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Air Commodore O R Gayford (09008)

Oswald Robert             b: 18 May 1893                    r: xx Aug 1944                d: 10 Aug 1945

CBE - 1 Jan 1941, DFC - 21 Sep 1918, Bar - 22 Dec 1919, AFC - 24 Feb 1933, MiD - 31 Mar 1920, MiD - 1 Jan 1943, FRGS.

(RNVR/RNAS):- OS: 4 Sep 1914, (T) Sub Lt: 15 Oct 1916, Ob-Off (P): 24 Apr 1917 [2 Apr 1917], (T) Obs Sub-Lt: 12 Jun 1917.

(RAF):- Lt: 1 Apr 1918, Act Capt/Flt Lt: 1 May - 22 Sep 1919, Fg Off: 1 Aug 1919, Flt Lt: 30 Jun 1921, Sqn Ldr: 5 Nov 1930, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1937, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Mar 1940, Gp Capt: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Mar 1940], (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jun 1943, A/Cdre: Retained.

 4 Sep 1914:            Seaman, RN Division.

27 Oct 1914:           Attached HMS Pembroke I

14 Dec 1914:           U/T Signaller, Pembroke I

xx xxx xxxx:            Drafted for service on Armoured Trains

14 Oct 1915:            Signaller, HMS St George

 6 Nov 1915:            Signaller, HMS Wallington

 1 Oct 1916:            Signaller, HMS Alyseum, 10th Sloop Flotilla.  

15 Oct 1916:            Attached HMS President for service as an Observer, RNAS

15 Oct 1916:            U/T Observer, RNAS Depot, Chrystal Palace

14 Feb 1917:            Attended Disciplinary Course, Observers' School, Eastchurch

17 May 1917:           Attached the Chatham

xx xxx 1917:             Observer, 'C' Sqn, No 2 Wing, RNAS, HMS Ark Royal.

xx xxx 1918:             Observer, No 221 Sqn.

J W B Grigson (nearest) and O R Gayford (next to him) at Petrovsk with No 221 Sqn, 1919

Photo courtesy - Guy Hunt from his Grandfather's collection (standing at rear in shorts)

 1 May 1919:            Captain (Observer)/Flight Commander, ?

22 Sep 1919:            Staff Officer 3rd Class, 'Z' Force - British Somaliland

24 Oct 1919:           Awarded a Permanent Commission in the rank of Observer Officer.

xx Apr 1920:            ?

22 Jul 1920:              Instructor (Observer), Central Flying School.

 1 Aug 1921:             Adjutant, No 1 FTS.

28 Sep 1922:            Adjutant, HQ Constantinople Wing.

22 Sep 1923:            Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

25 Jun 1924:             Adjutant, RAF Duxford

28 Oct 1924             ?

24 Nov 1924:           Attended ? Course, School of Naval Co-operation.

22 May 1924:           Pilot/Flight Commander, No 29 Sqn.

27 Nov 1924:           Flight Commander, No 1 Sqn.

 1 Feb 1927:             Flight Commander, No 47 Sqn.

10 May 1928:           Staff, RAF Heliopolis.

19 Jan 1929:            Attached, No 47 Sqn

27 Jan - 1 Apr 1929:             Temporary Officer Commanding, No 47 Sqn

 2 May 1929:            Flight Commander, No 22 Sqn.

20 Jan 1930:             Attended RAF Staff College.

20 Dec 1930:            Air Staff, HQ Coastal Area.

 1 Jun 1931:              Pilot, Experimental Section, RAE.

 9 Sep 1931:             Officer i/c, RAF Long Range Flight.

 1 Jun 1933:              Supernumerary, HQ No 1 Air Defence Group.

16 Jan 1934:             Attended Imperial Defence College.

15 Dec 1934:            'B' Flight Commander, No 58 Sqn.

19 Sep 1935:            Posted to Malta

24 Feb 1936:            Air Staff, Department of CAS.

 8 Oct 1937:             Air Staff, HQ No 2 Group.

 2 Nov 1937:            Officer Commanding, Long Range Development Unit.

xx xxx 1939:             Officer Commanding, RAF Wattisham.

