Friday, December 20, 2013

Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling KCB, CBE, DSO, DFC* AE 1919-1996

Saturday, November 09, 2013

G/Capt Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire VC, OM,DSO**, DFC 1917-1992

Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire was one of the most remarkable men of his generation, perhaps the most remarkable. A war hero and pioneer of the Cheshire Homes for sick people that bear his name, he had the priceless gift of appearing ordinary while accomplishing quite extraordinary achievements in war and peace.
Cheshire was the son of the eminent Oxford lawyer Professor Geoffrey Cheshire; but neither at Stowe nor at Oxford did he prove a particularly bright or industrious student. In an extrovert generation, he was the most extrovert. Intentionally or unintentionally, he always seemed to attract the headlines (he held the record from Hyde Park Corner to Magdalen Bridge in an Alfa Romeo, for which he could not pay). Ironically, in view of his later life he avowedly modelled himself, on Leslie Charteris's 'The Saint'.
But he did join the Oxford University Air Squadron and became a competent though not brilliant pilot. And, unusally among his contemporaries, he foresaw the coming of the Second World War. In the summer of 1939 he took a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force and was posted to Hullavington to complete his training (typically, when still not fully trained, he volunteered for the Russo-Finnish War) Perhaps to his disappointment, he was posted to Bomber Command.
Here came the transfer from the world of fantasy to hard reality; and there was none harder than Bomber Command. Within a year he had been awarded his first DSO, for bringing home a holed and burning Whitley. Thereafter his operational record went from strength to strength. He demonstrated unique qualities of stamina, survival, expertise and leadership. He needed not only these but also luck, as he was the first to admit, constantly surviving the most intense anti-aircraft and fighter opposition over the war's most heavily defended targets, often at very low level where he personally developed the Mosquito marking techniques. And not only the Mosquito; on one occasion, suspecting that the fast single-seater Mustang could be a useful addition to Bomber Command's armoury, he made his first flight in the aircraft one afternoon and flew a deep-penetration sortie in it the same night.
He could not bear to be out of the action. To take command of the elite 617 (Dambusters) Squadron he accepted demotion from Group Captain. He led every sortie while in command and pioneered a number of special bombing and marking techniques, which produced an unequalled record of success for his squadron. Their spoof operation, TAXABLE, to simulate an invasion of the Pas de Calais, demanded minute accuracy of flying over a long period and completely fulfilled its purpose of deceiving the enemy.
He was awarded the DFC, two bars to the DSO and, after completing the unique total of 100 missions, the Victoria Cross. Of this award perhaps it only needs to be said that, unlike some others, it was never questioned or criticised by any of his contemporaries or comrades.
In August 1945 he was selected as the only British Service observer of the atom bombing of Nagasaki. Naturally it had a profound effect on him. But it is not true that it convinced him that he must dedicate the rest of his life to suffering humanity.
This was to come later, after he had been struck with tuberculosis and underwent 18 months hospitalisation and much major surgery at Midhurst. At the same time he was converted to the Roman Catholic faith, to which he remained a most ardent devotee.
Having been invalided from the RAF in 1946 he embarked on several ambitious but unsuccessful ventures in community welfare. After the failure of the last of these he was left with one large empty house, Le Court, at Liss in Hampshire, and a mountain of debts. He agreed to accept into that house an incurable patient from a local hospital. This was to be the start, involuntary and unplanned, of the Cheshire Homes. By 1992 they numbered, together with Family Support Services, some 270 in 48 countries, caring for thousands of physically or mentally handicapped people. He allowed no qualification of background, age, religion, race or speciality of handicap. The doors of Cheshire Homes are open to anyone who is unable to make his way in society without assistance.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

W/Cdr Guy Harris 1918-2007

Guy Harris joined the RAF on a short service commission in March 1936, being promoted to Flying Officer in July 1938. At the outbreak of war he was serving with 32 Squadron, but on 10 November 1939 he was posted to 253 Squadron as a flight commander, being promoted Acting Flt Lt. During May 1940 his flight was detached to France, where on the 18th he claimed two victories in two sorties before his Hurricane was one of six destroyed on the ground whilst being refuelled. He managed to return to the UK, and the next day was attacking an He111 when his aircraft was hit from behind and he was wounded. He landed at Dieppe and was evacuated by sea. On 2 November he rejoined the unit from the RAF Officer’s Hospital at Torquay, but on 16 November was posted to 56 OTU as an instructor.

1940 Victories:-
18 May Hs126 destroyed
18 May He111 unconfirmed
19 May He111 damaged
(Harris was flying Hurricane N2590 when he was attacked by Me109’s and force-landed at Dieppe. He was possibly attacked by Feldwebel Borchers of 1 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 77

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Desmond Ossiter Sands DFC 1911-1999

Pilot-Officer Desmond Ossiter Sands was  awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry over Augsburg. His squadron leader, J. D. Nettleton, received the Victoria Cross.
Pilot-Officer Sands was the navigator to Nettleton's plane, and it was the only one of the six Lancasters that got back, after having done its job despite terrific opposition, the raid involving a flight of 1,000 miles over
hostile country.
The target was one of great military importance, and the Lancaster did its job, flying as low as 50 feet from the surface. Desmond Sands went to London with his siste and was a partner in an architectural firm there at the time of his enlistment in 1940. He was commissioned in 1941, and participated in many raids over Germany, including the Ruhr, Hamburg and Kiel.

