HIGGINS, Clarence Wilfred Squadron Leader, No.431 Squadron, J15695 Distinguished Flying Cross RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
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HIGGINS, S/L Clarence Wilfred (J15695) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.431 Squadron - Award effective 10 May 1944 as per London Gazette dated 23 May 1944 and AFRO 1380/44 dated 30 June 1944. Born in Charlottetown, 3 October 1913; home there. Enlisted in Charlottetown, 10 September 1940. To No.1 Equipment Depot, 9 November 1940. To No.1 ITS, 10 December 1940; graduated and promoted LAC, 14 January 1941; posted next day to No.1 Manning Depot; to No.4 EFTS, 27 January 1941; graduated 5 March 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot; to No.8 SFTS, 7 April 1941; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 3 July 1941. To Embarkation Depot, 4 July 1941; to RAF overseas, 20 July 1941. Commissioned 8 July 1942. On 17 November 1942 involved in minor accident at either Riccall or Leeming (Halifax R9384), instructing. Promoted Flying Officer, 8 January 1943; promoted Flight Lieutenant, 10 June 1943; promoted Squadron Leader, date uncertain. Repatriated 12 August 1944. Next few postings uncertain. To No.164 (Transport) Squadron, 8 May 1945. To No.168 (Heavy Transport) Squadron, 24 May 1945. To No.5 OTU, 14 July 1945. Retired 29 October 1945. Photo PL-25517R shows him on return to Canada. Photo PL-31175 taken 14 July 1944 has caption stating he had completed second tour (50 sorties in all); the last was described as the most exciting of all; “coming home from a French target he had to fly almost at ground level to escape a heavy flak barrage.” PL-31176 shows him saying goodbye to his mid-upper gunner, P/O Con Kelway. RCAF photo PL-31177 (ex UK-12618 dated 14 July 1944) shows him at dispersal saying farewell to ground crew - top to bottom, LAC Walter Tomlinson (Vancouver), LAC Scottie Wyllie (Ottawa), LAC “York” Davis (Haney, B.C.) and LAC Walter Melvin (Webb, Saskatchewan). Photo PL-31178 (ex UK-12619 dated 14 July 1944) shows Higgins on extreme right with (left to right), P/O Con Kelway (Victoria, bomb aimer), LAC “York” Davis (Haney), LAC Walter Melvin (Webb), LAC Ken James (Saskatoon), LAC Walter Tomlinson (Vancouver) and LAC Scottie Wyllie (Ottawa). DHist file 181.009 D.5526 (RG.24 Vol.20667) has recommendation dated 20 February 1944 when he had flown 32 sorties (176 hours 45 minutes). First tour was 23 November 1941 to 6 October 1942 (27 sorties which included returning on three engines from Bremen, 29 June 1942, and returning from Essen on three engines after a flak hit, 4 August 1942. Second tour had been five sorties to date (22 October 1943 to 29 January 1944), with attacks by fighters on last two trips (20 January and 29 January 1944, both to Berlin). // This officer has taken part in attacks on numerous targets in the Ruhr Valley and other such heavily defended objectives as Berlin, Mannheim, and Hamburg. He is now on his second tour of operations and has consistently shown great determination, initiative and fine airmanship. On three occasions Squadron Leader Higgins has flown his aircraft back from Germany with one engine not functioning and in two other sorties has successfully evaded persistent attacks by enemy night fighters. // The sortie list was as follows: // 23 November 1941 - Dunkirk (3.00, second pilot) // 26 November 1941 - Ostende (2.30, second pilot) // 21 January 1942 - Bremen (5.50, second pilot) // 26 January 1942 - Hanover (7.00, second pilot) // 12 February 1942 - Scharnhorst (3.45, daylight, target not located, second pilot) // 6 April 1942 - Essen (6.50, second pilot)) // 8 April 1942 - Hamburg (5.30, second pilot) // 25 June 1942 - Bremen (5.10, captain of aircraft hereafter) // 27 June 1942 - Bremen (5.10) // 29 June 1942 - Bremen (5.15, returned on three engines) // 2 July 1942 - Bremen (3.30, intercom failure; bombed Amelard) // 8 July 1942 - Wilhelmshaven (4.25) // 13 July 1942 - Duisburg (5.15) // 19 July 1942 - Vegasack (5.20) // 21 July 1942 - Duisburg (4.15, good photograph) // 23 July 1942 - Duisburg (4.55) // 25 July 1942 - Duisburg (3.20, abandoned mission due to icing) // 26 July 1942 - Hamburg (5.45) // 29 July 1942 - Saarbrucken (6.10) // 31 July 1942 - Dusseldorf (4.40) // 4 August 1942 - Essen (5.05, hit by flak; returned on three engines) // 16 September 1942 - Essen (6.15) // 19 September 1942 - Saarbrucken (7.20) // 23 September 1942 - Flensburg (6.25, bombed at 1,500 feet - should this read 15,000 feet ?) // 1 October 1942 - Hamburg (6.10) // 5 October 1942 - Aachen (5.15) // 6 October 1942 - Osnabruck (5.40, returned on three engines) // * * * * * // 22 October 1943 - Kassel (6.20) // 18 November 1943 - Mannheim (8.00) // 19 November 1943 - Leverkusen (6.35) // 20 January 1944 - Berlin (8.15, attacked by fighter) // 29 January 1944 - Berlin (7.50, attacked by fighter) // RCAF Press Release No.5612 dated 30 June 1944 from F/L H.W. Eggleston, transcribed by Huguette Oates, reads: // WITH RCAF BOMBER GROUP OVERSEAS: -- It was the pilot’s final sortie on his second tour of operations and the crew who had flown with him on most of them were still anxiously awaiting the thrills they hadn’t yet experienced during assaults on enemy targets. So just to oblige them, F/L C.W. Higgins, DFC, of Charlottetown, P.E.I. (St. Avards), a Lion squadron skipper, ended his operational career in a blaze of glory by zooming his big Halifax bomber down to within 300 feet of the deck and gave his gunners and bomb-aimer the opportunity to strafe German troops, tanks and radio installations with machine-gun fire. // It all happened during a daylight attack on a launching site for German flying bombs “doodle bugs” located near Gorenflos, France. The bomber had unloaded its cargo of T.N.T. on the target and was wending its way home when it was caught in a flak barrage about 20 miles inside the French coast. One piece of flak blasted its way through the mid-upper gunner’s turret, hit a panel in front of him, bounced back and hit him on the nose. He was not seriously hurt. // Forced to take violent evasive action, F/L Higgins put his aircraft into a dive. The next thing the crew knew, they were so close to the ground that they could see German troops, tanks and radio installations looming up ahead of them. The long awaited chance had come --- the mid-upper gunner, P/O Con Kelway of Victoria, B.C., (953 Balmoral Road), the rear-gunner and bomb-aimer (both Englishmen), manned the guns and went into action. // “We could almost see the “whites of their eyes,” said the mid-upper gunner in relating the story of the “shoot up”. The troops digging on the beaches fled for cover as we opened fire, but those guarding the tanks opened up on us with machine guns and rifles. “There was also a horse and cart ambling along a road. The fire from our guns startled it and it bolted. The last thing we saw it was still running. We also razed about 20 buildings close by the radio installations with long bursts before breaking off the attack.” It was real fun while it lasted,” he concluded. // F/L Higgins, pilot of the aircraft, has had a distinguished operational career. Altogether, he has completed 55 sorties on enemy targets, made up of 27 on his first tour and 28 on his second. Arriving overseas in July, 1941, he started on operations with a medium bomber squadron, making two or three trips as second pilot on Wellingtons. He then switched to Halifaxes and captained a crew on many sorties to the Ruhr Valley, Hanover, Hamburg and Cologne in Germany. He is also credited with five trips to Bremen. // On two occasions during this tour he brought his aircraft back to base with only three engines operating. On night while the bomber was making it’s “run in” on the target at Essen it was caught in a flak barrage. The flight engineer was wounded in the left leg and the starboard inner engine rendered useless, he continued on to his objective and got his bombs way before returning to base on three engines. // Another night, over Osanbruk, Germany, an engine caught fire just after the bomber had left the target. He was forced to fly home. After completing his first tour and being awarded the D.F.C. for his outstanding work, F/L Higgins spent a few months at an operational training unit as an instructor before joining the Iroquois squadron to start his second tour. He made 16 trips with this squadron, including two to Berlin. // He holds the distinction of taking Air Vice-Marshal C.M. McEwen, MC , DFC and Bar, air officer commanding the Canadian Bomber Group in England, on one attack on a French target. On another occasion, he was accompanied by Group Captain Doug Edwards, officer commanding the station. // Transferred to the Lion squadron, F/L Higgins banged in 12 more trips within five weeks before becoming eligible for repatriation in Canada for a well-earned rest. // The ace pilot of the bomber group joined the RCAF in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in September 1940. He took his training at No.1 I.T.S., Toronto, Ontario elementary at Windsor Mills, Quebec, and won his pilot’s wings and Sergeant’s stripes at Moncton, N.B. in July, 1941. He was commissioned soon after arriving overseas. // F/L Higgins is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Higgins of Charlottetown. Thirty years old and single, he has a brother Earl, and a sister Edna at home. Before joining up he was employed by the Imperial Oil Company in his home city.