AIR MARSHAL Sir DENNIS CROWLEY-MILLING -
GROUP CAPTAIN BRIAN KINGCOME
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TWO renowned and highly decorated fighter pilots who flew throughout the entire duration of the Battle of Britain, Crowley-Milling in Douglas Bader’s 242 Sqn based at Duxford while Kingcome commanded 92 Sqn at Biggin Hill.
Brian Kingcome flew Spitfires operationally with front line units virtually without a break throughout the duration of the war, seeing continual action over southern England, the Channel, Northern France, the North African desert, Italy and Southern France. Dennis Crowley-Milling, highly rated by Bader, flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain and with Bader’s famous Tangmere Wing before becoming one of the great Typhoon ground-attack Wing Leaders. Both were revered fighter aces and highly decorated wing leaders.
AIR MARSHAL SIR DENIS CROWLEY-MILLING DSO, DFC BIOGRAPHY:
I joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Sgt. Pilot at the age of 18 in November 1937. At the time I was employed in the aero-engine experimental department at Rolls Royce, Derby, working on the famous Merlin Engine.
On being called up at the outbreak of war, I completed an advanced flying course and operational conversion on Gladiators and Spitfires. I joined 615 Squadron, in France, June 1940 as a Pilot Officer flying Gladiators. I later joined 242 Squadron, flying Hurricanes on patrol duties over the retreating allied forces.
We were returned to U.K. after the French capitulation to be based at RA.F. Coltishall where Douglas Bader arrived to take command. During the Battle of Britain, I flew in his section and later joined his Spitfire Wing at Tangmere as Flight Commander on 610 Squadron, flying on ‘sweeps’ and escort operations over Northern France until I was shot down in August 1941.
I managed to evade capture by the Gennans, made contact with the underground and came down the escape route via Paris, Marseilles and over the Pyrennees. Unfortunately I was captured in Spain and spent three months in the concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro where I became ill with paratyphoid. On being released, and after recovering in a Madrid Hospital, I returned to the UK in December 1941, to rejoin 610 Squadron, taking command once again, of my old flight.
Johnnie Johnson later took command of the Squadron and we saw action, particularly during the Dieppe operation. I was promoted to Squadron Leader, in September 1942 and formed the first Typhoon Bomber Squadron, 181 Squadron, later to briefly command 16 Wing Typhoon Bombers, both units being mainly involved in attacks on the German fighter airfields in Northern France.
181 Squadron was a new unit and the first Typhoon Bomber Squadron and our task was mainly to attack German airfields in Northern France. I led over forty of such attacks, and our tactics were to fly in at low level to coincide with the 8th USAAF BI7’s formations returning from daylight attacks in Germany, and hopefully catch the German fighters on the ground refuelling or scrambling to intercept. Timing, of course, was very critical, and it did not always work, even though we damaged the airfield and installations. However as an example, on 14th April, 1943 when bombing Tricqueville airfield we caught a whole squadron of Mel09’s taking off and our bombs landed right amongst them, causing some havoc.
I came off operational duties in October 1943, and was attached to 8th USAAF Headquarters, High Wycombe, to co-ordinate fighter operations with. B17 daylight attacks. In June 1944 I was posted to Air Ministry, operational requirements where I became involved in all new fighter and bomber aircraft projects until the end of the war.
I was granted a permanent commission in 1945 and have seen overseas service in Sudan, Egypt, Hong Kong, USA and Turkey. I took part in the Coronation flypast in 1953, leading the Odiham Meteor aircraft wing, and subsequently commanded a Lightning aircraft air defence base, and later 38 (Tactical) Group with the first Harrier Squadron.
I retired in 1975 as an Air Marshal, and after 6 years as Controller of the RA.F. Benevolent Fund, I am now deputy Chairman of the Douglas Bader Foundation.
Notes on Aircraft flown in Combat, 1939-45
I flew the following aircraft in combat during the 1939-45 war: Gladiator, Hurricane Mk I & 11, Spitfire V(b), and Typhoon. After the war I flew the Tempest III on active service in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Somaliland.
It is hardly surprising to say that the Spitfire was my favourite. It felt part of you, it responded delightfully under all conditions, and most of all, it gave you ample warning of the high speed stall in a turn in combat; and you knew that a Me 109 could not (or would not) turn inside you.
