IMG_0010Derek Piggott served in the RAF as a pilot in the late stages of the war and in the years that followed until 1953.  He became a world renowned instructor on gliders and some of his books on instructing remain the authoritative source.  He was an outstanding pilot and created some national height records in early generation gliders.  He was also a highly-regarded experimental and stunt pilot in films including the Blue Max, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang amongst others.  In November 1961 he made the first British unaided take-off and human-powered flight in an aircraft built by students at Southampton University.  He was appointed MBE and received a number of prestigious aviation awards.

The photograph shows him with his record breaking Skylark glider.

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DHL Image-1David Hawkins rose from a National Service gunner in the RAF Regiment to become the Commandant General of the Regiment.  He later became Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod and Gentleman Usher to the Queen.  After he was commissioned he served with RAF Regiment Light Anti-Aircraft squadrons in Cyprus and in Singapore.  After a period as ADC to the Chief of Air Staff he served at Cranwell and then commanded a squadron at Catterick when he also deployed to Northern Ireland for security duties.  He commanded the Queen’s Colour Squadron and, in addition to his ceremonial duties, he and some members appeared on Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game when they gave a display of immaculate silent arms drill movements.  He commanded the RAF Regiment Depot at Catterick, served in NATO and then in the MOD when he was the Commandant General.  He was appointed CB and MBE.

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Dad 2

Dick Churchill was the last survivor of the ‘Great Escape’, the notorious escape through a tunnel at Stalag Luft III at Sagan.   Seventy-six men managed to get free of the camp but all but three were recaptured and the Gestapo murdered fifty of them.  Churchill had been shot down in early September 1940 and was initially incarcerated at Stalag Luft I at Barth on the Baltic coast.  He soon joined a team of determined escapers and he was involved in numerous tunnel projects.  He and  his colleagues were transferred to the Luftwaffe’s showpiece camp at Sagan in 1942 where Churchill continued his tunnelling activities.  On the night of 24 March 1944 the tunnel broke surface,
but short of the intended place in a wood.  Churchill and his partner were at large for almost three days before being recaptured.  Fearful that he might be a relation of Winston Churchill, he was spared in case he might be of further use.  He was not enthusiastic about the film ‘The Great Escape’.  He was 99 years old when he died on 13 February.

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Mead OBE, DFMKen Mead flew gliders on D-Day and at Arnhem where he was wounded and captured.  After the war he qualified as an AOP pilot flying Austers.  He saw service during the Malayan Emergency when he carried out reconnaissance sorties, target marking and leaflet dropping.  He was awarded the DFM. He converted to helicopters and played a key role in the rescue of school children lost on Dartmoor in 1961.  After qualifying as a flying instructor he spent many years as a standards officer before becoming a senior examinations officer on Lynx and Gazelle helicopters.  He amassed 7,830 hours flying time, and was appointed OBE.

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ElkingtonTim Elkington was 19 years old when he fought in the Battle of Britain as a Hurricane pilot with No. 1 Squadron.  He shot down one aircraft, probably a second and damaged a third before he was wounded.  He was one of the pilots of 151 Wing that went to Russia to provide protection for the Arctic Convoys and the port of Murmansk.  He was a Hurricat pilot on CAM ships and later flew Typhoons in the air defence role.  After operations in Burma he helped form the Air Fighting Development Unit in India.  Post war he flew Shackletons during Operation Grapple – the UK’s H-Bomb test at Christmas Island and was an instructor at CFS.  He died aged 98.

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FlypastThis month’s edition of Flypast pays tribute to one of the country’s finest pilots and a true gentleman – the legendary Neville Duke, fighter ace and test pilot.   Ken Ellis and I trace his highly successful career as a fighter pilot in the skies over UK and in the Middle East and as a test pilot with Hawkers.  One of the RAF’s top-scoring ‘Aces’ with twenty-seven confirmed victories and awarded the DSO and DFC & 2 Bars, he was one of the RAF’s most highly decorated fighter pilots. After leaving the RAF he became one of the best known test pilots in the world and will always be permanently associated with the beautiful Hawker Hunter and his displays at the Farnborough Air Shows.


sutherland 617 copy 2Fred Sutherland was one of the last two surviving airmen who took part in the Dam Buster raid in May 1943.  An air gunner in the RCAF, Sutherland flew with Pilot Officer Les Knight.  They had completed a tour of operations on 50 Squadron when they volunteered to join a new squadron for a ‘special mission’.  The squadron became 617 Squadron.  Sutherland and his crew attacked the Eder Dam and it was their bomb that breached the dam.  In September, the crew flew on the disastrous raid to breach the Dortmund-Ems Canal.  In bad weather, their Lancaster hit some trees and the crew baled out (Knight was killed).  Sutherland avoided capture and with the help of the escape lines he finally crossed the Pyrenees and reached Gibraltar.  He returned to Canada as an instructor.

To read full obituary click HERE