A Flight Engineer’s story from the Thousand Bomber Raids to the Battle of Berlin
Flight Lieutenant Humphrey Phillips DFC, MiD (twice) had an exciting war. Originally trained
as a flight mechanic, he became one of the very first of the new breed of flight engineers.
Posted initially to 102 Squadron, he was allocated immediately to the Conversion Flight,
helping to convert new crews from two engines to four.
While ‘instructing’, he was flight engineer to many of the famous names of the time –
‘Daddy’ Lashbrook, Peter Robinson, and Harry Drummond – and flew in the first two of the
historic, showpiece 1000 Bomber raids against Cologne and Essen as part of a scratch crew
of tour-expired instructors.
Posted to 1656 Conversion Unit he became the flight engineer leader, flying regularly with
the unit’s Commanding Officer, David Holford, Flight Commander, Eric Campling, and two
‘crazy’ Australians – ‘Bluey’ Graham and ‘Shorty’ Fahey who became legends in the RAAF for
their flying skills and mad antics. He also survived a number of scrapes with novice pilots
(many who went on to have distinguished careers) and was Mentioned in Despatches for
inventing two devices to instruct new engineers on the Lancaster’s fuel and hydraulics
Keen to operate, he was eventually hand-picked by Wing Commander Philip Haynes to join
his crew for a tour with 626 Squadron, at the height of the Battle of Berlin. He was also the
squadron’s flight engineer leader. When not flying with the CO, he flew with both Flight
Commanders, and on one operation his Lancaster was struck by incendiaries, seriously
injuring the mid upper gunner and obliging them to crash land. His crew included the
famous naturalist, Eric Simms, who was an early ‘star’ of the BBC.
Humphrey survived his tour, was awarded the DFC, and returned to instructing, being once
more Mentioned in Despatches with 1668 HCU before the war’s end.