Friday, June 20, 2008

S/Ldr Tommy J. Broom DFC** 1914-2010

Tommy Broom is one of the RAF's most legendary and popular heroes of World War II. He joined the service at eighteen years of age in 1932 and after service in the Middle East, he first saw action against Germany in a Fairey Battle during 1939 with No 105(B) Squadron. He continued to serve with 105 Squadron until November 1940, a period that included the disastrous Battle of France and the low-level attacks on the Channel ports to destroy the invasion barges, in both of which actions the squadron suffered severe losses. Having completed more than his share of front-line flying he was transferred to 13 Operational Training Unit at Bicester, to teach the influx of newly-trained navigators the additional skills required for combat situations. He returned to 105(B) Squadron in January 1942 to complete a further tour.

In August of 1942 his war came to a dramatic halt when his plane hit a pylon and crashed near Antwerp. The Mosquito was torn apart by the impact and he was temporarily knocked unconscious. After coming round he laid low in some woods for a couple of days before coming across a remote field hospital and managed to talk a nurse into helping him and the plane's pilot. They were put in contact with resistance fighters in Antwerp who provided forged documents and railway tickets to take them to Paris. He then spent two months desperately dodging the Gestapo as he made an incredible 1,000-mile journey across France and Spain to get back to Britain.
After his return Tommy Broom was paired with pilot Ivor Broom, who was no relation, and the men became known in the RAF as the 'Flying Brooms' completing 57 operations together He was active in front-line flying until the end of the war, belonging to numbers 571(B), 128(B) and 163(B) Mosquito Squadrons.

Tommy Broom took part in 83 sorties and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times.

Lt-Cdr John 'Jock' Moffat RN 1919-

John Moffat was born in Kelso in 1919 and at the outbreak of WWII, was sent to Sydenham, Belfast where a training school, set up by Short Brothers, was based. John learnt to fly in a Miles Magister. During 1939, he was sent to No.1 Flying Training School at Netheravon and here he was taught to fly advanced open-cockpit aircraft such as Hawker Hinds and Audaxes. Commissioned into the RNVR as a sub-lieutenant he was moved to Eastleigh to the Naval Fighter School, learning fighter techniques in Blackburn Skuas and Rocs and the well-known Gloster Gladiator.
In 1940, John was moved to Sanderling, the Royal Naval air station at Abbotsinch. In 1941, on board HMS Ark Royal stationed at Gibraltar, they were ordered to assist in the hunt for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. The aircraft headed first to HMS Sheffield who gave them signals by Aldis Lamp on the position of the Bismarck. He is credited with dropping the torpedo which disabled the steering mechanism on Bismarck,enabling her eventual sinking by the Task Force.
John Moffat served on HMS Ark Royal, HMS Argus, HMS Furious and HMS Formidable, and served with 759 Sqn, 818 Sqn, 820 Sqn and 824 Sqn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Conrad Phillip Bristow RNAS/RAF 1899-2001

Philip Bristow joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917. He was summoned to London for an Admiralty board interview, and on his 18th birthday made his way to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich as a Probationary Flying Officer, learning navigation, the principles of flight, and how to take apart and put together a machine gun.

The next stage of his training saw him actually get his hands on the controls of an aircraft, when he headed off for France, to Vendome in La Rochelle.

He was taken aloft in a Caudron bi-plane for a handful of flights until he was judged ready for his first solo flight. After circling above the French countryside and making a perfect landing on the bumpy grass, Philip taxied hurriedly over to his instructor to ask if he had qualified as a pilot. "Yes, but don't you taxi as fast as that!" came the reply.

The fledgling pilot then returned to the Naval Air Station at Lee-on-the-Solent for training in seaplanes - a completely different technique, as water presented a difficult platform for both take-off and landing.There was the added complication at Lee-on-the-Solent of having to avoid the jutting pier.Once fully trained, Philip moved on to Westgate-on-Sea to begin submarine surveillance flights. Coming down at sea was a serious risk for Naval pilots, not least because of the unreliability of the engines, and each aircraft trailed a long copper wire to act as a radio aerial - and two carrier pigeons as a back-up in calling for assistance.

On three occasions Bristow ditched with mechanical problems. He was rescued in turn by a trawler, a drifter and a British destroyer - twice employing his pigeons.

In April 1918 the RNAS was absorbed into the newly-formed Royal Air Force and Philip left the RAF as a flight lieutenant in May 1919 to rejoin the family glass merchants business in Cardiff, of which he became managing director in 1938.

