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Air Vice Marshal D F W Atcherley (05168) 

Air Vice-Marshal D F W Atcherley David Francis William                       

b: 12 Jan 1904                                                        

d: 8 Jun 1952

CB - 8 Jun 1950, CBE - 1 Jan 1946, DSO - 26 May 1944, DFC - 29 Jul 1941, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, MiD - 17 Sep 1943, MiD – 1 Jan 1945, LeoII (GO) - 27 Jun 1947, CdeG (P) (B) - 27 Jun 1947.  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

 (Army) - 2 Lt: 27 Aug 1924, Lt: 27 Aug 1926.

(RAF) Fg Off: 19 Mar 1927, Flt Lt: 5 Nov 1930, Sqn Ldr: 1 Feb 1937, Act Wg Cdr: xx xxx 1939, (T) Wg Cdr: 8 Jun 1940 [1 Mar 1940], (T) Gp Capt: 1 Mar 1942, Wg Cdr: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Jan 1940], Act A/Cdre: 14 Jul 1944?, Gp Capt (WS): 14 Dec 1944, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1946, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1947, Act AVM: 21 Jan 1950, AVM: 1 Jul 1950.

xx xxx 1922:                Attended Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

27 Aug 1924:                Officer, East Lancashire Regiment.

19 Mar 1927:                Appointed to Temporary Commission in the RAF for four years on secondment

19 Mar 1927:                U/T Pilot, No 5 FTS.

20 Feb 1928:                Pilot, No 2 Sqn.

 9 - 23 Nov 1928:        Attended Parachute Course, Home Aircraft Depot (Result - 80%)

xx xxx 1928:               Officer i/c Workshops, No 2 Sqn

27 Jan 1929:               Attended 21st Army Co-operation Course, RAF Old Sarum

 1 Oct 1929:                  Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the RAF

xx xxx xxxx:                  QFI Course, Central Flying School.

xx xxx xxxx:                  Pilot/QFI, 'D' Flight, Central Flying School.

 5 Aug 1930:                QFI, RAF College - Cranwell.

16 Oct 1931:                Flight Commander, No 28 Sqn.

29 May 1933:               Flight Commander, No 20 Sqn.

21 Jan 1936:                Attended RAF Staff College.

 2 Jan 1937:                 Maintenance Liaison Officer, HQ No 16 (Reconnaissance) Group.

27 Sep 1938:               Officer Commanding, No 85 Sqn. (Hurricane)

xx Jan 1940:                 Staff, HQ No 60 (Fighter) Wing, Air Component of the BEF?

xx xxx 1940:                 Staff Officer, Directorate of Intelligence

18-22 May 1940:              Attached, No 249 Sqn

28 May 1940:               Officer Commanding, No 253 Sqn.

 8 Jun 1940:                 Officer Commanding, RAF Castletown.

xx Feb 1941:                Officer Commanding, No 25 Sqn

25 Aug 1941:               Injured in a flying accident

15 Oct 1941:                Supernumerary (non-effective, sick), RAF Wittering

24 Oct 1941:               Officer Commanding, No 57 OTU/RAF Hawarden.

 2 Apr 1943:                Officer Commanding, RAF Fairwood Common.

14 Sep 1942:               Officer Commanding, No 325 Wing

10 Jan 1942:                Officer Commanding, No 325 Wing/RAF Setif

10 Jun 1943:                Officer Commanding, No 325 Wing

28 Jun 1943:                Officer Commanding, No 323 Wing?

 8 Oct 1943:                SASO, HQ No 2 Group.

26 Jul 1945:                Senior Disarmament Staff Officer, HQ No 2 Group

xx Dec 1945:               AOC, No 48 Group.

15 May 1946:              AOC, No 47 Group.

xx Oct 1946:                Director of Air Support and Transport Operations.

xx Mar 1948:               Commandant, Central Fighter Establishment.

21 Jan 1950:                SASO, HQ Fighter Command.

xx Feb 1952:                AOC, No 205 Group.

David Atcherley and his identical twin brother, Richard, become a legend in the RAF.  Their father was an Army officer, who took up ballooning before the first world war and would eventually rise to the rank of Major-General.  Rejected for RAF service on medical grounds he entered the Sandhurst instead.  His wish to fly was achieved after a couple of years in the Army, when he was accepted for secondment to the RAF.  Proving to be as excellent a pilot as his brother he was able to have his secondment converted into a permanent transfer.  Whilst at the Central Flying School, Wittering, he and a fellow pilot were detailed to fly two airmen to Halton to participate in a tennis tournament.  for the return flight, David made a typical Atcherley suggestion, that they see who could perform the most slow rolls between Halton and Wittering.  Having completed over 100 in the 65 mile journey, he won comfortably but on arriving back at Wittering, their aircraft where covered in a film of oil thrown out by the gyrations of their flight.  Their flight commander, Basil Embry, then pointed out to them the AOC was due to make an inspection the following day and that their aircraft had better be clean by then.  Setting about the job themselves, they gracefully cleaned their aircraft and the following day had the two cleanest aircraft on display.

One of the units based at Castletown at the time was No 801 Squadron FAA and when they where detailed to carry out deck landing practice, he decided to pay his respects to the Captain of the carrier.  Landing unannounced, he made a successful landing but promptly disappeared down an open lift shift, wrecking his aircraft but giving him a photograph for use on his Christmas cards that year.  It was at Wittering whilst commanding 25 Squadron that his career nearly ended.  Whilst taking off, he mistook an obstruction light for a flare path light as a result of which he collided with a tree shortly after take off, breaking his back.  However, this did not stop him flying, although it did require six ground crew to get him into and out of his aircraft.  During a conference at the Air Ministry, the matter of night fighters was brought up and when asked what type of aircraft would make a good night fighter, he suggested the Messerschmitt 110 which had an uplifting effect on the others, somewhat different to the effect a similar remark had had on Goering when Adolf Galland had requested a 'Squadron of Spitfires' during the Battle of Britain.

He found himself working alongside Basil Embry yet again when in 1943, he returned to Britain becoming Embry's Senior Air Staff Officer at 2 Group.  Embry often flew on operations as 'Wg Cdr Smith' and it was not unusual to see David Atcherley sitting beside him on one of these 'jollies', once he even flew with his arm in a plaster, having broken it the night before during a mess party. 

Appointed AOC of No 205 Group in Egypt, within six months he became the centre of a mysterious disappearance whilst flying a Meteor FR10 from Fayid  in Egypt bound for Cyprus.  His aircraft never arrived in Cyprus, no radio message was received from him and no sign of him or his aircraft was ever found despite an extensive search being carried out by RAF, Israeli, Turkish and USAF aircraft.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"Wing Commander David Francis William ATCHERLEY (05168), No.25 Squadron.

This officer has carried out a large amount of operational flying at night, sometimes under adverse weather conditions.  The efficiency of his squadron and the success it has had is due to Wing Commander Atcherley's drive, energy and leadership.  He has destroyed three enemy aircraft at night."

(London Gazette – 29 Jul 1941)


Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Air Commodore David Francis William ATCHERLEY,D.F.C., R.A.F.

This officer has completed much, operational flying and has achieved notable successes.  He is a fearless leader, whose iron determination and unswerving devotion to duty have inspired all under his command.  In addition to his work in the air Air Commodore Atcherley has displayed a high standard of organising ability and great drive and his services have been of inestimable value.”

(London Gazette – 26 May 1944)


This page was last updated on 23/02/23

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