Captain John Frederick Hubble
Unit : No.3 Flight, "B" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment
Captain Hubble joined the Territorial Army in 1939 and was posted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, before later joining the Glider Pilot Regiment. The following is the result of an investigation by his daughter, Lindsay Aspin, to uncover the events surrounding his participation in Operation Varsity, as printed in "The Eagle", the magazine of the Glider Pilot Regiment, in August 2009. If you are able to add any further information, you can write to her at email@example.com.
Can anyone please help or add more to the following conjecture?
Captain John Frederick Hubble (known as Jack Hubble) "B" Squadron - 1 Wing Glider Pilot Regiment - Earls Colne 1945. My father died in August 1964 and his "obituary notice" can be seen in the 1965 Spring edition of the "Eagle". Letters discovered after his wife, Patricia Hubble, died in November 2005, instigated our family research. My brother and I knew nothing about our father's WW2 involvement or experiences until these letters were found in 2005.
From records held at the National Archives and the Museum of Army Flying, matched together with the following "extracts" taken from letters that my father wrote in 1945, it would appear that the scenarios at Earls Colne on the Wednesday before Operation Varsity took place on the Saturday, was: (Recorded documentation held at the National Archives, Kew.)
Operation "Varsity" - The Rhine Crossing 24.03.45. - Earls Colne Airfield R.A.F. 296 Squadron x 30 Halifax Tug Planes x 30 Horsa Gliders - B Squadron - 1 Wing G.P.R. - LZ. "R". This lift was followed by R.A.F. 297 Squadron by a further lift x 30 combinations.
First-up in the serial lift that day was R.A.F. 296 Squadron Commander, Wing Commander T. C. Musgrave and crew. Second-up with crew, who rolled 1 1/2 minutes behind Musgrave was Flt. Lt. M. Jackson.
The 296 Operational Record Book also confirms that Musgrave and Jackson took part in "Token Varsity" 17.03.45 one week before Operation "Varsity".
From the following extract taken from the "letter written to leave behind" after the Camp Sealing at Earls Colne, before Operation "Varsity" on Saturday, 24.03.45, it appears that two aspects marry-up with information obtained from the National Archives...
"The Hut - Wednesday - Ih oh Patty, the Camp is now sealed as from mid-day today. The Camp Sealing is naturally a very important thing, and frankly Darling, without getting myself a Court Martial, there is no way round it. Just before lunch Major Toler had me in the Squadron briefing room and I was shown the final L.Z. and when we go. Squadron briefing was this afternoon. I'm number one in our lift Darling, and hells bells, but I have now lost my Tug Pilot. It's a shame but it seems I've an even more important job, and I'm now flying behind Wing Co. Musgrave the Squadron Commander - "Musty", my Tug Pilot for the do. Flying with the big boys now - however, as this thing is unavoidable we are not grumbling and "Jacko" and I have decided to do the next one together instead - haw bloody haw."
I believe "Jacko" was Flt. Lt. M. Jackson. Perhaps my father and "Jacko" were a pair-in-training before Operation "Varsity", then, for some reason, he was switched on the Wednesday before Operation "Varsity" to go behind Wing Co. Musgrave. Flt. Lt. M. Jackson was second-up in the serial lift and I quote again from the letter that was written "to leave behind"...
"Now, I have fixed it with "Jacko", who is flying the Tug after me in the stream and he has promised that as soon as the "Seal" is broken here, he will try and 'phone you to let you know how I went down. As soon as things settle down I shall be rootin' back over that damned Rhine - don't hurry me 'though - it's just foolishness for you to expect me around for at least 7 or 8 days."
"Conjecture" - is that in the Glider piloted by my father (Chalk No.153) towed by 296 Squadron Commander, Wing Commander T. C. Musgrave was Brigadier R. Hugh Bellamy, H.Q. 6 Airlanding Brigade followed by a further 14 Gliders carrying his Defence Platoon Chalk Nos. 154 to 167.
To date "no" Glider Raid Reports for 296 Squadron have been found to substantiate this "conjecture". However, "conjecture" might suggest that perhaps such key personnel would, under the circumstances, have led the way from Earls Colne Airfield. From the 6 Airlanding Brigade War Diary it clearly states that Brigadier R. Hugh Bellamy and his Defence Platoon left from Earls Colne and that "his Glider" came down near the Kopenhof Farmhouse close to where Major General Bols established his Divisional H.Q.
I know too, from the hand-written briefing notes of Major Ian Toler, Officer Commanding, "B" Squadron, 1 Wing G.P.R., Operation "Varsity" and also from the book he wrote called "Gliding Into War", that my Father was Flight Commander of Flight No.3, and Ken Ashurst, R.A.F. G.P., was Flight Commander of Flight No.19.
Both 3 and 19 Flights x 15 Gliders were destined for L.Z. "R" and under the command of Captain H. M. R. Norton (Rex Norton) who was K.I.A. on that first day at "Varsity" 24.03.45. From records on the Field Returns at the National Archives, together with a further extract from the letter my father wrote on "scrounged paper" on the battleground confirms that loss of Captain H. M. R. Norton. This letter was kept by my father and given to my mother after his safe return via Helmond to Keevil...
"Been a party as you can guess, but thank God, we managed to keep everything under control - my chaps made such a grand show. This is our first day this (proper) side of the river and reaction is a funny thing - just realising now the empty beds we have - sorry to say that poor old Rex Norton is not coming back again - God, Pat - it's a hellish business - he was hoping to get married after this show."
In the letter written at Keevil dated Saturday 31st March, 1945, a week later, he writes...
"Today for the first time I begin to realise was a lucky bounder I am to be sitting here writing to you. We flew out from Eindhoven Holland yesterday and landed at Down Ampney about 40 miles from here. Rumour has it that my Flight are on leave next Tuesday although Major Toler has said nothing official to me about it. The trip to Earls Colne today was scrubbed as we have been so busy sorting out the list of all the chaps missing and killed - what a morbid business. The trip is now to be on Monday and I'm hoping that "Musty" is going to send down about 6 Halifaxes for us. All being well, we will put a few gliders on the back for the return journey - I know the Squadron will want to go up for a drink with our gallant Tug chappies."
It is now 45 years since my father died and Operation "Varsity" took place 64 years ago: nevertheless, some small pieces of the jigsaw puzzle do seem to fit the scenario. Hopefully, along with the passage of time, and with the information already obtained, it will ensure that future generations of the Hubble family will be aware of their heritage.
This a "lesson of learning and discovery" has made my brother and I feel so very proud of the service our father gave during the Second World War with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the A.A.C. and Glider Pilot Regiment.
With grateful and sincere thanks to all the following who have kindly helped me during the last three long years with my research. With their support and encouragement, alongside so many others, I too now believe that... "Nothing is impossible!".
Major Steve Elsey A.A.C. Middle Wallop and all new friends in the Museum of Army Flying; Stephen L. Wright: author "The Last Drop: Operation Varsity"; All the Veterans I have been so fortunate to speak with for their time and input provided; The Assault Glider Trust, Shawbury and the Midland Branch of the G.P.R.; Col. David Mallam, Airborne Forces Museum Duxford; Wing Commander Colin Cummings, author "Though Without Anger"; Martin Bellamy, son of Brigadier R. Hugh Bellamy, H.Q. 6 Airlanding Brigade; Mark Aston, son of Lt. Michael Aston - in 1944 Lt. Michael Aston was seconded to Brigadier Bellamy's H.Q. as Head of Defence Platoon.
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