged. On 7th August he flew a night sortie to Caen, noting ‘lemonade over target’ in his log. Back in daylight he bombed the petrol depot in the Foet de Mormal on 9th August, which was well pranged, and on 11th August bombed the railway yards at Somain, good results being observed. Then at night on 12th August he bombed Russelheim, his port outer engine being damaged on the return flight, though no mention of flak, and his aircraft landed at Woodbridge. On daylight on 15th August he bombed the night fighter aerodrome at Tirlemont in Belgium, and at night on 16th August he once again attacked Kiel. In daylight on 3rd August he bombed the Belgium-German frontier at Venlo, which was well pranged, and on 9th September was tasked to bomb Le Havre, though the mission was scrubbed in flight, and he brought the bombs back. On 19th September he once again attacked Le Havre, during Op Alvis I, and noted it as a very good attack. On 11th September in daylight he bombed the synthetic oil-plant at Gelsenkirchen, which was well hit, though he notes one small flak hole in the port wing and that the flak opposition was extremely heavy. In daylight on 12th September he was scheduled to attack Munster, though he to make an emergency return owing to a problem with oil pressure. However on 17th September he achieved a good prang on Boulogne when flying as army support. Then on 24th September he was tasked to bomb Calais, though the operation was scrubbed by the Master Bomber whilst over the target. This marked the completion of his first operational tour, he having been involved in 42 operational sorties, though not all were completed.

Allen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in the London Gazette for 19th January 1945 whilst an Acting Flying Officer, and was promoted to Flying Officer eventually on 28th January 1945. Allen was later asked what were his experiences as a bomber pilot. He stated: ‘“Experiences” has a fairly broad meaning so i’ll confine my answer to how and what I felt under a few difference circumstances. Initially on arrival at the squadron the feeling was of a certain excitement in approaching a new job with some element of danger. The feeling remained constant for about 10 operations; after that the excitement faded and a certain amount of worry began. On return from each operation once was mentally exhausted, but felt a certain elation (and relief) on having returned and of having contributed something towards winning the war. A question sometimes asked is “How did you feel when carrying a load of bombs to a city knowing that women and children would be killed?” The answer is that almost everyone thought little beyond the next moment; the main concern being to avoid fighter attack, searchlights or flak; in short to survive. Bear in mind that we usually flew in the dark and there was virtually nothing to focus on but the instruments: and with the engines pounding away in our ears our concentration was quite intense. Whatever the target it was thought only as a city, military camp, gun battery or whatever. We didn’t think of people. Only on one occasion did I feel sorry for the people in the target area: this was one night over Kiel when I deliberately banked my aircraft in order to look at the target. Normally I never saw the target, as with my seat fully lowered I flew entirely on instruments in the target area. I looked down on the city ablaze; it was like looking into the mouth of a huge furnace. I thought you are looking into the mouth of Hell. On the raid my aircraft carried one high explosive bomb weighing a ton and 13 cannisters each containing 90 (yes ninety) incendiary bombs; that is 1170 fire bombs of 4lb each, some with explosive charges in them. Over 200 aircraft took part in that attack. Today this is called conventional warfare.’ Allen further wrote: ‘One point I do want to make is that war is not as shown in films or on the tele, with handsome men charging heroically and willingly into the mouths of guns. Initially on any bombing raid there was apprehension. When actually engaged by enemy fire the feeling varied from real worry that one might be hit to downright terror when, for example, one was boxed by flak and an engine was damaged and on fire at night. Or flying against a target in the Ruhr valley in daylight when the intensity of the flak was itself terrifying. In these cases the mouth goes dry, one’s temperature soars, sweat pours down the face, the knees tremble and the hands grip the control column like iron. To watch another aircraft spinning down or blown apart makes one physically sick. In short wars are fought by terrified men; and anyone who tells you different has never experienced it. But training, discipline and sense of duty still carry men through. Not every bombing trip was dangerous: sometimes we would complete an operation with no trouble at all, and be thankful for that. On other trips things could be difficult and one struggled back to make an emergency landing, everyone utterly exhausted and oh, SO thankful to have completed the sea crossing. The prospect of crashing into the North Sea (that is, ditching) was not a happy one. Even if one survived the crash and got into the dinghy before the aircraft sank the chances of being picked up were slim - about 1 in 9. Sometimes it was possible to have a quiet laugh. One day in daylight we were flying west at 18,000 feet just north of Calais; over France it was quite hazy. I happened to be looking towards the land when in the haze I saw a very bright flash and knew instantly that I was looking almost straight down the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun which had just fired at us. My training had taught me that the shell would reach us in 11 seconds, so by putting the aircraft into a diving turn towards the gun we dodge the shell and saw it explode where we would have been had we continued on our original course. In this case we felt very pleased with ourselves. Even so one did not want the war to get quite so personal.’ Many more comments by Allen on his individual raids and the experiences that occurred are detailed in the accompanying privately printed booklet ‘A Short Personal View of a Bit of History’. It makes for fascinating reading.

