Question: What warbird pilot do I describe?
(1) In four months he destroyed 17 enemy planes.
(2) He was shot down seven times.
(3) He bailed out three times.
(4) He collided head on with an enemy aircraft.
(5) His aircraft was cut in half by a collision with a friendly aircraft.
(6) His aircraft was blown up by an enemy bomb, while he was sitting in it!
(7) Despite all that, he survived the war.
(8) In his first combat, he claimed two enemy aircraft destroyed and one
(9) His squadron lost so many pilots, so quickly, he wound up as the leader;
although he was still a rather junior rank.
(10) He pursued an enemy bomber, and both his and the enemy plane had to crash
land. He was knocked unconscious, but revived just in time to, with the help of
a passing soldier, get clear before his fighter exploded.
(11) Two days later (after (10) above), he got into a "who will blink first"
contest with an enemy fighter. Neither swerved, and they collided. Our hero
survived the crash, but the cockpit was smashed down onto his head; the
propeller was torn off; and the engine almost torn completely loose from the
plane. He couldn't see where he was headed, because of the smoke and flames, so
he turned for home using the compass. He held the plane in a glide, using his
instruments, until he was again over land and slowly crashed to the ground. The
plane lost a wing and skidded through two fields before stopping. He got out
before the plane burned completely.
(12) A few weeks later (11 above), he chased a bomber until he shot it down.
Then, he was jumped by a bunch of enemy fighters. An enemy bullet tore his watch
from his wrist. Another nicked his eyebrow. He was down to 800 feet when his
bullet riddled plane began to fall apart. His parachute barely had time to open
before he hit the ground.
(13) A couple of days later, his oil tank was shot away; and his air speed
indicator; his rudder was blown away; and the engine set afire. Again, he bailed
out, landing in a tree.
(14) The next morning, an enemy bomb landed right in front of his fighter; as he
sat in it. His engine was blown off, and his plane thrown upside down 150 yards
away. Another pilot helped him out and they ran for cover.
(15) He was still in bed, supposedly resting, the next morning when another
attack occurred on his field. This time, he got off the ground and shot down one
of the attackers.
(16) Shortly afterwards, he was trying to teach some of the (in his opinion)
poorly trained replacement pilots in his unit some basic combat tactics. One of
the pupils collided with his plane, cutting it in half. His plane fell several
thousand feet before he could get clear. Half his parachute straps were torn
off, and he couldn't get to the rip cord. Suddenly, the parachute opened by
itself. And so, he was back in the hospital again; for the third time in just a
(17) The color scheme and markings of his aircraft are well known to modelers.
(18) He was a noted athlete in school.
(19) He spent two years as a law clerk.
(20) He was an allied pilot.
(21) Royal Air Force
(22) Spitfire pilot.
(23) Noted author.
(24) Wrote a book, the title of which seemed to indicate he recognized just how
lucky he had been.
(25) When he died, his ashes were scattered over the River Thames, by a
(26) When Winston Churchill died, he lead the contingent of B.O.B. fighter
Answer: Squadron Leader A. C. Deere, DSO, OBE, DFC and bar
Air Commodore<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Commodore> Alan Christopher "Al"
(12 December 1917 – 21 September 1995), was a New Zealand Spitfire<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire>
pilot in the Battle of Britain<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain>
and author of Nine Lives.
Deere was born in Auckland<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland,_New_Zealand>,
the third son of Terrence (known as Joe) and Teresa (née Curtin) Deere, while
his father was employed in the Post Office. The family returned soon after
Alan's birth to the family's home town of Westport, where Joe took up a position
with the New Zealand Railways.
Deere attended St Canices School in Westport before the family moved to
Wanganui<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wanganui> where the family established a
home at 43 Plymouth Street, which allowed Deere to grow up in a semi-rural
environment while he attended Marist Brothers' School and Wanganui Technical
College. At the age of eight he saw an aircraft fly overhead and sprinted to see
it land on a nearby beach. The pilot allowed him to sit in the cockpit and Deere
determined to become a pilot.
After a school career dominated by success in sports, representing his school in
and boxing<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing>, Deere spent two years as a law
clerk. Encouraged by his family doctor to follow his chosen career, Deere
persuaded his mother to sign the under 21 application for entry into the Royal
Air Force<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Air_Force>. He passed selection
under Wing Commander R A Cochrane<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Cochrane>
in April 1937 and sailed for England on the Rangitane in September, but was
admitted to hospital with high blood pressure.
