Flight Sergeant Harold Mark Batters
On 4th December, 1942, 401 and 402 Squadrons, RCAF, took part in a ‘Rodeo’ 115 – a large fighter sweep, led by Wing Commander Fee DFC.
They rendezvoused over Kenley and had reached 12,000ft by the time they crossed the English coast at Dungeness, turning south and flying parallel to the French coast to gain more height, with time in hand. Enemy aircraft were reported inland so they turned south of Boulogne, at 25,000ft and climbed towards Audruicq. They had reached 28,000ft when they caught sight of several FW190’s and made a head-on attack from above. However, the advantage of height brought its own dangers – as well as the perils of oxygen failure, 401 found frost creeping over their windscreens, hampering their visibility with disastrous consequences.
The 401 Squadron Operations Record book states:
The Wing had penetrated about ten miles inland (France) when Sgt. B. Nickel went into a spin and is thought to have crashed, as smoke was seen coming from a spot on the ground shortly after. This was not a result of enemy action and it is thought that Sgt. Nickel must have had some trouble with his oxygen supply, causing him to black out, from which he never recovered. P/O J. W. Fiander and Sgt. H. M. Batters were never seen [after a combat] but ops room reported that they had both baled out over the sea. P/O Fiander was later picked up by the ASR patrol and taken to the naval hospital at Dover where it was found he had been wounded in the left knee. A search was made until dusk for Sgt. Batters but without success.
Harold Mark ‘Hank’ Batters, was born 2nd September, 1918, at Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba, Canada. His Father, Harold Edward Batters, was from an Irish family, but born in Manitoba. His Mother, Rowena Selina Ellwood, was born in Hull, Iowa, U.S.A. – her family had emigrated from England. Batters had at least two brothers – Wilmot Edward and Allan Edward who died in infancy.
Hank was brought up working for his Father on the farm. He was interested in raising pure-bred cattle, taking part in the activities of the Boys’ Cattle Club of Portage and the Seed Grain Club. Having completed his Junior Matriculation, he left school aged 18, to work full-time on the farm.
On 15th August, 1940, Hank joined the Non-Permanent Active Militia of Canada and served as a Trooper with the Manitoba Mounted Rifles, until 10th March, 1941, when he transferred to the RCAF, enlisting on 12th.
His Initial Training commenced on 9th June, 1941, when he joined Course No.28, at No.2 ITS, Regina, Saskatchewan. Although he wasn’t a particularly fast learner, he was praised for his enthusiasm and hard work – “good pilot material” according to his assessor. Batters moved on to Course No.34, at No.14 Elementary Flying Training School, Portage-la-Prairie, and got his first taste of flight, proving to be a smooth and reliable pilot with a talent for instrument flying. He passed his course and was sent on to No.11 Service Flying Training School, at Yorktown. Although his instructors criticised his lack of initiative and ‘dash,’ Mark was awarded his ‘wings’ on 5th December, 1941.
Batters was posted overseas to the UK, leaving Canada on 8th January, 1942. After a spell at No.5 SFTS and No.52 Operational Training Unit, he was off to No.167 Squadron, for training only. On 10th August, 1942, Batters was posted to No.401 Squadron, at Lympne. On 16th August, Hank went back to No.52OTU at Aston Down, for a visit. Having landed and parked his aircraft, it was hit by an OTU pilot in a Spitfire, shearing off the tail assembly and fuselage. Needless to say, Batters aircraft was damaged beyond repair!
401 Squadron moved to Biggin Hill on 20th August and then to Kenley on 24th September. Batters flew operations regularly with the Squadron through the Autumn, until he was killed in action on 4th December.
Heartbreakingly, it seems that Hank was engaged at the time of his death. In his book, “High Blue Battle,” Dave McIntosh quotes a letter received by 401 Squadron on 27th December, 1942, from Barbara Gardiner, asking for the return of the belongings of Sgt. Batters, “You see,” she wrote, ” Hank and I were due to have been married on May 15th and it seems as if the whole world has crashed.”
Batters Lake, southwest of Wabishkok Lake, Manitoba, Canada was named after Fl/Sgt. Harold Mark Batters in 1988.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.