Category Archives: Obituaries


Sir Michael Armitage began his career in the RAF as an aircraft apprentice, one of “Trenchard’s Brats” at Halton and he rose to serve on the Air Force Board, one of only two senior officers to do so. His early career was spent as a fighter pilot and then a flying instructor. He later commanded 17 Squadron min Germany when he flew Canberras in the photographic reconnaissance role. He served as the station commander at RAF Luqa in Malta at a time when the squadrons returned to the base after the Maltese prime minister, Dom Mintoff, had earlier expelled the RAF. Armitage had the task of re-establishing the RAF’s presence. A deep interest in the use of air power and in international affairs led to a series of appointments in the academic field before he became the chief of defence intelligence. His final appointment was as teh commandant of the Royal college of Defence Studies.

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In the cockpit of his Mustang

Old Etonian Guy Pease, who has died aged 100, made an audacious attempt to escape from a French hospital despite being disabled. He and a colleague, who suffered amputation of a ;eg, shinned down a makeshift rope made of bed sheets. They were at large for four days he eventually ended up in Stalag Luft III. He ad been shot down whilst attacking a train in his Mustang and crashed into an orchard. His hands ands wrists were badly fractured ands he spent weeks in a hospital in Rouen. When Luft III was evacuated in January 1945, he endured the infamous ‘Long March’. After being “liberated” by the Russians, he escaped to Allied lines. After leaving the RAF, he studied Arabic and served in the San Political Service. In 1970 he left for Australia where he lived the rest of his life.

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Johnson is on the left with McCarthy in the centre

‘Johnnie’ Johnson, who has died aged 101, was the last surviving Dambuster. He flew as the bomb aimer in Joe McCarthy’s crew and they had completed 19 operations when McCarthy met Guy Gibson who selected him to join ‘X’ Squadron, which became 617 Squadron. McCarthy’s crew were assigned to attack the Sorpe Dam with four others. On start-up. their aircraft was unserviceable and they switched to the spare, delaying them by 35 minutes. In the event, theirs was the only aircraft to reach the Sorpe. They made 10 bombing runs in the wooded terrain before Johnson was satisfied and he dropped the bomb. McCarthy was awarded the DSO and Johnson the DFM. They remained with 617 and went on to complete another 19 operations. After the war, Johnson flew with Coastal Command before retiring in 1962 to become a schoolteacher.

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Sir Michael Knight, who served throughout the Cold War, was one of the RAF’s most charismatic senior officers. He started his RAF career as a National Service pilot and ended it as the UK Military Representative (UKMILREP) at HQ NATO. His early career was flying transport aircraft , including the Comet, before starting a long career on the Canberra, accumulating over 2,500 flying hours on the aircraft. He was OC Strike Wing at RAF Tengah in the Far East and, after converting to the Buccaneer, he was the Station Commander at RAF Laarbruch in Germany. He was AOC 1 (Bomber) Group at the time of the Falkland’s War and was responsible for preparing his Victor and Vulcan squadron, and training their crews, for operations in the South Atlantic. He was appointed to the Air Force Board as the Air Member for Supply and Organisation, responsible for all the support ands maintenance of the RAF. As the UKMILREP in Brussels, he provided the link between the government and NATO. After retiring he played a key role in the ‘Vulcan to the Sky’ campaign and was a very active president of the Buccaneer Aircrew Association for over 20 years.

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AVM Adams spent much of his RAF service in a series of test flying appointments. During his early career he flew on three Canberra squadrons seeing service in Germany, Cyprus and in England. After completing the course at the Empire Test Pilot’s School, he tested fighters including the Hawker P1127, which led to the Harrier jump jet. He was due to be one of two pilots to fly a Harrier in the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race, but illness prevented him from taking part. He spent many flying hours testing the Harrier, resulting in the award of the AFC. During a second appointment at Boscombe Down, he tested the Jaguar and continued flying other fighters. He later became the Superintendent of Test Flying and Commandant at Boscombe Down. As the Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operational Requirements) he was heavily involved in the development of the European Fighter Aircraft, which became the Typhoon, and in precision guided munitions.

