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No. 144 Squadron Royal Air Force in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- No. 144 Squadron Royal Air Force during the Second World War -

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No. 144 Squadron Royal Air Force

   No 144 Squadron RFC was formed in 1918 at Port Said, Egypt, under the Palestine Brigade, Royal Air Force. It played an important role in the capture of the Turkish Fourth Army, and was disbanded in February 1919.
No 144 was re-formed as a bomber unit in 1937, flying Handley Page Hampdens at the outbreak of WWII, for armed reconnaissance over the North Sea. In February 1940 it dropped propaganda leaflets over Hamburg and other towns, flown security patrols and attacked a mine laying seaplane base at Hornum. No 144 operated with Bomber Command until 1942 with night-bombing attacks and mine laying expeditions, some daylight bombing of German warships and some night-intruder operations. In April 1942, No 144 was transferred to Coastal Command, a detachment moving to north Russia to protect Arctic convoys. The squadron then moved to Scotland at the end of 1942 for anti-submarine patrols and shipping strikes. It converted to Beaufighters in early 1943, flying them from North Africa for attacks on shipping in the Mediterranean. In 1944, No 144 covered the west flank of the Normandy landings and help destroy German naval forces in western France. It joined a strike wing in Lincolnshire for attacks on enemy convoys off the Dutch coast, and in September 1944 a detachment went to Scotland for similar missions off Norway. In early 1945 it became an anti-flak unit, and disbanded in May 1945.

Airfields No. 144 Squadron flew from:
  • RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire, from 3rd September 1939 (Hampden I)
  • RAF North Luffenham, Rutland, from 17th July 1941 (to Coastal Command)
  • RAF Leuchars, Fife, from 21st April 1942 (ex-Bomber Command. Hampden I, Beaufighter VIc)
  • Blida, Algeria from 25th June 1943
  • Protville 2, from 30th June 1943
  • RAF Tain, Caithness from 5th August 1943
  • RAF Wick, Caithness, from October 1943
  • RAF Davidstow Moore, Cornwall, from April 1944
  • RAF Strubby, Lincolnshire, from 1st July 1944
  • RAF Banff, Aberdeenshire, from September 1944
  • RAF Dallachy, Caithness, from October 1944
  • disbanded 25th May 1945


12th May 1940 Massed raid

13th May 1940 Bombing raids to the Low Countries

15th May 1940 Ops

1st Apr 1941 Hampden Lost

11th May 1941 Aircraft Lost

12th May 1941 144 Squadron Hampden lost

15th May 1941 Aircraft Lost

16th Jun 1941 Aircraft Lost

17th Jun 1941 Aircraft Lost

3rd Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

6th Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

9th Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

24th Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

30th Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

6th Aug 1941 Aircraft Lost

25th Aug 1941 Aircraft Lost

7th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

11th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

20th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

29th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

24th Oct 1941 Aircraft Lost

5th Nov 1941 Aircraft Lost

9th Nov 1941 Aircraft Lost

7th Dec 1941 Aircraft Lost

9th Dec 1941 Aircraft Lost

28th Dec 1941 Aircraft Lost

14th Jan 1942 Aircraft Lost

1st Apr 1942 Aircraft Lost

15th Apr 1942 144 Squadron Hampden lost

June 1943 Squadron Departure

24th Jul 1941 144 Squadron Hampden lost

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served with

No. 144 Squadron Royal Air Force

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Altmann Otto Reginald. Wing Cmdr.
  • Alvey Raymond Henry. Sgt. (d.22nd Nov 1942)
  • Box Alfred Joseph. Flt.Sgt. (d.2nd September 1941)
  • Leamy Edward Dennis. Sgt. (d.11th July 1940)
  • Porteous Thomas. Sgt. (d.6th Jul 1941)
  • Shields Harold. Sgt./Pilot
  • Stevens Peter. Sqd.Ldr.
  • Taft Stanley Eric. Sgt. (d.7th Sep 1941)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Sgt. Stanley Eric Taft 144 Squadron (d.7th Sep 1941)

Stanley Eric Taft was my uncle who, unfortunately, was a casualty in WW2. He was in 144 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and he died on 7th September 1941 at the age of 20.

He was a Wireless Operator at the time of his death. I understand the aircraft he was in (Hampden I) crashed shortly after take off at Empingham, RAF Woolfox Lodge in Rutland. The four man crew were all killed - other members of crew were, P/O R. J. Roake, Sgt. B. Hemmings and Sgt. E. Horton.

The Bomber Command Losses state that the crash took place at 2055 on the Empingham to Ketton Road, Rutland which was NE of the airfield, some 4 miles WSW of Stamford, Lincolnshire. It appears they were on a bombing run to Berlin. The cause of the crash is unknown, but it I understand it could possibly have been due to overload and the construction of this particular aircraft. Records inform us that the Hampden was later dropped and other more reliable aircraft used for the rest of WW2.

Pamela Jackson

Sgt. Edward Dennis Leamy 144 Squadron (d.11th July 1940)

Edward Leamy was one of four children of Michael Edward Leamy of Bradford, Yorkshire, and Annie Louise Croucher of Frittenden, Kent and he was living with his parents in Canterbury, Kent, at the start of the war. He was my third cousin, once removed.

He was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner on Handley Page Hampden P4366 of 144 Squadron, that was based at Hemswell, Lincolnshire, at the time and is listed in Larry Donnelly's "The Other Few". P4366 was taking part in a raid on Wanne-Eikel, which was the largest marshalling yard in the central Ruhr area, when it was hit by Flak and crashed near Kessel, in Holland. They were some 80 kilometers from their target but it is unclear whether they were shot down on their way in or on their way back.The crew of four were all killed and are buried alongside each other in Jonkerbos War Cemetery in Nijmegen, some 60 km from the crash site.