AVM Hugh AC 'Birdy' Bird-Wilson CBE DSO* DFC* AFC* 1919-2000

AVM Hugh AC 'Birdy' Bird-Wilson CBE DSO* DFC* AFC*

WO G W 'Danny' Boon AMRAeS 19xx-2014

G W 'Danny' Boon

W/Cdr LD Gregory DFC 1923-2015

W/Cdr LD Gregory DFC

'Doug' Gregory was born on 13th January 1923, in Southampton. He left elementary
school at the age of fourteen and worked in a local solicitor's office.
He volunteered for the RAF as soon as he was eighteen and joined at Uxbridge on the 3rd February 1941.. After completing his initial training at No 8 LT.W. at Newquay, Cornwall, he sailed as an LAC in August 1941, for pilot training in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He trained at No 25
E.F.T.S. at Belvedere, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, flying Tiger Moths, then on to No 20 S.F.T.S., flying Harvards, followed by advanced S.F.T.S. at Cranborne, Salisbury, where he won his wings on the 23rd March 1942. Twin engine training on Oxfords followed at No 23 S.F.T.S. at Heany, Bulawayo from May 1942. Because of the forthcoming great expansion of Bomber Command, he returned to the UK. .
Now as a Sergeant Pilot, he flew at No 6 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit at Little Rissington, Glos. where overseas-trained pilots were brought up to the standards required in a theatre of war. A posting to No 54 O:T.U. at Charterhall, Scotland and its satellite at Winfield followed, where he trained as a night fighter pilot, flying Blenheims Mk 1, 4 and 5s and also Beaufighters Mk II. Here he crewed up with his Navigator/Radar Operator Sergeant D.H. Stephens (Steve). They were to remain together until the end of W.W.2.
In February they were both posted to No 141 Squadron at Ford in Sussex. The
Commanding Officer being W/Cdr J.R.D. Braham D.S.O.**, D.F.c.**, A.F.C., Croix de Guerre. The squadron moved to Predannack in Cornwall where they started operations in Beaufighters Mk l' s. Whilst there, Doug and Steve carried out 'Instep' operations over the Bay of Biscay and 'Ranger' operations over Brittany. They also carried out several air/sea rescue searches, providing cover in case of E boat attacks.
In April 1943 the Squadron (141) moved to Wittering, Northants and after being trained on 'Serrate' radar operations at Drem, in Scotland, the two of them started on their long, consecutive, double tour of operations with 141 Squadron on “Serrate Bomber Support” over Germany and occupied Europe.
They started on Beaufighters Mk 1 and Mk 6, later however, 141 Squadron changed to Mosquitos and moved to West Raynham, Norfolk in December 1943, when the squadron became the first in 100 Group, Bomber Command. Doug was commissioned with Steve as Pilot Officers in January 1944. During this time they did photographic research into radar jamming while on raids over Germany. Later
that year, along with Steve, they shot down in Northern France a Ju 88 and another near Metz. On the 4th of August they were both awarded the D.F.C. and both promoted to Flying Officers in September. They completed their consecutive double tour of operations with 141 Squadron in October 1944, having operated continuously since March 1943 and chalked up 69 operational sorties.
On the 13th October, 1944 they were both posted as instructors to 51 O.T.U., a nightfighter training unit at Cranfield and Twinwood Farm, Beds. Five months later, in February 1945, they were posted overseas to the Royal Naval Air Station at Gibraltar, where with their Mosquito, they carried out various forms of attack, high level bombing, dive bombing, torpedo and low level strafing, all simulated attacks on the new Battle Class destroyer H.M.S. Barfleur. This was to test the destroyer's radar defences for its forthcoming part in the war against Japan. It was whilst in Gibraltar that Doug had the opportunity to fly the Swordfish and the Seafire.
In July 1945 he and Steve were finally parted when Doug was posted to No 306 M.U. Allahabad in India to help sort out the trouble that the Mosquito's were having with the unkind tropical atmosphere. It was there that he tested a wide range of aircraft, including Beaufighters and Mosquitos of different Mks, also Spitfires and Hurricanes. In February 1946 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and posted to No 307 M.U. at Lahore to be in charge of the Test Flight. Here he tested Mosquitos, Beaufighters, Dakotas, Spitfires, Austers, Vengeances, Dominies, Expeditors and Arguses. It was at Lahore that he flew Professor P.S.Gill, who was researching into the behaviour of cosmic rays. This
required flying to almost the maximum height of the Mosquito.
Doug returned to the U.K. in September 1946 in an unusual manner. He delivered, from Jodhpur, an Expeditor, to the American Air Force in Germany in Munich. He was released from the Royal Air Force in September 1946
After Teacher Training College, he joined the teaching profession and for many years was Head of Faculty of Creative Arts in a comprehensive school. Doug returned to flying, for pleasure only this time, in light aircraft and when he retired in 1983, at the age of 60, he started to build a replica of an
S.E.5a, World War 1 fighter biplane. This took four years to complete

AVM Edward D Crew CB DSO* DFC* 1917-2003

Brought up by his step-father, Sir Kenneth Murchison, who was a Tory MP, he attended Felsted School and later Downing College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the University Air Squadron. Graduating in 1940, he immediately joined the RAF and was posted to to No 604 Squadron, equipped with Blenheim If's as a night fighter pilot. At that time one of No 604's pilots, later flight commander and squadron commander, was John Cunningham, the RAF's finest night fighter pilot of the period. In the spring of 1941, No 604 the re-equipped with the new Bristol Beaufighter and he soon began to make a name for himself, destroying five enemy aircraft in ten weeks, for which he was awarded his DFC. When his original radar operator, Sgt Guthrie was posted, he was joined by Sgt Basil Duckett and the pair continued to be successful and with three kills to his credit, whilst paired with Duckett, he was awarded the Bar to the DFC.

In October 1942, he was rested from operations and took command of the Radio Development Flight, but he was back in the frontline, the following spring, when he was a appointed a flight commander in No 85 Squadron. By the time he joined No 85, it was equipped with the Mosquito NF Mk II and XV. But his time with 85 was short as in June, he was promoted and placed in command of No 96 Squadron, also equipped with Mosquito night fighters. Shortly after the D-Day landings, Britain began to hit but what seemed an endless stream of V-1 flying bombs and 96 was one of the units tasked with providing night defence against them. By the end of World War Two, he had destroyed 12 enemy aircraft, shared in the destruction of one, damaged five and destroyed 21 V-1s. On one occasion, he and his radar operator were forced to bail out of their Mosquito, when it was damaged by the explosion of the V-1 they had just destroyed.

disbandment of No 96 Squadron at the end of 1944, he attended the RAF Staff College and in 1945 was appointed to a permanent commission. This was followed by a posting to the Air Ministry and then in 1948, he returned to operational flying when he took command of No 45 Squadron in Malaya. This was at the beginning of the Malayan emergency, which was codenamed 'Operation Firedog' and eventually lasted until 1960. He was mentioned in despatches for his work with No 45 in 1949. In 1952 he undertook an exchange posting with the RCAF and commanded the operational training unit tasked with introducing the CF100 all weather fighter into service.

On his return from Canada, he was appointed to the command of the All-Weather Development Squadron at the Central Fighter Establishment. where he was involved in the trials of the Gloster Javelin. In late 1959, he moved to Germany and command of RAF Bruggen, which at the time was home to a mix of Canberras in the tactical reconnaissance and interdictor roles and Javelins in the all weather fighter role. In 1965 he was back in the Far East, this time as Commander of the Air Forces in Borneo, where he was involved in the operations in combating Indonesian incursions during what became known as 'The Confrontation'.

After attending the Royal College of Defence Studies, he held the post of Director of Operations (Air Defence & Overseas) at the Ministry of Defence, before being appointed Commandant of the Central Reconnaissance Establishment. His final appointment was as Deputy Controller of the National Air Traffic Service until he retired. From 1973 to 1987, he was a member of the Planning Inspectorate of the Department of the Environment and having retired from this post he served on the Cotswold District Council from 1991 until 1995.

