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Air Chief Marshal Sir Augustus Walker (36019)


Air Chief Marshal Sir Gus Walker

George Augustus           

b: 24 Aug 1912                    

r: 7 Jul 1970               

d: 11 Dec 1986

GCB - 1 Jan 1969 (KCB - 1 Jan 1962, CB - 13 Jun 1959), CBE - 1 Jan 1945, DSO - 18 Jul 1941, DFC - 23 Dec 1941, AFC - 31 May 1956, MiD - 1 Jan 1942, MA (St Catherine’s College, Cambridge)

Act Plt Off: 29 Mar 1933, Plt Off: 29 Sep 1934 [29 Mar 1933], Fg Off: 29 Mar 1935 [29 Mar 1934], Flt Lt: 1 Oct 1936, Sqn Ldr: 1 Apr 1939, Act Wg Cdr: 5 Nov 1940, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Mar 1941, Act Gp Capt: 20 Apr 1942, Act A/Cdre: 24 Mar 1943, Gp Capt (WS): 24 Sep 1943 - 1 Nov 1947, Wg Cdr: 1 Oct 1946, (T) Gp Capt: 3 Dec 1946 [1 Jul 1944], Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1948, Act A/Cdre: 1 Feb 1954, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1954, Act AVM: 3 Oct 1956, AVM: 1 Jan 1958, Act AM: 24 Sep 1961, AM: 1 Jul 1963, ACM: 1 Mar 1967

©Photo courtesy - Wg Cdr C G Jefford MBE, BA, RAF (Rtd)

29 Sep 1934:          Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Pilot Officer.

29 Sep 1934:          U/T Pilot, No 5 FTS,  RAF Sealand.

 1 Sep 1935:           Pilot, No 99 Sqn. (Mildenhall)

18 Jan 1937:           Attended Air Armament School, Eastchurch 

 1 Sep 1938:           Armament Development Staff, Joint Directorate of Research and Development.  

 3 Jun 1940:            Attended/Staff, No 16 OTU.

5 Nov 1940:           Officer Commanding, No 50 Sqn.

20 Apr 1942:          Officer Commanding, RAF Syerston.

24 Mar 1943:          AOC, No 42 Base - RAF Pocklington.

26 Aug 1943:          Appointed Air ADC to The King

12 Feb 1945:           SASO, HQ No 4 Group.

11 May 1946:          Deputy Director of Operational Training.

 5 Feb1948:             SASO, Rhodesian Air Training Group. (Effective from 21 Feb 1948)

xx xxx xxxx:             Appointed Additional Air ADC to the King

26 Apr 1949:           Title of appointment changed to ADC to The King

28 Aug 1950:           Attended Joint Services Staff College.

xx xxx 1951:            Officer Commanding, RAF Coningsby

10 Jun 1952 - 31 Jul 1956:     ADC to The Queen. (effective from 6 Feb 1952)

xx Jan 1953:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

 1 Feb 1954:            Commandant, RAF Flying College.

 3 Oct 1956:            AOC, No 1 Group.

15 Jun 1959:            Chief Information Officer, Air Ministry.

24 Sep 1961:           AOC in C, Flying Training Command.

15 Aug 1964:           Inspector-General of the RAF.

 1 Mar 1967 :           Deputy C in C, Allied Forces Central Europe.

 9 Nov 1968 - 7 Jul 1970:            Air ADC to The Queen.

'Gus' Walker, as he was more commonly known, became famous throughout the RAF due to the loss of his right arm.  The incident in which he lost his arm occurred on 8 December 1942 whilst he was Station Commander of RAF Syerston.   A Lancaster belonging to one of his squadrons lost some incendiaries just as it was about to take off. Racing to the rescue of the crew, 'Gus' was seriously injured, when he was blown along the runway by the force of an exploding  4000lb bomb, ignited by the incendiaries.

