1945 - 1990

Cold War Years

He Loved to Fly - part 2

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Posted by Susan Playdon on

My father David Evans served in WW2 as a pilot and, after a five year period in civvy street following his demobilisation, he rejoined the RAF in 1951. After refresher training on Wellington T10's and conversion to the Valetta, he was posted to RAF Fayid in the Suez Canal Zone where he flew Valettas on medium range operations.


Unfortunately he slipped his disc in May 1952 and was returned to the UK where he received treatment and rehabilitation at Headley Court. He was then posted on attachment to the Air Firing Range at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, his wife and daughter were able to join him as there was a married quarter available.


David's task was to bring the station back to operational readiness so that the night fighter and other squadrons from West Malling and other southern stations could commence air firing practice.


The work was completed by 2nd January 1953, with firing due to commence on 4th January. However on 3rd January David and his family awoke to the sound of cattle mooing outside. On looking through the window, David could see water in all directions - the sea defences had been breached. It was the day of the East Coast Floods.


Having contacted his parent base at West Malling and informed them of the problem, Wing Commander Rotherham (Wing Commander Admin) took off in the station Harvard to take a look and, after flying over Leysdown and other areas, he reported to David the extent of the flooding in the Thames Estuary area and up the East Coast.


Eventually the RAF decided not to reopen the firing range and David was ordered to return to West Malling at the end of February 1953. By May 1953 he was back flying, this time on fighters (always his favourite). He served on 85 squadron (who were based at RAF West Malling, Kent), flying the Meteor NF 11, 12 and 14. His last 9 months on the squadron were as one of the two flight commanders. 


On 19th September 1953, he flew as Red 4 on a Battle of Britain Day Flypast of many airfields in southern England. Again the following year he took part with the squadron, forming part of a 36 aircraft diamond formation, overflying many airfields in the Midlands and the South. By the end of 1954 David was assessed above average as a night fighter pilot in pilot/navigation in Air Gunnery and Instrument Flying. In September 1955 he was awarded a Master Green Instrument Rating.


He left the squadron on 1st December 1955 by which time he had completed 1638 hours flying. He was then posted to RAF Luffenham in Rutland where he was the Flight Commander of No.1 Squadron of 238 Operational Conversion Unit. He was by now due for a ground tour and in February 1958 was posted to RAF Cosford in charge of 100 boy entrants at the No.1 School of Technical Training. The boys who wanted to were given flying experience and David took full advantage of this and flew as frequently as he could.


His time at Cosford ended in August 1960 and he then spent a time on Refresher Courses at RAF Manley and then RAF Leeming where he flew the Gloster Javelin Mk.5, the first delta winged jet aircraft. By now David was a Squadron Leader and having turned down the command of 74 Squadron, the first English Electric Lightning squadron (he asked instead to be posted to a Javelin Squadron), his posting was altered for him to become a Flight Commander on 5 Squadron (Javelins). They were based at RAF Laarbruch, West Germany.


The Squadron's role (during the Cold War with Russia) was to form part of a small force intended to mount no more than a limited holding operation in the event of attack by Russia (the USSR) until the inevitable resort to nuclear weapons. At this time only one Hunter Squadron (commanded by Sqn.Ldr Norman Budden) and two Javelin Squadrons (No's 5 and 11) performed this role for the RAF. Strangely therefore, of the nine senior RAF Officers involved in this, two - David and Norman, had flown that long cross country flight around Texas in 1943.


At 5 Squadron there were many night flying tests to carry out, as well as air tests of repaired aircraft, followed by two sorties at night. When not night flying, the flight flew two long sorties by day. The squadron also maintained two aircraft on permanent standby which could be scrambled to intercept any unidentified aircraft. During his time on the Squadron they won the Duncan Trophy (for air firing) and as it was the last year that it was competed for, they kept it.


David took part in many exciting Exercises involving other countries. He led a formation of four Javelins over Copenhagen in the NATO flypast to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Danish Military Aviation. In November 1962 they received the sad news that the Squadron was disbanding. November 1962 David was posted to the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Biggin Hill as a Board Officer. He still managed to get in some flying by going to RAF Manston on his off days giving ATC Cadets air experience flights in a De Havilland Chipmunk.


In 1964 he had to decide whether to take an optional retirement from the service, as a senior officer he reckoned he would not get another flying tour having just completed the tour on the Javelin as a Squadron Leader. So having decided to retire, he was "dined out" by the Officers in February 1965 and on 26th he left the RAF and as he wrote in his own words "said farewell to probably the most interesting period of my life."


My father died in December 2012 aged 89 years.

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