ACM Sir Neil Wheeler GCB CBE DSO DFC* AFC FRAes CBIM 1917-2009

Wheeler was with No 207 Squadron at the outbreak of war flying Fairey Battles, later joining 12 OUT as a flying instructor. During the Battle of Britain he flew with the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit in unarmed Spitfires, later awarded the DFC and becoming the Flight Commander and then CO. Unfortunately in March 1942 he was involved in a car accident and taken off flying for six months, during which time he served with Air Ministry Directorate of Naval Co-operation. In November 1942 after training on Beaufighters he took command of No 236 Squadon and led anti-shipping operations, which were very hazardous and earnt him a bar to his DFC. Having completed nine months on operations he was awarded the DSO and went to the RAF Staff College. He then went to America to attend the USA Army Command and General Staff School, returning in April 1944 where he joined the Joint Planning Staff in the Cabinet Offices. He went on to have a very successful post war career.

ACM Sir Lewis Hodges KCB CBE DSO* DFC* 1918-2007

Lewis Hodges(wearing cap) during Suez Operations 1956/7

Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges was one of the RAF's most highly decorated pilots; after an audacious escape from occupied France and an outstanding record flying clandestine operations in Europe and the Far East he went on to have a distinguished peacetime career.

Flying moonlit operations for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Hodges landed his single-engine Lysander or the larger Hudson aircraft in remote French fields to deliver and pick up agents. He picked up two future Presidents of the Republic (Auriol and Mitterrand), bringing them to England for meetings with General de Gaulle.

Unaware (for security reasons) of his passengers' identities at the time, Hodges was astonished when, in 1948, President Auriol appointed him a Companion of the Légion d'honneur; 40 years later President Mitterrand promoted him to be a Grand Officier of the Order.

Neither of these two sorties, nor the rest of his wartime operational career as a pilot and squadron commander, would have been possible had he not escaped from captivity after crash-landing his bomber in northern France in September 1940 and returned to his squadron the following June.

On the night of September 4 he was returning from a raid on Stettin in his Hampden bomber of No 49 Squadron when he was forced to land in a field in Brittany. Together with his air gunner, who had not heard his order to bail out, he burned the aircraft before setting off to the south-east on foot.

Moving from farm to farm, the two men obtained civilian clothes to wear over their uniforms and eventually made their way to Marseilles in Vichy France, where they were arrested and imprisoned. Hodges escaped and stowed away on a French cargo ship, but was picked up in Oran and returned to Marseilles; he was then sent to the Vichy-controlled camp for British prisoners at St Hippolyte du Fort, near Nîmes, pending trial.

He escaped from the fort with a pass he had forged, using a potato to create the official-looking stamps. He took a train to Perpignan, then a taxi to the Spanish border before crossing the Pyrenees. In Spain, however, he was arrested by customs officials and sent to the notorious concentration camp at Miranda del Ebro. Five weeks later a British Embassy official secured his release.

On June 13 1941 Hodges was repatriated from Gibraltar and returned to his squadron. When asked what he had missed most whilst on the run for eight months, he responded without hesitation "my pyjamas". From that moment, he always wore them under his uniform when flying on operations.

He resumed night attacks over Germany until the following April, when he was awarded the DFC.

Lewis Macdonald Hodges (always known as Bob) was born on March 1 1918 at Richmond, Surrey, and educated at St Paul's School. On hearing that he had been selected for the RAF College at Cranwell, the High Master commented: "They seem to be taking anyone these days." On graduating in 1938 as a pilot officer Hodges joined No 78, a Wellesley bomber squadron, at Finningley, in Yorkshire, before moving to No 49 in 1940.

He was talent-spotted for special duties by Wing Commander Charles Pickard, familiar as the Wellington pilot in the film Target for Tonight and later killed on the daring low-level raid against the Amiens jail. Pickard had just taken over No 161, one of two squadrons supporting SOE operations from Tempsford, Bedfordshire, and he selected Hodges as one of his two flight commanders piloting Halifax bombers used for dropping supplies and agents to resistance groups in Europe.

By May 1943 Hodges had been awarded a Bar to his DFC for "his extremely efficient and gallant conduct". He had also assumed command of No 161, which had been re-equipped with the Lysander and Hudson, both aircraft small and manoeuvrable enough to land in fields and pick up passengers and vital packages. It was a lonely and exacting role, using moonlit rivers and lakes as navigation aids to find small fields lit by three or four hand-torches; and there was the ever-present risk of an enemy reception committee on the ground. By their very nature such operations were conducted in the deepest secrecy, and few in the RAF were aware of the squadron's activities.

Hodges made a point of having a few words with the "Joes", as the agents were known, before they took off, many never to return. His calming influence, consideration and care for these gallant people were typical of him, and characteristics that he exhibited throughout his life. He flew his last SOE operation to France in February 1944, and shortly afterwards was awarded the DSO.

Following a rest on the Bomber Command operations staff, in November 1944 Hodges was briefed to accompany Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, the newly-appointed Air Commander-in-Chief, South-East Asia, as his personal staff officer. The posting was, however, cancelled at short notice, since Hodges wished to return to operational flying following the death in action in Burma of his younger brother; he was appointed to command No 357, a special duties squadron supporting SOE's Force 136 in south-east Asia. Meanwhile, Leigh-Mallory's transport aircraft crashed in France en route to India, and there were no survivors.

Equipped at Jessore, in India, with four-engine Liberators, twin-engine Dakotas and the small Lysander, No 357 supported Force 136 parties organising resistance among Shan, Karen and Kachin hillmen in Burma. Ranging further east, Hodges and his long-range Liberator crews flew sorties of up to 20 hours in dangerous monsoon conditions to assist the Force 136 teams and resistance groups in Thailand and Malaya. For his work in support of SOE, Hodges was awarded a Bar to the DSO.

Shortly after VJ Day in August 1945 he joined the directing staff at the staff college at Haifa, returning home in October 1946. He then attended the RAF Flying College and flew a Canberra PR7 in the London to New Zealand air race. Hodges was in the lead — having established a point-to-point record from London to Colombo — when his aircraft developed a fault and he was overtaken.