He was born in Yorkshire and attended St Bees School before going to St Catharine's College, Cambridge where he was awarded a University Commission entering the RAF after gaining a MA in 1934.  'Gus' was an extremely good rugby player, playing for the RAF, Blackheath, Yorkshire and England and captaining the RAF team from 1936 to 1939.

Promoted to Air Commodore he took command of No 42 Base.  This consisted of the RAF Pocklington and its two satellites at Elvington and Melbourne, all situated just outside York.  During Operation 'Musketeer' in 1956, many of his squadrons were detached to Cyprus in order to carry out operations against Egyptian targets.  These forces included both Canberra an Valiant units. On 16 April 1959 he was an observer at the first live launch of Thor IRBM by an RAF crew at Vandenburg AFB.

Retirement from the RAF did not mean a rest for Sir 'Gus' as he joined the Board of Philips Electronics, remaining as such until 1982.  He also took an extremely active role in a number of voluntary and welfare organisations.  These included RAFA (Chairman 1973 - 78, President 1978 - 81), National Sporting Club (Chairman 1973 - 83) and Governor  and Commandant, Church Lads' (Lads' and Girls' from 1978) Brigade, 1970 - 79.  Following his death, his wife donated a painting of a Halifax to the North & East Region of the Air Training Corps which is presented to the winners of the Region's annual inter-Wing rugby competition.  Always a true Yorkshireman, he took a great interest in the formation of the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, being made one of its first patrons.  An airman who remembered him from the 1950's sent me this comment: -

"I well remember A/Cdre Gus Walker as he was in 1955/6 at RAF Strubby which was the satellite station for the Flying College at Manby I was a fireman at the former, There was no problems getting a crash crew to stand-by on the airfield what ever time of the night he flew in, Sometimes piloting an Anson. He never failed to stop his driver, wind the car window down and call out " Thank you chaps for waiting up for me, Goodnight "He was also a very good golfer I played behind him one afternoon on the Sleaford course That left hand sent the ball flying away.!!! A lovely man a true gentleman."

Another comment received (from ex-Sergeant Tony Hyman): -

"I  was a mature young airman on my first overseas tour in Belgium and on duty at JOC Maastricht (The Caves). I had been on an errand for my bosses down a side turning off Mainstreet and I started my return journey laden with paperwork in my arms.  As I turned the corner into Mainstreet I espied, not more than 25 to 30 yards away, a party of very senior NATO Officers being lead by none other than ACM Sir Gus. Being very new to the Air Force I initially panicked and then my training took over - 'arms laden, can't throw up a salute so a smart eyes left (in this case)  should do the trick'. I did this and (this is something I'll never forget), Sir Gus, who had been listening attentively to his Officers, stopped acknowledging them and looked straight at me and returned my 'eyes left' with a very sharp salute in response and said, quite distinctly, "Thank you Airman" and carried on down Mainstreet talking now with his escorting entourage. I somehow sensed the mild surprise the NATO Officers expressed in his response to me - for a moment nothing was more important to this fine gentleman than to return the compliment proffered by this greenhorn of an airman and he somehow pointedly but politely showed this to these Officers. The message he gave me in the style of his response was never lost and I hope it wasn't lost on those surrounding him that day."

Paul Moran supplied the following reminiscence: -

"In 1965, age 25, I was delighted to hear I had been posted to the Far East........I thought, Singapore, here I come, with my young family. Reporting to P3 Admin at RAF St. Mawgan, I learned I'd been posted to RAF Labuan. When I asked what part of Singapore that was, howls of mirth filled the room. A smug SAC leaned across the counter and said,” It's up in the Borneo foothills mate, and only you are going!”

