Flying Officer Hermone Alexander Innes DFC   Recently updated !

Flying Officer Hermone Alexander Innes DFC, RAF 149 Squadron was the son of Colonel Sydney Armitage and Mrs (nee Blain) Innes, Fairmount, Barnhill, Perth. Hermone was educated at Rugby and then joined the staff of the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation as a trainee at the Perth Head Office and the Cheltenham and Gloucester branches in England.

On 18 December 1939, Pilot Officer Hermone Innes took part in the first named battle of the Second World War, The Battle of Heligoland Blight.

World War Two commenced on 1 September 1939 and the air campaign two days later. By January 1939, RAF 149 Squadron had been equipped with the new Vickers Wellington aircraft. The RAF mistakenly concluded from bombing raids during September, October, and November 1939 that German fighter aircraft were not a serious threat against modern bombers such as the Wellington.

A force of three RAF Squadrons totalling 24 Vickers Wellington bombers was launched on 18 December 1939 to attack German capital ships anchored in the Wilhelmshaven area. At the crew briefing the night before, it was said that there was a good chance of finding the German fleet in the Heligoland Blight.

Breakfast was at 4.30 am and the order to take off was given at 08.27 am. The weather was good, a fine day with a great deal of cloud. About ten miles from the German coast the cloud cleared, and the sun shown in a clear sky. Two Wellington’s turned back due to engine issues before reaching German airspace. As they flew over Heligoland Blight they saw eight German Destroyers below, they were after bigger game.

The German reaction was slow, the first Messerschmitt Bf 109 came up to attack them over Wilhelmshaven which was met by a burst of fire and shot down. Flying at 18,000 feet in close formation they were met by a terrific barrage of anti-aircraft fire. As they were turning they saw droves of enemy fighters coming up to meet them, at least 200 some thought, most were Messerschmitt Bf 110’s. This was the start off a very confused and terrific air battle.

The battle started around midday and did not finish until after 1.00pm. They were attacked it is thought by 44 German fighter aircraft. Of the 22 Wellington’s that made it to Wilhelmshaven, the Luftwaffe shot down 12 of them. (The Luftwaffe launched between 80 and 120 fighter aircraft to oppose this raid.)

Pilot Officer Hermone Innes of RAF 149 Squadron was onboard Vickers Wellington, N2980, as second pilot. It took off from RAF Mildenhall at 09.27am for the Heligoland Blight. The full Wellington N2980 crew was, Squadron leader P L Harris, Pilot Officer H A Inness, Sergeant F H P Harris, AC2 G Watson, AC1 J J Mullineaux, and AC1 J A Doxsey.

Vickers Wellington N2980 was the lead aircraft in Formation 2, Section 1. Squadron Leader Harris and the overall leader of the attack, Wing Commander Richard Kellet were the only two with combat experience. They had orders to overfly the Heligoland Blight, attacking ships but avoiding civilian housing and merchant shipping.

On their return flight near Cromer Knoll, west of Skegness, they saw Wellington N2961 ditch in the sea. Hermone’s Wellington N2890 attempted to drop a dingy but this got fouled in the tail of their aircraft. They flew on with great difficulty and force landed at RAF Coltishall just north of Norwich. The Cromer lifeboat was launched but no survivors were found.

From the Operations Record Book of RAF 149 Squadron dated 18 December 1939:

Operation commenced with the take-off of nine Wellingtons led by Wing Commander R. Kellet AFC. No warships were in any of the naval anchorages, but at Wilhelmshaven, a pocket battleship (Deutschland?), a battle cruiser (Gneisenau?), the Tirpitz **ilding and a “K” class cruiser were seen lying in the inner basin. No bombs were therefore dropped. After Wilhelmshaven, the formation was attacked by a large number of fighters mostly Messerschmitt Me 109 and Me 110 – probably between 60 and 70 were involved. The ensuing battle lasted 40 minutes and proved to be the biggest to sate in the history of the Royal Air Force. A number of enemy aircraft were claimed to have been shot down by the squadron. The squadron casualties were one aeroplane seen to go down in flames during action and one forced down in the sea on the return journey through petrol shortage due to the tanks being damaged in the fight.

Two others had been forced to turn back on the outward journey. Besides the fighter attacks, the enemy opposition included anti-aircraft from the land defences around Heligoland Bight but this fire, although heavy did not cause and casualties.

This failure of this raid led in part to the RAF abandoning daylight bombing missions and was one of the reasons which led the Luftwaffe to believe that Germany was invulnerable to enemy attack. At this time in the war the Netherlands and Belgium wished to remain neutral, they had refused the RAF permission to establish bases or to overfly their countries. The French had also refused to allow the RAF bombers to bomb German cities from French airfields, they were feeling secure behind the Maginot Line.

The military career of Hermone Innes started as a Cadet Corporal with the Rugby School Contingent, then he joined the Territorial Army. On 2 June 1932, Hermone was gazetted as being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant 6th/7th Black Watch (T.A.). On 24 October 1937 he was promoted to Acting Pilot Officer on probation becoming Pilot Officer on 23 August 1938. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 23 March 1940. Hermone was gazetted on 20 February 1940 for his Distinguished Flying Cross obtained during the Battle of Heligoland Blight.

