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The Night I Was Born

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:11 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

On 16 September 1942, my father, Frederick Walter Darley, was on his first full bombing sortie over Germany. He had volunteered for the RAF even though he was in a reserved occupation. He completed his training at RAF Lichfield and returned home on leave. The photograph shows him far right with my elder brother, who was nearly four.

On 10 September 1942, he was transferred to 142 Squadron at RAF Grimsby as a member of a crew of a Vickers Wellington bomber. They flew a few training flights to satisfy the Squadron CO that they were ready for operations. They flew their first op on the night of 15 September. This was a 'gardening' op, which was a coded description for dropping sea mines referred to as 'vegetables'. Although described as a good trip, the crew encountered a bad thunderstorm on the return trip.

On 16 September, the Squadron was ordered to attack a target at Essen, Germany. Seven aircraft took off, three failing to return, one of which was my father's. His plane crashed near Dusseldorf. They lost contact with the crew at approximately 11.30pm which was the time I was born. He is buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

My only actual memory of the war was one night in 1944/45. We lived in Sheffield and the flying bombs were passing overhead. My new stepfather was standing at the front door, watching them heading towards the industrial East End. My brother and I were sitting under the big kitchen table pushed under the window to protect us from any flying glass. I was wearing a red wool boucle dressing gown with Mickey Mouse on the pocket, a hand-me-down from my brother.


Item list and details

A family photo taken on his last leave just before 10th September 1942. He is on the far right with my brother.

Person the story/items relate to

Sergeant Frederick Walter Darley

Person who shared the story/items

Josephine Darley

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my father.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID