Category Archives: Obituaries


Sir John Baird specialised in aviation medicine and rose to become head of the RAF’s medical services before being appointed as Surgeon General of the Defence Force Medical Services. His service on two the RAF’s busiest flying stations stimulated his interest in the medical aspects of high performance flying and he attended No 1 Course at the Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough. In 1970 he was selected to join the top secret USAF unit operating the Lockheed U-2 hight altitude reconnaissance aircraft worldwide. A number of RAF pilots joined the programme and Baird had a special interest in the life support system worn by the pilots. On his return from the USA he served on ‘fast jet’ stations where he took every opportunity to fly to better understand the environment they experienced. He later served at Command headquarters in Germany and the UK and commanded the RAF hospital at Ely. As the head of RAF Medical Services, he was dismayed at the enforced closure of RAF hospitals and the loss of personnel. He fought hard to minimise the effect of these cuts across the defence arena and was highly regarded. One senior colleague described him as, “the most able and distinguished Surgeon General of the late 20th century.”

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Tom Rossor flew 60 missions in his unarmed Spitfire on photographic reconnaissance sortie over Burma. He arrived in Burma in February 1942 and initially flew Hurricanes on ground attack operations. He had some experience on Spitfires and volunteered to join a new unit, 681 Squadron, when it formed. he took photographs over Burma and some parts of Thailand when he had to contend with bad weather ands large cloud build-ups making navigation difficult. Nevertheless, he photographed railways, enemy airfields and river traffic. He sometimes flew at low level to get target photographs for the Army. He flew his last sortie in May 1944 when he was awarded the DFC. He was described as an exceptional flight commander.

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George Mackie has died aged 100. After training as a pilot in 1941, he joined 15 Squadron to fly the RAF’s first four-engine bomber, the Stirling. Shortly after joining, Lady MacRoberts, the widow of a Scottish landowner, presented a Stirling bomber to the squadron in memory of her three sons who had all been killed in the RAF. Mackie flew mining sorties, bombed the German capital ships in Brest and attacked Germany. During a rest tour he flew on the first “Thousand Bomber” raid when he attacked Cologne. His second tour was on 214 Squadron, which soon re-equippwd with the B-17 Flying Fortress flying in the electronic counter measure role supporting the main bomber force. After 44 operations, he was awarded the DFC.

He later had a distinguished career as an artist and designer of fine books.

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Ken Goodwin established a reputation as one of the RAF’s finest post-war fighter pilots and solo aerobatic pilot. Beginning his career on the Meteor, he later joined 118 Squadron in Germany to fly the Hunter. His brilliance resulted in his selection as the official aerobatic pilot for the whole of the Second Allied Tactical Air Force. He performed at many air shows across Europe where the local papers gave him rave reviews. He was awarded the AFC . Whilst serving at the Central Fighter Establishment he helped bring the Lightning into RAF service and later commanded the Lightning Conversion Unit. He later became the CO of 74 (Tiger) Squadron, first at Leuchars and then in the Far East. He was the station commander at Wattisham where he continued to fly the Lightning. His final appointment was as Air Officer Air Cadets when he was appointed CBE.

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AVM Barry Newton flew a Canberra bomber during the British nuclear and hydrogen bomb test when he gathered samples of the atmosphere following the radiation fall out. He operated out of South Australia during the first tests in the summer of 1956 and a year later was at Christmas Island for the drops of the first hydrogen bomb. He then had a series of tours in the flying training role. His later career centred around policy appointments in MoD and the Cabinet Office. He served as the senior RAF member at the Royal College of Defence Studies and then Commandant of the Joint Services Staff College. After retiring from the RAF he was appointed a Gentleman Usher to HM the Queen, a post he held until 2002. He held senior appointments in the UK reserve force and was president of the UK Reserve Forces Association. He was appointed CVO and OBE.

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Sir David Parry-Evans began his RAF career flying Shackletons in the maritime patrol and anti-submarine role. Initially fe flew with 205 Squadron based in Singapore before returning to the Anti-Submarine Development Unit. He spent two years on exchange duties with the US Navy and was later a flight commander on Shackletons at Kinloss. He later specialised in the air-to air refuelling role commanding a Victor squadron and then RAF Marham. A series of staff appointments led to him commanding No 1 Group, the RAF Staff College and then he became the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Germany and the Second Tactical AirForce. His final appointment was as the Air Member for Personnel. After retiring from the RAF, he was the Chief Commander of St John’s Ambulance. He was an avid supporter of Welsh rugby and a former chairman of the RAF Rugby Union.

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image1Jack Simmonds, who has died aged 99, was a 20-year old Whitley pilot shot when he was shot down over Holland in July 1941.  He spent the next four years as a POW and was involved in a number of escape attempts from the various camps he was incarcerated in.  He eventually ended up Stalag Luft III where he assisted in the successful “Wooden Horse” escape.  In late January 1945 he was in the column that was forced to march westwards on the “Long March” when severe weather conditions were experienced.  He remained in the RAF post-war and served in Palestine when he survived the terrorist attack on the King David Hotel , which resulted in the loss of many lives.  He converted to the Sunderland and landed his big flying boat on the River Thames near Tower Bridge.  He later served in Cyprus.

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PRB-1-33177 copySir Michael Beavis gained worldwide fame when in 1960 he flew a Vulcan bomber non-stop from Lincolnshire to Sydney in Australia in a time of 20 hours 8 minutes.  He made three rendezvous’ over Cyprus, Karachi and Singapore with Valiant tanker aircraft when fuel was transferred in flight to his Vulcan.  This was a potent demonstration of the strategic value of air-to-air refuelling so graphically illustrated 21 years later during the Falkland’s War.  A former fighter pilot, Beavis later commanded the first RAF VC 10 strategic transport squadron before embarking on a series of senior appointments in MoD, the RAF Staff College and later as C-in-C RAF Support Command.  His final appointment was as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Central Europe.  He retired to Cyprus where he died on June 7.

Valiant of 214 Sqn & Vulcan of 617 - 1960 - pre-Oz copy

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Desert Storm-693 copyAir Commodore Witts led the first bombing operation by four Tornados of the Dharhan detachment on the first night of Gulf War One in January 1991.  He had joined the RAF in September 1968 and, after two tours as a pilot on Vulcans, he trained on the Buccaneer spending five years in Germany flying the low-level strike/attack bomber.  After a staff appointed he took command in early 1990 of No 31 Squadron based RAF Bruggen in Germany.  In early January 1991 he became the detachment commander at Dharhan with 22 Tornados, 33 crews and 400 ground personnel.  In the early hours of January 16 he attacked the airfield at Mudaysis with the JP 233 airfield denial weapon dropped from very low level at night in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire.  He went on to complete 14 operations and was awarded the DSO for his “Consummate courage and outstanding flying skills.”  He later commanded RAF Northolt and his final posting was as air attache in Washington.  He died aged 69.

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Flt Lt George Calvert MCGeorge Calvert served in the Second World War as a wireless operator mechanic and after serving with the Desert Air Force he joined an RAF Servicing Commando, which landed in Sicily and advanced into Italy.  He was later commissioned in the RAF Regiment and was seconded to the Aden Protectorate Levies.  He commanded a section of armoured cars and in January 1957 was involved in heavy fighting on the Yemeni border near Beihan.  He came under heavy fire and advanced on a rebel stronghold to allow  his section commander to retreat safely before he was able to withdraw.  He was awarded the Military Cross for “showing qualities of leadership and command of the highest order…”

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