Research by Clarence Simonsen
RCAF Halifax serial NR199 M.H.D.O.I.F.
Click on the link above for the PDF version with images.
Text version with images
“Most Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Finger”
To fully understand the history behind the nose art painting [M.H.D.O.I.F. Finger] on RCAF Halifax serial NR199, I recommend you first read the 1991 publication “The Life and Times of Pilot Officer Prune” by Tim Hamilton. It is the best, [historical] humorous, [hundreds of images] and well worth the money.
You can also order all 60 issues of TEE EMM on a CD [in U.K.] or purchase original copies, but that will cost much more money, as they are collectors items and overpriced.
Fictional RAF [person] P/O Percy Prune #89008 was born 1 April 1922, and appeared in the first issue of TEE EMM [Training Manual] on 1 April 1941. “Tee Emm” and “Prune” were inseparable and met with instant approval by all members of the R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. The RAF had a well-known wartime phrase “Pull your finger out!” [meaning – Get your Finger out of your Ass, get on with the job and don’t be a damn fool, and P/O Prune always had his famous Prunery finger out]. In fact, a long line of Prunes became famous for the pointing of their index finger. The following history was published in a book titled “RAF Parade” by Evelyn Thomas, October 1944, John England Publications.
This led to the creation [March 1942] of the M.H.D.O.I.F. or “The Most Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Finger.” While the details of the award were published in each monthly issue of Tee Emm the recipient’s names were left blank, however, everyone knew who the real RAF/RCAF “Pruneries” were. Some RAF units even made the recipient wear the fake medal decoration around his neck for 24 hours as punishment.
This rare RCAF Halifax aircraft nose art [No. 408 and 415 Sqn.] was based on the factious spoof RAF WWII military decoration seen on the left. The special award was created by S/L Anthony Armstrong Willis OBE, MC, the editor of the RAF Training Memorandum called “Tee Emm.” Each month four or five RAF recipients of the award were published in Tee Emm magazine, awarded the “Most Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Finger.” The [Pilot Officer Prune] index finger was pointed clearly as the finger of blame, rather than the middle finger as an obscene gesture, surrounded by words FAITH ET BLIND HOPE and Motto – Dieu et Mon Doigt, [God and my Finger]. The next original pages appeared in Tee Emm issues September and December 1944, where nine recipients were awarded the Month’s Prunery, the M.H.D.O.I.F.
Halifax B. Mk. III, serial NR199 was constructed in a Batch NR169 to NR211, delivered between 15 October to 4 November 1944. The new bomber was first delivered to RCAF No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron 30 October 1944, flying no recorded operations. On 8 November 44, the aircraft was transferred to 408 [Goose] Squadron, but remained only seven days. On 16 November, NR199 was flown to No. 420 [Snowy Owl] Squadron, where it was taken on strength for only hours, then the aircraft was returned to No. 408 Squadron flying her first operation on the same day [16 November] F/L R. Call J20725 bombing Julich, wearing code letters EQ-F. The Halifax completed fourteen operations from 16 November 1944 until 9 February 1945, six were flown by the crew of F/O H.D. Sokoloff, J25966, January 2, 6, 13, 14, and 16/17 of the new year. It is possible they were the aircrew who named their aircraft as it carried the code letter “F” [for Finger] and possibly the Percy Prune finger was painted as nose art, due to the “Prunery” back and forth posting of the bomber.
On 11 February 1945, NR199 was N to No. 415 [Swordfish] Squadron and assigned the code letters 6U-N. The first operation was flown on 14/15 February by F/O A.B. Galley J36428, and twenty-two more operations followed, Feb. 17, 20/21, 24, 27, March 2, 5/6, 7/8, 8/9, 11, 12 two trips morning and afternoon, 18/19, 21, 22, 24, 31, April 4, 8/9, 13/14, 22, and her last trip in 25 April 1945.
F/L T.C. Mears J2939 flew her seven times and F/O J.T. Patterson J39023 flew NR199 the most on nine operations. It is also possible one of these crews were responsible for the nose art and if it was painted at No. 415 [Swordfish] Squadron, the nose artist was likely Air Engine Mechanic LAC Boris Nicklehoff. Wearing the code letter “N” I feel the nose art was painted in No. 408 [Goose] Squadron and remained on the nose for her operations flown in No. 415.
No. 41 Group RAF Maintenance Unit operated eleven aircraft storage bases spread around the U.K. No. 29 M.U. was located at High Ercall, Shropshire, where a large number of RCAF Halifax bombers were flown for scrapping in May 1945. NR199 was flown to No. 48 Maintenance Unit located at RAF Hawarden, where nine other RCAF bombers came to their end. The Prune Finger was taken on strength RAF No. 41 Group on 18 May and flown to No. 48 M.U. on 28 May for scrapping soon afterwards.
Last of 23 operations flown No. 415 Squadron 25 April 1945.
Rejected again and again by RCAF Squadrons, NR199 finally found a home with No. 408 and last No. 415 Squadron, where she was awarded the “Prunery” Finger. Photo taken by F/L Lindsay after 28 May 1945 at 48 M.U. RAF Station Hawarden, England. In the next four months thousands of obsolete WWII bombers were scrapped.
Painted for Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton, Alberta, 1999.
Joined No. 6 [RCAF] Group of RAF Bomber Command on 12 July 1944 and flew Halifax B. Mk. III and [six] Mk. VII aircraft until disbanded at East Moor, Yorkshire, 15 May 1945. In ten months they lost 22 aircraft and 151 aircrew members were killed in action.
Somehow RCAF M.H.D.O.I.F. [Irremovable Finger] survived 37 operations with two Canadian Squadrons only to be chopped up for scrap in an English Halifax graveyard in June 1945.
Another in a long line of fascinating posts! Thank you.
Very long line of fascinating posts. That’s the reason I am helping Clarence in sharing his amazing research.
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