After a period of rest he was posted to No.20 Operational Training Unit at Lossiemouth in Scotland from the beginning of November 1944, and now flying the Wellington bomber. However from December 1944 to March 1945 he did not get any flying in. In late March 1945 he was posted to 187 Squadron at Merryfield flying in Halifax bombers, but did not fly on operations, and then transferred to 46 Uganda Squadron at Stoney Cross in Hampshire in early April 1945 and serving with ‘B’ Flight, flying in Stirling V bombers. On 15th April he flew via North Africa out to Palestine and then on to Shaibah in Iraq where he landed on 19th April. Then flying on toe Karachi and finally to Poona where he arrived on 25th April, he flew on to Yelahanka in Bangalore and then flew down to St Thomas’s Mount in Madras before flying on toe Palam and to New Delhi where he arrived on 27th April. He then did the return journey and was back at base in Hampshire on 6th May 1945, the war in Europe having not come to an end.

He then flew once again out to Mauripur in India and back between 19th and 28th May 1945. On both these flights he was not the main pilot, but presumably acted as a spare pilot owing to the length and distance of the sortie. At the beginning of June 1945 he transferred to 51 Squadron at Leconfield, flying with ‘A’ Flight in Halifax III aircraft. On 30th June he flew a sightseeing sortie over Germany which he notes as having on board the first Women’s Auxiliary Air Force passenger to be carried. He was once again flying WAAF’s over Germany on 4th July. From 20th to 30th August he once again flew to an from Maripur in India and would perform a similar trip between 18th September and 3rd October. Once again he flew this sortie between the 6th and 16th November. By May 1946 he was still with 51 Squadron and then converted to flying York transport aircraft and at the beginning of June 1946 transferred to 246 Squadron at Homsley in South Hampshire, flying with ‘C’ Flight in York aircraft. He once again flew out to and back from Mauripur in India between the 12th and 22nd June, and complete this flight again between the 8th and 20th July and the 11th and 30th August. During this period he seems to have acted as the second pilot. In September he transferred to 24 Squadron at Bassingbourne in Hertfordshire, once again flying in York aircraft as a part of ‘A’ Flight this being the VIP Transport Squadron, which flew members of the government etc.

As a second pilot flew out to and back from Auckland in New Zealand via Melbourne in Australia between 24th October 15th November 1946. On 5th December he flew out across the Alantic via the Azores and flew to Washington D.C. He then flew up to Canada and returned back across the Atlantic on 19th December. After another trip to and from Mauripur between 30th Janaury and 11th February 1947, when he flew as second pilot in the aircraft carrying the Burma Delegation, he then flew back across the Atlantic via Iceland between 19th and 20th February 1947, as second pilot of the aircraft (Serial No.MW100) which whilst usually used to carry the British Prime Minster, was in this case carrying Mr Strachey, the Minister of Food, and also a Mr Roll and a Mr Bishop. On landing at Ottawa the aircraft broke a wheel in deep snow. The return flight in the repaired aircraft occurred between 12th and 15th April 1947. Between 29th April and 2nd May he flew as second pilot out the Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten and his wife Lady Mountbatten from Northolt to Delhi. Also onboard was General Ismay, and other people including the King’s Private Secretary, Captain Lascelles. He returned home on 11th June. This was his last flight with the Royal Air Force, however he then transferred into the Royal Air Force on a short service commission for five years with the rank of Flying Officer on 22nd October 1951 with seniority back dated from 2nd August 1950, and at the same time relinquished his commission in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Granted a permanent commission with the Fighter Control Branch on 29th December 1953, he was then promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 10th August 1954.

It was whilst he was serving with the Fighter Control Branch that Allen earned the Coronation Medal for His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah of Iran in 1967, having presumably been seconded to the Royal Iranian Air Force, the medal then having unrestricted permission to wear issued for it by H.M. The Queen on 14th March 1971. This is a rare confirmed awarded to a member of the Royal Air Force. Allen then transferred to the Secretarial Branch on 22nd February 1970, and retired at his own request on 1st January 1975. At the unveiling of the Memorial Book for 578 Squadron at Selby Abbey in North Yorkshire on 3rd May 1998, Allen was amongst those veterans to attend the service and is noted as having given a powerful rendition of ‘Passing Over’, a poem written by his former navigator, C.J. Dudley, D.F.C. whilst originally serving at Burn airfield.