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06 Jan 2022
Flight Engineer Leader William Folger Readhead 462 Squadron RAAF


F/Lt William Folger Readhead, 50956 RAF, Flight Engineer Leader, 462 Squadron, November 1944, Driffield. F/Lt William Folger Readhead, 50956 RAF, Flight Engineer Leader, 462 Squadron, June 1945, Foulsham.

Original Flight Engineers Group photos, 1944 & 1945, from the A A Newstead Collection.





Flight Lieutenant William Folger Readhead 50956 RAF

Far left: portrait cropped from the Flight Engineers group photo of November 1944, Driffield.

Near left: portrait cropped from the Flight Engineers group photo of approx. June 1945, Foulsham.

Links to previous service history, kindly provided by Colin Pateman;
promotions and awards (from the London Gazette);
posting details, 462 Squadron (from the Squadron ORB);
Ops at 462 Squadron, Driffield and Foulsham (from the Sqdn ORB).



William Folger Readhead – Service History prior to 462 Squadron
(information kindly provided by Colin Pateman) ..... quote, as written .....

" 'Tam’ Readhead was posted to No. 76 Squadron in August 1942, the very same month in which the famous Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire Victoria Cross assumed command of that Squadron.

He became the Flight Engineer to the crew captained by Sergeant Moir but also had the privilege to act as Flight Engineer to Leonard Cheshire on a few occasions.

On an outing to Düsseldorf on the 10 September 1942, he and his crew were photographed and interviewed both before and after the operation by representatives of “Life Magazine”. That matter was widely published in an extensive article.

The tour of duty was recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

D.F.C. London Gazette 13 August 1943. The recommendation states:

‘This Officer has completed 25 sorties and flown a total of 170 operational hours as Flight Engineer. He has made several sorties against the heaviest defended of Axis targets, including Berlin, four to the Ruhr and six to Italy. He has at all times shown a very high degree of courage and initiative, whilst his tenacity, endurance and fine offensive spirit in action have inspired all those with whom he has come into contact. He is recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’

At the end of April 1943, Cheshire departed to a new appointment as a Station C.O., the Squadron’s diarist noting .... ‘What the Squadron has lost Marston Moor will gain. It was under the character and personal supervision of Group Captain Cheshire that the Squadron became what it is today – one of the best in Bomber Command.’ He presented William with a 1st edition copy of his book ‘Bomber Pilot’, the title page inscribed to William Readhead:

 ‘I’d be proud if I knew so much about so many knobs as you do, Leonard Cheshire, April 1943’

Worthy of note is participation in the famous attack upon Peenemünde, the German Rocket development site, on the 17 August 1943, his last operation with 76 Squadron before being rested as an instructor.

A second tour of bombing operations took place between September 1944 and March 1945 with 462 Squadron where he added another twelve (sic) operations to his tally and acted as the Squadron Engineer Leader. "

(For Op details at 462 Squadron, please see later section.)

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Promotions and Awards (sourced from the London Gazette)

Rank of Pilot Officer
London Gazette, Issue 35923, Fri 26 Feb 1943, 2nd Supplement Tues 2 March 1943, page 1026
Air Ministry, 2nd March 1943
Royal Air Force, General Duties Branch. To be Pilot Officers on prob. (emergency)

363236 William Folger READHEAD (50956), effective 19 January 1943.

(Readhead must have given exemplary service to have received a Commission from the rank of Sergeant.)

Rank of Flying Officer
London Gazette, Issue 36140, Tues 17 Aug 1943, 3rd Supplement Fri 20 Aug 1943, page 3735
Air Ministry, 20 August 1943
Royal Air Force, General Duties Branch. Pilot Officers to be Flying Officers on prob. (war subs.)

W. F. READHEAD (50956), effective 19 July 1943

Award of Distinguished Flying Cross
London Gazette, Issue 36131, Tues 10 Aug 1943, 3rd Supplement Fri 13 Aug 1943, page 3630
Air Ministry, 13 August 1943
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards
Distinguished Flying Cross

Acting Flight Lieutenant William Folger READHEAD (50956), Royal Air Force, No. 76 Squadron, effective 13 August 1943

Rank of Flight Lieutenant
London Gazette, Issue 36930, Tues 06 Feb 1945, 3rd Supplement Fri 09 Feb 1945, page 811
Air Ministry, 09 Feb 1945
Royal Air Force, General Duties Branch. Flying Officers to be Flight Lieutenants (war subs.)

W. F. READHEAD, D.F.C. (50956), effective 19 January 1945

Substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant
London Gazette, Issue 36181, Tues 16 Jan 1948, 2nd Supplement Tues 20 Jan 1948, page 493
Air Ministry, 20 Jan 1948
Royal Air Force, General Duties Branch. The undermentioned are granted the substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant 1st November 1947, with the seniorities stated

W. F. READHEAD, D.F.C. (50956), 19 July 1946

Commission relinquished
London Gazette, Issue 38578, Fri 1st April 1949, Supplement Tues 05 April 1949, page 1705
Air Ministry, 05 April 1949
Royal Air Force, General Duties Branch.

Flight Lieutenant W. F. READHEAD, D.F.C. (50956) (on account of medical unfitness for Air Force service) retaining his rank, effective 3rd April 1949

(Comment: Readhead's enlistment in the RAF, details of his training, and records of his Ops at 76 Squadron, are not known by this author. Readhead's promotion from PO to FO and his award of DFC occurred during John Heggarty's posting to 76 Squadron. On 27 July 1943, Pilot Elder crash-landed after being damaged by night fighters – Elder received a DFC, and crew members Berry and the badly injured Heggarty were Mentioned in Despatches. Although Readhead may not have personally known Heggarty, he would certainly have known the Flight Engineer Berry. Details of that incident are included on the John Heggarty page.)

