Life story written by Paul Beecroft
ROYAL AIR FORCE
26TH JANUARY 1945 AGE 19
Greater love hath no man
Than to lay down his life
For his loved ones
Reginald John HORTON was born in Reading in June 1925. His parents were George Henry HORTON and Sarah Amy HORTON (nee BENFORD). Both parents were local to Reading. In 1911 his mother Sarah is shown living at 33, Coley Street. Sarah is only 14 years old and is working in a biscuit factory as a Sorter. George is shown as living at 61, Cumberland Road. He is 17 years old and also working in the biscuit factory as a Packer.
George and Sarah got married in Reading in April 1919 and possibly lived at 60, Rupert Street, moving around in 1924 to 25, Boarded Lane, which was off Castle Street and no longer exists.
In 1931 they were resident at 3, Brighton Road. They had four children, Anne (1920), George W. (1923) Reginald John (1925) and Beryl M (1928).
In 1932 George Henry passed away. He was only 36 years old. The reason for his death is not known. In 1939 Sarah and the children moved to 10, Freshwater Road. Ten years later in 1942 Sarah married Charles Neighbour in Reading.
Reginald was educated at Newtown School. He was interested in most sports and in particular football. After leaving school he was employed at the Southern Railway.
In September 1943 Reginald joined the Royal Air Force. In September the following year he was stationed in Northern Ireland and in February he passed with honours as a sergeant becoming a Sergeant Air Gunner.
On his return to England he was attached to 578 Squadron. 578 was a heavy bomber squadron using Halifax Mk III’s. In February 1944 the squadron operated from R.A.F. Snaith in the East Riding of Yorkshire before moving to R.A.F. Burn, near Selby, Yorkshire.
During the fourteen months that 578 squadron was at R.A.F. Burn they flew a total of 2,722 sorties, suffering a huge loss of aircraft and 219 crew. Few operational squadrons can have excelled this in such a short period.
Reginald had completed 23 missions as a Sergeant Air Gunner. In the afternoon of 26th January 1945, a crew of seven boarded the Halifax bomber – NA574 and took off from R.A.F. Burn for a combined fighter affiliation and bombing training flight. The weather was good with clear visibility. Approximately half an hour after taking off the port outer engine caught fire. They were around 5,000 feet at the time. Although the fire extinguishers were activated, the fire would not go out. The fire then spread to the port wing. The aircraft lost height and the pilot instructed the crew to bale out. Two successfully baled out. Reginald was the third to bale out but by this time the aircraft was around 1,000 feet high and sadly Reginald did not survive the descent. At the same time as he baled out the fire burnt through the port wing, which then folded and broke away, and the aircraft crashed into a field near the village of West Haddlesey in the parish of Selby. All other crew members that had remained onboard were killed. Reginald was the youngest member of the crew being just 19 years old. Although Reginald was not married, he was engaged to be married to a lady named Olive, but no further details are known.
His death was reported in the Reading Standard on February 9th as being killed whilst on active duty. He is buried in Reading Old Cemetery.
In January 1946 he was remembered in the Reading Standard under the heading ‘On Active Service.’
HORTON. – In loving memory of our dear son Reg., who was taken from us in an aircraft accident, January 26, 1945. – From his loving Mum and Pop and his dear Olive (fiancée).
A similar memory was printed the following year.
HORTON. – In loving memory of my darling son (Reg), Sgt. Reginald J. Horton, R.A.F.V.R. who was killed in an aircraft accident, January 26, 1945, aged 19. – Always loved and greatly missed by his loving Mum and Pop. 10, Freshwater Road, Reading.
Division 26, Row F, Plot 28