Sir Peter Harding, who has died aged 87, was the RAF’s Chief of Air Staff (CAS) before becoming the Chief of Defence Staff in 1992 Eighteen months later he resigned following a tabloid expose of his affair with the wife of a former Conservative MP.
Harding joined the RAF as a national serviceman and trained as a pilot before beginning a full career. He flew Canberra bombers, became a flying instructor and later converted to Wessex helicopters before taking command of 18 Squadron in Germany. He commanded the large base at Bruggen with three Phantom squadrons. He flew regularly and claimed that the Phantom was his favourite aircraft. He served in MoD in numerous appointments on defence policy and later served at NATO in a key appointment. He commanded No 11 (Fighter) Group and was Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff before becoming the C-in-C of Strike Command. He was appointed CAS in November 1988. He was widely admired for his presence, charisma, intellect and social manner. Following reports of his affair in the News of the World, he resigned.
Sir John “Kip” Kemball began his flying career as a National Service pilot before accepting a permanent commission. He became a flying instructor before joining 8 Squadron in Aden flying the Hunter on operations in support of ground forces. He was the first RAF pilot to log 1,000 hours flight time on the Phantom when he was an instructor at Coningsby. He commanded 54 Squadron with Jaguars before becoming the station commander at Laarbruch in Germany where he flew the Buccaneer and the Jaguar. He was Commandant of the Central Flying School and served in the Defence Intelligence Staff where he became the Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence. As the COS and Deputy Commander at HQ Strike Command, he became the COS at the British Primary War HQ during the Gulf War of 1991 where his calm, tolerant and tactful manner was tested, but attracted the admiration of his C-in-C and army and navy colleagues. In retirement he was Deputy Lieutenant of Suffolk and held numerous appointments in the county community.
A few editions ago, the magazine Coin Collector began a series featuring military campaign medals with a brief account of the circumstances and actions the led to the issue. For the summer edition of the magazine, I was invited to write a short article and chose the India General Service Medal with the clasp Afghanistan NWF 1919.
Air Marshal Sir Roy Austen-Smith was probably the last senior RAF officer to see action in the Second World War. He flew Spitfires in the closing weeks of the war with 41 squadron, based first at Eindhoven and then at Celle in Germany. After the war he saw action in Malaya against the communist terrorists when he was awarded the DFC. His varied flying career saw him command a Canberra squadron in Cyprus and a Victor bomber squadron in Suffolk. He later commanded RAF Wattisham, home to two Lightning squadrons. He was Commandant at the RAF College Cranwell at a time of great change and later served as the Commander of British Foreses in Cyprus before becoming the Head of the British Delegation in Washington. He was a fine rugby player representing Harlequins, the RAF and the Combined Services.
Allan Scott became an “ace” Spitfire pilot during the Siege of Malta in 1942. He had flown to the besieged island after taking off from the aircraft carrier Eagle and fought during the hectic “Second Blitz” when he shot down at least five enemy aircraft and damaged others. During Operation Pedestal, the crucial re-supply convoy, Scott provided support as the remnants, including the tanker Ohio, sailed into Valetta. He was awarded an immediate DFM. He returned to the UK to become an instructor at a fighter training unit before become a test and ferry pilot. He served post war and transferred to the air traffic control branch after his flying days were over. During the RAF 100 celebrations in 1918, he flew in a Spitfire and had hoped to do so again on his 100th birthday, but it was not to be.
Osprey Publishing have recently released Shot Down and On the Run and Shot Down and in the Drink as a soft back following the success of previous issues in both hard and soft back (see the Books section).
To purchase these books visit the publisher’s web site HERE
Bernard Brown was the last surviving New Zealand born fighter pilot who flew in the Battle of Britain. He flew army co-operation sorties during the Dunkirk evacuation before volunteering for Fighter Command at the height of the Battle. He later became an instructor and after the war flew with British European Airways until his retirement.
A Norwegian Army Air Force pilot who fought after the German invasion of his country before escaping across the North Sea in a fishing boat. He later commanded a Norwegian Spitfire squadron which he led during the Dieppe raid for which he was awarded the DFC. He later landed in France with his Norwegian Spitfire Wing.
Post war he served in NATO, rose to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force and was Director of the National Defence College in Oslo.
(In the photograph he is receiving the Norwegian War Cross from King Haakon of Norway)