G/Capt Sir Douglas Bader CBE, DSO* DFC* 1910-1982

Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born in London, England on February 21, 1910. The son of civil engineer Frederick Bader and his wife Jessie, Douglas spent his first two years with relatives on the Isle of Man as his father had to return to work in India. Joining his parents at age two, the family returned to Britain a year later and settled in London. With the outbreak of World War I, Bader's father left for military service. Though he survived the war, he was wounded in 1917 and died of complications in 1922. Re-marrying, Bader's mother had little time for him and he was sent to Saint Edward's School.

Excelling at sports, Bader proved an unruly student. In 1923, he was introduced to aviation while visiting his aunt who was engaged to Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge. Interested in flying, he returned to school and improved his grades. This resulted in an offer of admission to Cambridge, but he was unable to attend when his mother claimed she lacked the money to pay tuition. At this time, Burge also informed Bader of six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell. Applying, he placed fifth and was admitted to the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1928.

During his time at Cranwell, Bader flirted with expulsion as his love of sports had branched into banned activities such as auto racing. Warned about his behavior by Air Vice-Marshal Frederick Halahan, he placed 19th out of 21 in his class examinations. Flying came easier to Bader than studying and flew his first solo on February 19, 1929 after just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time. Commissioned as a pilot officer on July 26, 1930, he received an assignment to No. 23 Squadron at Kenley. Flying Bristol Bulldogs, the squadron was under orders to avoid aerobatics and stunts at less than 2,000 ft. of altitude.

Bader, as well as other pilots in the squadron, repeated flaunted this regulation. On December 14, 1931, while at the Reading Aero Club, he attempted a series of low altitude stunts over Woodley Field. In the course of these, his left wing hit the ground causing a severe crash. Immediately taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital, Bader survived but had both his legs amputated, one above the knee, the other below. Recovering through 1932, he met his future wife, Thelma Edwards, and was fitted with artificial legs. That June, Bader returned to service and passed the required flight tests.

His return to RAF flying proved short-lived when he was medically discharged in April 1933. Leaving the service, he took a job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and married Edwards. As the political situation in Europe deteriorated in the late 1930s, Bader continually requested positions with the Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, he was finally asked to a selection board meeting at Adastral House. Though he was initially only offered ground positions, intervention from Halahan secured him an assessment at the Central Flying School. Quickly proving his skill, he was permitted to move through refresher training later that fall. In January 1940, Bader was assigned to No. 19 Squadron and began flying the Supermarine Spitfire. Through the spring, he flew with the squadron learning formations and fighting tactics. Impressing Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commander No. 12 Group, he was moved to No. 222 Squadron and promoted to flight lieutenant. That May, with Allied defeat in France looming, Bader flew in support of the Dunkirk Evacuation. On June 1, he scored his first kill, a Messerschmitt Bf 109, over Dunkirk.
With the conclusion of these operations, Bader was promoted to Squadron Leader and given command of No. 232 Squadron. Largely composed of Canadians and flying the Hawker Hurricane, it had taken heavy losses during the Battle of France. Quickly earning his men's trust, Bader rebuilt the squadron and it re-entered operations on July 9, just in time for the Battle of Britain. Two days later, he scored his first kill with the squadron when he downed a Dornier Do 17 off the Norfolk coast. As the battle intensified, he continued to add to his total as No. 232 engaged the Germans.

On September 14, Bader received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his performance through the late summer. As the fighting progressed, he became an outspoken advocate for Leigh-Mallory's "Big Wing" tactics which called for massed attacks by at least three squadrons. Flying from farther north, Bader often found himself leading large groups fighters into battles over southeastern Britain. This approach was countered by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park's 11 Group in the southeast which generally committed squadrons individually in an effort to conserve strength.

On December 12, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts during the Battle of Britain. In the course of the fighting, No. 262 Squadron downed 62 enemy aircraft. Assigned to Tangmere in March 1941, he was promoted to wing commander and given Nos. 145, 610, and 616 Squadrons. Returning to the Spitfire, Bader began conducting offensive fighter sweeps and escort missions over the Continent. Flying through the summer, Bader continued to add to his tally with his primary prey being Bf 109s. Awarded a bar for his DSO on July 2, he pushed for additional sorties over occupied Europe.

Though his wing was tired, Leigh-Mallory allowed Bader a free hand rather than anger his star ace. On August 9, Bader engaged a group of Bf 109s over northern France. In the engagement, his Spitfire was hit with the rear of the aircraft breaking away. Though he believed it was the result of a mid-air collision, more recent scholarship indicates that his downing may have been at German hands or due to friendly fire. In the course of exiting the aircraft, Bader lost one of his artificial legs. Captured by German forces, he was treated with great respect due to his accomplishments. At the time of his capture, Bader's score stood at 22 kills and six probables.

After his capture, Bader was entertained by noted German ace Adolf Galland. In a sign of respect, Galland arranged to have the British airdrop a replacement leg for Bader. Hospitalized in St. Omer after his capture, Bader attempted to escape and nearly did so until a French informer alerted the Germans. Believing it his duty to cause trouble for the enemy even as a POW, Bader attempted several escapes during the course of his imprisonment. These led to one German commandant threatening to take his legs and ultimately to his transfer to the famous Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle.

