Sergeant Phillip Trehearn - 102 Squadron  
   

Sergeant Philip Leonard Newell Trehearn - RAFVR

 

Sergeant Philip "Len" Trehearn was serving as Observer on board Halifax Mk.II R9448 for an air test on April 14, 1942. The aircraft was seen to stall and spin into the ground six miles North East of Ripon, Yorkshire after attempting some left and right turns, the entire crew was killed.

The rest of the crew were:

Name Service Hometown  Age
F/L Harry Williams  RAFVR Brook, Kent 26
Sgt John Morris  RAAF Nundah,Queensland,Australia 21
Sgt Noel Grimoldby  RAFVR Scunthorpe 19
F/L Henry Ross  RAF Penarth,Glamorgan 33
Sgt Kenneth Sutton  RAFVR Blaengarw,Wales 23
Sgt Kenneth OíConnelly  RAFVR Esh,Co.Durham 22
LAC John Livesey RAFVR Blackburn,Lancs. 21

 Sergeant Philip "Len" Trehearn was the son of Philomen and Alice Trehearn and brother of Vernon and Iris of Rhyl. His father served in the air force in WW1 and upon his return, was a prominent member of the Red Cross and behind the creation of the Garden of Remembrance in Rhyl. Len was married to Margaret (Baines) and had a son, Philip Jr., he was twenty nine years of age when he was killed.

 The early mark Halifaxes were prone to a condition known as "rudder overbalance" which was due to a large rudder surface mounted to a vertical stabilizer that was too small. The design flaw often resulted in the Halifax entering an irrecoverable spin during sometimes basic maneuvres such as medium or steep turns. Many aircrew lost their lives due to the shortcoming and it quite possibly could have been the cause of the crash that killed Sgt Trehearn and his crew.

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Len at Rhyl, 1941

Len wrote the following letter to his brother Vernon (an RAF Wireless Operator serving in India) in July of 1941:

Dear Vernon,

Many thanks for your letter and regrets that I havenít replied sooner. You may gather how little time Iíve had from the fact that tonightís op. trip will be my fifth op since last Thursday.

Well, life on a squadron, without the op.trips,would be o.k. Itís certainly the best part of the service life I have yet come across. As dad may have told you, my first op. trip was a very shaky do and although I didnít realize at the time, I was very lucky to get back.

Eight planes out of the eighteen that took off failed to get back and out of my flight of six crews, only two got back. The observer in the other kite was a laddie who came from Kinloss with me and had been with me for the last nine months. Unfortunately,he got ďhisĒ this following Monday, so that after one week, I was the only observer left in the flight! Two crew came back off leave and we borrowed another from another flight, but on the  Thursday one of those didnít get back, so, so far you truly can count himself  darn lucky. The first trip I had to Bremen, was a  hectic  affair, but I was too darned ignorant to realise the spot we were in. Seachlights had us for twenty minutes and heavy flak was going ďclumpĒ against the side of the plane. One hunk of shrapnel came right through my Perspex window in the bomb hatch, just after I had left there. During all this, I was completely unmoved, thinking it was just the normal type of thing met with, but losing so many kites and crews in one night, badly shook the whole station. It wasnít until the following Tuesday, and Coulby,(Sgt.F.Coulby kia 1.7.1941,op.Duisberg),the bloke I mentioned had failed to get back, that Ďs when I fully realised what had happened. I began to feel a little shaky myself then and on Thursday last, a trip to Essen-a hot spot-had me rather nervous. Still all was o.k., although two fellows sharing this room with me, were among the ďnow finishedĒ.

Friday nightís ďdoĒ was to Brest a fairly easy ďdoĒ, it brought my confidence back. On Sunday it was Dortmund, and on Monday, Osnabruk. Tonight it is Aachen, a fairly easy show, or at least, that is how I regard it at the moment.

Iíve mentioned that I was a little shaken myself, during last week, but now I donít bother to think of the lads who didnít come back. Itís the missing faces, that give you the willies, not the trouble in the end. Itís a queer life, with all of us, to my mind, just like flies in a large web, waiting for the spider to feel hungry. Since war began only one observer from my flight has survived the thirty trips, but yours truly hopes to be number two. Iíve done six trips so far and now become quite hardened and  accustomed to this type of life. Tonightís show I am quite looking forward to, but Certainly hope that we have tomorrow night off. believe me, itís no joke doing two ops. in succession, and yesterday after having done four in five days, I just stayed in bed. We are a decent crew and the captain is a darn good pilot and Iíve tons of confidence in him, as I think he has in me. The navigation doesnít give me much trouble and the W/Op. knows his stuff. I expect you will be nearly through your course by now and you should find it interesting work, if you can get on to same work, that is concerned with operations. I got a real kick out of letting those bombs go on their way and when we left Osnabruk at 2.20 a.m. yesterday morning the place was well and truly burning.

At this place, all the air crew live outside the camp at a large place, an ex girls school called SÖell.field, you may possibly know of it. Itís out in the country but has an open air bathing pool, cricket, tennis and a river running through the grounds, so you can imagine it is an ideal spot in this weather. I havenít yet been to Harrogate and if there is anyone you know from  old days, Iíll give them a look up.

The food here is not too good for an operational station, in fact darned poor, but still, I suppose could have been worse. From Saturday next I shall be living out. Margaret is coming up and I have managed to find quite good digs.

There is no official day off in this place as I have to be here at  9 each morning, providing there has been no trip the previous night. I have asked pop for his cycle  as otherwise on Sundays, I wouldnít be able to get here from Thirsk before 10.30. I know, you said you wanted it, at one time, but this is for a better cause! you probably only needed it to get to the nearest pub! Donít , under any circumstances, mention anything of what I have told you about ops to the family. I  told pop about the first show and it made him very worried, so Margaret tells me. When Iíve survived the next twenty-four, there will be lots Iíll tell them.

If, as I shall, come through the next twenty six I shall imagine I have a fair chance of a commission, but just a fair chance.

Well, its nine oíclock and as take off is at 10.25,Iíve to be getting along. Iíll write again as soon as I have time

Cheerio

Len

ďLenĒ Trehearn was a relation of Albert Bates of 429 squadron and John Trehearn of 102 squadron both were also to be killed on operations with Bomber Command.

 

Photos courtesy of Phil Trehearn, research by Linda Ibrom