Battle of Britain London Monument – Sgt. F H R Hulbert

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Privacy Statement The Airmen’s Stories – Sgt. F H R Hulbert

 

Frank Horace Raymond Hulbert, always known as Ray, joined the RAFVR in December 1938 and began flying training at 14 E&RFTS, Castle Bromwich. Called to full-time service at the outbreak of war, Hulbert was posted to 3ITW at Hastings. In March 1940 he went to 18 EFTS, Fairoaks, moved to 10 EFTS, Yatesbury in May and finished his training at 8 FTS, Montrose.

In early August Hulbert was posted to 5 OTU, Aston Down, converted to Hurricanes and then joined 601 Squadron at Exeter late in the month.

In May 1941 he went to the Station Flight at RAF Northolt and in August was posted to 59 OTU, Crosby-on-Eden, as an instructor. Hulbert was commissioned in May 1942. He returned to operations in February 1943, when he joined 193 Squadron at Harrowbeer. He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 2nd June 1943).

In April 1944 Hulbert was appointed CO of 10 Group Communication Flight and was posted to 11 Armament Practice Camp at Fairwood Common in August. It became No 1 Armament Practice Squadron in July 1945. Hulbert went to RAF Molesworth for 1335 Jet Conversion Course in August and in September went to his final posting, 3 Armament Practice Squadron at Hawkinge.

Demobilised in November 1945, Hulbert joined the RAFVR in March 1947 and instructed at 5 RFS, Castle Bromwich until 1953. He retired in 1957, as a Flight Lieutenant. Post-war he was a sales manager in the aluminium industry.

He died on 19th September 2004. He is survived by his wife Eileen, and a daughter, three grandsons and two great-granddaughters.

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Ray Hulbert attended the Bishop Vesey Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield from 1928-1933 and later served on the Old Veseyan Committee in the pre-war years. In 2000 he was interviewed for the Old Veseyan Magazine as follows:

When did the interest in flying begin ?

When I left School it was the height of the recession. Things were very bad and if you were lucky enough to be offered a job you didn’t think twice. I started work in a cost accounting office. which I didn’t much care for, but which was a means to an end. Meanwhile I used to go down to Castle Bromwich where 605 squadron was based. I was hooked immediately. I learned to fly as a reservist in 1938 – a ‘weekend flyer’ – in the RAF Volunteer Reserve.

What were your feelings at the outbreak of war ?

Very apprehensive. You have to remember that it was barely 20 years since the Great War, which had been so traumatic for all concerned. At least I knew what I would be doing, however. I was assigned to a Hurricane squadron – 601. It was a good strong plane which was state of the art in those days. The training would seem very odd nowadays. An instructor stood on the wing and gave you some instructions, and then off you went. Taking off for the first time in a Hurricane I wondered what on earth I was doing, but as soon as I opened the throttle, it was great.

The Battle of Britain was soon upon you ?

The Chairman of the Battle of Britain Association once commented that most people think that the Battle was a few officers in Spitfires against the Luftwaffe. In fact, two thirds of the planes were Hurricanes, and one third of the pilots were non-commissioned. I was a sergeant pilot, stationed first in Exeter, then Northolt. The waiting and the fatigue were the worst elements. You have to remember that we had no training in warfare either. The first time I shot at an enemy plane was the first time that I had ever used the guns. The noise of the 8 machine guns, the vibration and the smoke from the
wings made me think that I’d been shot down myself.

How did you cope with the deaths that you must have experienced ?

The death of friends was terrible. There were so many friends who were taken from you. The same was true of school friends as well. Two that spring to mind were Frank Morton and Eric Rogers, both of whom were pilots. It was the planes and the flying that I loved, however, and that’s what I prefer to remember.

And after the Battle of Britain ?

I was with 601 squadron until May 1941. I became an instructor and test pilot and was commissioned in 1942. Between February 1943 and March 1944 I was with a Typhoon squadron which involved shipping strikes and low level attacks on airfields and other targets in France. After leaving 193 Squadron I was CO of a Communications Squadron for 6 months. I finished the War as a chief instructor and test pilot which involved a lot of Spitfire flying.

There must have been some terrifying moments ?

Yes – many. I had to bale out once only. I hit a balloon and managed to get out, parachuting into the middle of Hull. A gentleman asked me if I needed the phone – it turned out that he was a funeral director which I thought was a little close for comfort ! On another occasion I was testing a Spitfire Mk.16 which was the first Spit with a tear drop hood, which had caused problems. I was in a final dive when at 20,000 feet with a huge bang the hood flew off and a freezing cold 450mph wind blew into the cockpit. I could see a large gash in the fin so I had to get the speed down to a minimum to avoid further damage and slowly reduce height. I was absolutely frozen. On other occasions I also had 2 forced landings due to engine failure.

And your main memories now ?

I am very pleased to have flown all the single seater fighter aircraft used in the War from the Gladiator to the Meteor and flew 27 types of aircraft altogether. The end of the war was a great relief, but I was sad that I would not be flying any more. I have a particular memory of what I thought would be my last flight in a Spitfire. I flew low and took it through every aerobatic trick that was allowed, and some that were not. My wartime service was an experience that I feel privileged to have had and to have survived and I still have many RAF friends.

 

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