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Air Commodore A C Deere (40370)

Alan Christopher                  b: 12 Dec 1917                     r: 12 Dec 1967                     d: 21 Sep 1995

DSO – 4 Jun 1943, OBE - 1 Jan 1946, DFC – 14 Jun 1940, Bar – 6 Sep 1940, DFC (US) - 18 Jan 1944

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Act Plt Off (P): 9 Jan 1938, Plt Off: 28 Oct 1938, Act Flt Lt: xx May 1940, Fg Off (WS): 28 Jul 1940, Act Sqn Ldr: 12 Apr - 6 May 1941, Act Flt Lt: 6 May 1941, Flt Lt (WS): 28 Jul 1941, Act Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1941?, Act Wg Cdr: 14 Dec 1942?, Sqn Ldr (WS): 14 Jun 1943, Sqn Ldr:  26 Mar 1946 [1 Sep 1945], (T) Sqn Ldr: 3 Dec 1946 [1 Jul 1943], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1951, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1958, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1964.

28 Oct 1937:          U/T Pilot, De Havilland Flying School

 9 Jan 1938:            Granted a Short Service Commission.

 9 Jan 1938:            Initial Officer Training.

22 Jan 1938:           U/T Pilot, No 6 FTS.

20 Aug 1938:         Pilot - No 54 Sqn (initially attached No 74 Sqn)

xx May 1940:         Flight Commander, No 54 Sqn

xx Jan 1941:           Operations Controller, RAF Catterick

20-23 Feb 1941:    Attached to the Air Ministry

12 Apr 1941:           Operations Room Officer, RAF Catterick

 6 May 1941:          Flight Commander, No 602 Sqn

 1 Aug 1941:          Officer Commanding, No 602 Sqn

xx Jan 1942:           Lecture Tour of USA

30 May 1942:         Officer Commanding. No 403 (RCAF) Sqn.

xx Aug 1942:          Air Staff, HQ No 13 Group.

xx xxx xxxx:            Attended RAF Staff College.

xx Feb 1943:          Supernumerary, No 611 Sqn.

xx Mar 1943:          Wing Commander Flying (Wing Leader), Biggin Hill Wing. 

xx Sep 1943:          Illness

21 Oct 1943:           Officer Commanding, Pilot Gunnery Instructor Wing, CGS

20 Mar 1944:          Air Staff, No 11 Group, Fighter Command

 1 May 1944:          Supernumerary, No 145 Airfield, 2nd TAF

 3 May 1944:          Officer Commanding, No 145 Airfield, 2nd TAF

12 May 1944:          Officer Commanding, No 145 Wing, 2nd TAF

xx Jul 1944:             Wing Commander - Plans, HQ No 84 Group.

xx Jul 1945:             Officer Commanding, RAF Biggin Hill

26 Mar 1946:          Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time) [wef 1 Sep 1945]

xx Aug 1945:           Officer Commanding, Polish Mustang Wing (Andrews Field)

 1 Dec 1945:           Officer Commanding, RAF Duxford.

xx xxx 1946:            Attended US Air University.

xx xxx 1947:            Staff, AHQ Malta

xx xxx 1949:           Land/Air Warfare Officer, HQ No 61 Group.

xx xxx xxxx:            Operations Officer, North-Eastern Sector, RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

xx xxx 1952:            Officer Commanding, RAF North Weald.

xx xxx 1954:            Wing Commander - Admin, RAF Wildenrath.

xx xxx 1955:            Directing Staff, RAF Staff College.

 4 Jan 1960:             Deputy Director - Postings.

xx xx 1962:              Attended Imperial Defence College.

22 Mar 1961 - 30 Jun 1964:          ADC to The Queen. 

 3 Feb 1963:            Assistant Commandant, RAF College

25 Mar 1964:           AOC, No 12 (East Anglian) Sector.

xx xxx 1966:             AOC, RAF Halton/Commandant, No 1 School of Technical Training.

 1 Dec 1967:            Director of RAF Sport and Inspector of Recreational Grounds (Ret'd)

During the early part of World War Two, Alan Deere gained a reputation for 'losing' aircraft but managing to survive.  Born in New Zealand, he was determined to become a pilot at the age of eight, when he got the opportunity to sit a biplane which landed near his home.  Encouraged by their family doctor Alan applied to join the RAF in 1937.  Having persuaded his mother to countersign his application, as he suspected his father would refuse, he attended a selection board the president of which was Wing Commander Hon. R A Cochrane.

Selected for the RAF, he left Auckland in September 1937 and arrived in London five/six weeks later.  His flying training at the De Havilland Civil School of Flying at White Waltham was delayed due his admission to Halford for observation owing to high blood pressure.  His ab initio training complete, he attended a two week officer training course at RAF Uxbridge before arriving at No 6 FTS, Netheravon to undertake his service flying training.  During this part of his career, he had his first lucky escape when, having been selected for the RAF Boxing team to tour South Africa, he was withdrawn at the last minute in order to complete his flying training.  His replacement was killed along with all other passengers, when the aircraft carrying them crashed near Bulawayo.

His first posting was to No 54 Sqn at Hornchurch, but on arrival his unit being on block leave, he found himself attached to No 74 Sqn.  Initially flying Gladiators, he quickly settled into the life on a typical peacetime fighter squadron.  In March 1939 he flew his first Spitfire as 54 started the transition from biplane to monoplane.  Declaration of war in September 1939 brought little action as the squadron settled into convoy patrols, occasional scrambles and continued training.  However, with the start of the Dunkirk evacuation Al Deere found himself operating over the beaches and encountering German aircraft at last.