Deere began flying training on 28 October 1937, at the De Havilland<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland>
Flying School at White Waltham, the No 13 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training
On 9 January 1938 he was granted a short service commission as acting Flying
Officer<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Officer> and started initial officer
training at RAF Uxbridge. He was selected for the RAF boxing team to tour South
Africa, but flight training took priority and he was posted to 6 Flight Training
School on 22 January. The aircraft he was to have travelled in crashed at
Bulawayo<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulawayo> with the loss of all on board.
Deere was promoted to Flying Officer on 28 October, and temporarily posted to
No. 74 Squadron RAF<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._74_Squadron_RAF> on 20
August, before joining No. 54 Squadron RAF<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._54_Squadron_RAF>
in September where he was joined by Colin Gray<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Falkland_Gray>,
who was to become New Zealand's top scoring pilot of World War II. Both
squadrons operated Gloster Gladiators<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_Gladiator>,
the RAF's last biplane fighter.
Additional info on Deere
The squadron remained in England until May 1940, tasked with home defense,
having converted to Supermarine Spitfire<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire>
Mk 1s at the beginning of 1940. Deere was enraptured of the Spitfire, like most
pilots, describing it as "the most beautiful and easy aircraft to fly." He was
later given a chance to fly a captured Messerschmitt Bf 109<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_109>
(called a Me 109 by Allied pilots) and found the Spitfire superior:
"In my written report on the combat I stated that in my opinion the Spitfire was
superior overall to the Me 109, except in the initial climb and dive; however
this was an opinion contrary to the belief of the so-called experts. Their
judgement was of course based on intelligence assessments and the performance of
the 109 in combat with the Hurricane<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_Hurricane>
in France. In fact, the Hurricane, though vastly more manoeuvrable than either
the Spitfire or the Me 109, was so sadly lacking in speed and rate of climb,
that its too-short combat experience against the 109 was not a valid yardstick
for comparison. The Spitfire, however, possessed these two attributes to such a
degree that, coupled with a better rate of turn than the Me 109, it had the edge
overall in combat. There may have been scepticism by some about my claim for the
Spitfire, but I had no doubts on the score; nor did my fellow pilots in 54
On 23 May 1940, during the closing phases of the Battle of France<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_France>,
Deere and Pilot Officer<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_Officer> J. Allen
flew Spitfires escorting Flight Lieutenant<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_Lieutenant>
James Leathart across the channel in a Miles Magister<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miles_Magister>
to rescue 74 Squadron's commanding officer, who had made a forced landing. In
sight of Leathart and White, Deere claimed his first combat victories, shooting
down two Bf 109s. Later the same day he shot down a third Bf 109.
On 24 May he added a Bf 110<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_110>
over Dunkirk<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk> and on the 26th claimed two
more in the same area.
On 28 May Deere was shot down by a Dornier Do17<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dornier_Do17>
he was attacking near Dunkirk. He was knocked unconscious when making a forced
landing on a Belgian beach. Rescued by a soldier, Deere made his way on foot to
Oost-Dunkerke where his head injuries were dressed. He hitched a ride on a
British Army lorry to Dunkirk, and (after receiving some criticism from soldiers
about the effectiveness of the RAF's fighter cover), boarded a boat to
Dover<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dover> from where he took a train back to
London, 19 hours after taking off from Hornchurch with his squadron.
Together with Leathart and Allen, Deere was awarded the DFC on 12 June 1940. The
medal was presented at Hornchurch by King George VI<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_VI_of_the_United_Kingdom>
on 27 June. The Citation read:
"During May 1940, this officer has, in company with his squadron, taken part in
numerous offensive patrols over Northern France, and has been engaged in seven
combats often against superior numbers of the enemy. In the course of these
engagements he has personally shot down five enemy aircraft and assisted in the
destruction of others. On one occasion, in company with a second aircraft, he
escorted a trainer aircraft to Calais<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calais> Marck
aerodrome, for the purpose of rescuing a squadron commander who had been shot
down there. The trainer aircraft was attacked by twelve Messerschmitt 109s
whilst taking off at Calais, but Pilot Officer Deere, with the other pilot,
immediately attacked, with the result that three enemy aircraft were shot down,
and a further three severely damaged. Throughout these engagements this officer
has displayed courage and determination in his attacks on the enemy." London
Gazette – 14 June 1940.
