The Airmen's Stories - P/O H H Crawford
Hector Hugh Crawford was born at Hawera, New Zealand on 25th August 1916 and attended New Plymouth Boys High School. He subsequently worked as a clerk until joining the Customs Department in 1937. Crawford learned to fly privately in early 1938 and in May 1939 he joined the Civil Reserve of Pilots. He was called up for the RNZAF at the outbreak of war. On 26th October he went to the Ground Training School at Weraroa, was then posted to 2 EFTS New Plymouth in late November and on 18th December 1939 he went to 2 FTS Woodbourne.
After gaining his flying badge and being promoted to Sergeant, Crawford completed his training and was commissioned in early May 1940. He sailed in the SS Mataroa for the UK on the 24th and on arrival he was posted to No. 1 (Coastal) OTU at Silloth.
Crawford converted to flying Blenheims and was posted to 235 Squadron at Bircham Newton on 18th August 1940. He flew ninety operational sorties and shared in destroying a Do18 on 18th November 1940 off the Danish Coast. His next posting was to 143 Squadron at Thornaby on 14th July 1941. He moved to 272 Squadron at Kemble on 19th August and on the 30th took off in his Beaufighter from Portreath, bound for Gibraltar and then the Middle East, via Malta.
After arriving at Edku in Egypt, Crawford was immediately attached to 252 Squadron and flew back to Malta to carry out operational sorties from Luqa against targets in Sicily and Sardinia. Crawford rejoined 272 Squadron in Egypt on 8th October 1941 and began operations, during the early course of which he shot down a Ju52.
On 19th December he took off to strafe the Barce-Tocra road. His Beaufighter was damaged by ground fire and after coaxing it along he finally made a crash-landing in the desert 50 miles northwest of El Mechili. Another pilot, whom Crawford had picked up in similar circumstances, saw his plight and landed a mile away. After setting fire to their aircraft, Crawford and his navigator ran towards their would-be rescuer. As they came over a rise, they heard machine-gun fire and the Beaufighter was forced to take off without them, the two men were captured by a convoy of German armoured cars. They travelled for two days but at dawn on the third Crawford escaped after a sentry left him alone for a few minutes. The Germans chased him for half an hour but he eluded them by hiding next to a dead camel. Having injured his ankle, Crawford was soon unable to walk but he was found by some Bedouin tribesmen, who fed and cared for him. He met some British troops on the 27th and rejoined 272 four days later.
On 6th February 1942 Crawford was shot down by ground fire whilst making a low-level attack on enemy vehicles near Martuba in Beaufighter IC T4875 'H'. He attempted to land but crashed on uneven ground and the aircraft caught fire. Some time later his navigator, Sgt. Patterson, returned to the squadron. Although wounded, he had managed to get clear after the crash. He could see Crawford lying amongst the wreckage but because of his own wound, the intense heat and danger from exploding ammunition, he could not reach him. Crawford was then unconscious or already dead and later he was reported by the Red Cross to have been buried in a military cemetery near Barce.
After the war his remains were re-interred in Benghazi Military Cemetery.
Above cemetery images courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project