Reg Howard died on 11th October. He was 93. After joining up he completed his technical training at Cosford before being posted to 74 Squadron in 1940. Years later he recalled: “I arrived during the late evening due to the train services being disrupted by occasional air raid warnings and after a short walk towards the aerodrome I was challenged with ‘Halt! Who goes there!’ and surrounding me were five armed Home Guard gentlemen with their rifles at the ready and wanting to know who I was and demanding to see my identity papers. I immediately showed these and my instructions to report to RAF Rochford. After a few minutes they let me go. When I reported to the Guard Room I was told to find the Orderly Sergeant and he in turn showed me a very odd looking kind of long hut which was once part of the pre-war aerodrome and had obviously been taken over by the RAF.
During the very early hours of the morning I was woken by lots of shouting and people hurrying about. Apparently the ‘drome was in danger of being hit by German bombers and most people were told to get into the shelters immediately. Nobody seemed to worry about me however so I went back to sleep until later in the morning when I went to find the Airmen’s Dining Room and made myself known to other 74 people and immediately felt comfortable. They told me to go back to the Orderly Sergeant and he showed me the ropes as regards everyday routine. He also pointed to a Spitfire standing in a bay and told me to give it a good D.I. Fortunately my recent instruction at Technical School paid off. When I had finished I reported to the Sergeant i/c and he told me to sign the form confirming the job had been carried out satisfactorily. Shortly afterwards I saw a pilot walking towards the Spitfire and a member of the groundcrew stood on the wing and helped him do up his harness. The ground crew chap patted the pilot on the shoulder and stepped down.
A while later a fellow airman told me the Sergeant i/c wanted to see me ‘at once’. I reported to him and was shouted at and called an idiot plus a few other choice names. Apparently the pilot had reported that the top of the Glycol tank hadn’t been tightened and consequently the fluid started to leak. It was lucky the pilot decided to abort his sortie and land otherwise his screen would have been covered making it impossible to see anything. The fact that the pilot was Sailor Malan really shattered my confidence for a while – until later in the day I was told to report in person to the great man himself. I shall never forget the way he spoke to me. He was like a father figure and he talked about the comradeship and care each squadron member should have for each other. So, in future, I should not forget this and remember that each action taken means that somebody’s life would depend on it.”