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The Man, the Mission & the Bomber

Updated on November 9, 2015

Lloyd Henderson, DFC

"Twelve and a half percent of the airplanes were lost that night. And that night, we shot down a fighter. It was some airplane flying above us we thought, but it happened to be two fighters. And one split and went to the right and one went to the left. The one to the right disappeared and the other one came around in a curve and came in right behind us. And the rear gunner, Vern Marks, let him have it. We could see the fire going around the cowling. That was at 10,000 feet and he went straight in." (Lloyd Henderson, The Memory Project)

More than seven thousand of the 10,000 Canadian airmen who served with Bomber Command and died during World War II flew aboard the Halifax bomber. This is a tribute to one who survived.

Several veterans of World War Two have told me that no-one remembers what they did, or the price that they paid. This lens is my small way of telling them that they will never be forgotten.

They sent us out on a moonlight night, which was not a good idea...

Handley Page Halifax Bomber

The Halifax was one of England's front-line, four-engined heavy bombers flown by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. It remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing, and was also flown by squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and others.

"We flew the Halifax V...they were the survivors of operations. They were actually piles of junk, stuff that was no longer fit to fly on operations."

Click for full-sized RCAF Photo
Click for full-sized RCAF Photo

Rarely mentioned in the same context as the Lancaster as a great airplane (to the great irritation of Halifax pilots), the Halifax, through successive improvements to the basic design, became a very able support aircraft to the Lancaster. The first Halifax took to the air on 25 October 1939 from Bicester but it was to be almost a year before the second one flew. It was the second of the RAF's new four-engined heavy bombers, being preceded by the Stirling by some three months.

The aircraft went through a variety of upgrades and technical improvements throughout the war. See the RAF's Handley Page Halifax historical page for thorough details.

http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/bombercommandno10squadron.cfm
http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/bombercommandno10squadron.cfm

No. 10 Squadron RAF

Flight Lieutenant Henderson joined 10 Squadron in April of 1944. Ten Squadron was reformed as a night bomber unit in January 1928, Just prior to WWII, in 1937, it moved to RAF Dishforth to form part of the newly created No. 4 Group of RAF Bomber Command. During this time, the unit operated a variety of aircraft, but was re-equipped with Halifax bombers in December, 1941, while based at RAF Leeming, Yorkshire. On August 19th, 1942, No. 10 Squadron moved to RAF Melbourne, Yorkshire.

Between September 1939 and May 1945, the squadron earned 523 awards, including 9 DSOs, 333 DFCs and 173 DFMs.

A New Beginning - Flight Lieutenant Henderson takes a bride. England, 1944

Lloyd met his wife in England during the war. He once told me that she'd run over his foot to get his attention. Whatever she did, it worked. The couple was married in England, and his lovely bride became one of nearly 45,000 women who left their previous lives behind them and accompanied their husbands on their return to Canada.

Orders and Decorations - Distinguished Flying Cross
Orders and Decorations - Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross

Awarded to Flight Lieutenant Henderson (1945)

The DFC is awarded to officers and Warrant Officers for an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy. The slip-on bar has an eagle in the centre. The year of the award is engraved on the reverse.

"As captain of aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Henderson has completed a tour of operations during which he has shown high courage and unwaverying resolutions [sic] to press home his attacks often in adverse circumstances. On one occasion in June, 1944, his aircraft was detailed to attack Trappex. After the target had been bombed, his aircraft was attacked by a Focke Wulf 190. By skilful airmanship, he enabled his gunners to fire on the fighter which burst into flames and was destroyed. Flight Lieutenant Henderson's devotion to duty has always been of the highest order."

Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Henderson receives his DFC in 1949, four years after it was awarded.
Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Henderson receives his DFC in 1949, four years after it was awarded.

Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Henderson receives his DFC in 1949, four years after it was awarded.

Twelve and a half percent of the airplanes were lost that night...

Starboard front 3/4 view of the entire aircraft as it was laid out, seen from above.
Starboard front 3/4 view of the entire aircraft as it was laid out, seen from above.