Bader remained at Colditz until liberated by the US First Army in April 1945. Returning to Britain, he was given the honor of leading a victory flyover of London in June. Returning to active duty, he briefly oversaw the Fighter Leader's School before taking an assignment to lead the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group. Considered out of date by many of the younger officers, he was never comfortable and elected to leave the RAF in June 1946 for a job with Royal Dutch Shell.

Named Chairman of Shell Aircraft Ltd., Bader was free to keep flying and travelled extensively. A popular speaker, he continued advocating for aviation even after his retirement in 1969. Somewhat controversial in his older age for his outspoken conservative political positions, he remained friendly with former foes such as Galland. A tireless advocate for the disabled, he was knighted for his services in this area in 1976. Though in declining health, he continued to pursue an exhausting schedule. Bader died of a heart attack on September 5, 1982 after a dinner in honor of Air Marshal Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris.

W/Cdr Robert Stanford Tuck DSO DFC** 1916-1987

Robert Roland Stanford Tuck was born on July 1st 1916 at Catford, London. After leaving St. Dunstan’s College, Reading in 1932 he became a sea cadet before joining the RAF in 1935 with a posting to 3 FTS (Flight Training School) at Grantham. Tuck then joined 65 Squadron in September 1935 until May 1940 when he was posted to 92 Squadron, based at Croydon, as a Flight Commander

During combat on May 23rd 1940, over Dunkirk, Tuck claimed three Bf110’s destroyed and a Bf109. The following day he shot down two Do17’s, on May 25th he shared a Do17 and on June 2nd he shot down a Bf109, a He111 and damaged two more Bf109’s. Due to his bravery Tuck was awarded the DFC on June 11th and received it from King George VI at Hornchurch on June 28th

His combat successes continued with a shared Do17 on July 8th, a damaged Ju88 on July 25th, a shared Ju88 on August 13th and two destroyed Ju88’s the following day. On August 18th Tuck attacked a group of Ju88’s over Kent where he shot one down and damaged another. During the exchange his Spitfire was hit by return fire and he baled out just east of Tunbridge Wells where he was slightly injured from the landing

Tuck was again involved in another incident on August 25th when his Spitfire was badly damaged during combat with a Do17, which he destroyed, 15 miles off the coast. The aircraft had a dead engine but he glided it back to make a forced landing

On September 11th, during the height of the Battle of Britain, Tuck was posted to command 257 Squadron based at Debden. Leading the Hurricanes into combat on the 15th he shot down a Bf110 and a probable Bf109. On September 23rd he claimed a Bf109, October 4th a Ju88, October 12th a Bf109, October 25th a Bf109 and two more damaged. His last two victories of the Battle were on October 28th where he claimed two “probable” damaged Bf109’s

He received a Bar to his DFC on October 25th

During December he shot down a Do17 on the 12th, a Bf109 on the 19th and a Do17 on the 29th. In January 1941 Tuck was awarded the DSO and continued his “scores” in March with a Do17 on the 2nd and another on the 19th. On April 9th, during the night, he shot down a Ju88 and claimed another on April 27th after he had received a second Bar to his DFC on the 11th. Two more victories followed during night operations on May 11th when he shot down a Ju88 and probably another

Tuck was involved in a dogfight with Bf109’s, on June 21st, where he claimed two and damaged another before he himself was shot down into the Channel. After spending nearly two hours adrift in a dinghy, he was picked up by a barge and taken to Gravesend, Kent.

In July, 1941, he was appointed Wing Leader at Duxford and claimed two victories over Bf109’s, on the 7th and 8th with another Bf109 probably damaged

After a brief trip to America, with several other RAF Fighter Command pilots, he returned to a posting at Biggin Hill as Wing Leader. It was during this posting that saw Tuck’s last aerial combat of the war. On January 28th, 1942, while on a low-level mission over northern France, his Spitfire was hit by enemy flak near Boulogne and he was forced to crash land

He was captured by German troops and spent the next three years in several POW (prisoner of war) camps until he made a successful escape on February 1st 1945. After spending some time fighting alongside the advancing Russian troops as an infantry officer he found his way to the British Embassy in Moscow. He eventually boarded a ship from Russia to Southampton, England

With the war now over, he received his final decoration, a DFC (US Air Force) on June 14th 1946, before he finally retired from the RAF and active service on May 13th 1949 as a Wing Commander.

W/Cdr James Eric Storrar DFC 1920-1994

James Eric Storrar was born at Ormskirk on June 24 1920. His family had run a veterinary practice at Chester since the early 18th century and he was educated at Chester City and County School. In October 1938 he joined the RAF on a short service commission. The next year he was posted to No 145, then flying Blenheim bombers from Croydon. In March 1940 the Squadron converted to Hurricanes. After the Battle of Britain, the depleted squadron was sent to Drem in Scotland to rest and re-form and Storrar served briefly with 421 Flight, a specialised interception unit, before moving to No 73, another Hurricane squadron. In November 1940 the squadron sailed to Takoradi on the coast of West Africa, aboard the aircraft carrier ‘Furious’. It then flew the "stepping stone" route across Africa to Egypt. After a brief detachment to No 274 the pilots returned to their own unit.

