“It was thrilling to go to Marham; I was back in the air again – in my mind anyway” - Former RAF fighter pilot donates Second World War uniform to museum
07:00 25 April 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
Harry Reed, 91, had preserved his RAF dress jacket in his wardrobe for more than 60 years after it was last worn.
It saw the Second World War fighter pilot progress from a flight sergeant to flight lieutenant in his 10 years in the service.
But now Mr Reed, who joined up in 1940 and flew a Mosquito VI in the elite 100 Group during the war, has donated his uniform to RAF Marham’s military museum.
He visited the Heritage Centre at RAF Marham to present his uniform and compare log books with station commander Gp Capt Harvey Smyth.
He said: “It was thrilling to go to Marham; I was back in the air again – in my mind anyway.”
The grandfather-of-four, who lives in Cromer with his wife, Barbara, 81, said he decided to donate it after spotting a newspaper advert.
And although the trousers were lost to gardening after the war, he had kept the jacket and said he had been happy to part with it once it was going to a good home.
Mr Reed was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts in 169 Squadron which acted as a counter force to Germany’s night fighters.
And the father-of-three said he had always regarded flying as a privilege. He said: “The war struck me at an age when I could enjoy it; for others it took its toll.
“We were just lads having fun. I was just a young man – 19 or 20 – enjoying myself and having the time of my life.”
Mr Reed was born in Stockton-on-Tees, where he left school at 15 and started a job as a student electrical engineer until the war broke out.
After flight training in Alabama, Mr Reed was eventually based at Great Massingham and Little Snoring where he flew night fighter aircraft on intruder operations over enemy territory.
He regularly flew out over Cromer and Happisburgh and said he was always filled with mixed emotions when he departed Britain for German airspace.
He said: “By 10am I would know if I was on operations that night.
“At the 4pm briefing you were told what you would be doing and where you would be going, then it was goodbye England.
“It became natural and once you were flying it was no problem.
“But you would never relax until you were on the ground.
“There could be Germans waiting to shoot.”
After joining 264 Squadron and being stationed in RAF Colerne where Mr Reed patrolled the Bay of Biscay, he was picked to form a new squadron, 169, using radar in Norfolk to “hunt the hunters”.
When the war ended he went into the RAF’s personnel department, before ending his 10-year military career and spending four years in the RAF reserves, completing his final flight in October 1952.
As a civilian, Mr Reed joined forces with Anglia Television personality Dick Joice to set up a successful poultry business which they sold days before his retirement.
He then embarked on a second career breeding racehorses, backing winners such as Loft Boy, Jack Sharp and Tower Glades.
And RAF Marham station Warrant Officer Stephen Roberts, who curates the museum, said it was important to document Mr Reed’s story.
He said: “To influence the future we have to learn from the past.”
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