Former member of top secret RAF group celebrates 100th birthday

Harry Reed, former RAF pilot

Harry Reed, who lives in Cromer and was an RAF pilot during the Second World War, celebrated his 100th birthday on May 25. - Credit: Daniel Hickey

A former member of the once top secret 100 group of RAF pilots has celebrated his 100th birthday.

Harry Reed, who lives in Cromer, enjoyed tea and cake with friends and family on May 25.

The scene was a far cry from his experiences during the Second World War, when he flew daring nighttime sorties over continental Europe, supporting bombers by fighting German planes.

Mr Reed was based at Little Snoring and Great Massingham, where he was a member of 169 squadron, part of the No 100 Group RAF, an electronic warfare unit that was headquartered at Bylaugh Hall in Norfolk.

Harry Reed RAF

Harry Reed was a member of the once top secret No 100 Group RAF during the Second World War. - Credit: Courtesy of the Reed family

The 100 Group was a special duties group in bomber command, developing electronic warfare and countermeasure equipment.

"I was a night fighter," Mr Reed says.

The pilots flew in darkness, guided only by radar as far as the coast of the Netherlands, where the signals were jammed. On some nights Mr Reed saw the glow of the fires from bomb damage in Berlin.

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His targets were German aircraft which were attacking Allied bombers.

"To some it was frightening," Mr Reed said.

"But for me it was the darker the better, because I was cloaked in the darkness. Only the radar gave us insight about what was happening."

Mr Reed, who was born in Stockton-on-Tees, had first signed up for the RAF in 1940, when he was 18-years-old.

He was initially offered the role of gunner but told a recruiting officer that he wanted to be a pilot.

Training took place in Devon, then the USA with the US Air Corps, before he returned to the UK.

Harry Reed with his 100th birthday cake

Harry Reed, who lives in Cromer, celebrated his 100th birthday with friends and family on May 25. - Credit: Courtesy of the Reed family

Mr Reed remembers a funny incident from his training days, when he was flying a Spearman - a bi-plane - with his instructor. 

"We were coming in to land on the airfield but I was running out of grass. I was very short so it was a long time before I got to the brakes.

"By the time I got there the instructor had also got to his. We both pressed the brakes at the same time, and the plane somersaulted."

He flew 19 different types of aircraft including Mercurys and Mosquitos.

Harry Reed with his RAF logbooks from the Second World War.

Harry Reed with his RAF logbooks from the Second World War. - Credit: Daniel Hickey

After the war, Mr Reed stayed in the RAF until 1950, when he joined the Air Ministry. He then moved to Norfolk where he became a farmer and met his wife, Barbara.

They lived in East Raynham and then Felbrigg before settling in Cromer.