On April 4 1941, Storrar spotted a Lockheed Lodestar which had made a forced landing in the desert. He put down and discovered the Lodestar was General Wavell's personal aircraft. After Storrar had helped the Lodestar's pilot to get his engine going, he found that his own aircraft would not start. He was obliged to walk across the desert to Tobruk. A few days later Storrar was enjoying a rest at Takoradi when he was asked to ferry a Hurricane to Freetown. Bad weather forced him down in the jungle; it took him two days and three nights to walk more than 70 miles to the Firestone rubber plantation near Monrovia. In 1943 he returned to Britain. Aged 22, he received command of No 65, a Spitfire squadron flying bomber escorts and fighter sweeps over France and the Low Countries.
In the course of a screaming dive on a Me109 Storrar overstressed his Spitfire which had to be written-off after landing. The next year he moved to a Transport Command unit flying an air delivery service, but returned to operations in the autumn of 1944 as commander of No 64. He later commanded Nos 165 and 234 squadrons and in 1946 was posted to Italy to command No 239 Wing, equipped with Mustangs.

The next year Storrar was offered an extended commission. He opted instead to study veterinary science at Edinburgh University and later joined the family practice. In 1949 he joined No 603, a Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron and resumed flying. He went on to command No 610, the County of Chester Auxiliary Squadron.

Storrar was awarded the DFC in 1940, a Bar in 1943. He notched up 15 confirmed kills as a Hurricane pilot during the Battle of Britain.

"Jas" Storrar was a giant of a man. Well over 6ft tall, he was barely able to squeeze into the cockpit of his fighter. Over the years he retained something of the flamboyant style of a Battle of Britain pilot. His jackets were lined with red silk and his Jaguar XJS 12 bore the registration JAS.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Douglas Campbell 1896-1990

The son of astronomer William Wallace Campbell, Douglas Campell graduated from Harvard University in 1917. On 18 May 1917, he enlisted in the United States Signal Corps, Aviation Section. After training at the School of Military Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he embarked for France on 23 July 1917. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 29 September 1917. After additional training in early 1918 at Issoudun and Casaux, Campbell was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron on 1 March 1918. He and Lt. Alan Winslow shared the squadron's first official victory over an enemy aircraft on 14 April 1918. Flying the Nieuport 28, Campbell was the first United States Air Service pilot trained in the United States to score five confirmed victories. Scoring his final victory on 5 June 1918, he and James Meissner shot down a Rumpler near Nancy, but Campbell was wounded in the back by an explosive bullet and sent home to recover. Promoted to Captain, he returned to France on 8 November 1918 and served with the Army of Occupation in Germany. Returning to the United States on 1 January 1919, Campbell was discharged from the army on 24 February. On 7 June 1919 he accepted a Captain's commission in the Air Service Officers' Reserve Corps.

Monday, November 19, 2012

AVM James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson CB, CBE, DSO**, DFC* 1915-2001

