Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

 

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Air Marshal Sir Harold Martin (68795)


Harold Brownlow             

b: 27 Feb 1918                     r: 31 Oct 1974                     d: 3 Nov 1988

KCB – 1 Jan 1971 (CB – 8 Jun 1968), DSO – 25 May 1943, Bar – 31 Mar 1944, DFC – 6 Nov 1942, 1st Bar - 12 Nov 1943, 2nd Bar – 14 Nov 1944, AFC – 1 Jan 1949, 

Britannia Flying Trophy - 1947.

(RAFVR): Plt Off: 17 Jun 1941, Fg Off: 17 Dec 1941?, Act Flt Lt: xx xxx xxxx, Flt Lt (WS): 17 Jun 1943, Act Sqn Ldr: xx xxx xxxx,  

(RAF): Flt Lt: 11 Feb 1947 [1 Sep 1945], Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1947, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1954, Act Gp Capt: 23 Mar 1959, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1959, Act A/Cdre: 15 Oct 1952, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1963, Act AVM: 18 Dec 1965, AVM: 1 Jan 1966, AM: 1 Jul 1970.

28 Aug 1940:           U/T Pilot.

xx Oct 1941:            Pilot, No 455 Sqn RAAF.

xx Apr 1942:            Pilot, No 50 Sqn.

xx Oct 1942:            Instructor, No 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit.

31 Mar 1943:           Pilot/Flight Commander?, No 617 Sqn.

xx Sep 1943 – xx Nov 1943:             Acting OC, No 617 Sqn.

xx xxx xxxx:              Air Staff, HQ No 5 Group.

21 Mar 1944:            Air Staff, HQ No 100 Group.

 6 Jun 1944:               'A' Flight Commander, No 515 Sqn.

18 Nov 1944:           Attended Course No 13, RAF Staff College (Overseas), Haifa.

25 Mar 1945:           Air Staff, HQ No 100 Group.

xx xxx 1946:             Pilot/Flight Commander?, No 242 Sqn.

11 Feb 1947:            Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (retaining rank current at the time).  [wef 1 Sep 1945]

1947                         Flew ‘Met’ Mosquito on first transatlantic jet flight.

10 Jul 1951:             Officer Commanding?, Special Duties Flt (B-45C Tornado)

xx Jul 1951:              ?

20 Jun 1952:            Air Attaché, Tel Aviv.

27 Oct 1955:           Staff - Operation Plans Division, HQ AAFCE.

xx xxx 1958:            Attended Joint Services Staff College.

23 Mar 1959:          Group Captain - Electronic Warfare, HQ Signals Command.

xx xxx xxxx:             Officer Commanding, RAF Nicosia.

15 Oct 1962:           SASO, No 38 Group.

14 Jan 1964:            Appointed ADC to The Queen

xx Jan 1965:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

18 Dec 1965:           SASO, Near East Air Force/ Chief of Staff, HQ British Forces (Cyprus)/(Middle East).

 1 Aug 1967:            AOC, No 38 Group.

10 Nov 1970:           C in C, RAF Germany/Commander, 2nd ATAF.

25 Apr 1973:            Air Member for Personnel.

'Mickie' Martin, established a reputation during WW2 as a low flying expert,  it was this quality that was responsible for his selection  by Wg Cdr Guy Gibson to join 'X' Squadron, later numbered No 617.  Gibson immediately tasked Martin with training the rest of the squadron in this difficult skill.  The reason for this was of course to prepare the crews of 617 to carry out the attacks on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on the night of 15/16 May 1943. Following the dams raid, he stayed with the squadron and together with Leonard Cheshire set about the task of proving that low level marking could be used to mark precision targets, even at night, when the techniques used by the Pathfinder Force could not.

