Sgt Arthur Patrick O'Hara DFM, 1378114. Navigator
On the night of 27/06/1942 Stirling N3751 coded BU-P set out for operations to Bremen. After bombing the target the crew encountered Luftwaffe nightfigters who often frequented the bomber routes home. Enduring an unforgettable night of horror N3751 and crew, although severely damaged by flak, attacked by five enemy fighters and shot at over the sea managed to bring their aircraft home. At 0500 be it a miracle or skill, N3751 returning to base crashed through the perimeter fence, skidded down the runway wheels up and came to a rest. Although not officially verified yet it is almost certain that Stirling BU-P never flew again. All surviving crew members were awarded the DFM. The citation as follows tells the harrowing story:
3196 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 21 JULY,1942
Award of the Distinguished Flying Medal to:
953982 F/Sgt James Ian Cunningham Waddicar, Gunner
Aus- 4OO468 Sergeant Frank Morton GRIGGS RAAF, Pilot
1378114 Sergeant Arthur 'O'HARA, Navigator
953982 Flight Sergeant James Ian Cunningham WADDICAR
1014907 Sergeant Ronald WATSON, Gunner
527989 Sergeant Thomas Noel Castree PROSSER
1052356 Sergeant 'William WILDEY 1st Wireless Operator
These airmen (listed above) were members of the crew of an aircraft detailed to attack Bremen" on ' the night' of 27th June, 1942 (27/06/1942), Sergeant Frank Griggs acting as captain. The objective was successfully bombed., but over the target area the aircraft sustained much damage from anti-aircraft fire. One of the starboard engines was hit and put out of action. Shortly afterwards the bomber was subjected to an attack by an enemy fighter, fire from which caused further damage. Almost immediately a second fighter opened fire and Sergeant Wildey, the 1st wireless operator, was wounded in the arm. The first fighter then returned to the attack but was met with a long and vicious burst from Sergeant Waddicar's guns which sent the enemy aircraft spinning towards the ground, where it exploded on impact.
Some time later, after crossing Holland, Sergeant O'Hara, the navigator, who had "skilfully guided his captain' thus far, observed 2' enemy fighters closing in. Sergeant Watson, who was tending the injured wireless operator, immediately attempted to man his turret but it was jammed. With the assistance of Sergeant O'Hara, who held his legs, he managed to reach his guns and he then delivered an effective burst at the leading fighter, which caused it to dive towards the sea completely out of-control. Meanwhile, Sergeant Waddicar, with commendable ingenuity, had temporarily repaired one of his guns which had failed and opened fire at the second aircraft from close range.. The attacker dived away and exploded before hitting the water! The bomber was not yet out of danger, being subjected to machine gun fire from the sea. A few minutes later another fighter appeared opening fire with a long burst but Sergeant Waddicar's return fire caused it to break off the engagement.
Sergeant Griggs, displaying fine airmanship, eventually flew his severely damaged aircraft safely back to base where he made a crash landing. Throughout the operation, these airmen displayed unflinching courage, great fortitude and splendid team work in foiling the attacks of 5 enemy fighters, 3 of which were shot down. Their conduct upheld the highest 'traditions of the Royal Air Force.
Source: Citation text is from the on line archives of the London Gazette
See also: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news for in depth story
From The Daily Telegraph Obituaries Section
Flight Lieutenant Pat O'Hara (Arthur Patrick O'Hara) N3751
Pat O'Hara died on January 22. His first wife, Emily, whom he married in 1937, died in 1978. In 1982 he married his second wife, Betty, who died in 1997. Two daughters by his first marriage survive him.
Flight Lieutenant Pat O'Hara, who has died aged 91, was a navigator in one of the most remarkable examples of combat between an RAF heavy bomber and German night fighters in the Second World War.
His Stirling bomber of No 214 Squadron attacked Bremen on the night of June 27-28 1942, and was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the target. With one of the engines ablaze, the aircraft set off for home on its three remaining engines. It was approaching the Zuider Zee when a German night fighter attacked from below, killing the rear gunner and damaging another engine.