AVM James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson was the top-scoring RAF fighter pilot of the Second World War; his dash, courage and flying skills were outstanding.
Johnson accounted for at least 38 enemy aircraft over Britain and occupied Europe, yet his actual score was almost certainly higher. Of the many enemy aircraft he shot down, he waived shared credits to boost the scores - and the confidence - of younger pilots.
He earned an appropriately impressive collection of decorations, including a DSO and two Bars and a DFC and Bar. This recognition contrasted starkly with the RAF's refusal before the war to approve his application to join an Auxiliary Air Force (AuxAF) squadron, or to serve in the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).
It was only after Johnson had enlisted in the Leicestershire Yeomanry, TA, that the RAFVR reviewed his application and accepted him for pilot training. But for the delay, Johnson might well have been ready for action at the beginning of the Battle of Britain on July 10 1940. As it was, his late entry and a badly set collarbone fracture meant that he did not open his score until the New Year of 1941.
When, subsequently, in the summer of 1941, Fighter Command launched a series of aggressive cross-Channel sweeps, the airmanship and combat skills exhibited by Johnson as a member of No 616, South Yorkshire's AuxAF Spitfire squadron, were recognised by Douglas Bader, then leading his celebrated Spitfire wing from Tangmere at the foot of the South Downs.
Bader paid Johnson the compliment of inviting him to fly in his own section, and the two men struck up a lifelong friendship. On August 9, during the wing's operation in support of a bomber attack on Gosnay, near Lille, Johnson was present when the legless Bader was shot down and taken prisoner.
Of that day, Johnson recalled how the amiable banter of his groundcrew relieved the tension as they strapped him in at Westhampnett airfield, a satellite of Tangmere. He remembered, too, how "the usual cockpit smell, that strange mixture of dope [varnish], fine mineral oil, gun oil and high octane assailing the nostrils" was "vaguely comforting".
He tightened his helmet strap, swung the rudder with his feet on the pedals, wiggled the stick, thought about Lille and Me 109s and switched on his gunsight. "In a slanting climb we cross Beachy Head and steer for the French coast. Bader rocks his wings, we level out for the climb, slide out of our tight formation and adopt wider battle formations at 25,000 ft."
Over the Pas de Calais, the wing encountered a swarm of Me 109s. "We fan out alongside Bader. There are four 109s with others on either side. Before opening fire I have a swift glance to either side. For the first time I see Bader in the air, firing at a 109. My 109 pulls into a steep climb, I hang on and knock a few pieces from his starboard wing."
Spotting a solitary Messerschmitt, Johnson dropped below, to take aim with his cannon at the unarmoured underside of the aircraft. Moments later a plume of thick black smoke marked the end of the 109.
In July 1942, when his score had already reached double figures, Johnson received command of No 610 (County of Chester), an AuxAF Spitfire squadron based at Ludham, hard by Hickling Broad in Norfolk. The next month, on August 19, 610 flew with New Zealander Jamie Jameson's No 12 Group Spitfire wing in the air battle over Dieppe, in support of the disastrous Dieppe Raid.
"Over Dieppe," Jameson recalled, "the wing was immediately bounced by a hundred FW 190s and a few Me 109s. I heard Johnson effing and blinding as he broke 610 into a fierce attack. I was hard at it dodging 190s, but I found time to speak sharply to Johnson about his foul language."
Johnson flew four sorties over Dieppe, adding to his tally of "kills". But he was always the first to acknowledge his debt to his groundcrew. "My life depended on my rigger Arthur Radcliffe and my fitter, Fred Burton," he wrote. "They strapped me in, waved me off and welcomed me back - and whenever I was successful they were as pleased as me."
James Edgar Johnson was born at Barrow-upon-Soar, near Loughborough, Leicestershire on March 9 1915. He was educated at Loughborough School and Nottingham University, where in 1937 he qualified as a civil engineer.
Aged 17, he bought a BSA 12-bore shotgun - for £1 down and nine similar monthly payments. Rabbits fetched a shilling each, and he reckoned that if he could average two rabbits from three shots he would pay for the gun.
He became adept at deflection shooting on the ground and, graduating to wildfowling on the Lincolnshire marshes, adapted the skill to bring down widgeon, pintail and teal. "The principles of deflection shooting against wildfowl and aeroplanes," he would reflect, "were exactly the same, except that aeroplanes could sometimes return your fire. The best fighter pilots were usually outdoor men who had shot game and wildfowl."
Johnson also learned to ride at an early age, and he enjoyed his Yeomanry service - though after seeing Spitfires and Hurricanes on a visit, on horseback, to Wittering, he declared that he would "rather fight in one of those than on the back of this bloody horse".
When the RAFVR expanded, he seized his chance and began training as a sergeant pilot, and was mobilised as war came. In August 1940 he joined No 19, a Spitfire squadron, but with the Battle of Britain raging over England the squadron was too pressed to train new pilots. In early September he moved to No 616, but was then hospitalised to have his fracture reset. He returned to the squadron in December.
Following command of No 610, in March 1943 Johnson was posted to lead the Canadian fighter wing at Kenley. Before long, Syd Ford, commanding No 403 Squadron, laid a pair of blue Canadian shoulder flashes on Johnson's desk. "The boys would like you to wear these," said Ford. "After all, we're a Canadian wing and we've got to convert you. Better start now."
Attacking ground targets and acting as escorts to US Eighth Air Force Fortress bomber formations, Johnson's Canadians produced ever increasing scores - in addition to Johnson's 14 kills and five shared between April and September. When Johnson left the squadron to rest from operations, his send-off party was such that the wing was stood down the next day.
Such was Johnson's reputation with the Canadians that when, early in 1944, the Royal Canadian Air Force formed No 144 Wing of three squadrons at Digby, in Lincolnshire, they insisted Johnson command it.
At the D-Day landings on June 6 1944, Johnson led the wing four times over the Normandy beaches. Thereafter, from a base near St Croix-sur-Mer, he and his men saw much action, and he himself had soon notched up his 28th kill, an FW 190 shot down over the Normandy bocage.
On the ground, Johnson got about on a horse he had found abandoned by the Germans. In the mess, dissatisfied with field rations, he brightened up meals with airlifts of bread, tomatoes, lobster and stout supplied by the wing's favourite Chichester landlord.
In April 1945, Johnson was promoted group captain and given command of No 125 Wing, equipped with the latest Griffon-engined Spitfire XIVs. After VE Day, on May 8, he led the wing to Denmark. In the course of the war, he had never been shot down and had only once been hit by an enemy fighter, over France in August 1944.
After Denmark, he was posted to Germany in command of No 124 Wing. In 1947, having reverted to the substantive rank of wing commander (the price of peace and a permanent commission), he was sent to Canada to attend the RCAF staff college at Toronto.
The next year he went on exchange to the US Air Force, and in 1950-51 he served with the Americans in Korea, before returning to Germany to command RAF Wildenrath until 1954.
In 1957, once more in the rank of group captain, Johnson was transferred to the world of bombers, as Commander of the new Victor V-bomber station at Cottesmore, Rutland. He relished the opportunities to imbue bomber crews with fighter philosophy and to fly their powerful jet aircraft - and also to hunt with the Cottesmore and to hold hunt balls in the officers' mess.
After promotion to air commodore and a spell as Senior Air Staff Officer at Bomber Command's No 3 Group, at Mildenhall, Suffolk, he received (on promotion to air vice-marshal) his final command - Middle East Air Forces, Aden. Johnson rated the latter command "the best air vice-marshal's job in the Air Force".
After retirement from the RAF in 1965, he sat on company boards in Britain, Canada and South Africa. He also launched, and until 1989 ran, the Johnnie Johnson Housing Trust, providing housing and care for the elderly, the disabled, and vulnerable young people and families. Today the trust manages more than 4,000 houses and flats.
He wrote several readable books, notably Wing Leader (1956), a wartime autobiography, and Full Circle (1964). With his friend and fellow ace Wing Commander P B "Laddie" Lucas, he wrote Glorious Summer (1990); Courage in the Skies (1992); and Winged Victory (1995).
In addition to the decorations mentioned already he was awarded an American DFC, Air Medal, and Legion of Merit, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre and Order of Leopold.
He was appointed CBE in 1960 and CB in 1965. He became a Deputy Lieutenant for Leicester in 1967, and was appointed to the Legion d'honneur in 1988.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