However, when he arrived in Britain in 1939, he had no intention of joining the RAF.  In fact, he was sent to England by his family in Australia to 'experience some life' before settling down to become a doctor.  The declaration of war in September 1939 halted these plans and he volunteered for the RAF on 28 August 1940, with hopes of becoming a fighter pilot.  However, he was unsuccessful in this hope, finding himself posted to No 455 Sqn flying Hampdens in No 5 Group.  Martin soon developed his skills in low flying which even included the bombing run which he usually carried out at around 4000 ft, so he could see the target more clearly and because the AA fire would be directed at the aircraft flying higher.  He always insisted that his aircraft be maintained in  first class condition, even helping the ground crew if necessary.

When 455 was transferred to Coastal Command, he merely moved across the airfield at Swinderby and joined No 50 Sqn initially flying Hampdens, but soon converting onto the new Manchester and then Lancasters.  He had completed 13 sorties with 455 and he when onto to complete a further 23 with 50 before being 'rested' as an instructor.  It was whilst on his rest tour, that he was selected by Guy Gibson to join the new squadron he was then forming.  His main task in 617 was to supervise the training of the other crews in the difficult skill of low flying at night.   Martin piloted one of the nine Lancasters led by Guy Gibson himself in the first wave of aircraft, which attacked the Mohne Dam.  Following his own bomb run, he then helped Gibson distract the AA fire from the other aircraft as the carried out their bomb runs, for which he was awarded the DSO.

Martin stayed with 617 after the Dams Raid and was involved in training new crews as the squadron undertake a range of 'specialist' operations.  On the night of 15/16 September, he took part in a mission against the Dortmund-Ems Canal using the new 12,000lb High Capacity bomb, during which the squadron's new CO was killed when his aircraft was hit flak.  Taking over the lead, Martin continued on to the target with the rest of 617, although only his and one other bomb actually landed on target.  However, on his return, he was immediately promoted to Squadron Leader as temporary OC.  Fortunately for him at the time, he was soon relieved by Leonard Cheshire and between them they set about developing their low-level marking techniques, first using the Lancaster and then Mosquitoes.

Following his period with No 617, he was moved to Group HQ as a Staff Officer, but never one to be a 'mahogany pilot' he managed to get transferred to No 515 Sqn in No 100 Group Mosquitos involved in night intruder operations in support of the Bomber Command's Main Force. By the time he was finally taken off operations in late 1944, he had completed 83 sorties, 49 in bombers, and been awarded both the DSO and the DFC, both with Bars. 

After the war he set a new speed record for the England to Cape Town route when he covered the 6700 miles, flying a Mosquito, in 21 hours 31 minutes.  In 1951 he was asked to select three crews to train on the B-45C Tornado in order to undertake a number of special operations, but having selected his crews, he failed a medical test and was replaced by another officer.  Following retirement from the RAF, he joined Hawker Siddeley International Ltd as an adviser, principally in the Middle East.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

Acting Flight Lieutenant Harold Brownlow MARTIN, D.F.C. (68795), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No.617 Squadron.

On the night of 16th May, 1943, a force of Lancaster bombers was detailed to attack the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany.  The operation was one of great difficulty and hazard, demanding a high degree of skill and courage and close co-operation between the crews of the aircraft engaged.  Nevertheless, a telling blow was struck at the enemy by the successful breaching of the Mohne and Eder dams.  This outstanding success reflects the greatest credit on the efforts of the following personnel who participated in the operation in various capacities as members of aircraft crew.

(General Citation for all those honoured for this raid, except Guy Gibson, who was the awarded the VC)

(London Gazette – 25 May 1943)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Squadron Leader Harold Brownlow MARTIN, D.S.O., D.F.C. (68795), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 617 Squadron.

Since being awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross this officer has completed numerous sorties and has continued to set the highest example of courage and devotion to duty.  He is a brilliant and fearless leader, whose iron determination in the face of the fiercest opposition has won great praise.  One night in February.1944, Squadron Leader Martin captained an aircraft detailed to attack a target in Southern France.  During the run up to the target his aircraft was repeatedly hit.  One member of the crew was killed and another one was wounded.  Squadron Leader Martin pressed home his attack, however, and afterwards flew the damaged bomber to an airfield where he effected a masterly landing in difficult circumstances.  He displayed great skill and resolution throughout played great courage and devotion to duty.”

(London Gazette – 31 March 1944)

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