See also

Family of Victor Emmanuel AZZARO and Vera VINCENT

Husband: Victor Emmanuel AZZARO (1915-1997)
Wife: Vera VINCENT ( - )

Husband: Victor Emmanuel AZZARO

Name: Victor Emmanuel AZZARO
Sex: Male
Father: Andrew AZZARO (1878-1953)
Mother: Margaret Florence BAKER (1883-1976)
Birth 1915 Brighton, Sussex
Death 26 Jul 1997 (age 81-82) North Walsham, Norfolk

Wife: Vera VINCENT

Name: Vera VINCENT
Sex: Female
Father: -
Mother: -

Note on Husband: Victor Emmanuel AZZARO - shared note

1. The following account of Vic's wartime experiences was sent me by his granddaughter Julie Mawditt.

 

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Flight Lieutenant Victor Azzaro MBE DFC

 

I joined the Royal Air Force in 1936 but, owing to my limited education, was not elligible for aircrew. I therefore was accepted as Aircraft Handler, General Duties. At the outbreak of war I was serving with No. 1 (F) Squadron at Tangmere, but soon found myself posted across the Channel to France. I was made a Ground Gunner which I believe was the beginning of the RAF Regiment. After Dunkirk we were chased all around France, and finally made our escape out of Brest the night before the Germans took the port.

 

Not long after returning to the UK, I was promoted to Sergeant and posted to the Air Ministry as a Guard Commander. This was not at all my scene and I applied to remuster as Aircrew. Because I was only an A.C.H./G.D. the only position I was offered was Airgunner which I accepted immediately.

 

There followed the usual training period which made quite a change from my previous experience in the RAF. I was posted to Llandwrog in North Wales to complete the air gunners' course, where we flew the old Whitworth Whitley. From there I went on to a Whitley Operational Training Unit at Honeybourne, and on down to No. 10 O.T.U. detachment at St. Eval, where we commenced hunting submarines off the Bay of Biscay.

 

It was not long before I had my first taste of what life was to be like as aircrew, and my submarine hunting came to an abrupt end on my third trip when I had to bale out. Upon landing I was greeted by the Home Guard, who would not believe that I was not a German. When I told them that my name was Azzaro they became even more convinced and immediately locked me up in a cowshed. As I had just completed a 12 hour stint in the air, I was not amused!

 

Having persuaded the locals that I was on their side, I was posted to No. 196 Squadron, equipeed with Wellingtons. This was an altogether different aircraft having been designed by the great Barnes Wallis. I joined a crew on their second tour, and became their rear gunner. The skipper was Flt./Lt. PeterStead who had previously been a second pilot to Group Captain Cheshire VC. Most of our operations were to the Ruhr. They were tough and many crews were lost.

 

Having moved on to the new Stirling bomber, again as a rear gunner, I completed my first tour after 7 ops and was rested. A rest meant a period in Newmarket as an instructor flying in Wellingtons and Stirlings, both of which by now I had gained much experience on. At the end of my 'rest' we made up a crew at Newmarket for a second tour, and moved on to Waterbeach to convert on to Lancasters.

 

We had not been there long when we blotted our copybook. On our second trip our over-enthusiastic Flight Engineer whipped up the undercarriage before we had got airborne, bringing us back smartly to the ground on our belly. We went hurtling up the runway at flying speed, in a shower of sparks, shedding bits and pieces in all directions. I turned my turret on to the beam and jumped out! The aircraft finished up at the end of the runway in bits.

 

We were posted to 15 Squadron but lost our skipper almost at once. After completing one op, he flew as second pilot on another trip, but failed to return. The whole crew then volunteered to join the Pathfinder Force, and we went to Warboys, the P.F.F. training unit. After completing the course I went to No. 7 Squadron at Oakington equipped with Lancasters. I flew 51 operations with No. 7 PFF, and remained in the squadron till the end of the war.

 

My crew flew as a Primary Sky Marker, and all our operations were in Europe. It is difficult to single out ops in one's memory, because they were all pretty eventful, but one raid sticks in my memory. It was always very crowded over any target area, particularly on the large raids. On one occasion we collided with a Halifax right over the target. I am not sure if he climbed up into us, or whether we 'landed' on him, but his mid-upper turret scraped all along the length of our bomb doors, and taking the H2S scanner away. I remember thinking that we had enough to contend with over the target, without having to survive mid-air collisions! Thankfully we got home safely.

 

I was awarded a DFC as a Warrant Officer in 1944, and a bar to the DFC in 1945. In 1966 while still serving with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, I was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

 

After the war ended I became a Ground Control Approach Controller, and did a year in Berlin during the famous airlift.

 

Though all the bombing raids to Germany were unpleasant operations, and being coned by searchlights over Essen or Hamburg was an horrific experience, I rate a mine-laying trip to Brest Harbour as being my most hair-raising experience of the war.

 

I was used to flying at 18000 feet but this exercise demanded that we run in at wave-top height, and Wellington bombers were not exactly designed to wave-hop! The object of the exercise was to find a definite land mark and fly a timed run down the harbour, so that the Navy knew exactly where we had dropped our mines. It sounds simple, but no account of the reception we were to receive seemed to have been taken.

 

Having found our pin-point we flew down the harbour at almost zero feet, and just as we dropped our mines all hell broke loose; searchlights, guns, flak, everything happened at once. The flak ships in the harbour were sending up so much stuff it was frightening. The skipper lifted the Wellington up and over the top of a flak ship in our path, and I opened up with my guns firing vertically as we went over, and finishing up horizontally. I emptied my magazine; somehow we got out without damage.

 

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2. Cousin June tells me that Vic left the RAF at the end of the war and briefly worked with his brother-in-law Bob Kuhler as a French polisher/Cabinet maker. However, he was never happy away from the RAF and was able to return, retaining his old rank of flight lieutenant.

 

3. As a Ground Controller a noteworthy moment was at the Queen's Coronation in 1953 when Vic was in control of the bomber squadron who did the fly past over Buckingham Palace. Later, I remember Vic and his family being stationed at Jever in Germany for some time. We spent a summer holiday with them, probably around 1960. Vic left the RAF in 1966, moving to Holt in Norfolk where he ran the Kings Head pub. From there he moved on to North Walsham to run a betting shop.