Tam Syme was a fighter pilot who led strikes against targets in the Suez campaign, against dissident tribesmen in Aden and against rebels in Oman. He was awarded the DFC. During the Suez crisis, he led Venom fighter-bombers, based in Cyprus, against Egyptian airfields attacking aircraft on the ground with rockets and cannons. After taking command of 8 Squadron in Aden, he was in action against Yemeni insurgents and gave support to SAS patrols. In July 1957, a rebellion broke out in Oman and Syme flew 16 strikes against rebel strongholds in the Jebel Akhdar region. He decided to leave the RAF when he was 38 and he began a long period in the crop-spraying industry, working in Panama for several years. He established a home in Florida where he remained until he died aged 92.

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Janine was one of the last surviving heroines of the Comete Escape Line that assisted over 300 aircrew shot down behind enemy lines to escape through France and over the Pyrenees into Spain. Her family travelled to Biarritz from their home in Brussels when the German invasion began on 10 May 1940. The family became the key element of the southern section of the Belgian run Line. Janine, who was 16 years-old, escorted evaders, sometimes on trains from Paris, but more particularly in the dangerous border region between her home in Anglet and the ‘last house’ close to the border where Basque guides took the airmen across the mountains. After many betrayals and the loss of key personnel, the De Grief family continued their work under great threat. The threat became so great that MI9 arranged for her to leave France. She, and her family, received numerous decorations for their bravery.

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Sir John Baird specialised in aviation medicine and rose to become head of the RAF’s medical services before being appointed as Surgeon General of the Defence Force Medical Services. His service on two the RAF’s busiest flying stations stimulated his interest in the medical aspects of high performance flying and he attended No 1 Course at the Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough. In 1970 he was selected to join the top secret USAF unit operating the Lockheed U-2 hight altitude reconnaissance aircraft worldwide. A number of RAF pilots joined the programme and Baird had a special interest in the life support system worn by the pilots. On his return from the USA he served on ‘fast jet’ stations where he took every opportunity to fly to better understand the environment they experienced. He later served at Command headquarters in Germany and the UK and commanded the RAF hospital at Ely. As the head of RAF Medical Services, he was dismayed at the enforced closure of RAF hospitals and the loss of personnel. He fought hard to minimise the effect of these cuts across the defence arena and was highly regarded. One senior colleague described him as, “the most able and distinguished Surgeon General of the late 20th century.”

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Tom Rossor flew 60 missions in his unarmed Spitfire on photographic reconnaissance sortie over Burma. He arrived in Burma in February 1942 and initially flew Hurricanes on ground attack operations. He had some experience on Spitfires and volunteered to join a new unit, 681 Squadron, when it formed. he took photographs over Burma and some parts of Thailand when he had to contend with bad weather ands large cloud build-ups making navigation difficult. Nevertheless, he photographed railways, enemy airfields and river traffic. He sometimes flew at low level to get target photographs for the Army. He flew his last sortie in May 1944 when he was awarded the DFC. He was described as an exceptional flight commander.

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George Mackie has died aged 100. After training as a pilot in 1941, he joined 15 Squadron to fly the RAF’s first four-engine bomber, the Stirling. Shortly after joining, Lady MacRoberts, the widow of a Scottish landowner, presented a Stirling bomber to the squadron in memory of her three sons who had all been killed in the RAF. Mackie flew mining sorties, bombed the German capital ships in Brest and attacked Germany. During a rest tour he flew on the first “Thousand Bomber” raid when he attacked Cologne. His second tour was on 214 Squadron, which soon re-equippwd with the B-17 Flying Fortress flying in the electronic counter measure role supporting the main bomber force. After 44 operations, he was awarded the DFC.

He later had a distinguished career as an artist and designer of fine books.

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This article highlights the role of Coastal Command in the days leading up to the D-Day landings, and the patrols flown to protect the invasion forces during the build up and in the weeks that followed. Called “Operation Cork”, anti-U-Boat patrols were flown in the Western Approaches and the English Channel. Numerous U-Boats were sunk or severely disabled and those that survived inflicted minimal damage. The Beaufighter ands Mosquito Wings attacked E-Boats and surface warships with devastating results. This aspect of the success of the D-Day landings rarely gains mention and this article has been written to bring their outstanding exploits to wider attention


Ken Goodwin established a reputation as one of the RAF’s finest post-war fighter pilots and solo aerobatic pilot. Beginning his career on the Meteor, he later joined 118 Squadron in Germany to fly the Hunter. His brilliance resulted in his selection as the official aerobatic pilot for the whole of the Second Allied Tactical Air Force. He performed at many air shows across Europe where the local papers gave him rave reviews. He was awarded the AFC . Whilst serving at the Central Fighter Establishment he helped bring the Lightning into RAF service and later commanded the Lightning Conversion Unit. He later became the CO of 74 (Tiger) Squadron, first at Leuchars and then in the Far East. He was the station commander at Wattisham where he continued to fly the Lightning. His final appointment was as Air Officer Air Cadets when he was appointed CBE.

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AVM Barry Newton flew a Canberra bomber during the British nuclear and hydrogen bomb test when he gathered samples of the atmosphere following the radiation fall out. He operated out of South Australia during the first tests in the summer of 1956 and a year later was at Christmas Island for the drops of the first hydrogen bomb. He then had a series of tours in the flying training role. His later career centred around policy appointments in MoD and the Cabinet Office. He served as the senior RAF member at the Royal College of Defence Studies and then Commandant of the Joint Services Staff College. After retiring from the RAF he was appointed a Gentleman Usher to HM the Queen, a post he held until 2002. He held senior appointments in the UK reserve force and was president of the UK Reserve Forces Association. He was appointed CVO and OBE.

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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.

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Sir David Parry-Evans began his RAF career flying Shackletons in the maritime patrol and anti-submarine role. Initially fe flew with 205 Squadron based in Singapore before returning to the Anti-Submarine Development Unit. He spent two years on exchange duties with the US Navy and was later a flight commander on Shackletons at Kinloss. He later specialised in the air-to air refuelling role commanding a Victor squadron and then RAF Marham. A series of staff appointments led to him commanding No 1 Group, the RAF Staff College and then he became the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Germany and the Second Tactical AirForce. His final appointment was as the Air Member for Personnel. After retiring from the RAF, he was the Chief Commander of St John’s Ambulance. He was an avid supporter of Welsh rugby and a former chairman of the RAF Rugby Union.

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