Home   Mildenhall   Article

D-Day veteran and Suffolk resident Bernard How whose mission helped bring Second World War to an end dies aged 97



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


One of the last D-Day veterans who was part of a crucial mission to help bring an end to the Second World War by tricking the Germans into thinking the Allies were landing in Calais has died aged 97.

Bernard 'Bernie' How was a flight engineer onboard Stirling and Halifax bombers, as part of the 199 Squadron that flew over France ahead of the Allied invasion.

Aged 19 he was part of a plan to throw off German radar by dropping strips of aluminium around Calais to make the enemy think the invasion was heading further north, instead of the real destination in Normandy.

Bernie 'Bun' How, who served as a flight engineer on Stirling and Halifax bombers at RAF North Creake with 199 Squadron from 1944 to 1945. Picture: SWNS
Bernie 'Bun' How, who served as a flight engineer on Stirling and Halifax bombers at RAF North Creake with 199 Squadron from 1944 to 1945. Picture: SWNS

During the gruelling tours he flew more than 40 operations and had some near-misses including one incident that saw the undercarriage of his aircraft collapse and a wing ripped off during take-off.

All his crew survived the accident, and after the war Mr How went back to the carpentry trade he worked in before joining the Royal Air Force.

Mr How, who was the last surviving member of his crew of seven, died at his home in the village of Worlington, on November 10 after a short illness.

Bernie 'Bun' How (right) standing with David Graham, another veteran of RAF North Creake and a well-known voice actor who played the voice of the Daleks in Dr Who. Picture: SWNS
Bernie 'Bun' How (right) standing with David Graham, another veteran of RAF North Creake and a well-known voice actor who played the voice of the Daleks in Dr Who. Picture: SWNS

Nearly two weeks before his death, Mr How suffered a stroke on his 97th birthday. He is survived by his two sons, Leslie and Brian, as well as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Nigel Morter, who is joint owner of the Control Tower Bed and Breakfast that sits on the site of the former RAF North Creake base in Egmere, where he launched the majority of his dangerous missions paid tribute to the veteran.

He said: "He was a wonderful, quiet man. He will be greatly missed by many.

"He was incredibly modest, you never said anything about certain roles being more important than others, he always said everyone in the crew was crucial.

Bernie 'Bun' How with North Creake Control Tower owners Claire Nugent and Nigel Morter. He is pictured on the Control Tower roof that now operates as a bed and breakfast. Picture: SWNS
Bernie 'Bun' How with North Creake Control Tower owners Claire Nugent and Nigel Morter. He is pictured on the Control Tower roof that now operates as a bed and breakfast. Picture: SWNS

"Bernie was remarkably unaffected by everything he went through. He did more than 40 operations, so he had been through a lot.

"He almost came a cropper when the undercarriage of the aircraft collapsed on take off. He also had several crashes and they were all very lucky to come out of that. So he was lucky to be around.

"He knew how to have fun, he was quite cheeky, and liked to have a good conversation."

Mr How, who was also known as 'Bun', was born in The Golden Boar Inn in Freckenham, near Newmarket, in October 1924 and grew up in the family pub.

After leaving school at 14, Mr How became a carpenter until he was old enough to join the war effort.

Bernie 'Bun' How, who served as a flight engineer on Stirling and Halifax bombers at RAF North Creake with 199 Squadron from 1944 to 1945. Picture: SWNS
Bernie 'Bun' How, who served as a flight engineer on Stirling and Halifax bombers at RAF North Creake with 199 Squadron from 1944 to 1945. Picture: SWNS

In September 1944 he had a lucky escape when his Stirling crashed on take off, ripping off one wing but avoiding catching alight when it was full of fuel.

After the war, Mr How married Hermione Elizabeth Mary, who went by her middle name of Mary, on Boxing Day 1951 and for their honeymoon took her to see his beloved Ipswich Town take on Tottenham Hotspur in north London.

As a Tractor Boys season ticket holder for 50 years, one of Mr How's proudest moments was when he led the team on to the pitch for Remembrance Day 2019.

Earlier this year, Mr How returned to RAF North Creake some 77 years after D-Day to cut the ribbon on a memorial to the 73 of his comrades who never came home.

The Control Tower at the disused airfield has now been converted into a B&B and owners Mr Morter, 54, and Claire Nugent, 50, fundraised to build a commemoration to the heroes who used the base.

Mr Morter added: "When we set up the memorial, we didn't think we would actually get to meet a veteran so it was a wonderful surprise, particularly to meet one so down to Earth.

"Bernie would never put up with anyone diminishing the Americans' role - people saying they turned up to the war late or didn't have it as bad - he wouldn't hear any of it.

"Bernie always said the US air crews had a terrible time. He was very empathetic and didn't have any animosity.

"He often said if young people now were in the same situation, they would have done exactly the same as his generation."

Mr How first visited the Control Tower in 2013 and Mr Morter and Ms Nugent later visited his house where he presented them with his flight engineer badge from the Second World War.

Mr Morter said: "He was an incredibly lovely bloke, he was really supportive of everything we did here.

"Bernie was grateful to talk about his experiences during the war. Some of the war stories he told during his visits here, his family hadn't heard before.

"We will cherish his flight engineer badge he gave us on a trip to see him at his house a few years back."