So off I went on a one year's unaccompanied tour on 230 Squadron, Westland Whirlwinds. After a few months work-up, I found myself detached to RAF Tawau in East Sabah. Tawau was about 200 miles from Labuan. I clambered aboard a Twin Pioneer of 209 Squadron and off we went....and what a ride! Sabah is, or was, virtually all trees, 200 feet high in places, and soon we were cruising along a green sea of tree tops from horizon to horizon. The disconcerting thing was no visible landing site if the Alvis Leonides engines packed up!..... very unlikely  actually. It was July, 1966 and I arrived at Tawau to hear that there would be a flying visit by the then Secretary for Defence, Dennis Healey.

So, we hurriedly got our Whirlwind helicopters cleaned up, tidied up the PSP, hid away all the grotty ground equipment and bulled the offices. As SNCO i/c I positioned the airman out on the aircraft in case the Secretary wanted to look them over. I went to the now clean line office to man the phone.

A little later I heard the aircraft land with the VIP's and carried on with my work. There was no one around and Tawau had suddenly become strangely silent. Just then I heard footsteps approaching and in walked an RAF officer. I took a second look to find it was a very high ranking officer. He introduced himself and sat on the corner of my desk.  His right arm was missing from the shoulder. He was part of the Dennis Healey entourage and was in fact, an Air Marshal. I waited for the rest of his party but they didn't appear.

For the next 15 minutes or so we talked about everything under the sun including his WW2 service, his rise up the ranks, my history, where I lived, what my plans were. Still no one appeared. I had the distinct feeling that this officer had escaped from something. This was the most genial conversation I'd had with a high ranker....normally sergeants didn't figure in their circle of discussion. It was very easy to forget who you were talking to. I am certain if there had been beer in that office, we would have ended up slurping it!

There was nothing about this officer that was at all pompous or superior.

I clearly remember one thing he said. We were talking about his wartime experiences and I suggested that his service was heroic. He replied, “ Not at all; I would have paid to be part of that war. When it was over I really missed it.”

I was itching to talk about his lost limb but it never came up; he simply wasn't mentioned. As the minutes passed I refrained from offering him a cup of coffee. The 'tea swindle' in the office left much to be desired with its stained mugs and discoloured spoons.

Then the moment had passed as a phalanx of officers, Warrant Officers and RAF Police suddenly swarmed into the room to find out where their VIP charge had got to. He was whisked away and I was once again alone in the office wondering what had just happened. I never saw or heard of him again. Tawau returned to normal and the confrontation mission took over.  There are more earth-shaking stories from Borneo I'm sure, as will be evident in Roger Annett's book.....but this was a very rare event. I mean, in the 60's you just didn't speak for long periods with officers, especially above the rank of  Flt Lt.  This impressively-ranked officer had spent time with me that was not on his itinerary. Our conversation was free of rank constraint, aggrandisement and status.

Over the years this episode faded until I was contacted by Roger Annett to contribute to his new book, Borneo Boys. This revived this episode and I asked Roger if he could possibly identify the one-armed high ranking officer who travelled with Dennis Healey in July 1966. Just last week I finally learned his name..... Augustus Walker, who in 1966 was an Air Marshal and Inspector General of the RAF. I recognised him from his photo on the www.rafweb.org site. Only a year later he became Air Chief Marshal.

I have recently learned also that Augustus Walker was well-known for his attention to other ranks and his obvious interest in their affairs. His talk with me was, apparently, typical of the man. Other experiences with him are mentioned on the website.                                                                                              

 I will remember his refreshing candidness, friendliness and charm resulting in a moment in time to be remembered."

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

"Wg. Cdr. G. A. Walker,  50 Sq.

This officer is not only a brilliant captain of aircraft but an outstanding squadron commander.  On one occasion the target area was almost completely obscured by cloud but, descending through a break in it, he skillfully piloted his aircraft to his target.  Climbing out of a balloon barrage into which he had flown, he bombed the target successfully.  During the whole of the period his aircraft was subjected to considerable anti-aircraft fire and searchlight activity.  Wing Commander Walker has set a splendid example."

(The Times - 23 December 1941)

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