Initially flew with 254 Squadron - flying Blenheims – having completed his trained as an observer in 1940. Finding flying coastal and convoy patrols tedious he answered a request for volunteers for ‘special duties’. Was sent for training as a navigator on night fighters. In June 1942 joined 85 Squadron who were equipped with Havocs. During his time with 85 Squadron Cairns and his pilot downed a Dornier bomber. Cairns was then sent on a rest tour – became a founder member of the Blind Approach Development Unit at Watchfield. In November 1943 he joined 488 Squadron – the squadron’s Mosquitos had just been fitted with AI (airborne interception) radar – his pilot was John Hall. In late January (21st/22nd) 1944 Cairns brought Hall to within visual range of a Dornier 217 which Hall then downed. As the Dornier fell out of the sky a Junkers 88 was spotted coned in some searchlights. The Mosquito gave chase and forced the Junkers in to the sea. In March 1944 Hall/Cairns downed a Junkers bomber. In the lead up to the Normandy invasion, the Mosquitos of 488 squadron flew night intruder sorties over northern France. After shooting down their fifth aircraft in June 1944 both Hall and Cairns were awarded the DFC. In November 1944 488 Squadron moved to Amiens. By the end of their tour with 488 Squadron Hall/Cairns had shot down eight enemy machines. John Cairns visited New Zealand in the 1990s to attend a squadron reunion.
Article taken from a document provided by the late Mike Jones of the 355 & 356 Squadron Association. Reproduced and published with the association's approval.
Although a wireless operator/air gunner Hank Cooper was destined to fly in Mosquitos. Prior to the war Hank Cooper was working on secret transmission systems at RAF Mildenhall. Within a few weeks of the outbreak of war he was called up and after completing training as a wireless operator/air gunner was posted to 149 Squadron who were operating Wellingtons from Mildenhall. Between January 1941 and July 1941 he flew 32 bombing raids attacking numerous cities including Berlin. By the end of this period he and one other were the only survivors from his original crew of six. He became an instructor at an OTU and whilst with the OTU took part on the first thousand bomber raid held on 30th May 1942.
In November 1943 Hank Cooper joined 192 Squadron who were based at Foulsham, Norfolk and operated specially equipped Wellingtons and Halifaxes. 192 Squadron were part of No 100 (Special Duties) Group which had been formed to provide radio countermeasures to confound German night fighters and air defence systems in an attempt to reduce the RAF’s heavy bomber losses. The machines of 100 Group flew with the main bomber force. Cooper had the task of gathering signals intelligence on German radar and radio transmissions. After ten of these flight Hank Cooper started to fly in Mosquitos and whilst not trained as a navigator went on to complete many long range operations over Germany. The data he collected allowed the RAF night fighters to identify and home in on enemy aircraft and destroy them before they could attack the RAF heavy bombers.
Having completed his tour with 192 Squadron and been awarded the DFC, Hank Cooper spent sometime in the air intelligence branch at the Air Ministry before, in November 1944, returning to 192 Squadron where he flew another 35 operational flights. On this flights he would travel with the attacking bomber force and once over the target switch on special transmitters carried in the bomb bay of his Mosquito to jam enemy radio transmissions and the radar of the enemy’s night fighters. His last flight with 192 Squadron took place on the 24th April 1945, it was his hundredth operation over Germany. Shortly afterwards he was awarded the DSO.
Winston Churchill commented that knowledge of German night defences was largely obtained through the work of No 100 Group. There is no doubt that the work of 100 Group was crucial to the success of the Allied bomber offensive.