John Perryer HARPER
No. 572648 Sergeant (Flight Engineer),
Royal Air Force, No. 49 Squadron.
Died 15 June 1943, aged 21 years.
Buried in Renkum (Oosterbeek) General Cemetery,
Oosterbeek, Gelderland, Netherlands, Grave 4.
No. 49 Squadron was part of RAF Bomber Command. In 1943 it was flying Avro Lancaster bombers on raids over Germany from its base at RAF Fiskerton in Lincolnshire.
Sergeant Harper was the flight engineer in an all-sergeant Lancaster crew of eight (all of them aged between 19 and 22) which took off on the evening of 14 June 1943 as part of a night bombing raid on Oberhausen in Germany. He was the only regular airman among the crew: the other seven, including the 20-year-old sergeant-pilot, were all Volunteer Reserve airmen. They did not return. Their Lancaster was hit by flak and crashed in Holland, near the small town of Oosterbeek. Two crewmen survived, injured, and were taken prisoner. The remaining six, Sergeant Harper among them, were killed, and are buried side by side in the local Dutch cemetery.
John Perryer Harper was the son of Bertram John Harper and Daisy Clarice Mary Harper of Redcar. He entered Coatham School in September 1933 aged eleven, joining Ingham’s House, in Form IIB as a fee-paying day boy. He was initially in the same form as Cocks and Watson (q.v.). In 1936 he competed in the under-15 events at the swimming gala, winning the one length breaststroke and coming third in the freestyle. He left school in July 1937. In 1940 he was on the first published list of Old Coathamians in H.M. Forces, with his rank then of Leading Aircraftman RAF noted. He was first listed on the School’s Roll of Honour in December 1943.