F/O Harold Frederick Wakeman RCAF

197 Squadron RAF, July 16, 1944 – October 05, 1944

Of the nine Canadians who served with 197 Sqn, eight were shot down (seven KIA and one POW). Canadians provided about eight per cent of the total number of pilots (approx. 112) who flew with 197 Sqn during the two and a half years of its existence but their losses equate to about 20 per cent of 197’s total losses (approx. 40 KIA/POW). F/O Harold Frederick Wakeman RCAF (J27820) was one of them.

Harold Frederick Wakeman was the son of Arthur Henry (shipper for Goodyear Tire Co.) and Isabelle May (nee Spencer) Wakeman, of Weston, Ontario. He had four brothers: William, 25, Ernest, 19, John, 15, and James, 6. The family attended the United Church.

Wakeman was a student when he filled out his attestation papers in June 1941. His file read: “Quiet, sincere, keen, pleasant. Should be adaptable to training. Average material. Lacks initiative rather easily discouraged. Apprehensive. Average mentality and physique. Best as an observer. Needs a push.”

 He liked baseball, rugby and tennis and noted photography as an interest. He stood 5′ 11″, weighed 145 1/2 pounds and had blue eyes and fair hair. He wanted to return to school after the war.

At 1 ITS, Toronto: September 26 – November 22, 1941, he was ranked 10th out of 51 in class: “A dependable aggressive type of trainee. Keen, alert. Clean cut type. Good team worker with leadership qualities.”

At EFTS, Malton: November 23, 1941 – January 31, 1942: “Should turn out to be fair average pilot if he concentrates on work. This pupil is ground shy as shown on low flying and levelling off height in landings. Needs practice in turns. Weak on instruments both straight and level and unusual position recovery.”

GIS: 14th out of 29 in class:“Quiet student of average ability and application. Should develop into satisfactory service pilot.”

At 2 SFTS, Uplands: February 1, 1942- June 8, 1941: “A good average plot — aerobatics rough, learns rapidly. Instrument good average. Turns need practice. GIS: “Works in spurts and did better in exams than expected.” 

Harold Wakeman was awarded his Wings on June 5, 1942: “A good average type. Courteous and cooperative. Possesses considerable natural ability and should develop with general all-round experience. Pupil’s preference: Instructor, Fighter Pilot, Recce.”

Wakeman was sent to 133 (F) Lethbridge in June 1942, then to No. 39 SFTS Swift Current later that month, then on to No. 5 B&G School in September 1942. From there he went to 131 (F) Boundary Bay in October 1942, and Tofino in July 1943. In August 1943, he was making his way across the country to Halifax, then to New York. He was at the RAF Trainees’ Pool by September 3, 1943. In October 1943, he was at 3 PRC. November: 59 OTU. January 1944: 61 OTU. At No. 61 OTU, March 1944: “A good average pilot, who shown quality. A keen and efficient officer.”

By July 10, 1944, Wakeman was at 84 GSU and posted to 197 Squadron on July 16, 1944. He had an interesting experience on August 29, 1944, when he force landed, fortunately behind allied lines, after the radiator of his Typhoon was punctured by three machine gun or rifle bullets – three million-to-one hits. 

Harold Frederick Wakeman, "Three Chance Shots", newspaper clipping, date and publication unknown.
Harold Frederick Wakeman, “Three Chance Shots”, newspaper clipping, date and publication unknown.

In a letter from Sqn Ldr Alan Smith, CO 197 Squadron RAF dated October 18, 1944, his father, Arthur Henry Wakeman, learned that: “Freddie as we called him, was engaged in an operational flight attacking an enemy target. His aircraft was hit by flak and he was last seen diving towards the ground. Unfortunately, he was not in a position to bale out and I am loathe to say that he must have been killed immediately.”

In Minute 2, dated July 1945, it was stated that Wakeman’s aircraft, Typhoon JR366 was hit by enemy flak while attacking a railway and road junction and was seen to go down in a vertical dive and burst into flames.

Mrs Wakeman received a Canadian Air Ministry letter in April 1946:

“Your son was reported missing believed killed after air operations overseas on 5th October 1944. The aircraft of which he was the sole occupant was struck by anti-aircraft fire and fell to the ground, in an attack on a railway junction at Zwolle, Holland. A subsequent report received from the International Red Cross Committee quoted German information which stated that this Officer had lost his life and was buried in the Communal Cemetery at Ede, Holland….no further information has been received.” Estates Branch, Ottawa.

Flying Officer Harold Frederick Wakeman RCAF is buried in the Veenendaal General Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Harold Frederick Wakeman RCAF J27820

Born: August 3, 1922, died: October 5, 1944

Information reproduced with kind permission from The Typhoon Project. Digitised files from www.ancestry.ca and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and a May 14, 2010 article on toronto.com.