Flight Lieutenant Harry Thomas James Anderson
Harry Anderson joined the Royal Air Force on a short-service commission in 1936, he went on to train at No.10 Flying Training School RAF Ternhill between September 1936 and April 1937.
On completion, as an Acting Pilot Officer, he was posted to No.23 Squadron at RAF Northolt on 25 April. However, it would appear he did not join the squadron as he returned to Canada via New York after departing Southampton on 21 April 1937. He was joined on his passage by Pilot Officer Alan E Thompson, both gave 10 FTS as their last UK address. He resigned his commission on 1 March 1938. With rising tensions in Europe, Pilot officer Anderson was recalled to the colours, he arrived back at Southampton on board the Aquitania on 5 September 1939.
No.253 (Hyderabad) Squadron reformed at Manston on 30 October 1939, planned as a convoy protection unit using Blenheims. However, by December, the squadron started receiving the Fairey Battle with fifteen on strength at the turn of the year.
Pilot Officer Harry Anderson was one of the original thirteen officers of the reformed unit, being almost immediately promoted to Acting Flying Officer. During the first half of January 1940, the squadron carried out “un-official co-operation in fighter tactics” with 79 Squadron. On the 15th, the squadron heard it was being recommended as a Hurricane unit, by the end of the month No.253 had one Hurricane to complement their fifteen Battles. Harry Anderson was obviously making a good impression with his seniors as he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 12 February, the promotion back-dated to 2 November 1939.
The squadron moved to RAF Northolt between 14 and 18 February and continued their re-equipment. The remaining Battles were used in interception exercises, this practise continued throughout March even as the squadron came up to a full establishment of Hurricanes. Training in their new mounts continued and on 27 April,No.253 became day and night operational; their Hurricanes were further improved by the fitting of variable pitch propellers and reflector gun-sights.
The beginning of May saw the squadron move to RAF Kenley, just before the German invasion of the west. As a result, on 16 May, aircraft and personnel from “B” Flight were detached to France to operate there. The remaining “A” Flight was then joined with a flight from No.111 Squadron to form a composite squadron. Their role was to fly to Poix each morning, operate from there during the day and return to Kenley at dusk. The same day Flight Lieutenant Anderson was launched, with his flight, to intercept a formation of eighteen German aircraft but no contact was made.
The following day, 18 May, Anderson’s flight was launched to intercept a formation of twenty German aircraft a mix of Do215s and Me.110s. In the ensuing combat, the pilots received credit for the confirmed downing of three Do.215s, unconfirmed claims for two Do.215s and a Me.110. Anderson was one of the pilots with an unconfirmed claim. Later that afternoon the other flight lost four aircraft and one pilot in an engagement with enemy aircraft. The next day, Anderson again took off with his flight – they were directed to attack Me.109s that had shot down a Lysander. As a result of the combat, one confirmed and one unconfirmed claim were made, however Flight Lieutenant Anderson and Sergeant Mackenzie were both shot down and killed.
Harry Thomas James Anderson had arrived in Britain as a young boy with his family in May 1920. He had been born on 19 September 1911 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba; the son of Harry and Kate (nee Dales) Anderson. He was the youngest of three children, the eldest his sister Dorothy and brother Gregory. He had married Genevra L. Whitaker in October 1939, just before joining his squadron. After his death, Genevra left for Canada the following month on the “Duchess of Bedford” from Liverpool. Her home prior to departure had been Homefield House, Old Coulsdon.
Flight Lieutenant Harry Thomas James Anderson is buried in Lille Southern Cemetery, Plot 5, Row A, Grave 13.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.