Following a series of staff appointments at the Air Ministry and Bomber Command, in March 1956 he took command of RAF Marham, where Valiant nuclear deterrent V-bombers were replacing the Canberra. As the year moved on Hodges was perplexed by an order to employ the remaining Canberras for stockpiling conventional 1,000lb bombs on Malta. All became clear in October, when he took a force of his Valiants to the island. As he later recalled: "It was only at the 11th hour that we discovered we were going to bomb the Egyptians."

Following an interlude as Assistant Commandant at the RAF College, Cranwell, Hodges became the Air Officer Administration of Air Forces in Aden. In 1964, after attending the Imperial Defence College, he was appointed a nuclear deputy at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Shape), returning the next year as Assistant Chief of Air Staff in the Ministry of Defence.

After serving as Commander-in-Chief of Air Support Command, Hodges served on the Air Board as Air Member for Personnel until 1973, when he was appointed Deputy C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe and Air ADC to the Queen.

Hodges retired from the RAF in 1976, when he became a director of Pilkington Bros (optical division). He was a governor of Bupa medical foundation from 1987, and from 1979 to 1986 served as chairman of governors of the RAF Benevolent Fund's Duke of Kent School. He was President of the RAF Association from 1981 to 1984 and served for many years on the council of the Friends' organisation of St Clement Danes, the RAF central church in London.

Hodges will long be remembered for his work directing the refurbishment and modernisation of the RAF Club in Piccadilly, which had become outdated and slow to adapt to the expectations of the modern-day officer, few of whom used what they perceived to be an old-fashioned establishment. Some of his measures were not popular at the time — every serving officer had to contribute a half-day's pay — but the transformation was remarkable, and the club's fortunes were dramatically improved. Hodges's portrait hangs in a prominent place in the club.

His experiences as an evader, and his contacts with the SOE and the French Resistance during his wartime service, left Hodges with a deep respect for those who risked so much and for the many who gave their lives. He was President of the RAF Escaping Society, a charity that provides assistance to former escape line "helpers" and their children.

Until the end of his life he maintained close links, and was in constant touch, with his wartime friends in France, Belgium and Holland.

Hodges was a man of great kindness and generosity.

He was appointed CBE in 1958, CB in 1963 and KCB in 1968.

W/Cdr Ernest E Rodley DSO DFC* AFC AE 1914-2004

Flying Officer Rodley and his crew alongside their Avro Manchester bomber at Coningsby in 1941 - (left to right) Sergeant Crisp (Rear Gunner), Sergeant Crisp (Wireless Operator), Flying Officer Rodley (Pilot), Sergeant Henley (Navigator), Pilot Officer Colquhoun (Second Pilot), Sergeant Cumming (Mid Upper Gunner).

Ernest Rodley initially joined the RAFVR in 1937 and was commissioned and posted to Bomber Command in 1941. Joining 97 Sqn flying Manchesters he was involved in the attack on the Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau whilst in Brest harbour and in the famous Augsberg daylight raid for which he received a DFC. At the end of 1942 he joined RAF Scampton helping to convert to Lancaster Bombers before rejoining 97 Sqn at Bourn as a Pathfinder. After a spell at Warboys as an instructor he took command of 128 Sqn at Wyton, flying Mosquitoes as part of the Light Night Strike Force and involvede in doing 7 trips to Berlin. Staying with this unit he finished the war having completed 87 operations. In 1946 Ernest Rodley joined British South American Airways flying Lancastrians across the Atlantic from a tented Heathrow. On 13th April 1950 he was checked out on the new Comet jet airliner by John Cunningham and became the worlds first jet endorsed Airline Transport Pilots Licence holder. Ernest Rodley retired from BOAC in 1968 as a Boeing 707 Captain, joining Olympic Airways a few days later. He amassed an amazing 28000 flying hours

