BatWIn the September issue of Britain at War, I have written an article given the title ‘Holding the Line – At All Costs’.  It relates the story of Sergeant Norman Gerrish and his colleagues of No. 2807 Squadron of the RAF Regiment in their epic battle to take and hold the crucial airfield of Meiktila in Burma during the advance of Lieutenant General Sir William Slim’s 14th Army to Rangoon.

20-2 GerrishGerrish’s inspirational leadership resulted in the immediate award of the Military Medal for gallantry.  The citation highlighted his ‘courage, determination and leadership in holding two companies of the Japanese and for their ultimate defeat’.

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helicopter Major002Major Chris Crouch led a flight of Scout helicopters supporting a troop of SAS soldiers involved in a fierce engagement against dissidents in Aden.  Throughout a long day, Crouch controlled his helicopters as they carried out reconnaissance sorties and redeployed troops to surround the enemy group.  His helicopter was hit on three separate occasions by small arms fire.  He was awarded a DFC.  During an earlier tour in the Malayan Emergency, he flew Auster AOP aircraft and was twice mentioned in despatches.

To read full obituary click HERE


PAH copyAir Commodore Hughes led a number of attacks by Coastal Commands’s Beaufighter strike aircraft  against enemy convoys  sailing along the coasts of Norway and the Netherlands carrying essential raw materials for German industry.  On his 27th operation he led a torpedo attack against a large merchant ship off the island of Borkum.  The ship caught fire but as he turned away from a second attack using his cannons, his aircraft hit the cable of a balloon flying from an escort vessel.  Despite the damage to his aircraft he managed to return to base.  He was awarded an immediate DFC.  On 8 August 1944 he led his flight in the anti-flak role in support of a torpedo attack by other Beaufighter squadrons.  After the attack, his aircraft caught fire and he baled out at a perilously low height.  He paddled ashore in Norway but was captured.  He had a long and successful peacetime career in the RAF.  He died in Scotland aged 99.

Beau ditchThis photo shows Hughes (left centre) about to land in the sea in his parachute as his Beaufighter crashes off the Norwegian cost.

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Don in LancasterDon Briggs had a flying career that spanned over 60 years.  He started RAF life as an aircraft apprentice but later became a flight engineer on Lancasters in the Pathfinder Force.  He completed 60 operations and was awarded the DFC.  After the war he trained as a pilot and flew all three V-bombers.  He was the second pilot on the third and final testing of the British hydrogen bomb during Operation Grapple at Christmas Island.  He spent five years as an instructor on the Vulcan and after retiring from the RAF he trained future airline pilots at Oxford.  He retired from flying when he was 84 years old.

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_93919337_pilotMary Ellis, who has died aged 101, was one of the pioneering women who became famous as one of the ‘Spitfire Girls’ who flew with the wartime Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).  She joined in 1941 and by the end of the war she was a first officer and had flown 1,000 aircraft which amounted to 72 different types.  After the war she moved to the Isle of Wight and was managing director of Sandown Airport for 20 years, the first woman to hold such a position.  She flew in a Spitfire on her 100th birthday and attended the film Spitfire just two weeks before she died on July 24.

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Farrell DFC AFC copyTony Farrell was 100 years old when he died.  During a flying career that spanned almost 50 years, he accumulated over 16,000 flying hours.  After a long spell as an instructor, he completed 80 operations flying the Mosquito with Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force. Using the radar bombing aid ‘Oboe’ he marked targets for the following main bomber force.  His final target was Hitler’s Eagle Nest at Berchtesgaden.  His wartime service was recognised by the award of the DFC and the AFC.  After the war he returned to civilian life and was a flying instructor, first with Marshall’s of Cambridge, then with Air Service Training and the College of Air Training at Hamble.

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IMG_20160824_0001-2 (dragged) copyDon Laubman was one of Canada’s most successful fighter pilots. After a period instructing trainee pilots he joined No. 412 (RCAF) Squadron based initially in England.  The squadron moved to Normandy in June 1944 to support the Allied armies.  In a three day period in September he was credited with shooting down eight German fighters; a feat that was never repeated.  By the end of the war he had destroyed at least fourteen and shared in the destruction of a further two enemy aircraft.  He was twice awarded the DFC.  During the years that followed he flew Sabre and F.104 fighters, first as a squadron commander and then in command of the RCAF’s No. 3 Wing based in Germany.  He later commanded all Canadian forces stationed in Europe.  He died on June 20 aged 96.

To read full obituary click HERE