John, David and Gaven Henry RAAF. 103 Squadron.
It must have been very unusual for three brothers to serve on the same squadron in the war if not unique. It certainly is unique for three brothers to serve on the same squadron at the same time albeit for a brief period. This was achieved by three brothers from Australia who flew with 103 squadron in 1944/45.
John, David and Gaven Henry came from Armidale, New South Wales, Australia and all three trained to become pilots and were sent to Britain. John, the eldest, was referred to as Mk1 with David Mk2 and Gaven ,the youngest, Mk3. John and David were already with 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds and had nearly completed their tours when younger brother Gaven arrived. It was arranged that all three were to fly on the same operation to Cologne and but special permission had to be obtained from the King himself as it normally totally prohibited for brothers to fly on the same operation. They completed the operation successfully and this event was reported in the national press several days later.
Above - All three Henry brothers enjoying tea and a sandwich 1944.
John, David and Gaven all survived the war and John remained a pilot and had a long and distinguished flying career as a test and civilian pilot. He was killed in a car crash on his way to an Air Force reunion in April 1978.
Item written by David Fell
Betty, David, Ronald and Gaven Henry.
Nice Henry family pic. L to R see below.
Betty Busby Leese DOB 13 Dec 1925. Worked as a banker and bookkeeper in the war years and later at the Valuer General's Department for 17 years.
David Alexander Henry DOB 23 Dec 1918. Enlisted as RAAF Aircrew in 1941. Trained under the Empire Flying Training Scheme in Canada. Sept - Dec 1944 Operations conducted with 103SQN. Completed 31 tours on his 26th birthday and was awarded the DFC. From Jan 1945 - Apr 1946 he was at the Empire Air Armaments School, Manby Lincs preparing for a demonstration flight to the Middle East and South Africa. In April 1946 flew back to Australia in a Liberator bomber. On return, recommenced working as a Bank Manager and then completed a Law Degree and was admitted to the Bar of the NSW Supreme Court and practised as a Solicitor for 15 years.
Ronald McEwen Henry DOB 16 Dec 1916. Commenced training in 1940 as an airframe fitter at the RAAF Engineering School in Melbourne. Remustered to aircrew pilot training 1942. Following elementary training in Tiger Moths and twin engine Cessna Cranes; was medically grounded following a severe migraine. He returned to Australia as an Airframe Fitter until discharge in February 1946. Became a stock and station agent in NSW.
Gaven William Henry DOB 29 Jan 1921. Joined the RAAF as Aircrew in 1942. Trained in Australia and the UK. Arrived 103SQN 29th October 1944. Carried out 13 operations up to the 28th January 1945, when he sustained a broken wrist whilst cranking up a car. This ultimately put an end to his flying at 103 Sqn.
Arthur John Henry DFC RAAF – 103 Squadron
by Anna Henry
I have heard much about the Henry brothers so I was particularly pleased to be contacted by John's daughter Anna who sent me biographical account of her father ( see below ) and scans of several splendid family photos - several of which I have used in this item.
Born 30 March 1915 – Died 25 April 1978. Married 1: Helen Margaret Grant 23 August 1941 Children: Peter John born 5 June 1941, David Robert born 20 June 1947, Judith Margaret born 15 July 1949. Married 2: Pauline Maude Henderson on 24 August 1965, Children: Katrina Mary born 16 December 1966, Anna Pauline born 20 February 1968, Fiona Catherine born 14 July 1969.
Arthur John Henry was born in 1915 in Weabonga, NSW. Known as John, he was the eldest of five children. As a young person, he learned skills on the farm including shearing, wool sorting, seed grading and bee keeping. After pursuing further study at night school he enrolled in the RAAF Reserve in Newcastle on 3rd June 1941 at the age of 26.
On 23 August that year he was married to Helen and was enlisted in the Permanent Forces of the RAAF on 28 February 1942 at No. 2 Recruiting Centre, Sydney as an aircrew trainee (Service no.421680). On 5th June 1942, their first son, Peter was born.
Participating in the Empire Flying Training Scheme (EFTS), he embarked Australia for Canada on 2 November 1942 and was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He spent his first Canadian Christmas in hospital, having had his appendix removed on 27th December 1942 at the 7SFTS Station hospital in Alberta. On 28 May 1943 he achieved his “Wings” and was promoted to SGT (Trainee).