1940                         Officer Commanding, RAF Wyton.

13 May 1941:           Officer Commanding, No 27 OTU/RAF Lichfield

12 Sep 1941:            Officer Commanding, No 152 Wing.

xx xxx 1941:            Officer Commanding, No 231 Wing.

xx xxx 1943:             AOC/OC, No 205 Group.

xx Oct 1943:             AOC, No 33 Base - RAF Waterbeach.

xx Aug 1944:           Narrator (Aircraft Development), Air Historical Branch.

After attending Bishop Stortford School he enlisted in the RNVR in 1914, but, his naval career started in a less than usual role, working on the RN Armoured Trains in France and Belgium.  However he went to sea in 1915 aboard destroyers  and later sloops patrolling the North Sea.  Transferring to the RNAS as an Observer in 1916 he joined 'C' Squadron based at Mudros in the Aegean.  Equipped with DH4's and 9's, the squadron carried out reconnaissance, fleet spotting, bombing and anti-submarine operations.   By the end of WW1 he had transferred to No 221 Squadron RAF which had originally been 'D' Squadron RNAS.  In late 1918, the squadron was sent to South Russia, being based at Petrovsk carrying out reconnaissance and bombing in the 'police' role, beginning operations in early 1919.  A return to the UK was interrupted when he was posted to join 'Z' force tasked with  undertaking operations against the 'Mad Mullah' in British Somaliland.  He qualified as a pilot, whilst serving as Adjutant at Netheravon in 1921.

On his return to the UK he trained as a pilot and following 'operational training with No 29 Squadron, he  joined No 1 Squadron in Iraq flying Sopwith Snipes.  A tour of Sudan followed with No 47 Squadron before being appointed to a 'ground' post at RAF Heliopolis in Egypt.  The 'ground post actually consisted of organising and leading the third RAF return flight from Cairo to Cape Town.  Another return to the UK brought a short attachment to No 22 Squadron (then part of  A. & A.E.E.), attendance at the RAF Staff College, attachment to HQ Coastal Area and flying with the Experimental Section RAE.  His previous experience of navigation, experimental flying and operations in the Middle East and Africa were then all brought into play with his appointment as Officer in charge of the RAF Long Range Flight.  The culmination of this post being the setting of a new World distance record of 5,309 miles when he flew the Fairey Long Range Monoplane from Cranwell to Walvis Bay in South Africa,  his crew member being Flt Lt G E Nicholetts (later AM Sir Gilbert).

Extract from the London Gazette 24 February 1933

"The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards to the officers named in recognition of their achievement in establishing a world's long-distance record by their, non-stop flight from Cranwell to -Walvis Bay, a distance of 5,340 miles, on 6th to 8th February, 1933 :—

Air Force Cross.

Squadron Leader Oswald Robert GAYFORD, D.F.C.

Bar to the Air Force Cross.

Flight Lieutenant Gilbert Edward NICHOLETTS, A.F.C."

Further postings followed including attendance at the Imperial Defence College and Flight Commander of No 58 Squadron equipped with Vickers Virginias, before he found himself once again in command of what was now called the Long Range Development Unit.  Although not involved in the actual flights, his unit set another World distance record in July 1938 when two Vickers Wellesleys, the third force landed en route, led by Sqn Ldr R G Kellett (later A/Cdre), flew from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin in Australia.  The distance covered being 7,162 miles in a flying time of 52 hours.

Command of  RAF Wattisham followed, after which he moved to the Middle East to command No 231 Wing and later No 205 Group.  Returning to the UK he joined Bomber Command as AOC of No 33 Base consisting of Waterbeach, Mepal, Witchford and Woodbridge (ELG).  Retiring from the RAF in 1944, he was appointed Regional Controller for the Eastern Region of the Ministry of Fuel and Power but only lived long enough to witness the end of the war in Europe and unfortunately not the final surrender of the Japanese.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Captain John William Boldero Grigson.

Lieut. Oswald Robert Gayford (Observer) (Sea Patrol).

These two officers have flown together for a period of twelve months, during which time they participated in a number of bombing raids, carried out a large number of valuable reconnaissance patrols and escort flights in all weathers, by day and night, during the performance of which duties they have brought down hostile aircraft on several occasions. No task is too difficult for these officers.”

(London Gazette – 21 September 1918)

This page was last updated on 11/08/23©

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