Thank You to Ian Harvey for this fascinating insight into his family history and a century of service.
On the 10th of May 1946, Royal Air Force Halifax PP349 of No. 1665 HCU took off for an Air Test flight. This model had the Hercules Mk16 radial engines.
During this flight, the aircraft crashed 2.5miles SW of Linton on Ouse, killing all on board.
The Flight Engineer was 176669 F/O William Ian Harvey, RAFVR.
Here begins the most incredible tale of co-incidences within my family.
Most of you know me as Ian Harvey, I am, in fact, William Ian Harvey, and was named at birth after my late uncle.
The story begins, I feel, with my paternal grandfather, another William Harvey. He served in the Highland Light Infantry in WW1, later moving to the Royal Flying Corps, I have seen his medals, one of the three having an RFC service number. I am still researching his past, but am more than a little confident that he was one of thousands trained at the newly formed RFC Halton. The Rothschild family, in September 1913, allowed the use of the estate grounds to be used by the then young Royal Flying Corps. This expanded rapidly until by 1916, 20,000 people were there, mostly in tents and huts.
He was, possibly (subject to further research) the first Harvey (of my family) to serve at Halton. William and his wife Catherine, had 4 children, Douglas (my father) Ronnie, Ian (William Ian) and a daughter Sheila.
My father volunteered for the army in WW2 and served in the (local) Fife and Forfar yeomanry mostly servicing/repairing tanks in theatre.
His brother, Ronald Albert Harvey, joined the Royal Air Force aged 15 in August 1938, as an Aircraft Apprentice at RAF Halton. He graduated in June 1940 He was promoted to Sgt in 1942 then applied for Pilot training. He went on to become a test pilot based, mostly, at RAE Farnborough, flying many types, but especially the “Flying Bedstead” the original vertical thrust controlled vertical flight test platform. He, then, became the second Harvey (of my family) to serve at the now Royal Air Force Halton.
Unfortunately little is known of my namesake, Ian, but it is known that he was an ATC instructor and joined the RAF as aircrew, I suspect, in circa 1942, aged then 17 or 18. He would have had to do F/E training so couldn’t have served operationally until perhaps 19yrs old, that would be in 1944, towards the end of the war. Whatever, he became the first, William Ian Harvey, RAFVR, Flight Engineer.
He was particularly close to my father, Douglas. My father was asked to remain in Germany after the war as there was a concern that the Germans would re-kindle their previous efforts. As Douglas would be away, Ian decided to sign on for more time in the RAF until both would be home together at the family home at the estate of Balbirnie, by Markinch, Fife, where their father was, by now, the estate chauffeur.
The fact that he had served in bombing raids during the war, surely a huge concern to any family, survive those, then to die in a tragic post war air test, came close to destroying both my grandfather, and my father, as well as the rest of this family. As a consequence it was near impossible to discuss him in any way or to discover his past.
I will come back to Ian later, as you will read.
I am also William Ian Harvey, and had little knowledge, aged 16, of any of our family history, indeed, aged 16, I had little knowledge of anything other than an impressive ability to escape school and generally be a 16yr old teenager!
One day, whilst not where I should have been (post O levels by the way), in school, I was in Glenrothes town centre where I spotted a RAF Recruiting caravan parked in the car park. With nothing else to do, I wandered in, and came out of the other end with the papers to allow me to join the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Technician Apprentice, subject to interviews and tests.
The papers were filled in and signed by parents, none of whom told me of the past family members who had, undoubtedly, had similar papers and followed similar paths. In due course, a rail warrant arrived taking me from Kirkcaldy railway station to RAF Stafford where I was interviewed and assessed for several days. In due course I was sent papers saying I had passed and was invited to RAF Halton to begin a 3 yr apprenticeship in the 114th (Technician) entry.
I arrived there on 27 May 1968, to join 13 others to commence this major step in our lives. I was, therefore, the third Harvey (of my family) to serve at RAF Halton, mostly, as it will become clear, unbeknown to me at that time.
After graduation, as a Corporal I was posted to 111Squadron on Lightning Mk3 and 5, then at RAF Wattisham.
One fateful day a C130 Hercules parked on our pan. I decided to have a nosey and met with the F/E, a Sergeant aircrew. One brief conversation later I decided it must be better to fly in the aircraft than get dirty and wet fixing them! Tales of exotic locations etc made my mind up.
A few months later I was posted to the Lightning OCU at RAF Coltishall. From there I applied for aircrew, as a Flight Engineer.
One day, as the Lightning was now retiring from Coltishall, I was presented with a choice of two posting notices, one as (now a Sgt) groundcrew onto the Jaguar at RAF Lossiemouth, the other as a trainee Air Engineer at RAF Finningley. The decision to choose Finningley took less than a millisecond, I was on my way!
The rest is history, 6000 flying hours, 5000 on the C130 and 1000 on the Nimrod. I retired from the Royal Air Force in 1991.
However, the story is not complete. I was invited, in November 1994 to take part in a Reservist Trial to explore how quickly and effectively retired aircrew could be retrained and brought back to operational level. I therefore became William Ian Harvey, Flight Engineer, RAFVR.
In May this year (2013) my Mother died and I had the task of being her will executor. I therefore had the onerous task of clearing her house. This brought to light many family papers as you would expect. Among them was a letter from my Grandfather (William Harvey) to my Mother thanking her and my Father for naming me after their late Son. The letter is very personal and poignant, but one part of it was his wish that although they had lost their William Ian, the hope was that perhaps I would follow a trail in my life that perhaps he would have done.
I think you’ll agree that I have done as he wished.
The real point of this story is that I knew nothing of this letter until I discovered it in May. So all I have done, I have done on my own, from joining the Royal Air Force through to the VR trial, with no knowledge of my Grandfather’s wish.
The FEAEA is now collecting funds and donations to pay for its own “Engineer” memorial stone to be installed in “Heroes Square” at the National Memorial Arboretum.
I have made a donation to this project, as a memorial to William Ian Harvey RAFVR (Mk 1) from William Ian Harvey RAFVR (Mk 2)