Flight Lieutenant Harold Blow: 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron


Harold Blow was born on 1 June 1923 in Louth, Lincolnshire and applied to join the Royal Air Force in 1941. He enlisted into the RAFVR on 15 July 1941 with Service Number 158577 and during basic training sat a number of aptitude tests, as a result of which he was selected for pilot training.

He joined No 6 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at RAF Sywell in January 1942 to commence his flying training on the Tiger Moth. From there he spent most of the rest of the year in Georgia in the United States at primary, basic and advanced training schools, based at Americus, Cochran and Moody Field air stations where he flew the Stearman PT-17, Vultee BT-13A and Beechcraft AT-10.

He left the warmth and glorious blue skies of Georgia in 1943, returning to Britain to No 6 Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Little Rissington to undertake conversion to multi-engine aircraft, initially flying the Airspeed Oxford. This led to No 1517 Beam Approach Training Flight at RAF Chipping Warden and then onto No 17 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Silverstone where he flew the Vickers Wellington. His training was soon coming to a conclusion when he attended No 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at RAF Winthorpe where he flew the Avro Manchester and Lancaster.

Sergeant Blow was posted to IX Squadron at RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire and flew his first operational sortie on 22 October 1943, target Kassel. He and his crew survived a tour of 30 operations most of which were targets in Germany including no less than 12 to Berlin. Missions deep into Germany included Schweinfurt, Augsburg and the notorious Nuremburg raid of 30-31 March 1943, a night when Bomber Command lost 105 aircraft and 534 aircrew failed to return. During this time Harold was commissioned and also received a green endorsement in his flying logbook for his skill in bombing a target and returning home with a badly damaged aircraft following a mid-air collision.

Following the end of his tour in April 1944 he was posted to No 11 OTU at RAF Silverstone as an instructor and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 30 June 1944. In early 1945 he was an instructor at No 29 OTU at Bruntingthorpe and later that year he was with the Bomber Command Instructor’s School. At the end of the war he remained in the RAF and was posted to the Empire Navigation School at RAF Shawbury from where, in 1946, he flew a silver-painted Avro Lancaster Libra to the Far East on a liaison tour to RAF Stations in South East Asia Air Command, during which he and his crew met the King of Siam in Bangkok.

He left the RAF and joined the RAuxAF in 1949. He served with 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron at RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, where he continued to fly regularly on the Squadron’s twin-engined F8 Meteors .

Gloster F8 Meteor

On the 22nd of May 1954, Harold was the leader of  flight of four aircraft which took off from Finningley on a training mission. The cloud cover was at 1500 feet. Heading south, the formation began a snake climb through the clouds, the intention being to climb above them and practice chase and evasion tactics. During the climb, Harold’s wing-man,  noticed that Harold was struggling to stay in formation. Harold’s aircraft then suddenly veered to port and went into a steep dive. The wing-man followed, but the descent was so fast and steep that the wing-man only just managed to turn to starboard and pull out of the dive before hitting the ground. Tragically, however, Harold’s aircraft continued on its downward trajectory and dived almost vertically into a wheatfield near Sandtoft in Lincolnshire. Harold was killed instantly. Electrical failure is believed to have been the cause of the crash.

Patrick Blow

Posted in Memorial Stones.