GROUP CAPTAIN BRIAN KINGCOME DSO, DFC BIOGRAPHY
I joined the RAF with a permanent commission via the RAF Cadet College at Cranwell. I passed out in 1938 and was posted to 65 Fighter Squadron at Hornchurch. We were equipped with Gladiators when I arrived, but soon after, we were re-equipped with Spitfires. I was with 65 through the phoney war and half way through Dunkirk when I joined Bob Stanford-Tuck in 92 Squadron also at Hornchurch.
After Dunkirk we moved to South Wales partly for a rest and partly to look after the west Country ports and installations. We moved back to Biggin Hill at the end of August, when I became 92’s acting C.O., a position I held for the next six weeks until a bullet in the leg put me in hospital. During this time I led 92 on sixty-plus operations when the Squadron achieved the highest success rate of any Squadron in the Battle of Britain.
When I returned to 92 from hospital at the end of 1940 it had moved to Manston, with its new C.O. Johnnie Kent. However, we soon moved back to Biggin Hill when Johnnie Kent was replaced by Jamie Rankin, one of the great fighter leaders of WWII. Fighter Command now moved to the offensive, and most of this year we flew offensive sweeps over France.
In early 1942 after a rest at No. 61 OTU, I took over command of 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill at the request of Bob Stanford-Tuck, who had been promoted to Wing Commander Flying. 72 Squadron was dispersed to Gravesend, one of Biggin’s satellites, and it was from there that we were involved in one of the greatest fiascos (and tragedies) of the war – the escape through the English Channel of the three German capital ships, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen. In June 1942 I was posted to Kenley, Biggin’s next door neighbour, as Wing Commander Flying, where we continued Fighter Command’s offensive role over France, the routine being relieved only by the Dieppe invasion. At the end of 1942 I was sent to Charmy Down near Bristol to found the Fighter Leaders’ School, and from there, in May 1943 I was sent to Malta.
Here I joined Desert Air Force, and was given command of 244 Wing, which had lost it’s Commanding Officer, Ian Gleed, in action over Africa. At this point in my RAF career I was a confirmed Flight Lieutenant, acting Squadron Leader, acting Wing Commander, acting Group Captain, and I think at 25 one of the youngest Group Captain’s in the Air Force!
244 Wing consisted of five Spitfire Squadrons, and was totally self-contained, self-sufficient and mobile. It could move under it’s own steam anywhere at any time and operate from almost kind of airfield. Its main function was the close support of the 8th Army under General Montgomery, and we followed them to Sicily and then Italy, and zig-zagged our way northwards behind them, taking part in three invasions and such historic battles as Anzio, Monte Cassino and the long-range cover of the penetration into the South of France.
When the enemy air activity diminished, we added dive-bombing to our normal fighter role. At the end of 1944, when we were just South of Venice, to my dismay I was sent, at the personal intervention of Air Chief Marshal Sir John Slessor, A.O.C. in C. MAAF, to Staff College at Haifa in Palestine, and from that, to 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group as Senior Air Staff Officer, flying Lancasters and Liberators, at Foggla in Southern Italy! It was a traumatic experience for both 205 Sqn and myself, for my entire career had been flying Spitfires and I didn’t even understand their language! Fortunately after a couple of trips as a gunner to try and find out what it was all about, the war ended. I stayed in Italy and then Egypt for about a year, engaged mostly in the re-patriation of troops, and then managed to get posted back to Desert Air Force to command 324 Spitfire Wing and spent a few very happy months at Zeltweg in Austria.
I have always regarded 92 Squadron as my personal property. Perhaps this is because I led it through what was to me the most exciting and enjoyable part of the war, the Battle of Britain at Biggin; perhaps because I had many very good friends in it; perhaps because of only two Squadrons (as opposed to wings) that I was a member of in sustained front line operations, (92 and 72), I was in 92 for a very much longer time.
92 also came back into my life in Desert Air Force, when it was one of the five Squadrons in 244 Wing which I commanded for nineteen or twenty months in Malta, Sicily and Italy.
After various staff appointments, including instructing at RAF Staff College, I was invalided out of me RAF with TB in 1954.
Notes on Aircraft flown in Combat, 1939-45
I was lucky enough to fly Spitfires operationally with front line units virtually without a break throughout the entire war. I flew the Mark II during Dunkirk and from Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain, then Marks V and IX on offensive fighter operations from Biggin Hill and Kenley. I later flew the Mark IX in Malta, Sicily and Italy in Desert Air Force in support of the 8th Army. In fact, the Spitfire was the only aircraft I flew operationally, praise the Lord!
DENNIS CROWLEY MILLING and BRIAN KINGCOME ENSEMBLE(RAF:
Spitfire: Battle of Britain:Me-109)@vbader.com