Author Archives: grahampitchfork


6_19-A_lancaster copyJo Lancaster was the first man to use a British ejector seat in an emergency when he was forced to abandon his out-of-control experimental jet.He had been an apprentice at Armstrong Whitworth before going the RAF and a training as a pilot.  He flew 30 bombing operations in Wellingtons with No. 40 Squadron before becoming an instructor.  He returned to operations on Lancaster with 12 Squadron and was awarded the DFC.  After training as a test pilot he joined Saunders Roe – where he flew the Saro SR-1 jet-powered flying boat fighter.  He moved to Armstrong Whitworth and on his third flight in the AW-52 “Flying Wing”, the aircraft oscillated violently during a dive and Lancaster ejected using the Martin Baker Mk 1 seat.  He continued testing fighters and later flew air survey and mapping flights for a private company.  He was 100 years old when he died in August.

To read the full obituary clock HERE


Taylor PPW copy 2Peter Taylor was a Cold War fighter pilot.  Early in his career flying Hunters he was a member of the Blue Diamonds aerobatic team before a tour on No. 8 Squadron based in Aden.  He saw action along the Yemeni border and flew strikes against dissident targets during the final British withdrawal from Aden in November 1967.  After conversion to the Harrier he joined No. IV Squadron in Germany.  He was forced to eject after a bird strike and was astonished when the Harrier flew away and climbed to 20,000 feet before crashing.  He commanded No. ! Squadron and saw service in Belize and was the station commander at RAF Bruggen with four Jaguar squadrons.  He retired in 1987 and worked for British Aerospace before organising the Farnborough Air Show during his time with SBAC.

To read full obituary click HERE


Hart DFC copyJohn Hart, who has died aged 102, was the last surviving Canadian Battle of Britain pilot.  He joined No. 602 Squadron in September 1940 and saw action over the English Channel when he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88 bomber.  He went on to fly Hurricanes in Burma on ground attack sorites before taking command of No. 67 Squadron escorting bomber and airborne supply operations.  In March 1945 he joined No. 112 Squadron in Italy to fly the Mustang.  He took over as the CO and led formations against rail and road communications and attacked bridges in northern Italy, Yugoslavia and southern Austria.  He was awarded the DFC and returned to live in Vancouver.

To read full obituary click HERE


FlypastEPSON scanner imageWith the conclusion of the long-running series relating the stories of the airmen holders of the Victoria Cross, a new series Above and Beyond has started in the September issue of FlyPast.  This first article provides the background to the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal.  It highlights the creation and the development of the criteria for the award of the two decorations for gallantry in the air.  The article is illustrated by examples of both immediate and non-immediate awards and includes the first award of the DFC to a female and the only post-war award of the DFC and two Bars.

Each monthly issue of FlyPast will focus on one individual and describe the events that led to the award of the decorations.


Dad in uniform with CBAVM Michael Robinson was a Cold War bomber pilot who commanded a V-Bomber squadron, which provided part of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent and part of Britain’s contribution to NATO’s retaliatory strike plan.  Robinson had been trained in the first post-war entry at the RAF College Cranwell before seeing service in the Far East and in Germany.  During his command of No.100 Squadron, equipped with the Victor 2, he took an aircraft to New Zealand for the RNZAF International Air Display.  His later appointments included staff tours at MoD, HQ Strike Command and as the Senior Air Staff Officer at HQ 1 (Bomber) Group.  He was also the Assistant Commandant at the RAF College.

To read full obituary click HERE


Freddie Aden 1 copyThe death of Sir Frederick Sowrey aged 96 brings to an end the RAF services of a remarkable family whose members had served for an unbroken period of 65 years.  The son of WW 1 fighter ‘ace’ and the destroyer of a Zeppelin over Essex, Group Captain Frederick Sowrey DSO, MC, AFC, Sowrey joined the RAF in 1940 and saw service throughout the Second World War before concentrating on fighter operations flying the Meteor and then commanding a Javelin squadron.  He commanded the RAF transport base at Abingdon and was the senior air staff officer who planned the UK withdrawal from Aden in 1967.  His senior appointments included responsibility for RAF training, commandant of the National Defence College and the UK representative at CENTO.  He was an avid motor racer and drove in the London to Brighton rally in his 1901 Darracq Tonneau.  He founded the RAF Historical Society and was its dynamic president.

To read full obituary click HERE

For the history of the Sowrey familiy’s RAF service see Book section on this site.


RustinWing Commander Rustin was one of the RAF’s leading test pilots whose 17 years of testing experimental aircraft and the RAF’s front-line fighters was recognised by him being awarded the Air Force Cross and Bar.  After a period as a fighter pilot, Rustin completed the course at the Empire Test Pilot’s School where he was awarded the McKenna Trophy for the best all-round student on his course.  He served at the Royal Aircraft Establishment’s three major test centres at Farnborough, Bedford and Boscombe Down.  After leaving the RAF he flew classic jets on the airshow circuit and qualified as an airship captain.

To read the full obituary click HERE