Lieutenant Tom Lumb Habergham (1916 - 1943)
Born on February 3rd 1916, in Morley, England in the county of Yorkshire. The 4th child and 2nd son of a huge and loving family of 10 children. 5 boys and 5 girls, all born in even numbered years from 1910 to 1928! Family history tells that the parents, William and Eleanor (nee Lumb) would tell the older children that they could go on holiday when “the baby was 5”. Given that a new baby came along every 2 years the oldest had to wait until they were in their 20’s and married themselves!
Tom was educated at Victoria Road Primary School, and Morley Grammar School. Always good with numbers and mechanically inclined, he left school at 16 and took up a mechanical engineering apprenticeship. He studied draughtsmanship at night school and at the age of 18 took a job as a design engineer with a local firm, Robert Hudson Ltd, then one of the UK’s and the world’s leading manufacturers of railway equipment, signals, rolling stock and light railway engines, based in Gildersome just south of the city of Leeds, He quickly became highly regarded at the Company and in 1936 was asked if he would like to take up a 4 year assignment at Hudson’s manufacturing site in Durban, South Africa, which had only been established in 1927 to service the expanding South African mining industry.
By all accounts he loved living in South Africa. A free and outgoing spirit with a love of the outdoors and an athlete and outstanding Rugby and Cricket
player, he quickly established a wide social circle. He met and fell in love with the daughter of a senior Manager at Hudson’s, Beryl MacDonald. When the war broke out, Tom was still under contract to Hudson’s and therefore could not return to England. As his younger brother, Jack, had been called up for service in England as a 20 year old in 1939, he felt he could not let him serve alone, so he volunteered for military service in the South African Air Force, which let him out of his contract with Hudsons’. The family know little of his time and his training with the SAAF, other than he initially trained as a pilot, which he cheerfully admitted he was not very good at! “Fine with the take offs and the actual flying but useless at landing-never knew where the ground was!” With his eye for mechanics and mathematics, however, he proved to be an excellent navigator/observer
He married Beryl in 1942 and whilst training met up with his elder brother on at least 2 occasions, who was then training with the RAF in South Africa as a Pilot/ Navigator at Benoni Air School, Transvaal. . His elder brother, “Arnold” to the family, “Bill” to the RAF, was a volunteer also, with the same feeling as Tom; that he could not expect his younger brother Jack to serve, whilst he was exempt. Jack served throughout the war as a Royal Marine, in all theatres of operations from Norway, to Crete to the Far East and landed in Europe on D-Day plus 2! Jack survived the war and died in 2008 aged 89.
For Tom and Bill ,however, fate was different. Tom was killed on 1st June 1943, with 26 Squadron, on returning from a routine training flight to Takoradi, Gold Coast. He was thrown clear of the initial crash which killed the other 4 members of his crew, but died 8 hours later from burns and shock. He was conscious for a number of hours and was able to give crash investigators some knowledge of what happened. He is buried in Takoradi European Cemetery, with other members of the crew. Tom was 26 years old. Long after the war, his brother Jack, met, by pure chance, the Doctor who tried to save Tom’s life.
In England, his Father, William, was greatly affected by the death of his son and possibly as a result, suffered a serious stroke just 6 months later. He died of complications in July 1944 aged just 56. His eldest son Arnold, was given leave from 619 Squadron to attend his father’s funeral. Just 2 weeks later on July 19th 1944, Arnold was killed on air operations as the navigator of a Lancaster bomber, whilst attacking railway yards at Revigny, France, to prevent the Germans bringing up reinforcements after D-Day. He is buried at Montreuil-aux- Lions, British Military Cemetery, Aisne, France. He was 31 years old.
“Our dead brothers still live for us and bid us think of life. Not death but life, to which in their youth they lent their passion and the glory of their spring” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)