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Posting details (sourced from the 462 Squadron ORB)

23 August 1944 – 462 Sqdn Driffield, F/Lt W F Readhead 50956 RAF arrived from 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit, Marston Moor, and assumed the duties of Engineer Leader. (His service at 1652 HCU was as an Instructor, after previously completing his first Tour of Duty with 76 Squadron.)

29 December 1944 – 462 Squadron relocation from Driffield to Foulsham. Main Party, Aircrew Personnel, Officers, by rail
50956 F/Lt W F Readhead DFC

22 September 1945 – All remaining RAF personnel were to be posted to RAF Station, Bruntingthorpe, with clearance from RAF Station Foulsham commenced immediately. Readhead's name was included on Form 540, page 118, with a group of Flight Engineer Officers, F/Lt R G Richards, F/O H A Manning, P/O J L Lakin and P/O J Lord. All five officers may be seen in the front row of the Flight Engineer's photo on the 462 Squadron Foulsham page.

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Ops at 462 Squadron, Driffield and Foulsham (sourced from the 462 Sqdn ORB)

Errors in ORB: Op 4, No initials for Readhead; Op 8, Service number incorrect as 60956; Op 10, Service Number incorrect as 30938 and initials incorrect as W E; Op 12, initials incorrect as F W.

The following table lists fourteen Ops for Readhead with various crews. Ops 1 to 5 were from Driffield, bombing targets. Ops 6 to 14 were from Foulsham, where on each of 8 Ops there was one extra crew member for Special duties to dispense WINDOW. On 1 Op, there were 9 members in the crew, the 8th member for WINDOW dispensing, and the 9th for RCM duties.

For 13 of his 14 Ops at 462 Sqdn, Readhead was Flight Engineer for the relevant crew. For his first Op at Foulsham, his role was Special Duties, dispensing WINDOW.

Aircraft Serial as listed in the Operational Record Book, Forms 541.
Aircraft Code numbers Z5- were not listed in the ORB, but are believed to be correct, based on photos and other log book entries, and compared with other sources.
Times up and down in black are day flights, those in red are night flights.
Target "Calais x 14" means 14 aircraft tasked from 462 Squadron to the target of Calais, with that crew being one of those 14 (and so on for the other dates).
Target "Hamburg x 10 (of 12)" means 10 aircraft tasked from 462 Squadron to the target of Hamburg, with that crew being one of those 10; with a different target for the extra 462 Squadron aircraft.
Code for Op Type – B Bombing; SD Special Duties; SP Spoof; W WINDOW; I Incendiaries; F Flares.
Comments include names of extra crew members to dispense WINDOW, or for RCM duties.


Date Op No A/c Serial Code Z5- Up Down Target Op Type Comments
25/09/1944 1 MZ341 G 0641 0958 Calais x 14 B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Wilson; Op abandoned by Master Bomber; some bombs jettisoned, some brought back; (MZ341 listed here as G, later designated P)
26/09/1944 2 MZ341 G 0755 1221 Calais x 13 B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Wilson; some bombs hung-up and brought back; (MZ341 listed here as G, later designated P)
30/09/1944 3 LL598 A 0933 1415 Bootrop x 14
(sic, Bottrop)
B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Hourigan; due to weather conditions, bombed alternative target as ordered
30/10/1944 4 MZ467 C 1747 2341 Köln x 13 B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Hourigan,
4 bombs jettisoned
02/11/1944 5 MZ467 C 1622 2145 Düsseldorf x 15 B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Hourigan,
(Readhead's last Op at Driffield)
02/01/1945 6 NA147 G 1558 2112 Nuremburg x 8
(sic, Nuremberg)
SD SP W Role as Special Duties (WINDOW Dispenser) for Pilot O'Sullivan; crew of 8 (Readhead's first Op at Foulsham)
16/01/1945 7 NR284 Q 1829 2233 Sylt x 9 SD SP W Role as F/Eng for Pilot Jackson,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Rees
17/01/1945 8 MZ402 V 1630 2134 Bochum x 8 SD SP W B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Ridgewell,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Taylor
02/02/1945 9 MZ429 F 2107 0202 Mannheim x 8 SD SP W B Role as F/Eng for Pilot Whatling,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Murray
28/02/1945 10 NR284 Q 2017 0217 Frieburg x 7
(sic, Freiburg)
SD SP W Role as F/Eng for Pilot Cookson,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Patterson
01/03/1945 11 MZ398 X not listed not listed Kaiserslautern x 5
(sic, Kaiserslautern)
SD SP W B I Role as F/Eng for Pilot Uther,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Patterson;
up times for the other 4 crews were between 1726 and 1747; and return times between 2255 and 2322
07/03/1945 12 MZ308 S 1837 0049 Rostock x 6 SD SP W Role as F/Eng for Pilot Uther,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Patterson
18/03/1945 13 MZ308 S 0107 0740 Kassal x 6
(sic, Kassel)
SD SP W Role as F/Eng for Pilot Uther, crew of 9 with SD (W) Fink, and SD (RCM) Goodwin
13/04/1945 14 NA147 G 2016 0131 Hamburg x 10 (of 12) SD SP W F I Role as F/Eng for Pilot Britt,
crew of 8 with SD (W) Moore

Photos of the following aircraft may be viewed on the Halifax page – MZ341 Z5-P; NR284 Z5-Q; NA147 Z5-G.


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