AVM Henry Algernon Vickers Hogan DSO AFC 1909-2003

Son of a colonel in the Indian Army, Henry Algernon Vickers Hogan was born on Oct 25 1909 and educated at Malvern and the RAF College Cranwell. Commissioned in 1930 he joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch where he flew Siskins and Bulldogs, in 1932 he joined 404 Fleet Fighter Flight and served in the aircraft carrier ‘Courageous’. The next year he moved to 800 Squadron. After qualifying at the Central Flying School he was posted as an instructor to No 1 Flying Training School, Leuchars.
In 1938 the RAF launched an attempt on the Soviet Union's non-stop long-distance record of 6,306 miles, and Hogan joined 1 Group's Long Range Development Unit. Three Vickers Wellesleys took off from Ismalia on November 5th 1938. Led by Squadron Leader Richard Kellett, the pilots made the challenge even more daunting by deciding to fly in formation. Bad weather over the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea obliged Hogan to land at Kupang in Timor and refuel but the Wellesleys still handsomely beat the Russian record, covering the 7,157 miles to Darwin in 48 hours.

In 1939 Hogan was at the Air Ministry. He was then posted to No 15 Flying Training School as chief flying instructor and moved to 60 Operational Training Unit shortly before receiving command of 501 squadron.On June 21 Hogan was posted to Croydon to command 501 (City of Gloucester) Squadron, an Auxiliary Air Force unit. On July 10, the first day of the Battle of Britain, the Squadron was stationed at Middle Wallop. As the sun rose on the second day of the battle, 501 scrambled to engage 10 Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers and 20 Me109 fighters heading in from the Cherbourg area. In the engagement Hogan lost a Hurricane and was obliged to come to terms with both the numerical odds against 11 Group and the Hurricane's inferiority to the 109.

On August 15, at the height of the Luftwaffe's much trumpeted "Eagle Offensive", Hogan led 501 (by now based at Gravesend) in an attempt to save coastal fighter fields at Lympne and Hawkinge from destruction. Heavily outnumbered, 501 fought valiantly to break up large Luftwaffe formations.
Three days afterwards Hogan and the squadron, now almost continuously in action, shot down two Me110’s at the cost of seven Hurricanes.

As losses mounted Hogan and his surviving pilots grew ever more skilful. Foremost among them was the ace Sgt Ginger Lacey who ignored the flames engulfing his Hurricane and before baling out persisted in shooting down an He111 which had bombed Buckingham Palace. The replacement pilots had an average age of 21 and were inexperienced in combat; it troubled Hogan that they were so vulnerable. Flying Officer Arthur Rose-Price was typical. A former instructor, he joined 501 squadron on September 2, flew a morning patrol, and that afternoon failed to return from combat over Dungeness.

Hogan continued to lead the Squadron throughout the daily assaults on London. On September 18 he was shot down by a Me109 over West Mailing. He baled out and resumed command, none the worse for the experience. He completed the Battle of Britain with at least five enemy aircraft to his credit.
It was Hogan's excellence as a fighter squadron commander which subsequently ensured him a senior role in the vital business of training a generation of fighter pilots who would succeed the veterans of the Battle of Britain.
After the Battle of Britain he commanded 54 OTU until posted to Maxwell Field, Alabama where he was a key figure in the Arnold Scheme for training RAF pilots in the USA. He was also a member of the RAF delegation to Washington.In 1944 he returned home as assistant commandant at the Empire Central Flying School. The next year he commanded No 19 Flying Training School at Cranwell.
After the war Hogan was successively Sector Commander, Northern Sector; Air Officer Commanding 81 Group, then 83 Group 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, Germany; then Senior Air Staff Officer Flying Training Command. He retired in 1962 and served as Midland Regional Director, Civil Defence, from 1964 to 1968.
Hogan was awarded the DFC in 1940 and appointed CB in 1955.

G/Capt Maurice Larwood Gaine DSO AFC 1910-2003

Maurice Gaine — “Larry”, as he was known throughout the RA. He was one of the Second World War’s acknowledged torpedo bombing experts. He was awarded the DSO for his resolute precision attacks on Axis shipping in the Mediterranean in 1942 and 1943.
He also has a place in aviation history for participating in the remarkable two-day flight of Vickers Wellesley bombers that in 1938 broke the world long-distance record with a non-stop journey of 7,162 miles from Ismailia in Egypt to Darwin, Australia. This beat by 856 miles the previous record, which had been claimed by three Soviet aviators with a flight from Moscow over the polar route to San Jacinto, California, in July 1937.

The three single-engined Wellesleys that took off from a specially lengthened runway at RAF Ismailia at 03.55 (GMT)on November 5, 1938, were part of the Long Range Development Flight to which Gaine had been posted the previous year. The first aircraft to feature the revolutionary and robust geodetic construction designed by Barnes Wallis, they were effectively standard machines, though modified to carry much extra fuel and lubricating oil to see them through their mammoth task.

