“Shot down and on the Run”: the 2018 Unilever Lecture

Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork, MBE, BA, FRAeS, on the rôle of the Dutch squadrons of the RAF during WWII in Europe.

From the announcement in the Winter Newsletter :

On 1 April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force. During 2018 there will be numerous activities and major events to commemorate the centenary of the world’s first independent Air Force.

The history of the RAF is rich with many actions where individual pilots and large crews disclosed their commitment to their cause. Many reports tell of deeds with great valour and bravery. Unfortunately, many stories will never be heard because nobody reached home to tell. The history includes the ingenuity and creativity of many who designed and built the aircraft that allowed the crews to carry out their jobs.

A selection has to be made from 100 years of history. The lecture will review the creation and activities of the Dutch squadrons within the Royal Air Force in the European Theatre during World War Two, highlighting the deeds of some of the aircrew that distinguished themselves. Major operations mounted by RAF squadrons against key targets in the Netherlands will be discussed as well and it will conclude with how Dutch patriots helped airmen avoid capture after they had been shot down.

Graham Pitchfork served in the Royal Air Force for 36 years as a navigator. He was trained at the RAF College Cranwell and then joined a Canberra reconnaissance squadron based at RAF Laarbruch on the Dutch – German border. In 1965 he started his long career on the Buccaneer strike/attack aircraft first on a three-year exchange tour with the Fleet Air Arm, which included a year embarked on the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle in the Far East. After two more appointments in the RAF Buccaneer force he was promoted to command a squadron. He served as the Director of Air Warfare at the RAF College Cranwell before commanding the largest flying training base in the RAF. He was one of the last Commandants at Biggin Hill and then served as a Director of Operational Intelligence in the MOD before retiring as an Air Commodore in 1994.

Since retiring from the RAF, he has become an established author and lecturer on RAF history with thirteen books and many articles to his name and he is the aviation obituary writer for the Daily Telegraph. He is a Vice President of the Yorkshire Air Museum, the Archivist of the Aircrew Association and serves on the committee of the RAF Historical Society.