W/Cdr W J 'Sticks' Gregory DSO DFC* DFM VR 1913-2001

W/Cdr W J 'Sticks' Gregory DSO DFC* DFM VR was Air Interception (AI) radar operator to the Second World War night fighter ace Wing Commander Bob Braham.
Gregory's superb radar skills helped Braham to destroy 29 German aircraft in the night skies over Britain and occupied Europe - a tally which was among the highest of any wartime RAF fighter pilot, flying by day or night.
The two men were first paired when Gregory, then a flight sergeant, stood in temporarily for Braham's usual radar operator, a Canadian named Ross. Braham was soon noting Gregory's "cheerfulness", and rating him "far above average in the AI business". When Ross was rested, Gregory began to partner Braham regularly.
Their first combat took place in early July 1941. Flying in a twin-engine Bristol Beaufighter of No 29 Squadron over a moonlit Thames Estuary, Gregory called to Braham: "Contact dead ahead and at 2,000 yards."
As Braham went into a gentle dive to close the range and to get below a Ju 88 bomber, the enemy opened fire. When Gregory urged Braham to open up, Braham said calmly: "No, not yet. We must get closer to make sure of him." Despite heavy fire from the Ju 88, Braham continued to delay firing, until with three short bursts he sent the bomber blazing down into the Thames.
Later that year, after a brief detachment in Scotland to assist No 141 Squadron convert from obsolescent Boulton Paul single-engine Defiants to Beaufighters, Braham and Gregory returned to No 29 at West Malling in Kent.
Early in 1942, Gregory was commissioned a pilot officer - a promotion for which Braham had been pressing - and he and Braham were posted as instructors to No 51, a night fighter Operational Training Unit at Cranfield.
Keen to return to operations, in early June the two men slipped away for an unofficial weekend visit to their old squadron, No 29, in Kent. During a night sortie, Gregory positioned Braham to attack a Do 217 bomber. Braham soon set it alight, and it dived into the sea off Sandwich.
Bad weather then caused them to divert to Manston, on the Kent coast. With fog rolling in from the sea, Braham overshot and crash-landed in a ploughed field. The crash truck crew were astonished to see Gregory and his pilot emerge in one piece.
William James Gregory, the son of a builder, was born on November 23 1913 at Hartlepool, where he attended the Lister Sealy School. Before the war, he worked for his father as a plasterer, and was drummer in the Debroy Somers Band - earning the nickname "Sticks".
He enlisted in the RAF soon after the outbreak of war, and in May 1940 was posted to No 29 Squadron as a wireless operator/air gunner. Subsequently, he was redesignated observer/radio operator and then radar operator.
Before teaming up with Braham, Gregory had a nasty experience when he and his pilot were, as he noted in his logbook, "scrambled to intercept Huns raiding Liverpool". They were about to shoot down a Do 17 when their Beaufighter was hit in the starboard wing by "friendly" anti-aircraft fire.
Having baled out at 16,000 feet, Gregory landed on the roof of Lime Street station - and as he climbed down to the ground rail passengers mistook him for a German airman and roughed him up.
After the mishap at Manston, Gregory and Braham returned to No 29 Squadron where Braham became a flight commander. In December 1942 Braham, aged only 22, received command of No 141 Squadron at Ford on the south coast; Gregory, at 29 the old man of the team, stayed with him.
One moonlit night, Gregory and most of the squadron aircrew were having a party at Worthing, on the Sussex coast, when they heard enemy aeroplanes overhead. Racing back to their airfield they took off in their waiting Beaufighter.
Gregory brought the aircraft to within visual range of a Do 217 bomber, flying at 15,000 feet. There was an exchange of fire in which Braham, having rather enjoyed himself at the party, opened up at too long a range. Gregory's caustic comments quickly sobered Braham up, and in four long bursts he sent the Dornier diving ablaze into the sea.
Early in 1943 the squadron moved west to Predannack, near the Lizard Point in Cornwall, mainly for night training. Visiting Fighter Command, Braham urged the use of AI night fighters in support of the bomber offensive over occupied Europe, in which heavy losses were being incurred. Although his proposal was not accepted at this stage, he won approval for moonlight attacks on rail and road traffic on the Brest peninsula.
At the end of April 1943 Braham and Gregory led No 141 Squadron to Wittering, near Stamford, Lincolnshire. Their aircraft were now fitted with "Serrate", a radar device which enabled Gregory and his fellow operators to home in on enemy fighter transmissions from a distance of up to 100 miles.
This was an ideal aid in Gregory's new night-intruding role, and after he and Braham had exchanged their Beaufighter for a de Havilland Mosquito equipped with Serrate, the two men went into action in support of Sir Arthur Harris's bomber formations.
One night, flying over Cologne, they were attacked by two enemy night fighters, one of which shot out their port engine, obliging them to make a perilous return back to base. Another night, supporting a raid over Mannheim, Gregory logged "a hell of a dogfight". In a 25-minute battle, they destroyed one German aircraft - an Me 110 fighter - and drove off another.
In March 1944, Gregory, by now highly experienced, joined the night operations staff at No 2 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) headquarters, where Braham had preceded him.
Such was his and Braham's hunger for action that from time to time they would slip away from their desks to freelance on sorties over Europe with various Mosquito squadrons. On one daylight sortie, they destroyed an He 177 heavy bomber which was circling Chateaudun airfield in France at 1,000 feet. Caught in a stream of fire from their Mosquito's nose guns, the bomber, Gregory recalled, "reared up like a wounded animal, winged over on its back and dived vertically into the ground".
On May 12 1944, Gregory and Braham - truanting again from the operations room - had just taken part in the destruction of a Fw 190 fighter off the Danish coast when an Me 109 fighter struck. Short of fuel, and further damaged by anti-aircraft fire, Braham coaxed the stricken aircraft towards home until he had to ditch 70 miles off the Norfolk coast, where they were rescued by two minesweepers.
Shortly after that, the team broke up. Braham was shot down and ended the war as a prisoner; Gregory continued staff duties. While Braham accumulated three DSOs, three DFCs and an AFC in the course of his wartime service, Gregory was awarded a DSO, two DFCs, an AFC and a DFM.
At the end of the war, Gregory accepted a permanent commission, specialising in navigation and fighter control. He received the Air Efficiency Award in 1946, and after commanding RAF Wartling, in East Sussex, retired in 1964.

S/Ldr Terence Bulloch DSO* DFC* 1916-2014

S/Ldr Terence Bulloch was awarded a DFC and Mentioned in Despatches while flying with No 206 Squadron. In August 1941 he joined No 120 Squadron equipped with Liberators and made his first attack on a submarine in October 1941. He was awarded a bar to his DFC for sinking U-597 in on 12th October 1942. On the 5th November he and his crew sighted a U-boat which dived before they could attack, they then sank U-132 before attacking a third U-boat. On the 8th December 1942 in the space of 5 hours he made 8 sightings and 7 attacks. During his time with No 120 Squadron he had sighted 23 U-boats and attacked 16 of them, he had also received a DSO and Bar. He later joined No 244 Squadron and on 8th July 1943 he attacked and sunk U-514 off Cape Finisterre. His official U-boat 'tally' is 4 confirmed kills and 2 damaged.

Wg Cdr Roderick AB Learoyd VC 1913-1996

Wg Cdr Roderick AB Learoyd VC

Of the 32 VCs awarded during 1939-45, 19 went to air crew members of RAF Bomber Command, and the first of these to Flight Lieutenant (later Wing Commander) Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd of 49 Squadron. The son of Major R. B. Learoyd of Littlestone, Kent, Roderick Learoyd was born at Folkestone on 5th February 1913. Educated at Hydreye House Preparatory School, Baldstow, Sussex, and Wellington College, Berkshire, Learoyd then attended the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering.
There followed a two years spell in Argentina as a fruit farmer, and a brief period as a motor engineer, before Learoyd decided to join the RAF to learn to fly. Accepted in March 1936 for a short service commission, he received his elementary training at Hamble AST, and his Service training at Wittering; graduating in December 1936 and being posted to 49 Squadron, equipped with Hawker Hinds at Worthy Down aerodrome.
In March 1938, 49 Squadron moved base to Scampton where it became the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the new monoplane Handley Page Hampden bombers. Sharing the grass airfield and accommodation at Scampton was 83 Squadron, which began conversion from its Hawker Hinds to Hampdens in October 1938, and was completely re-equipped with the type by early January 1939. The change from biplanes to all-metal monoplane bombers gave both units many months of necessary practice flying though, strangely, virtually no night-flying was undertaken - indeed, it was only on the outbreak of war that the Hampden crews had their first experience in flying Hampdens with full bomb loads.
As the European political scene rapidly deteriorated in the high summer of 1939, Bomber Command began to implement its plans for possible war, and on 26th August the bomber squadrons were brought to a state of two hours' 'Readiness' for dispersal tinder the command's 'scatter scheme.