The Phoenix Rises

The Raising of Halifax Mark A VII NA337X

The task of raising Halifax Mark A VII NA337X was contracted to a Norwegian salvage firm in the summer of 1995, and salvage efforts got underway in August. The tail section was raised on August 15th. Jeff Jeffrey, DFC adds, "When they searched the tail section they had found the Tail Gunner's (Thomas Weightman) Thermos bottle in the rear gun turret. Thomas was not aware of this until we were invited to dinner at the home of one of our Norwegian friends. After dinner, I suggested that he might like some coffee and handed him his Thermos bottle (misplaced for 50 years) - an emotional moment!"

The main section of the plane was raised on September 3. Jeff Jeffery, D.F.C., President of the Halifax Aircraft Association. provides a wealth of information and photographs here.. The aircraft arrived in Trenton, Ontario in December of 1995.

Rosetown (Saskatchewan) Eagle - Covers the story of the unveiling of Halifax Mark A VII NA337X

Halifax Mark A VII NA337X Unveiled - Canadian Forces Base Trenton, November 2011

Halifax Mark A VII NA337X - CFB Trenton Air Force Museum

Back in the cockpit - ...one last time

Flight Lieutenant Henderson waves from the cockpit of Halifax Mark A VII NA337X, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, November, 2011.

Halifax NA337 (VO) NAFMC National Air Force Museum of Canada - A film by Thierry Damilano


RCAF Memorial Museum Photo Halifax Mark A VII NA337X

A Bomber Pilot's Socks

Lloyd was stationed at Honeybourne, England, in 1943 when a care package from the Canadian Red Cross arrived. Each airman was told that he could pick out one item from the package. Lloyd chose a pair of hand-knit, long, white socks that he thought would be ideal to wear in his rubber boots. A single strand of red wool tied through the top of each sock held the pair together. On further inspection, Lloyd discovered a piece of paper inside one sock with writing on it. “Knit by Helena Siemens, Fiske Sask.,” the note said. Lloyd was absolutely astonished! “I know that town!” he exclaimed. “Fiske is just a few miles south of my home town of Herschel.” [...] Lloyd never had the opportunity to wear the socks but kept them through all the years.

Fifty years later, after a Rosetown and District choir practice, the socks met their maker—or their maker’s offspring, at least. After a rehearsal some choir members gathered ...for coffee, Margaret Henderson and fellow vocalist George Siemens ...among them. Margaret said to George, “I have something for you. I will bring it to you after our next practice.” Some time later, Margaret presented George with a paper bag. Inside were the socks. Utterly surprised, George could hardly believe that Lloyd had kept these socks knit by his mother Helena Siemens in 1943. After 70 years they had come full circle, travelling across the ocean and back to their place of origin. [For the full story, see "A Bomber Pilot's Socks, by Dorothy Siebold - Prairies North Magazine"]

Dedication

Lloyd Henderson, should you ask him why he left the comfort and safety of his Saskatchewan home to go to war, will tell you in a matter-of-fact way, that "Somebody had to do it - we knew Hitler had to be stopped."

This page is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Henderson who, together with millions of their compatriots, so ably personify those we have come to recognize as The Greatest Generation.

RAF Bomber Command crews suffered an extremely high casualty rate: 55,573 killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew (a 44.4% death rate), a further 8,403 were wounded in action and 9,838 became prisoners of war. This covered all Bomber Command operations including tactical support for ground operations and mining of sea lanes. A Bomber Command crew member had a worse chance of survival than an infantry officer in World War I.> (Wikipedia)

Flight Lieutenant Henderson was one of the 69,427 airmen that survived. God bless them all.

Guests' Comments

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      My father, Lionel Goldfarb, flew in a Halifax bomber from 42 - 45. He was the wireless officer and passed away in the late 80s. Unfortunately his medals and other documents from his missions were lost and my family is trying to recover them. Any guidance anyone can lend on how where I can look or who I may contact to see if these can be found or reproduced would be appreciated. Michael Goldfarb

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      A very fitting and nice tribute to a man, a machine and a time that is quickly slipping from memory. It is up to us to never let that happen and I thank you for your efforts in that department. Cheers

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 5 years ago

      Awesome lens and a fitting tribute to your friend.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens!