Life story written by Paul Beecroft
Proud and Loving Memory
Sergeant – Pilot
Robert James Houchin R.A.F.
Killed in action Jan 30th 1941
Aged 24 years
“There’ll come another day”
Robert James HOUCHIN was born in Newport Pagnell in September 1916. He was the only child of Robert Edward Henry HOUCHIN and Isabel Mary HOUCHIN nee Fox. Robert senior was born in Dover, Kent and Isabel was born in Reading. They were married in Reading in 1915 and lived at 145, Oxford Road, Reading, and then later moved to 28, Elm Lodge Avenue, Reading.
Robert was educated at Wilson School in Reading and then later spent two years at a school in Sidmouth. On leaving school he became an apprentice fitter at the Pulsometer Engineering Company.
When Robert was just 12 years old his mother Isabel died on October 30th 1928. She is buried in Reading Old Cemetery. In April 1931 his father married Leilia Ruby May EARL in Wokingham where she was from.
In 1934 Robert joined the R.A.F. He spent three years working on flying boats reaching the rank of Leading Aircraftman. Just prior to the commencement of WWII he started training as a pilot and gained his ‘wings’ in December 1939. In April 1940, he was attached to No. 11 Service Flying Training School at R.A.F. Shawbury in Shrewsbury. On the night of April 8th, 1940, Robert was engaged in night flying instruction with Flight Lt. Alexander in an Airspeed Oxford P1933 aircraft. They had completed two successful take offs and landings. On the third take off the plane was seen to strike an isolated oak tree some 150 yards from the northern edge of the airfield causing the aircraft to crash into a coppice. Flight Lt. Alexander died from his injuries, but Robert survived.
In April 1940, Robert was promoted to Sergeant. His full title was now Sergeant Pilot. He was attached to 248 Squadron flying Blenheim’s. He spent time flying patrols over the North Sea protecting convoys and also reconnaissance and anti-shipping missions off the coast of Norway.
On the afternoon of 14th November 1940 Robert crashed again. On returning from a mission, his Blenheim landed heavily at R.A.F. Driffield and a tyre burst resulting in the aircraft coming to rest tipped up onto its nose. Fortunately all of the crew escaped without injury.
During 1940 and 1941 248 Squadron moved around quite a lot. Robert spent time flying missions from R.A.F. North Coates in Lincolnshire, R.A.F. Samburgh in the Shetland Islands, R.A.F. Bircham Newton in Norfolk and R.A.F. Dyce in Scotland, which is now Aberdeen Airport.
On the 30th January 1941 Robert was returning from a mission over Norway in a Blenheim (N6233). As the aircraft was passing over Lincolnshire, the engine stalled resulting in him crashing at Chapel Farm, Newmurcham. None of the crew of three survived the crash.
His funeral took place a few days later at St. Mark’s Church in Reading and following this he was buried in Reading Old Cemetery in the family plot. A solemn requiem was also held at Woolbrook Church in Sidmouth. There were many friends and relatives who attended his funeral, including his father, step mother, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Letters of sympathy were received from Robert’s Commanding Officer and Squadron Leader.
Robert (Senior) died 1st July 1947 and he is also buried in the family plot in Reading Old Cemetery.
Division 35, Row H, Plot 5