Pilot Officer Hermone Alexander Innes was the captain of an aircraft carrying out reconnaissance duties and formation flying training on 27 March 1940. On 31 March 1940, Hermone was piloting Wellington N2980. He was in formation with P9218 on a ‘Special Sweep’ in the North Sea to a point roughly 60 miles west of Newcastle (possibly submarine spotting).

On 4 April 1940, two Vickers Wellington’s from RAF 214 Squadron took off at 22.50 for night cross country flights to enable practice to be done in astronomical navigation. On their final flare path approach, the second aircraft to return at RAF Mildenhall, Vickers Type 416 Wellington Mark Ic, P9267 crashed one mile short of the runway, bursting into flames. Four members of the crew were instantly killed. Three of the crew were rescued from the crashed aircraft and were admitted to sick quarters in a serious condition, one later died just a few hours later from injuries sustained, AC2 L F Foster.

The Crew on 4 April 1940 of Vickers Wellington Ic P9267:

Flying Officer Hermone Alexander Innes, 40227, age 27, Pilot, killed

Flying Officer Jack Patrick Majendie Hewitt, 39878, killed

Pilot Officer John Denton Hargreaves 77035, age 20, Air Gunner, killed

Sergeant Robert Melville Nelson 580853, age 22, Observer, killed

Aircraftman 2nd Class Leonard Frederick Foster, 630009, age 32, Wireless Operator, injured/killed

Flight Lieutenant John Martin Griffiths-Jones, 37734, Pilot

Acting Sergeant Harry Dean, 581276

Harry Dean was promoted to Warrant Officer and married in September 1942, Miss Margaret Kidd Powrie in the Trinity Church, Perth. Miss Margaret Kidd Powrie was the elder daughter of Mr. David M. Powrie, Rag and Metal Merchant, 5 Murray Street, a well-known businessman and Mrs Powrie, Davella, Burghmuir Road, Perth. Warrant Officer Dean was the only son of Mrs and Mrs Stephen dean, Dukes Brow, Blackburn, England. Harry Dean being one of the two that survived the crash became a member of the “Caterpilar Club”, an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.

Squadron Leader John Martin Griffiths-Jones DFC, RAF 7 Squadron was later killed on 3 March 1941. He was onboard Short Stirling I, N3653 which crashed in the English Channel, the cause unknown and his Stirling was the first of this four-engine bomber type to be lost on operations.

Sergeant Robert Melville Nelson was buried in Bathgate Cemetery, the others at West Row Baptist Chapelyard, Sussex, just south of RAF Mildenhall.

Major Berowald Innes, Hermone’s elder brother served as adjutant to the 6th Battalion of The Black Watch. His father Colonel Sydney Innes commanded the 9th Battalion, The Black Watch in the First World War during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award (DSO). Colonel Innes came out of retirement to take up an appointment at the Highland Area Headquarters at Perth. Colonel Innes previously had been the popular O.C. Depot. Miss Sylvia Innes, Hermone’s sister served as a mobile member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment engaged on nursing duties at Gleneagles Hotel.

Notes: Five days later after Hermone was killed, on 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

Development of various aspects of the Vickers Wellington, such as the hydraulics and electrical systems, along with a revision of the ventral turret gun, led to the introduction of the Wellington Mk Ic. The Mark Ic also added waist guns and had a normal crew of six: pilot, radio operator, navigator/bomb aimer, observer/nose gunner, tail gunner, and waist gunner. A total of 2,685 of this type were built at Weybridge, Broughton in Flintshire and Blackpool.

Sergeant Gordon Downs Bushell (name is also recorded as George) in some sources as being in Hermone’s crash, he was not. Sergeant Gordon Downs Bushell, 745584 was age 24 years and a Hurricane Pilot. On 31 December 1940 he was killed whilst flying Hawker Hurricane P3267, RAF 213 (Ceylon) Squadron enroute from RAF Leconfield. Flying during a snowstorm with five other aircraft, P3267 made a violent turn to port and a short time later dived into the ground. Why it suddenly broke away was never understood, it was assumed that the pilot lost his bearings in the snow and flew into the ground.

During the last two weeks of March and the first two weeks of April 1941, the Wellington’s and crew of RAF 149 Squadron were used for the making of the film Target for Tognight. It was filmed on location at RAF Mildenhall (using the fictitious name of Milerton Aerodrome).

Perthshire Advertiser 6 April 1940

Perthshire Advertiser 21 February 1940

ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1939-1941. (CH 2677) The Commanding Officer of No. 149 Squadron RAF talks to his aircrews in their Operations Room at Mildenhall, Suffolk, before they are briefed for the night’s raid. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1939-1941. (C 439) Wing Commander Richard Kellett, Commanding Officer of No. 149 Squadron RAF, seated at his desk at Mildenhall, Cambridgeshire. On 18 December 1939, Kellett led a force of 24 Vickers Wellingtons drawn from Nos. 9, 37 and 149 Squadrons to search for enemy shipping targets in the Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The Wellingtons were detected by a German radar station on Wangerooge Island whi… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
Perthshire Advertiser 12 September 1942