Biography of  Ben May

Flight Engineer, 420 Squadron RCAF, Bomber Command, RAF, WWII

    Regarding myself and my RAF years,  I was only 13 when the war started, evacuated in 1940 to all places the midlands, between Brimingham and Coventry. I didn't stay long though and returned to my home in Thanet in time to watch the second half of the Battle of Britain. I joined the ATC in 1942 and volunteered for aircrew when I was 17. I was called up in Feb. 1944 as F/E u/t and sent to Locking after ITW in Cornwall. Then on to St. Athan, passing out on my 19th. birthday. Spot of leave, then attached to the R.C.A.F. who were short of flight engineers, joined my crew and after HCU and posted to 420 Squadron in December 1944. I see from my log book that my first flight in a Halifax was on Jan 2nd. 1945..! We went on to do 11 op's before the end of the war, but as we all know now, the war was virtually over by then. However, we didn't know that and they were still shooting at us, and we saw an ME 163, also watched a V2 fired from Belgium whilst on our way home early one morning.

   Among our op's were one or two quite spectacular ones such as the long flight down to Leipzig in daylight on April 10th., and the Heligoland raid on the 18th. This was remembered mostly for the Lancaster which went in several thousnd feet below, and just in front of us dropping a 'grand slam' bomb on the intersection of the two runways. Also for flying through the wreckage of a Hailfax which exploded just in front of us. Other things of note were three trips to Hamburg in one week, and a very hairy trip to Munster on March 25th for which we took MZ 620, the spare Hally from 425 squadron, ours going u/s at the last moment. This was due for an engine change and we went over the target some minutes after, and quite a bit below the others picking up a few holes in the process.

   I also note that we had two fighter encounters on the night of April 8th. and had to land away from base.

   After V-E day I was remustered and trained as fitter/marine with the intention of joining air/sea rescue services in the Pacific for the expected invasion of Japan. The atom bomb however put an end to this and I finished my service in 1947 on marine-craft in Singapore.

   My business life since then has been in photography - firstly commercial work in general, then a spell in the aviation world but unwanted after the S.R.53 which I was busy with was cancelled in 1957. I returned to my own neck of the woods and started my own business which has kept us in groceries ever since.

   I did a lot of aviation pictures, including concorde air-to-air and still fly with a friend who owns a Cessna. I also still fly radio controlled models which keep the old reflexes in trim. One final thing - to complete the picture so to speak, I took one of my models up to Yorkshire and flew it from my old runway at Tholthorpe..!

   That's enough bull, I'll attach a few pictures which you might find interesting, the first is my crew, our skipper Les Rush from Vancouver is in the middle and yours truly in the long streak on the right.

Rush Crew, 420 Squadron RCAF

   Then a couple of bombing up PT-R and a couple of me, one at the F/E panel, and one by the wheel (big weren't they ?)

Bombing Up, PT-R (Halifax Bmk.3) being bombed up for a daylight raid on Hamburg on March 31st

Bombing Up

Ben May, at the F/E Panel

Ben May by the wheel of a Halifax (big weren't they?)

   I hope this might be of interest, let me know if there's anything more you would like. All the best, sincerely,

----- Ben May

Email: benmay_canterbury AT

Where the SpaceATSpace is to be replaced by @ without spaces to make a workable email address. This is posted in this manner to avoid spam programs using the email address.


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