From Ismailia they flew across the north of Arabia, the Gulf, India, the Malayan peninsula and Borneo before the No 1 aircraft, of which Gaine was signals officer and relief pilot, touched down at Darwin at 04.00 (GMT) on November 7 after 48 hours and 5 minutes in the air. The No 2 aircraft was compelled to land at Koepang on Timor Island in the Dutch East Indies. For the two successful machines the feat was a tribute to the remarkable Bristol Pegasus engine. For his part in this historic achievement Gaine was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Maurice Larwood Gaine was born in Grimsby in 1910 and educated at Wintringham Grammar School. At 16 he entered the RAF as an apprentice wireless operator, passing out as a leading aircraftman in 1929. For the next six years he served as a wireless operator mechanic before in 1931 being selected for flying training. From 1932 he specialised in torpedo bombing and spent four years from 1933 with a Vickers Vildebeest squadron, No 36, based at Seletar, Singapore. During this time he also flew on operations on the North West Frontier of India.

His nickname “Larry” came about through association with the popular Canadian boxer Larry Gains, who was Commonwealth heavyweight champion from 1931 to 1934. Gaine was himself a keen boxer.

He was commissioned in 1938, and had the rank of pilot officer for the record-breaking Wellesley flight that year. When war came he had two spells as a torpedo bombing instructor before being sent to Malta to command 39 Squadron of Beaufort torpedo bombers in the crucial summer of 1942.

This was his first wartime operational posting after two years of training, and he brought to the squadron a notion of tactics that did not at first recommend itself to many of the squadron’s pilots, who had come through a bad patch in which No39 had had several aircraft lost and many others badly shot up. They had been taught to take violent evasive action before and after dropping their torpedoes. Gaine argued that this made no difference to the likelihood of their being hit by flak, and certainly greatly increased the chance of their missing the target. He went in resolutely straight and level as he would have done in training, and aimed his torpedoes with great accuracy.

Accurate or not, few of his pilots thought him likely to survive for long with these methods. Gaine proved them wrong and soon built a reputation for his success in ship-busting at a time when every supply vessel lost to Rommel was vital in tilting the balance in the North African struggle.

In September 1942 he led his squadron on an attack that destroyed a freighter, flying straight through the flak from its three escorting destroyers. In November he sank a large tanker outside Tobruk. In March the following year he again sank a destroyer-escorted merchantman and at the same time shot down an enemy fighter, which attacked his Beaufort.

In April 1943 he was awarded the DSO for his outstanding skill and leadership. He was then rested from operations and posted to an operational training unit. He remained on training for the rest of the war.

After the war he had a spell in charge of air signals plans at Combined Operations HQ at Westward Ho! in North Devon, before passing through the Staff College, Bracknell. From 1956 to 1959 he was station commander of RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire.

During this time he was instrumental in preserving one of the nine Gloster Meteor prototypes, DG202G, which he saved from destruction after it had been used as an instructional airframe for 12 years. For many years the restored aircraft stood in a position of honour at the station entrance. Yatesbury is now closed as an RAF station, but DG202G lives on as part of the RAF Museum’s collection at Cosford in Shropshire.

Among Gaine’s later appointments were that of UK member of the Nato communication committee, and from 1961 to 1963 he was in another Nato appointment, in Norway, as chief signals officer responsible for air defence, communication and radar stations from Oslo to the North Cape. He retired from the RAF in 1965 in a technical Intelligence post at the Ministry of Defence.

ACM Brian Kenyon Burnett DFC AFC 1913-2011

Brian Kenyon Burnett was born on March 10 1913 in Hyderabad, India, where his father was principal of Nizam College. He was educated at Charterhouse School, Heidelberg University and Wadham College, Oxford, gaining a degree in Modern Languages. An outstanding sportsman, he gained a double blue at squash and tennis and also represented the university at hockey. In the 1933 tennis match against Cambridge University, he beat his elder brother Douglas.

After learning to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron, Burnett joined the RAF in September 1934. On gaining his wings he was posted to No 18 Squadron to fly the biplane Hart bomber – the beginning of a long association with RAF bombers. Following completion of a specialist navigation course, Burnett was selected to join the LRDU in December 1937.

Burnett’s name came to world prominence in 1938, when he was the navigator and second pilot of a Wellesley bomber that completed a record-breaking non-stop flight from Ismailia in Egypt to Darwin in Australia. On October 24 four single-engine Wellesley aircraft of the RAF’s Long Range Development Unit (LRDU) arrived in Ismailia to prepare for the flight. Three were selected for the record attempt, and these included Burnett’s aircraft, whose first pilot was Flight Lieutenant Andrew Combe, with Sergeant Gray as the third pilot and wireless operator. Each took it in turns to fly the aircraft during the epic journey.