During this period he was involved in two incidents, the first when he and Johnny Allen flew escort to their Sqn CO, Sqn Ldr Leathart, who took a Master trainer to Calais/Marck aerodrome in France to rescue the OC of No 74 Sqn who had to make a forced landing.  Shortly after this incident, he was hit during a dogfight but was able to make a forced landing on a Belgian beach.  Setting off on foot, he eventually managed to make his way to Dunkirk, get himself evacuated from the beaches and to travel back to Hornchurch arriving 19 hours after taking off from there in his Spitfire.

With the real onset of the Battle of Britain he and 54 Sqn found themselves in the thick of things.  He soon started building a reputation although not purely on based on his prowess as a fighter pilot and leader.  He continued to be plagued by incidents which whilst often life threatening he somehow managed to escape from with little or no injury.  He made another forced landing in July 1940 when, during a confused melee he collided with a Bf109 which attacked head-on.  On 31 August he was leading his section in a 'scramble' during a German raid when a bomb exploded in the midst of his section, blowing all three aircraft over, Deere's being blown onto it's back.  He was assisted out of his Spitfire by Plt Off Eric Edsall, his number three.  Moved up to Catterick for rests during the Battle of Britain, No 54 arrived there again on 3 September to begin a period of re-grouping and training new pilots.  During a training flight with a newly arrived Sergeant pilot, Al Deere was involved in another mid-air collision, when the Sergeant pilot got too close and sliced off Deere's tail with his propeller.  Managing to struggle free from the cockpit, he was pinned against the remains of the tail unit only to discover on extricating himself from this that his parachute was damaged and did not fully open.  However, luck being on his side again, he landed in cess pool which broke his fall.

Somewhat effected by this incident, he found himself rested from flying as a Controller in the Catterick Operations Room in the rank of Act Sqn Ldr.  A return to operations arrived in May 1941 with appointment as a Flight Commander in No 602 Sqn.  He had to make yet another forced landing on the coast following an engine failure over the North Sea and was once again able to crawl out through the cockpit door after the aircraft turned over.  A move from Ayr to Kenley eventually brought his first command when he took over as OC, No 602.  Rested again, he was posted to the USA to lecture on tactics to fighter units of the USAAF.  Cutting short this duty, he returned to Britain and was given command of No 403 (RCAF) Squadron. A not too successful period in command of No 403 was followed by a more successful period as Wing Leader of the Biggin Hill Wing during which the Wing claimed it's 1000th confirmed victory.

Eventually taken off operations after destroying 22 enemy aircraft, he was firstly appointed to command the Fighter Wing of the Central Gunnery School before moving to a Staff job at 11 Group.  However, his tenure at Group HQ was shorter than expected when his services were requested by General Valin (Chief of Staff of the Free French Air Force) to command the Free French Fighter Wing (No 145 Airfield) as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, a role which took him through to the end of war.  

His final tally stands at 17 confirmed destroyed with one shared and two more and one shared being unconfirmed, four probables and seven damaged with a further one shared.  His last wish was that when he died, his ashes were to be scattered over the River Thames from a Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Pilot Officer Alan Christopher DEERE (40370).

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 Marck aerodrome, for the purpose of rescuing a squadron commander who had been shot down there. The trainer aircraft was attacked by twelve Messerschmitt log's 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)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Acting Flight Lieutenant Alan Christopher DEERE, D.F.C.(40370).

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)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Wing Commander Alan Christopher DEERE, D.F.C. (40370).

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)

Citation for the award of the Croix de Guerre

DEERE, Alan Christopher, W/C, DSO, DFC (40370, Royal Air Force) - Station Biggin Hill

 "Took part in protective operations covering Dunkerque evacuation securing four victories and, two days later, two new victories.  Participated in the Battle of Britain.  On 53 occasions led the French fighter groups "Ile de France”and "Alsace”in operations over occupied territory.  Total victories 21 with an addition of seven probables."

(Source - Air 2/8769 has recommendation, described as "Offer notified by Free French Air Force Headquarters".)

The website of Dix-Noonan-Webb has a different text, reported as emanating from Headquarters, by Free French Air Forces, March 1944:

 "Wing Commander Deere took part in protective operations covering the Dunkirk evacuation, securing four victories and, two days later, two new victories. He participated in the Battle of Britain. And on 53 occasions he led the French fighter groups “Ile de France” and “Alsace” in operations over occupied territory. His total victories are 21 with an addition of seven probables."

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (US)

DEERE, Alan Christopher, W/C, DSO, DFC (40370, Royal Air Force) - Station Biggin Hill - awarded as per London Gazette dated 18 January 1944

"For extraordinary achievement while leading his Wing as fighter escort for medium bombers of the Eighth Air Force on more than 15 missions over enemy occupied Europe. Wing Commander Deere devoted untiring energy assisting in the development of new, untried tactics for medium bombardment aircraft. In order to observe the effectiveness of the new tactics, he personally led his Wing as cover for the bombers on the first mission. The successful bombing of a heavily defended target without the loss of an airplane is in a large measure due to the planning, skill and leadership of Wing Commander Deere. His actions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of His Majesty’s Government."

(Source -US Eighth Air Force, General Order 183 dated 13 October 1943)

This page was last updated on 24/11/22

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