On 1st September, as German forces swept into Poland, the Scampton Hampden squadrons were ordered to bomb up a flight of aircraft each, and at midnight general mobilisation orders were issued throughout the RAF in Britain.
By dawn of 3rd September the war-loaded Hampdens were still at standby and, at 6.15 pm, six Hampdens from 83 Squadron and three from 49 Squadron left Scampton on an 'armed reconnaissance' over the North Sea, seeking German naval ships to bomb. The trio of 49's bombers, led by Flight Lieutenant George Lerwill, included Roderick Learoyd. In the event the sortie flew as far as the Horns Reef lightship, found no targets to bomb, and returned to Scampton without incident.
During the next ten months Learoyd participated in 23 more bombing sorties, apart from various other types of operations, proving himself to be a cool-headed pilot, seemingly imperturbable in the most dangerous situations. One target he attacked was a vital waterway, the
Ems canal, a heavily-defended objective which received considerable attention from RAF bombers in mid-1940. And it was this canal that was to be Learoyd's target on the night of 12th August 1940.
Eleven Hampdens - six from 49 Squadron, five from 83 Squadron - were detailed for the whole sortie, and the specific objective was to destroy the old aqueduct carrying the canal over the river
Ems, north of Münster (a second, new, aqueduct had already been destroyed in a previous RAF raid). The 6 pm briefing of the crews was thorough, explaining that four Hampdens were to bomb diversionary targets, and that timing over the target was crucial in view of the special 'canister' bombs being used, each of which was fitted with ten-minute delayed action fuses. Learoyd was detailed as captain of Hampden P4403, EA-M, and his crew comprised Pilot Officer John Lewis (navigator and bomb aimer), Sergeant J Ellis (wireless operator and dorsal air gunner) and LAG Rich as ventral air gunner. Each captain was given a precise time to arrive over the target and a specific sequence in which to bomb.
At exactly
8 pm Learoyd got airborne from Scampton, lifting 'Pinocchio' (the Walt Disney character painted just below the left side of the Hampden's cockpit) into the clear night air and setting course south-east. He was due to be over the aqueduct at precisely 11.15 pm, the last of the five Hampdens detailed to carry out the actual bombing attack, and John Lewis's skilled navigation brought Learoyd to a point just north of the target at ten minutes before their designated ETA.
The moon was half-full, reflecting clearly the canal water, and Learoyd circled leisurely, awaiting his turn to bomb. Elsewhere, unseen by Learoyd, four Hampdens were making their diversion raids, as per the pre-arranged plan, while two other Hampdens, having failed to locate their primary targets, bombed
Texel Island instead. As Learoyd waited calmly he saw the first Hampden begin its run over the canal; Squadron Leader 'Jamie' Pitcairn-Hill DFC of 83 Squadron in Hampden P4402.
Alongside each bank of the canal were rows of deadly accurate mobile flak guns, well-sited, and presenting any potential attacker with no choice but to run the narrow gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire during his actual bombing attack. Knowing these odds against survival, Pitcairn-Hill led the way in - threading his way through a curtain of shells and tracer bullets, and in the face of blinding searchlights focussed directly on the approach lane. Levelling out at 100 feet above the silver water he suffered numerous hits but refused to evade the punishment, maintaining a rock-steady bombing run and releasing his bomb canisters with precision, before banking away from the danger zone and limping home to
The second Hampden, P4410 piloted by an Australian, Pilot Officer E. H. Ross, received a direct hit as he nosed into the flak lane and crashed in a holocaust of flames alongside the canal.
Third to run the gauntlet was another Australian from 83 Squadron, Flying Officer A. R. Mulligan DFC in Hampden P4410. Before Mulligan had reached his bomb-release point however his aircraft was hit in its port engine, which erupted in flames. Jettisoning his bomb load quickly Mulligan climbed swiftly to 2,000 feet and then ordered his crew to abandon the aircraft. Once the three crew members were out, Mulligan took to his parachute and watched his machine plunge into the earth and explode. All four men survived their hasty exit and were soon taken prisoner by the Germans.
Fourth in line came Pilot Officer Matthews who bombed successfully and then struggled back to
England with one engine reduced to junk by flak damage. It was now Learoyd's turn to bomb. Just six minutes had elapsed since Pitcairn-Hill's initial attack.
Due to bomb at exactly
11.23 pm, Learoyd let down to 300 feet some three miles north of the target, then started a shallow diving attack run straight along the canal. By now the German gunners and searchlight operators had fixed the height of the raiders, and were waiting impatiently for the next aircraft. Levelling out at 150 feet, Learoyd reached a point where the canal forked just before the two aqueducts, and then handed over final control of the bomber to his bomb-aimer, John Lewis.
At that moment all hell broke loose as the flak barrage opened up and several searchlights coned the approaching bomber. Blinded by the lights, Learoyd ducked his head below the windscreen to fly solely on instruments at the bidding of Lewis; while both gunners began raking the searchlight sites as these flashed by on either side.
A sudden thump as a shell blasted through the starboard wing almost threw the Hampden off course, and was immediately followed by a second shell which tore through the same wing between the engine and Learoyd's cockpit. Machine gun bullets splashed the underside of the bomber continually, but Learoyd held firm, waiting for Lewis to release the bomb load.
Then he heard Lewis yell, 'OK Finish', and immediately pulled the battered Hampden into a steep banking turn out of the flak fury, climbing as fast as possible towards a safer area of sky.
Once clear of the danger zone Learoyd and his crew took stock of the damage. Most serious was a ruptured hydraulic system which leaked oil almost everywhere, resulting in drooping wing flaps and a useless undercarriage indicator. The wing damage, though serious, had fortunately missed the wing petrol tanks. One moment of relief from the tension was provided when Ellis calmly reported over the intercom that one of his carrier pigeons had laid an egg at the height of the attack.
Carefully nursing the shell-shattered Hampden home, Learoyd crossed the English coast line just after 2am, and soon reached Scampton, where in the pre-dawn blackness he considered it best not to attempt a night landing in a machine with unknown damage, and continued to circle the area until first light, and finally made a safe landing minutes before 5am.
Post-raid intelligence showed that the raid had been entirely successful, and 'Jamie' Pitcairn-Hill was awarded a DSO for his leadership, while the imprisoned Mulligan received a Bar to his DFC.
Learoyd, whose final deliberate run into the well-alerted defences had been possibly the most dangerous attack of all, was awarded a Victoria Cross, gazetted on
20 August 1940. Part of the citation read : 'The high courage, skill and determination, which this officer had invariably displayed on many occasions in the face of the enemy sets an example which is unsurpassed.'
The award was a popular one to the men of Scampton who held Babe' Learoyd (his universal nickname, clue to his impressive physical size) in the highest regard for his quiet modesty and cool 'unflappability'.
The cross was awarded at an investiture on
9 September 1940, by which time Learoyd had been taken off operations, promoted to Squadron Leader, and was acting temporarily as personal assistant to Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

