Group Captain Dickie Haine DFC
Group Captain Dickie Haine D.F.C.
Born: October 1st 1916 St. Stephens, Gloucester. Died: September 30th 2008 Age: 91
Group Captain Dickie Haine, who has died aged 91, was shot down attacking an airfield near Rotterdam on the day the Germans mounted their Blitzkrieg on Holland; he managed to crash-land, and a few days later returned to England aboard the Royal Navy destroyer evacuating Queen Wilhelmina and her government.
Haine was the pilot of one of six Blenheim fighters of No 600 Squadron ordered to attack the key airfield at Waalhaven, where German Junkers 52 transport aircraft and parachute troops were reported to be landing.
In order to avoid casualties to the Dutch people, the British Cabinet ordered that fighters rather than bombers should try to destroy the Junkers. It was a disastrous decision, resulting in five of the Blenheims being shot down within minutes of machine-gunning the aircraft on the ground.
Having set one of the enemy transports on fire, Haine pulled away from the target. As he did so he was attacked by a wave of German fighters. His gunner managed to shoot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109, but with one of his two engines on fire Haine was forced to crash-land on a mudflat. Only one Blenheim managed to limp home after the gallant but hopeless attack.
Haine and his gunner made contact with the Dutch Army and two days later arrived at The Hague, where the British air attaché assisted them. Shortly after they had boarded the destroyer Hereward, Queen Wilhelmina and her party arrived and the ship sailed for Harwich. A few weeks later Haine was awarded the DFC for his actions over Holland.
Richard Cummins Haine was born on October 1 1916 at St Stephens, Gloucester, and educated at the Crypt Grammar School in the city. After a five-shilling flight in an Avro of the Cobham Flying Circus, Dickie was determined to fly.
He took an apprenticeship at the Gloster Aircraft Company and spent his spare time at the Cotswold Flying Club. He flew solo in a Gipsy Moth in August 1935 and a few days later responded to an Air Ministry call for direct-entry sergeant pilots. Within six months he had qualified as an RAF pilot.
Haine joined No 25 Squadron in Kent to fly the elegant Hawker Fury bi-plane fighter. He took part in the last Hendon air display and after converting to the Gladiator was assessed as an exceptional fighter pilot.
His squadron was re-equipped with the twin-engine Blenheim night fighter, and – the day after the Second World War broke out – Haine piloted one of the three aircraft scrambled on the RAF’s first night defensive patrol of the war. On February 1 1940 he was commissioned and joined No 600 (City of London) Squadron.
Five days after being shot down he returned to his squadron, which had moved to Manston, in Kent, just as the Battle of Britain opened. The airfield came under constant attack and the squadron was forced to withdraw to Hornchurch, Essex.
He flew night patrols, but the aircraft’s radar equipment was very rudimentary and few interceptions were made. Haine remained in the night fighter force, flying the Defiant and the Beaufighter.
By June 1943 he was a wing commander and chief instructor at a night fighter training unit, and in January 1944 he became CO of No 488 (NZ) Squadron flying Mosquitoes. He flew beachhead patrols on D-Day, and on the night of August 4 he shot down a Junkers 88 bomber over Normandy. During the night of September 1st he and his navigator, while patrolling south of Caen, had a second success when they intercepted and destroyed another Junkers 88.
He was next appointed to No 302 Wing, forming up in preparation for service in the Pacific. The Wing sailed in early July but arrived in the theatre as the Japanese surrender was announced. No 302 was immediately diverted to Hong Kong to assist in the rehabilitation of the colony, and Haine was appointed to the staff of Rear Admiral Harcourt, the designated Military Governor.
Haine arrived on September 4 and took over the airfield at Kai Tak, with RAF Regiment personnel providing security. His party was confronted by widespread destruction and a great deal of looting, but his priority was to open the damaged airfield and arrange for the air evacuation of the Allied PoWs, who had suffered much privation. After a year, in which he still found time to fly most aircraft that operated from the airfield, he left for a staff appointment in Singapore.
On his return to England in January 1948, Haine went to the Central Fighter Establishment, where he was responsible for developing tactics for the RAF’s new jet fighters. After an appointment in the Air Ministry, he left for Iraq in September 1954 to command the Flying Wing of two Venom squadrons at the large RAF airfield at Habbaniyah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.
With plenty of flying, expeditions into the desert and sailing on the nearby lake, it was an appointment much to his liking.
Shortly before leaving he hosted a visit by King Faisal, and made the preparations for the withdrawal of the RAF and the handing over of the airfield to the Iraqis.
Haine returned to command the airfield at Turnhouse (now Edinburgh Airport) before a very busy two years in charge of administration at the large RAF base at Akrotiri in Cyprus. For this work he was appointed OBE.
As staff officer flying at the Ministry of Aviation, Haine was responsible for the supervision of all test-flying of military aircraft by civil manufacturers, giving him the opportunity to add more aircraft types to the impressive number that he had flown. On a visit to the United States with a party from the Empire Test Pilots’ School he flew the USAF’s latest fighters, including the Phantom.
In September 1964 he took command of RAF Lindholme, the home of Bomber Command’s Bombing School, training radar navigators for the V-force and bomb aimers for the RAF’s Canberra squadrons. After staff appointments at the headquarters of Strike Command and Support Command, he retired from the RAF.
Throughout his RAF career Haine had taken every opportunity to fly, even when on a ground appointment. He qualified on 94 different types and flew 18 others as a second pilot.
After a period in the insurance industry as a service liaison officer, a post he did not enjoy, Haine, always a keen sailor, became the harbourmaster of a large marina at Leamington, on the River Orwell. He enjoyed the outdoor life, spending much time hiking and sailing. He was in demand at airshows and Battle of Britain events, and in 2005 published his autobiography, From Fury to Phantom.
Dickie Haine died on the eve of his 92nd birthday. A wartime marriage ended in divorce, and in 1948 he married Evelyn Benton, who survives him with their two sons and a daughter from his first marriage. A daughter from his second marriage predeceased him.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.