The three aircraft took off at dawn on November 5. There were immediate problems as the undercarriage of Burnett’s Wellesley would not retract. For an hour the crew cut a hole in the side of the aircraft through which they thrust the long arm of a fishing net (carried to pass messages between them in the narrow fuselage). After some wiggling, the undercarriage retracted. The route took the aircraft over the Persian Gulf, India and Singapore. Over Timor, one aircraft was forced to land with a shortage of fuel.
The two remaining aircraft arrived at Darwin with 20 gallons of fuel, having completed the non-stop flight of 7,158 miles in just over 48 hours to establish a new world record. The crews were decorated, Burnett being awarded an AFC.
At the outbreak of war, Burnett left for France with the Advanced Air Striking Force, based at Rheims, returning to HQ 4 (Bomber) Group in 1940. Anxious to gain operational experience, he was posted as the flight commander of a Whitley bomber squadron and attacked the docks at Kiel and Hamburg before bombing the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest. Promoted wing commander in May 1941, he took command of No 51 Squadron. 

According to one of his crew Burnett soon established a reputation as a “press on type”. On a final bombing run over Hamburg, for example, his Whitley was caught in searchlights and he had to take violent evasive action to escape. Forced to abandon the run, he told his startled crew he was making another attempt. The majority of aircraft had left, and his aircraft attracted the attention of all the searchlights and anti-aircraft fire. He completed the attack and flew his damaged bomber back to base.

After seven months in command, Burnett was awarded a DFC and left for Canada to command an air navigation school. In the early postwar years, tennis continued to feature large in his life. He was captain of the RAF team that beat the Army, played in the Wimbledon Championships and was selected for an England team that toured Germany.

After three years in New York on the staff of the United Nations Military Staff Committee, Burnett returned to the Ministry of Defence on the Joint Planning Staff, helping with the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the establishment of Nato. He found time to win the RAF squash championship for the fifth time and beat his brother in the inter-service championships. In 1950 he and his brother had the rare distinction of being Army and RAF champions in the same season.

In 1951 Burnett returned to the bomber role as the senior air staff officer at No 3 Group, at a time when the RAF’s first jet bomber, the Canberra, was entering service and preparations were being made for the introduction of the V-bombers. In June 1954 he took command of RAF Gaydon as it opened as the RAF’s first V-bomber base .

With his promotion to air commodore and appointment as Director of Bomber Operations at the Air Ministry in June 1956, Burnett’s steady rise to the top continued. He observed the dropping of Britain’s first thermonuclear bomb at Christmas Island and was heavily engaged in the policy aspects of bomber operations during the Suez Crisis.

Senior appointments at HQ Bomber Command and as Air Officer Commanding No 3 Group followed, during which Burnett had the opportunity to fly the Victor bomber. In 1964 he was appointed Vice-Chief of the Air Staff.

During Burnett’s time as VCAS there were many significant new developments in the RAF’s capabilities and tasks, including planning for the introduction of a new generation of combat aircraft. In addition, following Denis Healey’s decision not to replace the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, Burnett was charged with developing policy to provide land-based air support for the Fleet.

Three years as the Air Secretary responsible for the career planning, promotion and appointments of RAF officers was followed by promotion to Air Chief Marshal and an appointment as Commander-in-Chief Far East in May 1970. Based in Singapore for this tri-Service appointment, Burnett had a huge parish extending from the Beira Patrol off East Africa to Australia and New Zealand.

He arrived just after it was announced that the Wilson government planned to withdraw British Forces from the Far East. While his main task was to implement this, he was ordered to organise a small UK, Australian, and New Zealand (ANZUK) force in conjunction with the Malaysian and Singapore Armed Forces. He was also the British representative at the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) conferences.

As the time for withdrawal approached, the company of Burnett and his wife was in great demand among political and military leaders in the region. Finally, on October 29 1971, he took the salute at the final closure of the Command at a multinational parade and fly-past. Two days later 16 ships of the Far East Fleet steamed past while Fleet Air Arm aircraft flew overhead. In March 1972 Burnett retired from the RAF.

His services were much sought after and, in April 1974, he was appointed chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. A year earlier, 81 players of the Association of Tennis Professionals had boycotted the Wimbledon Championships, and relations between the players and the club were still strained. Burnett’s calm manner and his patient and tactful approach smoothed the way for reconciliation.

He made it clear more than once that he questioned the wisdom of escalating prize money but he, like Wimbledon, was reluctantly forced to go along with the American-led trend. There were times when, with his military background, he found it difficult to accept indiscipline as players increasingly flaunted their new found independence. However, what many players and their representatives regarded as coolness towards them on his part stemmed from a basic shyness, which masked a generosity of spirit and many acts of kindness.

In 1977, when the 17-year-old John McEnroe arrived at Wimbledon for the first time, it was Burnett who tried to steer him in the right direction as umpires repeatedly reported him to the referee’s office for his extravagant outbursts. Burnett was also keen that the Royal Box should be utilised when members of the Royal family were not in attendance. On one occasion there was an IRA scare at the box, with a bomb apparently timed to detonate at 3pm. But a search found nothing, so Burnett remained in situ with some of his guests and, with one minute to go, calmly suggested that they should take off their spectacles to avoid flying glass.

Much was achieved to develop Wimbledon before Burnett finally retired in March 1984 after 10 years’ service as chairman of the Championships Committee. He finally gave up skiing at 80, golf at 88 and tennis at 94. In 2009 he published his memoirs, A Pilot at Wimbledon. An avid bridge player, he played twice a week until he died on September 16, having just returned from a holiday in the south of France.

Burnett was appointed CB (1961), KCB (1965) and GCB (1970). In 1969 he was appointed Grand Officer of the Order of the White Rose of Finland.