Flying Officer Harold Andrew Westhaver
On 15th February 1943, Flying Officer Harold Andrew Westhaver and Pilot Officer William Lane, of 403 Squadron RCAF, took off from Kenley to look for targets of opportunity on the ground in France.
The cloudy weather was ideal for a “Rhubarb” and the pair crossed into France north of Ault and successfully attacked a goods locomotive between Chepy and Le Treport. Sweeping south, they found their next target in the marshalling yards near Gomaches – another locomotive and goods cars. Westhaver had to climb sharply to avoid a chimney and Lane observed a puff of black smoke come from Westhaver’s Spitfire Vb (AD231) which he thought was due to the boost applied by the pilot. There was no sign of enemy aircraft or flak. At 1,500ft, he saw Westhaver jettison his hood, bale out and his parachute open fully at 1000ft. Lane turned for home, uncertain of the fate of his comrade.
HAROLD ANDREW WESTHAVER was born on the 29th December, 1919, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. His parents were Andrew Harold Westhaver, who worked for North American Life Assurance, and Vera May Westhaver (nee Noods). Harold had two brothers, Donald, who was overseas in 1943, and David, who was still living in the family home in Regina, Saskatchewan, as was Harold’s half sister Dorothy Grace.
After leaving school in 1938, Harold went to work as a clerk at Dominion Bank. He tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1939, but his application was left “pending”, so he continued to be employed at the bank until June 1940, when his second attempt to enlist was successful. He was assessed as a “splendid officer type” from a “very fine family background”.
Harold was sent to Regina and made a good start with his training at No.2 Initial Training School. In early September, 1940, he moved on to No.6 Elementary Flying Training School at Prince Albert. He showed a talent for flying early on but it was noted that he “required considerable discipline”. This pattern continued at No.4 Service Flying Training School, where his instructor noted that he only needed more aerobatic practice to become a really good pilot, but was “badly disciplined.”
Harold received his “wings” on 28th January, 1941. He was sent overseas to England in early March and posted to No.10 Bombing and Gunnery School at Dumfries, where he flew 250 hours in Fairey Battles and 100 hours in Blackburn Bothas. From there he went to No.58 Operational Training Unit at RAF Grangemouth and was posted to his first fighter squadron, No.421, on 21st May, 1942. A move to 401 squadron at Gravesend, followed on the 17th June, but it was during the squadron’s short spell at Lympne, in August, that Westhaver shared in the probable destruction of an FW190 on the 17th, and then damaged an FW190 on the 19th.
He was still with 401 squadron, when they moved from Biggin Hill to Kenley on 23rd September, but when the squadron was sent north to Catterick to be rested, on 23rd January 1943, Westhaver didn’t go with them. It seems possible that, like fellow 401 pilots Godefroy and MacDonald, he asked to be transferred to 403 squadron who were short of experienced pilots, and remain at Kenley, close to the action.
Flying Officer Westhaver was killed in action on 15th February 1943. “Westy’s” Spitfire crashed five miles South-East of Le Treport, after he baled out, but the cause of his death is unclear.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.