Wg Cdr P B 'Laddie' Lucas CBE DSO* DFC 1915-1998

Wg Cdr P B 'Laddie' Lucas CBE DSO* DFC was a superb wartime fighter pilot, an MP, a world class golfer who captained the Walker Cup team, a successful businessman and a fine writer.

The defence of Malta in 1942, in which he commanded 249 Squadron, was perhaps one of his greatest achievements. Often outnumbered 10 to one, his squadron shot down more planes than any other over the skies of Malta. His flair, his humour, his understanding of his men and his refusal to give in against the most daunting of odds carried him through this arduous campaign.

He was born Percy Belgrave Lucas in Sandwich Bay, Kent, in 1915. Based in the area were a company of Highlanders who would attract the attention of his young nursemaid by asking after "the wee laddie", a name by which he would be known for the rest of his life. His gift for golf was developed early under the tutelage of his father who was the secretary and co-founder of Prince's Golf Club at Sandwich.Laddie, a left-hander, was sinking putts at six and in his teens practised with the champion English golfer Henry Cotton. During the Second World War, in 1944, his intimate knowledge of the course probably saved his life: his Spitfire was hit by an Me 109; not at all keen to bale out, he spotted Sandwich Bay at the same moment as his engine died. Gliding in and keeping the clubhouse as a marker, he missed the 2nd, 4th, 12th, 8th and 9th to land belly-up out of bounds just short of the River Store. He recalled being very unhappy at the state of the greens. Lucas was educated at Stowe, where he excelled at games. His father had died when he was 11 but his perceptive headmaster J.F. Roxburgh encouraged him to develop his many gifts. Lucas went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1934. He read Economics, captained the golf team, was the top amateur golfer in the 1935 British Open and at 19 found himself hailed as the finest left-handed player in the world. After the war, he captained the Walker Cup team in 1947 and 1949. When he came down from Cambridge, he was interviewed by Beaverbrook for a post on the Sunday Express. Blunt and incisive, Beaverbrook was impressed by Lucas's replies to his questions. He took him to supper that night and asked him the same questions. Lucas gave the same answers and Beaverbrook hired him as a sports writer. That unconventional meeting touched a spark with Lucas; he learnt from Beaverbrook that you had to give young people their chance, encourage them, let them have their head, give them responsibility. In future years, he was to do so again and again. He remained with the Sunday Express until the outbreak of war when he volunteered for the RAF. Lucas became one of the first pilots to learn to fly under the Empire scheme in Canada. He was posted to 66 Squadron in 1941, based in Cornwall. He took his family crest in his cockpit while carrying out strikes against shipping in the Channel. In February 1942 he was posted to Malta, where he joined 249 Squadron. Soon afterwards, at the age of 26, he was given command of it, and forged a fighting unit from many disparate elements - Canadians, Poles, Australians - giving them responsibilities normally reserved for more experienced pilots. Despite several forced landings, Lucas was seldom out of his cockpit. For the next four months, the three squadrons on the island fought off German and Italian bombers, often outnumbered 10 to one and initially flying out-of-date Hurricanes against Kesselring's vastly superior Messerschmidts. It seemed that Malta was doomed, but reinforcements by sea, including Spitfires, eventually turned the tide. The other great influence on Lucas's life, the aviator Douglas Bader, had always believed in attacking out of the sun, with the advantage of height and speed. During the Battle for Malta, Lucas successfully carried out a classic Bader attack on three Italian bombers which were guarded by 80 Me 109s, and for this feat he was awarded a DFC. In the autumn of 1942 Lucas was assigned as personal assistant to the Duke of Kent, but he felt that his friend Michael Strutt, who already knew the Duke, would be more suited to the post. Strutt duly took it up, and two weeks later both were killed in an air crash. This event haunted Lucas for many years. In 1943, he took charge of 616 Squadron, then became leader of the Spitfire wing at Coltishall, Norfolk. In 1944 in the Ardennes, he commanded 613 Squadron and was involved in low-level tactical support missions and strikes. In 1944-45 he served with Tactical Air Force in North-West Europe. In 1945 he was awarded a bar to his DSO (awarded in 1943) for making numerous attacks on enemy communications, often in appalling weather conditions. Also in 1945, encouraged by Beaverbrook, Lucas stood as Conservative candidate for West Fulham, but failed to be elected. He returned to the RAF to see out his commission and came back from France with bottles of champagne in the space where he had stripped out his guns. These were drunk at his wedding in 1946 to Jill Addison, the sister of Douglas Bader's wife, Thelma. In 1950, Lucas won the seat of Brentford and Chiswick, which he held for nine years. He contributed much to the debate on aviation, but became disillusioned with his government's reluctance to join Europe. In 1959, he left to make a fresh career in commerce. From 1946, he had worked with the Greyhound Racing Association, which had extensive property holdings including White City Stadium. He became managing director in 1957 and chairman in 1965. He expanded the stadium's use, notably hosting the evangelist Billy Graham's crusade. The firm was badly hit by the property collapse in the Seventies, and, after a difference of opinion with the backers, Lucas took early retirement in 1975. At the age of 60, he took up his pen again and wrote a compelling autobiography, Five-Up (1978), The Sport of Princes (reflections of a golfer) (1980), and other books including Flying Colours: the epic story of Douglas Bader (1981),

Group Capt Billy Drake DSO DFC* 1917-2011

Group Capt Billy Drake DSO DFC* joined No 1 Squadron in May 1937 and went with the squadron to France in September 1939 and during April/May 1940 scored around 5 victories before being shot down, wounded and flown back to England. After a short spell as a flying instructor, he was posted to 213 Squadron on October 2 1940, and three weeks later he joined 421 Flight, as a Flight Commander. He was awarded the DFC (7.1.41). In October he formed and commanded 128 Squadron in West Africa, then commanded 112 Squadron. Awarded a Bar to the DFC (28.7.42) and the DSO (4.12.42). He took command of the Spitfire Wing in Malta in June 1943. He received the DFC (US)(22.10.43) and was appointed Wing Leader 20 Wing, Typhoons, in late November. He took part in the first Battle of Britain flypast in September 1945. His final score card was 24 victories and he retired from the RAF on July 1 1963.

