DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY AIR COMMODORE ROGER TOPP

IMG_0405 copyAir Commodore Roger Topp gained worldwide attention with his leadership of the RAF aerobatic team “The Black Arrows”.  When he assumed command of No 111 Squadron (Treble One) in 1955 the squadron was converting to the Hawker Hunter.  He led a formation team, which became the official RAF aerobatic team.  For the Farnborough 1958 Airshow, he led twelve of his all-black Hunters, and 10 Hunters drawn from other Fighter Command squadrons, in a loop, a breathtaking manoeuvre that thrilled the crowds and one that has never since been repeated.  It thrilled a generation of young men and schoolboys.  Topp’s innovative ideas were accepted by other teams and led to the formation of the RAF’s world famous Red Arrows.

0902 22 HUNTER LOOP 1958 PRB 15707 copyTopp had joined the RAF during the war but by the time he completed his training as a pilot, there was no demand for more and he volunteered to fly gliders and piloted a Horse on the mass airborne assault on the River Rhine in March 1945 – Operation Varsity.  Topp attended ETPS and served three tours as a test pilot.  He was awarded the AFC three times.  Later he commanded RAF Coltishall during the early Lightning period and made a major contribution to the specification and development of the Tri-National MRCA project, which was developed into the Tornado.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR DAVID EVANS

David with Aircraft (2) copyCanadian-born Sir David Evans spent most of his early career as a fighter pilot, initially on Spitfires in Italy and then Typhoons during the later stages of the war in Europe when he flew ground attack operations.  He remained in Germany on Tempests before commanding No 11 Squadron at Fassberg flying the Venom.  As a wing commander he commanded the flying wing at Coltishall operating Javelins, Hunters and Lightnings before his appointment as station commander of RAF Gutersloh in Germany.  As AOC No 1 (Bomber) Group he flew the Vulcan on visits to North America.  As the Commander-in-Chief of Strike Command he negotiated the first appearance of the RAF at Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB in Nevada.  His final appointment was as VCDS (Personnel & Logisitics).  Sir David represented Great Britain in the Winter Olympics of 1964 when he was the pilot of the four-man bobsleigh.    He was made an honorary citizen of four North American cities including Winnipeg.  He was appointed GCB and CBE.  He died aged 95.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY WING COMMANDER RUSS BANNOCK

Bannock-Bruce-RCAF-418-Sqn.-768x549-2 copy 2Russ Bannock was one of Canada’s greatest fighter pilots and leading night-fighter pilot.  He was credited with destroying nine aircraft, a further two on the ground and he shot down 19 V-1 flying bombs.  Flying a Mosquito, first with 418 (RCAF) Squadron and later in command of 406 (RCAF) Squadron, he flew intruder missions deep into Germany and Austria to catch enemy aircraft as they returned to their airfields.  On one occasion the debris from one of his victims hit an engine of his Mosquito and he flew 600 miles back to base on one engine.  He was awarded the DSO and twice received the DFC.  Post-war he was chief test pilot of de Havilland (Canada) and rose to become the CEO.  He was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. He died aged 100.

In the photograph he is on the left with his navigator Bob Bruce.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY SQUADRON LEADER BILL BRODIE

Brady 692 Sqn 1Bill Brodie, who was 102 when he died, flew 85 bombing operations over North Africa and Western Europe. During his time flying Wellingtons with No 38 Squadron, he made a daring attack against Benghazi Harbour before flying to distract enemy defences as his colleagues made their attacks.  He was awarded an immediate DFM.  He later joined No 692 Squadron of the Light Night Striking Force.  One night in October 1944 he was part of a small force of Mosquitos that laid mines  from very low level in the Kiel Canal causing major disruption to enemy shipping.  He was awarded an immediate DSO, soon followed by a DFC.  He flew diversion raids over German cities and attacked Berlin 18 times over  period of six months.