A second fighter blew a large hole in the bomber's fuselage before one of the surviving gunners shot it down.
The front gunner had left his turret to render aid to the wounded wireless operator when the Australian captain, Sergeant Frank Griggs, warned him that two more fighters were attacking. Rushing back to his turret he found it would not rotate because it was jammed; with O'Hara holding his legs, the gunner was just able to lean forward and fire the guns. One of the fighters flew into the cone of fire and was destroyed.
When the other German aircraft attacked, the mid-upper gunner engaged it, but one of the two guns jammed. With the remaining gun he shot down the fighter. Another fighter was also beaten off.
The bomber had descended during this engagement, and the pilot was struggling to maintain control; the tailplane hit the sea and was partly ripped away before he could climb to a safe height.
O'Hara showed great skill in guiding his aircraft to the airfield at Stradishall, in Suffolk, by map-reading and astro-navigation. Also, the three working engines had sustained damage and the undercarriage could not be lowered. Just before reaching the airfield, two more engines failed, and the pilot made a belly-landing after crashing through the boundary fence of the airfield.
The RAF described their night's work as "a memorable operation", and the six surviving crew members were awarded the DFM.
Arthur Patrick O'Hara was born on November 8 1913 at Bradford in West Yorkshire. After attending St Bede's School in his home town, he worked for a local potato merchant, then volunteered for the RAF at the end of 1940. Considered, at 27, too old to be a pilot, he was accepted for navigator training.
O'Hara joined No 214 Squadron at Stradishall and flew 10 operations, including the first 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne. He attacked other targets in Germany before he and Griggs, his pilot, were commissioned and left to join No 109 Squadron, just as it was converting to the Mosquito and transferring to the Pathfinder Force. No 109 was pioneering the new, and highly accurate, blind-bombing target-marking technique known as Oboe. Flying down a narrow radio beam directed towards the target by a ground-based emitter, the Mosquito dropped flares and markers over the target for the main bomber force.
O'Hara and his pilot were one of the original six crews.
By early 1943 they had flown seven operations against heavily defended targets, and the early difficulties experienced with the unique system, which had been developed by the scientists at the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern, had been resolved. Griggs and O'Hara were the first to drop a new type of target-marker when they spearheaded the attack on Dusseldorf on January 27 1943, flying at 27,000 ft, where they were untroubled by the intense flak directed at the main bombers flying below them. O'Hara had soon flown more than 50 operations, the majority against targets in the Ruhr. For his "outstanding record, efficiency and unfailing determination", he was awarded the DFC.
When his pilot returned to Australia, O'Hara flew a few sorties with another pilot whose navigator was ill. Just 10 minutes before he was due to take off with this pilot for another attack against the Ruhr, the pilot's own navigator said he was fit to fly and took O'Hara's place. The crew was shot down and killed over the target.
After a period as an instructor at the Mosquito Pathfinder Training Unit, O'Hara returned to No 109 as one of the most experienced Oboe-Mosquito navigators.
He flew many daylight attacks against V1 sites, airfields and communications targets in the build up to D-Day. After completing almost 100 sorties over enemy-occupied territory, O'Hara was finally rested. In January 1945 he was awarded a Bar to his DFC for "his continued display of high courage".
O'Hara joined No 147 Squadron flying both passengers and freight in Dakotas between the UK and recently captured airfields on the Continent.
In September 1946 O'Hara was appointed to be a navigator in the King's Flight. When George VI and Queen Elizabeth made a royal tour of South Africa in the spring of 1947, O'Hara formed part of the crew of the No 3 aircraft carrying the Royal Household staff. At the end of 1947, he left the RAF to become an air traffic controller with the Civil Aviation Authority. After appointments at Speke (Liverpool airport) and Ringway, Manchester, O'Hara became a radar consultant at the headquarters of the CAA in London. He finally retired in 1974. A keen gardener and long-serving member of the Chester Golf Club, O'Hara maintained close links with his former colleagues in the Pathfinder and Aircrew Associations.