Flt Lt Bill Reid VC RAFVR 1921-2001

Flt Lt Bill Reid VC

For one of the bravest actions of the Second World War, Bill Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 3 November 1943, a force of 600 bombers was tasked to bomb Düsseldorf. Reid, flying a Lancaster with his six-man crew, was crossing the Dutch coast at 21,000 feet when his windscreen suddenly exploded. A Bf 110 had attacked from dead astern with cannon fire and not only shattered his cockpit but damaged both gun turrets. Reid, hit in the head and shoulder, as well as having his face cut by perspex splinters, recovered to find that his aircraft had dived nearly 200 feet.

He managed to right the bomber and, saying nothing of his injuries, flew on, but minutes later he was attacked again, this time by a Focke-Wulf 190 which raked the bomber from stem to stern. This attack killed the navigator and mortally wounded the wireless operator, as well as further wounding Reid. As he was to recall:

We were really hit this time, and we started to spin down. Everything went dead in my ears as there was no intercom, nothing. My hands were a bit bloody, skinned, really, when the windscreen had shattered.

Somehow, in the intense cold, Reid managed to control the aircraft with the help of the flight engineer, Sgt Jim Norris, who had been wounded in the arm. The attack had ruptured the aircraft's oxygen system as well as its hydraulics. Reid would have had every right to turn back to Britain, but made the decision to press on with his mission. Without any assistance from his navigator, Reid was in considerable difficulty, but he had committed the route to memory and 50 minutes later he was over his targets. Keeping his aircraft steady, he released his bombs, waited for the automatic photograph to indicate his accuracy and then turned for home, steering by the moon and Pole Star.

Now growing weak through loss of blood and lapsing into unconsciousness, with the aid of Norris and the bomb aimer he managed to keep the plane in the air despite heavy anti-aircraft fire as they crossed the Dutch coast. Then, all of a sudden, all four engines cut out and the plane went into a spin. Norris, light-headed through lack of oxygen, had forgotten to change over the petrol cocks to full engine. Somehow his training took over and he quickly rectified the fault and the engines burst back into full power. Spotting the airfield at Shipdham, Norfolk, Reid circled and flashed his landing lights to indicate his aircraft was in distress. With the hydraulics useless, he had to hand-pump the undercarriage down, which collapsed as he touched the runway. The Lancaster slithered 60 yards before coming to a halt.

The citation for Reid's Victoria Cross reads:

Wounded in two attacks, without oxygen, suffering severely from the cold, his navigator dead, his wireless operator fatally wounded, his aircraft crippled and defenceless, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany, every additional mile increasing the hazard of the long and perilous journey home. This tenacity and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

The son of a blacksmith, Bill Reid was educated at Coatbridge Secondary School and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1940. He trained as a pilot in North America and because of his flying skills worked as an instructor before his first operational flight with 61 Squadron in August 1943. He had only flown nine sorties before the flight which was to change his life.

After recovering from his wounds he was posted to the famous 617 (Dambuster) Squadron, then led by Wing Cdr Leonard Cheshire, later himself to win the VC. Reid was to recall Cheshire with much warmth. On his first flight back, Reid made a pig's ear of the landing and knocked the tail off the plane. Cheshire apologised to him and said, "It's my fault. After all you have been through, I should have given you a few circuits before you flew off." Then he added that he would have to put an endorsement into Reid's book. Many years later, Reid said, laughing, "I think I am the only pilot to get a Victoria Cross on one trip and a red endorsement on the next!"

Reid flew a number of successful raids with the squadron until 31 July 1944. On that day, while attacking a V1 weapon storage site near Rheims, having dropped his own "Tallboy" bomb he was hit by a bomb from a Lancaster 6,000ft above him. The bomb severed all his control cables. Reid gave the order for his crew to bale out, but as he did so the Lancaster went into a sudden dive. He had no option but to bale out himself and landed safely. Taken prisoner of war, Reid found himself in Stalag Luft III before moving to a camp at Belaria. As the Russians advanced, Reid was moved to Luckenwalde, 30km from Berlin. With little food and many dying of exhaustion, Reid was relieved to be released by the Russians.

Bill Reid left the RAF in 1946 and entered Glasgow University. He went later to the West of Scotland Agricultural College before travelling on a scholarship to India, North America and finding New Zealand very much to his liking. In 1950 he joined the MacRobert Trust Farms as an agricultural adviser. He was for 20 years the national cattle and sheep adviser for Spillers Farm Feeds. He retired in 1980 and moved to Crieff with his wife Violet. Theirs was a rich and happy relationship which underpinned the life of this most modest and courageous of men.

Bill Reid was a founder member of the Aircrew Association and an active member of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

Friday, June 06, 2008

F/Lt 'Al' Alan Richard Pollock 1936-

Alan Pollock was the pilot who flew a Hawker Hunter through the middle of Tower Bridge on April 5, 1968. His daredevil antics caused a storm of controversy at the time, but the Royal Air Force refused to court martial him, preferring, instead to have a Medical Board discharge him.

He was not court martialled, he claims, because his outspoken views on the fighting effectiveness of the Royal Air Force and the lack of RAF 50th anniversary flying celebrations in l968, might provide embarassing publicity. It has also since transpired that his one-man anniversary display inadvertently co-incided with the recently exposed 'coup plot' against Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labour Government.

A graduate prizewinner from RAF Training College Cranwell, Al Pollock was a fighter leader and instructor and saw active operational service in the Middle East and served as Aide-de-Camp to a NATO Air Commander. One of the three pre-formation founders of the Red Arrows aerobatic team, he held the rare 'exceptional' RAF fast jet pilot rating.