Henry John (Harry) KROHN

Poppy

KROHN, Henry John

Service Number: 34017
Enlisted: 30 September 1940, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 35 Squadron (RAF - No. 8 Group PFF)
Born: Lithgow, New South Wales, 30 September 1921
Home Town: Gilgandra, Gilgandra, New South Wales
Schooling: St Joseph’s School, Gilgandra
Occupation: Dental mechanic
Died: Killed in Action (flying battle), Netherlands, 22 June 1943, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands
7 I 1
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Gilgandra War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

30 Sep 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 34017, Sydney, New South Wales
22 Jun 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, SN 34017, No. 35 Squadron (RAF - No. 8 Group PFF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

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Biography contributed by Anthony Vine

Flight Sergeant Henry John Krohn
 

Harry Krohn enlisted in the RAAF as a dental mechanic in September 1940 at the age of nineteen. He had previously served in the 2nd AIF but had been discharged on medical grounds because of a small hernia. In 1940, he had the hernia repaired surgically and then applied for entry into the RAAF. At the time of his enlistment, Harry was engaged to Miss J Phillips of Crown Street Parramatta.

Harry was the son of Arthur Francis and Evelyn Clarice Krohn of Gilgandra, NSW and the brother of Arthur Patrick Krohn, who, in the 1950s, would follow Harry into the RAAF. Prior to enlisting in the army, Harry was working in his trade in Spit Junction, Sydney. Born in Lithgow, he had grown up in Gilgandra and attended St Joseph’s School. He did not sit for his leaving certificate; instead, he left school to commence his trade in 1936. Between 1939 and 1940, he undertook intermediate level night courses at Cleveland Street School.

After completing his initial training, Harry posted to No. 3 RAAF Hospital at Richmond in NSW where he applied for a change of mustering to Air Crew. In September 1941, having passed the necessary tests, he re-mustered and joined the majority of Number 20 Pilot’s course at Bradfield Park.

Harry is one of only a handful of the men whose training records have survived, including those for Bradfield Park and Narromine, as well as his advanced flying and operational training in the United Kingdom. It is clear from these records that, while at 5 EFTS, Harry had to work hard to remain on course. On completion, he was assessed as a ‘Very average pupil. Has found course somewhat difficult but is not afraid of work. More attention necessary to Navigation and Aircraft Recognition.’[1]

It was also noted that he was not very good at instrument flying and that he should be employed on single-engine aircraft. Despite these reservations about Harry’s skills as a pilot, he passed his course at Narromine. On 24 April 1942, he embarked on the SS President Monroe, landing in San Francisco on 15 May. He arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada three days later. After three weeks in Edmonton, Harry and his course mates moved again, this time to 10 SFTS in Dauphin, Manitoba to commence training on the Cessna Crane and qualify as pilots of multi-engine aircraft.

Nothing survives of how Harry fared in Dauphin other than that he accompanied Bill Gunning on a number of cross-country flights, and, most importantly, that he graduated, was awarded his wings on 25 September 1942 and was promoted to sergeant.

The following day, Harry, along with Ernie Kerrigan, George Messenger and Bill Gunning, went to Winnipeg, where they took rooms at the Fort Gary Hotel. One of the men had been befriended by a Canadian, Pete Miller, who worked for the Manitoba Telephone System Company. Pete and his wife took the young Australians for a guided tour of the city. That evening, the men who were bound for Europe entrained at Winnipeg station at 0715. They were on their way to Montreal and then New York for leave. Harry and George George shared a room at the Piccadilly Hotel in New York.

On 16 October, Harry arrived at RCAF Moncton, New Brunswick to await transport to the United Kingdom. On 28 October, he embarked on the RMS Queen Elizabeth in Halifax, Nova Scotia and sailed on the 31st. He disembarked in Greenock, Scotland on 4 November and travelled overnight by train to 11 PDRC in Bournemouth.

Harry was posted to 11 AFU(P) at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire on 30 December 1942. It is clear that Harry’s shortcomings as a pilot were still an issue at the AFU; he completed the course with an average of 49.9%, and the course officer, Sqn Ldr Reid noted that his ‘General flying is rather a low average – needs watching’.[2]

Harry also scored poorly on instrument flying and night flying. Under ‘Character and Leadership’ he scored only forty-five out of a potential one hundred. Training was conducted on the Airspeed Oxford aircraft. Harry flew thirty hours, of which only four were at night.

On 24 February, Harry commenced his operational training at RAF Abingdon in Oxfordshire. He flew the Whitley bomber, and formed a crew consisting of four RAF and three RCAF airmen. The Whitley, which had been withdrawn from operational service the previous year, was a twin-engine light bomber of a 1937 design. On 5 April, Harry was flying a Whitley when it suffered engine failure. He made a successful forced landing. The aircraft was not badly damaged and no blame was attached to Harry. Harry was gaining experience and improving as both a pilot and a leader. He passed the course with a score of 52% in his flying test and was assessed as 75% for leadership. His course officer noted:

 

Volunteered for Pathfinder Duties. Sgt Krohn proved himself a capable pilot who handles Whitley a/c in a very confident manner. His discipline and sense of leadership are good and he carried out all his exercises, which included one ‘Bullseye’ in a determined manner and all were completed satisfactorily. Suitable type for commission.[3]

 

With this much-improved assessment, Harry and his crew proceeded to No. 1658 at Riccall, North Yorkshire for a month’s training on the Halifax. On 8 June 1943, Harry joined No. 35 Squadron RAF, a Pathfinder squadron based at RAF Graveley in Hertfordshire. It would, however, appear that his crew did not share his ambition to fly pathfinder missions; instead, they posted to No. 76 Squadron RAF, where five of the seven were killed within nine months.

Having no operational experience, Harry had to learn his trade as a pathfinder from his fellow pilots in the squadron. On the night of 21–22 June 1943, Harry flew as second pilot to Bill Hickson,[4] a veteran of thirty missions with Nos. 51 and 35 Squadrons. As they were returning to base in the early hours of the morning, the aircraft was attacked near Castenray, the Netherlands by a night fighter. The night fighter was flown by the German ace Günther Radusch. The aircraft was crippled by Radusch’s attack, and Bill ordered his crew to abandon.

The navigator, F-Sgt H. D. Hutchinson, RAF later reported that:

Krohn the 2nd pilot was seen out of the A/c by the bomb aimer immediately after my own exit while the aircraft was on fire and more or less under control. According to information from farmers who claimed to have witnessed the landing of an Australian airman in the vicinity of the crash and where I and Croft landed, Krohn’s chute was open but he had been shot dead through the head and I presumed this to be Krohn as the only Australian member in the crew.[5]

 

The circumstances of how Harry was shot were never established.

Flight Sergeant Henry John Krohn, RAAF is buried in the Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

 



[1] National Archives of Australia: A9301, 34017.
[2] National Archives of Australia: A9301, 34017.

 
[3] Ibid.
[4] F-Lt William Henry Hickson, CBE 412231 RNZAF; postal technician of Auckland, NZ; b. Auckland, NZ; d. Wellington, NZ, 2 Sep 2011. Hickson was imprisoned at Stalag Luft III. In later life, he was the Director General of the New Zealand Post Office.
[5] National Archives Australia; A705 166/23/16

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