The crew were

  • Pilot Officer Ian Milne Hossack, aged 19, from Otford, Kent
  • Sergeant Eric Basil Hartley France, the Observer, aged 24, from the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
  • Sergeant Edward Dennis Leamy, a Wireless Operator / Air Gunner, aged 20, from Canterbury, Kent.
  • Sergeant Clarence Rose, a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. Although no accurate details have been traced it seems probable that Sergeant Rose was aged 20 and from Rotherham, Yorkshire.

Chris Buckingham

Sqd.Ldr. Peter "Steve" Stevens MC. 144 Squadron

Peter Stevens (born Georg Franz Hein) was the only German Jew known to have flown bombers in the RAF in World War 2. He was sent to safety in London by his widowed mother in early 1934 (aged 14), Hein learned English and graduated from Regent Street Polytechnic in 1936. After a year at the LSE, he began working, but immaturity and bad feelings towards his mother got in the way. Gambling away the remainder of his family fortune (which had been sent to England for his care, and that of his two siblings), Hein got into trouble with the law, and in July '39 was sentenced to 3 months for petty theft. Released from prison 6 weeks early on Sept 1 (the day the Nazis invaded Poland), Hein committed identity theft, taking the name of a dead Polytechnic classmate, Peter Stevens.

Rather than reporting to a police station as an enemy alien (which would have meant internment for the duration), the reincarnated Peter Stevens reported to an enlistment station and joined the Royal Air Force for training as a fighter pilot. Selected instead for bombers, he was the object of a Metropolitan Police manhunt during the 18 months he trained, and the 5 months he was flying combat operations as a Hampden pilot.

Joining 144 Squadron in April '41, Stevens flew 22 combat ops before his aircraft was damaged by flak over Berlin on Sept 7 '41. He order his crew to bail out, and one rear gunner, Sgt Ivor Roderick Fraser was killed when his parachute failed to open. The other air gunner, Sgt Thompson, was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW. Stevens realized that the aircraft was marginally flyable, and made it back as far as Amsterdam before he ran out of fuel and force-landed in a farmer's field. He destroyed the secret bits and set fire to the wreckage before setting out cross-country with his Navigator, Sgt Alan Payne. They were captured by German troops within a day.

Stevens, as a POW in his own country, was without protection under the Geneva Convention (as he was still a German citizen). For 3 years and 8 months, he lived with the knowledge that the Nazis could take him out of the prison camp at any time and execute him legally. Nonetheless, he went on to become one of the most ardent escapers of the war. Stevens made 8 escape attempts, and got outside the wire 3 times, but was recaptured each time.

In October '41, just a month after being captured, he and a Canadian pilot (W/C W. J. "Mike" Lewis) jumped off a Nazi prison train in a hail of bullets, and went to the home of Stevens' mother in Hannover. Looking for civilian clothing, food and money, they discovered instead that Stevens' mother had committed suicide 6 weeks before the outbreak of hostilities.

On May 17, 1946, Stevens was awarded the Military Cross for his escape activities, one of only 69 members of the RAF to receive the medal for bravery on the ground. Another of his attempts was characterized in a London newspaper on May 18, 1946 as "The Boldest Escape Attempt of the War".

Stevens was naturalized as a British citizen in 1946, and was then recruited to MI6 in 1947. He served 5 years in MI6 as an operative against the Soviets in Germany. He emigrated to Canada in 1952, married in 1953 and had two sons. Stevens died of a heart attack brought on by chemotherapy in 1979 in Toronto. Sgt Fraser has no known grave, but is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

The biography of Peter Stevens, 'Escape, Evasion and Revenge', was published by Pen and Sword Aviation in 2009.

Marc Stevens

Sgt. Thomas Porteous 144 Squadron (d.6th Jul 1941)

Thomas Porteous who died aged 25 was born in Jarrow in 1915 to William Scott Porteous and Mary Porteous (nee Harvey) of Jarrow.

Thomas is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial and is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.

Vin Mullen

Sgt. Raymond Henry Alvey 144 Sqdn. (d.22nd Nov 1942)

Raymond Alvey was my mother's younger brother. He was in the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was called up in September 1939. He served in Coastal Command with 120, 489 and 144 squadrons as a wireless operator/air gunner. He was on an operation over the Norwegian coast in a Handley Page Hampden, when he was shot down and reported 'missing believed killed in action'. Raymond's father (my grandfather) George Alvey spent a lot of time trying to find out the details but to no avail. Later research suggests that his body was probably recovered by the Germans and buried at sea, although this is not confirmed. Raymond's fellow crew members were Sqn Ldr John Richard Darbyshire Hird, Sgt Davidson William Hepplewhite and Sgt Robert John Coles.

David Venner

Recomended Reading.

Available at discounted prices.

Escape, Evasion and Revenge

Marc Stevens

This book tells a truly remarkable story. To his family in post-war Canada Peter Stevens was a war hero, a member of RAF bomber command, and a prisoner of war who had been familiar with most of the key figures in the Great Escape. He had been born in Germany to Christian parents and sent to England in the 1930's to avoid the Nazis, although this was a closely guarded secret- to everbody else he was British born. Only after his father;s death did Marc Stevens begin to learn the truth. His father had indeed been born in Germany, as Georg Franz Hein, to Jewish parents. His mother had managed to send all three of her children to safety in Britain before the war, eventually committing suicide in Germany. Georg had spent several years in British schools and one year at the LSE before getting a job, but after that his life went downhill, he was arrested and sentenced to nine months in prison for a series of thefts.

Stevens went through a most remarkable transformation. On 1 September 1

More information on:

Escape, Evasion and Revenge


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