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John Brownlow started his flying career as a navigator on Canberras and was the lead navigator of a tour around South America by four Canberras, which included the first crossing of the South Atlantic by jet aircraft. After training as a pilot, he continued to operate on the Canberra in Germany and in England. After completing the course at the Empire Test Pilot’s School, his future flying career was inextricable linked to test flying Over a series of appointments, he flew from Farnborough and from Boscombe Down where he eventually became the Commandant. He was the Commandant of the RAF College at Cranwell and was the Air Officer responsible for training. After retiring, he worked for Marshall of Cambridge and he continued his passion for gliding and testing light aircraft. He was active in both fields until he was 86 years old. He received numerous prestiges awards for his services to gliding and general aviation.

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Air Vice-Marshal ‘Larry’ Lamb had two distinguished careers, first as an RAF pilot and senior officer and also as an international rugby referee and sports administrator. He joined the RAF in the later years of the Second World War and became a flying instructor and examiner before converting to the Hastings transport aircraft and flying on the Berlin Airlift. He later flew Javelin night fighters before becoming the Deputy Commander Air in Borneo during Indonesian Confrontation. He managed his limited helicopter and transport aircraft resources skilfully and was appointed CBE. After serving at RAF College Cranwell, the National Air Traffic Service and at HQ 18 (Maritime) Group he retired and became the chief executive of the Badminton Association of England. Throughout his RAF career he was heavily involved in rugby, became an international referee, controlling 14 full internationals, served on the Rugby Football Union and chaired numerous committees. He also served on the Princes Trust. He died aged 99.

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Thomas Dobie flew Wellington bombers with Coastal Command operating off the coasts of Holland and France attacking coastal convoys. He later flew Dakotas in Burma before resuming his interrupted medical studies at Leeds University. Whilst at Leeds, he joined 609 (West Riding) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force and flew Mosquitos and Meteors. After gaining his degree he re-joined the RAF in the Medical Branch and specialised in aviation medicine. He pioneered experiments to cure motion sickness in aircrew and commanded the RAF Aviation Medical Centre where all aircrew destined to fly high performance aircraft attended for training and fitment of specialised flying clothing for high-altitude flying. After retiring from the RAF he continued to work in the aviation medicine field and became Professor and Director of the National Biodynamics Laboratory in New Orleans, USA.

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Reg Jordan was just 21 years old when he had completed a tour of operations in Burma flying very long range bombing operations in Liberators and he had been awarded a DFC. He joined 356 Squadron based near Calcutta in September 1944 and embarked on a series of bombing missions over Burma and a Siam (Thailand), some in excess of fourteen hours. Despite adverse weather he made numerous attempts tp bomb some targets and a number of occasions, he was so short off fuel on return that he had to make emergency diversions to and land at forward airfields. After the war, he he held a series of appointments as a flying instructor culminating in commanding the standardisation flight at the Central Flying School. He was assessed as ‘exceptional’. After serving in the Plans division at HQ RAF Germany, he retired and worked in the aircraft industry.

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Kazimierz Szmid was one of the last surviving Polish paratroopers who had fought during the Battle of Arnhem. His regiment, part of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, were dropped near Driel on the south side of the River Rhine after two days of frustrating delay due to bad weather. In the event, the British troops defending the bridge had to withdraw and the Poles, without adequate river crossing equipment, could only hold defensive positions to assist the survivors to escape across the river from the north.

Szmid and his family had been forced from their homes by Soviet troops in February 1940, herded into cattle trucks and deported to Siberia under extreme weather conditions where they were forced to work in the forests. The family became split and in due course managed to leave Russia into Persia where Szmid joined General Anders Army before training in England as a parachutist. His father had died in Russia but the rest of his family were reunited after the war and settled in England.

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