Harold Stone Another Unsung Hero

Eddy  mentioned  his name also in his message…

From the web (a site called WWII Stories) entries by a Harold Stone, a pilot on 23 Squadron, states  that his crew (two New Zealanders) and my Uncle’s crew were transferred to 418 on the 15th of December, 1941.


This was found on RAF Command Forum

Re: 1 Sept 1941 23 Squadron Intruder/Havocs 

Author: sussexresearch 
Time Stamp: 
21:49:16 16 November 2005 

Hi Luc

This is not immediately related to your question but as this tells of Havocs of 23 sqd at the time of your crash, it may be of interest. I received this letter some two years ago via the 23 Sqd archivist. It originated from a Harold Stone.

“I think it may put things into perspective if I point out that at the time of joining my first operational Squadron (No. 23 at Ford), I had 203 hrs.5 mins. flying under my belt of which only 4 hrs. were dual night flying and 31hrs.5mins was solo night flying. Prior to leaving OTU a call was made for volunteers for two crews to go onto Intruder operations. Not knowing anything about what this entailed, I was one of the two volunteers posted to Ford together with another crew who was to join another Squadron based there. My memory does not extend to remembering the names of the other crews so I will refer to them as crew A (my fellow 23 member) and crew B the other. My Canadian rear gunner (Sgt. Louis Nault) went with me and I was allocated a New Zealand observer (Sgt Frank Hogg).

Imagine our surprise and, I must say, consternation to find that the planes we were to fly on night operations were Havocs which had been intended for France but arrived too late for any action there. The instruments and instruction manuals were in French! The engineers told us that, if the instrument needles pointed to quarter past the hour everything should be performing OK. If not, we should try and determine what the faulty instrument was from its appearance. Naturally, no dual was available or possible. The bank of some thirty switches on a panel had illuminated tips to show their position at night but this was of little consequence, as we had no idea what they were for.

Within a few days, the B crew was seen to come out of cloud over the channel and go straight in. No one had any idea what had gone wrong.

After having 11 hrs. Daytime practice flying Crew A and ourselves had our first shot at night flying. Crew A took off ahead of us and as it climbed to about 300ft. it plunged to earth exploding in a fireball. We were already on our way down the runway and took off over the crash site flying for 1hr. 5 minutes before returning to base.

Five nights later we had a further stab at night flying only to find that as we climbed away, at around 3 to 4 hundred feet, all the instruments went haywire, the port wing dropped sharply and we were on our way down! Full rudder failed to pick up the wing so I reached for the throttles only to find that the port throttle had crept back. I was able to correct the situation by re-applying full throttle and not feeling too good terminated the session after 40 minutes. On landing we discovered that this American made plane did not have a friction nut to secure the throttles whilst at full throttle as had all the English planes we had flown previously. Thereafter I made sure that I had my hand on the throttles until we reached normal climbing speed and able to throttle back. There is no doubt in my mind that this problem was the cause of Crew A’s crash.”

After experiences like this, I am constantly amazed that we won.


NOTE: Crew A were Denyer and Graham.

 Robert Denyer and Donald Graham were soon posted to 23 Squadron, and both lost their lives on 9th July 1941 during “night operations” when their aircraft, Havoc BJ485 crashed soon after taking off from Ford airfield after it had suffered some form of engine failure. It is believed they were learning to fly the Havoc type when the crash occured. Both are buried at Clymping Churchyard, Sussex. F/Sgt Graham was twenty four years old, Sgt Denyer’s age is not given in the CWGC online register but he was probably born in the Reigate area of Surrey in 1921, he was the son of Henry and Louisa Denyer (nee Appleyard).


8 thoughts on “Harold Stone Another Unsung Hero

  1. Having read about 1940, 1941 and 1942 recently, I too am amazed that we ever won, although in my opinion, the absolute basics to the Allied victory were American industrial production and Soviet willingness to sacrifice their forces at an alarming rate. (Make a good History project that one)

  2. Not only terrible that ‘faulty’ parts were used, but to expect crews to learn from a manual that was In a foreign language is ridiculous. It’s no wonder crews were killed in accidents.

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