His RAAF Flying Training Record includes:
70 hrs Elementary Flying Training on Tiger Moths,
160 hrs Service Flying Training in Canada on Ansons,
60 hrs advanced Flying Training on Oxfords,
80 hrs Operational Flying Training at Lichfield on Wellingtons,
40 hrs Conversion to Halifaxes at the Heavy Conversion Unit at Sandtoft,
10hrs Lancaster training and a further 10hrs tactical training at the Lancaster Finishing School at Hemswell,
20 hrs test pilot training on the AVRoe Test Pilot Course at Manchester.
On 31 March 1944 he gained his aircraft captaincy whilst stationed at 103 SQN, Elsham Wolds. On his first sortie as captain, his aircraft was badly hit by enemy fire. It was for his efforts on this mission that Arthur John Henry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 16 Feb 1945.
The Citation reads: ” Flight Lieutenant Henry joined his present squadron in November 1944 and has since completed an outstanding tour of operational duty. His skill was demonstrated on the first sortie as captain of aircraft when his aircraft was attacked and severely damaged by an enemy fighter. The rear gunner was gravely wounded and F/L Henry despite damage to instruments and controls chose a short but extremely hazardous route back to base in order to obtain speedy medical attention. Undeterred by this harassing experience he has continued his tour of duty with a series of attacks on very heavily defended targets and has always displayed coolness courage and determination.”
It was on his 30th op, having his brothers David and Gaven all pilots at the same squadron, that permission was sought from the King for them to fly on the same mission. Their remarkable story has been told in books and newspapers where they were referred to as Mark I (John), Mark II (David) and Mark III (Gaven).
By 23 Sept 1944 he had achieved the acting rank of Flight Lieutenant. During his operational tours at Bomber Command between June 1944 and June 1945, he completed 32 sorties; totalling 900 flying hours by the end of the war. This was a remarkable feat considering the high casualty rates of the time. He flew the venerable Mike Squared (as it was known by 576SQN) or “M” for “Mother” (as it was known by 103SQN) to the breakers after the war.
In July 1945 he was employed as Base Test Crew at HQ13 Base having completed the AVRoe Test Pilot Course at Manchester. He was also appointed Co-pilot on the flight of the first Lincoln aircraft to Australia. He was later offered a permanent position with the AVRoe company, but he chose to return to his wife and family in Australia and was officially discharged on the demobilization of the forces on 28 May 1946.
Arriving back in Australia on 27 March 1946 he worked initially at an orchard in Armidale, before becoming employed as an Instructor at Newcastle Aero Club. Following this he joined East West Airlines on 23 April 1951 where he worked for over 10 years. In 1964 he was also the honorary Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) at Tamworth Aero Club where he met his second wife, Pauline who was his student. They were married on 24 August 1965. Their first daughter Katrina was born in December the following year, quickly followed by Anna in 1968 and Fiona in 1969.
In 1970 he commenced operating his own flying school and charter business “Quirindi Aviation” at Quirindi Airport. He was given good support and encouragement by the Shire Council. He taught student pilots and flying instructors in Tamworth, Quirindi, Barraba, and Coonabarabran. He was well known amongst his students for his remarkable sense of position, even after a nap over the Pilliga scrub. While flying Tiger Moths he had won the title “Deadstick Henry” (as evidenced by an engraved joystick) for his ability to land an aircraft using only the rudders and throttle to control the aircraft’s descent to landing. He was well respected and many of his students and friends referred to him as “Uncle”. With Pauline as co-pilot and navigator they participated in many Air Races around the country with some success. He also flew many hours as a charter pilot covering wide distances throughout Australia and often with some famous passengers. He always maintained his interest in apiary and produced his own honey.
On April 25th 1978, he was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident. Ironically, it was on the one day of the year he refused to fly as he took part in the ANZAC Day March and the Rum Cup at Tamworth Golf Club. It is estimated that by the time of his death in 1978, he had taught hundreds of people to fly and his log books show he had logged more than 23,000 flying hours.
It is unanimous among those who knew him, that he was a gentleman who held honesty and integrity above all things and his advice to all who sought something of value was “persistence and determination” or as he coined it: “stick-at-ability”.