No. 54 Squadron took part in the defence of channel shipping against
Luftwaffe<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftwaffe> attacks designed to draw out
and destroy RAF Fighter Command<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Fighter_Command>.
On 9 July Deere shot down a Bf 109 over the channel, but then collided head on
with a Bf 109 of 4 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 51<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagdgeschwader_51>
flown by Oberfeldwebel<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberfeldwebel> Johann
Illner. The propeller blades of Deere's spitfire "Kiwi" were bent backwards, the
engine disabled, and much of the fin and rudder lost. Nevertheless, he managed
to glide back to the coast near Manston<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manston,_Kent>
where his forced landing in a paddock ended against a stone wall.
The colour scheme of this aircraft (P9398<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_military_aircraft_serials>,
KL-B<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_RAF_Squadron_Codes>, named, like all
Deere's aircraft, "Kiwi"), was accurately recorded and in consequence it has
been a favourite with modellers and manufacturers. The remains of this aircraft
have recently been excavated and are to be rebuilt.
After Adlertag (Eagle Day)<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adlertag_(Eagle_Day)> on
11 August he shot down a Bf 109, two more plus a Bf 110 the next day, and on the
15th added another Bf 109 over the Channel. However he was then trapped in an
unequal dogfight with Bf 109s which attempted to block his return to England.
Deere made the coast but was forced to bail out at low altitude, and was
admitted to Victoria Hospital<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria_Hospital>
with minor injuries. He discharged himself the following day. Deere was shot
down again on 28 August - this time by a Spitfire - but parachuted to safety. A
frustrating combat on the 30th saw him claim a probable Do 17.
The following day the Luftwaffe raided Hornchurch<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornchurch>.
Deere led a section of three Spitfires which attempted to take off during the
raid. A bomb destroyed all three aircraft. Deere's Spitfire was blown on its
back, trapping him. Pilot Officer Eric Edsall, though badly injured when his own
Spitfire had been destroyed, crawled to Deere's aircraft and freed him. Seeing
Edsall's injuries, Deere then carried his rescuer to the sick bay.
Deere was critical of the lack of training given to new pilots:
"We were desperately short of pilots. ... We were getting pilots who had not
been on Spitfires because there were no conversion units at that time. They came
straight to a squadron from their training establishments. Some of them did have
a few hours on the Hurricanes, a monoplane experience, but not on the Spitfire.
For example, we got two young New Zealanders into my flight. Chatting to them I
found they'd been six weeks at sea coming over. They were trained on some very
outdated aircraft, I can't remember, out in NZ. One of the pilots had taken them
up to see the handling and brief them on the Spitfire. Then they'd go off for
one solo flight and circuit, then they were into battle. The answer of course is
that they didn't last. Those two lasted two trips and they both finished up in
Dover hospital. One was pulled out of the Channel. One landed by parachute."
Such was the toll on men of 54 Squadron that on 3 September, before the peak of
the battle, the squadron was withdrawn from 11 group<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._11_Group_RAF>
and moved to the northern airfield at Catterick<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Catterick>
to rest and recover.
A Bar to his DFC was awarded on 6 September 1940. The Citation read:
"Since the outbreak of war this officer has personally destroyed eleven, and
probably one other, enemy aircraft, and assisted in the destruction of two more.
In addition to the skill and gallantry he has shown in leading his flight, and
in many instances his squadron, Flight Lieutenant Deere has displayed
conspicuous bravery and determination in pressing home his attacks against
superior numbers of enemy aircraft, often pursuing them across the Channel in
order to shoot them down. As a leader he shows outstanding dash and
determination." London Gazette – 6 September 1940.
While training new replacement pilots in January 1941, Deere collided with one
of them, losing most of his tail to the Sergeant pilot's propellor. When bailing
out, Deere was trapped against part of his aircraft, and his damaged parachute
failed to fully open. Deere landed in an area of open sewerage which broke much
of his fall. As a result of this incident he was rested from active flying, but
promoted to Acting Squadron Leader<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squadron_Leader>
and tasked as Operations Room Controller at Catterick. An unusual honour was
having his portrait painted by official war artist Cuthbert Orde<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuthbert_Orde>
On 7 May 1941 he was posted to Ayr<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayr> as Flight
Commander of No. 602 Squadron RAF<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._602_Squadron_RAF>.