He is photographed (right) with his navigator and their Mosquito.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY AIR VICE-MARSHAL JOHN LAWRENCE

John Lawrence Portrait 4 copyAVM Lawrence was one of the last senior RAF commanders to see service throughout the Second World War.  He specialised in maritime operations and flew Blenheims on patrol over the North Sea, Catalinas and Sunderlands from Gibraltar, when he supported Operation ‘Torch’.  Towards the end of the war he commanded a Liberator squadron flying from Scotland.  He attacked and sank a U-boat 150 NW of Cape Wrath.  His post war career included command of a Venom squadron in Germany, in charge of flying operations at the Royal Radar Establishment and  co-ordinating air plans in Aden.  After command of Wittering and its Victor squadrons, he was AOC Scotland and Northern Ireland.  He was appointed CB, CBE and awarded the AFC.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY WING COMMANDER PAUL FARNES

Farnes40Paul Farnes was the last surviving Battle of Britain pilot to achieve ‘ace’ status during the Battle.  He had joined 501 Squadron as a sergeant pilot in September 1939 flying the Hurricane.  The squadron was sent to France and, after the German blitzkrieg on 10 May 1940, he was in constant action and claimed one enemy aircraft destroyed and shared in the destruction of two others.  During the Battle he claimed six more enemy aircraft and in October was awarded an immediate DFM.  After a period instructing fighter pilots he left for the Middle East and later commanded 229 Squadron in Malta.  He served in Iraq  until early 1945 before flying Spitfires and Mustangs.  He remained in the RAF as a flying instructor, served in Egypt and served at Fighter Command before leaving the service in 1958.  He was an ardent supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and attended the annual reunions at Capel le Ferne until the summer before his death.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR MICHAEL STEAR

CT2 copySir Michael Stear began his flying career as a fighter pilot in 1964 flying Hunters in UK and in the Persian Gulf.  After an exchange tour flying Phantoms with the USAF he commanded two RAF Phantom squadrons before converting to the Harrier.  He served as the station commander at Gutersloh in West Germany before becoming the AOC of No 11 (Fighter) Group at a time when the Tornado F 3 was entering squadron service.  After service in MoD he became the AOC of No 18 (Maritime) Group at the time of the first Gulf War when his Nimrods and Buccaneers deployed for operations.  His final tour before retiring in 1996 was as the Deputy C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe.  A fine rugby player, he represented Cambridge University, the RAF, Combined Services and Hampshire.  He played against the 1963 All Blacks.  He was 81 when he died on January 5.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY GROUP CAPTAIN JOHN JENNINGS

Jennings hunter copyJohn Jennings was a Cold War fighter pilot throughout his career in the RAF.  At the end of WW 2 he flew Mustangs in Palestine before converting  to jets, initially Vampires from Odiham.  After an exchange tour with the USAF flying Sabres he served at the Central Fighter Establishment.  He converted to the Hunter before taking command of the Strike Wing at RAF Khormaksar.  He led many strikes during the Radfan campaign when he was awarded the DFC. As a group captain he commanded RAF Coltishall with Lightnings.  After six years in NATO appointments, he retired from the RAF in 1979.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY FLIGHT LIEUTENANT MAURICE MOUNSDON

Mounsdon-portrait1-optWith the death of Flight Lieutenant Maurice Mounsdon aged 101, there are just three surviving Battle of Britain veterans.  He joined No 56 Squadron at North Weald in June 1940 and over the next two months he destroyed two enemy fighters, probably destroyed two others and also claimed two damaged.  On 31 August he was scrambled and attacked a fighter escorting a force of bombers.  His Hurricane was hit from behind, set on fire and Mounsdon baled out.  Badly burned about his legs and arms, he became a Guinea Pig and spent almost two years recovering.  He spent the rest of the war as a flying instructor and left the RAF in 1946.  After retiring as an engineer, he left for Menorca where he spent the rest of his life.

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DAILY TELEGRAPH – OBITUARY FLIGHT LIEUTENANT BILL PATON

Paton 3 left back POW Baseball Team front large copyCanadian navigator Bill Paton was shot down in his 431 Squadron Wellington near Mannheim in April 1943 and sent to Stalag Luft III.  During the building of the tunnels for ‘The Great Escape’ he helped disperse the waste sand .  An expert baseball pitcher, he arranged matches to divert the attention of the guards and the activity on the field helped to spread the spoil dropped by the ‘penguins’ from the pouches suspended down the legs of their trousers.  In late January 1945, the PoWs were forced to march west in terrible weather in an ordeal that became known as ‘The Long March’. In the photograph of the Canadian PoW’s baseball team, Paton is 3rd from the left in the back row.

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