On 5 June he suffered engine failure over the North Sea<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea>
and glided back to another forced landing on the coast, crawling out the small
side door after the Spitfire flipped on to its back, destroying the canopy and
temporarily trapping him. At the end of July he took over as Squadron commander
of 602 Squadron, and on 1 August it moved back to Kenley<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenley>.
On the same day he shot down another Bf 109.
In January 1942 he was sent on a lecturing and public relations trip to America
teaching American pilots fighter tactics learnt in the Battle of Britain.
Deere returned to action on 1 May, taking command of a Royal Canadian Air
Force<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Canadian_Air_Force> squadron, No. 403
Squadron RCAF<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._403_Squadron_RCAF>, at North
Weald<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Weald>. In August he went on a course
at RAF Staff College and was subsequently posted to Headquarters 13
Group<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._13_Group_RAF> on staff duties.
He engineered a return to operations, somewhat unofficially, as a supernumerary
with No. 611 Squadron RAF<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._611_Squadron_RAF> at
Biggin Hill<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biggin_Hill>. He shot down an Fw
190<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focke_Wulf_Fw-190> soon after, but wrote of his
great respect for the type and its pilots.
He was given command of the Kenley fighter wing, but this was changed at the
last minute to keep him as Wing Leader at Biggin Hill. While there, Deere was
awarded the DSO, the citation reading: "This officer has displayed exceptional
qualities of skill, which have played a large part in the successes of
formations he has led. His fearlessness, tenacity and unswerving devotion to
duty have inspired all with whom he has flown. Wing Commander Deere has
destroyed 18 enemy aircraft." London Gazette – 4 June 1943.
Deere led 121 sorties during his six months as Wing Leader, and added another
four claims to his total.
On 15 September 1943 he went to Sutton Bridge to command the Fighter Wing of the
Central Gunnery School. He received a staff job in March 1944 at 11 Group but at
the request of General Valin, abandoned this to take commanded of the Free
French<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_French> fighter wing, leading it over
the beaches on D-Day<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Day>, and subsequently in
its pilots' return to France. When the fighter wing moved further into Europe,
he was posted to HQ 84 Group Control Centre as Wing Commander Plans until July
1945 when he became Station Commander at Biggin Hill. He was awarded the OBE on
1 June 1945.
At the end of the war Deere was given command of the Polish P-51
Mustang<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-51_Mustang> Wing at Andrews Field,
Essex<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex>, presiding over its disbandment in
October, before becoming Commanding Officer at Duxford<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duxford>.
Deere received a permanent commission in August 1945, and was promoted to
Squadron Leader<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squadron_Leader> on 26 March 1946.
In 1947 he was on the staff of AHQ Malta<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta>,
subsequently joining the headquarters of 61 group before becoming Operations
Officer, North-Eastern Sector, RAF Linton-on-Ouse<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linton-on-Ouse>.
Alan Deere was promoted to Wing Commander<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Commander_(rank)>
on 1 July 1951, and became Commanding Officer of RAF North Weald the following
year. In 1955 he was on the directing staff of the RAF Staff College. He was
promoted to Group Captain<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_Captain> on 1
January 1958. He was Aide-de-camp<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide-de-camp> to
1962, and was appointed Assistant Commandant of the RAF College at RAF Cranwell
in 1963. Promoted to Air Commodore<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Commodore>
on 1 July 1964, Deere took command of (East Anglian) Sector.
On 30 January 1965 he was given the signal honour of leading fellow Battle of
Britain fighter pilots in the main funeral cortege for Winston
Churchill<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill>. In 1966 he commanded
No. 1 School of Technical Training<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._1_School_of_Technical_Training>
at RAF Halton. He was consulted for the movie Battle of Britain<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain_(film)>.
Alan Deere retired from the Royal Air Force on 12 December 1967. He then took up
the civilian position of Director of RAF Rugby, which subsequently was expanded
to Director RAF Sport. During this period he was Chairman of the RAF Rugby Board
and a member of the Combined Services Rugby Team selection panel. A team
selected while he was on the panel played the New Zealand All Blacks at
Twickenham. He eventually retired to the village of Wendover, near Halton.
He died on 21 September 1995 aged 77 years from cancer, a disease which also
claimed his grandfather and four of his brothers. His ashes were scattered over
the River Thames<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames> from a Spitfire of
the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain_Memorial_Flight>.